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5-on-5: Free-agency winners and losers

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How does Aldridge fit into Spurs' system?

Tom Penn and P.J. Carlesimo explain how the Spurs made space for LaMarcus Aldridge and how Aldridge will fit into Gregg Popovich's system.

Who have been the biggest winners and losers in free agency? What have been the most surprising signings? Our 5-on-5 panel weighs in.


1. Who has been the winner in free agency?

J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: The San Antonio Spurs. They got the big dog, LaMarcus Aldridge, and they locked up Kawhi Leonard for five years. And in this era of ever-increasing reliance on 3-pointers, they kept Danny Green (top 10 in made 3s last season) at roughly the same rate as Iman Shumpert. They sacrificed depth and Tiago Splitter's defense to get there, but the important thing is they have a long-term foundation.

Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN.com: San Antonio. The Spurs have been a fixture in May and June, but it's been a long while since they competed in July. Turns out they run the same surgical, pick-you-apart offense in the room that they do on the court. Not only did they reel in free agency's big fish, but they somehow sold Danny Green on the virtues of leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table in exchange for the privilege of playing in San Antonio.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: Something tells me that I will not be unique in nominating San Antonio. There are frankly lots of winners so far -- New Orleans striking a near-instantaneous deal with Anthony Davis is but one example -- but the Spurs were the Week 1 darlings of free agency ‎by winning the LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes, getting another season out of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, keeping Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, barging into the David West race, serving up saucy Gregg Popovich photos, etc.

Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: The Warriors, Spurs and Thunder. I've seen two West playoff teams take major hits in Portland and the Clippers. Score one for stability in my book. As for San Antonio, Aldridge is an awesome addition but the Spurs have to work on depth and I'm sure they will.

Royce Young, ESPN.com: The Spurs. Normally dormant and enjoying the frenzied madness from afar over a glass of wine, the Spurs stepped into the middle of it this summer. They re-signed Danny Green to a sensible deal and then inked LaMarcus Aldridge, propping open their title window with a steel beam. There will be no rebuilding for the Spurs. Just a transitioning to new eras.


2. Who has been the loser in free agency?

Adande: The Los Angeles Clippers. Yeah, the Trail Blazers lost four-fifths of their starting lineup. But at least they secured Damian Lillard for five more years and they were making contingency moves even before Aldridge left. The Clippers had no fallback plan for DeAndre Jordan's departure and they've been knocked from the upper tier of the Western Conference. Starting with Game 5 of the conference semifinals, the Clippers have been taking L's like House Stark.

Arnovitz: The Lakers. In 2015, elite free agents seem far more concerned about roster composition and basketball blueprint than legacy and urban lifestyle. And the Lakers are an unsteady, tone-deaf franchise with a couple of nice prospects, but offer a serious basketball star little in the way of a coherent organizational philosophy. You can live in Los Angeles during the offseason, so why endure the Lakers' sloppy rebuild during the winter months?

Stein: Big-market teams. Because market size has never mattered less. Greg Monroe's decision to sign with Milwaukee over the likes of the Knicks and Lakers -- signature franchises that haven't been finishing even second in the race to sign some of their top targets -- slammed home that reality louder than ever.

Windhorst: Is it better to have loved and lost than never loved at all? You can say the Knicks and Lakers lost, but they just lost their far-fetched dreams. The Clippers and Blazers lost franchise cornerstones with no replacements, ouch!

Young: The Lakers. It's not that they missed out on key free agents, because that's not all that surprising given their current situation. It's that their reputation has been dragged through the mud while missing out on key free agents. The Lakers will forever carry mystique and power, but until the organization sorts itself out, it won't be the destination it assumes it is.


3. What has been the biggest surprise?

Adande: The New Orleans Pelicans committing $80 million to Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, two guys who played a combined 89 minutes during the playoff series against the Warriors. Maybe we should think of it as PMI on the $145 million mortgage they took out on Anthony Davis.

Arnovitz: Despite the cap and salary explosion scheduled for 2016, almost zero free agents opted for the kind of "1+1" deal structure that would've offered them the chance to opt out after a season or two to re-enter free agency and cash in on a heftier annual salary. Players clearly still like the security of guaranteed money.

Stein: The wonderfully brisk pace to business leaguewide. More than 60 free agents have struck deals already. Essentially a third of the players available on the open market on July 1 are gone. It almost makes you think that we might find a way to avoid a lockout in summer 2017 . . . almost.

Windhorst: Monroe choosing the Bucks. The Bucks! Same money and he told New York and L.A. to stick it. Times are a changin'.

Young: DeAndre Jordan to the Mavericks. The Clippers had seemed to be in a strong position to re-sign their alley-ooping big man -- great city, great coach, and a star-studded roster ready to contend. Except none of that mattered to Jordan; the Mavs laid out a more attractive plan to involve him as an offensive weapon. Or who knows, maybe he just didn't like the new unis.


4. What has been the best under-the-radar signing?

Adande: The Dallas Mavericks signing Richard Jefferson for the veteran minimum . . . if only because he showed last season that he can still do something like this. What's a million bucks to Mark Cuban if they can get his team on SportsCenter's Top 10 for a night?

Arnovitz: Brandan Wright's three-year, $18 million deal with Memphis to replace Kosta Koufos as the team's first big man off the bench. The Griz get one of the most efficient, mobile offensive frontcourt players in the league and a smart team defender with a good handle on pick-and-roll coverages. He's also a solid locker room guy on a roster that can run hot.

Stein: The Kings landed both Rajon Rondo and Kosta Koufos on smart deals that received little fanfare, but Atlanta's ability to hang onto Paul Millsap -- when Orlando had such an attractive offer on the table -- was huge. Losing both Millsap and DeMarre Carroll obviously would have been a crusher for #eventhehawks.

Windhorst: I like Marco Belinelli to the Kings. They badly needed shooting and got him at last year's prices for shooting. If it's even possible to be under the radar in this day and age.

Young: Brandan Wright to the Grizzlies. Not only is the deal especially sensible (three years, $18 million), but Wright upgrades the Grizzlies' front-line depth with more athleticism and energy. He's a lob option for Mike Conley to find in pick-and-rolls, and a potent offensive rebounder with the versatility to play with either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph.


5. What has been the most desperate move?

Adande: The Sacramento Kings throwing gobs of Vivek Ranadive's money at Wesley Matthews and Monta Ellis. That doesn't carry just the faint whiff of desperation -- it's pungent. The fact that the Kings tried to overpay those players and they both turned them down tells you all you need to know about the state of basketball in the capital of California.

Arnovitz: Five years and $80 million from the Detroit Pistons is an awful lot for Reggie Jackson, a point guard outside the top 15 at his position who has shown no ability to hit the 3 with any kind of consistency. Jackson has improved defensively, but there's nothing exceptional there, either. Was there a robust market for Jackson we weren't hearing about? If not, why go the full five years and that number, even with the upcoming cap balloon?

Stein: Brooklyn shelling out $110 million to re-sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young. The Nets had to overpay to keep them because they had no mechanism to replace those two if they los‎t them. But it still feels more desperate than what we've seen from the Knicks and Lakers, who needed to start adding players as trade assets if nothing else.

Windhorst: I'm a little concerned what the Garden faithful is going to think about their new $54 million center. No offense to Robin Lopez, but I hope they're not expecting a difference-maker. Great guy to have, but as the premium Knicks signing with the cap space they've been saving, that's a tough billing to live up to.

Young: Rajon Rondo to the Kings. Essentially, the Kings traded Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, a first-round pick and the right to swap two other future first-rounders, to land Rondo, Marco Belinelli and Kosta Koufos. After striking out on Wesley Matthews and Monta Ellis, the Kings got desperate to make a splash and spun their wheels to hand Rondo a sizable one-year deal to try and recover.