NBA Free Agency Stock Up, Stock Down: Best of the West

This will be a detailed look at the stocks of each NBA team following free agency, the draft, trades, etc. Teams will be accompanied by a stock up, stock down or even labeling based on their projections this season compared to last year’s results. This will be a multipart series with team groupings based on last year’s standings. We’ll start with the top dogs in the West from last season.

Warriors- Stock Even

Not much has changed in Golden State and, despite Vegas’ inclinations regarding their stance in the hierarchy of the Western Conference, that’s a good thing. The Warriors kept their heartbeat by inking the feisty and outspoken Draymond Green to a fresh 5-year $85 million contract. Locking up Green at any rate lower than his $90 million max has to bring a broad smile to the faces of owner and CEO Joe Lacob and GM Bob Myers.

green

The Dubs also exercised the team option for Green’s frontcourt bench warmer in Marreese Speights at $3.8 million, a fair price. Speights is one of the league’s rare big men who comes off the bench as a scorer/heat-check guy, and his midrange jumper in pick-and-pops is something Green struggles with. Leandro Barbosa has also announced he’ll be returning with the club on nearly the full financials of the room exception with a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

The biggest question remaining for Golden State is whether the team will find a suitable trade partner to offload the one-year $15.5 million remaining on David Lee’s contract and ease the tax payments of Mr. Lacob. Portland and Philly (Hinkie!) are the only teams with enough remaining cap space to absorb Lee’s cap figure[1], and both are fully aware of the Warriors’ dire luxury tax situation. It will require some sort of sweetener for the Blazers or Sixers to take on Lee’s contract, and it’s unclear if Golden State would be willing to part with a first-round pick to move Lee[2]. The stretch provision[3] is another route to escaping Lee’s massive payout, however, because it’s such a high number and an expiring contract, the Dubs would be burdened with $5 million in dead money for each of the next three years. However, this alternative option provides leverage when negotiating a possible trade, perhaps enough to part with only a pair of second-rounders or so. (Correction: I forgot Lee’s contract was one of the few remaining that was signed under the old CBA, in turn making him ineligible for the stretch provision.)

Update: Lee was traded to Boston for forward Gerald Wallace and his expiring $10 million contract. Wallace will be stretched resulting in about $3.3 million in dead cap for the next three seasons.

david lee

The Warriors also still have the taxpayer midlevel exception available[4] at about $3.4 million which they will likely look to use on a wing shooter if they choose to utilize it at all[5]. At this point the market is quite dry, but the Warriors have the appeal of playing on a championship contender which provides an incentive for players to accept a dollar amount below their market value. Someone like Caron Butler, Dorrell Wright or Alan Anderson could be a possibility among a handful of others.

Rockets- Stock Up

Even after reaching the conference finals of the warzone Western Conference, the Rockets will enter this season as an afterthought to the top dogs in the West largely in part due to their sporadic and befuddling stretches of play. However, Daryl Morey felt secure enough in this team’s successes and adherence to his analytical brain trust to run back mostly the same squad.

Houston will welcome back Donatas Motiejunas along with Patrick Beverley and his newly minted 4-year $25 million from injury. Beverley, who was a restricted free agent, remains a perfect fit as an annoying 3-and-D point guard to James Harden, and his new contract will be framed in Daryl Morey’s mancave[6] as the cap climbs. The team also resigned professional cherry picker Corey Brewer to a 3-year $23.5 million deal, which is a bit pricey for a lanky, but overrated, defender who can’t really shoot 3s. It’s certainly not a crippling contract, however, and he did seem comfortable in the Rockets’ system plus Game 6 happened.

beverley

Houston still has some flexibility in terms of adding contributors and bolstering its bench unit. The full mid-level exception is available and numerous reports have suggested the Rockets may use it to bring back Josh Smith, although the Clippers have also recently been connected to Smith. If Smith goes elsewhere or the haunting image of him jacking up a transition 3 it too much for Houston and they move on, they may choose to use the midlevel to bring back a combination of Jason Terry and K.J. McDaniels or a big such as Darrell Arthur.

j smoove

Kostas Papanikolaou’s nonguaranteed $4.8 million contract this season could still be shopped around as a valuable trade chip for teams seeking cap relief and may net Houston a rotational piece as well. Morey, however, seems content to bring back Pablo Prigioni and his nonguaranteed $1.7 million as the club’s backup point guard if Prigioni does indeed choose to make basketball his profession for another season.

The Rockets will likely head into next season looking the part of last year’s team with the benefit of a clean bill of health from Beverley and Motiejunas.

Clippers- Stock Down

DeAndre Jordan’s departure crippled the Clippers. There is no sugar coating their current situation. Steve Ballmer, GM Doc, Coach Doc, leader Chris Paul and dictator Chris Paul were all expecting Jordan’s return and when he spurned them for Dallas it left a gargantuan void in the starting lineup. One could attribute the team’s disintegration to a lack of forward thinking and ignorance toward a proactive strategy, but the reality was that replacing or finding an alternative to Jordan was always going to be next-to-impossible. The Clips were about capped out and Jordan’s Bird Rights[7] were viewed by the organization in the same manner as the Holy Grail. Now the Clippers will have to create a starting center from the trash heap of Jamal Crawford’s trade value, a possible sign-and-trade with the Wizards concerning Paul Pierce, veteran minimum contracts and perhaps some form of the mid-level exception.

dj leaves

Let’s start with Crawford. The Clippers could shop Crawford in a straight-up trade for a center, however, the acquired salary could only be 150 percent of Crawford’s $5.7 million cap figure[8] or about $8.5 million. There have also been rumors of the Clippers possibly sending Crawford to Cleveland for Brendan Haywood’s nonguaranteed $10 million contract, which they could then renounce and gain an additional $10 million in cap space to use on free agent centers.

Another option is to attempt to work a sign-and-trade with the Wizards for Paul Pierce’s $3.5 million deal. In this scenario Pierce’s contract would be absorbed into cap space[9] and the Clippers would regain the entirety of the full midlevel exception ($5.5 million) they partially used to sign Pierce. However, the Clippers are starved of assets to provide the Wizards and a trade exception may not be enough to convince Washington to oblige.

Finally, the Clippers could delve into the depressing group of players remaining on the free agent market, combining about $2 million of the leftover mid-level from Pierce with minimum contracts to explore options such as Javale McGee, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Kendrick Perkins among others. Call 911! At least one Clippers fan needs an ambulance right now!

javale

Aside from this catastrophic state of the Clippers, the team’s new additions of Lance Stephenson and Paul Pierce provide more wing depth and flexibility in playing style. Pierce took less money to come to LA and play under Doc while also ensuring the onset of the invigorating aroma of postseason air come April. Stephenson was acquired as a low risk, high reward gamble essentially playing on a one-year deal with the second being a team option. Both acquisitions were initially labeled as luxuries, but with Jordan’s departure the Clips may be playing more small-ball than they preferred making wing players a premium.

Grizzlies- Stock Up

The Grizzlies entered the free agency period in a pretty mellow state, but also with the potential of a rare incoming tsunami invoking colossal devastation and destruction to the franchise. They successfully warded off than tsunami with the much-delayed announcement the team had officially agreed to a 5-year max extension with Marc Gasol worth $110 million. Gasol never entertained the notion of leaving Memphis as his heart has grown fond of the city and the city has grown equally, if not more so, adoring of Gasol. His return puts the Grizzlies firmly into the second-tier of the West, a position they have become all too familiar with, encountering success, but never breaking through.

gasol 2

The Grizzlies are essentially finished in terms of added personnel this offseason, but the fan base has cause for optimism regarding the subtle changes. The team weaseled Matt Barnes and his bargain contract from the Herculean powers of Luke Ridnour’s non-guaranteed contract[10] in a trade with Charlotte. Barnes is a capable defender and premier agitator who can also knock down open treys with some bit of regularity[11]. Jeff Green decided to opt into his contract and hit the market with the ensuing cap boom next season, however, the Grizz may have preferred the $9.5 million in cap space as he was escorted to the exit of the team’s facility. Green and his occasionally brilliant, yet mostly hair-tearing-out frustrating play is back for another year in Memphis…rejoice. The team used the full mid-level exception on bouncy big man Brandan Wright and his 34-foot wingspan[12] who replaces Kosta Koufos as the team’s third big. Wright’s boundless rim dives and rangy rim protection will offer a nice contrast to the more plodding styles of Gasol and Zach Randolph, and he should be able to fit adequately with both. For just $6 million per year, Wright was one of the best value contracts signed during all of free agency.

wright

Overall the Grizzlies will closely resemble last year’s group, which has become a theme in Memphis. No organization has prioritized continuity in the past five years or so like the Grizzlies. At some point that has to pay off right? Right?

Trail Blazers- Stock Down

It has gone viral. The image of Damian Lillard suited up for the Trail Blazers accompanied by the rest of his starting brethren from last year perfectly illustrates the Trail Blazers’ offseason. With Lillard in the image is Nicolas Batum in a Hornets jersey, Wes Matthews for the Mavs, Robin Lopez with the Knicks and, of course, LaMarcus Aldridge donning silver and black[13]. Oh, and sixth man Aaron Afflalo is gone as well. At least Meyers Leonard is back!!! Portland now enters into a dramatic state of rebuilding around it’s recently maxed out star point guard after the Blazers signed Lillard to a 5-year deal in excess of $125 million.

dam

The Blazers traded Batum a day before the draft for former lottery pick Noah Vonleh and the funky game of Gerald Henderson. He just a fired another misguided midrange jumper! Portland has continued its transition to a younger core ever since dealing first-round pick Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Steve Blake for Mason Plumlee and second-rounder Pat Connaughton. In free agency the Blazers quickly struck a deal with swingman Al-Farouq Aminu for 4-years $30 million and later added Ed Davis for a tidy 3-years at $20.1 million.

It’s unclear how all these new parts will fit cohesively, but the Blazers are just trying to put a youthful team on the court at this point. The starting lineup projects as Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Aminu, Leonard and Plumlee as of now. Lillard and McCollum will lead the rebuild as a nice backcourt duo. Aminu and Henderson will receive the bulk of the wing minutes, although, neither has the perimeter shooting to produce desired floor spacing. Leonard could help in that department as he is one the premier stretch bigs despite his awkward shooting motion. Leonard can play the 4 or the 5, but projects well with the rim diving pick-and-roll game of Plumlee. Davis has zero offensive game outside of six feet and his time sharing the court with Plumlee will be minimal. Vonleh underachieved in his rookie season in Charlotte and it was reported he had difficulty grasping the nuances of an NBA offense.

aminu

Portland’s disbandment has inflicted immense pain on the Northwest, especially after the team showed major potential to be a surprise contender in the West before the rash of injuries. Now this franchise is left to embark on another lengthy rebuild. On the positive side the Northwest boasts a pretty good NFL team…nevermind Russell Wilson’s unresolved contract extension. Too harsh? Sorry Portland, I know you don’t want to hear about franchise cornerstones possibly leaving in free agency.

[1] Technically Utah could free up enough in salary by renouncing Trevor Booker’s nonguaranteed $5 million deal, but that’s unlikely and not cost effective.

[2] Even if this pick seems all but a lock to be 25th or lower.

[3] The stretch provision allows a team to cut a player and pay his contract over a span of double the number of years remaining on the contract plus one. So in this situation, Lee has one year remaining on his deal at $15.5 million. So the contract would be stretched over double the years remaining (1×2) plus one, resulting in approximately $5.17 million owed over each of the next three years.

[4] Whether Lee’s contract remains on the books, is traded or is stretched the Warriors will still be over the tax resulting in only the mini midlevel being available as opposed to the full midlevel exception of $5.5 million.

[5] Remember doing so would increase luxury tax payments.

[6] Could you imagine what would be in Daryl Morey’s mancave? It would probably consist of framed net rating printouts and a huge poster of James Harden’s shot chart.

[7] When a player has Bird Rights, it allows a team to exceed the cap to resign him.

[8] This is contingent on whether the Clips end up being above or below the tax line which depends on multiple factors. If the Clippers are above the tax they could acquire a salary up to only $7 million.

[9] In sign and trades, it is okay if the trade results in a team exceeding the cap.

[10] WHERE IS LUKE RIDNOUR NOW???

[11] A rarity for Memphis

[12] It’s actually 7’5”

[13] Got me to thinking: Are there two teams who share similar color schemes that are as polar opposites as the Spurs and Raiders?

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