Free agency is in full swing, and one team that's surprised me with their competence is the Los Angeles Clippers. Until they lose DeAndre Jordan, I'll give this team a vote of confidence. A team that is instilling confidence in no one is the Lakers. I see an odd perception of two former Finals MVPs. Paul Pierce is an old, but still productive player that the Clippers signed for a reasonable deal. Kobe is the highest paid player in the NBA and has barely seen the court the past two seasons, and has forgotten how to shoot. And yet, I see Kobe's name listed in the possible "turnaround" rosters for the Lakers -- or rather, I did before free agents started shunning Los Angeles. I see Doc Rivers getting criticized for signing Paul Pierce. It doesn't make sense! Here's a brief rundown of both players last season.
|Paul Pierce||Kobe Bryant||Average GF|
|Position||SF (3.0)||GF (2.0)||GF (2.5)|
When it comes to non-shooting stats, both Pierce and Kobe do have some positives. Both rebound well, both have better assist/turnover ratios than average. On Defense, Paul Pierce is a better shot blocker, and Kobe is better at stealing. Now, calling this a tie would be okay. Of course, Kobe and Pierce are paid a bit differently, which we'll get to in a second. But regardless, both of these players have all around skills that can help their teams win. So what's the difference maker?
|Paul Pierce||Kobe Bryant||Average GF|
|Position||SF (3.0)||GF (2.0)||GF (2.5)|
|Two point percentage||49.6%||40.1%||46.3%|
|Three point fg percentage||38.9%||29.3%||34.0%|
|Free throw percentage||78.1%||81.3%||75.7%|
|Effective field goal percentage||53.7%||41.1%||47.9%|
|Field goal Attempts||16.5||28.4||16.1|
|Free throw attempts||5.3||9.6||4.1|
The difference last season is simple. Paul Pierce was great as a scorer. He had versatility, shooting well from both two and three. He made it to the line a good amount and converted. Kobe killed his team in regards to shooting. He almost made Allen Iverson look like an efficient shooter. Both Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant have been good scorers most of their career (Pierce being the better one, of course) That said, Kobe has always had an issue with forcing his shot. As he's aged, his shot has gotten worse. Kobe's response has been to force it more, with not-so-good results. Pierce though, doesn't need to force his shot. He just takes close to an average amount at an incredible clip. And that brings me to my final point.
The most significant difference between Kobe and Paul Pierce is their salary and place in the franchise. At $3.3 million a season over three years, Pierce is making as much as a mid lottery pick. And, it seems obvious at this point that Pierce doesn't need to be the center of attention on his team. He was willing to share the spotlight with Garnett and Allen in Boston. The Wizards were clearly John Wall's team. Compare that with Kobe, who told Dwight he could have the Lakers when he (Kobe) was done with them. This offseason LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol said they don't want to play with the Lakers. Shocker!
Now, both Paul Pierce and Kobe are quite old at this point. Pierce has yet to drop below average in his performance, but the clock is ticking. That said, he's a cheap investment. Kobe's quality of play has already dropped dramatically. He's had major injuries two seasons in a row now. It seems far less likely to assume he'll come back productive this season.
In short, Paul Pierce looks like a smart gamble out of Doc Rivers. He'll provide the Clippers with more efficient shooting, and still be a decent all around player. He doesn't need to be a starter, and should hopefully be able to contribute off the bench. Kobe still has the worst contract in the NBA, still has an ego that can no longer be matched by his talent, and is years removed from being a productive NBA player. Have to give this one to the Clippers.
The Suns surprised everyone on day one of free agency, signing veteran center Tyson Chandler to a 4-year, $52 million deal.
It wasn't too long ago that Alex Len was the undisputed starting center for the 2015-16 season. After all, he had earned it after making significant progress during his sophomore year. Most Suns fans saw no reason to chase after a top free agent center, instead keeping an eye out for star power forwards such as Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Then, the Suns shocked everyone on day one by signing Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler to a 4-year, $52 million contract. Chandler will immediately step into the starting center role, moving Len back to the bench.
Although this was a puzzling move at first, it quickly became clear that it was designed to get the Suns one step closer to signing LaMarcus Aldridge. So far, that plan seems to be on the right track. Chandler assisted the Suns in meeting with Aldridge this afternoon, and for now the Suns appear to be one of the serious contenders for the All-Star big man.
However, even if Aldridge signs elsewhere, there is no reason to question the front office's decision regarding Chandler.
Instead, the Suns now owe approximately $13 million per year to a 33-year-old center. They could have paid Wright less than half that price, while still giving Len additional minutes as the starter to develop his game. But while Wright's new contract with Memphis does appear to be a steal, Chandler's is nothing to scoff at for a few reasons.
First of all, this signing is simply evidence of Ryan McDonough's claim several days ago that the team would be "aggressive" in free agency. Though every team always pledges to be more aggressive, and never opt for the "passive" approach, this time the Suns front office actually stuck to their word.
On the very first day of free agency, they signed one of the better players in the free agent class to a lengthy deal. Just hours later they brought him into a meeting in an attempt to attract an even larger fish to Phoenix. Though Aldridge may ultimately wind up elsewhere, the Chandler signing took a certain amount of dedication on the part of the Suns. Simply re-signing Wright for $6 million per year would not have gotten the team on any top free agents' radar.
Additionally, Chandler is simply a better player than Brandan Wright. Just last year the former Defensive Player of the Year put up 10.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He also shot 67 percent from the field and finished the season with a career-high PER of 20.1. In other words, he is far from washed up. Much like Wright, the high-flying center is able to catch lobs on the offensive end. But he also brings elite rebounding and defense, giving Phoenix a terrific post defense combo of Chandler and Len to play at any point during the game.
And though Wright carries a professional attitude himself, Chandler brings some added veteran experience to the locker room. He won a championship with the Mavericks in 2011, and has been to the playoffs nine different times. He could serve as a terrific mentor not only to Len, but to every other big man on the team as well.
Finally, although this point has been brought up ad nauseum about every single free agent signing today, Chandler's contract truly isn't that bad in the context of the rising salary cap.
If the Suns opt to backload Chandler's contract, giving him a 4.5% raise each season, he will be making approximately $13.1 million for the 2017-18 season. At that point he will be 35 and in his 3rd year with Phoenix. Because current estimates peg the 2017-18 salary cap at $108 million, Chandler alone will account for 12.1% of the team's cap space.
In the context of today's salary cap, which is $67.1 million, 12.1 percent amounts to $8.1 million.
Would you pay a 35-year-old Tyson Chandler the same amount, proportionately, as big men such as Markieff Morris, Taj Gibson, Boris Diaw, Ersan Ilyasova, Tiago Splitter and Ryan Anderson are currently making? If the answer is yes, then you have no reason to fear his contract.
Truthfully, if Chandler struggles to stay healthy in his mid-thirties he may prove to be overpaid. But perhaps this is just a world we must get used to as quickly as possible, where players like Tristan Thompson can command $15 million per year despite being far off from stardom.
What a crazy first day of free agency.
The Suns, who came out of nowhere to throw their hat into the LMA sweepstakes, suddenly appear to be legitimate contenders for his services.
Says once source close to the talks: Phoenix has moved into a contending position alongside San Antonio in the LaMarcus Aldridge Sweepstakes— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2015
Suns believed before meeting Aldridge they had a shot. They were right. Chandler surprise big. Phoenix was "very impressive," per source.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 2, 2015
Sources: Suns have legitimately closed the gap in pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. Tyson Chandler, perimeter talent. They're a real factor.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015
Aldridge apparently has eliminated the Lakers from contention, according to these hilarious reports:
LaMarcus Aldridge will not be joining the Lakers, The Times has learned. They were a 50-50 choice but he disliked bball part of presentation— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015
More LMA: He and Kobe didn't quite gel. It's a little vague, but Aldridge apparently didn't quite get answers from Kobe he was seeking.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) July 1, 2015