Free Agency Breeze-Shootin’: The Little Guys Edition

Do you not feel sorrow for Ed Davis? (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Redford (@patrickredford) and Miles Wray (@mileswray) patrol the murky depths of free agency for the chum that has fallen to the bottom. 

Miles: So LeBron went to Cleveland and Carmelo returned to New York. Okay. This is news. But I’ll tell you what really tugs at my heartstrings: the vision of Ed Davis tirelessly chasing down one Carlos Boozer brick after another in a half-empty (certainly not half-full) Staples Center, the scream of veteran leadership from Kobe Bryant echoing off the rafters.

Good ol’ Ed: pencils for arms, 11.4 Offensive Rebound percentage, zero respect. It’s all the little moves that make me care. Which fringe free agency signing has filled you with the most sorrow?

Patrick: There’s something operatically sad about Ben Gordon signing for $4.5 million/year in Orlando. It’s an American backwater, where tax dodgers, retirees, and fringe-leaning people melt together on the outskirts of the zeitgeist. Orlando isn’t even on a beach or anything. Ben Gordon is an ideal fit for the city because he appears adrift and disengaged and the whole formation bums me out. There are lots of cool young fellas on that team but Gordon doesn’t make any kind of sense. Also: Caron Butler in Detroit. Both moves feel like last-ditch attempts to wring the last bit of money and basketball out of long-past-peak careers. This isn’t going for a ring. I hope they find whatever renaissance or peace they’re looking for.

Miles: Sorrow on sorrow: how does Udonis Haslem, he of the $46M career earnings, get a multi-year deal while the dude Aron Baynes still sits unemployed? They were both the 10th-best players on last year’s NBA Finals teams, with the difference being that Baynes’ team played like Miles Davis while Haslem’s played like a warped John Philip Souza 78. Isn’t Baynes worth the minimum at the very least to be able to ask him, “So, uh, what would Pop do in this kind of situation?”

Patrick: When I look at Baynes, I see a tall fella who looks like he is made out of tree trunks. Dudes like that tend to be pretty useful come playoff time.

Less useful are players like Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer. I don’t get it, the Lakers signed three power forwards? And Ed Davis got peanut husks? I like him a lot better than the other two guys, I get some Anthony Randolph vapors.

Miles: Speaking of broken dreams, not every new contract signed is soaked with tears induced by the cold slap of reality. Luol Deng to the Heat is an accord that sings with mutual benefits: the Heat did not overspend, whether in years or dollars, on this extremely valuable player. Meantime Deng gets a coach who might in fact allow him to sit on the bench during portions of games, and he also gets a chance to hit jackpot after the supposedly crucial new TV deal in 2016. Because the shadow of LeBron James lurks in the background of the scene it’s quite easy to get hysterical, but this is a contract that is smart, sensible, competitive, maybe even wise. Any transactions that have cheered your heart?

Patrick: Isaiah Thomas, my favorite player, signed for not my favorite team. I am not a bitter man, I’m damn excited for him in Phoenix. That team is built to slam down on the throttle and scream off into that desert night. As a non-numbers dude, I care deeply about styles, and it’s heartening to see a fun team double down on their madness and go for something like this.

Miles: Another personal favorite, stylistically speaking: Thabo Sefolosha to the Hawks. Not a name to grab headlines, but damn what a streamlined fit between player, skill-set, organizational need and philosophy. Moments like this make me realize anew that general managers are basically constantly imagining a thousand different futures for their teams, and while nobody media-wise was speculating about Thabo to Atlanta (and not just because there are no clicks to be gained in that racket), it means that Danny Ferry had anticipated for some time this version of the future. I like it when teams are smart. Because when they’re smart, they’re really smart.

Patrick: Doesn’t Bazemore to the Hawks also feel smart? He fit in style-wise on LA, but Atlanta is the right combo of weird and measured for him and that 8’11” wingspan.

Miles: The Hawks are so smart that I am inspired to play a rousing game of Who’s Earning More Next Year?!? No cheating or looky-uppies. Kyle Korver or Jodie Meeks?

Patrick: Jodie Meeks! Do I win all powerful BlogCred™ or will a hawk be pecking my eyes out shortly?

Miles: I’m afraid a hawk will be pecking your eyes out shortly: Korver is at $6.25M, Meeks at $6.0M. The twist is that the next two years, Korver will indeed be earning less ($5.7M, $5.2M) than Meeks ($6.2M, $6.5M). So, basically, Hawks win.

Round two! Paul Millsap or Tyreke Evans?

Patrick: Tyreke Evans! I was so happy the Kings didn’t match that crazy contract. I like him, but I think it’s important to dribble with both hands in the NBA? Maybe his predilection to go the way of the Rive Droite is a Harrison Bergeron handicap? Maybe he’s radically committed to equality and won’t fly too close to any celestial bodies?

Miles: Bingo. $9.5M for Millsap, $10.7M for Evans. No idea how these perversions happen.

Patrick: Okay my turn. Which number is higher: Kobe Bean Bryant’s 2013-2014 salary or the combined salary of Philly’s projected 2014-2015 starting five?

Miles: I surmise that not only is Philly’s starting five lower, but that you could fit two Philly line-ups into the space of one Kobe Bean Bryant year.

Patrick: 1.5 correct answers! That one may have been too easy. You could just about fit two 14-15 Philly’s into one 13-14 Kobe. He is making $23 million this year, which feels incredibly albatrossic. Do you think the Sixers will finish above, say, any Pacific Division teams this season?

Miles: I would bat nary an eyelash if they finished better than the Kings and/or Lakers. It seems like things are moving along awfully slow with the Embiid/Saric picks, but do recall that they are basically adding a #1 overall pick to their roster in Nerlens — plus he already has a year of familiarity of the team, coaches, scheme, et cetera. That is something to get excited about!

Here’s a humdinger. Who earned more, every player on the 2013-14 76ers who appeared in a regular season game, or Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett in 2013-14?

Patrick: I remember there was talk of them being below the salary floor, so I’m not betting on our Pennsylvanian friends. Brooklynites it is!

Miles: Correct! The twist: I’ve got all of Philly’s active players earning like $20.7M, meaning that they all earned less than Joe Johnson on his lonesome ($21.4M). How ’bout that.

Patrick: Man, he is gonna make so much money next year and the Nets are gonna be pelagically depressing. They’re a big, rusted out train car of a basketball team.

Miles: Joe will get a raise up to $23.1M next season. Or, more than Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills combined.

Patrick: Man, let’s just hope the next CBA is better and every player earns enough to install however many oversized aquariums in his house as he wants.

Miles Wray