The first 24 hours of NBA free agency is in the books, and it was an absolutely crazy day full of big contracts, big moves and stunning drama. And we haven't even gotten to Kevin Durant yet.
With an absurd amount of money changing the sports landscape forever, here's a look at who came out ahead and behind after Day 1 of NBA Free Agency.
Yes, there are huge injury concerns. Yes, Mike Conley's five-year, $153 million deal is the most in NBA history, and it went to a guard with no championships or All-Star appearances. But it's not just that they landed the biggest free agent in franchise history in Chandler Parsons, or that they re-signed a top-flight point guard in Conley. (Or that they're in the hunt for Courtney Lee or Eric Gordon according to reports). It's that they avoided disaster. Conley leaving would have set the franchise back to the stone age and set off a massive, soul-crushing rebuilding process that could take a decade to pull off. For every Portland that rebuilds quickly, there is a Sacramento or Orlando.
The Grizzlies landed a big upgrade at a position of need that takes care of one of their major problems -- shooting and playmaking on the wing. They also kept their franchise point guard who has been a leader on and off the court for them for six years.
This on top of a great draft and the hiring of a potentially great coach in David Fizdale means Memphis has staved off NBA mortality and retained its place in the Western Conference playoff hierarchy.
There will be no blues on Beale Street this week.
I know it sounds crazy, but look at where the Knicks are now relative to last year. Yes, Joakim Noah is a big gamble with his injury history, and the same is true for Derrick Rose. But if Noah gets back to even 70 percent, he and Kristaps Porzingis are going to cause absolute mayhem.
With word that the Knicks are in the race for Dwyane Wade, there's a chance the Knicks start Rose, Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Porzingis and Noah next year. While that team would have been great in 2010, it could still be very good in 2016. These are gambles, but New York is in play for major upgrades and that's a good sign.
Everyone in this class. Some of these deals are just financial realities of the new cap, like Mike Conley's $153 million, which is simply a function of his max being 35 percent of the $94 million cap at his veteran experience level. Some were the function of urgent teams trying to make sure moves got made, like Evan Turner. But the amount of money that was handed out -- $1.706 billion by Jared Dubin's count -- is simply mind-boggling. There are all sorts of explanations, but you look at $70 million for Kent Bazemore after Marshawn Lynch made $49.6 million in his entire career, and it just boggles the cerebral cortex.
These players haven't made good money or great money. They made life-changing, "screw you" money, and it could have incredible impacts on the player market going forward.
Mike Conley. Not only did Conley manage to get the largest contract in NBA history and make $153 million, but he added Chandler Parsons -- the kind of wing upgrade that he knew the Grizzlies needed. He improved his chance of winning, while staying in a city he has said he wanted to leave a legacy. Mike Conley has been under-appreciated for six years. He's now going to be called overpaid and overrated, but in the end, it was a great day for Conley.
Let's call them tentative winners. We'll see what they do with Al Horford. If they can manage to keep Horford, Bazemore and add Dwight Howard on a deal that is just three years, even at $23 million per year? That's really great return. If Mike Budenholzer can get the best out of Dwight, they'll have an even stronger team than last year. But if they lose Horford, they switch to losers very quickly.
Good deals for Bazemore and Howard don't make up for losing Horford.
The Magic traded Tobias Harris last year and took on Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings to clear cap space. They had big plans for this summer. So far, they managed to land Serge Ibaka while sending out Ilyasova and Victor Oladipo, trade for Jodie Meeks and sign D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green while retaining Evan Fournier for what is a combined $39.5 million in salary for next year alone. Green's one-year deal is fine, it's low risk, but it's still steep for a guy who has been overpaid at every stop and constantly flamed out. Augustin is good value, but it's a longer contract which seems dubious. Fournier is good value, even if his game is incomplete.
It's not that the Magic's moves are incomprehensible, it's that there's no reason to think this team will be substantially better than last year's team, unless Ibaka hits a level we have not seen from him yet. Is Harris at his very-affordable deal better than Augustin, Green and Ibaka at their combined price? The Magic cleared big cap space and outside of Ibaka, have yet to come up with a certified win in free agency so far.
Man. In the 24 hours since free agency opened, the Lakers have:
- Failed to get a meeting with Kevin Durant.
- Failed to get a meeting with Hassan Whiteside, who signed in Miami.
- Failed to sign Kent Bazemore despite offering $2 million more reportedly than Atlanta did.
- Gave Timofey Mozgov a four-year, $64 million deal right out of the gate without even waiting to see what the center market did.
Even with word surfacing that Mozgov's deal has a team option in the fourth year knocking it down to $48 million, that's a ridiculous contract for Mozgov, who doesn't fit what the Lakers need, their timeline, and was coming off a major devaluation after a pitiful year.
The Lakers have this great young core, but with all the money they have available, for their only good signing to be a deal for Jordan Clarkson at the most he could make, that's just not good return.
Everyone who signed a deal in the last three years. John Wall is now making $48 million less than Bradley Beal. LeBron James has made less in his entire career than what Mike Conley signed for today. There's the obligatory Steph Curry comment which doesn't really make sense considering his ankle history at time of extension, but still. There's going to be a lot of jealousy when training camp starts. This is like the Dr. Seuss book "The Sneeches" only instead of bellies on stars, it's being in this free agency class. Just an unfathomable amount of money that creates a huge disparity between some truly elite players and the guys who happened to come up for deals this summer.
Dwyane Wade. The Heat are reportedly only offering $10 million for his services. That's just downright insulting. There's a good chance that his basketball legacy could be stained by being in a different uniform for the first time in his career. Yes, he has options, but he loves Miami and Miami loves him. Leaving would be tough.
Swung out on Mike Conley. Swung out on Kent Bazemore. Considered in the back of the pack for Al Horford. The Rockets are having a hard time making contact on big upgrades.