NBA Free Agency 2017: Day 7 recap — Detroit gives up on KCP, Memphis swaps players with Sacramento, and Orlando overpays for yet another guard
As Vegas Summer League begins, teams around the league continue to take shape. As has been discussed ad nauseam around the Internet, there’s not very much cap space left on the market and more and more deals will be signed using exceptions for those teams who remained over the cap. Five more non-minimum deals were added today, but the biggest piece of news was the trade that moved the Boston Celtics into position to sign their biggest acquisition this offseason.
The Celtics had to do something — Gordon Hayward wasn’t going to take less than his maximum salary and they didn’t have the cap space to sign him outright without shedding money. They settled on a trade with Detroit to acquire Marcus Morris in exchange for Avery Bradley, their all-world defender, in a move that sheds just enough salary to sign up Hayward:
It’s possible this could have been resolved another way, but all of those would have required Guerschon Yabusele, on whom the Celtics are very high, to stay overseas for another year. With Bradley out, Boston can keep Yabusele’s cap hold on the books and sign up to his rookie scale contract without going over the cap. After that, they’ll have their $4.3 million room exception, but will be capped out beyond minimum deals from here, like the one Daniel Theis signed.
Morris will bring a different element to the Celtics as a guy big enough to play the 4 in a lot of lineups while still retaining the versatility on both ends that has come to define today’s game. Boston doesn’t necessarily need his specific set of skills but you can never have too many combo forwards who can spread the floor and switch defensively.
For Detroit, acquiring Bradley pushes them further toward the apron, which hard-caps them as a result of the abjectly awful contract they signed with Langston Galloway earlier in the offseason. He has to go into their mid-level exception, which means the Pistons cannot exceed $125.266 million in salary at any time throughout the season, for any reason.
They currently sit about $16 million from the apron and apparently offered Kentavious Caldwell-Pope five years and $80 million to stay in Detroit, but that offer is at least $4-5 million than he will receive on the open market now that he’s an unrestricted free agent. Technically, the Pistons could have kept him on as a restricted free agent, but they did him and his agent, Rich Paul, a solid but renouncing him and letting him hit unrestricted free agency. There isn’t a lot of money left out there, but somebody will give Caldwell-Pope the contract for which he’s looking. If not, we know Paul and his agency are not scared of letting free agency drag out into September, so it could be a long summer for Caldwell-Pope. Once Washington matches on Otto Porter, that will free up enough cap space in Brooklyn to get him a max offer. Philadelphia as well could open up enough room, if they absolutely wanted to get in that mix and not leave themselves any room to renegotiate and extend Robert Covington this offseason.
Elsewhere, the Hawks re-upped with Mike Muscala for two years, $10 million, but their cap space is still in doubt, as details of Jamal Crawford’s buyout, completed today, still have not come out. Reporting from Chris Vivlamore at the AJC indicates that the Hawks will stretch his buyout amount, which is a very puzzling decision unless Atlanta has big plans for the cap space that move would generate. They already have almost $15 million in space without Crawford’s buyout calculation and could open up another $12 million, at least, if they were to stretch him, depending on exactly how much they paid him on the buyout. Until those details come out, we can’t project out their cap space, other than to say that they will have a ton of it.
The largest deal went out to Bojan Bogdanovic, who signed up with Indiana after Washington pulled his qualifying offer so that they could match on Otto Porter’s max offer sheet from Brooklyn. This is yet another example of how the punitive tax penalties are hurting the smaller teams they were designed to protect — they could have matched on Porter and brought back Bogdanovic, but they were scared of the larger penalties that would have come with an increasing tax bill. Assuming they match on Porter, they’re already looking at a $8.9 million tax bill, due to the increasing penalties:
This is an expensive team that will only get more expensive next year before current deals for John Wall, Marcin Gortat, and Markieff Morris come off the books. Of course, Wall will command a new max contract at that point, which will vault the Wizards’ payroll right back into tax territory. Such is the life of a team with two stars in Wall and Bradley Beal and a high-quality, max-level role player in Porter, but it doesn’t make it any more palatable to pay this much for a team that’s still a distant third in the Eastern Conference.
Other small deals signed today: Shelvin Mack to Orlando for $12 million over two years, yet another overpaid guard for the Magic, to go with D.J. Augustin and C.J. Watson (who still may be waived, but we’ll see), Zaza Pachulia back to Golden State for his full non-Bird exception, and the bi-annual exception for Tyreke Evans in Memphis, and the King and Grizzlies continue to swap players. There were also four minimum deals signed today: Tyler Dorsey signed in Atlanta for two years at the minimum, Sterling Brown signed for three years in Milwaukee, and Raymond Felton and Jeff Green took one-year minimum deals with Oklahoma City and Cleveland, respectively. It was interesting to see Dorsey get a two-year deal and Brown get a three-year deal — Dorsey will be an Arenas-limited restricted free agent at the end of his two-year deal, whereas the Arenas provision will not apply to Brown after his third season in the league.
Teams are slowly but surely running out of cap space (other than the Hawks, who seem to be hoarding it for one reason or another), so future deals will continue to be on the smaller side. Caldwell-Pope and Nerlens Noel are still out there to be signed, but the rest of the market won’t be commanding the same level of salary as those guys.