The Dallas Mavericks are easily one of the big winners outside of Cleveland this wild off-season.
Not only did they secure a dependable big man in acquiring Tyson Chandler in a trade with the New York Knicks, but they also picked up what they expect is a star-in-the-making in Chandler Parsons, a 6-foot-9 small forward whom the Mavs believe can attract future top-tier free agents.
“From what I’ve seen and heard, he very much could be a benefit in that area,” said Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations. “He’s a guy that guys like to play with, a good teammate, and so I think he’ll be a nice fit for us.”
The Mavs weren’t able to fit Parsons under the salary cap until they got an assist from Dirk Nowitzki, who took three pay cuts so the Mavs could have the room.
Nowitzki, a 12-time All-Star eligible for a max three-year contract worth $76.9 million, had agreed to take a three-year, $30 million deal. But when the Mavs were still short of the funds to acquire Parsons, they went back to Nowitzki, who finally signed a three-year, $25 million contract.
“I couldn’t be prouder and happier to have him continuing in a Mavericks uniform,” Nelson said of Nowitzki. “He has been the heartbeat of this team ever since he donned a uniform, so it’s a plus for all of us.”
The Mavs also re-signed Devin Harris, traded for Raymond Felton and acquired backup center Greg Smith.
Off-season trades and free-agent signings aren’t over, but here are this summer’s winners and losers so far:
LeBron James instantly makes the Cavaliers the favorites to win the East. Mike Miller, who played with James from 2010-13, left Memphis to join the Cavs. Cleveland also chose Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Wiggins was considered the best high school prospect since James when he signed with Kansas last year.
With the acquisition of Chandler, the Mavs addressed their need to have a center who can score, rebound, block shots and erase defensive mistakes made on the perimeter. The Mavs acquired a scoring small forward in Parsons, although they paid a high price for him while betting his upside is off the charts.
The Heat should be commended for bouncing back handsomely after LeBron James left for Cleveland. The Heat was able to re-sign two-thirds of its Big Three — Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat also acquired Luol Deng, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts, and drafted UConn point guard Shabazz Napier. The Heat hopes the loss of James will not prevent it from advancing to the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive year.
The 76ers are giddy after they acquired center Joel Embiid with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. Combine the shot-blocking and inside skills of Embiid with the shot-blocking skills and intimidating presence of Nerlens Noel, and the Sixers could be hosting a block party every game. Noel was the sixth pick in 2013, but missed last season after tearing an ACL. Coupled with Michael Carter-Williams, who was the rookie of the year, there’s probably going to be tons of fun watching this trio grow up together.
San Antonio Spurs
The defending NBA champs did what they always do: they reloaded. The Spurs re-signed rotation players Patty Mills and Boris Diaw with nominal contracts. In addition, Tim Duncan, 38, picked up the option year on his contract. The Spurs also drafted UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, an efficient 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward who could help extend Duncan’s career even longer.
Why did the Pistons give Jodie Meeks a three-year, $19 million free-agent contract? Who were they bidding against? This is what happens when a coach (Stan Van Gundy) is also running the basketball operations side of a franchise. They tend to look at the here and now instead of the future. The Pistons also gave Caron Butler a two-year, $9 million deal. Although the second year is not guaranteed, Butler barely got off the bench for Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs.
It’s unclear if the Rockets are getting ready to lift off for this season or are preparing for the 2015-16 campaign. The Rockets rid themselves of Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, and in return picked up former Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza and some spare parts. Sure, the Rockets cleared a lot of cap space. But this team is not better than the one that won 54 games last season and enjoyed the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
Did the Pacers simply think they’d have a leg up on the competition to reach next year’s NBA Finals just because LeBron James left Miami? Any edge Indy had to represent the East was wiped out when Lance Stephenson signed with Charlotte. Stephenson led the NBA in triple-doubles last season. While his on-court antics can be a pain for his coaches, he’s also a pain for the opposing coaches.
It’s still a mystery why the Magic felt the need to overpay free agent Ben Gordon with a two-year, $9 million contract. It was highly unlikely anyone was going to offer Gordon that type of money. Gordon, 31, couldn’t even penetrate the rotation of a Charlotte team that was the No. 7 seed in the East last season. Gordon played only 19 games for Charlotte last season, and wasn’t picked up by anyone when he was released on March 2. Not reaching out to re-sign Jameer Nelson also is a mystery.
So the big off-season move for the Kings was signing point guard Darren Collison to a three-year deal worth $16 million? Nothing against Collison, but is he a decisive upgrade from Isaiah Thomas, the Kings’ restricted free-agent point guard whose major drawback is being 5-9? (Actually, he’s about 5-6). LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Thomas were the only players to average at least 20 points and 6.0 assists last season.