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How teams define success in NBA Free Agency?

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There are two ways for teams to rebuild a roster from getting off multiple losing seasons in the NBA to establishing a winning culture that often leads to several championships: Free agency or draft.

While the traditional way to build a solid core of players is through the Rookie Draft, there are teams that go for the biggest names in the free agency market which leads to a championship ring.

Learn how general managers and team owners determine if success is reached with their free agency haul, whether it leads to a title or just an upgrade from a lottery team to a playoff contender.

‘WIN NOW’ TEAMS GO FOR STAR FREE AGENTS

You can blame it on the “super team” concept the Boston Celtics took in 2008 that led them to a championship. 

But teams that are impatient about nurturing talent from the draft and want to “win now” got the confidence after the Celtics made it work with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining Paul Pierce to lease Boston past Los Angeles for all the marbles.

The Miami Heat may not have done it the first time with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Wade but they did win two-straight titles in 2012 and 2013, one better than the Celtics.

BIG CITY TEAMS USUALLY GO FOR QUICK FIX

Big market teams can’t be blamed for plucking the big names in free agency, surrounding them with undrafted role players, and, with a stroke of luck and great coaching, getting the job done.

The New York Knicks may have salary cap space on some seasons to land superstar free agents to stay as a playoff team. But after their time plucking Carmelo Anthony away from Denver that failed to not net a title, it’s been mostly downhill even despite the bright lights of broadway.

Los Angeles did get one title when James finally landed in Hollywood. But teams can’t cheat on injuries and bad luck that got the Lakers tumbling into the lottery after the 2021-22 season.

STARS ON LOSING TEAMS MAKE FREE AGENCY BRIGHTER

It’s not just the Lakers, Knicks, and even the Chicago Bulls that often want a “win now” approach that leads them to the free agency route.

The increasing number of superstars from bad teams testing the waters often gets the attention of the big market teams. And that’s how the “super team” concept started.

Kevin Love was a regular All-Star with consistent yet impressive numbers with the Minnesota Timberwolves but he never got a chance to experience a deep playoff run. A season with James and Kyrie Irving with the Cleveland Cavaliers changed all that when they won the 2016 title.

FREE AGENCY ROUTE ALWAYS CARRIES RISKS

A team’s tradition, or culture, defines what directions their executives take in getting their franchises better.

There’s no guarantee for teams collecting the best names in free agency and suddenly becoming NBA champions. Developing young players through the Draft is also not 100% effective, either.

Free agency and the Draft both have their strengths and weaknesses. It’s all up to the team owners, the general managers, and executives that comprise a team’s brain trust as to what direction they want to go for their franchise.

Any direction and decision take risks. But with great timing, scouting, coaching, and getting the right chemistry for a team’s core, success for franchises might not be a championship right away. 

Executives from a perennial lottery team can define success in free agency as getting out of those losing seasons and making the playoffs consistently. 

A franchise’s conviction in sticking to its culture or its basketball program, as well as producing impressive player chemistry from the superstars up to the role players is already a success to a certain point – whether they go to free agency or the Draft.

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