Which teams have improved the most in NBA free agency, and what’s still to come?
Team-by-team analysis of the major and minor deals:
(Note: Updates on each deal will be posted here throughout the day. You can read analysis on Day 1 deals — including those for LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Nikola Jokic and Aaron Gordon — here.)
1. Agreed to a reported two-year, $25 million deal with guard Avery Bradley
2. Agreed to a reported one-year deal with forward Mike Scott
Like many of this year’s other free agents, Bradley had a limited market for offers paying more than the midlevel exception. Only the Philadelphia 76ers realistically could have made Bradley such an offer, and then only for one year. So, pending details on the guaranteed portion of Bradley’s 2019-20 salary, reaching this deal to stay with the Clippers looks like a good outcome for him.
Bradley played just six games for the Clippers after being acquired in the Blake Griffin trade, as abdominal surgery ended his season prematurely. We didn’t really get a good look at how he’ll fit in, though the Clippers have also remade their backcourt over the offseason by drafting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson and trading Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards.
Ultimately, Bradley should be the starting shooting guard, presumably alongside Patrick Beverley, with Lou Williams backing up both positions and the rookies rounding out the rotation. That’s a pretty solid backcourt when everyone is healthy.
The surprise here would be the Clippers’ willingness to add 2019-20 salary, given their evident desire to be players in free agency next summer. Again, that may not prove the case once we get details on this deal; let’s proceed as if it’s true. Adding Bradley’s $12.5 million or so would still enable the Clippers to clear up to nearly $50 million in cap space, which would go down to a bit less than $30 million if they retain their Bird rights for unrestricted free agent Tobias Harris.
With more teams having cap space next summer, the Clippers could potentially also get off Bradley’s salary if they needed to maximize their flexibility. Though Bradley’s advanced stats don’t support this conclusion, I suspect many teams will continue to view him as an above-average starter at shooting guard because of his elite individual defense and ability to space the floor.
Earlier Tuesday, the Clippers also added frontcourt depth by signing Scott, coming off a strong season playing for the veteran’s minimum with the Washington Wizards. Scott adds a stretch option the Clippers didn’t really have off the bench, having shot a career-high 40.5 percent on 3s last season while making 1.7 per 36 minutes.
With those two signings, the Clippers’ roster looks close to complete. They’ve got 13 players under guaranteed contract. Beverley is technically nonguaranteed but in zero danger of being cut given his reasonable $5 million salary. That puts the Clippers at 14 players with Montrezl Harrell still a restricted free agent. If they re-sign Harrell, that wouldn’t leave room for either of last year’s two-way players — restricted free agent Tyrone Wallace and C.J. Williams, whose 2018-19 salary is guaranteed for just $187,500.
Playing on a one-year deal for the Detroit Pistons last season, Tolliver had perhaps the best season of his 10-year career, shooting a career-high 44 percent from 3-point range while attempting more than three-quarters of his shots from beyond the arc. As a result, Tolliver posted a .663 true shooting percentage that was far and away his best ever.
Minnesota can’t quite count on Tolliver maintaining that level of production at age 33, but on a one-year deal, he should hold much of his value, and the money is reasonable. The question is the alternative cost. With the addition of Tolliver, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Timberwolves pulled their qualifying offer to restricted free agent Nemanja Bjelica, who no longer appears in their plans.
Not only is Bjelica three years younger, but he also offers more flexibility with the ability to slide to small forward. Per analysis of lineup data from NBA Advanced Stats, Bjelica played nearly half his minutes at small forward last season, starting there when Jimmy Butler was sidelined. If Butler or Andrew Wiggins were to go down this season, Minnesota might have to choose between playing a rookie (either Josh Okogie or second-round pick Keita Bates-Diop) or a second point guard (either Tyus Jones or Derrick Rose).
The Timberwolves likely determined that Bjelica would be too expensive to retain while avoiding the luxury tax. Assuming they sign Bates-Diop for the minimum and stretch the guaranteed portion of Cole Aldrich’s 2018-19 salary, Minnesota has about $4.4 million left to spend without going into the luxury tax and three roster spots open. The Timberwolves are probably looking at minimum salaries from here on out.
After losing Rajon Rondo to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday afternoon, the Pelicans regrouped by agreeing with the player the Lakers had to renounce to sign Rondo. Because of the poor market for big men this summer, Randle came at the relative bargain rate of the non-taxpayer midlevel exception.
Using the non-tax midlevel hard caps New Orleans. In practice, the Pelicans were unlikely to ever pay the tax, which was going to make DeMarcus Cousins difficult to re-sign even after Rondo’s departure. Signing Randle means New Orleans will let Cousins walk and build a frontcourt rotation around Randle, Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic.
Davis should be an ideal pairing with Randle up front. Although Randle can’t space the floor like Cousins — he made just 10 3s at a 22 percent clip last season — Davis will provide him plenty of space to isolate and play bully ball against smaller defenders. At the other end, Davis supplies the rim protection Randle cannot. A Mirotic-Randle frontcourt will be more of a challenge defensively but should be tough to stop on offense.
Using the midlevel on Randle means the Pelicans will have to sign Elfrid Payton to the one-year, $2.7 million deal reported Sunday with their $3.4 million bi-annual exception. That leaves them capable only of offering free agents the minimum from here on out. Another perimeter player would be useful; E’Twaun Moore is still in line to start at small forward, with Darius Miller the only alternative at the position. And if Moore plays the 3, that leaves New Orleans with only Frank Jackson behind likely backcourt starters Elfrid Payton and Jrue Holiday.
A good week continues for the Thunder, who get Noel at a bargain rate after re-signing Paul George and Jerami Grant in the early hours of free agency. For Noel, betting on himself by taking the one-year qualifying offer from the Dallas Mavericks backfired spectacularly.
Even had Noel played well in Dallas, this year’s market for centers was going to make it difficult for him to beat the Mavericks’ four-year, $70 million offer he reportedly turned down last summer. Suffice to say Noel did not play well, falling out of the Dallas rotation, causing a stir by eating a hot dog in the media room at halftime of a game and capping things off with a five-game suspension in April for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program.
Noel likely found himself picking among minimum deals. Oklahoma City is an interesting choice. Unless the Thunder plan to play Noel with starting center Steven Adams, he’ll probably be limited to backup minutes behind Adams, who averaged 32.7 minutes per game last season. This might not be an ideal opportunity for Noel to rebuild his value.
From Oklahoma City’s standpoint, Noel isn’t a perfect fit. He’ll push Grant out of the backup center role he played last season, and Grant-Noel frontcourts will be shooting-challenged. On the plus side, Noel should help the Thunder on the defensive glass, a major weakness when Grant played center. Moreover, Oklahoma City couldn’t deny the value, particularly with money tight for a team paying the repeater tax.
Once LeBron James and Paul George were no longer possible options for the Sixers, Redick’s return was all but assured. He played a valuable role for a young Philadelphia team last season, providing needed floor spacing on the court and offering leadership in the locker room.
For the 76ers, getting Redick back at less than the $23 million he made on last season’s one-year deal allows them to stay under the cap. If they renounce the rights to their other free agents — basically just Amir Johnson, with Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova having already agreed to deals elsewhere — Philadelphia can create up to about $14 million in cap space.
That flexibility could make it easier for the Sixers to complete an imbalanced trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, taking back additional contracts (likely Patty Mills) to help the Spurs’ cap situation. But the clock is ticking on that scenario given that Philadelphia would probably also like to use room to replace Belinelli and Ilyasova.
Roster spots are a limitation for the Sixers. Including Redick, plus Richaun Holmes and T.J. McConnell (whose 2018-19 salaries are non-guaranteed) and this year’s two first-round picks, the 76ers have 13 players under contract. A buyout for guard Jerryd Bayless would clear another spot, but Philadelphia might not have room for 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden, who spent last season playing in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
It looks as though Curry will become Portland’s top backcourt reserve after the Blazers decided not to tender either Pat Connaughton or Shabazz Napier a qualifying offer in order to make them restricted free agents. Portland also has Wade Baldwin and newcomer Nik Stauskas as options in the backcourt, but neither is in Curry’s class as a player.
Before missing the entire 2017-18 season due to a stress injury to his right tibia, Curry emerged as a starter at shooting guard for the Dallas Mavericks the previous season. He shot 43 percent from 3-point range and posted a strong .601 true shooting percentage, both better marks than either Connaughton or Napier managed last season, and his assist rate in 2016-17 (4.4 per 100 team plays) was also slightly better than Napier’s in 2017-18 (4.3).
Curry would be stretched if asked to run an offense by himself. Fortunately, that won’t generally be the case with the Blazers, who like to keep either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum on the court at all times. While defense will be a concern with the undersized Curry alongside Lillard or McCollum, he should be a strong value at $2.75 million this season. Curry gets a player option that allows him back on the market if he is healthy and productive, and it guarantees him an additional season of salary if not.
This is an interesting deal to re-sign Favors that could work for both sides. Favors gets a healthy raise on the $12 million he made last season; just seven players have signed for a higher average annual salary so far this summer, and few more will likely do so.
In exchange, Utah gets the flexibility of a non-guaranteed salary for Favors in 2019-20, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. The Jazz can easily create max cap room next summer to add around a core of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, which could be an attractive option for free agents if Utah again wins a playoff series behind its young stars.
Re-signing Favors means the Jazz will stay over the cap this summer, when they could have created modest space by renouncing the rights to Favors or restricted free agent Dante Exum and waiving some players with non-guaranteed salaries. Already, Utah let that deadline pass with forward Thabo Sefolosha, though the salaries of Jonas Jerebko ($4.2 million) and Ekpe Udoh ($3.6 million) won’t guarantee for another week.
Now, the Jazz can use their non-taxpayer midlevel exception, which would still give them the opportunity to add a solid contributor given how limited cap space is around the league. Nemanja Bjelica could be an interesting target after the Timberwolves rescinded his qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent.
With Jerebko and Udoh on the books, Utah has a little more than $14 million to spend and stay below the tax line. Given incentives in several players’ contracts, the Jazz will probably want to keep a buffer from the tax, so using the entire midlevel (up to $8.6 million) and re-signing Exum might necessitate moving on from Jerebko and/or Udoh.
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