No one expected this much turnover when the free agency period began. Exorbitant changes are always predicted but they rarely come to pass. This offseason, a lot of changes that were rumored to take place actually happened, and several transactions came out of nowhere. Here’s a list of the five most surprising offseason moves so far.
5. LeBron James returns to the Cleveland Cavaliers
— NBA GIFs (@TheNBAGif) July 11, 2014
James was noncommittal when the 2014 NBA Finals ended. The sports world created fan fiction about where James would go, conjured up new destinations on conjecture, and the reliable predictions of psychic clams. The Miami Heat were expected to be the frontrunners to re-sign James until multiple meeting with the franchises brass never ended with James’ eventual re-signing. That’s when the return to Cleveland seemed inevitable.
Instead of holding a primetime event, James wrote about why he was coming home in his own words with the assistance of Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. James said that this is what make him happy. The rest of the league had to hold that loss and make moves accordingly. Boy, did they ever.
The Utah Jazz matched a four-year, $63 million offer sheet for Hayward doled out by the Charlotte Hornets. It’s a short sighted move that probably won’t have a huge impact on the NBA’s big picture, but it didn’t stop the local media from being more critical than usual.
The Houston Rockets could have kept Parsons in his rookie contract for under $1 million, but relinquished the team option in hopes of signing Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. The Dallas Mavericks then did what any sibling would do, and convinced Parsons to sign a three-year, $46 million offer sheet to screw with the Rockets’ plans. The Rockets can’t really complain about this problem since their “poison pill” deal with Jeremy Lin screwed the New York Knicks two years ago. The Rockets eventually decided to let Parsons go, and instead dealt for Trevor Ariza.
3. Paul Piece signs with Washington Wizards
Obama , J Wall here I come
— Paul Pierce (@paulpierce34) July 13, 2014
This was totally out of left field. Pierce signed a two-year, $10.8 million deal for the full mid-level exception with the Wizards. It was widely assumed that Pierce would either re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets to be with Kevin Garnett, or reunite with Doc Rivers in a Los Angeles Clipper uniform. Sooooo, I guess we really don’t know what we’re talking about. In a Eastern Conference that’s now W-I-D-E open, this could be a needle-moving deal.
2. Pau Gasol signs with the Chicago Bulls
Gasol opted to sign with the Bulls (terms have not yet been disclosed) rather than San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. Given Gasol’s other options, this is a huge surprise. The Spurs and Thunder are ready to win next year. Derrick Rose’s health remains uncertain, and the current Bulls’ roster do not have the pedigree of a champion. However, we should not dismiss the importance of the Bulls’ move to bring Nikola Mirotic over from Spain. Mirotic played on the Spanish National team in 2010 and 2011 which means he and Gasol are already good buddies. I swear, networking is everything.
1. The Los Angeles Lakers whiff on every big free agent
— Mike Montgomery (@monty1038) July 13, 2014
The Lakers’ inability to sign free agents has been blamed on the lack of cap space due to Kobe Bryant’s contract, a blank slate roster, and Mumm-Ra. The actual answer is probably the one we are afraid to talk about: No one wants to play with Bryant. Each of the Lakers’ issues point back to Bryant at some point.
Outside of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers have been rumored to only offer two years contracts in order to coincide with the expiration of Bryant’s contract at the end of the 2015-16 season. This would have given the Lakers enough cap room to sign a big-time guy like Kevin Durant, and fill the roster with the requisite pieces to contend immediately. Instead, their big free agent moves so far have been re-signing Nick Young and Jordan Hill. Fantastic.
Pundits have asked if Bryant tolerate another losing season. Who cares? He doesn’t have a choice. The exact reason for the loss of Lakers’ lore is unclear, but Bryant is far from blameless as the Lakers head to the dark cellar of basketball oblivion.
Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.