The San Antonio Spurs look less recognisable by the day.
Not only is the franchise embroiled in an messy relationship with its star player, Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio are now losing one of the pillars of their prolonged dynasty with Tony Parker agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets.
The 36-year-old Parker has spent his entire career with the Spurs, helping the team win four titles during his 17-year run.
He’s only the third player in NBA history to leave a franchise after playing at least 17 seasons, joining Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon.
“It’s difficult to put into words how important Tony Parker has been to the Spurs franchise over the past two decades,” coach Gregg Popovich said in a statement. “From his first game in 2001 at age 19, TP has impressed and inspired us – day-after-day, game-after-game, season-after-season – with his passion, dedication and desire. We are grateful to Tony for 17 years of truly amazing memories.”
With Duncan now retired and Ginobili about to turn 41, the Spurs, as the NBA world has known them for the past two decades, are fading.
An era of dominance feels like it’s coming to an end and the Leonard situation hasn’t helped matters with the star that was expected to take the torch now disgruntled and wanting out.
This past season marked the first time the Spurs missed the playoffs since 1997, and if Leonard is traded away this summer, San Antonio may end up missing the postseason again while competing in a loaded Western Conference.
In Charlotte, Parker will join fellow Frenchman Nicolas Batum and likely come off the bench as the back-up point guard.
Parker averaged a career-low 7.7 points in just 19.5 minutes per game this past season, while playing just 21 games.
The Thunder will move on from Anthony and his $27.9 million contract to save money on a historic payroll and luxury tax bill, according to ESPN.
By opting in to the final year of his deal this summer, Anthony increased the financial pressure on Oklahoma City, who are staring at a $310 million payroll after also re-signing Paul George and Jerami Grant.
When Russell Westbrook and Paul George were on the court WITHOUT Carmelo Anthony, the Thunder had a +14.4 Net efficiency rating... When Melo joined Russ and PG, that number fell to +4.9— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 6, 2018
To relieve the burden, the Thunder are reportedly working on ways to part with Anthony, whether that’s through a trade, a buyout or by using the stretch provision – in essence spreading Anthony’s salary onto the cap over three years.
Even if Anthony is traded, the team that acquires with him would likely to do so with the intention of waiving him.
Here’s a look at how Anthony would fit in Los Angeles, Houston and Miami.
The Lakers have already added a number of characters this offseason, so what’s one more big personality to throw into the mix?
Initially, the Lakers seem like the best destination for Anthony as a team in desperate need of shooters to surround James with. And with it looking unlikely that another elite player will join James in LA this summer, Anthony may at least placate LeBron’s desires to add more talent.
However, depending on if they make a trade for Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers are already stocked with plenty of wings between James, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lance Stephenson, Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Anthony would also go against the Lakers’ reported plan of putting together a strong defensive team – while he does have the ability to guard multiple positions, Anthony isn’t known for his defence.
With what the Lakers have done this summer though, anything is possible.
Anthony was linked with the Rockets last year and there reportedly remains interest from Houston’s side. Plus, they just lost their starting small forward, Trevor Ariza, in free agency to leave a hole in the starting lineup.
The Houston Rockets are among the teams that will have interest in Carmelo Anthony once he secures his free agency, according to league sources— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 6, 2018
He’s not exactly a one-for-one replacement for Ariza – who was so valuable in part because of his perimeter defence – but Anthony’s shooting fits perfectly in Houston’s bombs-away approach. And with more playmakers around him than he had in Oklahoma City, Anthony may finally reach the coveted, but elusive ‘Olympic Melo’ form.
As long as Anthony is willing to be a third option again, which isn’t a given.
If Anthony wants to go back to being a primary option, Miami makes the most sense.
They’re nowhere near the level of the Rockets or the Lakers in terms of being a contender, but the Heat could use the scoring punch, while surrounding him with defensive-minded players.
Putting up (mostly empty) numbers in a desirable location? Sounds like something right up Anthony’s alley.
The NBA world was treated to a quiet Fourth of July for what felt like the first time in a while as there was almost no movement in free agency – a welcomed change after Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward held the holiday hostage with their decisions the past two years.
Though there aren’t any big names left to send shockwaves around the league, the free agency class still has a bunch of unsigned impact players who remain up for grabs.
Here’s a look at some of the top players that are still available.
There has surprisingly been no buzz around the Houston Rockets centre, who is an unrestricted free agent in a summer when that distinction isn’t favourable.
With so few teams actually possessing cap space, giving an offer sheet to an unrestricted free agent and tying up your cap space while the player’s team decides what to do has pretty much been avoided.
Capela would seem like the type of player worth the risk, however, after turning into one of the best centres in the league at just 24 and being a vital part of the Houston Rockets’ immense success last season.
His ability to protect the rim and guard on the perimeter makes him a defensive weapon, while his ability to finish at the rim makes him an ideal lob target and roll man.
Fortunately for Houston, it seems as if they’ll be able to retain him as money has dried up elsewhere. They’ll still have to give him a significant pay raise, but it’s looking more and more like they can do it on their own terms instead of having to match a large offer sheet by another team.
Like Capela, Smart is a restricted free agent, which bodes well for Boston’s chances of retaining their bulldog guard.
Smart is an interesting case because his value lies more in his intangibles and ability to make winning plays than in cold, hard numbers. His 3-point shooting might not ever come around – he’s hit 29.3 per cent for his career – and he’s never going to be a go-to scorer, but his defensive tenaciousness and ability as a playmaker out of the pick-and-roll make him an impactful player.
This market may not reveal his true worth though, so Smart may be better off signing his qualifying offer of $6.05 million and becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, when the cap will rise and more teams will have money to play with.
As recently as a year ago, it seemed like Thomas was eventually going to get his wish for a team to “bring the Brinks truck out”. Instead, he’ll now have to prove himself all over again on his next contract if he ever wants to become a max player.
The Orlando Magic appear to be serious suitors and that would be a destination where Thomas could show he still has plenty left. With Orlando not dealing with any realistic playoff expectations and having a young squad, Thomas may find a similar situation to the one he was in back in Boston.
It will all depend on whether or not he’s still the same player who finished fifth in MVP voting last year, or the one who struggled this past season while continuing to deal with a hip injury.
Another unrestricted free agent on the list, the Milwaukee Bucks forward may not get the kind of lucrative deal he’s hoping for.
The 23-year-old flourished in his third year, averaging 20.1 points on 49.9 per cent shooting, but missed all but three games this past season. When he did play, especially in the playoffs, he showed promising flashes as a secondary scorer, but there’s also a perception he doesn’t impact winning as much as his numbers might suggest.
Parker could be another case of someone better off taking the qualifying offer – in his case $4.3 million – but he and Milwaukee may meet in the middle and agree to a reasonable deal for both sides.