By: Alan Payton
The NBA’s free-agent market was incredibly busy for a few days there starting on July 1, but everyone of note has been signed at this point so we have a pretty good idea of what teams will look like heading to training camps in October, barring a trade or major injury.
The clear big winners of free agency are the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs, and not coincidentally they are the respective Eastern and Western Conference favorites for the 2015-16 season. The Cavaliers of course lost to Golden State in six games in the 2015 NBA Finals. That the Cavs got the Warriors to six games was largely all thanks to LeBron James considering the team didn’t have All-Star Kevin Love at all for the series and barely had All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. We always knew that James was going to re-sign with the Cavs — he hasn’t yet but it’s just a matter of semantics — but the big news for Cleveland was that it was able to keep young forward Tristan Thompson in the fold, bring back guard Iman Shumpert and convince Love to re-sign for five years. The club also added Mo Williams to serve as Irving’s backup and injury insurance.
At BetUS, the Cavs are 1.40 favorites to win the Eastern Conference again and 3.50 to win the franchise’s first NBA title. The team might not be done as it is talking with the L.A. Clippers and Brooklyn Nets about a trade for center Brendan Haywood — well, Haywood’s contract really as it is non-guaranteed. The Cavs have inquired about Clippers guard Jamal Crawford and Nets guard Joe Johnson. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert clearly is going all-in for a title as he might have to pay some $80 million in luxury taxes on top of the $120 million-or-so player payroll (depending on a possible trade).
San Antonio Lures Aldridge
That the Cavs are title favorites is no surprise, as they also held that title when the Finals ended. The biggest mover has been San Antonio, which has overtaken the Warriors as the Western Conference favorites. The Spurs are now at 3.25 to win the West with the Warriors at 3.75. San Antonio was able to re-sign sharpshooting guard Danny Green and rising superstar forward Kawhi Leonard, as well as convincing future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to put off retirement for one more season.
But the big move was luring Trail Blazers unrestricted free agent LaMarcus Aldridge to return to his native Texas and serve as Duncan’s eventual replacement. Aldridge could have made some $30 million more by returning to the Blazers, but he wants to win after only advancing one round in the playoffs in his Portland career. Aldridge, the biggest-name free agent to leave his former team, would appear to be a perfect fit in that San Antonio offense. San Antonio also added another veteran big man who chose winning over more money in Indiana’s David West.
San Antonio is at 6.00 to win the NBA title. Golden State (7.00 to repeat as NBA champions) didn’t have the cap room to add any big-time free agents but was able to re-sign forward Draymond Green.