Choice is the best/worst thing ever. For GM’s, free agency is full of choices and decisions. Which players do I re-sign? Which players do I let go? Which players do I target in free agency? How much should I offer this player? How do I really piss-off my team’s fan base? Well, maybe that last one not so much . . .
NBA free agency is hard, and there is no perfect formula for how to go about it. Nonetheless, the decisions made during free agency make the difference between Champs & Chumps. Just ask the Warriors, who though drafting incredibly well over the years, probably don’t win an NBA championship without the help of NBA Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala.
NBA free agency is my favorite time of the year. It’s the one time when everyone can speculate rampantly about players and teams because the entire league is involved. Nonetheless, all NBA fans can get carried away during these trying times. Below is my three step guide to keeping NBA free agency madness in perspective.
Step One: Let It Go!!!!
NBA GM’s and fans alike often like to do this because it’s an easy (lazy) way to understand building a team. For years, we have all used player positions as a way to name the reproducible parts of a "good" NBA team. Recently, in about the past five years or so, we have seen these walls torn down slightly, with terms like "Stretch Four" and "Combo Guard". Unfortunately, teams and fans following these terms of art, have come to understand that, whatever you call a player, doesn’t change the quality of his play.
The first step to NBA free agency enlightenment is to let player positions go. Take what you know about player positions, put it in a box, and bury it in a place so deep that not even Superman could reach that box. NBA player positions consist of big men, not so big men, and Stephen Curry. Everything else is an antiquated notion better left in a museum of basketball history, than for modern day thinking.
Step Two: Know when to hold them, know when to fold them.
The big buzz term in the NBA right now is "continuity." This theory holds that if I just keep my team together long enough, their natural "chemistry" will develop and voila! NBA Championship here we come. In case you could not already tell, I am super skeptical of the philosophy of "continuity." To me, it sounds like an ingenious way for a GM to squeeze out a couple more years on the job, when in reality he has put together a fairly crappy roster.
Building an NBA Championship game is like poker, it doesn’t matter how long you hold that crappy five card hand, it ain’t getting any better. A good GM knows how to get a handful of players that have high percentage odds on a winning. They won’t always win, but overtime the odds will play out in their favor. Thus, it’s not just getting five good players, the game is to get five good players that have high odds to beat your opponents hand. Sometimes a GM should hold his cards, i.e. the Dallas Mavericks, but other times a GM should fold his hand and look to get a better one next year, i.e. the Boston Celtics.
Step Three: "He who is last, shall be first" - GOD
One basic element of human nature is that we all suffer from loss aversion, i.e. we don’t like losing our things, even if those things kind of suck. But sometimes you actually do have to take a few steps back, in order to move forward. If you’re smart about it, losing out in free agency can actually be #winning free agency. Every year there are players who get ramped up in value because they have, frankly, better agents. By the same token, there are always players who tumble in value and can be had for a steal.
The immortal example of this is Paul Millsap. In 2013, teams were lining up to sign self-hypebeast Josh Smith at the start of free agency. About a month after Josh Smith inked his 4 year, 56 million dollar deal with the Pistons, Paul Millsap went to the Atlanta HaLLLLks on a 2 year, 19 million dollar deal.
NBA free agency is a marathon, not a sprint. In truth, most of the real value can be found at the end of free agency. So, if your team whiffs on getting that big name All-Star, all hope is not lost, because who knows, in two years, your team might be paying that guy 56-mil to GTFO.
Now that you have seen the true reality, you are ready for NBA free agency. For the Pelicans, this summer is not about finding the chosen one, because we already have Anthony Davis. Instead, this summer is about adding thick branches to the sturdy core of a strong, young, and talented team.