The Best Free Agent Signings Over the Last 15 Years: Western Conference Edition
*Photo via Getty Images
A couple of weeks back I took a look at the best free agent signings by Eastern Conference teams since 2000. Originally, I planned for the Western Conference part to run the following week but then DeAndre Jordan decided to flip flop and resign with the Los Angeles Clippers. Anyhow, here we are! The best free agent signings for each Western Conference team since 2000.
Once again, I should clarify a few things. For the sake of this exercise, I will be including sign and trades. Originally I considered excluding S&T’s but this would all seem ridiculous if I didn’t include the likes of LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach or Tracy McGrady going to Orlando. Secondly, I am also not going to count moves that resulted in a player being resigned by the team they were currently on. Sure, this might seem like a cop out, but there are more than a handful of teams that would qualify here (San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks to name a few). Also, I am only including signings that took place prior to this summer.
Finally, this is an entirely subjective post, there isn’t a blueprint to what makes a great free agent signing. For one team, being able to land a future 2X MVP probably qualify (spoiler: Phoenix) whereas, another team signing a castoff who turns out to be a catalyst for a future championship (**cough-cough**, Golden State), and sometimes, it’s simply the least lousy signing (looking at you, Oklahoma City). There is no exact guide to these picks—you’ll just have to bear with me.
Chandler Parsons, 4 years/$46 million (2014)
For me, this came down to Parsons or Monta Ellis—and Ellis no longer being on the Mavericks sealed it. Parsons has tried selling the franchise to potential free agents and that’s a major plus. Although it didn’t work with DeAndre Jordan, I don’t think it’s fair to put blame on Parsons for the change of heart in the 11th hour. In his first year with Dallas on the court he didn’t disappoint. Parsons is a major piece moving forward and although he was slightly overpaid, it did make their in-division rivals, the Houston Rockets weaker for it.
Andre Miller, 6 years/$52 million (2003)
Heading into free agency in July of 2003, the Nuggets had just drafted the future of their franchise in Carmelo Anthony and began building for a franchise resurgence by signing the then fourth year point guard away from the Los Angeles Clippers. Miller ended up staying in Denver for three and a half seasons and helped lead the Nuggets to 3 consecutive postseason births while never missing a game or a start due to injury.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Andre Iguodala, 4 years/$48 million (2013)
Iguodala has been showered with praise over the last month since being named NBA Finals MVP and he has earned every word of it. He’s halfway through a four-year deal where he was brought in to provide veteran leadership for a team that hadn’t been out of the first round of the playoffs in six seasons. He exceeded expectations by sacrificing his minutes and original role on the team to come off the bench as the team’s sixth man. There aren’t a lot of former All-Stars or Olympians who would be able keep their ego in check enough to take a lesser role.
Dwight Howard, 4 years/$87.5 million (2013)
Houston knew it wasn’t getting Dwight Howard at his peak. Was the contract probably more than they should’ve paid Howard? More than likely, yes. But coming off of year one in the James Harden era, the Rockets were looking for another blue chip player to form a 1-2 punch around. Howard fit the bill
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Caron Butler (2011)
Caron was the first notable free agent of the Blake Griffin/Chris Paul era and was an important part to getting the ball rolling on the team’s ascension to legitimacy that would result in two playoff births during both seasons with the Clippers.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Ron Artest, 5 years/$33 million (2009)
Let’s do a quick Q&A…
Q: Do you know what the most amazing aspect of Ron Artest’s career was?
A: Oh yes, it would have to be his involvement in the the Malice at the Palace!
Q: No, I’m sorry. Would you like to guess again?
A: Silly me. Clearly it’s that he had his name legally changed to Metta World Peace in 2011. How could I forget that!?
Q: You’re getting warmer. Do you know why he wore the number 37 when he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers?
A: He probably wore the number because it was his number from high school or something.
Q: Not quite. You see, he did it to honor Michael Jackson who had passed away a few weeks before. The album Thriller was the number one album for 37 consecutive weeks.
A: You lie!
Tony Allen, 3 years/$9.7 million (2010)
“Grit. Grind” This two word phrase was coined by Allen during his first season with the Grizzlies in 2010 has turned into a battle cry and motto for the Memphis Grizzlies. Over the last five seasons, Allen has turned into an elite defender being named to the All-NBA Defensive First Team three times and the Second Team once. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol might get the most recognition and be considered the faces of the organization, but there’s no questioning Allen’s role as it’s heart.
Kevin Martin, 4 years/$28 million (2013)
The Timberwolves did a decent job in the early 2000s signing underrated guards that ended up playing key roles during their run in the 2004 playoffs and it didn’t matter if they were a defensive stopper (Trenton Hassell) or a rapper (T-Hud!). However, I’m going to lean towards Kevin Martin for this particular selection. Martin won’t blow you away on defense, but with at around one steal per game, he’s serviceable. The Wolves have him signed for two more seasons and Martin should find a nice role as the first player off the bench/heat check guy on a team making a possible playoff run this upcoming season.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Tyreke Evans, 4 years/$44 million (2013)
As deep as the 2009 draft looks in retrospect, it’s pretty crazy to think about how Tyreke won Rookie of the Year over Blake Griffin, James Harden, and Steph Curry. For a few years it seemed that Evans was destined to be a player who would only put up good numbers on bad teams but that narrative is beginning to change. Tyreke has turned into a solid second option for Anthony Davis. He may not end up being the long-term answer for the team’s second option, but for now, he’s been a fine signing for a young team on the rise.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Anthony Morrow, 3 years/$10 million (2014)
The Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder have been astonishingly bad at free agency of the last 15 years so this is an example of a player being named best free agent by default. I’m not saying Morrow is a lousy player. He had a fine first season in Oklahoma City averaging 10.7 ppg while shooting 3 pointers at a high percentage. He’s done exactly what he was brought into OKC to do. Next season, with a healthy Durant and Westbrook, expect Morrow to get his first taste of playoff basketball.
Steve Nash, 4 years/$36 million (2004)
LeBron was the easiest decision in the Eastern Conference then Nash is the easiest choice in the Western Conference. Back to back MVP awards will do that.
Wesley Matthews, 5 years/$34 million (2010)
Originally, I completely missed Wesley Matthews and wrote this up with Ruben Patterson as the best signing. I had to figure out a way to spin the off the court issues, the chemistry problems, and the mediocre play on the court. For this, I feel really, really dirty. Fortunately for the Blazers, Matthews grew to become one of the best shooting guards in the NBA instead of a constant headache
John Salmons, 5 years/$25.5 million (2006)
In a year or two this might be a different pick given the busy summer the Kings have had so far, but for now, Salmons is the pick. Over the two and a half seasons in Sacramento, Salmons was strictly asked to be a spot up shooter. His scoring average climbed every year with the franchise culminating with an 18.3 point per game in 2008-09. This influx in scoring motivated the Kings to sell high with Salmons and around the trade deadline, he was shipped to Chicago for Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Bruce Bowen, 1 year, $750,000 (2001)
It took Bowen eight seasons to find a home in the NBA after going undrafted in the 1993 draft. After bouncing around between France, the CBA, and a few brief stints around the NBA, the Spurs signed the forward to a low risk contract. It’s safe to say that Bowen surpassed the team’s expectations by being named All-Defensive Second Team from 2001-03 and First Team from 2004-08. Bowen retired after the 2009 season having won three championships with the Spurs. In the last few weeks, Bowen has been back in the news after allowing San Antonio to un-retire his number for LaMarcus Aldridge. As far as bargains go, it would be difficult to beat the signing of Bruce Bowen.
Carlos Boozer, 6 years/$70 million (2004)
I know that Boozer has turned into a punching bag of sorts over the last few years (well, pretty much since the end of his first year in Chicago) but there was a time when Carlos was one of the best power forwards in the league. Heck, he played on the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams. When he bolted Cleveland for SLC before the 2004-05 season there was quite a bit of controversy but the move led to a rebirth for the Jazz. Deron Williams and Boozer teamed up to lead the Jazz to the playoffs from 2007 until his departure for Chicago in 2010.
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