Wow. That's all I can say as I write this midway through the first day of the NBA's money season. Though it is technically the free agency moratorium, there's nothing dead about the NBA landscape right now. From LaMarcus Aldridge Meetings, to the Dwyane Wade saga, and with max contracts being handed out like food stamps, this is unlike any other free agency period we've seen before. Every decision made this summer comes under the cloud of the looming salary cap jump. The deals cannot be viewed under the normal lense of free agency, because in one year everything is going to change drastically. So while some of these deals (Al-Farouq Aminu) seem like an overpay, with the NBA's version of inflation coming within a year they should be viewed as normal values.
Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard Ink Mega-Extensions
Late last night, Anthony Davis announced that he had agreed to a 5 year - $145 million extension! With Davis eligible for the Derrick Rose Rule Extension, his max contract can reach 30% of the team's salary cap (most players with Davis' experience can only earn 25% of the cap). Davis' deal will kick in beginning in 2016-2017, and run through the 2020-2021 season, unless he opts out. The deal includes a player option for the 5th year, giving Davis even more financial flexibility. Considering he is the NBA's most valuable asset, it's no surprise the the Pelicans were so proactive in locking him up.
This morning, Damian Lillard agreed to a 5 year - $120 million extension with Portland. Unlike Davis, his deal has no player option. Barring trade, Lillard will be a Blazer through the 2020-2021 season, when he will be 30. Lillard is the Blazers' designated player, so he can become eligible for the Derrick Rose Rule if he makes an All-NBA Team this year. Depending on his performance, Lillard's extension will be worth either $120 or $145 over the course of the deal. With LaMarcus Aldridge leaving Portland (more on this later), it was vital for the Blazers to lock up the other half of their dynamic duo. Keeping Lillard in town will at the very least fill seats, and hopefully lure another star big man to rebuild the franchise.
Spurs Wheel and Deal
Since the break of dawn, the Spurs have been making moves nonstop. I guess that's the advantage of going to bed before midnight. Actually, the Spurs moves began last night, when they signed Kawhi Leonard to a 5-year - $90 million extension. With Kawhi as their designated player, the Spurs could give him a 5 year deal, locking him up through 2020.
This morning, the Spurs announced they had signed Danny Green to a 4 year - $45 million extension. While this is a huge upgrade over his 3 year - $11 million deal, he certainly left money on the table. But that's the Spurs way after all, and his discount allows the Spurs to re-sign him, Kawhi, and still get Aldridge. Their moves didn't stop there however, as they then flipped Tiago Splitter to the Hawks. If the Spurs can acquire Brendan Haywood's $10.5 million contract (they have been linked to a trade with the Cavs), they may have all of the pieces for an Aldridge sign-and-trade.
Heat Lock up Goran, Unclear on Wade
It's been reported for a while that the Heat would offer Goran a 5 year - $80 million contract, they really upped the ante today. Dragic received a 5 year - $90 million contract, which will keep him in Miami through his age 34 season. While I love Dragic, I don't like this deal at all. But if you build in the 33% increase, this is really a 5 year - $67.5 million dollar deal. Now that looks a lot more reasonable. There is a player option on the 5th year of the deal. Regardless of how Dragic's contract looks a year or two from now, the Heat have issues with Wade, who wants a max contract with the Heat, and "won't take a hometown discount." While I still think that the Heat will go into the tax to re-sign Wade, Pat Riley is not the type to bend. We'll see if they capitulate and give Wade what he wants, or if we're headed to a messy divorce.
Butler Takes 5 Years, Bulls also Retain Dunleavy
The story of free agency seemed to be how Jimmy Butler would bet on himself, in order to re-enter free agency when the cap goes up. Well, this turned out to be a whole lot of smoke, as it was reported today that he accepted the Bulls offer of 5 years - $95 million, where he is the designated player. There is a player option on the 5th year of the deal. This is a huge win for the Bulls, who keep one of the NBA's most valuable assets––an athletic wing who can shoot and guard three positions. And by inking him to a 5-year deal on the old cap, his contract will look like a bargain come 2018.
In addition to Butler, the Bulls re-signed Mike Dunleavy to a 3 year - $14 million deal. While he was being courted by LeBron, Dunleavy was never really in doubt. The Bulls smartly locked him up to a great short term deal.
Hawks Lose Carroll, and maybe Millsap too
The Hawks were undoubtedly the loser of free agency's first day. They lost Demarre Caroll to the Raptors, who gave him a 4 year - $60 million deal. Considering Gordon Hayward was given 4 years - $63 million last summer, this deal is exactly where it should be. For the Raptors, they are trying to find a way to move on from DeMar DeRozan (rather than pay him the max), and also get a defensive leader. Carroll is a versatile wing who has increased value in the pace-and-space era. It's a great way for Masai to thrust the Raptors into the new NBA.
With Carroll gone, the Hawks need to re-sign Millsap. But that's not going to be easy after the Magic put their balls on the table Erlich style, and gave Millsap a max deal worth just under $20 million a year. The Magic are in a great position here, because if they fail in their pursuit of Millsap, they can always fall back and match whatever offer Tobias Harris gets. Millsap is the perfect swing-big free agent for a young team like Orlando. I think Atlanta will give him a similar offer and retain their power forward, but either way the Magic are playing this perfectly.
Middleton and Monta Fly Under the Radar
The Bucks smartly re-signed Khris Middleton to a 5 year - $70 million deal, (with a player option on the 5th year) while the Pacers are courting Monta to the tune of 3 years - $32 million. Both deals are good bargains, and I surprisingly like the deal with Monta. He gives the Pacers much needed scoring, and will be a welcome addition as a player who can get his own basket. While no one noticed these deals amongst the craziness of Aldridge and Love, they're both good values.
WTF? Out of nowhere, Cavs give Love + Tristan a combined $190+ Million
As I was writing the Jimmy Butler section, I saw that Kevin Love had accepted a 5 year - $110 million offer with the Cavs. This broke just minutes after they had announced a 5 year deal with Tristan Thompson that will be worth excess of $80 million. This is absolute insanity. Thompson shares the same agent as LeBron, so it isn't surprising that he is going to get paid. But Love's case is much more interesting. I didn't think he would sacrifice flexibility to stay with the Cavs, and I thought that he would take a 1 year deal (perhaps with a player option), and test free agency next summer. By locking both players up to huge deals, the Cavs sacrifice a lot of cap room to sign role players and backups. If their stars get injured again, they may regret these lavish deals. But with a newly committed Love, the Cavs once again look like the class of the East.
LeBron Signs with the Lakers
Per ESPN's Marc Stein, LeBron inked a 2 year...who am I kidding, no one believed a word of this. But after every move made today, anything short of this is in play. I can't wait for tomorrow.