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After the season is done in the NBA (whether good or bad) the off-season is looked upon as an upgrade period. Whether it’s through a high draft pick, trade or free agent signing, teams all over the league will look to improve.
The draft provides amateur upgrades, some suited to play right away while others will take awhile to contribute. Trades are more common for improvement because they are available for most of the year. It’s probably the most controlled environment when it comes to upgrading your team.
The biggest wildcard of them all is free agency.
This isn’t the NFL where you are guaranteed to see a bunch of veterans cut because of salary cap concerns. This isn’t the MLB where there’s no salary cap and a minor league system to actually groom amateur talent. No, its the NBA and free agents that make a huge difference don’t roll around every year.
Think about it, what’s the biggest free agent your team has ever signed? Has your team signed anybody that changed your fortunes in the last 20 years? How many teams do you think signed a big time free agent and it has resulted in a championship?
New York Knicks
The Knicks have made their off-season plans of signing two free agents very evident. It won’t be a small feat to pull off, just ask the Los Angeles Lakers (see 2018 free agency). Phase one of the plan to clear cap space has already been successful, now it’s time to reel in the big fish.
Very few teams have even pulled this trick off, it’s not a slam dunk by any means. The Orlando Magic were able to grab both Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill during the 2000 off-season. Lebron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to South Beach during free agency 2010 and won two championships.
Both of those teams had the luxury of Florida’s no state income tax. The Knicks luxuries stem mostly from off the court possibilities but it’s definitely a destination for a thirty-something year old man with millions of dollars. If they pull off the double-play and grab their two guys, it will probably go down as their two biggest free agent signings in history.
Kawhi Leonard could be used as the perfect model for an NBA off-season transaction story. He’s been acquired by a team two different ways and the results have been the same.
He was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and then won a championship. He was traded as an all-star/MVP type player to the Toronto Raptors and won another championship. Could he eventually pull off the hat trick and sign as fee agent to win a third championship?
If you take everything under consideration, Leonard is the biggest free agent available. Would he really leave the world champion Toronto Raptors for another team? I can’t remember a player on his level leaving a championship team to go elsewhere in free agency.
Any team that signs the Finals MVP is automatically in the contender conversation. How many teams is he really interested in though? One team will convince him but how many other teams will have fallen short?
The Dallas Mavericks:
Is having a great owner a plus during free agency? Mavericks owner Mark Cuban hasn’t found it very easy to coax free agents to Dallas. He drafted the Rookie of the Year in Luka Doncic and traded for all-star Kristaps Porzingas last season.
Now he’s ready to add a big time free agent (or two) to the mix but can he? Cuban has whiffed numerous times on even B level free agents throughout his ownership tenure. Maybe a hands on owner is not the best thing to attract free agents, maybe a behind the scenes guy would be better.
Right now names like Eric Dampier and Chandler Parsons don’t jump off the page as game changing free agents in Dallas history. As it stands a rookie free agent named J.J. Barea has been the biggest help to Cuban getting that illustrious championship he so covets.
Cuban has a chance to really upgrade his squad and steal some of the headlines. As of right now it seems to be another season of swing and a miss for the jovial owner. If he manages to get a hit this year, it will probably be of the out of the park variety.
The chances are the team you love will not sign the guy you want. If the plan is to sign multiple guys, your team will probably fall short a man or two. Please don’t get angry if your team didn’t sign the free agent you thought they would, it was probably not going to happen realistically.