The third day of the NBA’s 2017 free agency period was decidedly uneventful and defined more by rumor than action. After several busy days full of big-money moves, Monday mostly involved table-setting and relatively few deals. The best free agent came off the board, of course, but the certainty of his decision meant it could only appear so major. Only the reported terms of the contract carried any shock value.
Regardless, every day matters when the future of the league is at stake. Read on for our takes on Monday’s new deals and reports, plus a guide to what could go down on Independence Day.
GRADING MONDAY’S DEALS
Kevin Durant returns to the Warriors: No one expected the reigning NBA Finals MVP to leave the team he picked in free agency only a year ago, but this deal nevertheless represents an important moment for a franchise that will have to pay four players big-money deals over the next few seasons.
Durant had always made it clear that he was willing to take less than his potential maximum salary to enable the Golden State Warriors to bring back both Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston (both of whom re-signed in free agency’s first two days) but the terms of his new contract are even more helpful to the club. His two-year deal (with a player option for the second season) sets his new salary at roughly $25 million for 2017-18 — less than the player option he declined to become a free agent and even less than he made last season. Durant can opt out again next summer and sign a huge five-year max contract similar to Stephen Curry’s new mega-deal, but he has still saved owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber a significant luxury tax payment.
The decision inspired plenty of reaction, much of it divided between those who saw honor in Durant’s willingness to forgo financial gain to assemble the best team possible and those who viewed his move as yet another example of his desire to circumvent the usual rules of NBA competition. Another group avoided that central question entirely — couldn’t Golden State’s owners pay everyone a deserving salary and deal with the luxury tax burden as a fact of cashing in one of the best teams the sport has ever seen? The franchise sure looks profitable enough to handle it.
On the court, though, there’s no question about the quality of this deal. The Warriors will enter the 2017-18 season as overwhelming championship favorites and look set to build a dynasty.
Golden State grade: A+, but one of those tests where you get everything right plus the extra credit
Darren Collison joins the Pacers: The Pacers’ first notable move since the Paul George trade brings them a quality backup point guard who is unfortunately likely to start. As reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Darren Collison has agreed to terms on a two-year, $20-million deal with a partial guarantee for the second season. Fresh off three years with the Sacramento Kings, he will begin his second stint with the Pacers as the replacement for the departed Jeff Teague, a markedly superior player. Unfortunately, rebuilding teams have to take what they can get.
In that context, Indiana could have done much worse than Collison. If nothing else, the seven-year pro has proven that he will fill his role and take his money on a team without much to play for in the short term. The Pacers are reorganizing themselves around a youth movement and do not figure to challenge for a playoff spot next season. Collison can average roughly 13 points and five assists per game and shouldn’t cause a stink if he has to give up his starting spot for a better option. The same could not necessarily be said of fellow free agent Derrick Rose, the other best point guard left on the market.
It’s also necessary to note that Collison comes with some baggage. He pleaded guilty to a felony domestic violence charge before last September and served an eight-game suspension to open the season.
Indiana grade: C
MONDAY’S RUMORS AND REPORTS
The Clippers are working on a three-team sign-and-trade… to acquire Danilo Gallinari, with whom they’ve reportedly agreed to a three-year, $65 million deal. The team met with the (soon-to-be-former?) Nuggets forward on Sunday, and Gallinari has reportedly chosen Los Angeles as his destination. But the Clips must engineer a sign-and-trade to fit the deal under (or rather over) the cap. So they’ve recruited the Denver Nuggets and Atlanta Hawks to piece together a three-way swap.
Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, the Clippers would send Jamal Crawford, reserve center Diamond Stone and a first-round pick — possibly the 2018 first-rounder the Clippers received in the Chris Paul trade, per reports — to Atlanta. Gallinari would go from Denver to L.A. Per USA Today‘s Sam Amick, Atlanta will send a second-round pick to Denver. Charania also reports that Paul Millsap — who Sunday agreed to a three-year, $90 million contract with the Nuggets — could be a part of the deal. But he could also simply sign with Denver as a free agent. The deal sounds like it will get done, but, per Charania, the terms have yet to be finalized.
The deal would be a win for all three teams, but especially for Atlanta, who would secure a first-round pick in exchange for taking on Crawford as a salary dump. And the Clippers would, of course, get their guy in Gallinari.
As for Crawford’s thoughts on the trade?
Sometimes all you can do is sit back and laugh..
— Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) July 4, 2017
Per reports, he’ll lobby for a buyout or trade from the Hawks, and if the two choose the buyout route, Crawford could enter free agency as a potential late addition for a contender.
Chauncey Billups turned down the Cavaliers. Chauncey Billups was immediately reported as the leading candidate to fill David Griffin’s old role as Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, but it looks like he’s turning down owner Dan Gilbert to continue on as a TV analyst for ESPN and on-court baller for the BIG3 League. As our Dan Devine noted, that is maybe not a great sign for the Cavs:
It is not a great sign when the dude you want to hire passes on running your job to rain 4s on Channel 219 https://t.co/LbYNRMbfVZ
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) July 3, 2017
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman says Billups had concerns over both staff and compensation, so it’s perhaps not surprising that he didn’t opt to take on one of the most demanding executive roles in the NBA. Whichever brave soul ends up taking the job will have to improve a championship-level squad (at least in a world without the Warriors) and convince LeBron James it’s in his best interest not to the leave town for the second time when he hits free agency next summer.
The Hawks never offered Paul Millsap a contract. All-Star Paul Millsap’s decision to join the Denver Nuggets officially started the rebuilding process in Atlanta. However, it looks like the Hawks made that choice themselves, not just because their best player went elsewhere. According to Millsap, the Hawks never even made him an offer. Millsap never seemed especially likely to stick with the team, but at least all parties can now enter the future without wondering if they made the right choices.
On the other hand, it’s somewhat remarkable that the Hawks won 60 games two seasons ago and have now willfully begun a full-on rebuild. It’s just more proof that LeBron and the Cavs are no fun to face in the playoffs.
The Suns waived Leandro Barbosa. As reported by Woj, the Suns have waived Leandro Barbosa to free up $3.5 million in cap room. That gives them about $12 million of available money and a potential $25 million if they renounce the rights to restricted free agent center Alex Len. The goal is apparently to take on salary with assets attached, which makes sense for a young team looking to build around Devin Booker and a frontcourt full of recent lottery picks.
Barbosa figures to get attention from playoff teams looking to add a bench scorer. Although he’s slowed down in recent seasons, the 34-year-old remains one of the most joyous players in the league. He has never changed his push-the-pace style and can go on an eight-point scoring burst at any time.
LOOKING AHEAD TO TUESDAY
Gordon Hayward looks set to make a decision. The best free agent who has actually seemed a threat to change teams appears close to an announcement. Gordon Hayward met with the Utah Jazz on Monday and will reportedly sleep on his decision. Unless he takes considerable time to make his choice, we’ll learn of his choice sometime on July 4.
Gordon Hayward will sleep on his decision to go to Utah, Boston, or Miami, I'm told. Another July 4 declaration it is…
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 4, 2017
Hayward gave his last meeting to the Jazz, the franchise that nurtured his development and helped him become an All-Star for the first time in 2017. According to Woj, new point guard Ricky Rubio attended Monday’s meeting. If Hayward opts to move to the East, it won’t be for lacking of trying from Utah.
Unlike in recent seasons, the decision of the top available player shouldn’t set off a flurry of top-level activity. The vast majority of this offseason’s best free agents have already signed, and none of Hayward’s top suitors has been named in connection with other stars via trade.
Melo is willing to play for the Cavs and Rockets. The long-running stalemate between Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks could be near its end. With Phil Jackson out of the picture, the 33-year-old forward is apparently open to waiving his no-trade clause if it means he’s dealt to either the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets. A deal isn’t imminent and both clubs have limited options salary-wise, but there’s at least a chance Melo could be on the move.
George Hill met with the Lakers. With limited options available for many free agent point guards, George Hill has met with the Lakers about a potential one-year deal. It would be a potentially odd fit for Hill, who’s used to playing in the postseason and would have to accept a role as mentor to prized rookie Lonzo Ball. On the other hand, the Lakers remain one of the league’s marquee franchises and currently feature only a few guards on the roster. If Hill joins, he could play meaningful minutes, earn a salary over $20 million, and open up for a fresh batch of options next offseason. That could be a better path than panicking and signing a long-term deal elsewhere.
Derrick Rose met with the Bucks. Hark, another free agent point guard held a meeting! Derrick Rose held a meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks, a squad on the way up and in need of shot creators beyond Giannis Antetokounmpo. While Rose’s reputation is not especially great, he could fit with the Bucks as a high-volume scorer off the bench. Perhaps Rose has accepted that he’s unlikely to find a starting job in this market.
TOP 10 BEST AVAILABLE (via The Vertical’s Fab 50 Free Agents)
1. Gordon Hayward, SF
2. George Hill, PG
3. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
4. Otto Porter, Jr., SF
5. Dirk Nowitzki, PF
6. Danilo Gallinari, PF
7. Rudy Gay, SF
8. Zach Randolph, PF
9. Nerlens Noel, C
10. Andre Roberson, SF
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