Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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.
Per The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Framber Valdez plans on both he and the catcher calling pitches this year. He said he “wants to feel more comfortable,” adding “not that I don't feel comfortable with the catchers, but I want to feel comfortable and throw the pitches with more conviction…to feel like I have the game in my hands.”
Framber Valdez has the PitchCom device on his glove as he warms up before the first inning in West Palm Beach. Yainer Diaz is catching him today. https://t.co/tqgmzwfN7r
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) March 1, 2024
Is that a good thing? Either way, it seems like a return to form for Framber Valdez is the biggest “what if” for the 2024 Houston Astros.
Be sure to watch the video above as ESPN Houston's Paul Gallant & Joe George discuss.