Monday NBA Free Agency Roundup: Kevin Durant's New Deal Shows Winning Comes 1st
Well, this is unique.
When was the last time a superstar and reigning Finals MVP took a gigantic cut of his potential paycheck to remain with the organization that brought him in to form a superteam? Kevin Durant won't be putting on a different uniform for the next few years, and his sacrifice enables the Golden State Warriors to keep the crew together for at least another year.
Don't you wish you could endure a legitimate, noteworthy sacrifice and still make over $50 million?
But Durant wasn't the only big story in the NBA during the final day of the United States' age-240 season.
Plenty of teams are still courting Gordon Hayward. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Chauncey Billups came to a decision about an executive role. George Hill and Derrick Rose are talking to new suitors.
If you missed any stories, don't worry. We've got you covered.
Kevin Durant Is so Generous
Finally, something goes right for the Golden State Warriors.
The dollar amount on Durant's new contract is a different story. He was eligible to sign for 35 percent of next season's $99 million cap—about $34.7 million. His salary in Year 1 of this deal, per USA Today's Sam Amick, will be roughly $25 million—or nearly $10 million less than he should have received.
And get this: If Andre Iguodala bolted, Durant planned to take a larger discount so the Warriors could sign Rudy Gay, according to Amick. Iguodala is back on a three-year, $48 million pact, which means this is immaterial. But Durant has still saved owner Joe Lacob potentially tens of millions of dollars in luxury-tax payments.
So let's pour one out for the 2017 NBA Finals MVP, and his quest to save the world's one-percenters eight figures annually, one contractual sacrifice at a time.
All the Gordon Hayward (Non-)Updates You Could Ever Need
Gordon Hayward has yet to make a decision. Sources who do not exist, and who most definitely aren't close to the situation, say this is because he might want to interrupt your Independence Day barbecues, Netflix binges, beach excursions and nap times.
Then again, maybe not. As of now, he's taking the much more ambiguous "I'll take my time and announce my potentially life-altering decision on my own terms" approach, according to the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach.
Some nerve, right?
In other news, Hayward met with the Utah Jazz on Monday. For fans worried the Ricky Rubio trade rendered them a turnoff, don't be. ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne says he wanted Utah to bring in the offensive pilot.
Rubio is so integral to Hayward's return that he joined Rudy Gobert and the recently re-signed Joe Ingles to help re-recruit Hayward, per Shelburne. The meeting went well, according to the Salt Lake Tribune's Tony Jones, because of course it did. These face-to-faces always go well (unless you're the Los Angeles Lakers and sitting down with LaMarcus Aldridge).
Hayward's swell-of-a-time chitchat with the Jazz took place in San Diego. This is noteworthy only because Miami Heat president Pat Riley, with whom Hayward broke bread with on Saturday, may have also been in San Diego.
It's possible this is all innocent. Riley and crew flew to Los Angeles over the weekend to meet with incumbent free agent Dion Waiters. Maybe they ended up in San Diego on a lark, or due to a freak connection, or because they wanted tacos.
Or maybe, just maybe, Riley is stalking Hayward's life and plans to hold him hostage until he signs with the Heat.
Sad Melo Is Sad
Carmelo Anthony did it! He outlasted Phil Jackson in New York.
So, naturally, he's ready to leave.
League sources told ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski that Anthony is finally ready to waive his no-trade clause—with the caveat the New York Knicks trade him to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets.
Hammering out a deal with Cleveland is basically impossible unless Kevin Love is included, and the Cavaliers should absolutely vomit at the framework of such a swap. Getting a third and fourth team to join the party could help, but this situation is in potentially unmanageable territory. Both the Cavaliers and Knicks will be looking for additional compensation, so it's not as easy as sending pot-sweeteners one way.
Houston is the more interesting suitor. General manager Daryl Morey has assembled an army of expiring contracts and has Ryan Anderson's and Eric Gordon's deals to dangle. But the Knicks shouldn't touch the remaining three years and $61.2 million on Anderson's contract, and the Rockets don't have the requisite wiggle room to offer Gordon alone.
Lest we forget, by the way, Anthony drove Houston's head coach, Mike D'Antoni, to resign his post with the Knicks in 2012. That could become a factor if these two sides ever seek out a third team to facilitate this would-be blockbuster.
Chauncey Pulls the Dip on Dan Gilbert
Things are totally fine in Cleveland. (No, they're not.)
Chauncey Billups has passed on taking over as the Cavaliers' president of basketball operations, according to Wojnarowski. If owner Dan Gilbert's decision to show former general manager David Griffin the door didn't look bad before, it does now.
Fear not, though, loyal Cavaliers supporters. Gilbert has a plan: Do nothing.
Sources told the Associated Press' Tom Withers that Gilbert is "impressed with job done in free agency by current front-office group led by assistant GM Koby Altman."
Just to recap, this is what the Cavaliers have done in free agency: Re-signed Kyle Korver to a three-year, $22 million deal, and landed Jose Calderon. That's it.
Cleveland can only hope LeBron James is this easy to please when he hits the open market next summer.
The George Hill Plot Thickens
George Hill's market leverage has plummeted following the NBA draft. Plenty of teams filled needs at the point guard position before free agency, so there weren't as many suitors for the biggest names. That's why you saw Jeff Teague agree to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves before free agency even started as soon as the clock struck midnight eastern time on July 1.
Hill is the last remaining marquee floor general (sorry, Derrick Rose stans). That he's yet to secure a long-term pact suggests he should have taken a mid-season extension with the Jazz. Hindsight, 20/20 vision, whatever.
At least a couple of teams continue to look at Hill, the most interesting of which is the Denver Nuggets. They recently locked down Paul Millsap for three years and $90 million, and Hill could be their next target, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor.
Affording Hill will take a salary dump or two. The Nuggets already need to jettison Danilo Gallinari's free-agent hold to squeeze in Millsap, unless they were already planning on shedding Kenneth Faried.
Fortunately for the Nuggets, they have a bunch of digestible contracts they can move to open up room. They can dummy up another $5.8 million by renouncing Mason Plumlee's restricted free-agent hold.
Fringe-playoff squads shouldn't be jumping through so many hoops to look at a 31-year-old point guard, but this exact case is an exception. The Nuggets are in position to pay older players for two to three years without damaging their books or the development of their kiddies, and Hill can play off every single playmaker they house—from Millsap and Nikola Jokic, to Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay.
But the Nuggets aren't alone in their interest. The Los Angeles Lakers are right there with them. They're talking to Hill about a one-year deal with the intention of using him beside Lonzo Ball, per Shelburne and Wojnarowski.
Someone should probably clear this with LaVar Ball, but once again we have a situation in which Hill can operate off the ball (and Ball), allowing little tots like Lonzo and Brandon Ingram to learn through ample trial and error.
Still, the Lakers would be an odd fit for Hill. A one-year deal at his age poses huge risk. He appeared in just 49 games last season, and even if he rebuilds some of his value, the NBA as whole will have substantially tighter purse strings by then. Half the league's teams could be staring at luxury-tax bills, as ESPN.com's Bobby Marks pointed out.
Milwaukee Is Tryna Do Stuff
The Milwaukee Bucks have no cap space. Spencer Hawes and Greg Monroe each opted into the final seasons of their deals, while Tony Snell's cap hold must be floated following his agreement on a four-year, $46 million pact. They've got nothing—except potential luxury-tax problems.
This, apparently, won't stop them from trying to make a big splash, insofar as chasing Rose qualifies as a big splash. The Bucks have interest in making him a part of the family, according to Wojnarowski.
So, yeah, this makes little sense. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon to run the show, with Matthew Dellavedova and Khris Middleton as secondary playmakers. Adding Rose takes the ball out of their hands a bit more, while compromising the state of their gamble-based defense.
There's more merit to the fit if the Bucks sell Rose on a score-first role off the bench. It's easier to incorporate his game and tolerate his limitations when he's squaring off with second-stringers for 20 to 22 minutes per night.
Signing him under the guise that he can, or will, do anything more is a mistake.
Buh-Bye, Leandro (CC: Golden State)
The Phoenix Suns waived Leandro Barbosa, as first reported by Wojnarowski, because they're applying to become the NBA's foremost salary-dumping ground.
General manager Ryan McDonough can arm his rebuilding project with more than $20 million in flexibility if he renounces the $12.1 million hold on restricted free agent Alex Len. Go this route, and Phoenix just might be the team Houston needs to absorb Anderson as part of its reported Anthony pursuit.
Meanwhile, Barbosa is up for grabs. The Golden State Warriors don't really need another guard, but at the same time, why not? Barbosa won a title with them in 2015, extra emergency bench insurance is never a bad thing and the 34-year-old is still wicked fast.
Plus, when you really think about it, they could use another guard. Ian Clark is probably a goner, the Nick Young stuff is miles away from anything tangible, and the Vince Carter-to-Golden State rumor mill is nonexistent.
A reunion with Barbosa is necessary for the (basketball Twitter) culture.
The Clippers Are Great at Making First Impressions
The Los Angeles Clippers left a "strong impression" on Danilo Gallinari during their meeting on Sunday, per Wojnarowski, who would later add that the forward was "leaning strongly toward a commitment to the Clippers on a three-year deal." According to NBA.com's David Aldridge, in fact, they "painted a picture for Gallinari tonight where he's part of multiple lineups that will form the best frontcourt in the league."
Rudy Gay was also enamored by the Clippers' pitch, per the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner.
Now, if only Los Angeles had real cap space.
Losing Chris Paul and J.J. Redick doesn't allow for the Clippers to spend big money on a wing. They'll have to offload at least two contracts to get in Gallinari's price range. And even that's ambitious. The recently acquired Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams are the only forms of collateral damage that'll draw enough outside interest for Los Angeles to avoid attaching a pot-sweetener in salary dumps.
But The Vertical's Shams Charania has figured out how a significant move is possible. As he reported, the Clippers are working with the Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets on a double sign-and-trade that would send Gallinari to Los Angeles, Millsap to Denver and Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone and a first-round pick to the Atlanta.
Don't expect Crawford to play for the Hawks, though. USA Today's Sam Amick indicates that the high-scoring sixth man will likely require a buyout or trade when the deal is finalized.
If you were counting the Clippers out of the playoff race, you might want to think again.
The Indiana Pacers' Strange Offseason Continues
Forget how you may feel about the return the Indiana Pacers received for dealing Paul George. Given the rapid-fire nature of the NBA offseason, that's old news. Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo may as well be established pieces for the Blue and Gold.
But now, they have a new point guard, who happens to be an old face to Indy fans.
Per Wojnarowski, the Pacers are bringing aboard Darren Collison, who spent two seasons there as a youngster, to run the show on a two-year deal worth $20 million. That's fine value. It may even be a steal, given the rising cap climate and Collison's ability to contribute efficient offense with his three-point stroke and knack for avoiding those pesky turnovers.
There's just one problem: Aren't the Pacers supposed to be building around youth, especially after the reports, per Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star, that the team is interested in buying out Monta Ellis' contract?
Collison will celebrate his 30th birthday near the end of August, and that's usually a troublesome time for NBA point guards. It may not be the edge of the crevasse between youth and AARP status, but it's darn near what historically happens at 31.
If this is just a stopgap signing for the Pacers, that's fine. But if Collison is eating up touches and preventing the many youthful pieces in Indianapolis from developing, the franchise won't look back at this signing and maintain any semblance of positive vibes.
-B/R's Adam Fromal
Top Remaining Free Agents
The talent pool is dwindling quickly, but quite a few impact players are still looking for homes. These are the top five free agents remaining from our original Big Board:
1. Gordon Hayward, SF, Unrestricted
No other player still available is an unquestioned stud.
Gordon Hayward is.
He's consistently improved throughout his tenure with the Utah Jazz, developing into a two-way standout who can contribute in every way imaginable. Whether he's bursting off a back-door cut to finish alley-oops at the rim, creating his own shot off the bounce or asserting himself as a defensive stalwart, the Butler product has learned how to make the most of his athletic gifts.
2. Otto Porter Jr., SF, Restricted
Don't be fooled by Otto Porter Jr.'s scoring average in 2016-17 (a career-high 13.4 points per game). He performed like a max player for the Washington Wizards, coupling his engaged defense with an impressive set of offensive skills.
Porter isn't just willing to do all the little things. He does those, sure. But he's also developed into one of the game's deadliest shooters, consistently spotting up in the perimeter and turning the smallest modicum of space into a splash through the nylon. While it helps that John Wall has fed him the ball in the perfect spot more often than not, it's still undeniably impactful that he threw up 1.31 points per possession as a spot-up marksman, which placed him in the 97th percentile.
The inevitably gaudy contract he signs will surely be met with disdain from the crowds who only look at scoring averages while analyzing players. Fear not, though. He'll be worth every penny.
3. George Hill, PG, Unrestricted
George Hill's age and injury history might scare off some suitors. The point guard is already 31 years old, and he's coming off a season in which myriad maladies limited him to just 49 games played for the Utah Jazz.
But when he's healthy, Hill is a game-changing presence at the 1. It was true with the Indiana Pacers, remained valid while he logged home games in Salt Lake City and should stay accurate wherever he winds up next.
Hill is a force on the defensive end, capable of bodying up against bigger point guards and using his lateral quickness to prevent dribble penetration. He's also a dramatically improved three-point shooter who can help provide spacing when he's not setting up his teammates. Even if he's not a bona fide star, he's become a complete package.
4. Danilo Gallinari, SF/PF, Unrestricted
Whoever's looking at Danilo Gallinari should make sure he spends plenty of time at the 4 in 2017-18. Though he's traditionally been listed as a small forward, the Italian scoring machine spent 62 percent of his minutes playing one spot bigger in the lineup during what could have been his final season with the Denver Nuggets.
It's a change that's worked well for Gallinari, allowing him to mitigate the ill effects of his declining mobility by having him defend smaller spaces and show off his physicality against larger opponents. Plus, he's still so good with the ball in his hands, constantly probing the opposition before either drawing a foul or lofting a pull-up jumper.
Gallinari can play small forward, regardless of whether he returns to Denver or throws on a new uniform for the first time since 2011. But he should be spending the majority of his time at the 4, or else his employers will be squandering some of his talent.
5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Restricted
Buying into Kentavious Caldwell-Pope requires some faith.
He hasn't yet developed into a star, and his metrics didn't stand out during the 2016-17 campaign. He shot just 35.0 percent from beyond the arc, struggled with a few defensive assignments and rarely functioned as a true go-to scorer for the Detroit Pistons.
However, the talent and work ethic are both there. It's by no means inconceivable that the former Georgia Bulldog could develop into a three-and-D ace if he were surrounded by the right pieces and no longer overextended, and that's what'll eventually get him max money—or at least close to it.
-B/R's Adam Fromal