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NBA Fake Mailbag: Free Agency Edition

As we all learned from postal employee Newman, “the mail never stops.” I’ve learned this first-hand as my mailbag has become exceedingly filled to the brim. I realized I’ve been neglecting my faithful NBA inquirers since the end of the regular season and now the beginning of free agency has given me the impetus I needed to start digging in to my unattended emails and firing off some diligent responses. So without further ado, here’s the latest edition of the Fake Mailbag. Enjoy.

Q: C’mon, did we kill it this offseason or what?

(Vivek, Sacramento)

JB: The one thing we can’t do is knock the Kings for trying to shake things up and make some noise this offseason, but my god what are they doing? To say that the Kings are the laughingstock of the NBA right now might not be a harsh enough assessment of what every NBA fan and the 29 other teams truly think of them. I mean the Knicks headlined their offseason with Robin friggin’ Lopez, and now Phil Jackson looks like a competent front office executive compared to what Vlade Divac has done.

vivek

It’s understandable for the Kings to unload bad salaries in preparation to sign some free agents, but there are several things wrong with how they went about it. I’m not even referring to the disastrous negotiations with the Sixers (but trust me we’ll get to that). First off, why did the Kings pull the trigger on the Sixers trade without even getting a firm commitment from any free agents they were targeting? It probably would’ve helped to see if Monta Ellis or Wesley Matthews were even interested in coming to Sacramento before the Kings traded away Nik Stauskas and future draft picks.

How confident could Vivek and Vlade have been that they’d land one of their top targets, that they were so eager to complete the trade with Philadelphia? Also, is no one in the Kings’ front office aware that they could’ve used the stretch provision on a guy like Jason Thompson, which would’ve opened up cap space immediately. It also wouldn’t involve frivolously throwing away draft picks and past lottery picks to the Sixers in exchange for a couple European prospects who will likely never go stateside. The continuous ineptitude of this franchise is baffling.

I’m also dumbfounded at how exactly negotiations between Vlade and Sam Hinkie resulted in the Kings mortgaging part of their future for essentially nothing in return from the Sixers. I wonder what Sam Hinkie’s opening offer was, and how it was finally whittled down to the bounty that was agreed upon by both executives. Did Hinkie ask for like five first-round picks and Vlade thought he was playing hardball and compromised by giving the Sixers, Stauskas, a future first and two pick swaps?

But regardless of how terrible the trade was for Sacramento, what makes it even worse is that they were able to do relatively nothing substantial with the money they freed up. The Kings agreed to deals with Rajon Rondo, Marco Belinelli, Kosta Koufos, and were able to re-sign Omri Casspi. I think we can all agree that Rondo is past his prime, and he and George Karl’s relationship will be as explosive as Independence Day at Jason Pierre-Paul’s house (Too soon?). Belinelli is a serviceable veteran, but what’s Marco giving you that Stauskas can’t (and for $4 million more per year)? Koufos is also a nice player, but how are you planning on working a rotation between him DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein. None of these guys can stretch the floor for you, and is Koufos as your reserve center much better than having Thompson and Landry still?

For the Kings to trade Stauskas, Thompson, Landry, a first-round pick and two pick swaps, just for the opportunity to sign Rondo, Belinelli and Koufos is an absolute disaster. There’s really no way to look at this trade and rule in favor of the Kings, and this will surely be a deal that haunts them for a long time. Especially if Stauskas is able to take off with the 76ers, and who knows, maybe the Kings win the lottery in the next two years and have to yield that selection to Philly.

Q: What do you think about David West signing for the minimum in San Antonio?

(Paul, Indiana)

JB: After discussing this subject with multiple friends and reading many different opinions on the signing, I can say that I’m in the minority of people of who don’t like this deal at all. But probably for all the wrong reasons of which I cannot personally relate to.

Of course it’s great for the Spurs, who are able to add another quality big man to their bench. And why should I be upset that David West wants to take $11 million less for a chance to chase a ring? Listen, I don’t know West personally, so who am I to question his decision to opt out of major money and take the minimum to play for the Spurs. But I’d still like to air my concerns about players chasing rings. Especially, players like West who aren’t stars.

I don’t understand the blind showering of praise coming down for West to take less money to have a “chance” at a ring, as it’s obviously not guaranteed. Did I miss the part where West became a martyr, leading the charge for all above-average players who want to get a ring before their retirement? Why couldn’t West play with the Pacers for one more year and then next year hit free agency and sign with a true contender then?

A core of Paul George, Monta Ellis and West wouldn’t be the favorite in the East, but that’s a core who would possibly be able to get to the Eastern Conference Finals and then, who knows? West has a decent amount of good basketball left in him, so why does he want to go to San Antonio and play 18 minutes off the bench just for a shot at a ring?

Let’s not overstate the financial aspect of this move. Of course West has made tons of money in this league, but $11 million is a lot of money to forego. What if one day he’s in a life-or-death situation where the only thing that’ll save him is the $11 million dollars that he gave up by going to San Antonio? I mean a championship ring is probably only worth $100,000, and that only depreciates in value.

The last thing I have to say on the subject is that rings don’t define your legacy as a player, even though many pundits believe that to be the case. Maybe if you’re a LeBron caliber player they’ll define you, but not for a guy like West. To some players maybe rings do define success in their minds, but isn’t that what the money is for? The massive amount of money West has accumulated in this league will define how successful he was in the NBA, not being a reserve player on a Spurs title team.

Even if the Spurs win the title this year, no one is going to remember 10 years from now that West was the second man off the bench for this team. No one will care that he sacrificed money to just be a small part of championship team that was headlined by Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Tim Duncan. He’ll be an afterthought. However, if he would’ve stayed with the Pacers and somehow he and George were able to upset LeBron and the Cavs next years, that’s a player and team I’ll remember.

Rant over.

Q: Why doesn’t DeAndre Jordan want to be my friend?

(Chandler, Dallas)

JB: I think Wednesday night was one of the most bizarre Twitter bystander moments of all time? The dribbles of information that were pouring out every few minutes from several NBA sources like Woj, Marc Stein and Chris Broussard just added fuel to the fire. Did we honestly all think that the Clippers were holding DeAndre Jordan hostage in his own house? I mean the guy is 7’0, 260 pounds, if he wants to leave his house no one is going to stop him.

So what ended up happening is that DeAndre just got cold feet about going to Dallas and all he really needed was some TLC from the Clippers brass, Blake and CP3, and to show him some love. DeAndre wanted to feel wanted by his coach and teammates.

That’s what got him to agree with Dallas in the first place. Mark Cuban and Chandler Parsons sold him on the idea of becoming a star player in Dallas, and acknowledged his unique talents. But when it came down to the 11th hour and the time to sign a deal, DeAndre just wasn’t feeling Dallas.

This is just the danger of the moratorium before the start of the league year. It’s always possible for players to back out of deals. DeAndre is like Cush’s dad from “Jerry Maguire.”

DJ: “Mark Cuban, you have my word and it’s stronger than oak….not jk lolz”

cush

I don’t think we can blame DeAndre for choosing to be in a much better situation in LA, but the way the whole thing was handled was childish and immature. He ducked Cuban and didn’t want to face him and say man-to-man that he wasn’t coming to Dallas.

DeAndre is an important part of this Clippers team, but it’s still kind of funny LA is paying $88 million to a center who can’t shoot free throws.

Q: Is the Lakers’ offseason a disaster?

(Phil, NYC)

JB: Yes. It most definitely is.

The Lakers’ offseason seemed to be hinging on the acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge, or at least other players of somewhat equal talent. But after striking out with LMA, they’re in a very precarious situation. The trade that brought in Roy Hibbert has been their only real move of value. Hibbert is nothing to write home about, but at least it’s something.

The Lakers have zero incentive to tank and be awful again next season, as they’re without their first-round draft pick if it falls outside the top three picks. We all know Kobe really isn’t interested in the team purposely losing games again either.

D’Angelo Russell has a chance to be a real special player, but even with a core of Russell, Kobe, Clarkson, Randle (returning from injury) and Hibbert, the Lakers are an afterthought if you’re discussing who might be able to make the No. 8 seed in the West. The Lakers will likely be terrible again next season, and now have no way of getting better unless they recoup some of that LA Lakers basketball mystique to drive free agents to the table in 2016.

Q: Because of the rise in salary cap over the next two seasons, it’s hard to be critical of huge contracts for mediocre or slightly above-average players, so what were some contracts you thought were bargains?

(R.C., San Antonio)

JB: Danny Green, San Antonio: 4yr/$45mil

Monta Ellis, Indiana: 4yr/$44mil

(Consider that Wesley Matthews, who has one working Achilles, got 4yr/$70mil, oh jeez.)

Tobias Harris, Orlando: 4yr/$64mil (I just feel he’s a lot better than people think, and he’s only 22)

Patrick Beverley, Houston: 4yr/$25mil

Brandan Wright, Memphis: 3yr/$18mil

Mo Williams, Cleveland: 2yr/$4.4mil (not named Matthew Dellavedova)

Arron Afflalo, New York: 2yr/$16mil

Alan Anderson, Washington: 1yr/$4mil (solid replacement for oft-injured Beal)

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