I did not stay up for the start of NBA free agency. I never do, and sometimes I regret it (like last year’s truly incredible DeAndre Jordan saga), but there really is no reason it has to start at midnight. It could start at 9 a.m., or noon (like the NHL will today), or 4 in the afternoon, and it would be just as wild, and able to be enjoyed by more people. I can only conclude the NBA hates us.
But there’s something to waking up to see all the agreed-upon deals. It’s like coming downstairs on Christmas morning, only the gift-wrapping is clearly concealing a stiff seven-footer, and you have to pay $15 million a year to unwrap it. So let’s bullet point last night’s happenings, in a little feature I like to call Who Paid Whom How Much??!
DeMar DeRozan is staying with the Raptors for two reasons: they could offer him the biggest contract, and they did. Toronto gave him five years, for, depending on reports, $139 million or $137.5 million. It’s a lot of money for a guy with weaknesses like “can’t shoot threes” and “isn’t a great ballhandler” and “isn’t a good defender.”
But DeRozan has been a huge part of the Raptors’ success, and now locked up through his age-30 season, his best basketball is probably still ahead of him. Derozan’s the perfect example of a non-superstar for whom the max is probably the exact right amount—in contrast to the true top tier of guys, for whom the max is an artificial limit.
Hassan Whiteside met with the Mavericks, Trail Blazers, and Heat immediately after midnight, and all were expected to offer him the max. (It’s a good time to be a big man, as last night showed.) It did not take Whiteside long to make his decision. He announced, in a short post on the Players’ Tribune, that he’s sticking with Miami.
“I’ve played on eight teams since college,” Whiteside wrote. “I am not ready for there to be a ninth.” No word on the terms, but we can assume it’s the four years and $98 million that represents the most Miami was allowed to offer. He’s a defensive-minded center who should probably never ever touch the ball, but this was always going to be the cost of keeping him.
What did I say about it being good to be a big man in the league right now? NBA Champion Timofey Mozgov, who averaged 5.8 minutes per game in the playoffs, signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Lakers. There was not much of a bidding war: the deal was announced 45 minutes into free agency.
He’ll get minutes in L.A., and with that roster he’ll probably sniff double-double averages, but he’ll never be a great center, not with his entirely defensive skill set. (And, since he never quite returned to form after knee surgery last summer, there’s reason to think Mozgov’s best days are behind him. He turns 30 later this month.) But the Lakers landed a starter, a legitimate seven-footer. And they signed him for cheaper than it would have taken to make a run at Al Horford or Hassan Whiteside, leaving them plenty of cap space to spend or hoard for next summer’s free agency bonanza.
This Joakim-Noah-to-the-Knicks thing looks like it’s really going to happen, and now we’ve got numbers: four years and $72 million, according to ESPN. Despite rumored interest from Washington (even whispers of the Wizards making a max offer), Noah does not appear to have met with anyone else, and is expected to spend today meeting with the Knicks to finalize the deal.
Noah’s 31, and he hasn’t been fully healthy in a while, and the Knicks simply aren’t good enough to contend just yet (despite new coach Jeff Hornacek saying they’re in “win-now” mode, which should give fans the shivers). So let’s all agree to meet back here in 2020 to see just how ugly Noah’s guaranteed fourth year will look in hindsight. Because it’s not very promising in foresight.
Andre Drummond and the Pistons are closing in on a five-year, $130 million deal. Drummond is still just 22 years old, and coming off a year in which he averaged 16.2 ppg and 14.8 rpg, so with the opportunity to match any offer sheet, there was no way the Pistons were going to let him get away. Much quicker and cleaner to just give him the max.
Nicolas Batum is staying in Charlotte. The widely courted swingman agreed to terms on a five-year, $120 million deal, that fifth year reportedly being a player option. A fantastic two-way player, the Lakers and the Mavericks reportedly wanted Batum badly, and while it’s early, this is not shaping up to be a productive summer for Dallas.
Bradley Beal is going to remain a Wizard, as expected. It’s a max deal, five years and $128 million, but nothing will be signed until the Wizards finish the rest of their free agency shopping, as Beal’s current cap hold gives them more flexibility than they’d have otherwise.
Jordan Clarkson will re-sign with the Lakers for four years and $50 million. With just two years in the league, there was no way any other team was going to be able to snatch the RFA guard away from L.A.