For most major American sports, free agency season almost always brings about the most discussion and tension amongst fans, insiders and analysts alike. Almost every season, at least one big name player’s contract runs out and speculation about their next destination runs rampant–sometimes even months before the window actually opens up.
Some seasons are ones for the record books.
In 2010, literal years of speculation over where some of the NBA’s biggest names–including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and several other game changing players–finally came to a head. That summer saw the formation of Miami’s Big 3 and several other marquee players change jerseys and zip codes.
Depending on the people you’re discussing the issue with, you probably will hear two different approaches to free agency. One belief believes that free agency doesn’t start until the first major contract is signed, dictating the salary demands and contracts of similar players. The other sees free agency as an open market with little to no order.
In truth, they’re both right at times.
When looking at free agency across the major sports in America, several factors help shape the market and much of the league’s demand.
At the end of the day, all markets are want vs need. In the NBA, the game saw a massive change when the largely small ball Warriors upended the league and its big men with a largely perimeter shooting approach to win last season’s trophy. That resulted in some teams changing their free agency philosophy. With several talented bigs on the market, some teams opted for different skilled position players. Certainly bigs like Greg Monroe and Robin Lopez found new homes, but did the market change after the Warriors brought their approach to the forefront? It’s hard to argue against that. Similarly so in Major League Baseball, some offseasons may see power hitters or ace pitchers fly off the market with massive deals. In other years, some of the biggest names will be some of the last signed. As Mike Axisa of CBS Sports explains, the MLB saw several different patterns form over the last few free agent periods, debunking much of the belief that the market waits on its biggest names.
Another big man from last season’s NBA free agent class, Marc Gasol, represents why the market doesn’t always wait for the big contract ink to dry. This past offseason saw huge names like Gasol, LeBron and Manu Ginobili mostly stay put with their old teams. When looking at how the order of deals went down this past summer, it appears that most teams knew this would be the case and opted to make complementary players more the priority. While some large signings came early on–including DeMarre Carroll joining Toronto and Brandan Wright joining us in Memphis–the biggest chip of the season, LaMarcus Aldridge, took a few days to sign. Certainly some teams waited for his decision, mostly hoping Aldridge would choose their club, while others swooped in for other options.
This can also be said in the NFL and NHL. The last NFL offseason certainly saw lots of names moving around at all different times during the window. 2014’s rushing leader, DeMarco Murray, weighed his options for a while before signing with Philadelphia in the middle of March–after a flurry of rumored signings for both sides. This happens at times. In other instances a player may overestimate their market and remain on the sidelines for a while before getting an opportunity from a team in need due to injury or lagging performance from the current roster. Other times, a player may be coming off a bad reputation and will have to deal with a declined market interest.
In short, while the marquee players and contracts certainly do dictate the temperature of the market, they don’t hold the rest of the market in a freeze until they sign. Depending on the circumstance, teams and free agents may take the plunge early, or hold off to see how the market shapes up over the window.
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Heading into his third season as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, Dave Joerger holds a reputation as a proven leader with a knack for tough, championship-caliber basketball. While his success in Memphis is known to NBA fans, they might not know that Joerger has been producing winning basketball since he assumed a coaching role.
A college athlete at Concordia College and Moorhead State, Joerger transitioned from playing to coaching when he accepted a position with the Dakota Wizards of the International Basketball Association. From 1997-2000, he would serve as an assistant before becoming the team’s head coach in 2000. Soon after, titles came to Dakota and Joerger until he moved on in 2004.
After leaving Dakota, Joerger brought winning pedigrees to the Cedar Rapids River Raiders (2004), the Sioux Falls Skyforce (04-06) and another stint with the Dakota Wizards (06-07).
Joerger’s success garnered the attention of the Grizzlies, as he joined the team as an assistant coach for the 2006-2007 season–a position he’d hold until 2013. When the Grizzlies announced that head coach Lionel Hollins would depart the club after the season, attention turned to Joerger.
With the team under his guidance, the Grizzlies reputation for hard-nosed, efficient basketball would grow. Players like Mike Conley Jr., Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph would be just a few that bought into the new head coach’s system. In his first season, Memphis would reach the first round of the playoffs. The following season would see the club reach the conference semifinals before bowing out to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors.
As Joerger enters season three at the helm, Grizzly fans are excited to see what’s in store. With new addition Matt Barnes joining the squad, Joerger has a bolstered squad ready to push further into the playoffs. The Grizzlies open the season October 28 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Just recently, my Memphis Grizzlies’ season of absolute Grit-N-Grind came to a halt at the hands of the out-of-this-world Golden State Warriors. While it’s not the ending the fans in the FedEx Forum hoped for, it was a season of improvement, action and nonstop heart. From the new arrivals to our veteran core, this squad came together and left it all on the court every night. Coach Dave Joerger and General Manager Chris Wallace have to be commended for their excellent work assembling this immensely talented team.
There is no shortage of heart in Memphis. From Tony “1st Team All-Defense” Allen to Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph and countless others, Grizzlies fans knew that there wouldn’t be any nights taken off by this squad. They came prepared and ready to take on the premiere organizations of the league on any night. That sort of work ethic showed via our improved record of 55 wins and 27 losses–improving on last season’s 50-win total. No one can say they got an easy win over this season’s
Our veterans were stellar on both sides of the ball as Marc Gasol joined Mike Conley and Zach Randolph as a key stat leader in several offensive and defensive categories. They’re hard work propelled the Grizzlies to have the second-fewest points per game allowed in the league. Even the most talented squads had a hard
Source: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images
time getting through our stingy perimeter defense and strong bodies down low. Certainly, there were areas where we can improve on the stat sheets, but with a solid defensive foundation the team could assuredly contend with any club.
Once again, GM Chris Wallace did an excellent job making acquisitions before and during the season to keep the team thriving even during trying stretches. Veteran additions like Vince Carter and Beno Udrih helped anchor a strong bench, while the trade for Jeff Green improved an already impressive defensive unit. Although these moves led to Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter moving onto new clubs, the team made the tough decisions to put the club in a better position to compete.
Mike Conley grits it out during Game 6. (Source: Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)
From top to bottom, this roster were willing to put themselves out on the floor and win no matter what.
Injuries bit the Grizzlies for most of the season, right down to the end, which served as just another testament to this team’s grit. Mike Conley and Tony Allen’s injuries nagged them right to Game 6 where they fought their hardest to grind another win out. While the result isn’t what anyone wanted, no one can say the Grizz didn’t go down swinging.
There are several major questions the team will face in the offseason. The draft and free agency are going to be integral pieces in the team’s immediate and long-term future. We have faith that Coach Joerger will continue to push this team in the right direction while we push off the court. The season may have ended earlier than we hoped for, but the Grizzlies will be back for many years to come.