NBA Free Agency Winners And Losers: Clippers, Knicks Reign Supreme

Most of the top NBA free agents have been accounted for, so it's time to look at the Winners and Losers from this rodeo.

We're only one week into the scrunched up 2011 NBA free agency period, but most notable players have found their homes. Only seven of SBNation.com's top 40 free agents remain on the market, with Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo and Kris Humphries leading the 'best remaining' list.

With preseason games beginning on Friday and real live NBA games a week and two days away, it's a good time to pass judgment on the work that's been done in free agency and the trade market to date.

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SKY HIGH

Los Angeles Clippers: It wasn't just the Chris Paul trade that made the Clippers the champions of the offseason. Okay -- it was primarily the Chris Paul trade. When you trade for a top-five player in his prime, you have done something right. While the process stunk to high Heavens and no one would blame the Lakers or Rockets from threatening to take legal action against what appeared to be a very cavalier decision by David Stern, the end result remains: Chris Paul is a Clipper.

In addition to CP3, the Clippers did a fine job in picking up Chauncey Billups off of waivers -- $2 million is a bargain for a player as impactful as Billups. DeAndre Jordan isn't exactly a bargain at four years, $43 million, but L.A. had little choice after the Warriors offered that during restricted free agency. With Chris Kaman heading to New Orleans, the Clippers needed a center (one who happened to be Blake Griffin's best friend) bad. Caron Butler was also too expensive for a player untested after a torn tendon, but the complexion of that move changes with the CP3 trade.

The Clippers are a much better team compared to how they entered free agency. That's the goal.

New York Knicks: While losing out on Jamal Crawford and Shawne Williams stings, landing Tyson Chandler to anchor the defense is just beautiful. If Chandler remains healthy, the Knicks won't be an embarrassment on defense, which is a massive upgrade over 2010-11. New York can now let Amare Stoudemire handle the offense and hide a bit on defense, while the team's inability to stop guard penetration should be mitigated somewhat by the active feet of Chandler.

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers had the rare sane, successful offseason while overpaying for no one. Indiana picked up David West on a reasonable two-year deal, providing a huge upgrade at power forward and putting Tyler Hansbrough in a back-up role he's more suited to play. The team also retained the valuable if under-recognized Jeff Foster. But the best decisions Indiana made were knowing when to say no on Nene and Jamal Crawford. Each pushed their price upward with multiple teams in hot pursuit; the Pacers bowed out before the market reached its apex in both cases. Perhaps the team won't improve as much as fans would like in 2011-12, but in the long run, skipping those contracts will likely work out just fine.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have been quiet, bringing in Rip Hamilton, losing Kurt Thomas and doing almost nothing else. That's OK. The Bulls are good. Hamilton is a great fit. This is what an offseason for a good team looks like.

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HOVERING ABOVE THE GROUND

Sacramento Kings: The Kings, like the Pacers, made sane moves: they locked up Chuck Hayes on a four-year, $21 million deal and retained Marcus Thornton. These aren't the moves of a team pushing into the playoff picture, but flexibility is maintained for the future. Splurging on Andrei Kirilenko -- a distinct possibility, if the Russian leaves Moscow -- would change the tenor of the team's offseason.

Denver Nuggets: What happens with Arron Afflalo remains important; the Nuggets kept Nene, but at a steep price ($68 million over five years). The team also brought in Rudy Fernandez (who appears to be headed back to Madrid) and Corey Brewer (who has never been a contributor in the NBA). The Nene signing is so rich that if the team doesn't find its way into contention, it will have been made in vain. UPDATE: Rudy will actually stick in Denver, at least for the time being. 

Miami Heat: I hate to criticize the reigning East champs, but while Shane Battier is worth picking up for his shooting and defense, it's not like a wing stopper was really a need for Miami. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of the few perimeter defenders better than Battier. The team seems content rolling with Joel Anthony at center, some big line-ups with Chris Bosh sliding up and sticking with Mario Chalmers at point guard. The wing was covered. Point guard and center were not. I don't terribly understand the priorities here, even though the roster is better for having Battier on it.

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EARTHBOUND

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors struck out on Chandler and Nene, rescinded the ability to match Reggie Williams' offer sheets and blew their amnesty on a $4 million expiring contract in Charlie Bell, missed on DeAndre Jordan and signed Kwame Brown to stop the bleeding. There's a mix of desperation and disappointment that is inescapable.

Utah Jazz: I'm a huge believer in Kevin O'Connor, but I'm not sure bringing Josh Howard in is the big move this club needs. There is still plenty of time before March 15, but we all expect a roster shake-up to clear the paths to stardom for Utah's young players.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers land here through little fault of their own -- they had a deal for Chris Paul that would have cost them Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but it was blocked by the league office, leaving Odom upset enough that L.A. had to ship him off to Dallas for nothing.

That's where I find the fault: another team would surely have given up more than a second-round pick for Odom. The trade exception that L.A. picked up was hardly unique to the Mavs' deal, and there are plenty of teams who don't compete directly with the Lakers for championships. The Odom move seems like a rash decision made in the throes of disappointment over CP3.

New Jersey Nets: The Nets entered December with huge aspirations. New Jersey has, to date, landed ... Shawne Williams. With Dwight Howard looming large as the season rolls on, N.J. will be on the edge of success or complete failure. Only the future of Deron Williams hangs in the balance. Good luck.

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The Hook runs Monday through Friday. See the archives.

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