The first two weeks of NBA free agency are over, with most of the big names off of the market. Since we have reached the lull in the offseason when fans start placing way too much importance on meaningless summer league games, now is a good time to look back at the winners and losers of free agency thus far.

 

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

Even if it is one-year rental , stealing Paul George from the Pacers is a huge win for OKC. They practically flipped what they got in return from dealing Serge Ibaka and turned it into George, making them a contender in the West once again. PG-13  is a perfect sidekick to Russell Westbrook, a complete two-way player who can do it all, including taking over the offense to shore up the Thunder’s atrocious bench when Westbrook sits. By getting rid of Victor Oladipo’s large and lengthy contract in the deal, OKC has created cap flexibility to go out and chase another superstar next summer if George decides to bolt to LA . If George does agree to stay, the Thunder are both in a much better position to keep Russell Westbrook and would be seen as legitimate challengers to the Warriors. Imagine Westbrook and Durant dueling seven games in a row in the Western Conference Finals. That is appointment television.

 

Winner: Brooklyn Nets

Call me a biased Nets fanatic who is way too excited about mostly insignificant moves, but I am a huge fan of what General Manager Sean Marks has done with the Nets in his short tenure  with the team. Gone is the infamous Billy King era, in which the Nets overpaid for past-their-prime stars, sacrificing draft picks and the team’s future in the process. Marks has stripped the roster down and taken fliers on young, cheap players with potential, and he has created a large amount of cap space in the process. With this cap space, Marks has made offers in the past two offseasons to some of the best restricted free agents on the market, including former Hoya Otto Porter Jr. Even though the players’ original teams eventually matched all of the contracts, Marks let the league know that the Nets are a team that should be respected. The cap space has instead been used on albatross contracts that other teams want to get rid of, with promising players and picks attached, like the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, D’Angelo Russell. Make no mistake: The Nets will be terrible again next year, but they finally have a bright future after years of purgatory, all thanks to Marks.

 

Loser: Cleveland Cavaliers

The 2018 LeBron  free agency countdown is on. In a vacuum, the Cavs did not have a terrible offseason. They retained their core of LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and brought back their supporting cast, which got them to a third straight finals. However, the Cavs do not operate in a vacuum, so every step not forward is a huge step back. While the rest of the league made moves to compete with Golden State, from Houston’s signing of Chris Paul to the Celtics’ signing of Gordon Hayward, Cleveland stood pat, failing to trade for George and — at the moment — Carmelo Anthony. In addition, owner Dan Gilbert did not renew the contract for respected General Manager David Griffin, whom LeBron had publicly supported. If the Cavs do not win another ring next season, I fully expect King James to leave Cleveland once again in search of greener pastures. The Cavs’ job this season is to convince him otherwise.

 

Loser: New York Knicks

From start to finish, it has been a rough offseason for the Knicks. The month of June saw the end of Phil Jackson’s disastrous tenure as New York’s president of basketball operations. On his way out, Jackson was on the verge of trading superstar Kristaps Porzingis, the only source of excitement in Madison Square Garden, because Porzingis missed a meaningless exit meeting with Jackson. On top of the sheer stupidity of entertaining trading a 21-year-old, 7’3’’ big man with three-point range, Jackson severely depressed Anthony’s trade value by making his intentions clear that Anthony had no future in New York. Saying a player is better off somewhere else does not exactly stir up a bidding war.

 

Jackson’s egotistical decision-making cost him his job, to the delight of Knicks fans, but the team’s moves after Jackson’s departure have not signaled any more competence. The Knicks signed their former player Tim Hardaway Jr. to a 4-year, $71-million contract, two years after trading him to the Hawks for a draft pick. The Hawks, who, for the record, expected Hardaway to fetch around $45 million in the open market, were shocked at the Knicks’ offer and quickly declined to match. In pure Knicks fashion, the draft pick the Knicks got from Atlanta was used to trade for Derrick Rose, whose contract New York failed to renew in order to sign Tim Hardaway Jr.

 

To top it all off, Owner James Dolan lowballed Griffin, refusing to offer him full control over basketball operations. Dolan has a notoriously large ego, but when he does cede power, he usually does so to the wrong person, like Jackson or Isiah Thomas. Dolan did hire former Kings’ Vice President of Basketball Operations Scott Perry to be the Knicks’ new general manager, but only time will tell whether this move will pay off or be another catastrophic era in New York Knicks basketball history.

 

 

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