After a whirlwind Independence Day in the wild world of NBA free agency, storms dissipated and things calmed down on Wednesday, the fifth day since the market opened and the last before players can begin to officially sign contracts.
There were just three signings, and two of them were re-signings. We’ll grade all three, plus a separate fourth move, below. But Day 5 of free agency was dominated by rumors and rumblings, primarily surround the Boston Celtics, the Gordon Hayward aftermath, and the Los Angeles Clippers. We’ll also sort through those.
Let’s get to it:
GRADING WEDNESDAY’S DEALS
Dion Waiters is re-signing with the Heat: And he’ll be getting paid $52 million over four years, which is quite the vote of confidence for a player who, at this time last year, even in a cap-spike-enhanced market, was worth $2.9 million on a one-year deal, with a player option for a second. But it’s not like Waiters didn’t earn the payday; he had the best year of his career, scoring 15.8 points per game on 39.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Our Dan Devine eloquently summed up Miami’s decision to pay Waiters, and the risks and possible benefits that come with it:
The concern, if you’re a Heat fan, is that you saw the best of Waiters because he was motivated by the push for a new contract; that the career-best 39.5 percent mark from long distance was an outlier for a player who’d shot 34.2 percent from deep through his first four seasons; and that a four-year guarantee could lead the Philly native to ease up. By making the commitment, [Pat] Riley’s wagering that what Waiters produced last year in a stable environment and a steady role was his new normal; that at age 25, his best is yet to come; and that we’ll come to look at $13 million a season as a bargain for the prime years of a tough, versatile, gifted creator and complementary playmaker with limitless confidence and a willingness to take the big shot and live with the result.
They’re betting on Dion this summer like Dion bet on himself last summer. If they get the same return on investment, the Heat could be back in the playoffs next spring … which would be somewhat unfortunate for those of us who enjoyed Dion doing damn articles, but an awful lot of fun all the same.
Miami Grade: B-
Nick Young is headed to Golden State: The Warriors used their mid-level exception to lure Swaggy P to the Bay Area with a one-year, $5.2 million offer, but more so lured him with the chance to compete for, and probably win, a championship. Draymond Green and Kevin Durant were part of the recruiting efforts. Young reportedly turned down more money and playing time elsewhere to join the defending champs.
The deal is a win-win for both parties. Young will absorb the Warriors’ culture, and will finally get the chance to play on a big playoff stage (he has participated in just three playoff series over his 10-year career). The Warriors get yet another shooter off the bench who should thrive. Young’s performance has fluctuated wildly throughout his career, so this isn’t a slam dunk of a signing, but it has all the makings of one that will ultimately prove successful.
Golden State Grade: B+
Andre Roberson will re-sign with Oklahoma City: Roberson was a restricted free agent, and was viewed as a lock to return to OKC. So he didn’t even bother signing an offer sheet elsewhere; he re-upped with the Thunder for three years and $30 million, an excellent price for one of the very best wing defenders in the league. Interestingly, Roberson preferred not to add a fourth year to the deal, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He, like Dion Waiters did last summer, is betting on himself.
Roberson’s offensive shortcomings were magnified in the playoffs, and by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni’s decision to intentionally foul him. But a team with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Steven Adams can afford to sacrifice some supplementary offensive firepower for a defensive stalwart.
Oklahoma City Grade: A
The Pacers waived Monta Ellis: They’ll reportedly use the stretch provision to pay Ellis’ $11.2 million salary over five years at $2.2 million per season rather than take the full cap hit in 2017-18. Interestingly — and fortunately for Indiana — Ellis’ 2018-19 player option, which he likely would have opted in to, essentially evaporates as part of this move. So the stretch provision recognizes the contract as a two-year deal, but Indiana only has to pay one year of it.
Indiana Grade: A
WEDNESDAY’S RUMORS AND REPORTS
The Celtics are shopping two starters and a rotation player: Those players, unsurprisingly, are Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, according to ESPN. As discussed yesterday, to create cap room for Gordon Hayward, Boston must do more than simply renounce its free agents and waive a few end-of-bench reserves. It must do all that, plus trade a salary bigger than Terry Rozier’s.
There are compelling arguments for trading each one of the three players mentioned above. Crowder has become expendable with the addition of Hayward and the picks of Jaylen Brown (last year) and Jayson Tatum (this year). But his contract is great, and stretches through the 2019-20 season.
Both Smart and Bradley, meanwhile, will be free agents next summer. Bradley is the better and more important player in the present, but he’s older, and will command bigger money than Smart. Plus, Bradley will be an unrestricted free agent, whereas Smart will be restricted, meaning Boston can match any offer for him next summer.
Boston’s decision is a difficult one. Which path Danny Ainge chooses could hinge on the packages being offered in return.
A Hayward sign-and-trade could also be an option. That’s according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. But that wouldn’t make Boston’s situation considerably more navigable. Bradley, Crowder or Smart would almost surely be included in the deal (according to ESPN, Crowder is the likely candidate) because Boston would still have to make room under the cap for Hayward’s contract. That’s because any trade that sent Boston over the cap would require incoming and outgoing salaries to match, and with Hayward set to sign for a $32 million annual salary, that’s implausible.
The reason this could happen: Hayward himself could push for it if he wants to throw Utah a bone after bungling things on the way out of town. But there isn’t much incentive for Boston to consider a sign-and-trade unless the Jazz offer assets in addition to Hayward that outstrip other offers the Celtics have for Bradley, Crowder or Smart.
Could Marc Gasol be the next star to be available via trade? The Vertical’s Chris Mannix spoke to two executives who think Gasol and Memphis are at least worth keeping an eye on, with the Grizzlies potentially set to embark on a rebuild.
The Kelly Olynyk market continues to take shape: Olynyk was the first official casualty of Boston’s salary shed. As an unrestricted free agent, he’s been drawing interest from the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick.
James Johnson will probably re-sign with the Heat …
according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. The Heat still have upward of $20 million in cap room remaining after giving Waiters $13 million per year, and Johnson has long been expected to command some of it.
The Clippers could be interested in Tony Allen … and might try to acquire him in a sign-and-trade with the Grizzlies, according to TNT’s David Aldridge. The Clippers, who are above the cap, would need the Grizzlies to cooperate if they are to acquire Allen, an offensively-challenged, defensively-excellent wing who could complement Danilo Gallinari.
The Clippers are also reportedly in talks with Milos Teodosic, arguably the top European guard who has never made the jump to the NBA. This isn’t the first time an NBA team has been linked with the 30-year-old Serbian, but the report includes the terms being discussed (three years, $24 million), and says Teodosic is “ready to leave Europe and make the NBA jump,” which makes it intriguing.
Teodosic is a wizard with the ball, and, for the Clippers, would be a move for the present, not the future. He’d jump into L.A.’s backcourt rotation immediately.
If you haven’t done your YouTube scouting, enjoy:
A JaVale McGee return to the Warriors is possible, but McGee also reportedly met with the Clippers on Wednesday.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THURSDAY
There has been next to no news on the Nerlens Noel front. The entire market has dried up rapidly. The Atlanta Hawks have reportedly shown interest, but they can’t currently offer Noel the kind of money that he was expected to command. If nobody hands Noel an offer sheet that represents significant money, the Dallas Mavericks could come away with a bargain. If a market for Noel does materialize, it should do so in the coming days.
TOP 10 BEST AVAILABLE (via The Vertical’s Fab 50 Free Agents)
1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
2. Dirk Nowitzki, PF
3. Rudy Gay, SF
4. Nerlens Noel, C
5. Derrick Rose, PG
6. Pau Gasol, C
7. Tim Hardaway Jr., SG
8. Mason Plumlee, C
9. Bojan Bogdanovic, SF
10. JaMychal Green, PF
Friday: Grading the Paul George trade, the Blake Griffin signing and more
Saturday: Grading the signings of Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and more
Sunday: Grading the signings of Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and more
Monday: Kevin Durant takes a pay cut and Gordon Hayward nears a decision
Tuesday: Gordon Hayward heads east, while two West playoff teams strengthen