The NBA free agency period began Monday morning at 12:01 Eastern time. The NBA world held on by a nail as they waited for Dwight Howard to make his decision and after the smoke cleared Friday, we’ve started to see other key free agents fall into place. It has been one crazy off-season with the draft and free agency this year, so we move past the craziness and begin to look at how the top 5 free agent signings will impact their teams next year. These top 5 free agents that I have chosen are guys who obviously switched teams rather than staying put and are ranked in no particular order.
Dwight Howard announced his decision on Friday to sign with Houston Rockets leaving over $30 million on the table in Los Angeles. Howard stated after signing that after a couple of days of thinking he decided that the Rockets give him the best chance to win his first NBA title. He’s correct if you ask me as the Rockets have a young nucleus that they’ve put together with a young superstar in James Harden who can score from anywhere. The Lakers are old and were trying to make him the future, which could have taken a few years before they could compete for a title.
My take on the Rockets next year is they will improve their record of 45-37 and move to somewhere around 55 wins, competing for the 3rd or 4th seed in the Western Conference. Howard gives them a big man who can takeover a game inside which should allow for Harden to get more open shots. The Rockets, in my opinion, are not guaranteed a title off signing along, until Howard proves he can be on the floor in the end of a game. He’s terrible at free throws and teams take advantage of that in close games. The Rockets still have Lin at PG and Parsons as their 3rd best player and that’s not good enough to win the NBA title. I’m sure the Rockets are probably aware of this and will continue to tweak their roster.
Josh Smith has agreed to a contract with the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, making the Pistons and instant playoff contender next year. The Pistons already have a young nucleus with Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and then Rodney Stuckey. Detroit had targeted Smith when free agency began and did everything possible to get their man. Their roster is going to take some changes and who knows if the 4 guys I named earlier will still be there at the start of the season. The Pistons grabbed Pope in the draft and he may take over Stuckey’s spot in the starting 5.
My take on the signing of Josh Smith is that it will help the Pistons tremendously. The Pistons have been lacking scorers in the past and Josh can score at any time from multiple spots. I like the Pistons front court guys in Drummond and Monroe already; when you throw in Knight as well, they have a very good young team. I know they are still going to need pieces to build with to win a title, but this signing makes them more competitive and they will contend for a playoff spot next year.
The Warriors wanted Dwight Howard badly, but didn’t get him, and settled with a nice consolation prize of Andre Iguodala. Iguodala was offered a contact by the Kings, but they basically pulled the offer a few hours later. I believe that Iggy is planning to use this as motivation. Iguodala is one the best defenders in the NBA and is a very versatile player who can score. The Warriors have a couple of shooters already so, with this acquisition, they received another guy who can score and stretch the floor.
My opinion on Iguodala is that he only helps a young Warriors team who was a surprise this year in their run to the Western Conference Semifinals. The addition of Iggy adds an All-Star defender. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Golden State up competing for a 3 or 4 seed in the Western Conference next year. I like this Warriors club for the next few seasons assuming David Lee and Curry stay healthy.
Paul Millsap signed with the Atlanta Hawks after several seasons in Utah. He brings an inside game to the Hawks and will be a perfect complement to Al Horford inside. Hordford is way too often thought of as a Power Forward instead of his Center position. If the Hawks do find a true Center, they can move Millsap to the 3, Horford to the 4, and still have him in the starting 5. Paul is able to stretch the floor and can defend multiple positions on the defensive side for the Hawks. He’s a great grab for the Hawks at a cheap price, as they were also hoping to win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
My opinion is this is going to be a very underrated signing in this year’s free agent class and allows the Hawks to remain a decent contender for a playoff spot during next year’s season. We can’t ignore the fact they lost Josh Smith, but they still have cap space and rumors are going around Monta Ellis is now being considered as a possible signing. I can see Atlanta remaining around the 44 win mark and, much like last season, compete for a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Al Jefferson probably gave up his hopes of winning an NBA championship, but he sure did get paid. If the Bobcats were going to snag anyone, they would have had to overpay for them. This is because money is all the team has to offer right a player right now. Jefferson becomes the best player in the Bobcats front court, right away, if not the best player. Jefferson was really close to averaging a double-double last year for the Jazz and will likely average about the same for the Bobcats.
My opinion on the Al Jefferson signing is it probably isn’t going to be relevant to anything in the NBA next season, except maybe your fantasy team. The Bobcats are not serious contenders or even a playoff team for next season. This deal was all about money for Al Jefferson.
These are just 5 guys, who have switched teams, I believe can make an impact next season. When you look back at this free agency class a year from now, these will be the signings that have made the most impact in the NBA. There are several other guys either re-signing with their team or other teams, but they don’t have the same impact as what these 5 will have. I leave you with one last thought, I don’t know about everyone out there, but I sure can’t wait to see what Dwight Howard and James Harden are going to do for the Rockets next year.