After the crazed frenzy of deals being signed on the first day of free agency, the sequel would inevitably be a letdown. Topping yesterday's madness would have required Lebron and Jim Gray doing "The Decision: Part II." Yet there were still many significant moves made today as the Bucks and Pacers made strides forward, while the Knicks and Lakers had a sobering reality check. But first, some deals that happened yesterday that I didn't recap.
Millsap Retained by Hawks
The Hawks were faced with possible disaster yesterday, when Demarre Carroll was signed by the Raptors, and Paul Millsap was offered a 4 year - $80 million deal by the Magic. For a moment, it looked like the band was breaking up, but Millsap's loyalty to the Hawks won out. He took substantially less guaranteed money, but makes nearly the same salary per year, and also has increased financial flexibility. The deal includes a player option after the second year, so Millsap can re-enter free agency after his age 32 season, once the cap has skyrocketed. This deal is a great compromise for Millsap and the Hawks, who retain a key contributor to their 60 win team. With Millsap back, the Hawks hope they still have the unique, Spursian chemistry that took them to new heights last season.
Phoenix's Huge Day
In somewhat shocking fashion, Tyson Chandler inked a 4 year - $52 million deal with the Suns. For Phoenix, they get a veteran presence and much needed defensive support. They also locked up Brandon Knight to a 5 year -$70 million deal. But the biggest news coming out of Phoenix was LaMarcus Aldridge's rumored interest.
Apparently, the acquisition of Chandler was enough to rocket the Suns up to the top of LMA's list. He was even a part of Phoenix's pitch to Aldridge yesterday. If the Suns are to acquire Aldridge, it would need to be as part of a sign-and-trade, as they used all of their available cap space on Chandler. It would take a Morey-esque level of cap manipulation to free up room to offer Aldridge the max. However, the Suns have the best sign-and-trade piece out of any of the teams linked to Aldridge. Portland GM Neil Olshey drafted Eric Bledsoe in 2010, and would obviously love Bledsoe's defense to make up for Damian Lillard's defensive apathy. However, the Suns are not interested in trading Bledsoe per multiple sources. I'm not sure how they will maneuver the cap to get space for Aldridge, but any Suns fan should be proud of how Ryan Mcdonough has handled this offseason. Getting Phoenix in play for Aldridge is nothing short of incredible.
The Ballad of DeAndre Continues
With Chandler going to Phoenix, (and Wright going to Memphis) the stakes have risen for the courtship of DeAndre Jordan. Per every single source in the NBA, it's between the Mavericks and Clippers. While he took a meeting with the Lakers, they aren't seen as a real candidate. A week ago, I would've told you that DeAndre was 100% going back with LAC. And that's not even my Clippers bias talking, it actually just seemed illogical that he would go anywhere else. The Clippers are a legit championship contender, they have the perfect point guard for DJ's limited offensive game, and Doc Rivers has served as DeAndre's hype man for 3 years now. But as free agency process has gone on, it's beginning to look 50/50.
With Parsons courting DeAndre, anything is in play. For all we know, DeAndre could be signing his contract in a club come Friday. But with Chandler and Wright locked up, the Clippers and Mavericks have no safety net at center. It was thought that if DeAndre left, the Clippers could orchestrate a sign-and-trade and bring Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul back together. With every replacement-level center off the board, it's pretty much DJ or nothing for the Clippers. Regardless of how it turns out, Chandler Parsons needs to be recognized for the master recuiter he is. First he brought Dwight to Houston, and he's almost single handedly convinced DJ to jump ship. As a Clippers fan I'm quaking in my boots, but as a Chandler Parsons fan, I'm treating myself to some Buffalo Jeans.
Kings give away Stauskas
Just when you thought the Kings couldn't get any more nonsensical, Vivek comes out of nowhere with a Stauskas-sized haymaker. He traded Stauskas, Jason Thompson, and Carl Landry to the Sixers for the rights to an overseas player. The Kings also gave the Sixers a protected first round pick, and gave the Sixers swap rights in two other drafts. The Kings cleared cap space to go after free agents Monta Ellis (who signed with the Pacers), Wesley Matthews, and Rajon Rondo. Once again, we're left scratching our heads at Vivek. I mean, is the guy bipolar? Stauskas was his man, the apple of his eye during the 2014 draft. And he gives him away after just one season so he can go after Rajon Rondo? The guy who just destroyed the Mavs season? Or Wesley Matthews, who's coming off an injury that no player has successfully recovered from? They're actually just a joke at this point, and I hope Boogie finds a way out. I'd hate to see his career ruined by a short Indian man who thinks he's a basketball genius.
Celtics Disappoint their Fans once Again
The Celtics made their 'big-splash' of free agency, signing Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko to 2 year deals worth $24 and $10 million, respectively. While those deals look like an overpay, the second year of both deals aren't guarenteed, so they are very low risk. With news breaking that the Celtics were out of the Tobias Harris race, Danny Ainge had to audible. He came up with a couple of role players that aren't going to move the needle in any direction. The Celtics are stuck in NBA purgatory, and desperately need to move some of these assets to recoup a star.
A double whammy came for Celtics fans later in the day, when franchise hero Paul Pierce signed with the Clippers for 3 years - $10 million. He opted to reunite with Doc Rivers on a contending team, and no one can really blame him for that. But it's disappointing nonetheless for a Celtics team that doesn't really have anyone worth rooting for.
For the Clippers, this deal gives them a starting forward to replace Matt Barnes, and also a veteran presence to steady things in the locker room. Pierce is a great character guy, and for a moody team like the Clippers his morale boost could prove the difference in a game or two this season. Most importantly, he will (hopefully) be able to corral Lance Stephenson, and keep him from going off the rails. A focused Lance is a productive Lance, and the Clippers need to maximize his potential if they want to win it all this season.
Finals Adversaries Re-Sign
Late Wednesday night, Draymond Green announced he was returning with the Warriors. He got a 5 year - $85 million deal. Earlier in the day, Iman Shumpert re-upped with the Cavs for 4 years - $40 million. Both are reasonable values, and will show how continuity is key to a contending team.
Onto July 2nd, Beginning with the Pelicans
The Pelicans started the day off by spending even more money on their frontcourt. After giving Anthony Davis a 5 year -$145 million mega-contract, they re-signed centers Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik.
The Asik deal is very reasonable considering how the cap is set to go up. As Anthony Davis' midrange game improves, Asik's spacing issues will be mitigated. The value he provides defensively is worth $12 million a year, and the Pelicans smartly retained him. For Ajinca, I'm not sure why they so quickly offered him 4 years. Admittedly, I did not follow the free agency of Alexis Ajinca very closely, but I can't imagine that many teams were offering him 4 years. I think the Pelicans sacrificed cap flexibility, but avoided overpaying him at least. With Davis' trajectory headed for superstardom, keeping the status quo is all the Pelicans need to do.
Monroe to the Bucks?
After being courted by the Blazers, Knicks and Lakers, Monroe opted with the Bucks. He accepted a 3 year - $50 million deal. There is a player option for the third season. Per Monroe's Agent David Falk, Monroe thought that Milwaukee was his best chance to win now, and I completely agree with him. They have a strong lineup of MCW-Middleton-Jabari-Giannis-Monroe, and a loaded bench with Grevis Vasquez, Rashad Vaughn, and John Henson. They could easily emerge as a surprise 50-win team this year as their young studs emerge. Signing Monroe is a good example of what smaller markets should do. They're not going to attract the big name free agents (Milwaukee couldn't get a meeting with Marc Gasol or DeAndre), so they snatch up smaller name guys, like Monroe. Smart spending without being reckless is a tough balance to strike, and Milwaukee has done so this offseason with Middleton and Monroe.
Ellis takes less money to avoid Sacramento
Call Vivek what you want, but at least he stuck to his word. He did use his newly found cap space to offer Monta Ellis a big contract. Problem is, Ellis treated Sacramento like they had syphillis, taking a pay cut to go to Indiana. Ellis had long been linked to Indiana, having a sit down meeting with Larry Bird on Wednesday. Today he signed a 4 years - $44 million deal with them, giving the Pacers an offensive weapon they desparately covet. He can shoulder some of the offensive burden from Paul George, and create in isolation when plays break down. Ellis shoots a strong 44% from midrange, and 90% of said shots come off the dribble. While his attitude has always been questioned, I think he'll buy in to the Pacers team. They have an established chain of command, and they will also give him free reign to shoot. This seems like a solid match, or as much as one can be when Monta is involved.
Afflalo to Knicks, Davis to Blazers
In a couple of underrated yet valuable signings, Arron Afflalo and Ed Davis took their talents elsewhere. Afflalo signed a 2 year - $16 million deal with the Knicks, with a player option for the second year, while Davis signed a 3 year - $20 million deal with the Blazers. While a valuable signing, Afflalo is a symbol of free agency failure for the Knicks. They once again came up short in their quest to lure a marquee free agent, and settled for solid rotation guys like Afflalo. In Portland, Davis is another acquisition for Aldridge insurance (along with Noah Vonleh).
Tim Duncan, Professional as Always
Shockingly, Tim Duncan has announced he will return for his 19th NBA season. While his contract details are uncertain, he will surely do whatever is needed to lure LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio. It's crazy to think about it, but Duncan was sitting in on meetings with Aldridge when he wasn't even under contract. How many guys could do that? Even for a lifer like Dwyane Wade, we're seeing how there is still uncertainty that comes with free agency. But that's what is so special about Duncan and Pop. Forget the 5 rings. Forget the 18 consecutive 50 win seasons. Forget the 70.3% winning percentage (58 win season) together. It's how linked at the hip they are, and how professional Duncan is. He's been taking pay cuts for over half a decade, and trusts the Spurs enough to make that money count. And for Pop, he's maintained Duncan's body perfectly, and staved off Father Time for years and years. I thought Duncan was done in 2011, and I never cease to be amazed by his performance. If Aldridge doesn't go to the Spurs, he's making the biggest mistake of his life. They're a first rate organization with the best power forward and coach of all time. How can you pass up an opportunity to play with those guys, and get Tim his 6th ring. No one else has ever be more deserving to go out a champion.