The NBA’s 10 Biggest Moves of the Summer

  • LeBron James Returns To Cleveland

    The return of Ohio’s prodigal son to his home state was the sports story of the summer, and as with most things King James, it will likely go down as one of the most noteworthy moments in the league’s history.

    LeBron’s return to Cleveland was about so much more than basketball results, and it was clear in the news-breaking Sports Illustrated piece that his heart led him back to the Cavaliers. But his decision gave life to a free agency period that would have laid dormant until the league’s best player signed his name on the dotted line.

    With the stroke of a pen, LeBron created a new contender in Cleveland, opened up the East to real competition, and set up several other massive decisions.

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  • Chris Bosh Re-Ups With Miami For The Max, Spurns Rockets

    In the hours following LeBron’s announcement, the Houston Rockets were clearing the decks to open up the cap space necessary to sign free agent Chris Bosh. With a Dwight Howard-Bosh frontcourt within reach, the Rockets gave the Lakers a future first-round pick to take on Jeremy Lin’s salary.

    But a funny thing happened along the way – armed with the five-year max trump card, Pat Riley kept the versatile big man in Miami. Instead of letting the team unravel with LeBron heading north, Riley kept his man. In doing so, he insured another team will fight for relevancy in the East, and left Daryl Morey upstream without a paddle.

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  • Chandler Parsons Moves To Division Rival

    Chandler Parsons’ contract has been just as valuable to the Rockets as Chandler Parsons the player. His tiny salary gave Houston the flexibility to throw big money at Dwight Howard – and his involvement in the recruiting process didn’t hurt either.

    But with several superstars on the open market, GM Daryl Morey was on a mission to clear money off the books in his pursuit. The team declined Parsons’ option, likely communicating to Parsons that they would revisit talks on a long-term deal after the bigger chips had fallen. Unfortunately for Houston, Parsons didn’t feel like waiting around, signing an offer sheet worth $15 million per season with the Dallas Mavericks, who continue to try to pry their title window open in Dirk’s final years.

    Opting not to match, the Rockets had to look elsewhere to fill their new void on the wing, agreeing to a sign-and-trade for Wizards forward Trevor Ariza. Ariza may end up being a better fit for Houston, but giving away assets only to have your grand plan backfire has to sting just a bit.

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  • The Timberwolves Keep Kevin Love – For Now

    Sometimes the biggest moves are the ones you don’t make. Keeping Kevin Love in Minnesota for the time being qualifies as a giant decision, and not just because he’s 6-10.

    Players of Love’s caliber don’t grow on trees, and trading him away for 25 cents on the dollar would make zero sense for the Wolves. They were closer to being a playoff team last season than many people realize, with a brutal record in close games relegating them to the lottery. With better late-game luck and a blessing from the injury gods, they could very well quell Love’s discontent with a strong start out of the gate.

    Until an offer with considerable merit is put on the table, Minnesota would do well to remain in their holding pattern.

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  • Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid Go 1-2-3

    After Anthony Bennett came out of left field as the No. 1 selection in 2013, people were rightfully skeptical that this year’s draft would go as planned. But common sense ruled the day, leading to this talented trio being selected at the top of a ballyhooed class.

    Each player comes with risk and concerns of various types – none more obvious than Embiid’s health – but you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thought they weren’t deserving of their draft positions. Building a strong team starts with locking down a star, and Wiggins’ high-flying athleticism, Parker’s advanced scoring touch, and Embiid’s deft post moves give them a strong base to build their NBA lives on.

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  • Utah Jazz Match Offer Sheet for Gordon Hayward

    Utah’s young swingman gambled on himself by turning down several extension offers before the league’s Halloween deadline. Even after his worst shooting season as a pro, everything came up roses for Hayward.

    Michael Jordan’s newly-rebranded Hornets were looking for some shooting and versatility on the wing, and threw max money at Hayward in an attempt to scratch that itch. Utah matched the offer, betting that Hayward would continue to grow and eventually live up to the deal. He’s a nice young player, but this puts the Jazz in a tough place with decreased flexibility moving forward.

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  • Jason Kidd Gets Rewarded With Milwaukee Bucks Gig

    After a rookie coaching season marred by spilled sodas and uneven results, Jason Kidd wasn’t exactly in a position to be making demands with his oligarch owner. Somehow, he managed to get what he wanted anyway.

    Kidd’s alleged demand for more authority in the Nets organization led to him seeking opportunities elsewhere, with friend and Bucks owner Marc Lasry giving him a shot to coach the Milwaukee Bucks instead. Having a safety net that affords you the chance to mold Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo is quite a luxury. There’s a lesson to be learned from one of the more bizarre stories of the summer – fortune favors the bold.

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  • Rookie Coaches in Vogue, Kerr and Fisher Hit the Jackpot

    Teams have become increasingly fond of young, up-and-coming coaches in recent years, but typically those candidates have a trace of pedigree. In Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, the Warriors and Knicks threw considerable dinero at two unknowns.

    While Kerr had a brief stint as the GM for the Phoenix Suns, neither has any sort of coaching experience to speak of. That’s not to say they’ll be unsuccessful – both are regarded as intelligent, passionate students of the game – but it’s a considerable investment to make on people with no track record to judge. The allure of “upside” has bled into the coaching ranks, and the results for Golden State and New York will shape the coaching market going forward.

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  • Lance Stephenson Flees The Pacers For Less Money

    Despite his theatrics, Lance Stephenson was a valuable contributor who helped the Indiana Pacers lock up the top seed in the Eastern Conference last season. The free agency market for him was a bit tepid, and all signs pointed to him taking a five-year, $44 million offer to stay in Indy.

    But Stephenson threw us yet another curveball by signing with the Charlotte Hornets, who were eager to get some help on the wing after losing out on Gordon Hayward. To get him for just slightly more per season than what the Pacers offered, (three years, $27 million) with the final year being a team option, is a master stroke for GM Rich Cho. He’s a divisive figure, but in a worst case scenario the Hornets can be rid of him in just two years. It’s rare to see a player flee a top team for less overall money and years.
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  • Pau Gasol Headed To The Windy City

    Struggling with injuries and buried on a bad Lakers team last season, Pau Gasol had gone from key piece on a perennial contender to a forgotten man. By moving to Chicago, he has a final chance to remind people of his brilliance before the curtain drops on his career.

    Chicago’s frontcourt rotation will be something to behold with Gasol in the fray. Alongside incumbents Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, Gasol and Euro stud Nikola Mirotic will combine to give the Bulls perhaps the most diverse set of big men in the league. Noah and Gibson’s defensive aptitude and speed relative to position will allow Gasol to play his natural center role more often, and Mirotic’s shooting threat will give him the space inside to post up and hit cutters with his top-notch passing. If Derrick Rose can stay healthy — no small feat — the Bulls may be the favorite to come out of the East.

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  • LeBron James
  • Adam Silver
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Steve Kerr
  • Lance Stephenson

Basketball is usually relegated to the background during the summer months, the sights and sounds of baseball taking over until the roar of NFL training camp begins in earnest. But hoops stars new and old have stepped into the spotlight during the summer of 2014, grabbing headlines and leading the national conversation about sports.

A lean by many NBA front offices toward “acquiring assets” and building for the future has coincided with the popularity explosion of fantasy sports. With a large segment of the sports-watching public creating crazy (fictitious) trades and transactions in their spare time, it’s not surprising that the league’s second season has taken on a life of its own.

Of course, the big names draw the most attention. Any list of the biggest NBA moves has to start with the biggest of them all.

Follow Kyle on Twitter at @NeubeckNBA