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Strange Signings From the Later Days of NBA Free Agency

Kelly Olynyk is taking his talents to South Beach, Rudy Gay will try to reinvent himself in San Antonio, and Vince Carter will head to Sactown

(Getty Images/Ringer Illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer Illustration)

We are in the final days of free agency, when the big names, medium-size names, and smallest (yet still significant) names are all coming off the board, and the available cap space begins to dry up. Now, teams that have remained inactive become desperate in their pursuit of a free-agent addition — any addition.

Franchises are going with their backup backup plans, leading to some signings that make us react with the now-infamous Nick Young face. Here are some of the most "Huh? Huh"–worthy deals of the past 24 hours.

Miami signs Kelly Olynyk to a $50 million deal

The Heat looked to have a clear plan once they failed to get Gordon Hayward to pick Miami over Salt Lake City and Boston (likely the first time someone has made that choice): retain Dion Waiters and James Johnson, and try to add another piece without draining their future cap space. The Heat were linked to Rudy Gay, who would have made some sense as another possible go-to scorer. But instead, Miami handed a four-year deal to Kelly Olynyk, who is getting paid mostly for his surprising Game 7 performance against the Wizards in last season’s playoffs.

Don’t get me wrong — Olynyk is a nice bench player, he’s only 26, and he can shoot and stretch the floor. But is he worth roughly the same amount of money (plus a player option in his final year!) that Dion Waiters is getting? It feels blasphemous to say that a player won’t fit into the Heat’s culture given how Erik Spoelstra has taken all kinds of players and made things work, but I’m curious to see just how Olynyk jells in this new environment. Regardless, this feels like an overpay for a player who will likely regress from his high point during the playoffs, especially if he can’t fit in with Hassan Whiteside in the frontcourt. If Olynyk regresses, his contract will be hard to swallow if Miami has championship dreams down the road. To wit: They have already committed $110 million for 2019–20, and that’s without accounting for Justise Winslow’s potential future contract.

Let’s just hope Riley lets Olynyk keep the man bun.

Sacramento signs Vince Carter to an $8 million deal

The Kings are officially Memphis East. After signing Zach Randolph to a two-year, $24 million deal, they offered Vince Carter a deal that was way too good for him to pass up. Carter is going to get $8 million next season as a 40-year-old playing veteran minutes on a bad team. Honestly, good for him.

Here’s the deal: Sacramento has a ton of young, potentially great players who need development and mentorship. That’s where George Hill, Randolph, and Carter come in. But there should be questions about the team’s goals. Are they trying to use the older guys only as leaders with very limited minutes, or are they hoping they can compete while the younger players develop? News flash to Vivek and Vlade: You’re not making the playoffs in the West. So it likely falls on coach Dave Joerger to ensure that De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, etc., are all getting playing time ahead of their older peers. The Kings are free to use cap space on aging veterans. It isn’t a bad move, even if this signing came out of left field. What they can’t do is stunt development in place of name recognition.

New York offers Tim Hardaway Jr. a $71 million offer sheet

There is so much to unpack in this ridiculous deal that we had Rodger Sherman take a deep dive on the sheer absurdity of it. Here are the CliffsNotes: Atlanta was planning to offer Hardaway around $45 million. Instead, the Knicks, being the Knicks, ponied up more than $70 million — yes, that’s seven-ty million U.S. dollars — for a Hardaway offer sheet that included a 15 percent trade kicker. This is all made worse by the fact that the Knicks already had THJ on their roster just a few years ago!

I would have personally funded my travel to Atlanta to be in the room and see the faces of Travis Schlenk and the rest of the Hawks’ front office once they saw the offer sheet. It was an incredible act of Knicksery that left us all aghast, and all of Knicks Twitter in a very real, very depressed state of resignation. I saw many consider forfeiting their fanhood once and for all. Remember Phil Jackson?

San Antonio signs Rudy Gay to a $17 million deal

As surprising as this deal was, it does have the potential to work out for both parties. Gay gets a short deal during which he can prove he’s healthy again, while the Spurs add another offensively minded player who can help, even if only slightly, to take the load off Kawhi Leonard if Gregg Popovich can mold Gay to their system. Here’s a possible bright spot: Gay had his second-highest shooting percentage from beyond the arc last year. Two years, $17.2 million on a team that can boost your value if you take advantage of it is a perfect deal for Gay and a low-risk gamble for the Spurs.

A question that lingered during this offseason — as the Thunder added Paul George and the Rockets brought in Chris Paul — was what the Spurs’ move to prepare for the Warriors would be. Signing Gay certainly isn’t a game-changing deal, especially when San Antonio had its sights on unloading LaMarcus Aldridge’s ludicrous contract to try to sign George or CP3. But it is a sign that San Antonio may be comfortable with its current core and identity. After all, had they been healthy through the playoffs, they may have given the Warriors a run in the conference finals. Moving forward, San Antonio will be just as good, if not better, than they were at full strength last season.

Props to Olynyk, Hardaway, Vince, and Rudy Gay. There is no shame in getting a team to pay up for you, even if your current résumé is undeserving of said deal. Whether it’s on the basis of one incredible performance in a playoff game that may be the peak of your career, the belief that this year you will develop that 3-point shot, or the benefit of the doubt that you’re not completely washed up, keep getting the checks the best way you know how.