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5. Los Angeles Lakers
Every obnoxious west coaster with whom I had the displeasure of going to college has littered my news feed with “KD and Russ teaming up in LA” predictions since Donald Trump was a democrat. Their grandiose visions of Demar “the hometown kid” DeRozan, Durant, and trades for Boogie Cousins and/or Westbrook had the purple and gold nearing another Kobe & Shaq level dynasty.
Unfortunately for Jack Nicholson and the rest of the LA faithful, these delusions existed only in their own minds. With money to burn and nobody to spend it on, the Lakers claimed two of the year’s most ridiculous overpays: guaranteeing 4 years and $64 million to Timofey Mozgov and a multiple year deal to a rapidly declining Luol Deng that will pay him $18 million in 2021 at the age of 36.
Things were not a total loss, though, as the Lakers scored Duke Freshman Brandon Ingram in the NBA Draft, resigned Jordan Clarkson to one of the more team-friendly deals of a summer otherwise dedicated to throwing fun coupons out like Jordan Belfort off the side of his boat, and people (apparently) have finally forgotten about the relationship ruining ways of second-year guard D’Angelo Russell.
While the four-year deals for both Deng and Mozgov were perplexing, to say the least, especially given the run and gun that Warriors clone new Coach Luke Walton presumably wants to create, the Lakers maintain cap flexibility, allowing for a max free agent to come to LA next season.
4. Portland Trailblazers
What the fuck were they thinking? After a shocking 2015/2016, in which the Blazers made the playoffs and gave the Warriors all they could handle after being projected to pick in the lottery, Portland apparently decided it was the time to spend big.
First, the contract given to Evan Turner (valued essentially the same as Steph Curry’s current extension) rivals the Mozgov and Wade deals as the most head scratching of the offseason. From a basketball standpoint, Turner on the floor for FREE doesn’t make any fucking sense, as the Blazers already feature two of the league’s best young guards in CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, both of whom personify the definition of “ball dominant.” There may be actual physical altercations on the floor with these three.
Next, the Nets swooped in like a mentally disabled Batman to shower Allen Crabbe (who?) with a Brinks truck full of unearned salary. Crabbe, a former second round pick with career averages of 12 points and 3 rebounds per game (I’m serious), will now make $18.5M per year in Rip City, after the Blazers decided the Nets management had inflicted enough pain on their beleaguered fan base, matching the ludicrous offer sheet.
With extensions for Lillard, McCollum and Plumlee on the horizon, the long-term money given to Turner and Crabbe likely eliminates Portland from the 2017 free agency sweepstakes, a disappointing outcome for an exciting young franchise.
On the plus size, the late signing of Warriors center Festivus (I realize that is not his name) Ezeli was a nice value play, especially with only 1 fully guaranteed season.
3. Miami Heat
While I think this offseason was nothing more than a long con orchestrated by the genius that is Pat Riley, if I’m wrong and this was all an accident, South Beach is about to go up in flames. Oh wait, they don’t give a fuck about sports.
Anyway, the Heat managed to lose the most beloved player in franchise history over a petty financial impasse, watched Luol Deng and Joe Johnson sign elsewhere, horribly overpaid for Tyler Johnson after Brooklyn (again in their roll as moronic Batman) signed him as a restricted free agent, and signed perhaps the riskiest max player in recent history in center Hassan Whiteside.
And does anybody remember or know what the fuck is happening with Chris Bosh?
Yes, the Heat are set up beautifully for a run at top free agents in 2017, with Riley undoubtedly hoping to recreate his Summer 2010 magic in getting stars to take their talents to South Beach. But if they strike out? The Heat will languish through their worst season in a decade for nothing, without immediate hope.
2. Chicago Bulls
I’m convinced Bulls General Manager Gar Forman hates new Coach Fred Hoiberg so much that he has risked his own employment just to drive the second year head man from Iowa State out of his fucking mind. The Bulls new look backcourt of Wade, Rondo, and Butler is the worst shooting trio I have ever seen in organized basketball, even at the college level. It is impossible to imagine Forman didn’t realize what he was doing combining the NBA’s three greatest brick layers in the same lineup, but how the fuck could he think it was a good idea?
The Bulls traded Rose for nothing of note, immediately cutting Calderon, with the second “piece” a second-year player out of Notre Dame without much, if any, potential as anything outside of a bench player, and Robin Lopez who looks even worse compared to his sibling than we do Mark.
Bringing Wade “back” to his childhood home not only cost Chicago nearly $50 million, but will hamstring free agency efforts in 2017. All for a player 14 years out of college on the rapid decline? Again, puzzling.
Aside from the inexplicable free agency period, the NBA Draft was not much kinder to the Bulls. Chicago’s first round selection, Denzel Valentine, is nearly 23 years old (LeBron had completed 4 NBA seasons by his 23rd birthday), terribly undersized as a power forward, far too unathletic to guard a 2/3 at the NBA level, and suffers from chronic knee ailments that had much of the league staying away like he had the plague.
Major rebuild on the way for the Bulls, and it will not be pretty.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
This is more of a future clusterfuck than present, as at the moment the Thunder still possess a top ten overall roster in the NBA. However, any time you lose one of the best five players in the world, you’ve had a bit of a rough time.
Losing Durant was just the beginning of what will be an absolute disaster for Oklahoma City and General Manager Sam Presti. What a difference a month makes, with just weeks before Durant’s decision, the Thunder lead the then-defending champion Warriors 3-1 after another victory on Golden State’s home floor.
Fast forward past another patented Thunder collapse, a historically awful Game 6 from Durant, and Kevin deciding he, as a supposed “superstar,” could only add four points of value to an NBA team (as the Warriors lost the total series score to Cleveland by just four points), and here we are moving closer to the edge of total irrelevancy.
“But they have Russ! And Kanter! And Oladipo!”
Ok. They have Russ for now, but for how long? I’d guess he never plays another game in a Thunder uniform. Why? Westbrook’s representatives and the market for him have the Thunder bent over a barrel right now. And worst of all? They know it.
The chances of Russ resigning in Oklahoma City, one of the league’s smallest markets, with the limited cap flexibility of the Thunder after extending Kanter and the expiration of Oladipo and Adams’ rookie deals, are slim to none with the loss of Durant. The whole thing only made sense with Durant there, allowing the use of bird rights the Thunder to resign both KD and Russ to max deals, while holding onto their young assets. Not anymore.
Westbrook, who is from LA, just seems to be a big city kid, anyway. He is not shy about wanting the limelight, dresses like a flamboyant European, stars in ads for global corporations extenuating his own oddness, and must see the illogically imagined “path” of the Thunder to a title with Durant in Golden State as realistic as Wisconsin’s 2016 NCAA title chances. Sorry, DeVry.
Anyway, playing Westbrook makes 0 sense, as the Thunder simply risk his injury derailing his already shrinking trade value entirely, with him set to reach free agency this offseason. Now, presumably with both Russ and KD off the roster by 2017, the Thunder will have almost $250 million in fully guaranteed deals to the Magic’s former 6th man Oladipo, the worst defensive big in the league Kanter, and Stephen Adams, after the expiration of Oladipo and Adams’ rookie deals.
The Thunder were so close to the mountaintop, with Presti masterfully crafting an elite roster in a market not palatable to free agents, through a string of home run first round picks (KD, Russ, Ibaka, Harden) that can likely never be replicated. One can’t help but wonder: what if KD didn’t choke away Game 6?
But in this life, there are no asterisks — only scoreboards. And Oklahoma City’s reads: fucked..
Image via YouTube