The 2012 Free Agency Period is still in its infancy. We’re currently in the moratorium period where, although teams can agree on deals with players, nothing can be signed until July 11. A number of moves have been made with certain high profile players landing with new teams. Here are the five teams/signings that have made the biggest impact:
1. Steve Nash signs with the Los Angeles Lakers
In perhaps the most surprising move we’ve seen so far, the Lakers were able to pull off a sign-and-trade to bring Phoenix PG Steve Nash to LA. Nash is on the tail end of a magnificent career, and he wants to go out with a championship. So, it makes perfect sense for the Lakers to acquire a top tier point guard and one of the best shooters in NBA history. Kobe Bryant has never had the opportunity to play with an elite point guard, so there will likely be a big of an adjustment period. But, Bryant and Nash are two of the smartest players in the NBA, so I expect them to figure it out rather quickly. Nash also figures to give big ups to the games of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol with his ability to shred defenses with a perfectly executed pick and roll, which will be a somewhat new element added to the Lakers offensive arsenal. While it doesn’t help the Lakers’ PG defense, Nash is certainly an upgrade over Derek Fisher or Ramon Sessions. LA has put themselves right back in the championship hunt with a single move.
2. Brandon Roy signs with the Minnesota Timberwolves
This is a huge make-or-miss move by the TWolves, but I think it will pay off. Roy was forced to retire from the Portland Trailblazers prior to last season due to chronic knee issues, but after a year off and surgery from the same doctor who treated the knees of Bryant and Yankees’ 3B Alex Rodriguez, I have to believe Roy will be able to compete at a high level. This move makes Minnesota a much more complete team, with a roster led by Roy, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, and a number of other role players, which very well may propel them into the playoffs. While I don’t love the 2-year, $11 million deal (it seems a little high for a player who believed his career was over just a year ago), this was an impact move that could very well put Minny over the edge.
3. Houston Rockets utilize poison pill contracts
While they’ve put themselves in a somewhat dire situation at PG, the Rockets have gone all out with their use of what has been termed ‘poison pill contracts’ this offseason. Essentially, they are offering deals to restricted free agents that are extremely heavily back-loaded, meaning that if the player’s original team wants to match, they are going to take a hard hit to the salary cap in the final year of the contract. The reason this strategy is so ingenious is that, while the matching team must pay out the contract as is, the Rockets’ salary cap is his by the average of the contract over the years instead of a lump sum in the final year. Houston has already leveraged this move with Bulls’ center Omer Asik and Knicks’ guard Jeremy Lin. Both of those teams may match, but will be hit hard in the wallet for it. Not only does this give Houston the chance to pry solid free agents away from their original team, but it gives them the added benefit of financial advantage a few years down the road if they do lose out on the contract. While this issue will likely be resolved in the next CBA (it appears as though it was relatively unforeseen in this past summer’s discussions), the Rockets are using it to its fullest extent this season.
4. Brooklyn Nets trade for Joe Johnson
While Johnson has one of worse contracts in the NBA, this was a good move for the Nets. Not only did the Nets get a significant upgrade at the 2, they were also able to keep assets in Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, and Marshon Brooks. Even more, the move did enough to convince All-Star Deron Williams to sign an extension with the team after they gambled in acquiring him two seasons ago. In moving to a new city, the Nets had to make a splash this offseason, and this was the right direction to go. Brooklyn’s lineup actually figures to have one of the better starting 5s in the East next season and will have a good shot at making the playoffs if they can remain healthy. On top of all that, the Nets still have the chance to complete a deal for Dwight Howard, giving them their own Big 3 with Johnson and Williams. This was a step in the right direction for a team that has been dismal the last few seasons and Brooklyn still has the chance to further upgrade their roster.
5. Ray Allen (very likely) signs with the Miami Heat
So I know this isn’t officially a done deal at this point, but all indications are that Allen will ink a deal with the Miami Heat. It seems hard to believe he’d be willing to return to a Boston team where he will play second fiddle to Avery Bradley and have to compete with Jason Terry for minutes, so expect to see this deal announced within the coming days. This is a huge upgrade for the Heat, who are getting a player that, if healthy, remains one of the deadliest jump shooters in the league. The added outside threat should clear up the lane for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and make an already potent offense even more effective. Allen also has a winning pedigree, so bringing him in to play with the defending champions should pan out to be a solid move.