Now That The Chips Have Fallen

by: Tom Rau and Mike Shields

Across the Margin’s NBA’s aficionados convene to discuss the winners and losers of free agency…..


MCS: Now that most of the chips have fallen (with all due respect to Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Jesus Shuttlesworth, Emeka Okafor, and Aaron Brooks – who we hear is finalizing a deal with Bulls as we speak), who won this season’s free agency? Kind of tossing up a softball here for you….

Rau: Sure, the easy answer is Cleveland. You get the best player in the world you win. But I kind of feel like The Spurs, by just staying pat, kind of won also. It’s like a game of draw poker, when one dude is like “I don’t want any cards,” and everyone else is just like “Fuck!” I feel like such a huge part of hoops, or becoming a superstar at a certain point is mentality and confidence. Kawhi Leonard, by winning the Finals MVP, just might have taken that next big step. His athletic ability is certainly unquestionable, and he has the best coach in the game (who just signed a multi-year extension), but now he has that championship swagger as well.

MCS: I understand your take on The Spurs, and the fact that they are sticking together for another run, but we don’t live in a vacuum. Those aged stars (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) aren’t getting any younger, and one of these days Father Time will finally catch up to them (right?). And as impressive as Leonard was in the Finals, The Spurs do not win that title without their Big Three doing their thing. With that said, I am not counting them out, that’s a fool’s errand. I just don’t think they belong in a conversation about the winners of free agency. How do you gloss over King James to Cleveland?

Rau: Like I said, they are the easy winner. I just want to drive home the fact that I think The Spurs are going to be the best team in the NBA again next year. Cleveland, if they get Love, will probably win the East.

MCS: But without Love?

Rau: Nah, I think Bulls win the East. If Rose is healthy that is.

MCS: Like you, I believe if The Cavaliers acquire Kevin Love it’s over. Donezo. But I also believe they win the East right now. Yes, I think Bron is that good – and I think what’s in Cleveland right now is being undervalued. Yes it’s young, but damn there is some talent there! And this Rose thing is a giant “If.” Gargantuan even. Without him they averaged a measly 93.7 points a game last season, dead last in the league.

Rau:  Well let’s just say that Rose plays for the USA team, ‘cause it looks like he is going to at least be able to try out, and let’s say that he comes back to almost what he was…

MCS:  Again, a big “If,” but I’m with you. Go on….

Rau: Sure, a huge “If.” But for the sake of fun, say that occurs. And now that they have traded Boozer for Gasol (essentially, how I look at it!) and have added Mirotic (I’m telling you, he’s going to be special), they have added essential pieces. And with that, I think The Bulls have the deepest 10-man roster in the league.

MCS: Depth! I like where this leads us (especially if I can get you off The Bulls dick for a moment…). You know who has impressed me, not only within this free agency period but also with their decisionmaking the last couple of years – The Wiz! I think one of the best moves made this offseason was the Wiz not making a move – and not signing Ariza for what he was demanding. Free’d them up to make other moves. Like pay Gortat, and obtain a veteran and a champion in Paul Pierce. A man with an ageless game.

Rau: Yeah they have a sick starting five.

MCS: I am sure the Gortat deal will bite them in the ass at the tail end of the contract, no doubt about that. But for now it’s all good. I’d follow that man into the fiery pits of Hell if he demanded it. And with Wall, Beal, Nene, Miller, Webster, Blair, Gooden, and now The Truth, who knows what can happen in The District.

Rau: Possibly a Top 4 team in the East. But I’m not really convinced their bench is any good. They kind of remind me of The Nets last year.

MCS: That’s interesting. In some ways I see that. Except for the young healthy guards. Nets just couldn’t stay healthy, or young for that matter! I also like the fact that we are going to see what Otto Porter Jr. is made of. Remember, he is a Top 3 pick! They are gonna give him a shot this season, sink or swim. Let’s see what happens.

Changing gears, I have to talk Rockets. Seems like they were on the verge of something big – and it all kinda fell through. I mean they look poised to still be competitive but….

Rau: Ha-ha. So true. I must give The Rockets credit though, they always fucking go for it.

MCS: I agree. I think Daryl Morey is one of the most impressive GM’s in the league. I love a GM who can build without resorting to tanking. But watching them clear house for Bosh (Jeremy Lin and a first-round pick to The Los Angeles Lakers, Omer Asik to The New Orleans Pelicans for a first-round pick, letting Parsons go…) and then not getting him actually surprised me. Would have been an impressive move for them. But they still have loads of talent, I just don’t think they are title contenders as is.

Rau: You see Parsons hanging with Mark Cuban after he was signed? Rubbing it in a little bit for sure!

MCS: Yeah. Just like Ariza, Parsons seemed a bit pricey for my liking. But I get it. Even Vinsanity signed a three year deal. Unreal. But, speaking of Bosh, do you think The Heat saved some face by retaining Bosh and then signing Deng. I think they are easily a Playoff team still.

Rau: Saved mad face! I think Bosh is gonna be nasty this year. As much as I like to clown him, he has has mad game and can shoot the lights out.

MCS: I’m kind of with you. I find Bosh more impressive than most. I’m eager to see what he does with the team on his back this year. And Bazz of course!

Rau: Deng was an outstanding pick up.

MCS: Absolutely.

Rau. So, can we talk about The Lakers? Or do we want to save the beating?

MCS: The Lakers? You want to kick them while they’re down?

Rau: Yes, please?

MCS: Have at em’!

Rau: Is it possible they are going to be the worst team in the NBA? I think they have a real shot. I mean, holy shit, if Kobe gets hurt, Boozer is the best player on The Lakers!

MCS: Honestly, I never saw it working with Melo anyways. And Bron was a pipe dream. Losing Gasol is going to hurt them more than they could have ever imagined and Boozer, well…..I’m going to leave that one alone. BUT I have to say this – I am HUGE on Randle. If you ask me, getting him at the 7 spot was the steal of the draft (besides where The Celtics got James Young!!). I predict he contributes right away and competes for the Rookie for the Year award. But besides that, Ed Davis, Lin, and Boozer aren’t saving this mess. What an anti-climatic end for Kobe.

Rau: Holy shit! I forgot they got Jeremy Lin. Him and Boozer on the court playing defense at the same time is going to be amazing to watch. Or not watch. Well, you know….Randle though. Where would you have taken him?

MCS: With the 4th pick. Before we jump – real quick. Your thoughts on The Nets? Playoff team next year – I don’t see it. Dallas? Like The Knicks they brought their big money guy back, but you almost gotta wonder why? And we can’t end this conversation without mentioning the words Lance or Stephenson!

Rau: Nets first – I think they are going to be a borderline Playoff team. That’s about it.  You mentioned Lance. I think The Hornets and The Nets might be closer to equals this year than not.

MCS: I think The Hornets are heads and shoulders above The Nets. Lance, Jefferson, Kemba – all ballers. I love the draft pick in Vonleh, and love the role players there. Interesting team, to watch – and the name change though!


Rau: I feel like The Hornets (can’t believe we haven’t said The Bobcats once!) really need another big guy. Jefferson is a stud. But they are so weak at Power Forward. Can Vonleh start like, tomorrow?

MCS: Nope. What you don’t like Zeller? I kid, I kid. Pretty damn early to ask this – but before we go: Who you got winning it next year?

Rau: Spurs. Spurs v. Bulls baby…

MCS. Safe bet. I’m going Cavs – the babies in Cleveland got their bottle, and they are finally going to be getting their title.

Rau: Man, that’d be nuts! I love the NBA. I think this year more than most even, anything could happen.

MCS: I couldn’t agree more.


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