Friday marked the end of a busy first week of NBA free agency, but in itself, the seventh day since the unsealing of the market was unusually quiet.
Friday did, however, bring us the last piece of the resolution to the biggest free agency story of the summer. The Celtics went wheeling and dealing, and finally cleared cap space for Gordon Hayward by sending a key starter to an Eastern Conference foe. That move provoked a domino effect that took the “restricted” label off the top player remaining on the market.
So, as we’ve learned over the years, even the quiet days of NBA free agency are still quite eventful.
Let’s get to the grades — of signings, of trades, of buyouts and more:
GRADING FRIDAY’S DEALS
Boston traded Avery Bradley Jr. to Detroit: In exchange, the Celtics got Marcus Morris, which on the surface appears to be a paltry return. But Boston had no leverage; 29 teams knew the Celtics had to unload one of Bradley, Jae Crowder or Marcus Smart. So, especially with two of those three players entering the final year of contracts, Danny Ainge’s ability to recoup something of value in addition to cap relief was always going to be limited.
And in the end, the Celtics did get a decent piece that will help fill the team’s most glaring hole. Morris, who’ll make just over $5 million per year over the next two seasons, gives the Celtics a non-small-ball power forward that they previously didn’t have. He’s a solid rebounder and a capable, though below-average, 3-point shooter. He’ll slot into the rotation, and his below-market salary will pave the way for Gordon Hayward. That’s about all Brad Stevens could ask for.
The interesting angle here is that it was Bradley, and not Smart or Crowder, that the Celtics chose to jettison. Bradley is the best of the three players, and although he is the highest paid of the three, his $8.8 million yearly wage was a bargain. The issue, of course, is that his pact with the Celtics was set to expire next summer. On the other hand, Crowder’s similarly cheap deal has three years to run, and Crowder offers Stevens positional versatility that he likely preferred not to lose. Meanwhile, the skillsets of Smart and Bradley overlapped, and one would have been let go in free agency 12 months from now even if both remained with the team throughout the 2017-18 season. Boston opted to keep — or retain the option of keeping — the younger of the two, probably the cheaper of the two, and the one who still has more potential for growth.
That said, losing Bradley hurts, and forces us to consider the Hayward signing in different terms. Hayward wasn’t acquired for free. Bradley was the price, and this trade blunts the upgrade that Hayward will represent in year one. It’s more appeasing, therefore, for Celtics fans to think of Hayward as a long-term investment. The loss of Bradley stings, and will dent any hopes the Celtics had of catching Cleveland in 2017-18. But the two moves, in tandem, augment Boston’s position as a potential title contender from 2018-19 onward.
Boston Grade: B
The Pistons subsequently renounced the rights to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, turning the top restricted free agent remaining on the market into the top unrestricted free agent remaining on the market. In trading for Bradley, they essentially chose the former Celtics stopper over Caldwell-Pope, and gave up Morris, one of the only reasonable salaries on their books, for the opportunity to make that choice. Questionable business at best.
But the Pistons aren’t the biggest loser here. That designation goes to Caldwell-Pope, who went into free agency likely daydreaming of a contract that approached the max. Detroit reportedly extended what KCP perceived as a lowball offer, a five-year, $80 million deal that would have bypassed the offer sheet process and kept the dynamic shooting guard in Detroit for the foreseeable future. But KCP said no, and now the Pistons have said no right back at him, and nobody wins. Caldwell-Pope won’t get anything remotely close to the max. And with Detroit likely having to shell out to retain Bradley next year anyway, both parties are worse off.
Detroit Grade: D
Jamal Crawford and the Hawks agreed to a buyout, and Crawford is now officially a free agent. The terms of the buyout have not been released, so it’s difficult the grade the move from Atlanta’s perspective. But the important piece of news is that Crawford, as accomplished a bench scorer as there is in the NBA, is available. More on possible destinations below.
Atlanta Grade: TBD
Zaza Pachulia is re-signing with the Warriors, which means basically everybody who was at all relevant to the 2017 NBA champions will be back for a run at a repeat. Pachulia will get another one-year contract, this one worth $3.5 million, and the Warriors will use their full non-Bird exception. The signing brings Golden State’s roster to 14. The 15th and final spot could be for JaVale McGee, if he agrees to sign for the minimum. Or it could go unused for now.
Golden State Grade: B
Jeff Green agreed to a minimum deal with Cleveland: The GM-less Cavs have now brought in two bench veterans, Jose Calderon and Green. In theory, the latter will add length and switchability to a Cleveland bench that doesn’t have much of either. But the signing of Green, who will join his fifth team in four seasons, isn’t exactly a step toward closing the gap on the Warriors.
Cleveland Grade: C
Bojan Bogdanovic is headed to Indiana: Just minutes after the Wizards renounced the rights to Bogdanovic, the sharpshooting Croatian wing agreed to a two-year, $21 million contract with the Pacers. The second year will reportedly be partially guaranteed. Also guaranteed: The Pacers will be very irrelevant in 2016-17, even if the occasional Bojan 20-point game highlight reel will be a must-watch.
Indiana Grade: C
Mike Muscala will re-sign with the Hawks: Muscala will stay put in Atlanta on a two-year, $10 million deal with a player option for a second. The player option is key, because Muscala would seem to be worth more than $5 million per year. But — stop us if you’ve heard this one before — the free agent market has dried up (unless you’re getting an offer from the Knicks). The Hawks are the latest beneficiaries of the drought, and with Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard both gone, Muscala could see an uptick in minutes and opportunity in 2017-18.
Atlanta Grade: B+
Shelvin Mack will sign with the Magic … for $12 million over two years, because, in accordance with a little-known NBA rule, the Magic must overpay one backup per offseason. Consider that quota filled.
Orlando Grade: C
Other Agreements and Trades:
FRIDAY’S RUMORS AND REPORTS
There will be a market for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, even if it’s a depressed one. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets will be in pursuit. A long-term deal in Brooklyn would allow Caldwell-Pope to grow alongside newly-acquired point guard D’Angelo Russell. Per Wojnarowski, the Lakers also have interest, but only if KCP would be willing to take a one-year, J.J. Redick-style deal. The Lakers could offer big money in that one year, but want to keep their metaphorical powder dry for next summer, when they could woo multiple superstars in free agency.
They also might want to curry favor with Caldwell-Pope’s agent, Rich Paul, who just so happens to represent one of those superstars who could be available in 2018 …
There is also a market for Jamal Crawford. In fact, shortly after Crawford secured his buyout agreement with the Hawks, a frontrunner for his services emerged in the Midwest. Crawford is “Cleveland’s to lose,” according to Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon. Other contenders for the three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year are reportedly the Timberwolves, Wizards and Lakers.
Will Atlanta match the crazy Tim Hardaway Jr. offer sheet? This is going to shock you, but probably not! Per ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Hawks were will to go to around four years and $48 million to retain him. ESPN’s Kevin Arnowitz had heard $45 million as a ballpark number. The Knicks’s $71 million offer is sliiiiightly more lucrative than that.
The Clippers are in search of a backup center. Two players they’ll be meeting with, according to Wojnarowski: Jeff Withey and Willie Reed.
TOP 10 BEST AVAILABLE (via The Vertical’s Fab 50 Free Agents)
1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
2. Nerlens Noel, C
3. Derrick Rose, PG
4. Pau Gasol, C
5. Mason Plumlee, C
6. JaMychal Green, PF
7. C.J. Miles, SG
8. Alex Len, C
9. Tony Allen, SF
10. Jonathon Simmons, SF
Friday: Grading the Paul George trade, the Blake Griffin signing and more
Saturday: Grading the signings of Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and more
Sunday: Grading the signings of Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and more
Monday: Kevin Durant takes a pay cut and Gordon Hayward nears a decision
Tuesday: Gordon Hayward heads east, while two West playoff teams strengthen
Wednesday: Dion Waiters gets paid, and Nick Young goes ring-chasing
Thursday: Dirk’s discount, Otto Porter’s max, and the Knicks’ absurd Tim Hardaway offer sheet
BDL Roundtable: Choosing the winners and losers of the first week of free agency