Free Agency Fun!

The moratorium on free agent signings in the NBA has been lifted as of Wednesday, so it’s time to evaluate all that’s happened. So far, there’s been a plethora of interesting and noteworthy deals, the biggest of course being Dwight Howard’s decision to sign with the Houston Rockets. As has become customary with Howard over the past few offseasons, his decision has drawn a lot of scrutiny and subsequent criticism. The prevailing opinion is that Howard slighted the Lakers and never seemed to play with any kind of ambition or drive in LA. Besides Howard, there have been a number of other free agent signings, from those that surprised people in a good way, like the Warriors’ signing of Andre Iguodala, to the flat-out confusing, like the Knicks’ trade for Andrea Bargnani. Either way, the free agency period is always exciting and this year’s edition hasn’t failed to live up to those standards.

Let’s first talk about the Knicks. On the bright side, they’ve successfully re-signed J.R. Smith and Pablo Prigioni, as well as signed their draft pick, Tim Hardaway Jr. Bringing Smith, last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, back into the fold, provides the Knicks with a legitimate scoring threat while Prigioni will shore up the bench for the point guard position. However, on the flip side, which isn’t necessarily bad, just perplexing, is the Knicks’ trade for Andrea Bargnani. I, along with many other people, don’t understand what Glen Grunwald was hoping to accomplish with this deal, given that Bargnani’s been constantly injured over the past few years and was vastly underwhelming in Toronto when he did play. At this point, I’m out of ideas on how to rationalize this, so I’ll just say that maybe Grunwald is hoping that bringing in a tall, Italian shooter will help the team, a la Danilo Gallinari.

The Warriors made a big splash in free agency a few days ago, signing Andre Iguodala away from Denver. The move is especially surprising because no one called this one and Golden State never really showed any particular interest in Iguodala before the announcement. Regardless, I like the deal. Iguodala is like the poor man’s LeBron. He’s a five-tool player with years of experience under his belt, something the Warriors need given their young roster.

This brings us to the highlight of the free agency period, the Rockets’ signing of Dwight Howard. There are both pros and cons of this deal, virtually all of which have been discussed. Those who like the deal have that opinion for the typical reasons: Howard is big and strong, giving him an imposing presence virtually unparalleled in the NBA. Plus, it’s kind of hard to argue against the fact that he’s a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year. But the cons are much more intriguing, numerous, and potentially harmful. First, he’s coming off a season in Los Angeles that lacked any ambition on Howard’s part. Also, he’s a terrible free throw shooter, shooting an abysmal 49% last year and a career average of 57.7%, which qualifies as horrendously awful. After getting past his on-court issues, his off-court issues are probably just as bad. For one, he has obvious character issues, whether it’s his indecisiveness, his lack of maturity in dealing with media pressure, or even his dubious distinction as the NBA’s current version of Rasheed Wallace given all the technical fouls Howard gets, Dwight Howard is a worrisome case for the Houston Rockets, but they’ve already invested in him, so they’ll have to deal with whatever consequences, good or bad, that he brings.

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