Grading Every 2020 NBA Free-Agency SigningNovember 20, 2020
Grading Every 2020 NBA Free-Agency Signing
Two days of this unprecedented and truncated November free agency for the NBA have brought a whirlwind of moves that will seriously impact the 2020-21 season.
There hasn't been near as much movement of star players as there was in 2019, but role players are bouncing all over the league.
Since the moratorium lifted Friday, there has a bonanza of trades, free-agent signings and reporters on Twitter trying to keep up with it all.
A few of the highlights include:
- The Miami Heat had preserved much of the core that took them to the Finals last season;
- The Detroit Pistons had signed a million bigs (slight exaggeration, but still), including nearly $100 million on the Denver Nuggets' reserve bigs (not an exaggeration);
- The Los Angeles Lakers landed Wesley Matthews and scooped Montrezl Harrell from the Los Angeles Clippers;
- The Utah Jazz re-signed Jordan Clarkson and brought Derrick Favors back after one year in The Big Easy;
- The Atlanta Hawks secured Danilo Gallinari with a multiyear, eight-figure per year deal;
- The Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets retained their sharpshooters, Davis Bertans and Joe Harris;
- The Houston Rockets landed one of the game's most intriguing centers, Christian Wood;
- The Clippers re-signed Marcus Morris;
- Dwight Howard tweeted he was going back to the Lakers minutes before news broke that he would sign with the Philadelphia 76ers;
- The Toronto Raptors re-signed Fred VanVleet to a long-term deal;
- Gordon Hayward left the Boston Celtics for the Charlotte Hornets, necessitating a "waive and stretch" of Nicolas Batum;
- The Phoenix Suns continued their push toward the playoffs with the addition of Jae Crowder;
- The Atlanta Hawks added another veteran in Rajon Rondo;
- The Denver Nuggets re-signed Paul Millsap;
- The Portland Trail Blazers re-signed Carmelo Anthony;
- The Boston Celtics found some frontcourt and backcourt help with Tristan Thompson and Jeff Teague;
- The Los Angeles Lakers re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope; and
- The Los Angeles Clippers loaded up with Serge Ibaka.
It was a wild ride, and that list doesn't even cover the trades or all the signings. For a detailed look at each individual free-agent deal, scroll below for grades from Dan Favale, Grant Hughes and Andy Bailey.
As the chaos continues, each new deal will get the same treatment at the top of this slideshow.
Phoenix Snags Another Offseason Win with Langston Galloway Signing
Langston Galloway will be joining the Suns on a one-year deal, according to HoopsHype's Michael Scotto. The dollar amount isn't immediately clear, but it doesn't matter. Phoenix already used its mid-level exception on Jae Crowder. Galloway is coming aboard for the bi-annual exception or the minimum, either of which would be good value.
This continues the Suns' trend of, you know, winning the offseason. Reserve guard play was point of weakness last year, and they've not only addressed it but potentially turned it into a strength.
Picking up Cameron Payne's team option and re-signing Jevon Carter was a nice start. They were both molten in the bubble, and Carter plays with endless energy on the defensive end. Adding E'Twaun Moore was an understated move. He's another player who can drill set threes, and he'll hold up defensively against second-string matchups.
Galloway might actually be the second most valuable pickup or retention in the backcourt behind Carter and, obviously, Chris Paul. He has a nifty floater he gets to off the dribble, and nearly 60 percent of all his attempts last season came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 40.7 percent.
Houston Adds Sterling Brown
Former Milwaukee Buck Sterling Brown will turn 26 in February. There may not be a ton of development left for him. But if his new team's star sticks around, he could be a solid fit off the bench.
"Free agent guard Sterling Brown has reached an agreement with the Houston Rockets," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes tweeted.
That star, of course, is James Harden. And if the Rockets don't move him before the season, Brown probably won't be asked to do much more than space the floor for Harden's drives.
Stephen Silas may look to introduce more ball movement this season, but there's no way Houston will go entirely away from the iso-ball that has helped make Harden so productive.
On those possessions, all Brown will have to do is stand outside the three-point line, catch the ball when it's thrown to him and hoist it up.
His 32.4 three-point percentage in 2019-20 is a bit worrisome, but he was at a more respectable 35.7 in his first two seasons.
Harden figures to create the kind of open looks that should help him drive that number up even further.
Bismack Biyombo Heading Back to the Hornets
After signing a monster four-year, $70 million deal with the Orlando Magic in the infamous summer of 2016, it became clear fairly quickly that Bismack Biyombo might not be the player the 2016 postseason suggested he'd be.
Over the life of that contract, he averaged 18.9 minutes, 5.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks.
Among the 376 players with at least 2,000 minutes in those four years, Biyombo's minus-2.7 box plus/minus ranked 335th.
He was traded midway through the deal to the Charlotte Hornets, and things didn't get much better there. Still, he must've done enough to convince the front office to bring him back.
"Free agent center Bismack Biyombo has reached an agreement with the Charlotte Hornets," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes tweeted.
Considering the Hornets' cap situation following the Gordon Hayward agreement, this deal with their current big man figures to be on the lower end in terms of salary. That'd make it a bit more palatable.
Still, it's hard to believe there aren't younger big men with significantly more upside that Charlotte could've gone after.
Biyombo's a solid rebounder and defender, but his utter lack of offensive ability has made him a net negative in six of his nine NBA seasons.
Dallas Re-Signs Willie Cauley-Stein
Following a trade to the Dallas Mavericks last season, Willie Cauley-Stein only appeared in 13 games and averaged 12.1 minutes. Apparently, he did enough for the incumbent team to bring him back.
"Free agent center Willie Cauley-Stein has agreed to a two-year, $8.2M deal to return to the Dallas Mavericks," The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania tweeted.
The second year is a team option, so this move is relatively low risk for Dallas. If Cauley-Stein can't become a staple of a relatively crowded frontcourt rotation that includes Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, Kristaps Porzingis and James Johnson, the Mavs can merely decline the team option or trade him as a functional expiring contract.
For the big man, this is something of a prove-it contract. He put up good numbers during his last two seasons with the Sacramento Kings (16.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per 75 possessions) and fits the physical profile of the rim-running bigs Rick Carlisle has relied on for years, but his production fell off in 2019-20.
If he can rehab his value in Dallas, the 27-year-old still has time to land a big deal later in his career.
Atlanta Hawks Continue Huge Offseason with Potential Bogdanovic Addition
After an apparent sign-and-trade to the Milwaukee Bucks fell through ahead of the official start of free agency, 28-year-old wing Bogdan Bogdanovic reentered the fray and eventually found a substantial offer.
"Bogdan Bogdanovic has signed his four-year offer sheet worth $72 million from the Atlanta Hawks," the New York Times' Marc Stein tweeted. "The deal, I'm told, includes a player option in Year 4 and 15-percent trade kicker for the restricted free agent. The Kings will have 48 hours to match."
Last season, Bogdanovic averaged 19.0 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 threes per 75 possessions, with a league-average true shooting percentage.
Now, he hopes to display his wide-ranging offensive skill set on a team that is loaded with talent on that end of the floor.
Lineups with Trae Young, Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari (secured this offseason), John Collins and one more wing will be modern, versatile and loaded with shooting.
As Stein noted, though, the Sacramento Kings now have an opportunity to match the restricted free agent's offer. The player option and trade kicker are meant to dissuade them. And perhaps the fact that they were once willing to trade Bogdanovic for Donte DiVincenzo gives some sense of where they are philosophically.
Memphis Keeps Rallying Young Talent
The Memphis Grizzlies keep doing exactly what a team in this position should do. With a roster led by youngsters like Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke, Memphis has plenty of time to develop other talents.
And it just secured an intriguing big for three years who fits the timeline.
"Restricted free agent F Jontay Porter has agreed to a three-year, $6M deal to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
This deal reads an awful lot like the one John Konchar signed earlier in free agency (detailed below). It's a more than manageable average salary for a player who could make the deal feel like a heist toward the end of it.
And if Porter doesn't ever live up to his potential, no big deal. The Grizzlies weren't going to contend for a title within three years anyway. And $2 million doesn't cause major issues in terms of cap flexibility.
What Porter can provide, if healthy (that's been the biggest problem of his brief college and NBA career), is the kind of well-rounded production centers are called upon to deliver these days.
He may never be a big-time scorer, but Porter has the ability to protect the rim, distribute the ball and possibly switch onto smaller players in a pinch.
Phoenix Lands a Backup Center
There Aron Baynes era with the Phoenix Suns appears to be over.
"Free agent C Damian Jones has agreed to a two-year deal with the Phoenix Suns," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
Jones, of course, heads to the Suns with significantly less experience and range than Baynes, but he also likely costs quite a bit less.
With massive contracts for Chris Paul and Devin Booker on the books, having reserves who can contribute on minimum or near-minimum deals is important.
Even if Jones is the second-string 5, he likely won't be called on to play more than 15 minutes per game. Decent rebounding and rim protection in those minutes may be all he's asked to do.
Kent Bazemore Is Headed Back to the Bay
Kent Bazemore spent the first season-and-a-half of his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors. Back then, he was best known for his bench celebrations.
In the six full seasons since he The Bay, Bazemore has made $74 million in salary and established himself as a rotation player for multiple teams.
Now, he's headed back to where it all started for him.
"Free agent Kent Bazemore has agreed to a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors," The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania tweeted.
With Golden State still reeling from the loss of Klay Thompson for a second consecutive season, shoring up the wing rotation has been key.
The acquisition of Kelly Oubre Jr. will absolutely help on that front, and Bazemore should be able to provide some positive minutes there, too.
He hasn't had an above-replacement-level box plus/minus since 2017-18, but Bazemore has shown an ability to hit threes at an above-average rate in the past. If he can do that and work hard on defense, there could be a role for him with the Warriors.
Bucks Add Wing Depth with Torrey Craig
The Bogdan Bogdanovic fiasco aside, the Milwaukee Bucks have had a strong offseason highlighted by the acquisition of Jrue Holiday.
This particular move obviously won't get the same publicity, but it could move the needle, too.
"Free agent Torrey Craig has reached agreement on a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
At 6'7", Craig has the size to guard multiple positions. He works hard, too, which goes a long way toward effectiveness on the defensive end of the floor.
If he can shore up his outside shooting a bit in Milwaukee (he's at 32.0 percent for his career), he may be able to crack an already deep rotation.
Utah Maxes out Donovan Mitchell
In 2017, when recent All-Star Gordon Hayward left the team that drafted him, Utah Jazz fans were understandably glum. The feeling didn't last long, though.
As early as that summer league, it became clear that the Jazz had a potential star who could replace Hayward's contributions on offense. And that's exactly what Donovan Mitchell has done.
Over the course of his career, Mitchell's 22.7 points per game ranks 20th in the league. Utah's offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is 3.0 points higher with Mitchell on the floor.
And in the most recent postseason, he averaged 36.3 points in a series against the Denver Nuggets. He topped 50 points twice in those seven games.
So, it should come as little surprise that the one-time All-Star has already agreed to his first max deal.
"Utah Jazz All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell has agreed to a five-year, $195M designated rookie max extension," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
Mitchell has brought a level of excitement to this franchise that hasn't been in place since the Deron Williams era (or maybe even earlier).
There's no doubt this is a monster extension, but that 2020 playoff run shows Mitchell has legitimate superstar potential. That doesn't come around often. And small-market teams have to secure it whenever they can.
Portland Adds an Intriguing Young Big in Harry Giles
Harry Giles was the No. 2 prospect in the 2016 scouting class, per 247Sports, but injuries and inexperience severely limited his playing time as a freshman at Duke. Then, he missed all of what would have been his rookie campaign in 2017-18.
Despite the fact that he's still just 22 years old, the Sacramento Kings looked at that stretch and decided not to pick up the team option for the final season of his rookie contract.
Now, another Western Conference team will look to tap his potential.
"Free agent Harry Giles has agreed to a one-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
Giles will have to fight for minutes in Portland, where Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter appear firmly entrenched as the top two centers. It should be a good spot to continue his development, though.
Nurkic is one of the game's better passing bigs, and that's a skill that could one day set Giles apart.
During his two seasons in Sacramento, Giles averaged 3.5 assists per 75 possessions (to go along with 17.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks).
If he can provide those numbers with a bit more scoring efficiency, he might one day leapfrog Kanter on the depth chart, which would be a win for both him and the Blazers.
Bryn Forbes to the Bucks
After four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, for whom he started 155 games, sharpshooter Bryn Forbes is on his way to the Eastern Conference.
"Free agent guard Bryn Forbes has agreed to a two-year deal with the Miwaukee Bucks," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
One thing is sure about Forbes: He can shoot. For his career, he's right at 40.0 percent from deep. In 2019-20, he hit 38.8 percent of 6.0 attempts per game and averaged double figures for the second consecutive season.
As a floor-spacer operating on the wings or in the corners during Giannis Antetokounmpo's drives, he should be able to draw some defensive attention away from the paint.
Forbes' statistical contributions sort of begin and end there, though. At 6'2", it'd be nice to get a little creation out of Forbes, but he's averaged just 2.5 assists per 75 possessions for his career.
He isn't lightning quick, either, so his lack of size hurts him on the defensive end, too. During his career, the Spurs have allowed 111.7 points per 100 possessions with Forbes on the floor and 106.8 with him off.
Milwaukee has the kind of personnel that should be able to cover for some of those flaws, however. And he won't be asked to do much more than shoot in that system. His specialty should be put to good use by the Bucks.
For the first time since 2015, it looks like journeyman JaKarr Sampson will begin a season with the same team on which he closed the previous campaign.
"Free agent JaKarr Sampson has agreed to a one-year, fully guaranteed minimum contract to return to the Indiana Pacers," The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania tweeted.
Sampson is 27 years old, and he hasn't reached 500 minutes in a season since 2015-16. Barring a spate of injuries to Indiana's frontcourt, he isn't likely to have much of a role in 2020-21.
For the minimum, though, this is a fine deal. Some may be more inclined to look for young, unproven talent with that spot, but there's value in experience and familiarity with the system, too.
On the rare occasion he does get on the floor, Sampson should at least make opposing reserves work a bit for their points. During his career, he's averaged 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals per 75 possessions.
Serge Ibaka Gives the Clippers a Huge Frontcourt Boost
Serge Ibaka is signing a two-year contract with the Clippers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The deal will be for the full mid-level exception ($19 million), per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and include a player option on the second season.
The Clippers are hitting a home run here. Ibaka runs as much as Montrezl Harrell received from the Lakers and is a much easier offensive fit.
For all Harrell can do as a play-finisher, he doesn't wield three-point range. Ibaka's 38.5 percent clip from distance last season renders him infinitely more scalable—as does the fact that more than 76 percent of all his shot attempts came without taking a dribble.
His extra range alone will allow the Clippers to roll super big if they wish to pair him with Ivica Zubac. Center is Ibaka's best position, but he can still hang with select 4s. He is more of a problem if the Clippers need a hyper-mobile 5 without downsizing. JaMychal Green, who signed with the Nuggets, is better suited for that role.
Then again, the Clippers seldom went to Green-at-the-5 combinations last season. That's not the most effective cover, because they should've used them more, but they have Marcus Morris Sr. to trot out as a small-ball center if they're looking to get ultra twitchy.
Poaching Ibaka from Toronto is a big friggin' deal. He seemed genuinely happy there, and while the Raptors aren't currently in the business of doling out multiyear contracts to people not named Fred VanVleet, they could've offered him almost as much, if not exactly as much or more, to stick around for one season. Assuming they did, Ibaka's decision says more about the Clippers' proximity to a title—or his desire to live in Hollywood.
Not to be overlooked: Los Angeles can afford to throw its entire MLE at another big because Zubac is so damn cheap (three years, $21 million). He's also really good. The Clippers needed more depth up front, but they arguably need another playmaker just as badly. This investment either speaks to their faith in Luke Kennard or the lack of initiation appeal left on the market. Either way, it's impossible not to like.
Mamadi Diakite Is Worth Milwaukee's Final Two-Way Slot
Mamadi Diakite, who went undrafted on Wednesday, will sign a two-way contract with the Bucks, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Fliers are being given out like candy on pre-pandemic Halloweens right now. Not much will come from most of them. Diakite could fall into that camp, but the idea of him is worth a more extensive look.
Diakite has NBA-ready quickness and length and could theoretically become an impact defender even if he doesn't get much stronger. The film shows someone who is ready to switch, though he can get lost amid quicker actions that don't allow him to get set, and he is a threat to deter or send back shots at the rim even when he's not planted on the backline.
Verifying his three-point range feels like his quickest path to minutes at the club level. He improved his outside touch in each of his four seasons at Virginia, culminating with a 36.4 percent clip from downtown on 1.8 attempts per game as a senior. He doesn't project as someone who will ever generate his own offense inside or outside the arc, but that's fine. Centers are better off being plug-and-play scorers when they're not franchise cornerstones.
Which begs the question: Can Diakite, who is 6'9", survive as a full-time 5 at the next level? On paper and according to the film, it's worth finding out.
Denver Forges Patently Unfair Playmaking Duo with Jokic and Campazzo
Facundo Campazzo is leaving Real Madrid to sign with the Nuggets on a two-year guaranteed deal, according to HoopsHype and the New York Times' Marc Stein. Denver is expected to use its biannual exception to lure him stateside.
Putting Campazzo and Nikola Jokic in the same rotation should be illegal. They're both playmaking maestros. They will no doubt set the league record for combined one-handed assists thrown after nonchalant dribbles. This is going to be fun.
The extent to which the Nuggets will lean on Campazzo isn't quite clear. Giving him two guaranteed years suggests they view him as their backup point guard, in which case Monte Morris trade scenarios could be on the table.
Denver would do well to first see how Campazzo holds up against NBA competition full-time before making that call. He isn't the most marketable outside shooter, and his defensive energy could be undermined by his 5'11" frame. This is a quality addition, particularly relative to the point guard market this offseason, but it's still a slight gamble.
Phoenix Gets Low-Key Steal with Jevon Carter Deal
Jevon Carter is staying in Phoenix on a three-year, $11.5 million deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
First off: Congratulations to all of us. We've earned having Carter, Jae Crowder and Chris Paul all on the same team. Second of all: Congratulations to the Suns. They're keeping a dogged defender who fits in perfectly with a CP3-powered backcourt.
Carter picks up opposing ball-handlers in the parking lot, and he drilled 42.5 percent of his deep shots during the regular season before taking on a heavier workload at Disney World. The extra playing time suited him. He shot 55.2 percent from downtown in the bubble on 3.6 attempts per game.
Such scorching-hot touch definitely isn't sustainable, but Phoenix doesn't need it to be. And Carter isn't a point guard you can trust to jump-start half-court sets on a possession-by-possession basis. The Suns don't need that, either.
They need someone who competes his behind off on defense and can play beside either one of their grade-A setup men (CP3 and Devin Booker). Carter is that guy, and even after accounting for his relative lack of NBA reps, his price point renders this virtually zero risk.
Keep an Eye on Garrison Mathews in Washington
Garrison Mathews is sticking with the Wizards after signing his qualifying offer, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. It will be his second two-way contract with the team.
This isn't a move that will generate much buzz, but Mathews' career is worth tracking in Washington. He is an offensive microwave with zero confidence issues who has some off-the-bounce panache.
Eighteen big-league appearances is all he needed to prove as much. More than 70 percent of his looks in limited run with the Wizards came as catch-and-launch triples, of which he canned 37.5 percent.
These weren't standstill bunnies, either. Matthews fired off-balance jumpers and ultra-deep treys. He also peppered in some off-the-dribble jumpers and showed spunk when attacking the basket. His ability to draw fouls is a thing, and he might be, too.
Nerlens Noel Is Great Value, but a Questionable Fit in New York
Nerlens Noel is set to sign a one-year, $5 million agreement with the Knicks, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The push to collect non-shooters in New York continues.
Kidding. Sort of.
The Knicks are getting great value out of this deal. Noel is coming off an awesome season in which he established himself as one of the best reserve bigs alive. He rated in the 88th percentile of pick-and-roll finishers while remaining ultra-disruptive on the defensive end, where he is an active paint defender and has the foot speed to stay in front of smaller ball-handlers. Opponents shot 8.2 percentage points below their average when being challenged by him inside six feet of the basket.
But Noel's fit with the Knicks is...curious.
He won't have trouble splitting time up front with Mitchell Robinson. Neither stays out of foul trouble long enough to monopolize center minutes. But New York also has Ed Davis, Julius Randle and Obi Toppin. That's a lot of bigs, and only one of them has outside range (Toppin).
Criticizing the Knicks for acquiring actual talent with zero risk isn't fair. This isn't a signing worth getting worked up over. But it would look a lot better—for both Noel and New York—if Randle was moved elsewhere. He's a poor fit at the 4 next to any of the other centers, and at this point, he should probably be logging more minutes at the 5 himself. The Knicks already threaten to hamper some of Noel's roll-man value with their shaky perimeter shooting (Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley should help), and forcing him to spend any time beside a 4 without reliable three-point range only exacerbates the risk.
Boston Strengthens Bench with Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague will reportedly sign a one-year deal with the Celtics, according to the Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach. The exact details aren't yet known, but his contract will likely be for the veteran's minimum after Boston spent its entire mid-level exception on Tristan Thompson.
Even if Teague winds up costing the biannual exception, which only pays him a hair more, the Celtics are plugging a borderline massive void in their rotation. Their backup point guard situation wasn't peachy keen with Brad Wanamaker in the fold, and he's now on the Warriors. Gordon Hayward took more of their proven playmaking options with him.
Boston would've needed to rely on an overwhelming amount of inexperience off the bench if it didn't add a veteran floor general. That makes Teague not just a need, but an urgent one.
He can get turnover-happy and is a coin-toss finisher around the basket, but he's also craftier with the ball than advertised. That he promises roughly league-average shooting from distance is equally huge. The Celtics shouldn't have any issues playing him off Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart.
Only those who wanted Boston to funnel its entire MLE into another ball-handler will have any qualms about Teague's arrival. The team might've been able to get a slightly higher-end option, such as D.J. Augustin or Alec Burks, had it acted sooner. But Teague is more of a game manager than many of the alternatives who would've commanded more money. Even if you think Boston mismanaged its cap allocation, this isn't a signing to rebuke.
Dallas Takes Fantastic Flier on Wesley Iwundu
Wesley Iwundu is nearing a two-year deal with the Mavericks, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon. The amount isn't yet disclosed, but his contract will be guaranteed and isn't expected to cost much, per the Dallas Morning News' Brad Townsend.
Barring a shocker price point that's virtually impossible—Dallas already spent a chunk of the mid-level exception on Trey Burke—this is a fantastic move by the Mavericks. Iwundu isn't some superstar hiding in plain sight, but he's an active defender at all of the wing spots. The Magic used him to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo for spurts in the playoffs, albeit out of necessity.
Finding an offensive niche remains Iwundu's biggest obstacle. His jumper is unreliable, and he's never operated with any sort of consequential usage. Hitting more of his threes would go a long way toward driving up his stock.
Iwundu tipped the scales in his favor over the latter part of 2019-20. From just after the New Year through the end of the regular season, he buried 42.9 percent of his long-range looks on 2.0 attempts per game. He needs to sustain more volume before he's considered a three-and-D specialist, but at 25, he has time.
Pigeonholing him into a specialist's trajectory might even be a disservice to the depth of his skill set. He can beat guys off the dribble with his right hand and is comfortable pulling up for jumpers after turning a corner. Dallas could have a diamond in the rough on its hands if he's given enough floor time.
Golden State Finds a Worthy Backup PG Option in Brad Wanamaker
Brad Wanamaker is joining Golden State on a one-year, $2.3 million deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. As of now, following Ky Bowman's departure, he figures prominently into the backup point guard rotation.
Count this as a small-time win for the Warriors.
Wanamaker isn't an elite table-setter or off-the-bounce shot-maker, but he can put pressure on set defenses attacking from above the break and work the passing lanes those drives create. At 6'3", he also has the chops to cover some 2s, so he can play in tandem with Stephen Curry. His 48.3 percent clip on catch-and-shoot threes last season only makes him more valuable in those lineups.
Many teams would prefer more east and west off-the-dribble creativity from their primary backup floor general. Wanamaker doesn't bring that to the Warriors. Units without Curry will still have to lean on Draymond Green and perhaps hope Mychal Mulder or Nico Mannion can have an immediate impact.
KCP Gets Massive Deal from the Lakers—and He Deserves Every Penny
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is headed back to the Lakers on a three-year deal worth $40 million, with a partial guarantee in the final season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. That's quite a bit of money for a non-traditional third option on a championship team.
And Los Angeles is smart to pay it.
Viable alternatives are wearing thin, for starters. The Lakers traded Danny Green to Oklahoma City, and Avery Bradley signed with Miami. Bringing in Wesley Matthews doesn't totally make up the difference. Without KCP, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma would be assigned star wing covers far more often than they should or prefer.
That $40 million commitment is also hardly gargantuan when looking back at Los Angeles' playoff push. KCP both picked up primary wing scorers and swished 37.8 percent of his three-point attempts. The Lakers' third-most-important-player crown may have shifted hands routinely over the course of the year, but its owner was inarguable by postseason's end.
Celtics Weaponize Front Line with Tristan Thompson Addition
Tristan Thompson is signing a two-year contract with Boston, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. His deal will be worth $19 million, as first reported by The Athletic's Joe Vardon—the full mid-level exception.
This is an ideal get for a Celtics roster that needed someone up front to rumble against burlier bigs without costing them a ton of mobility on the front line. Daniel Theis performed well in the full-time starter's role and stretches defenses more, but Thompson is feistier on the glass—where Boston ranked 18th in defensive rebounding rate—and boasts more foot speed away from the basket when healthy.
The Celtics won't care about the spacing tradeoff they'll need to navigate for stretches. They weren't getting much more range from Enes Kanter, now of the Blazers, or Robert Williams III. Thompson has also developed a nifty floater, making him less predictable when driving toward the basket.
It is somewhat surprising the Celtics went this route with their full MLE. They still need another ball-handler after losing Gordon Hayward to the Hornets, and a big like Aron Baynes or Marc Gasol does more to preserve offensive dynamism.
Both issues are mostly immaterial. The Celtics were never going to meaningfully offset Hayward's exit with the MLE, especially with so many free agents already off the board, and Thompson is more mobile than most traditional centers, including Baynes and Gasol.
San Antonio and Cameron Reynolds Are a Nice Match
Cameron Reynolds is joining the Spurs on a one-year non-guaranteed deal, according to ESPN's Tim MacMahon. This is an Exhibit 10 contract, which allows San Antonio to convert him into a two-way player, so long as it does so before the start of the regular season.
A 6'7" wing, Reynolds spent five years at Tulane and has 19 games of NBA experience under his belt, all of which came with the Bucks in 2018-19. He spent last season in the G-League, where he averaged 14.4 points while knocking down 34.4 percent of his three-pointers.
San Antonio has developed a habit for scooping up wings, and taking a no-risk look at Reynold jibes with that philosophy. His defensive impact won't wow, but he has the size and length to switch across multiple positions and stick with some guards, and last year's 34.4 percent clip from distance is the lowest he's posted over the past four years between his time with Tulane, Milwaukee and in the G-League.
If nothing else, the Reynolds flier speaks to the Spurs' improved feel for how a roster in today's NBA should be fleshed out—just like their decision to draft Devin Vassell.
Indiana Takes Nice Flier on Amida Brimah
Amida Brimah is signing a one-year deal with the Pacers, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. He comes to Indiana after four years at UConn and two more in the G-League.
Investing in Brimah is an outside-the-box defensive play. He's incredibly mobile, ubiquitous on the glass and has a knack for erasing shots at the rim.
Brimah missed all of last season with an ACL injury after joining the Pacers for training camp, but his defensive decision-making is more rooted in timing and length than athleticism. This becomes a nice flier if he's healthy and not a liability at the foul line, where he shot 33.3 percent during his last G-League campaign.
Re-Signing Elfrid Payton Is a Safe and Unspectacular Move by the Knicks
Elfrid Payton is sticking with the Knicks on a one-year, $5 million deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. In reality, this works out to a one-year, $6 million pact, since New York previously paid $1 million to waive his initial $8 million salary. Payton takes a $2 million haircut when all's said and done.
Kudos to you if you can muster any strong feelings about this non-move. The Knicks desperately need better point guard play and are the only team with serious cap space, but the floor-general market is beyond unimpressive following the signings of Goran Dragic (Miami) and Fred VanVleet (Toronto). It might be more encouraging that New York didn't bankroll a blase alternative for too many years or inexplicably and prematurely accelerate its timeline by backing up the Brink's truck for a veteran.
Bear in mind this isn't akin to a stamp of approval. The Knicks offense improved by 8.2 points per 100 possessions with Payton on the floor last year but remained well below league-average efficiency in the time he logged without Marcus Morris Sr. Their half-court attack specifically during those stretches was altogether unseemly. It never felt like there were assigned roles, any chemistry or rhyme or reason whatsoever to how they played.
That doesn't fall on Payton alone. But the Knicks have important players who need a steadying ball-handler to help them. Mitchell Robinson and Obi Toppin will rely on others to generate their shots, and RJ Barrett could use a partner to draw some of the attention away from him as he learns the ropes.
Payton isn't the guy to consistently wear those hats. Nor, for that matter, is Dennis Smith Jr. Alec Burks will help some, but he's no point guard. Sure, bringing back Payton is harmless. It also doesn't move the needle. The Knicks would've done better to aim higher—or at least gone for someone with a more bankable outside jumper (a la Jeff Teague).
Blazers Have Some Interesting Lineup Decisions After Re-Signing Melo
Carmelo Anthony agreed to return to the Portland Trail Blazers on a one-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. And just like that, the Blazers have themselves a viable wing rotation. It might even be maddeningly deep.
Between re-upping Melo and Rodney Hood, signing Derrick Jones Jr. and trading for Robert Covington, Portland has a surfeit of options available at the 2, 3 and 4 spots. Gary Trent Jr. will also factor into that carousel, as will Zach Collins, who the Blazers seem reluctant to use as a full-time 5.
On balance, this is great. More choices shouldn't be a bad thing. But Portland is now burdened with juggling minutes across a wide plane, and the fact that Melo is getting more run at the expense of his better-fitting, potentially more impactful peers will invariably rub some the wrong way.
That isn't an unfounded concern. Charania says Melo knows what to expect in Portland, and he hasn't rocked the boat in quite some time. Even as he was unhappy with his role in Oklahoma City, he didn't publicly gripe until after the season. But it's fair to wonder whether he's ready to accept full-on reserve duty, the type in which he may not be part of every closing lineup—if absent from most of them.
Portland has bandwidth at the 3 and 4 spots to make it work. Collins should be given more burn as backup center, and both Hood and Trent will log minutes at the 2. Melo's return might only mean a minimal to nonexistent role for Nassir Little, which isn't egregious yet.
Regardless of the lineup decisions this creates, it goes down as a rock-solid move. The Blazers aren't into Melo for too many years or a ton of money—they already used their mid-level exception on Jones—and he just averaged over 15 points per game while canning 38.5 percent of his threes. His return only becomes a problem if he's unable to roll with the punches and inconsistent playing time they could bring.
Denver Continues to Pick Up Pieces of Grant's Departure with Millsap's Return
Paul Millsap agreed to return to Denver on a one-year, $10 million deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. And the Nuggets should be extremely happy about it.
Filling out the front line became more urgent after both Mason Plumlee (Detroit) and Jerami Grant (also Detroit) left town. The latter's departure looms as debilitating. The Nuggets offense can get by without his 38.9 percent clip from three, but their path to the Finals will invariably run through some combination of LeBron James, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Luka Doncic. Grant was their best defensive matchup for most of them.
Keeping Millsap—along with signing JaMychal Green—doesn't do much to alleviate that blow. Though he can pitch in with LeBron coverage, he shouldn't be tasked with pestering pure wings. Denver must look elsewhere to paper over that element of Grant's exit.
But Millsap does give the team a defensive backbone—someone who is mostly matchup-proof, committed to helping out on blown rotations and can shimmy between the 4 and 5. The Nuggets have allowed noticeably fewer points per 100 possessions when he's been on the floor in each of the three years he's been with them.
Last season's playoff run does leave cause for concern. Millsap looked his age (35) for a series at a time and wasn't extra mobile on defense. But his play picked up as the postseason wore on, and he remains hyper-valuable in matchups where opposing teams field rangy bigs.
Re-signing him on a one-year deal for only slightly more than the mid-level exception is at once a win and a necessity, and it'll pay huge dividends if he both stays healthy and continues downing threes at a career-high clip.
Atlanta Continues to Load Up with Rajon Rondo Signing
Rajon Rondo agreed to join the Hawks on a two-year, $15 million deal, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. It turns out Atlanta really was prepping a "significant offer" for the two-time champ after all.
This is, shall we say, an interesting fit. The Hawks need supplementary ball-handling around Trae Young, as well as capable playmakers to spearhead lineups without him, and Rondo proved instrumental, at times, during the Lakers' championship push on both sides of the floor.
Still, he isn't the antidote to no-star minutes on his own. The Lakers' half-court efficiency placed in the 21st percentile when he played without LeBron James, and it was only a hair better (38th percentile) when those stretches included Anthony Davis. The Hawks' no-Trae stints will be harder to survive.
Rondo also remains someone defenses ignore off the ball, so playing him in tandem with Young could be thorny. He isn't the non-shooter he was earlier in his career, but he converted just 32.8 percent of his threes last season—though, he did hit 40 percent of his triples in the playoffs—and no team posted a lower clip from downtown than Atlanta.
Yet, the Hawks aren't depending on Rondo to be the answer. They already agreed to a deal with Danilo Gallinari, a lights-out shot creator who alleviates the burden placed upon Young. And the addition of Kris Dunn gives them a viable backcourt alternative should Rondo's defensive effort wane too much during the regular season.
Equally important: Rondo immediately becomes Atlanta's second-best playmaker. He'll do as much as Gallinari, if not more, to get Young moving off the ball when they play together. Tack on the modest price point and short-term commitment, and Rondo's arrival, while far from making the Hawks postseason locks, is easy to embrace—if not outright like.
Jaylen Adams Agrees to Join the Bucks
After the Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade fell through, the Milwaukee Bucks needed backcourt depth, and they've zeroed in on a potential shooter who may help on that front.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported they agreed to sign Jaylen Adams to a two-way deal Saturday.
Those deals pose little threat to teams' cap situations, so this is a low-risk addition for Milwaukee. If Adams can find the shooting prowess he displayed at St. Bonaventure, when he hit 39.4 percent of his threes, he may be able to hang around this team for a bit.
Gary Clark Back to the Magic
After averaging 3.6 points and shooting a below-average 35.0 percent from three in 24 games, Gary Clark will return on a modest deal to the team with which he closed 2019-20.
"Free agent Gary Clark has agreed to a two-year, $4.1M deal to stay with [the Orlando Magic]," Wojnarowski tweeted.
At 26 years old, there's a chance we already know everything we will about Clark as an NBA player. And he looks like an 11th or 12th (or beyond) man.
The salary on this deal reflects that status, but one can't help but wonder if there were other options to be uncovered. Familiarity with the system may have been Clark's edge.
Nets Add a Vet
With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster (and James Harden possibly on the way), the Brooklyn Nets are in win-now mode.
Championship windows don't last long, especially when one star is in his 30s and coming back from a torn Achilles. So, it makes sense that Brooklyn is adding veteran help.
"Free agent Jeff Green has agreed to a deal with the Brooklyn Nets," according to The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania.
Considering Green's age (34) and most recent contracts, this deal with the Nets is likely for the veteran's minimum. And at that price, it isn't much of a risk.
Still, Green has had a hard time influencing winning for most of his career (including last season). An unproven or discarded younger talent may have yielded more long-term value, though that may have sent the wrong message to the stars.
Jae Crowder Heads to the Valley
The Phoenix Suns are all-in on ending their decade-long playoff drought.
After acquiring Chris Paul in a trade earlier this offseason, they've now added a veteran forward who can replace much of the defensive versatility provided by Kelly Oubre Jr. (who headed out in the CP3 deal).
"Free agent Jae Crowder has agreed to a three-year deal with the Phoenix Suns," The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania tweeted.
Crowder stands just 6'6", but he's proved himself capable of defending multiple positions, including 4s, in a number of situations.
In lineups that may feature Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, Phoenix will have plenty of defensive switchability to surround primary playmakers like Paul or Devin Booker.
And if he can shoot like he did in 2015-16 or the bubble this season, it's a bonus.
Memphis Doubles Down on Its Draftnik Status with John Konchar
Thanks to absurdly well-rounded production in college (21.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.2 steals, 2.0 threes and 1.1 blocks per 75 possessions, with a 63.2 true shooting percentage), John Konchar became a darling among draft analysts in 2019.
When the Memphis Grizzlies signed him to a two-way deal as an undrafted free agent, the fit felt perfect. Memphis was loaded with intriguing young talent Konchar could develop alongside. And his gap-filling game could complement stars like Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
He didn't get to show much of that in 2019-20, but his G League numbers suggest contributions may still be on the way. And the Grizzlies have given him more time to make that happen.
"Former undrafted two-way player John Konchar has agreed to a four-year, $9M deal with the Memphis Grizzlies," Charania tweeted.
That amount of money spread out over four seasons could make Konchar one of the steals of this class if he lives up to his potential and eventually joins a rotation with Morant, JJJ and Brandon Clarke.
Avery Bradley Switches Finals Teams
After starting in 44 of his 49 appearances with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, Avery Bradley opted out of the season reboot and playoffs. The Los Angeles Lakers went on to secure the championship without him.
This offseason, they added Dennis Schroder, who was likely to eat into Bradley's role. So, it likely comes as little surprise that he signed elsewhere.
"Free agent Avery Bradley has agreed to a two-year, $11.6M deal with the Miami Heat," Charania tweeted.
Adding Bradley to a team that includes Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Andre Iguodala gives the Heat absurd defensive lineup possibilities. And there's enough playmaking with those three and Goran Dragic to make sure Bradley isn't entrusted with much offensive responsibility.
The deal also won't do too much to interfere with 2021 free-agency plans.
For this price and this role, this is a solid move for Miami.
Gordon Hayward Joins the Hornets
Despite a rocky three-year run largely influenced by the broken leg he suffered in his first game with the Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward has secured a hefty deal with an in-conference foe.
"Free agent Gordon Hayward is signing a 4-year, $120M deal with [the Charlotte Hornets]," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted.
For Boston, the loss is catastrophic. As Wojnarowski pointed out, it has lost max-contract free agents in each of the last two offseasons (with Kyrie Irving going to the Brooklyn Nets in 2019). And the Celtics don't have the cap space to immediately replace Hayward. His departure in free agency hurts worse than a trade would have.
But this isn't about Boston. After 15 years of mediocrity, Charlotte's signaled its desire to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
With Hayward—whose per-possession averages were matched only by Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Karl-Anthony Towns in 2019-20—and LaMelo Ball on the way, the Hornets can look toward next season with a little excitement.
Adding their size and playmaking to intriguing young (or young-ish) players like P.J. Washington, Devonte' Graham and Terry Rozier should put them in the mix for eighth in the ever-open bottom of the East.
The size and length of the contract may bring a little sticker shock, but it likely took something aggressive to ward off other suitors.
This makes Charlotte better, even if the team still has a ways to go to join the ranks of the title contenders.
Fred VanVleet Stays in the North
For the first time in his career, Fred VanVleet was a full-time starter in 2019-20. He responded with 17.6 points, 6.6 assists and 2.7 threes per game.
And the Toronto Raptors responded to that production by re-signing him to a four-year, $85 million deal, per Charania.
With Kyle Lowry's contract expiring at the end of the 2020-21 campaign, four years for VanVleet signals a potential changing of the guard (though the fourth year is a player option).
In 2021-22, VanVleet may well be the lead guard for the team he won a title with in 2019. And his numbers in that role suggest he's ready to take that role.
When Lowry was off the floor in 2019-20, VanVleet averaged 21.8 points and 7.7 assists per 75 possessions, with a 58.9 true shooting percentage.
D.J. Augustin Leaves Orlando for Milwaukee
After four seasons with the Orlando Magic, D.J. Augustin is headed to an Eastern Conference contender to play with Giannis Antetokounmpo on a three-year, $21 million pact, per Charania.
After Milwaukee landed Jrue Holiday in a trade that left the Bucks in need of a guard, Augustin figures to have a consistent role off the bench.
And though at 5'11" he's undersized in comparison to today's point guards, his savvy and three-point shooting should help steady the second unit.
Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Orlando has been plus-0.2 points per 100 possessions with Augustin on the floor and minus-3.5 with him off.
Washington Signs a Backup Guard in Raul Neto
Raul Neto doesn't put up big raw numbers, but he's a steady hand when running second-unit offenses and works hard on defense.
During his five-year career, he's averaged 4.9 points and 1.9 assists (13.4 points and 5.1 assists per 75 possessions) while shooting 37.9 percent from three.
His solid play must've caught the attention of the Washington Wizards, who signed him to a one-year deal Saturday, per Charania.
Whether John Wall is there or not, Neto figures to remain a bench player. In 10-15 minutes per game, he can hold the line until starters are ready to return.
Milwaukee Adds Bobby Portis
After Robin Lopez headed to the Washington Wizards, the Milwaukee Bucks needed a reserve big. Bobby Portis has a chance to fill that role.
"Portis is joining Milwaukee on a two-year deal, with a player option in the second season," Charania tweeted. "Bucks receive a major frontcourt addition, and Portis has opportunity to play key role on a title contender."
That may be a bit of an oversell, though. Portis can put up points off the bench, but he's never posted an average true shooting percentage. And his shoot-first mentality can turn him into a ball-stopper.
In Milwaukee, perhaps he can be sold on cutting the mid-range and long twos out of his offensive diet. As a more focused three-point threat, Portis could boost his efficiency.
In a limited role, which is what he'll likely have on a team with Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo, this could work.
De'Anthony Melton Re-Ups with Memphis
De'Anthony Melton was taken with the 46th pick of the 2018 draft. Following a rookie season in which he only appeared in 50 games, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies with Josh Jackson for Kyle Korver and Jevon Carter.
In Memphis, Melton quickly established himself as one of the game's best perimeter defenders. He was fourth in the league in steals per 75 possessions, and Dejounte Murray was the only player who matched his averages for steals and defensive rebounds per 75 possessions.
And those weren't just empty-calorie numbers. Melton's plus-10.4 net rating swing ranked in the 94th percentile in 2019-20. And when he shared the floor with Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, the Grizzlies were plus-2.3 points per 100 possessions (they were minus-1.1 overall).
That impact was strong enough to press Memphis to re-sign Melton to a four-year deal that pays him nearly $10 million per season.
"Restricted free agent De’Anthony Melton has agreed to four-year, $35M deal with the Memphis Grizzlies," The Athletic's Shams Charania tweeted.
That may seem like a lot for a player with two seasons of experience, a career scoring average of 6.4 points and a career three-point percentage of 29.4, but Melton has First Team All-Defensive potential.
If he becomes just an average shooter, he'll be well worth this deal.
Kris Dunn Heads South
Kris Dunn has been one of the NBA's worst shooters during his career, but the Chicago Bulls have been comfortably better with him on the floor thanks to his stellar perimeter defense and decent playmaking.
Now, he'll reportedly look to bring those attributes, which stats sometimes struggle to capture, to the Atlanta Hawks.
"Free agent guard Kris Dunn has agreed to a two-year, $10M deal with the Atlanta Hawks," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted. "Player option on the second year."
Though he's generally listed as a point guard, Dunn has the mindset and wingspan (6'9") necessary to defend some wings and play alongside Trae Young. The All-Star was almost constantly exposed on that end of the floor last season, but Dunn gives them a guard who can spare him difficult matchups.
Dunn won't be called on to score much, but his ability to fill gaps makes him well worth the money.
Miami Picks Up Maurice Harkless
In theory, Maurice Harkless is exactly the kind of role player many teams want this season. He has the size (6'7", 220 lbs) and mobility to play as a wing or forward. His three-point shot looks good. And he collects numbers at a decent rate in just about every category but assists.
The theoretical version of Harkless is almost certainly worth more than the Miami Heat just committed to him.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported he signed for one year at $3.6 million and noted, "Harkless turned down more lucrative deals for a chance to play a prominent role with defending Eastern Conference champions..."
If there's a downside, it's that Harkless' accuracy from outside fluctuates drastically from year to year. Over his eight NBA seasons, he's somehow shot 29.4 percent from three in odd seasons and 35.5 percent in even seasons.
If Miami gets the player who was 41.5 percent from deep in 2017-18, this deal is a steal. If it gets the 27.5 percent he shot in 2018-19, his impact will be severely dampened.
At that price, though, this is a gamble well worth taking.
Michael Carter-Williams Re-Signs with the Magic
Michael Carter-Williams hasn't had a chance to put up eye-popping numbers with the Orlando Magic. Over his 57 games in a Magic jersey, he's averaged just 18.6 minutes. His impact in Orlando has been clear, though, and Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reports he's staying.
Thanks to his length and athleticism, MCW can frustrate opposing guards and wings and get in and out of passing lanes without sacrificing defensive rotations.
He's also an underrated offensive rebounder. In 2019-20, he had the best offensive rebounding percentage of any player his height (6'5") or shorter. And those extra possessions often lead to easy looks.
That all translates to a strong net rating swing for Carter-Williams. Since he joined the Magic during the 2018-19 season, he's played 1,153 regular and postseason minutes. Orlando is plus-4.0 points per 100 possessions in those minutes, compared to minus-1.7 in all other minutes. Believe it or not, the bulk of that swing happens on the offensive end.
That kind of value from a reserve (there's likely an understanding he'll maintain that role) does a lot for a team's bottom line.
Denzel Valentine Heads Back to the Bulls
Unfortunately, injuries have been a significant theme of Denzel Valentine's brief NBA career. After the Chicago Bulls selected him with a lottery pick in 2016, Valentine has appeared in 170 of a possible 311 games (54.7 percent). He missed all of 2018-19 with ankle problems.
If you squint real hard at his numbers (particularly those from his sophomore campaign), you can see an intriguing wing with some playmaking chops. So, it makes sense for Chicago to bring him back on a qualifying offer (one-year, $4.7 million), a move Charania reported Saturday.
This isn't a move that jams up long-term flexibility. And with Otto Porter opting into his player option earlier this offseason, the Bulls didn't have any cap space to think about right now, either. There isn't a ton of risk in this deal.
If Valentine looks like his 2017-18 self, though, Chicago might second-guess not being able to get a couple more years.
That season, Valentine averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 assists and 1.9 threes in just 27.2 minutes. Perhaps most importantly, he shot 38.6 percent from three.
A return of that kind of production will make it more difficult to bring him back in 2021. On the other hand, if he continues to struggle with his shot, as he did in 2019-20, the Bulls can simply let him walk next offseason.
There are pros and cons for both the team and the player on this one.
Dwayne Bacon and Steve Clifford: A Reunion That Makes Sense
Dwayne Bacon is signing a two-year contract with the Magic, according to Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill. The contract is most likely for the league minimum and includes a team option on the second season, per The Athletic's Josh Robbins.
Landing in Orlando could be a potential boon for Bacon. He spent a year under Magic head coach Steve Clifford in Charlotte, and it was toward the end of that season he made the type of impact worth regular minutes.
Whatever momentum Bacon built up during the 2018-19 campaign largely dissipated last year. He fell out of the Hornets rotation in a hurry, so much so they didn't bother extending him a qualifying offer.
Orlando is making a no-risk bet that Bacon can scratch the surface of the player he was for large chunks of 2018-19, when he canned 43.7 percent of his triples, hinted at some off-the-bounce creation and defended his butt off. He spent that year under James Borrego, but a reunion with his first NBA head coach could be just what the career-reboot doctor ordered. And it certainly doesn't hurt that the Magic seem like they'll need a Wes Iwundu replacement.
Denver's JaMychal Green Signing Softens the Blow of Jerami Grant's Departure
JaMychal Green is leaving the Clippers for the Nuggets on a two-year deal worth $15 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The second season is a player option.
Woo buddy, did the Nuggets need this one. They won't have trouble approximating Mason Plumlee's value next season, but losing Jerami Grant to the Pistons was a blow. He was among their only two-way wings, and, well, very few teams can stand to subtract a four-position defender who shot almost 39 percent from downtown.
Green will fill part of the voids left by both Grant and Plumlee. He doesn't have Grant's defensive range, but he can match up with both 4s and 5s, and he's shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc over the past two seasons. Denver should have no trouble leaning into smaller lineups with him at the 5 when Nikola Jokic is on the bench. The Clippers didn't utilize them much this year, but Green-at-the-5 combinations were a pivotal reason they made their 2019 first-round series with the Warriors so interesting.
Keep an eye on what comes next for the Nuggets. Green's arrival could portend Millsap's departure, though they still feel one combo big short—unless Bol Bol is ready to take on an everyday role next season.
Orlando Needs James Ennis III More Than Ever
James Ennis III is returning to the Magic on a one-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Good thing, too.
They need him more than ever.
Exact terms of Ennis' contract weren't immediately reported, but he should end up around the league minimum or with Orlando's bi-annual exception. Neither outcome changes the context of this return. The Magic won't have Jonathan Isaac next season as he recovers from an ACL injury and didn't tender a qualifying offer to Wes Iwundu. They don't have two-way wings to spare.
Ennis does need to hit a higher percentage of his threes than the 28.6 percent he drained with Orlando last season, but he's at least someone defenses respect enough to guard from beyond the arc. More than anything, he ensures the Magic don't have to give Aaron Gordon too much run at small forward. And when he's not knocking down shots, he's not someone who will hijack possessions. He'll keep the ball moving, and his engagement on defense won't change.
Pat Connaughton Is Now Alarmingly Important to the Bucks
At least Milwaukee didn't let all its wings get away. Pat Connaughton is coming back on a two-year, $8.3 million deal, with a player option on the second season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Bucks needed this one. They lost Bogdan Bogdanovic before they ever really had him and then, just as critically, saw Wesley Matthews sign with the Lakers for the bi-annual exception. They still have plenty of wing defense in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, but the ranks behind them are wearing thin.
Connaughton doesn't give Milwaukee much of an on-ball solution, but he's quick enough to track some of the league's premier off-ball roamers. His offensive utility is less of a sure thing. He's best described as an unhinged play-finisher.
He runs the floor but can be a leaky faucet in transition, and though his shot profile is mostly plug-and-play, he converted just 32.2 percent of his spot-up threes last season. The Bucks will need a dab more from him—especially if Donte DiVincenzo still winds up being on the move.
Spurs Fortify Center Options with Jakob Poeltl Re-Signing
Jakob Poeltl has agreed to re-sign with San Antonio on a three-year deal worth nearly $27 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. This agreement comes after the Spurs already brought back fellow center Drew Eubanks on a three-year, $5.3 million pact.
Poeltl's contract stands to age extremely well if he's primed to take over as the team's starting center. He doesn't have a ton of range outside the paint, but he screens, rim-runs, hits the glass and is just generally in the right spot on defense.
Whether Poeltl is cut out for a higher-volume role remains to be seen. He has never averaged 20 minutes per game for an entire season and can get into foul trouble when he's logging heavier minutes, as he showed during San Antonio's stint in the bubble. Reserve reps may prove to be his ceiling.
That's not a problem. The Spurs aren't into him for a ton of money, and as of now, they don't have significant dollars committed to any one big man after LaMarcus Aldridge's contract comes off the books next offseason. Poeltl should have an opportunity to take on a more prominent role in the rotation, but San Antonio will hardly be screwed if he's best suited in his current small-to-medium-bursts capacity.
Indiana Gets Super Lucky with Justin Holiday
Justin Holiday is coming back to Indiana on a three-year contract worth a little more than $18 million, according to ESPN's Zach Lowe.
Pacers fans may now exhale.
Re-signing Holiday was at once a necessity and not necessarily a given. Indiana was only working with non-Bird rights and couldn't go higher than $5.7 million in the first year before tapping into the bigger mid-level exception, but it's close enough to the luxury-tax line where doing so might've been seen as an issue—even with an entire season to duck it.
To that end, it isn't quite clear what route the Pacers went. A three-year deal using non-Bird rights would come in at just over $18 million—around $18,019,260, to be exact. But the Indianapolis Star's J. Michael was told the deal came in $18.8 million, which would necessitate MLE usage while toeing the razor-thin line separating the team from the luxury tax.
Salary-cap nerdom aside, the Holiday contract is excellent value for Indiana either way. His length allowed him to tussle with power forwards on defense last season, and he has a universally scalable offensive profile. His usage from last season should actually have more value under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, given the aggressive style he hopes to install.
More than 55 percent of Holiday's attempts came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 40.1 percent, and his 1.24 points per transition possession ranked in the 77th percentile and included ample looks from beyond the arc. Color me shocked he couldn't get more than three years and $18 millionish.
Detroit Is Making Expensive Gamble on Jerami Grant's Offensive Advancement
Jerami Grant is signing a three-year, $60 million contract with the Pistons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The Nuggets reportedly offered him the same deal to stay, but he wants a bigger role than they're able to promise, per T.J. McBride of the Rocky Mountain Hoops podcast.
This immediately goes down as the Pistons' best free-agency signing so far. (It looks even better if somehow folded into the Mason Plumlee deal as part of a Blake Griffin trade.) Grant isn't your typical $20-million-per-year player, but that's not an unreasonable price to pay for a 26-year-old wing who can switch across almost every position, runs the floor and has shot 39.1 percent from long distance over the past two seasons.
It'll be interesting to see what offensive role exactly Detroit promised him to gain the edge over Denver. He'll be overstretched if he's given license to create off the dribble. On the flip side, he's never enjoyed that level of agency, so maybe he has other levels.
The Pistons better hope so. They've not only committed quite a bit of money to him, but they're fairly light on functional shooting after moving Luke Kennard to the Clippers and signing-and-trading Christian Wood to the Rockets. They need one of the youngsters to go off—namely Killian Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya—or for Grant to plumb untapped shot creation to even out the losses.
Marcus Morris Sr. Didn't Come Cheap for the Clippers, and That's OK
Marcus Morris Sr. entered free agency as the Clippers' most important free agent, and they just paid him like it. He's coming back on a four-year, $64 million deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Hardly anyone should be taken aback by the value here—particularly after seeing Joe Harris get $75 million from the Nets over the same term. Morris' tenure with the Clippers didn't go off without a hitch, but he was very clearly their third-most important player by the end of the postseason.
That's technically not saying too much following a second-round collapse. But Los Angeles' implosion wasn't on Morris. He spent a bulk of the first round chasing around Luka Doncic—and doing a damned good job despite how well Dallas' wunderkind played—and buried 47.5 percent of his threes through 13 postseason games.
It comes as little surprise that, by the looks of things, the Clippers made him more of a priority than Montrezl Harrell, who just signed with the Lakers. Ivica Zubac had a stronghold on Los Angeles' traditional center minutes by the end of the bubble as Harrell struggled—he did need to leave Disney World to mourn the death of his grandmother—and Morris is better suited for small-ball 5 minutes as someone who stretches defenses beyond the three-point line and can more effectively switch at the other end.
Shelling out $16 million per year, on average, can still be construed as an overpay when the recipient is functionally a three-and-D specialist. That's not all Morris does. He has more to offer as a from-scratch scorer; he made 38.1 percent of his pull-up threes last season splitting time in New York and Los Angeles. If the Clippers look into moving Lou Williams, it's at least in part because they know he (and Luke Kennard) can ferry some of the half-court burden.
New York Does All Right with Alec Burks Signing
The Knicks peeled off a few stray bills from their towering stack of cap-space cash for Alec Burks, a 6'6" guard who put himself back on the map with a strong 2019-20 split between the Warriors and Sixers.
The agreement will pay Burks, who averaged 15.0 points per game and shot 38.5 percent from distance, $6 million in 2020-21, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. Whether New York intends to keep the 29-year-old around or flip him at the 2021 deadline is immaterial; this is a solid value play either way.
Burks isn't known for his defensive contributions, and several injuries have sapped what was once top-notch open-floor speed. Once a player who lived at the rim, Burks' shot distribution trended toward the perimeter last year. If he can sustain his accuracy rate, that won't be an issue. But if that 38.5 percent mark from deep was an outlier and he again fails to get to the cup, this grade is going to seem too high.
Chicago Fails to Turn Heads with Garrett Temple
The relatively young Bulls may have spent a little too much to assure Thaddeus Young will have a buddy at the adult's table.
Garrett Temple agreed on a one-year, $5 million deal, as first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, to (presumably) serve as a veteran mentor and all-around good dude in Chicago. The Bulls can't expect much in the way of production from a 34-year-old combo guard who shot 37.8 percent from the field in 62 games for the Brooklyn Nets last season, but leadership and professionalism are still worth something.
In fairness, Temple can also still defend a bit. He's almost always in the right place, and his steal numbers were elite until last season. Those skills will matter in light of the Bulls' surprising decision to ditch Kris Dunn by declining to make him a qualifying offer.
Still, it's hard to get past the notion that Chicago could have gotten much of what Temple will provide for the minimum.
Washington Prioritizes Present with Bertans Megadeal
Davis Bertans is returning to the Wizards on a five-year, $80 million deal that includes an early termination option after the fourth season, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Related: It pays to be a shooter in this market.
Coughing up $16 million per year for Bertans verges on vexing. He just turned 28, so this deal only takes him through his age-32 season. But this commitment is less about him and more about the Wizards.
Teams thinking about a rebuild don't shell out this much money to keep a win-now player who won't necessarily be eminently movable if they reverse course. Paying such a premium for Bertans infers a belief in the present—that Bradley Beal is around for the long haul, and that John Wall's trade request, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, won't complicate matters.
This isn't to say Washington is out of line. Shooting costs money, and Bertans is among the best snipers alive. He just hit 42.4 percent of his triples on a whopping 10.7 attempts per 36 minutes. Stephen Curry is the only other player in league history to match that efficiency and per-minute volume.
And it wasn't like Bertans made the record books finding nylon on gimme looks. He launched ultra-deep, quick-fire treys. His spacing is functional. That matters.
So too does the rest of his game. There isn't much to it. And the Wizards aren't the kind of postseason lock, let alone fringe championship hopeful, that can make this steep of an investment in their third-best player without thinking twice. The financial commitment is fine in the interim, but relative to how they fair next year, it has the potential to age poorly.
The Nets Paid a Premium for Joe Harris—Because He's Worth It
Joe Harris is more than a shooter, which is probably the best place to start when explaining how $75 million over four years, as first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, actually constitutes a fair deal for the Nets.
Yes, the 29-year-old is basically Hawkeye on the catch, as evidenced by his league-best 43.0 percent conversion rate on threes since 2016-17. That's the most accurate figure in that span by anyone with over 1,300 attempts. But in addition to league-best high-volume marksmanship, Harris can put the ball on the deck against frantic closeouts (and they're all frantic closeouts when he's teeing it up), make a good decision or finish at the rack.
Harris gets to the rim at above-average rates for his position and has finished at least 61.0 percent of his close-range looks in each of the last three years. That's also significantly above the median for wings. Add to that his non-pushover status on D, and Brooklyn is getting a starting-caliber wing with few real weaknesses and one elite strength.
The Nets, angling for a title, paid a premium. But they got a premium player.
The Rockets Make Shrewd Move by Landing Christian Wood
Apparently, the Pistons found one big they wouldn't pay: their own. Christian Wood is headed to the Rockets on a three-year, $41 million deal that's expected to be completed as a sign-and-trade with Detroit, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Few could have envisioned saying nice things about Houston at the start of free agency. And yet, here we are.
Acquiring Wood for what amounts to under $14 million annually is a fantastic gamble by a team presently without a concrete direction. The Rockets cannot decide whether they're win-now or rebuilding until they hash out the futures of the disgruntled James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Their predraft moves—most notably their decision to unload Robert Covington—suggest they're getting ready to start over, but their outlook is for the time being etched in sand.
Wood jibes with whatever timeline Houston settles on or is forced into. He's only 25, and this contract could feasibly turn into a trade asset if the team ever leans into a longer-term reset.
The depth of his scoring, meanwhile, pretty much makes him a universal roster fit. He is comfortable squaring up for standstill triples, fanning out behind the rainbow, running into quick catch-and-fire opportunities, slipping to the baskets off screens, beating closeouts off the dribble and even driving baseline, through traffic, creating his own looks at the rim. His minutes are best served coming at the 5, where he's a matchup nightmare, but he can give you reps alongside another big.
Pretty much everything that comes next for the Rockets will likely be steeped in disappointment. The Harden and Westbrook situations loom, and team governor Tilman Fertitta has yet to show a willingness to spend like this without strings attached (the Trevor Ariza salary dump). This specific move, though, qualifies as a home run.
Portland Continues Its Focus on Wing Defense with Derrick Jones Jr.
The Blazers have been short on wing and frontcourt defense since the Al-Farouq Aminu-Moe Harkless tandem disbanded following the 2018-19 season. Now, after swinging a deal for Robert Covington and inking Derrick Jones Jr. to a two-year, $19 million agreement, as first reported by The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Blazers have improved significantly on the original model.
Jones keyed the Miami Heat's highly effective zone defense last season, leveraging his length, quickness and supreme athleticism at the point of attack. He was a disruptive force regardless of how the Heat deployed him, which his block and steal numbers reflect. The 6'6" forward ranked in the 87th percentile in steal rate last season, and lest we undersell his bounce, he's been in or above the 91st percentile in block rate at his position in all four years of his career.
It's rare for an impactful 23-year-old to hit unrestricted free agency, and you would have thought Jones was in line for much more than a two-year deal at the MLE. Even with a player option on the second year, as The Athletic's David Aldridge reported, this is a steal of a signing for Portland.
Jones is going to run amok in transition, and he and Covington are on the short list of the most intimidating defensive forward combos in the league.
Lakers Get Great Value, but Questionable Fit in Montrezl Harrell
Montrezl Harrell is moving across the hall. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is signing a two-year, $19 million deal with the Lakers, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. His second season is a player option.
Poaching Harrell from the Clippers for only the mid-level exception is great value in a vacuum. He doesn't space the floor, but he's a versatile finisher in his own right. He will lay down the boomstick rolling off screens, can put the ball on the floor in open spaces and has a semblance of a post game. The Lakers' opportunism in transition should serve him well, and on most nights, they won't field anyone with a fiercer motor.
Completely celebrating this deal mandates you ignore the prospective wonky fit. Harrell will shrink the floor if the plan is to play him beside Anthony Davis. Then again, the Lakers just did that with Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, and it held up.
Looking at Harrell strictly as a backup center renders this a rosier decision. He is a demonstrative offensive upgrade over Howard and McGee, and the Lakers aren't paying him so much money they'll feel obligated to have him on the floor during crunch time, when Davis-at-center arrangements seem to make most sense.
Anyone entirely against this is probably more rankled by what Los Angeles could have done. That's fair. The MLE was its best spending tool. Parlaying that money into Harrell rather than a big who can shoot threes or another wing is questionable. But the overarching value, coupled with the fact that the Lakers just stole a Clippers rotation player, makes the move justifiable.
Minnesota Makes Questionable Decision with Malik Beasley
Malik Beasley is returning to the Timberwolves on a four-year, $60 million deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. That is...quite the price tag.
Wings under 25 who can stroke threes and move on defense command premiums. That's a given. And Beasley averaged 20.7 points while drilling 42.6 percent of his triples through 14 games in Minnesota last season. His offensive fit remains divine even after the acquisitions of Anthony Edwards and Ricky Rubio. He is a battled-tested off-ball threat, dating back to his time with the Nuggets.
Still, around $15 million per year is a lot for someone who might be a one-position player. The Timberwolves can certainly get away with using Beasley as the 3, but he's not incredibly long and doesn't have the ready-made strength to hold up against power wings.
Absent any leverage on his part, it's tough to reconcile the final number. The Knicks are the only team at this writing who can afford to go this high. Maybe sign-and-trade interest landed around this number, in which case the Timberwolves know they can move him later. Overall, though, this feels like a fairly appreciable overpay until Beasley proves he can hang defensively in lineups that feature two of Edwards, Rubio and D'Angelo Russell.
Dallas Makes a Subtly Good Move in Re-Signing Trey Burke
Trey Burke's 14-game stint (playoffs and regular season) with Dallas at Disney World was enough to earn him another contract. He's re-signing with the Mavericks on a three-year, $10 million deal, according to the New York Times' Marc Stein.
They are giving Burke quite the vote of confidence. This isn't a huge number, but they couldn't use Bird rights to re-sign him, so this eats into their mid-level exception. That's not an insignificant decision after such a small sample.
Perhaps it helps that this was their second go-round with Burke, the first coming in 2016-17. Or maybe he was just that convincing. He averaged 12.0 points and 3.8 assists while swishing 43.2 percent of his threes through eight regular-season appearances in the bubble, admirably filling the reserve spark-plug role amid the absence of the injured Jalen Brunson.
Burke likely sealed this return during the playoffs. He had three games in which he scored 15 or more points and converted 47.1 percent of his threes during the Clippers series. The Mavericks had him in the starting lineup by the end of their first-round set.
Running it back at this number seems fair. If anything, it tilts toward team-friendly. Burke isn't the answer to the Mavs' shot-creation problems behind Luka Doncic, but he's the best secondary from-scratch option they have as of now.
The Sixers Find Cheap Joel Embiid Insurance with Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is leaving the reigning champs to sign with the Sixers on a one-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. He will be getting the veteran's minimum, per ESPN's Bobby Marks.
It turns out you don't need to offer nine-figure contracts to adequately fill the minutes behind Joel Embiid. Who knew?
*Puts on serious face*
Howard is coming off a resurgent season with the Lakers, in which he binged on putbacks, crashed the glass and didn't lag on defense because he wasn't getting the ball on offense. He proved less valuable in the playoffs against more mobile frontcourts, but he successfully showed he can succeed as an accessory. Let's just hope that doesn't change in a Sixers locker that has been, shall we say, far from a billboard of synergy in recent years.
Philly's offense might be ready-made to give him actual post touches, depending on how it continues to use Embiid. That's inconsequential. Howard isn't a difference-maker on the block anymore. The Sixers would do well to work in more pick-and-rolls. That has yet to be a staple in the Embiid-Ben Simmons era, but they have the requisite shooting around the 1 and 5 spots now to make it happen.
As an aside, we need the backstory on what happened with Dwight's return to Los Angeles that wasn't. He deleted a tweet announcing it only to sign with a Sixers team that, theoretically, gave him less money but perhaps the promise of more playing time? Shrugs.
Blazers Retain Rodney Hood and Suddenly Have a Sufficient Number of Wings
Rodney Hood is putting pen to paper on a two-year, $21 million to stay with the Blazers, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The final season is a team option.
That Hood entered free agency at all was a slight surprise. His player option would've paid him just $6 million, but he suffered a torn left Achilles in December. This didn't seem like the market to test coming off such a major injury.
His price point is even more of surprise. The Blazers didn't need to use their mid-level exception to keep him, and this can be considered a one-year deal, but it's a sizable season-over-season increase for someone working his way back from an injury that has torpedoed careers.
To Hood's credit, he was having a fine season before he went down, averaging 11.0 points while canning 49.3 percent of his threes. He adds another layer of shot creation at his peak but has shown he can feast on standstill looks. More than one-quarter of his attempts last season came as catch-and-fire triples, of which he converted 55.3 percent.
In the event Hood remains healthy, the Blazers have a wing rotation that stretches more than two capable players deep for the first time in what feels like forever. Along with Robert Covington and Gary Trent Jr., Hood gives them three viable options. Carmelo Anthony's return would arm them with a fourth.
This probably isn't the Blazers' endgame, but they could have also given Hood an annual raise knowing he can be used as a walking trade exception. He should have an implicit no-trade clause, since he was re-signed using Bird rights, but his 2020-21 cap hit will make for a nice salary-matching anchor should Portland broker a move that he approves.
Atlanta's Signing of Danilo Gallinari Steeped in Risk and Reward
Danilo Gallinari is joining the Hawks on a three-year, $61.5 million deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. His destination comes as little surprise given Atlanta and New York were the only two teams who entered Friday with max cap space.
Signing Gallinari fits with the Hawks' attempts to enter the Eastern Conference playoff picture and what they need most to do it: another consistent shot creator. He doesn't do much to beef up their playmaking behind Trae Young, but he should allow Atlanta's superstar to move around off the ball a teensy-bit more.
Mostly, though, Gallinari assures the Hawks of spacing and a stopgap. No team shot a lower percentage from three last season, and their offensive rating placed in the 3rd percentile whenever Young was off the floor. Gallinari gives them a line to substantially improving both marks, with the bandwidth to drum up their volume at the charity stripe to boot.
What this signing says about John Collins' future is less certain. Gallinari is best deployed at the 4. The Hawks are assuming a good amount of risk giving him $20 million-plus per year on average at the age of 32 and given his injury history. This investment is a lot harder to spin if they intend predominantly to use him at small forward. For now, their grade mostly reflects the downside attached to Gallinari in a vacuum. Figuring out the lineup intricacies is a job for later.
Clippers Preserve Some Frontcourt Depth by Re-Signing Patrick Patterson
Patrick Patterson will return to the Clippers for a second season after agreeing to a one-year deal, according ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Expect him to fetch no more than the veteran's minimum.
Keeping Patterson won't make headlines but is a borderline necessity under the circumstances. The Clippers have three key players currently wandering around the open market: JaMychal Green, Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris Sr. Chances are they'll keep at least two of them, if not all of them, but bringing back Patterson safegaurds them against absolute disaster. Mfiondu Kabengele and Ivica Zubac are the only other frontline options under contract if you exclude Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Granted, the Clippers don't want to be in a position where they're actually counting on Patterson. The idea of him has long been better than his productivity. He drilled 39 percent of his threes last season but is no longer as matchup-proof on defense.
Derrick Favors Is Back in Utah, and It Feels so Right
Derrick Favors' departure from the Jazz didn't last long. He's returning to Utah on a three-year, $27 million deal, with a player option on the final season, according to The Athletic's Tony Jones.
Spending what amounts to most of the mid-level exception on a backup center wouldn't sit right in every situation. Utah, in theory, should be one of them. It has Rudy Gobert to sponge up 30 to 35 minutes a night at the 5.
But backup center was a sore spot all last season. Ed Davis, now of the Knicks, didn't pan out, and Tony Bradley wasn't ready. The Jazz's defense cratered without Gobert as a result; opponents scored 8.2 points per 100 possessions more while shooting a preposterously high 65.7 percent at the rim when he was on the bench.
Favors completely neutralizes those minutes. He is an elite rebounder and dependable rim protector, the type of big who can steady an entire defense as the starter. His job gets even easier as a backup, and he has enough experience playing beside Gobert that Utah can steal dual-big minutes when matchups permit it.
The Jazz only need to be concerned with Favors' health. Lower back issues hindered his availability and, at times, mobility in New Orleans last season. But he's still on the right side of 30 and won't be burdened with too much responsibility. And when he was healthy, he had a hugely positive impact on the Pelicans' interior defense. This reunion is a smart one.
Utah Taking a Semi-Sizable Risk with Clarkson Contract
Jordan Clarkson is re-upping with the Jazz on a four-year, $52 million deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. That is...a great deal of money to invest in a sixth man.
Utah has just cause for going this high. Clarkson injected life into an otherwise comatose bench after coming over in a trade from Cleveland. Through 42 appearances with the Jazz, he put up 15.6 points while downing 54.7 percent of his twos and 39.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. His efficiency also held up during the playoffs in the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic. He averaged 16.7 points in Utah's seven postseason tilts on 58.3 shooting inside the arc.
This number still feels a touch high in the aggregate. It is noticeably more than the non-taxpayer's mid-level at a time when few, if any teams, have the flexibility to offer him more. The Jazz need reliable scorers to continue optimizing Donovan Mitchell, but Clarkson's off-the-bounce creation is erratic, and he doesn't generate a ton of trips to the free-throw line.
Maybe Utah envisions him shouldering more of the backup point guard duties. Clarkson isn't a dependable table-setter, but the Jazz outscored opponents by 18.4 points per 100 possessions in the sparse time he spent as the de facto floor general. If he can't be saddled with more of those reps or increase the pressure he puts on the rim in the half-court, this deal feels like it has a ceiling of net neutral.
Sacramento Wisely Maxes out De'Aaron Fox
De'Aaron Fox has agreed to a five-year, $163 million extension with the Kings, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. His max scale is based off a $112.4 million projected salary cap in 2021-22, when his deal kicks in, and the value could change depending on how much revenue the league generates in the upcoming season.
Sacramento had no decision to make here. Maxing out Fox was the only move. The Kings don't project to be a cap-space team in the 2021 offseason, and more than that, he is, without question, the polestar around which they'll build.
Certain people outside Sacramento might see this as an overpay. Fox isn't yet a consensus top-30 player. But this is akin to the Suns extending Devin Booker before he reached that level. It is an investment on what yet's to come, and a worthwhile one at that.
Fox is the vessel through which the Kings run their offense. They don't have someone who puts consistent pressure on the rim without him—only five players averaged more drives per game last season—and his probing is mission critical to the team's outside shooting.
While a left ankle injury hobbled Fox to start the year, he was all the way back long before the hiatus. From Jan. 1 onward, he averaged 23.0 points and 6.9 assists while nailing 54.2 percent of his twos.
Shooting remains his swing skill. He hit only 29.2 percent of his threes after converting 37.1 percent in 2018-19 and wasn't especially efficient on catch-and-shoot triples (33.3 percent). Sacramento needs more bankable shooting from him at the charity stripe as well (70.5 percent), given how many trips he now generates.
Few max rookie extensions are without risks. Fox's is no exception. The Kings must also reconcile the $72.9 million combined they currently owe him, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield in 2021-22—plus whatever they might possibly pay to keep Bogdan Bogdanovic now (restricted). But a questionable cap sheet only means the opportunity cost of signing Fox now is lower. Sacramento made the right call.
Pistons Make Worthwhile Gamble with Josh Jackson
Josh Jackson is joining the Pistons on a two-year deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The exact terms of his contract aren't yet known, but similar to the Jahlil Okafor agreement, Detroit will in no way need to break the bank.
Failing a smack-you-in-the-face price point, there's nothing to dislike about this marriage. The Pistons need capable wings even after signing Jerami Grant, and Jackson, while still a project, made strides at both ends last season.
Most of his bright spots came on the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies' G League affiliate, with whom he averaged over 20 points and four assists per game while splashing in 38.2 percent of his threes. That shooting didn't carry over to the parent club—he canned just 31.9 percent of his triples at the NBA level—but he looked more under control when working off the dribble and, equally if not more paramount, was far more disciplined on the defensive end, including off the ball.
The Pistons Sign Jahlil Okafor for Reasons We Can't Quite Explain
Another free-agent big man is off the board, and he's headed to...the Pistons!
Jahlil Okafor has agreed to a two-year deal with Detroit, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. We don't yet have the net-value details, but we don't really need them. Okafor won't be making a whole lot.
That doesn't make this move any less of a head-scratcher. The Pistons have Blake Griffin, drafted Isaiah Stewart, traded for Dewayne Dedmon and already locked up Mason Plumlee. They're apparently loading up on all the non-shooting bigs while Christian Wood remains on the market, which makes total sense*.
The sheer low-risk nature of signing Okafor spares Detroit from the absolute lowest grade. He shouldn't earn enough money or command enough minutes to materially impact what the team is doing. But it says a whole lot when that's the silver lining.
(*It makes zero sense.)
San Antonio Makes Nice Value Play with Eubanks
Drew Eubanks will be sticking with the Spurs on a three-year deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski. The full value of the contract is worth just under $5.3 million, per HoopsHype's Michael Scotto.
This is a really shrewd signing by San Antonio. Its center depth isn't the greatest even if Jakob Poeltl (restricted) stays put, and it becomes flimsier if a LaMarcus Aldridge trade is ever on the table.
Eubanks flashed a lot of upside after assuming an expanded role in the bubble. Most notably, he moves his feet well enough on the defensive end and shoots a high enough clip from the foul line to be in late-game lineups.
Bagging someone who may be more than just a viable backup center for under $2 million annually is a straight-up bargain.
Detroit Has a "Pistons WYD?" Moment
Mason Plumlee is inking a three-year, $25 million deal with Detroit, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. We're still awaiting word whether the Pistons made this move on purpose.
Look, Plumlee is a quality big man. He hits the glass on both sides of the floor, can finish strongly on rolls to the basket and remains an underrated passer. But the Pistons have Blake Griffin, just traded for Dewayne Dedmon, drafted Isaiah Stewart and retain the ability to re-sign Christian Wood, a combo big who is waaay better than Plumlee.
Adding another center isn't absurd. It also shouldn't be costing more than $8 million per year on average. And if it does, he should be more matchup-proof on defense. (To be clear: Good on Plumlee for getting his money.) It'd be different if the Pistons view him as their starting center. That's problematic in itself if they do.
A 30-year-old Plumlee doesn't fit the tenor of a rebuilding squad with veteran bigs already in place, and this signing will look much worse if it contributes in any way to Christian Wood landing somewhere else. The latter scenario remains to be seen, but even if you remove that from the equation, Detroit's line of thinking here makes little sense unless it's participating in some sort of sign-a-Plumlee-or-Zeller bingo tournament on the side.
Lakers Hit Home Run with Wes Matthews Signing
Wesley Matthews is heading to the Lakers on a one-year, $3.6 million deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. This is a huge win for a team that just traded away Danny Green (and a first-rounder) to get Dennis Schroder.
Starting-caliber wings who knock down threes and assume some of the tougher perimeter covers don't typically run bi-annual-exception money. The value here is off the charts. Matthews will inexplicably freelance in the half-court far more than Green, but he reinforced his defensive value while matching up with Jimmy Butler as a member of the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.
Though landing Matthews definitely makes the Schroder trade easier to celebrate—people continue to underestimate how important a three-and-D wing like Green remains, wild shooting swings and all—the Lakers still need another stopper-type on the perimeter at this writing.
They currently forecast to have Matthews, a likely re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James as their primary wing defenders. That's a little too sparse, even if Avery Bradley sticks around.
The Heat Made an Interesting Meyers Leonard Decision
Meyers Leonard will be sticking with the Heat on a two-year, $20 million contract, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The latter season will be a team option, per the Associate Press' Tim Reynolds.
Treating this as a one-year deal definitely improves the optics, but a level of WTF-ness still lingers. Leonard hit more than 41 percent of his treys while starting in all except two of his 51 regular-season appearances, but he barely played during Miami's push to the Finals.
Shifting circumstances dictated some of his absence. He suffered a sprained left ankle in early February, and by the time he returned, when the NBA began its Disney World restart, the Heat had traded for Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala and favored playing more one-big lineups.
Bringing back Leonard could signal Miami doesn't plan to stick with that model all year. And again: The team hasn't jeopardized any of its 2021 spending power with this deal.
It is nevertheless bizarre to spend so much on someone who doesn't project to have a consistent role and at the very least probably becomes less of a factor in the postseason. This stands to change if the Heat move Kelly Olynyk and don't re-sign Crowder or Derrick Jones Jr., but for now, it's mostly curious.
Miami Juggles the Present and Future with Dragic's Return
Goran Dragic cares not for your league sources. He announced his return to the Heat on Twitter.
Miami is signing him to a two-year, $37.4 million deal, with a team option on the second season, according to Shams Charania of the The Athletic and Stadium. This move, right down the contract structure, felt inevitable, but that doesn't render it any less of a win.
Dragic was excellent during the regular season and turned it up a notch during the playoffs, averaging 19.1 points while dropping in 50.9 percent of his two-pointers. Paying him carries some risk going into his age-34 campaign, given his injury history and that he's coming off a left plantar fascia issue, but the Heat exited the Finals needing another shot creator even when factoring in Dragic's likely return. Keeping him around was a must without a viable contingency.
That this is a one-plus-one with a team option makes it a no-brainer from Miami's perspective. It retains the chance to maximize 2021 cap flexibility but can also bring back Dragic should Giannis Antetokounmpo and other prospective free agents appear to be off limits.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Cleaning the Glass, and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.