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Taking stock of a few signings and imagining what the NBA could have been

NBA: Playoffs-Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

A few more players have recently been signed in the NBA as the free agency pool grows smaller and smaller.

Rajon Rondo has signed with the New Orleans Pelicans with a one-year deal. I have not been able to find details about the amount that he signed for, but I cannot imagine it is for too much more than 3-4 million as the Pelicans are close to being out of cap space after signing Jrue Holiday earlier in the offseason.

Rondo is an interesting fit with Pelicans, who have assembled quite the oddball team. The Pelicans tried out having Jrue play off-ball quite a bit at the end of last year and it looks like they will be doing that again this year with a potential backcourt of Rondo and Holiday. They, like the Wolves, will be an interesting test case on how rosters that do not conform to the modern NBA can fit in.

The other major signing was Jonathon Simmons heading to the Orlando Magic. The Spurs pulled their qualifying offer for Simmons earlier this week and reportedly did not offer Simmons a contract. Simmons agreed to a relatively small contract with Orlando, with 6.3 million the first year, 6 million the second, and 5.7 the third year, with only 1 million guaranteed the final year.

It is somewhat surprising that Simmons did not get paid more than that, as the last playoffs made it seem like many teams would be interested in wings that can do a bit of everything. However, this market has been much more tepid than teams, and especially players, thought heading into the offseason.

It’s becoming clear that the NBA market is correcting itself and last year’s cap boom was truly a singular event. Players in this offseason signed for less money than anticipated and many for deals that were for shorter years, such as Paul Millsap and Kyle Lowry.

It is an interesting alternate reality where the NBA pushed the player’s union harder for cap smoothing, which the NBA Player’s league rejected, that would have made the immediate one-year jump less dramatic. Would the Warriors still have been able to sign Kevin Durant in that world? If not, that changes the entire landscape and future of the NBA entirely.

The Warriors have warped the NBA around themselves, as their accumulation of talent of players who are all under contract and in their primes for the next few years has dominated every single NBA offseason plan. The question is not if you think you can compete or not. The question is, can you compete against the Warriors and, if not, why are you trying?

It is a compelling idea and reveals that even those in the most important positions in the NBA were not great prognosticating the future. I’m paraphrasing for a quote I could not find again, but one quote I remember seeing at one point from a sourced general manager was to the tune of something like, “We were excited to have max cap space to offer a special player, like Kevin Durant, but then we realized that everyone else was going to have max cap space too.”

However, we do not live in that world, and thus have to deal with the Warriors as they are. At least a bunch of centers across the league somehow got paid deals from 15-20 million dollars a year.