While the first couple of days of free agency haven’t quite resulted in the feeding frenzy many foresaw back when the salary cap was expected to be higher, quite a few of the most coveted pieces have now made verbal agreements with their chosen franchises.
On day one Steph Curry opted to stay with the Warriors on a five-year, $201 million mega-deal and Blake Griffin committed his future to the Clippers by agreeing a five-year, $175 million deal.
We also saw the up-and-coming 76ers add the veteran talents of J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson to their young core, the Jazz throw big money at Joe Ingles and the Pelicans commit to Jrue Holiday long-term.
Day two resulted in the Raptors opting to bring back two key pieces of their core, the Rockets adding some much-needed defense and the continuation of Gordon Hayward’s tour of some of the hottest free agency destinations.
So, let’s take a closer look at five of the day’s biggest storylines:
The Raps are on repeat
Kyle Lowry put an end to speculation about his future on Sunday by announcing his decision to stay in Toronto in a piece published in the Players’ Tribune, in which he said:
“I’m coming back to Toronto because my heart is telling me that it’s home—and because staying home, for me and my family, feels like the right thing to do. My heart is telling me that this is the best city in the world, with the best basketball fans in the world. It’s telling me that the Raptors can be a championship-level team, sooner than later.”
While Lowry may be deluding himself into believing that final statement it’s clear that he’s developed an unbreakable bond with his adopted hometown, and that he believes the team can continue to be competitive while he earns a reported $100 million over the course of the next three years.
Something that should contribute to that is their decision to bring Serge Ibaka back too.
His reported three-year, $65 million contract means that the Raptors should avoid slipping into the doldrums of the Eastern Conference in the coming seasons without committing large sums to these two guys beyond their respective primes.
Still, the Raptors need to step it up in the playoffs and whether these moves give them much of a chance of doing that based on recent evidence will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow in the depleted East next year.
The Nuggets strike gold
By adding the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Paul Millsap to their roster late on Sunday the Nuggets potentially took a huge leap forward in what’s now becoming a crowded Western Conference.
Signing the All-Star to a reported three-year, $90 million deal means that Denver now has the perfect partner for their talented young center Nikola Jokic – not to mention a front-court pairing that should be able to propel the Nugs into playoff contention next season.
Millsap is great down low and will give his new team a boost on both ends of the floor.
His arrival does raise some concerns about how general manager Tim Connelly will manage the roster from a financial perspective going forward, but when you feel you’re in a position to compete you have to do everything you can to make that a reality – even if it means committing a large sum to a 32-year-old like Millsap.
Still, Denver has a lot of contracts it can shed so expect them to be highly active on the trade front in the coming days.
The Rockets get set for take off
Off the back of last week’s mega-trade for Chris Paul, the Rockets continued to build up their supporting cast by reportedly adding P.J. Tucker on a four-year, $32 million dollar deal.
For a team that’s already loaded offensively, adding a guy like Tucker makes bags of sense. He is, after all, an elite defender, a solid three-point shooter and a good friend of Paul’s to boot.
He averaged 6.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 81 games for the Raptors and Suns last year and will help the Rockets compete with some of the Western Conference’s toughest foes, serving as a nice foil for the offensive-minded Eric Gordon.
In addition to Tucker, the Rockets also announced that Nene will be returning as Houston’s back-up center on a three-year, $11 million contract, meaning things are shaping up nicely for Daryl Morey.
Even if this Rockets team isn’t quite in a position to challenge Golden State next season you have to give them a ton of credit for trying.
The Timberwolves go full Bulls
In the aftermath of the Jimmy Butler trade the one thing Minnesota really needs right now is shooting. Which is exactly why they added defensive-stalwart Taj Gibson on a reported two-year, $28 million deal Sunday – not.
While the addition fails to address the team’s greatest need it does give us a sense of what the Timberwolves are going to all about next year – hardnosed defense.
That’ll come as no great surprise to anyone who knows anything about Tom Thibodeau, whose Chicago Bulls reunion is a Derrick Rose shy of completion.
Not really (he’d have to go after Joakim Noah too to complete the set), but if Thibs is able to find some capable outside shooters over the coming days this young team should be extremely tough to beat next season.
The Cavaliers keep it consistent
After the Cavs added back-up, back-up point guard Jose Calderon on day one of free agency they announced that they’d be bringing back sharpshooter Kyle Korver on day two.
Overlooking the heft of his reported three-year, $22 million deal, doing so actually makes sense for the Cavs.
Korver may be getting older, but given that all he really does is shoot he should be in a position to remain productive right through the final year of his new contract.
Unfortunately he was anything but productive during this year’s Finals, but if there’s one thing Cleveland needs to beat Golden State it’s scoring. In theory Korver – given his reputation as one of the best three-point shooters the game’s ever seen – should provide that, especially as next year he’ll have more time to adjust to Cleveland’s style of play.
Still, Cavs fans will be hoping their team hasn’t just paid for more of this:
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