Last night was pretty fun no matter who your favorite team is. It seems like for the most part everyone is pretty happy with how the Draft played out. There were some surprises, we got the Westbrook trade, and in my eyes it was the perfect appetizer to get us ready for the main course.
NBA Free Agency opens Monday at 6pm ET. Players can't technically "sign" until 8/6, but that's a formality. If you found yourself craving more last night in terms of chaos, well chances are we get just that in just a few days. Consider this your primer so you can be fully prepared for once Monday rolls around. News is going to drop quick just like it always does because as we know teams are probably tampering and negotiating as we speak. How else would you explain Woj/Shams blowing up our timelines with signings literally 15 seconds after free agency opens.
After last night, here are the most up to date projected cap space situations for everyone
Essentially, there are just 8 total teams that have a good chunk of cap space to work with. So when you're thinking of players that are looking to get paid this offseason, you have to start with that group simply because they have the cash to burn. When it comes to some of the bigger market teams, you're mostly working with the taxpaying or non taxpaying MLE. That's either $9.5M or $5.5M. For teams under the cap who use all their cap space, they get a $4.9M Room exception. If you're over the cap but under the tax apron, you get the Bi-Annual Exception which is $3.7M. The kicker there is you can only use it once every two years, so teams like the Nuggets, Bucks, and Lakers can't use that this year. Then you add in some traded player exceptions based on certain teams, and that's pretty much it.
So why is this important? Well, there are some pretty big name players that have some decisions to make. If you were to start with the crop of players who have player options, its names like Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, Josh Richardson, Serge Ibaka, and Bobby Portis. Reports suggest Chris Paul has every intention of heading back to PHX as long as he gets his long term deal, but the big question is Kawhi. He's 100000% turning down his player option despite tearing his ACL because that way he can put the pressure on the Clippers to still cut him a max extension check. If there's one thing we know about Kawhi, it's that he will use his leverage.
For guys that are unrestricted free agents who can go wherever they want, you're looking at names like Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Otto Porter Jr, Victor Oladipo, Dennis Schroder, Evan Fournier, Tim Hardaway Jr, Kelly Oubre Jr, Spencer Dinwiddie, Norman Powell, Patty Mills, Lou Williams, Kelly Olynyk, Daniel Theis, Nerlens Noel, Reggie Jackson etc. A lot of interesting names that are going to be asking for a whole lot of money at a time where there aren't a ton of options. I think we can all assume that someone like Kyle Lowry is going to be playing in a new home, but where is he going to go? It's reported that he wants around $30M a year. Barring some sort of S&T, his options are limited. I imagine the Jazz keep Mike Conley, so that leaves names like DeRozan, Fournier, Schroder, and THJ as the best options available. The most interesting of that group for me are DeRozan and Fournier. We know DeRozan wants to go somewhere where he can compete for a title, but who has that space? The Heat are an option, but that would probably require almost all of their space. I suppose the Mavs could swap him for THJ, the Knicks have money, but is it possible he ends up playing for the MLE? That would be pretty insane.
The same is true for Fournier. What the hell is his market? Could be anywhere from 14-18M for all we know. I love bringing him back to the Celts at that 14 number over multiple years or a big money offer for 1 year. The Raptors don't really need that position but the Mavs could use shooters, as could the Knicks. When it comes to Schroder, I feel like he's about to face the hard truth of nobody wanting to pay him 100M.
We then have the restricted FAs. Every year it seems like we get a ton of buzz around RFAs, only for them to not move. This year it's guys like Lonzo Ball, Lauri Markkanen, John Collins, Jarrett Allen, Franky Smokes, Malik Monk, Devonte Graham, Bruce Brown, Gary Trent Jr, Duncan Robinson, Kendick Nunn, and THT. Looking at this list, it's not crazy to think that this summer is the one year we sese RFAs actually move. The Pelicans have already said they aren't all that thrilled to match a big offer for Lonzo. Lauri, Graham, and Monk don't feel like locks to stay on their current teams. Remember, all it takes is one team to make an offer. There's also S&Ts to consider as well. Of that list, I get the sense that Collins/Allen/Brown are the only true locks to stay on their current team.
In addition to all the free agent signings, this is now the time where we'll have our best shot at trades. Now that all the picks have been chosen from last night, potential packages change. Now teams that might have had a good offer on Wednesday will look different on Monday. That matters when you talk about guys like Simmons, Beal, Dame, etc.
Every year this time of the season does not disappoint. Last year we got the Chris Paul trade right before free agency started. We saw Hayward leave Boston for the Hornets. Harrell went to the cross town rival. We had the Bogdan Bogdanovic saga. Gallo willingly chose to go to the Hawks and the internet clowned him for it and now look. The Suns made one of the best signings in Jae Crowder. That's the beauty of free agency, it doesn't always have to be a blockbuster signing to make a real impact. Look at Bobby Portis for example. He went from the Knicks to Bucks and ended up playing a nice role in their title.
Hopefully Monday brings similar chaos. This is easily the best part of the NBA calendar, and history tells us to prepare for anything.