NBA Free Agency 2016: Winners and Losers

An unprecedented amount of money was up for grabs in the NBAs annual silly season. Heres who won and lost the offseason.

Kyle Terada—X02835
Jul 7

An unprecedented amount of money was up for grabs in the NBA’s annual silly season. Here’s who won and lost the offseason.Championships aren’t won in July, but the foundations of those title contenders are built in the offseason. This is when teams recruit superstars that alter the course of their franchises, or find the role player that satisfies a missing link. As the league’s new television money finally came into play, the salary cap jumped more than 33 percent over night. Headlined by Kevin Durant’s commitment to Golden State, what followed was one of the more insane fortnights in league history. Teams spent money because, well, that had to. Here are some organizations that came out on the right end of free agency … and some others that didn’t fair so well.Winners• Golden State WarriorsThis isn’t even a question — the champions of free agency have to be the same team that last month fell to LeBron James in the Finals. For a year it’s been hinted that Kevin Durant was interested in Golden State’s style of play, but it was tough to foresee him actually leaving the only franchise he’s ever known. After the Thunder were eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by those Warriors, things changed rapidly, though. The Warriors had to part ways with several role players, including rim protectors Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli, to make it work, but if that’s what it takes to get KD, you do it. It’s not even a question. Golden State then used their room exception to sign veteran Zaza Pachulia as Bogut’s replacement, which was an excellent value. Give them all of the gold stars, they’re on their ultralight beam.• Boston CelticsThe C’s finished third place in the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes, but they didn’t go empty-handed. Boston finished fourth in the league in defensive efficiency last season, and with the addition of Al Horford from Atlanta, that number will only jump. The Warriors, Pacers and Jazz will be monsters defensively, but the Celtics have a chance to be the best unit in the league, after adding the man who anchored Atlanta’s No. 2 defense from a season ago. He will also help diversify a Boston offense that relied too heavily on Isaiah Thomas pick-and-rolls. With Horford in Bean Town, the Celtics are now the second best team in the East.• Charlotte HornetsSave your homer chants for someone else — GM Rich Cho nailed his top two priorities: bringing back forwards Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams. He did so, by the way, at a below market value for both players. Batum’s five-year, $120 million deal was around $33 million less than it could have been, and Williams turned down several $15 million per year offers to sign a four-year, $54.5 million contract. The Hornets weren’t able to retain Jeremy Lin or Courtney Lee, but Lin, set on being a starter again, had to go elsewhere to do so. The last four multiyear contracts Cho has orchestrated — Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Batum and Williams — were all team-friendly deals. Charlotte, thanks especially to the reputation of coach Steve Clifford, has established itself as an attractive place to play basketball — retaining your best players only reinforces that. Roy Hibbert and Ramon Sessions were nice, cost-effective additions to fill positions of need, too.Losers• Oklahoma City ThunderOh, man. This is a sad one to write. The best player in the franchise’s history, Kevin Durant, left for their chief rival. This team was close to winning the title two months ago, and look where we are now. The Thunder are reportedly exploring trade options for the final cornerstone left standing: Russell Westbrook. Once the shock wears off, they’ll be faced with a harsh reality and a string of difficult decisions to make. This is decimating.• Orlando MagicSeriously, I don’t know what this team is doing, and I’m pretty sure that they don’t either. Does Orlando want to win now? Or are they looking three years down the road? Who knows, honestly? The Magic entered free agency with the ability to make room for two max contracts. Orlando isn’t exactly a destination city, but no state income tax and ties to the state for several marquee free agents (Al Horford, Chandler Parsons) had folks thinking they’d be a player in the market. Instead, they spent $15 million on the ever-confusing Jeff Green, and gave Bismack Biyombo $72 million. I love Biyombo and everything he does, but if paying him $18 million per season is what you have to hang your hat on, then things haven’t gone perfectly. The re-signing of Evan Fournier was terrific, but it’s unclear now how they’ll balance tthe minutes of Biyombo, Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic.• Dallas MavericksThe Mavs entered free agency with their scope set on two players: big man Hassan Whiteside and point guard Mike Conley. Dallas, as they have the last few seasons, struck out with both players, who chose to remain with their current teams. Mark Cuban’s Mavs did ink Harrison Barnes to a four-year, $94 million deal. Barnes is a much better player than what he displayed during the Finals, but it’s a signing that won’t inspire much confidence, especially after missing their preferred targets. One positive that came from the lack of a big offseason acquisition: the Mavs gave Dirk Nowitzki, the face of their franchise, a two-year, $40 million deal. After several years of Dirk taking pay cuts so the team had space to unsuccessfully chase free agents, it’s nice to see him get his due. Nowitzki is the greatest international player in NBA history and an amazing ambassador for the game. Give him all the money.