We knew that once free agency opened that things would be moving fast. Guys are working on these deals and moves starting in February, so it’s no surprise that most of the major players determined their next contracts fairly quickly. Our first breakdown talked about the guys that signed on Opening Night which you can read here, but now it’s time to talk about the next wave of agreements/signings that came to light throughout the day on Sunday. All the money that was shelled out totalled over $1B which is insane, and safe to say it was a pretty big day across the landscape of the NBA. We had 12 more guys come to a decision, and seeing as how it was the weekend, you may not have caught them all. Who were they? Here’s a breakdown of everything that went down
LeBron James agrees to a 4/$153M deal / Kentavious Caldwell-Pope agrees to a 1/$12M deal / Lance Stephenson agrees to a 1/$4.5M deal / JaVale McGee agrees to a 1/$2.4M with the Lakers
Obviously we have to start here, because it’s the biggest news of the summer. I can’t say it was a surprise to see, the entire world knew this was the most likely landing spot for James, but that doesn’t make it any less weird to see now that it’s official. The four years is really a 3+1, but even still it’s crazy to see LeBron actually chose to commit somewhere long term. It’s felt like all of his deals recently have been a 2+1 or a 1+1 so the fact that he made this type of commitment is nothing to overlook. He either knows something else is about to drop, or Magic told him that even if it doesn’t happen this summer, that it will be happening next summer. Until we see what the other pieces end up being it’s hard to know why LeBron went this route. There are guys on this roster currently that theoretically would be a good fit playing next to LeBron, but at the moment we have no idea who the hell is staying.
You may be asking yourself “If the Lakers just got James, why do they need KCP?” Very good question. The easy answer is KCP and LeBron are both Klutch Sports guys so it doesn’t surprise me one bit that this is where he ended up after plating in LA last year. This deal now gives the Lakers some wing depth in the event they have to part with a certain someone, and at just 24 KCP is still a developing player. Already a solid defender the problem and remaining question is whether or not he is every going to become an efficient shooter. He did shoot a career best 42/38% last year with 2.1 3PM a night which is encouraging, and you have to think with LeBron and whoever else there will be plenty of open looks to go around. It helps that the Lakers didn’t have to eat multiple years as to not mess with things for next summer, so if you’re a Lakers fan you had a pretty great day all around yesterday.
And then there’s the addition of Lance. The $4.5M it took to sign him is the room midlevel exception, which means the Lakers have a decision to make about Julius Randle. If they were to keep his cap hold and not renounce his rights, they can only sign minimum salary talent. If they want to get someone like Boogie, in order for them to now fit that salary they are going to need Randle’s money. But from a pure entertainment standpoint, the addition of Lance is well worth it in my opinion.
Finally, fucking JaVale McGee has joined the party. I’m just going to leave it right there. We officially have Lebron/Lance/JaVale/LaVar all on the same team. What could possibly go wrong?
Fred VanVleet agrees to a 2/$18M deal with the Raptors
One of the earlier announcements of the day, this was an important signing for the Raptors for several reasons. Not only is FVV one of the leaders of what was the best bench in the league during the regular season, but this security also allows the Raptors to explore any potential Kyle Lowry deal that might be floating around out there later this summer. The casual fan may not know VanVleet, but he’s as solid a reserve guard as you’re going to find in the league today. He shoots well, can run an offense and is not a complete liability on the defensive end.
For the RFA point guard market there were only so many teams that realistically could make an offer that would be tough to match, and once PHX had to take their name out of contention this was honestly the most likely scenario. Both sides showed an interest in wanting to stay back, and VanVleet is a great story of a guy that bet on himself and is now reaping the rewards. He’ll hit the market again still in his prime when the cap is even higher, so overall this was a great signing for everyone involved.
Aaron Gordon agrees to a 4/$84M deal with the Magic
Perhaps the best overall RFA on the market, it’s no surprise that Gordon ultimately ended up staying put. The Magic never really had any challengers once the Pacers blew their cap, and both sides were extremely vocal in finding a way to keep their franchise player in Orlando. I like the deal because it isn’t a crazy number, if for whatever reason the Magic need to move his $21M salary that’s a number most teams would be open to given Gordon’s age. For him, he gets a big time raise and can re-enter the market right in the middle of his prime when the cap should be much higher.
The frontcourt of ORL is what intrigues me moving forward, and I think a lot of their direction will depend on what type of leap Jonathan Isaac takes in Year 2. Gordon showed he can be a legit space the floor player which is important given his skillset and driving ability, so I don’t think this is going to be a deal that either sad complains about for the foreseeable future.
Glen Robinson III agrees to a 2/8.3M deal with the Pistons
Here’s a signing that went a little under the radar, but one that I don’t necessarily hate for DET. Robinson III is one of those players where he seems good in theory, but he’s been hurt so much nobody really has any idea if he is serviceable or truly stinks. He’s only 24 and has good size at 6’6 222lb, and he is coming off a career best 41% shooting from deep (even though he played just 23 games).
For the Pistons, this gives them another wing for a little depth behind Stanley Johnson, as I don’t think they wanted to roll another year with Kennard having to play the three at times. In a pinch I suppose they could play Robinson III at a small ball four if they wanted to run with Blake at the five at times, and seeing as how they already have a Top 10 most expensive roster this was probably the best the Pistons could get to add additional depth.
If you look at it as a low risk high reward type move, it’s not the worst in the world.
Mario Hezonja agrees to a 1/$6.5M deal with the Knicks
Don’t look now, but the Knicks actually made a quality basketball decision! Hezonja was a guy that never really worked out in ORL, but is the classic case of a guy who could be a completely different player in a new environment. Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference and for just one year at basically no money, it’s hard to find something not to like about this move from the Knicks. It felt weird to type that sentence but I’m being honest, I like the signing for them.
Lasts season the Knicks were 29th in 3PM, so they need all the outside shooting help they can get. Hezonja should help if we’re to believe how he shot the ball in the second half of last season was real. He’s just 22 so when you factor in age and price this is the exact type of player/deal that the Knicks should be looking for as they continue to rebuild. He had some competition from SAC but it’s clear Hezonja is willing to do what LeBron couldn’t stomach and that is to save basketball in New York.
Derrick Jones Jr agrees to a 2/3.1M deal with the Heat
There’s a good chance you have no idea who this is. He was a high flying dunker that broke into the league with PHX and played 14 games with the Heat last year, starting 8. He wasn’t that great, averaging just 3.7 points on 38/18% shooting, but he is 20 years old and does have good size at 6’7. You can never have too many wings in today’s league, and it didn’t exactly break the bank for Pat Riley to keep this guy.
He’ll probably be up and own between the active roster and the G-League barring injury, but at least he got a deal!
Elfrid Payton agrees to a 1/?? deal with the Pelicans
On the surface you could say that the Pelicans simply swapped Rajon Rondo for Elfrid Payton, but then it came out that NO was still interested in keeping Rondo and that just doesn’t add up to me. How many point guards can a team have? They would have Jrue Holiday, E’Twuan Moore, Rondo, and Payton which feels a little redundant. In terms of fit, we saw what this team can be when it has a pass first guard in the system, and Payton certainly can provide that for the Pelicans second unit.
It’s a good story for Payton who returns home to Louisiana and is only 23. This is a great chance to prove himself in this league as the Pelicans are one of the teams clearly heading in the right direction. It would be cool to see Rondo mentor him, but I can’t see them both coexisting off the bench as neither can really shoot the ball. The biggest improvement for Payton will have to come on the defensive end where he just had the worst Drtg of his career. It usually helps when you have better defenders around you which is what he’ll have in NO, so that makes me optimistic. Following a similar trend this is really a low risk high reward move, and one that I hope works out.
Or ya know stink so bad Anthony Davis eventually demands a trade. Either one works.
Luke Kornet agrees to a 1/1.6M deal with the Knicks
Ok, hand up. I have absolutely no fucking idea who this is, so I won’t even begin to tell you if this is good or not. I’m going to say indifferent if I had to guess.
Salah Mejri agrees to a 1/$1.5M deal with the Mavericks
Another no name back up center signing for the minimum. The only reason I know this dude is because I saw the tweet talking about how his qualifying offer was being rescinded. That made him an unrestricted free agent, and the Mavs pounced to help provide some extra bodies that will back up DeAndre Jordan. He probably won’t play much, but you can’t teach 7’1.
And that officially covers the opening night and first full day of this summer’s NBA free agency. As you read this right now there are still big names and good players out there. Names like Boogie, Avery Bradley, JJ Redick, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Wayne Ellington, Nerlens Noel, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker, Derrick Favors, Julius Randle etc. We’re now at the point where we’ll start to see more of the known RFAs start to either sign with their original team or get some offer sheets, but overall I’d say this year’s free agency has been every bit as entertaining as we all hoped it would.
This was just Day 1, and with so much still unknown I cannot wait to see what bomb drops next.