NBA Free Agency Roundup: Gordon Hayward's Wild False Start, Kings Haul and More
The Golden State Warriors got better. The Sacramento Kings found some high-quality veterans to boost their on-court appeal and aggregate locker-room presence. The Miami Heat officially cut ties with Chris Bosh—and also did something special to commemorate his time with the franchise.
Oh, and the Gordon Hayward saga kept everyone entertained...or on the edge of their seats, waiting with bated breath for him to make a decision that finally came while fireworks were making their ascents into the East Coast's skyline. It depended on your rooting interests, I suppose.
One thing is certain: NBA free agency is never, ever boring.
Gordon Hayward Becomes the First Big Domino
Hayward joined the Boston Celtics...for like a second.
So, naturally, it was at that point all hell broke loose.
"Gordon hasn't made a decision yet," Hayward's agent, Mark Bartelstein, informed ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski. "We are still working through it."
Was this a gimmick? Hayward's attempt to rival DeAndre Jordan's mulligan from 2015? Did his camp, or Boston's people, accidentally let the intel leak before Hayward had a chance to pen his "My Next Chapter" piece for the Players' Tribune?
Everything was up in the air—including, it seems, the decision itself. But after disbelief from Utah Jazz president Steve Starks, a pensive-face emoji from Ricky Rubio, dancing from Isaiah Thomas and plenty more from an NBA world trying to figure out what was happening, the announcement finally came, cutting through the suspense like a knife.
"After seven years in Utah, I have decided to join the Boston Celtics," Hayward penned six paragraphs into his opus on the Players' Tribune, giving the indisputable truth for the first time on Independence Day. Shortly thereafter, The Vertical's Shams Charania revealed Hayward was heading to Beantown on a four-year deal worth $128 million, with a player option for the final season.
And there it is. During an offseason in which the Western Conference has continued to stockpile the league's premier talents, someone notable was finally heading East.
Hayward joined a Boston outfit coming off a season in which it earned the conference's No. 1 seed, and he should help make the C's more competitive during the inevitable postseason clash with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only does his defensive ability help against LeBron James and the rest of the Cleveland wings, but he also takes plenty of offensive pressure off Thomas.
How the rest of the roster shakes out is still up in the air. Since Hayward is making the max, the Celtics will have to cut salary somewhere. Wojnarowski has already reported they've renounced the rights to Kelly Olynyk, making him an unrestricted free agent, and more moves (cough Marcus Smart cough) should follow shortly.
But that's a price they'll be more than willing to pay after pairing a legitimate superstar with Thomas and Al Horford.
Otto Porter Is the Next Domino
More dominos can fall now that Hayward has made a decision, thereby opening the door for plenty of other restricted free agents to move forward. And Otto Porter Jr. is chief among them.
According to Charania, the sharp-shooting small forward is about to get paid.
The Brooklyn Nets have reached an agreement with Porter on a four-year maximum contract worth $106 million, but that doesn't mean he'll wind up playing home games in the Barclays Center. Because he's a restricted free agent, the Washington Wizards will have a chance to exercise their right of first refusal and match the deal to guarantee he remains in the nation's capital.
Now, we get to find out if they were bluffing.
"The Wizards, according to sources, are adamant that they will match all offers to retain their starting wing," ESPN.com's Haynes and Marc J. Spears reported when Porter was mulling a max offer from the Kings. "There is some thinking within league circles that the Wizards could be bluffing to discourage potential suitors from presenting an offer sheet."
Washington already knows he's a perfect fit next to John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Nets are thinking he could become a franchise centerpiece. In either location, he'd be worth the money.
Porter isn't just one of those players who's good at everything. He's a strong and versatile defender, as well as a gifted offensive contributor who can add value in a plethora of avenues. But he's also one of the league's best specialists.
The Georgetown product added a whopping 1.31 points per possession as a spot-up marksman for the Wizards in 2016-17, which ranked in the 97th percentile. Given his high and quick release, as well as the seamless transfer from the shooting pocket to his release point, it was nearly impossible for defenders to close out against him in timely fashion.
That's the type of skill that will work in any location.
—B/R's Adam Fromal
George Hill Finds His Money...in Sacramento
Holster your "George Hill should have signed an extension with the Jazz when he had the chance" takes. He found his money.
Feel free to fire up those piping-hot slants, though, if you have a problem with him joining the Kings on a shorter-term deal that only pays him slightly more money on an annual basis.
Hill agreed to a three-year pact worth $57 million, according to Charania. And before you roll off the "Kangz gonna Kangz" snark, NBA.com's David Aldridge says the final season is partially guaranteed.
That right there makes this deal fine. Not franchise defining. Not erroneously dumb. Just fine.
Any minutes De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield lose as the result of adding another guard is on the Kings. Hill can play off everyone. He shot 64 percent on handoffs and 52 percent on spot-up looks last season, according to Synergy Sports. He can be a high-profile complementary piece who promises a steadying presence in the locker room and a capable mentor for Sacramento's most important youngster, Mr. Fox.
This move only stings for those who wanted to see Hill on a competitive team (raises hand) or are concerned about the Kings' draft-pick situation. They have a one-year tanking window since their 2019 selection is headed to the Philadelphia 76ers (or Celtics). Hill will add wins to the bottom line—which, once again, is fine.
Sacramento has effectively prioritized culture over a couple of draft-day slots. This franchise has done (far) worse things. Plus, Hill's arrival won't matter that much following the mass influx of talent into the Western Conference. The Kings will be bad enough, this time by design, to contend for a top-five pick.
Z-Bo to Sactown...RIP Grit 'N' Grind
OK, this one is a little harder to explain.
There's nothing inherently nasty about this agreement. The Kings could not afford to max out Porter unless they shed Kosta Koufos or Garrett Temple, but they weren't getting him anyway. The Wizards are going to match his offer sheet.
Ditto for the Detroit Pistons with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He's not going anywhere. Sacramento doesn't deserve ajada for abandoning the pursuit of unattainable talent—particularly when the path back to max cap space is fairly straightforward.
Price isn't even much of an issue here. At best, Randolph lives up to his deal, providing quality minutes at the 4 and 5 spots while helping Hill mentor the toddlers. Worst-case scenario, his expiring contract transforms into a valuable trade chip next season.
Like Hill, Randolph doesn't completely ruin the Kings' tank. He represents a commitment to reinventing the culture, and there are no assurances the cap space wasted on his deal could have been funneled into a noteworthy acquisition who fits the team's timeline.
Would the Kings be better off with additional wiggle room that allows them to absorb unwanted contracts attached to first-round goodies? Absolutely. And there's always the risk head coach Dave Joerger, a veteran-lover, unnecessarily cuts into the minutes of Willie Cauley-Stein, Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere.
Handled properly, though, this isn't a crummy situation. Sacramento forfeited cap flexibility and, maybe, a couple losses to keep a notoriously out-of-control house in order. This is a pretty level-headed approach by its own standards.
Things Are Getting Awkward Between JaMychal Green and the Memphis Grizzlies
Losing Randolph to the Kings absolutely means the Memphis Grizzlies are going to re-sign restricted free agent JaMychal Green, right?
"I'm looking at two offer sheets and sign-and-trades," Green's agent, Michael Hodges, told the Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery. "Seems to us Memphis is going in a different direction."
This is weird. Green is among the most versatile players in the league—a low-usage power forward with three-point range who blends many of the best attributes found in bigs and wings. Letting him walk when he's only 27, you have the right to match and your roster is almost bereft of versatility would be absolutely ridiculous.
Perhaps the Grizzlies know that. They tendered an offer July 1, according to Wojnarowski, and are now waiting for Green to explore the market before making a decision.
For Green's agent to say what he did, though, the Grizzlies must have been pinching their purse strings with that initial overture—which suggests it might not take much from another suitor to lure him out of Memphis.
The Battle to Play for the Golden State Warriors: Jamal Crawford vs. Nick Young
Both Jamal Crawford and Nick Young are interested in syncing up with the Warriors, according to Haynes and Spears. Unfortunately for them, one will (probably) be left to sign with a team that hasn't already won the next three to seven championships.
Young is by far the better fit for Golden State. More than 45 percent of his looks were catch-and-shoot threes last season, and he buried 43.9 percent of them, compared to 18.2 percent for Crawford. Young won't hijack nearly as many possessions—nor will the urge even be there—after spending a year under Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
It shouldn't take more than the minimum to get Crawford in Oakland, while Young could end up commanding the entire taxpayer's mid-level exception ($5.2 million) after leaving money on the table in Los Angeles.
The Golden State Warriors Add Another Bench Piece
Fast-forward a year into the future.
Omri Casspi is dancing around on a podium after the Warriors have earned yet another title. He didn't play much during the fourth consecutive NBA Finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but his presence off the bench helped keep everyone fresh throughout the regular season. Shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc and contributing in all the little areas, he proved himself yet another strong piece for the Dubs' second unit.
Is that really too unrealistic?
Though injuries and changing surroundings—he played for the Kings, New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016-17—limited him throughout the last season of his pre-Golden State era, Casspi remains one of the league's most underrated commodities. Now, he gets to play in a system that's perfectly suited to his talents.
Casspi thrives on offense when he can spot up, and that's all he'll do offensively. But he's also a cerebral defensive presence who rarely finds himself in disadvantageous spots, and he's comfortable switching on screens to guard smaller players. Everything lines up with what the Warriors want to do, even if this isn't as glamorous a signing as bringing in Crawford or Young (both of whom could still land in the Bay Area).
With Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the Warriors already have the league's best starting five. But now, the bench will be one of the NBA's most potent, featuring Casspi (on a one-year minimum deal, per the Washington Post's Tim Bontemps), Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Patrick McCaw, David West and Jordan Bell.
—B/R's Adam Fromal
The Miami Heat Waive Chris Bosh
Now for some bad news we all knew was coming: Bosh is no longer a member of the Heat.
There is some good news, though: team president Pat Riley announced Miami will retire his jersey.
"Chris changed his life and basketball career when he came to Miami," Riley said in a statement. "And he changed our lives for the better, in a way we never would have imagined, when he joined the Miami Heat. We will forever be indebted to CB for how he changed this team and led us to four trips to the NBA Finals and two NBA championships. He is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise. The No. 1 will never be worn by another player and we can't wait to someday hang his jersey in the rafters. Today, we are both moving on but we wish Chris, Adrienne and their family nothing but the best. They will forever be part of the Miami Heat family."
Let's call it what it is: This sucks. Bosh hasn't played since February 2016 because of recurring blood clots, an illness that has since been deemed a career-ender. Though it's unclear whether he'll try to take the court again—playing on blood thinners is a gray area at best—the outlook isn't good.
Still, at least his jersey will eventually hang from the rafters in AmericanAirlines Arena. It's a small consolation prize for a career cut short, but it guarantees his time with the Heat and the sacrifices he made upon arriving are commemorated in plain sight for as long as the franchise exists.
Madison Square Garden Needs Some Dion Waiters
Please. This has to happen.
Waiters broke out with his 2016-17 efforts for the Heat. As soon as head coach Erik Spoelstra shifted his schemes to employ a drive-and-kick offense, the 2-guard made the most of his newfound responsibilities. He thrived in every situation, most notably coming through in the clutch while trying to push Miami all the way from the Eastern Conference basement to the No. 8 seed.
That pursuit was unsuccessful. But it might still have been enough to give Waiters a shot with the Knicks, who could use more upside to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. Lest we forget because he's already suited up for the Cavaliers, Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, he's still just 25 years old and coming off the best season of his career.
Plus, just think about Waiters' oversized personality in Madison Square Garden. Returning to the Heat would by no means be a bad move for the burgeoning backcourt beast, especially now that Miami has lost out on Hayward.
But Waiters in New York would be too much fun.
—B/R's Adam Fromal
The Oklahoma City Thunder Keep Making Quality Moves
Per Wojnarowski, all it took was a three-year deal worth $16.4 million, which ESPN.com's Royce Young reported is the new largest open-market signing of the Sam Presti era (Nenad Krstic previously held the title).
And though it's a record-setter, it's also a bargain.
Patterson didn't sit in the upper echelon of this free-agency class, especially after a final season with the Toronto Raptors in which he averaged just 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. But the 28-year-old is everything you could ask for in a bargain-basement, complementary player, if only because he so rarely makes mistakes.
The power forward won't be as physical as Taj Gibson. But he will display some bounce and a solid understanding of positioning, which helps him emerge as a plus on the preventing end. ESPN.com's defensive real plus-minus, for example, ranked him as a distinct positive. He also rarely turned the rock over, took more than half his field-goal attempts from beyond the arc and connected on those three-point tries at a 37.2 percent clip.
Patterson isn't elite in any one area. But that's perfectly fine when you're suiting up alongside George and Russell Westbrook, content to do the little things and mesh with whatever they're doing.
—B/R's Adam Fromal
The Washington Wizards Juice Up Their Bench with Mike Scott
Wall gets what Wall wants.
Well, except George. But that's a matter for another day.
Wall lamented the plight of the Washington bench during the NBA playoffs, and the Wizards are politely clapping back. They traded for backup point guard Tim Frazier from the Pelicans and are now, according to Wojnarowski, reaching a deal with Mike Scott.
Minimum-contract players aren't going to solve the Wizards' depth issues, but Scott is a worthy flier. He has three-point range, keeps the ball moving and offers far more switchability on the defensive end. On some nights, he'll crank out defensive rebounds in a hurry.
A little emergency insurance is never a bad thing—especially when it's this versatile, and when a team finds itself leaning on Jason Smith for minutes of any kind.
An MVP in Los Angeles?
Calm down, Lakers fans. This is about the Los Angeles Clippers.
And unfortunately for them, the MVP in question is Derrick Rose, who hasn't exactly been the same player since knee injuries brought about a precipitous fall from his perch near the top of the NBA's point guard hierarchy.
The Clippers already landed Patrick Beverley in the Chris Paul trade with the Houston Rockets, and Austin Rivers remains on the roster. But the team will be meeting with Rose on Wednesday, per Wojnarowski, presumably trying to convince him he should accept a minimal contract and a chance for more touches.
With Jordan, Beverley and Blake Griffin serving as the team's highest-profile players, Los Angeles is still looking for contributors with name recognition and offensive talent. So it makes sense it's at least looking at Rose, who can still put up points in bunches, even if doing so forces his team to live with plenty of poor decisions around the hoop and turnstile defense.
This is not 2011. Signing Rose wouldn't vault the Clippers back into the realm of playoff locks.
But holding a meeting never hurts.
—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. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Restricted
Caldwell-Pope certainly isn't in the tier of free agents that once contained Durant, Curry and Griffin. He can't measure up against Hayward. Porter has produced far more than him as well.
But his upside could still make him a max player.
Though the production hasn't been there yet, Caldwell-Pope has shown sustained flashes of perimeter-shooting excellence and defensive prowess. They're coupled with lackluster play on both ends, but they're there. And for teams in desperate search of higher ceilings, that should be more than enough.
2. Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Restricted
At this point, it may be smart to give up on Nerlens Noel ever developing a mid-range jumper. While splitting time between the 76ers and Dallas Mavericks in 2016-17, he took just 21.7 percent of his shots from at least 10 feet and made only 31.3 percent of them.
Even if he remains a limited offensive presence, though, he's plenty valuable.
The Mavericks experienced firsthand how contagious his energy around the basket could be on the offensive end, as it pushed the rest of the roster to cut harder in the half-court set. And his defense is even more valuable given his athleticism and instincts as a shot-blocking stalwart.
3. Dewayne Dedmon, C, Unrestricted
Don't be fooled by Dewayne Dedmon's dwindling minutes during the San Antonio Spurs' latest playoff run. That was primarily because the loaded roster contained matchup advantages head coach Gregg Popovich wanted to maximize.
Dedmon remains a potential game-changing piece on the defensive end. He's fantastic at hedging and recovering against point guards in the pick-and-roll, and he's fully capable of anchoring a unit with his interior work. His age (he'll turn 28 before the start of 2017-18) works against him, but it should be counteracted by the lack of minutes he's racked up on the NBA stage.
4. JaMychal Green, PF/C, Restricted
I'm not entirely sure what Green can't do.
He's a versatile defender who can guard multiple positions. With the vertical skills to thrive in the paint and the lateral quickness to hamper dribble penetration if he's switched onto a smaller player, he could grow into an All-Defense role as he gets more opportunities to shine. And he's just as versatile on offense, whether he's spacing the court with his developing jumper or finishing plays around the rim. He can even serve as a secondary distributor when the game slows down.
If Green receives a chance to play major minutes, he has the upside necessary to justify any contract he signs.
5. Andre Roberson, SG/SF, Restricted
Andre Roberson's offense is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if he constantly bricks shots off the side of the backboard or turns the rock over when he's asked to facilitate for his teammates.
Why? Because he's just that good on the defensive end.
Roberson is a film junkie who understands each opponent's tendencies. Better still, he has the physical tools to apply what he's learned during live action, making him one of the NBA's most fearsome defenders who never hesitates to take on a tough assignment.
—B/R's Adam Fromal