Since everyone's complaining about how we're losing out on this excellent free agent class by dealing for Ariza and Okafor, lets look at just who's available. The list I'm using is from Mike's excellent Better Know A Free Agent series, so it's admittedly truncated.
Players Who Simply Aren't Coming Here Under Any Circumstances
Eric Gordon - Obviously not coming here. New Orleans was going to re-sign him prior to this deal. It's a lock now.
Nicolas Batum - Also not coming here. Portland sees him as foundation piece, along with Aldridge. Money is no issue for this franchise, they would have matched any deal. And do you really wanna pay $10M a year for a guy who's a somewhat overrated defender and a limited offensive talent?
Goran Dragic - Houston isn't letting him go, and he clearly wants (and deserves) to start. That won't happen here.
Flawed Players Who Will Likely Demand Waaaay Too Much Money
O.J. Mayo - Mayo's not a good enough upgrade over Crawford. Not a $7-8M for 5 years upgrade. Pass.
Ryan Anderson - Part of me says Orlando keeps him to appease Howard. If he did come here, it would be at a hefty price for a player whose breakout season might prove to be a fluke. Besides, if you just want volume 3pt shooting, why not throw half the money/contract at a guy like Steve Novak?
Ersan Ilyasova - Would presumably fill two holes (shooting/rebounding). He's also still of a somewhat limited player offensively. Do you really want to give a guy like this a 5 year, $45M deal? Because somebody is going to.
Louis Williams - Yes, just what we need. A rich man's Jordan Crawford. Pass.
Gerald Green - Fluke season. Sorry. Someone will overpay for this. Thankfully it won't be us.
Players Whom We Should Pass On, Cap Room Or No Cap Room
C.J. Miles - Pass.
J.J. Hickson - Great numbers, poor defender, doesn't help you win. I'm thinking Portland overpays to keep him anyway. Pass.
Kris Humphries - Fills a need, just not here.
Kirk Hinrich - Been there. Done that. Pass.
Alonzo Gee - Been there. Done that. Pass.
Shannon Brown - While it'd be nice to see his wife in the stands, I don't think he fills a need, nor is he a huge upgrade over Crawford. Pass.
George Hill - A 1 1/2 guard. Sorry, just not too crazy about him. Pass.
Jason Terry - RG III to Garcon, for six!
Players Who Might Have Actually Come Here, But Probably Won't Now That We Can't Pay Them
Courtney Lee - Still possible, I guess, depending on whether or not Beal is drafted. Personally, I love this guy and think he would have been a great complimentary piece.
Jeff Green - I like him, and naively think he'll still come here (home) for a short term deal. Not sure he really fills any specific need, other than improving the team's talent base. Either way, no team's investing big money/years in him.
Jason Thompson - We probably don't need him anyway.
Players That We Could/Should Still Sign
Steve Novak - Possible. Still possible, and would fill a much needed role as a high volume 3 point shooter. I also didn't see anything about his performance in NY last season that would indicate his breakout year was a fluke. Even if he cools down to 40% from 3 point range, he's still a great pickup.
Carlos Delfino - Still possible, and still a good fit. Likely for no more than 2-3 seasons at a reasonable cost. If we pickup Barnes (instead of Beal), he makes a lot of sense and is attainable.
Brandon Rush - Still possible, and still a good fit. Likely for no more than 2-3 seasons at a reasonable cost.
As Ernie said yesterday, free agents have to actually want to come here. It takes two to tango. At present, a 20 win team with a transitioning roster isn't exactly South Beach. We should be honest with ourselves here, no matter how much we love this franchise or this truly awesome (!) city, NBA players want to win. Period. Nobody likes to lose, and thus nobody wants to join a loser.
Is there a precedence for good players coming to (next to) last place teams? Sure. Joe Johnson went from the Suns to the putrid Hawks. It still took another couple of years for him to get them to the playoffs, but it did happen. And, honestly... that's about the extent of the examples. Before anyone mentions Gilbert Arenas coming here as a FA, let me remind you, we're talking about Gilbert Arenas. Toss normal logic out the window. So no, not many examples of impact free agents heading to teams with the 2nd worst record in the league.
Had we stayed the course and amnestied Lewis, we'd have some money to play with. Actually, we would have probably needed to spend money to meet the cap threshold. Which means, what exactly? Again, those top tier guys are not coming here. Kill the delusions. Wasn't gonna happen. Period.
Instead, in a best case scenario, you're probably overpaying for guys like OJ Mayo and Ryan Anderson for the next 4-5 years. Do those guys address glaring holes in the roster? Do they elevate a team like us to the playoffs? Are they good enough to continue improving while they clog the roster for the next 1/2 a decade? Do they give us flexibility to continue to improve the roster, resign our youthful core to 2nd deals, etc? You'll have to answer that question for me.
Instead, we get two battle tested vets who can help the team immediately and address key needs immediately (rebounding, post defense, perimeter defense, toughness). Ariza and Okafor fit the team's "defense and toughness" model. They are also only here for two years. It's possible both/either could be moved at any point before then. They both increase the team's meager talent base, pushing our youth to improve if they want minutes (as opposed to being handed them). They really shouldn't impact our draft decisions, since they are essentially short term rentals. They help us get better on the court immediately, don't kill our cap situation indefinitely, and if they help us win, they actually could make this a free agent destination.
Something it isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, right now.