Welcome to July, and welcome to the NBA’s free-agency moratorium period. This is when NBA players can negotiate contracts with suitor teams, though no official agreements can be reached until July 6. But verbal agreements are common, and we’ll likely get a few tonight. Those agreements are almost always iron-clad, unless your name is DeAndre Jordan.
Like so many other NBA offseasons, this one looks to be wild. Last year the salary cap exploded by $24.1 million, creating room for nearly every team to go after max-contract free agents, including the team that signed the crown jewel of last year’s class: the Golden State Warriors. This year, it’s the complete opposite. The cap rose by just $5 million, less than expected, meaning that many teams won’t have the same ability to splurge. We likely won’t see four-year, $64 million deals tossed around like candy just minutes into free agency like we did last year. But based on the rumor mill so far, that cap restriction hasn’t suppressed much activity. If anything, teams appear happy to scramble even more to clear the space for the guys they want. Just look at how the Rockets stretched the limits of the CBA to fit Chris Paul.
And there are plenty of big names worth scrambling for. Gordon Hayward opted out of the last year of his Jazz contract on Thursday, and has meetings set with Miami, Boston, and Utah (in that order). Though Blake Griffin was rumored to be seriously considering the Suns earlier this week, he is reportedly set to return to L.A. on a five-year, $173 million deal to fulfill his Point Blake destiny. The Hawks appear hesitant to throw a blank check Paul Millsap’s way, and so it is thought that he’ll see what other offers he can get. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler is in the process of recruiting Kyle Lowry to Butler’s new home in Minnesota, something the Wolves have space for now after trading Ricky Rubio to Utah on Friday.
Plenty of other free agents could also be on the move. The Pelicans view retaining Jrue Holiday as a top priority, but at what price? Rudy Gay is in Austin taking meetings, and the Thunder, who reportedly are interested in him, seem like a perfect fit. There are whispers that Andre Iguodala may not return to the Warriors this season — he would have plenty of suitors should he choose to leave. J.J. Redick could re-sign with the Clippers or find a home with the Sixers or Nets. Serge Ibaka’s decision with the Raptors could hinge on what Lowry does. And it appears that the Wizards will do everything they can to keep Otto Porter Jr., a restricted free agent.
Where will the dominoes fall? We have you covered for the early hours of the NBA’s free-agency period right here. Check back for updates. — Riley McAtee
Steph finally gets his due
McAtee: The two-time MVP is reportedly getting a five-year supermax deal worth $201 million. Steph has easily been the most underpaid player in the league since he signed a four-year, $44 million deal in October 2012. That was when Steph was still Glass Ankles Steph, not Destroyer of Worlds Steph, and at the time the four-year deal provided reasonable security for a player with his injury concerns. But once he became the player we know today, that contract became a gross underpayment.
Now that Curry has waited it out, he’ll be rewarded with a deal worth nearly five times as much. Now that’s … probably still a gross underpayment. Steph may have seen his role reduced this year with Kevin Durant folded into the Warriors offense, but he’s still one of the best five players in basketball. Without a salary cap or max contract restrictions, there’s almost no doubt the Warriors — or some other squad — would pay him much, much more. But a raise is a raise, and Steph can celebrate this one.
Paul George is headed to Oklahoma City
McAtee: Just like we all predicted! OK, so this isn’t technically a free-agency signing, but it has massive implications across the league. George is the best player Russell Westbrook will have to ball with since … uh … Kevin Durant. For more on this blockbuster deal, read Paolo Uggetti and Chris Ryan and Kevin O’Connor.
J.J. set to leave L.A.
Paolo Uggetti: J.J. Redick is leaving the Clippers. That much we know for sure. But though a report Friday stated Redick was hoping to reunite with his former point guard Chris Paul on a contending Houston Rockets team, it appears that his market may be a far more middling group. On ESPN’s free-agency special, Wojnarowski reported that the teams who were suitors for the knockdown shooter were the Sixers, Wolves, and Nets.
That’s quite an eclectic group. If Redick wants to win right away, the Wolves, with Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague now in tow, would be the obvious choice. The Nets, meanwhile, would allow him to earn a lot of money while being in a large market with no expectations. On the Sixers, Redick would become the savvy veteran among a group of young and explosive players, the perfect mentor to pair with their already-athletic lineup The Sixers would also reportedly offer the most money ($20 million).
The 33-year-old just might make the Process a little bit older.
Jeff Teague appears poised to join Minnesota
McAtee: The NBA’s anti-tampering rules, which require that teams wait until July 1 before contacting players or negotiating contracts, have always been somewhat loosely enforced, and the NBA’s practice is to wait until a team files a complaint before investigating, and then fines or suspensions may follow. But in recent years, it seems like more and more teams get deals in place before the calendar turns. This could be because players — who aren’t bound to the same tampering restrictions — do more recruiting of free agents themselves than ever, but the net result is the same: It feels like free agency starts earlier and earlier every year.
When Minnesota traded Ricky Rubio to the Utah Jazz on Friday, it stood to reason that they had a replacement lined up. There was speculation that player could be Kyle Lowry, after reports that Jimmy Butler was recruiting him, but that man now appears to be Jeff Teague.
Teague will reportedly sign a three-year, $57 million deal to become a Timberwolf next season. This is a slightly-better-than-lateral move for the Wolves. Teague isn’t quite the passer that Rubio is, but he’s a better scorer and shooter, and he turns the ball over at a lower clip. His 35.7 percent shooting from 3 (just a hair below league average) will help Minnesota’s spacing, giving Butler room to cut to the basket and Karl-Anthony Towns the ability to work in the post. And with Rubio and Kris Dunn on their ways out of Minnesota, Teague will have plenty of minutes in the top spot. A lineup of Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Butler, Gorgui Dieng, and Towns looks pretty good in the Twin Cities.
The Warriors nab a discount
Uggetti: Shaun Livingston will always be an underrated player, but there is also no doubt that he benefits from being in a perfect situation and a perfect system in Golden State. It appears Livingston might know that as well as anyone, as he decided to quickly re-sign with the defending champs for three years and $24 million, per ESPN. It’s a bargain for the Warriors, especially since the last year appears to be only partially guaranteed. Golden State has benefited from Livingston’s most efficient years — and will continue to do so — and the deal gives Livingston the best shot at more rings.
But perhaps the more important macro analysis is the culture the Warriors have been able to establish. Livingston would never take that pay cut anywhere else, and the same could be true of Andre Iguodala. Unless the Warriors really don’t want to bring back Iggy, it would not be surprising to see him take less to stay with the champs. Money can only talk so loudly.
The Warriors have an Andre Iguodala backup plan
McAtee: And it’s Rudy Gay. Gay, an iso scorer who has a reputation for slowing ball movement, doesn’t seem like a fit for the Warriors offense, but he hasn’t been bad when he isn’t a first or second option. His best stretch of basketball arguably came immediately after he was traded to Sacramento during the 2013–14 season. In 55 games with the Kings that year, he was the most efficient he’s been since he nabbed a career-high effective field goal percentage in 2007–08.
That offseason, the Kings moved on from Isaiah Thomas, and Gay became the team’s de facto second option after DeMarcus Cousins. If anyone can take Gay and get the most out of him, it’s the team that lives and breathes by a motion offense and has scorers in Curry, Durant, and Klay Thompson to take scoring pressure off of Gay.
By the way — one of Iguodala’s reported landing places is Sacramento. The Kings pursued him in 2013, offering a $52 million contract before pulling the offer, which is when Iguodala found a sign-and-trade that sent him to the Warriors for $48 million. If Iguodala goes to Sacramento and Gay goes to Golden State, it would be a straight swap of the two players. This league!
The Spurs may be out of the free-agency sweepstakes
McAtee: Patty Mills has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal to stay with San Antonio. That’s great value for the Spurs and a nice raise for Mills, who wanted to stay in San Antonio. It also could take the team out of the running for any high-profile free agents.
The Spurs were previously reported to be offering around $9 million annually to restricted free agent Jonathon Simmons, another piece of their core the team is smart to retain (though Simmons is talking to other teams — his return is not guaranteed). Though there are always ways to play around with the cap — the Spurs could wait before exercising their Bird Rights to sign Mills, thus having only Mills’s $6.8 million cap hold to work around before his new deal kicks in — it looks like this team may be content to run it back.
And that’s not a bad option! The Spurs were up 23 points on the Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals before Kawhi Leonard went down with an injury. Does this team have enough firepower to compete with Golden State? We really don’t know yet.
Nene Hilario to re-sign with the Rockets
McAtee: After trading Patrick Beverley and a host of other players for Chris Paul, retaining a productive piece in Nene is a win for the Rockets. He is reportedly set to sign a four-year, $15 million deal to remain in Houston.
This outcome was never in too much doubt, as Nene had previously stated how much he wanted to remain in Houston. He was a productive member coming off the team’s bench, and was a key piece in their playoff push (at least, the part that came before the collapse). He dominated in Game 4 against Oklahoma City, scoring 28 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. The reported deal would be a decent raise for the 15-year veteran, as he made just shy of $3 million this past year. But as Zach Lowe reports, this deal would keep the Rockets’ midlevel and biannual exceptions in place, allowing them to add more pieces around Paul and James Harden should they choose to.