We've gotten through most of the preliminary waves of NBA free agency, and already some high-profile signings have taken place. There's no doubt that some teams have heavily boosted their stock for next season, acquiring some of the game's best talent. While some of the best players also decided to re-sign with their incumbent teams, we also saw many of the game's best feel the need to switch to a different franchise.
Whether or not these moves pay off is still up in the air. So much depends on which roster the individual players will be joining, and how stable the front office situation is. A player may be talented in a vacuum, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee success with a new team. Other factors such as age, injury history and cohesion with new teammates are also paramount in the outcome of any given free agency signing. There simply are no guarantees.
As usual, we're going to see plenty of rousing successes, along with colossal failures for this year's free agency class. Let's take a look at which players fall on each side of aisle.
Ranked below are the 8 best and 7 worst NBA free agent signings from the 2017 offseason.
15 Gordon Hayward: Boston Celtics (Best)
An under-the-radar star in Utah for years, Hayward is finally going to a big-market team, and one that is immediately a contender for a deep playoff run. This is a good signing for Boston, just because he's a good player, although some questions about fit may come into play in the early going. Still, the Celtics needed to add more firepower to their lineup in order to compete with LeBron and the Cavs next year. They didn't disappoint.
Hayward won't end up being the frontline star for the team, but that isn't why he was brought in. He'll work in combination with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford to form a well-rounded team that really has a chance to make some noise next year. It's not an absolutely perfect signing by position fit, but it's one that the Celtics needed to make this offseason.
14 Nick Young: Golden State Warriors (Worst)
As he's certainly one of the league's most outspoken personalities, it may seem like Young going to the Warriors is a mismatch, and that's probably the truth. Golden State is the best team in the league right now, and play a high-profile game every night. Conversely, Young hasn't played a truly meaningful game in years. He's toiled away on the Lakers and Sixers for the past five seasons, and as a result hasn't played much in the way of playoff basketball, which is essentially when the Warriors' season begins.
Young has some talent, but it's difficult to see how he's going to usurp Klay Thompson, Steph Curry or Kevin Durant for any significant contributions. Then again, given that he's only on a one-year deal, so maybe the Warriors just see him as a filler body. Either way, it's a strange signing for sure.
13 Taj Gibson: Minnesota Timberwolves (Best)
The Timberwolves are all of a sudden a real contender in the Western Conference, and the moves made this offseason are the primary reason why. They've added to their young core of players that are going to lead the team for years, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns among them. Gibson is a smart veteran signing, and a player that they're going to need come playoff time.
Gibson, of course, was a key contributor on Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau's previous Bulls teams, and is one of the most reliable players in the league, when given the correct role. Minnesota won't need him to be a world-beater, and instead will only require him to supplement their more dynamic talent. It's a good signing for the team, who desperately needed to add a veteran presence to their talented, but youthful roster.
12 Vince Carter: Sacramento Kings (Worst)
Surprisingly, the Kings actually had a better offseason than many thought they would have going into it. They managed to actually follow through competently on the promise of a rebuild, and made some good draft decisions, along with solid free agent pickups. However, at age 40, Carter just isn't going to have much of an impact, and is decidedly a stopgap player.
The good news is that Carter has shown that he's able to come off the bench and not create drama in the locker room. Sometimes, star players, even ones that are well past their prime, don't conform to their new role so easily. While Carter won't be causing any trouble on a rebuilding team, his skills have deteriorated to the point where he is a shell of the player he once was.
11 J.J. Redick: Philadelphia 76ers (Best)
Much like the Timberwolves, the Sixers have an established (but often injured) young core of players that are slated to carry the team for years to come. The thing they were missing from their roster was a defined shooter, and they got one of the best in Redick. Coming off of a season where he had one of the best 3-point percentages in the league, and was a key contributor to the Clippers' roster, the Sixers finally have acquired the sniper they have desired for years now.
Whether Redick stays for multiple seasons is up in the air, but there's no doubt that he'll fulfill the role he's expected to for at least this year. The Sixers wanted a certified shooter that can knock down the big shot with consistency, and that's what they're going to get with Redick.
10 Michael Carter-Williams (Worst)
Carter-Williams had his worst NBA season last year with Chicago, where he finished with career-lows in nearly every statistical category. After being selected by the Sixers in 2013 and having a good rookie season, he's struggled to find his niche in the league, as well as a roster where he's a scheme fit. There's just been an overall lack of consistency that make him a huge question mark going forward.
Now making a go of it on the Hornets, this may be his last opportunity to be a frontline starter in the NBA. Fortunately for him, Charlotte doesn't have an absolutely stacked roster, so there's going to be opportunity for Carter-Williams to put up some big numbers that can turn his career around. However, that also means he'll be playing on a bad team, which isn't always the best place to stage a turnaround for an individual's career.
9 Jeff Teague: Minnesota Timberwolves (Best)
Here's another great signing for the Timberwolves, who as mentioned have substantially improved their roster for next season. Teague is one of the best point guards in the league, with a defined skill set that won't deteriorate any time soon. He's going to have a wealth of talent to distribute the ball to, and is a key piece that makes Minnesota a legitimate contender.
The fit just wasn't right for him with the Pacers last season, even though his numbers didn't suffer a drop-off. Teague needs to be on a talented, but youthful team that can make a real playoff run in the next couple of seasons. Without question, the Timberwolves fit the bill, and they're set up to make some serious noise next season due to this offseason, as well as the transformation of Wiggins and Towns into truly elite NBA players.
8 Kelly Olynyk: Miami Heat (Worst)
Olynyk was able to carve out a niche for himself with the Celtics over the past few seasons, becoming a reliable bench player in a system that worked for him. Now going to the Heat, the situation becomes a bit more dicey for him as he tries to fill a new role, on a new team. He'll still likely be playing a depth role, but playing behind Hassaan Whiteside is much different than what he was doing in Boston.
The issue is that Olynyk doesn't really excel at any one thing, so even though he's a decent player for a depth role on certain rosters, putting him in a game situation on a team with less overall talent than the Celtics could be problematic. If he's expected to be a primary contributor off the bench, then the Heat may not get the best return on this investment.
7 Jeff Green: Cleveland Cavaliers (Best)
This is exactly the kind of talented, but journeyman player that LeBron can turn into a consistently productive force to aid to a championship team. Green has always had a ton of raw talent, but recently has been stuck in a myriad of bad situations, including the Magic last year. Playing with LeBron James and the Cavs is going to turn him into a key contributor off the bench, in a role that doesn't expect him to do too much.
By now, LeBron is a master at these reclamation projects, and there's little chance for the Green signing to be a disappointment. The Cavs need more help on the bench, and Green can give them consistent minutes in a supplementary role, with not too much drop-off from a starting-caliber player, if any. There's very little downside to this signing at all.
6 Raymond Felton: Oklahoma City Thunder (Worst)
Felton was once a half-decent back-court player, but now he's deteriorated into nothing more than a role player at best, and a liability at worst. Sure, the Thunder only gave him a one-year deal, but they would be better off giving the minutes to a younger player. Felton was never the greatest athlete to begin with, and is obviously less so in his 30s. Having him play a supplementary role to Russell Westbrook just doesn't seem to make sense.
So OKC isn't likely to be getting any sizable production out of Felton, and he's taking up minutes that could be used to get a younger player on the floor, who could prove to actually be useful for the long run. It's an ill-advised signing, and one that has next to no staying power for the long-term. Felton is dead weight, no question about it.
5 George Hill: Sacramento Kings (Best)
The Kings were able to land point guard De'Aaron Fox as their 1st round pick, and he figures to be the future distributor of the offense. Hill is a quality veteran who can teach Fox the nuances of the position as it applies to the NBA game, and also provide a buffer so that the 19-year-old doesn't have to play right away in a full-time starting role.
With any rebuild, there needs to be a focal point-player that the new team is built around. It's quite clear that the Kings believe Fox to be that guy. With that, they want to invest in other players that can make his game better, and Hill is exactly the kind of mentor that will pay dividends for Fox down the road. It's a smart signing, not only because Hill is a productive veteran, but because it will accelerate the learning process for their prized draft pick.
4 Danilo Gallinari: Los Angeles Clippers (Worst)
In many respects, the Clippers seem to be a team without a plan right now. Chris Paul left in free agency, they re-signed Blake Griffin despite major question marks, and nobody really knows how much longer coach Doc Rivers has left with the team. Signing Gallinari for such a high price tag (three years, $65 million) is another head-scratching move that isn't likely to pay off.
Gallinari played on a bad Nuggets team for the last seven years, and is now going to be placed on a team that needs to win right now. Now he has some good players around him; ones that are going to demand more looks than just about anyone on the Nuggets' roster. Can Gallinari still effectively produce even though he won't be the main guy anymore? Time will tell, but this seems like a reach by Los Angeles.
3 Rudy Gay: San Antonio Spurs (Best)
This is a great signing by San Antonio. Gay is exactly the kind of player Gregg Popovich loves to coach; he's a heady, smart player with a defined, well-varied skill set. He can score effectively, run the floor, and contribute in just about every area of the game. He's exactly the kind of piece that a perennial playoff team like the Spurs can utilize to their advantage.
Gay will be joining an established, winning culture that still has enough playmakers on the roster to make a run at a title. He's still in the prime of his career, and can immediately make an impact. The Spurs are going to be gunning for a title again next season, and the acquisition of Gay really will help them be a legitimate contender yet again.
2 Tim Hardaway Jr.: New York Knicks (Worst)
Oh man. The Knicks prove that even without the services of Phil Jackson, that they're still the same dumpster fire they've been for years. The team inked the 25-year-old Hardaway--a player that they actually drafted in 2013, and then went to the Hawks for two years--to a four-year, $71 million contract that suddenly makes him one of their franchise players. Needless to say, nobody can really figure this one out.
Hardaway wasn't terrible on the Hawks, but he was far from what you would call a standout star. He's also never been a consistent starter on either the Knicks or the Hawks for an entire season, playing no more than 27 minutes per game in any given season, which simply doesn't make since with the size of this contract. Either the Knicks know something we don't, or they're making another rash, foolhardy decision. I'll bet that it's the latter.
1 Paul Millsap: Denver Nuggets (Best)
The Nuggets may not be one of the major players in the Western Conference yet, but they just barely missed out on the playoffs last season. Axing Gallinari to sign Millsap will ultimately prove to be the correct move if the team doesn't want to embark upon a full rebuild. Millsap is one of the elite front-court players in the league, and is a monstrous rebounder and decent points scorer.
This blends well with the current Denver lineup which already has some effective (and under-the-radar) back-court players in Will Barton and Gary Harris who are still young. Forward Wilson Chandler will fill in very well at Gallinari's spot, so there's not a massive void to fill. Overall, Millsap is going to be an intriguing piece to the Nuggets' puzzle, and he could be the catalyst that lands them in the playoffs, maybe even ready to make some noise in a competitive Western Conference.
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