Biggest takeaways from NBA Free Agency

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We are now over 24 hours removed from the most exciting free agency period of any sport in the history of sports in this country. Before I break down my thoughts on everything, let's first recognize how much better the NBA is at free agency than Major League Baseball.

In the Major League Baseball offseason we were using the words "collusion" and "embarrassing" when discussing where Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were going to go. A quality closer in Craig Kimbrel didn't even make it to a roster before the season started. It is literally a 180 degree difference in the two sports when it comes to offseason entertainment. The root of the difference comes down to something very simple. In baseball, value is not clearly defined. We did not exactly know what Bryce Harper wanted for his next contract going into the offseason. We knew that he wanted to set a benchmark, but did he want to the most total money in baseball history? Did he want the most years in baseball history? Did he want the most money PER year? That was the very difficult part of reading the Harper free agency, we did not know what he was going for exactly.

In basketball, we know what these guys are going for. We can specifically categorize every athlete. Kemba Walker and Anthony Davis wanted a chance to grow a contender. Jimmy Butler wanted a respectable organization. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving wanted to play together. We knew all of this before free agency began so it makes total sense that we would see deals for all of these free agents on day one. Baseball drags on and on because of that difference, however also the "max contract" requires a much longer commitment in baseball. Harper's "max contract" is a 13 year deal. 13!!!!! For a power hitter! Kemba Walker's max deal is a 4 year deal. I use these two players as examples because I think they were at very similar points in their careers heading into their free agency. Both young superstars who were about to get paid, and we could potentially see both of them as Hall of Famers one day, yet neither had been near a championship yet. Naturally, their mindsets would be similar.
So lets get to my biggest takeaways so far


Kemba Walker deal saves Boston

This will net him roughly $35 million dollars per year and it is the definition of a "deep breath" for the organization. It's amazing how quickly things can change in this sport. We saw it with the Pelicans when they brought in David Griffen to help save the day when Anthony Davis said he was not going to re-sign. The team went from no hope and losing a super star, to drafting Zion Williamson and getting a boat load of talent back for Anthony Davis in a very short amount of time and it will not surprise me if they make the playoffs very soon. The Celtics change happened over the span of a year. At the beginning of this NBA season, the Celtics were the CLEAR favorites. Everybody kept saying that if a team led by Terry Rozier, Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown can make it to the East Finals, adding Kyrie and Gordon Hayward into the mix will get them in the NBA Finals for sure. That simply was not the case, the team underperformed in the playoffs which led to Kyrie and Al Horford walking. Kemba now is the face of that Celtics and I think will be a great fit for a team that looked like it was going to take a nosedive.

The Knicks and Hornets are still big losers

As good as it is for Boston to get Kemba, it is equally as bad for Charlotte that they let him walk. The reported Charlotte offer to Kemba was a five year deal worth $160 million dollars. They could have offered $221 million if they wanted to. If I'm the Hornets, I was thinking to myself as the Anthony Davis drama was happening this year, thankfully that's not us. Thankfully our superstar has not publicly requested a trade because he does believes we can't win. That's what happened with Davis in New Orleans, and frankly it was the same situation in Charlotte. The AD situation should have been a warning sign to the Hornets that this stuff happens. Star players walk from small markets all the time, it's up to the organization to convince our superstar that we have a direction. The Pelicans didn't do that for Davis, the Knicks didn't do that with Kristops and the Hornets clearly did not do that with Kemba. To offer Kemba $50 million less than what they could have is insulting, and they had to know they were going to be outbid. If I'm a Hornet fan I am livid.

Not quite as livid as a Knick fan however. This franchise, led by the worst owner in sports in James Dolan, has repeatedly made horrible decisions. The Eddy Curry contract, the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Isiah Thomas debacle at general manager… At some point when you are in the lottery every year and you clear cap space every three years, you are supposed to get better. They don't get better because of the incompetence in the front office. Kevin Durant specifically said that the Nets front office was a major reason he and Kyrie made the move. Even if you don't believe the Knicks statement of not wanting to give Durant the max contract because of his injury, it is still an embarrassment when you clear all the cap space they did in the Porzingis deal, and come away with Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock, and Taj Gibson. On top of it all, Durant and Kyrie will be IN NEW YORK. I said when the Giants passed on Sam Darnold, the one team they better hope doesn't grab him was the Jets because he will have a successful career in the same city while you struggle at the quarterback position for years. That's what happened again in New York yesterday, just different sports.

Brooklyn hits jackpot, but time will tell if it works

Incompetence leads to success for others. That's the way of the world, and the Knicks terribleness has led to the Nets fortune. Kyrie gets another fresh start after failing in Boston. Make no mistake about it, what happened for Kyrie in Boston was a failure. Kyrie wins a championship with LeBron in Cleveland and decides he wants to be his own guy, so he demands a trade. After his injury two years ago and the success of the team without him, this year was a struggle for him being "the guy" from both from a production standpoint and a leadership standpoint. He chooses to leave AGAIN even after telling season ticket holders at the beginning of the year that he is going to stay. This new fresh start will be telling because he will get to be "the guy" next year without Kevin Durant. How will it work with him accepting Durant in next year? When Durant comes back it will be his team and Kyrie will have to fall backwards into a supporting act. It is natural to question if Kyrie will be ok, sliding back into a non star role. Here is what I will tell the doubters: This situation in Brooklyn is different than his situation in Cleveland. With LeBron he was CLEARLY the number 2 player on the team. With Durant, I think he will blend into a 1B Player. This means equal playing time, equal or slightly less shots, a trade off in who's "night" it will be, and a tradeoff for who will get the last shot in close games. If we're comparing the situations to movies, Kyrie will be the lead actress compared to the supporting male actor. I think this will work.

Jimmy Butler to Miami confuses me

This was the most eye popping move from over the weekend. I really thought Jimmy was a great fit in Philly primarily because of his personality. As an east coaster I can tell you that part of the country enjoy's big personalities and straight shooters. That is exactly what Butler is, and it sounded like from everything we heard all Butler wanted to do was win. The interesting part about this deal for me is Butler talking about how blown away impressed he was at the respect they showed Dwayne Wade at the end of his career. He was impressed by the respect and love the fans showed Dwayne Wade at the end of his career. I find it puzzling that Butler thinks that he will receive "Dwayne Wade love." That was earned over a long period of time, and I actually think he would have had a better chance of receiving that in Philly.


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As is our annual tradition at the NBA all-star break, Couch Slouch looks ahead to the remainder of the season – laced with remarkable perspicacity* – at no additional cost to you, the reader.

Yes, I will provide the acumen of subscription-based The Athletic and the access of pricey NBA League Pass…ALL FOR FREE.

Let's do it!

It used to be, "NBA Action, It's FANtastic." Now it's, "NBA Action, Bombs Away!" For much of NBA history, a basket was worth two points. In 1979, they decided that some baskets – from longer distances – would be three points. Then more recently, some analytic smart alecks figured out that three-point baskets were worth one more point than two-point baskets, so let's just make three-point baskets.

The game has changed.

The Milwaukee Bucks' 7-foot center, Brook Lopez, has taken more three-point shots this season (242) than two-point shots (234). The Dallas Mavericks' Kristaps Porzingis, at 7-foot-3, is the tallest man on the floor, yet he has taken almost as many three-pointers (277) as two-pointers (362).

We have evolved from those Pistons'-Bad-Boys, Pat-Riley-with-the-Knicks 88-85 slugfests of the late 1980s and early '90s to the current-day 128-126 playground skirmishes. The games have gone from rugby matches to the Ice Capades.

The fast-break layup has morphed into the fast-break 23-footer.

There is feasibly a middle ground between 88-85 and 128-126; I don't know what that exact number would be, but I always vote for the middle ground.

Three cheers for Ben Simmons, the three-ball contrarian. The multi-skilled Philadelphia 76ers' point guard will not do what everyone wants him to do – take three-point shots. You know how some kids have a mental block about math? Simmons has a mental block about three-pointers.

In his first two NBA seasons, Simmons did not make a three-pointer, attempting only 17 of them. This season he is two-for-six from beyond the arc.

You be you, Ben, two points at a time.

I stand with Simmons: Years ago, newspaper editors insisted I write longer articles with bigger words. No way, I told them – I write short and I use one-syllable words. And I'm still here.

(* "Perspicacity" is a rare exception.)

If it were up to Gregg Popovich, no one would ever take a 25-foot shot. One of the NBA's greatest coaches ever and one of the most severe critics of three-ball, Popovich is in danger of having two remarkable streaks end: In 22 full seasons of helming the San Antonio Spurs, he has never had a losing record and never missed the postseason.

"I've hated the three for 20 years," Popovich said in 2018. At the moment the Spurs are 28th out of 30 NBA teams in three-point shots made and 29th in three-pointers attempted.

The Spurs are 23-31 – five games out of a playoff spot – and their best chance might be to petition the league for transfer into the Eastern Conference.

As usual, the Eastern Conference should be quarantined. The 19-38 Detroit Pistons have a better chance of making the East playoffs than the 33-22 Oklahoma Thunder and 33-22 Dallas Mavericks have of earning home-court advantage in the West playoffs.

Then again, the Pistons also have a better chance of making the playoffs than Ben Simmons does of ever making another three-point shot.

The Golden State Warriors have gone from penthouse to outhouse, three points at a time. Many folks – I am not among them – are delighted that the Warriors, after five straight NBA Finals appearances with consecutive seasons of 67-15, 73-9, 67-15, 58-24 and 57-25, currently have an NBA-worst 12-43 record.

Enjoy it while you can.

Next season, aside from a core of young talent and the likely No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the Warriors will also have all-star Draymond Green, plus the return of the NBA's greatest three-point-shooting back court ever, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Zion Williamson is the real deal. But he's only taking one three-pointer per game. DO THE MATH, son: 3 > 2.

Ask The Slouch - Special Houston Astros Edition (again)


Q. Is it true that Astros owner Jim Crane has hired Rudy Giuliani to visit Ukraine in search of proof that Hunter Biden was the mastermind behind the sign-stealing fiasco? (Rick LaDuca; Ashburn, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. If the Astros ever hire Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as manager and starting pitcher, respectively, will Rob Manfred preemptively suspend them as repeat cheaters? (Tom Walker; Colonie, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. When MLB adds trash cans to its merchandise list, will they only be available with the Astros logo or will they include all teams with former Astros players/coaches? (David Roberts; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. How much trouble is Carlos Beltran's grandmother in for not providing proper guidance? (Ron Anderson; Lynnwood, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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