NBA Free Agency 2017: Hayward finds a home + others
Another eventful July 4 saw a big-name free agent leave the only team he had ever known for another. Last year it was Kevin Durant, this year Gordon Hayward. Hayward will go to the Celtics, who will need to shed some salary to fit in his max contract, but plenty of other people are covering the permutations required to fit him into their cap sheet. The possibility of Hayward signing in Boston has been there for a long time and a lot of people have covered what the Celtics will have to do now that he’s committed.
There was still plenty of intrigue while the league waited for Hayward, then thought they could move, then waited another five hours for his “official” decision that was clearly made well before the Player’s Tribune article went up. In Sacramento, they got the signal from Otto Porter that he wouldn’t be signing their offer sheet, so they pivoted in the other direction, picking up a pair of veterans who will aid in the development of their young core. George Hill signed up for three years and $57 million and before we could digest what that meant for their Porter pursuit, Zach Randolph agreed to a two year, $20 million deal. In addition to the signing of 2014 draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic for 3 years and $27 million, the Kings are certainly spending money this summer, and they still have more to go! Sacramento is sitting on about $13.8 million in space event after these three signings:
The Kings can open up another $3 million in space by renouncing the traded player exception for Omri Casspi. They also still have their $4.3 million room exception if they get close to the cap. Their biggest need is still a 4 who can spread the floor; Randolph can do that job in a way but he’s not moving out past the three-point line consistently. Someone we’re going to talk about later, Patrick Patterson, would have been a nice addition to plug that hole. A third point guard is probably needed as well, but they can bring in someone for the minimum to do that job.
A lot is being made of the path the Kings have chosen to take this offseason relative to the rest of the Western Conference. My first reaction was similar to my reaction to almost everything they’ve done over the past few years: to tweet “KAAAANGZ” and make fun of them incessantly for signing veterans to win just enough games to take them, yet again, out of the top five of the lottery.
On the other hand, what exactly were they supposed to do? If they had tied up all their cap space in restricted free agents Porter and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and seen those guys matched, they’re left with $50 million in space and nobody to sign on July 8. If they overpay a lower-tier RFA like Andre Roberson, Tony Snell, or Jonathon Simmons, those guys still fit their timeline but we’re also making fun of them for overpaying for those guys. If they sign veterans like Hill and Randolph, we make fun of them for trying to win in an impossible Western Conference, but those guys won’t take a lot of space long-term (Hill’s third year is partially guaranteed) and are exactly the kind of mentors a young set of players need. Sure, maybe paying $30 million combined for a point guard and big man to be mentors for their young core is expensive, but they had $50 million in space anyway and there wasn’t a whole lot of other good that it could do. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if De’Aaron Fox credits his time with George Hill early in his career for his development and maturity, in which case the signing will have paid for itself long after Hill is no longer on the team.
The aforementioned Porter, after informing Sacramento he would not be signing their max offer sheet, went to Brooklyn and signed the same offer, effectively starting the clock on Washington’s match rights. He can’t officially sign until July 6, at which point the Wizards will have until 11:59PM Eastern on July 8 to decide whether to match. It should be nothing more than a formality — the Wizards have given every indication that they would match any offer. I haven’t seen any information on the offer sheet he signed with the Nets, but it would be smart of them to give him a player option on the final year of that four-year offer sheet to get him back on the market before Washington wants. This is the same fate that befell the Jazz this offseason — Hayward was a restricted free agent in 2014 but instead of ponying up the contract he deserved, they made him go out and find the offer sheet on the market, where he signed a 3+1 with Charlotte. Instead of locking him up for four or five years, the Jazz only had him for three and lost him at least a year earlier than they would have otherwise. Porter could do the same thing with Brooklyn and although he’s not nearly the player Hayward was at the time, he could still develop into that superstar and get back on the market in 2020.
Assuming Washington matches, they’ll be over the tax and over the apron, which slightly changes their signing of Jodie Meeks yesterday. It was apparent from the details of that deal that they can fit him into their bi-annual exception, but using the BAE means that the Wizards cannot go over the apron for any reason, so instead, Meeks will go into their taxpayer mid-level exception, which holds no such restrictions:
Add in the super-max extension they’ve offered to John Wall and this team is about to get very expensive very quickly and it’s not particularly clear that they have a path to being a consistent presence in the later rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs. In particular, the wing combination of Porter and Bradley Beal lacks one of the three things that teams need in their wings: lockdown defense. Both can knock down threes and Beal can be a secondary ball-handler, but neither can defend at the high level that will be required to contend with LeBron James and Gordon Hayward at the top of their conference. At some point, it may be necessary for Washington to go out and either trade for or sign a guy who can bounce between the 3 and 4 and defend these guys in a multitude of lineups.
Patrick Patterson signed for three years at the full mini mid-level in Oklahoma City in what looks to continue Sam Presti’s dominance of this offseason. Patterson is a wonderful role player, coming off the bench in Toronto the past few years to spark those Lowry+bench units that consistently outplayed the Raptors’ starters. He shot 37 percent overall from three and 40 percent from the corners during his time there, which is very good for a 4, but I’m still not convinced of the offensive fit with the rest of Oklahoma City’s starting lineup. Assuming they bring back Andre Roberson, the unit consisting of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Roberson, Patterson, and Steven Adams may struggle to space the floor in the traditional sense. Westbrook isn’t a particularly adept outside shooter and Roberson is a black hole who really fits better as a big man offensively, setting screens and hanging out along the baseline for opportune cuts. This moves Patterson out to the perimeter, where he’s really more like a 3 than a 4, where his 37 percent three-point shooting isn’t as impressive compared to his peers. I think Billy Donovan can make it work with various lineups and bringing in shooters off the bench, but it might be an issue.
Defensively, this team is going to be an absolute monster. George and Roberson might be the best defensive wing duo in the league, each able to switch 1–4 and lock down the top perimeter players in the game. Patterson is yet another versatile defender who can switch onto most bigger players. Westbrook is big enough to switch from point guards to smaller wings. Adams has shown the ability to get out on the perimeter and stay with a ball-handler for a few steps at the end of the shot clock. This team really might be able to switch 1–5 across the board, a trait not seen in most teams across the league.
From a cap perspective, Patterson’s deal can either fit into the Thunder’s mini mid-level or their non-taxpayer mid-level, whichever is necessary based on the other moves they make this offseason — a versatile contract to go with a versatile player. Oklahoma City is knocking on the door of the tax before taking into consideration the eight-figure deal Roberson will receive:
Finally, there were a pair of minimum signings, one much more important than the other. Mike Scott signed a minimum deal in Washington, where he’ll come off the bench and offer them a shooting punch on the second unit, and Omri Casspi signed for the minimum in Golden State, where he’ll add yet another solid shooter and switchy defender to a team full of them. Scott will probably get lost in the shuffle of the sea of guys taking minimum deals this summer, but Casspi will stand out from the rest — I had expected him to knock on the door of $6 million a year, but he decided to join up with the Warriors after eight years in the league and not a single playoff berth to his name. He’ll certainly get his first taste of the playoffs in 2018.
In other news, the Gallinari sign-and-trade between Denver, the Clippers, and Atlanta was completed today as well. I covered the ins and outs of that deal in yesterday’s free agency roundup.
Now that Hayward has chosen his destination, we should see the rest of free agency line up nicely. Miami and Utah will fill in the gaps they had reserved for him and other free agents who were waiting on Hayward’s decision can now move on to conduct their own business.