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NBA Free-Agency Watch: Derrick Favors and Nerlens Noel Start a Run on Bargain Bigs

All of the agreements from Day 2—seriously, it’s only the second day—of 2018 free agency in the NBA

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

It’s only Day 2 of free agency, but most of the big names are already off the market. Now comes the hard work, for the Lakers and everyone else. There are no billboards beckoning any of the guys left on teams’ lists, but a lot of good, important players are still to be had. Here’s the latest:

L.A.’s Other Team Jumps Into the Free-Agent Fray

Avery Bradley is reportedly re-signing with the Clippers on a two-year, $25 million deal. (Before we get into what that means for L.A., just know this: It’s 2018, and Bradley is making more than DeMarcus Cousins.) The 27-year-old never had the chance to produce for the Clippers after getting dealt there before last season’s trade deadline; a season-ending sports hernia limited him to six games with the team. Now that he’s back, the NBA’s strangest smorgasboard of a backcourt has yet another option.

Austin Rivers is gone, but guards Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell, and Tyrone Wallace remain, with Milos Teodosic on a partially guaranteed contract. Oh, and the Clippers just added two guards with potential, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson, in the lottery of the 2018 NBA draft. “Crowded” isn’t quite a strong enough word for the backcourt anymore, but Bradley does add defense and stability. The franchise has every reason to want to stock up—all of last season, the entire guard rotation played musical chairs with injuries (no one ever wins that version of the game). If nothing else, Bradley is an ideal mentor for the rookie class. Haley O’Shaughnessy

Boogie and Rondo Head West

DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, the Pelicans’ top free agents, have split off to join a giant in NorCal and a sleeping giant in SoCal. Julius Randle, a former Laker and Kentucky product, heads to New Orleans to try to fill the vacant frontcourt spot alongside Anthony Davis after agreeing to a one-plus-one deal. Here are our takes on the deals:

Nerlens Is Free

Prep those media-room hot dogs in OKC. Nerlens Noel has reportedly agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Thunder for the veteran’s minimum, with a player option for the second year.

Noel has lost as much free-agent money as any player in recent history. The former sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft reportedly turned down a four-year, $70 million deal last year. Needless to say it backfired. He spent all of last season languishing on the Dallas Mavericks bench as Rick Carlisle tried to dish out some tough love. Between that and a thumb injury, he played in only 30 games last season. Over the past three seasons, he has appeared in a total of 81 games. But Noel is finally getting another shot, and even if the money isn’t there, the fit is.

Noel can slide in as a perfect backup center to Steven Adams, giving the Thunder another rim-running option to run the pick-and-roll. More importantly, the former Sixer’s length, athleticism, and presumed ability to defend multiple positions should only bolster what should already be a stout Thunder defense. But even though it’s a minimum deal, it will cost OKC. The Thunder are already deep into the luxury tax after re-signing Paul George and Jerami Grant, meaning Noel’s $1.7 million will actually cost them $10 million after taxes. All told, the Thunder are in line for a total payroll in the ballpark of $300 million, including taxes — unless they offload some salary. In addition to Noel and Grant, the Thunder already have Carmelo Anthony, Patrick Patterson, and Dakari Johnson in the frontcourt. Melo, who will make $27.9 million next season, is an obvious candidate for a buyout. But Patterson’s debut season in OKC didn’t go so smoothly, either. Remember when the Thunder didn’t want to pay all three of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook? What an innocent time that was.  — Paolo Uggetti

Derrick Favors Is Back in Utah

The Jazz are maintaining the status quo in the immediate future. Utah has reportedly agreed to re-sign big man Derrick Favors to a two-year, $36 million deal. It’s quite a shift from where they were about five months ago, when Favors was rumored to be on the block ahead of the February trade deadline. But Favors stuck around and made it work alongside center Rudy Gobert, helping Utah put together a scorching second half of the season. Favors himself averaged slightly fewer points and rebounds per game, but posted more efficient scoring numbers (59.5 percent field goal shooting after the All-Star break).

Favors’s annual salary will be a hefty $18 million, but it allows the Jazz to keep their options open. They can continue to develop their current core, use Favors as trade fodder, or wait for his contract to come off the books in two years and put the cap space to work for a bigger move. But as Danny Chau wrote last week, keeping Favors puts a ceiling on the Jazz given how little he’s been able to play against small lineups like the ones the Rockets used against them. The Jazz have a young superstar in the making as well as the defensive player of the year; even in a conference that just added LeBron James, that’s enough to stay competitive. But it’s fair to wonder whether they could have done something a little more ambitious.  — Uggetti

J.J. Redick Is Back in on the Process

Noted podcaster and sharpshooter J.J. Redick is sticking around in Philadelphia for at least one more year. The veteran guard reportedly agreed to sign a one-year deal with the Sixers in the $12 million–to–$13 million range. That’s a roughly $10 million pay cut from last season’s one-year deal, and the Sixers will maintain flexibility for next offseason. With Jerryd Bayless’s deal also coming off the books, Philly is already on its way to having max cap space again so long as the team doesn’t tie up its books with any long-term deals this offseason.

After losing Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli to the Bucks and Spurs, respectively, Redick — who shot 42.0 percent from deep on 6.6 attempts per game last season — was a must for the Sixers to shore up their shooting. With LeBron and George off the market, Philly seems to have begun to shift its attention toward the players they actually can get with their $30 million in cap space as it waits out the Kawhi Leonard trade market. Keeping Redick is a start. Now the Sixers have about $14 million more in cap space, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, to ensure that their young core will have the right players around them to make another leap.  — Uggetti

Tom Thibodeau Trades in One Stretch 4 for Another

Nemanja Bjelica has never played for the Chicago Bulls. As a result, he will no longer play for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves pulled their qualifying offer for the 30-year-old stretch big, according to ESPN, which yanks him off the restricted-free-agent market and adds him to the unrestricted side. In his place, Minnesota will reportedly sign a stretch big three years Bjelica’s senior, Anthony Tolliver, to a one-year deal. The tradeoff is marginal: Tolliver shot slightly better from 3 last season, while Bjelly was better on the boards; and while a reported $5 million to 6 million for Tolliver is a fair price for shooting in this market — the Pistons paid $8.3 million over two years for the possibility that Glenn Robinson III might be a 3-and-D option — Bjelly’s qualifying offer would have come in under $5 million. By all accounts, Tolliver is a total pro, which could help Jimmy Butler’s quest to professionalize what not long ago was the youngest core in the NBA. My biggest issue is all of Thibs’s moves seem to favor veterans over younger players. Maybe that doesn’t matter much in this instance, but it adds up.  — Justin Verrier