What do the latest trades and signings in NBA free agency mean for every team? What's next across the league?
You can find team-by-team analysis on all of today's movement here, including Gordon Hayward leaving Boston for Charlotte, Fred VanVleet's return to the Toronto Raptors, Kris Dunn heading to the Atlanta Hawks and the finalizing of the Steven Adams trade.
Note: The latest updates will be posted here, with teams sorted alphabetically.
Dunn is the kind of player the Hawks should be targeting in free agency: young enough at 26 to be part of the team going forward and someone who addresses their weakness at the defensive end of the court.
The idea that Dunn, the No. 5 pick in the 2016 draft, would become a starting point guard has faded with time. Instead, Chicago used him as a de facto small forward in three-guard lineups last season, and Dunn responded with far and away the best defensive season of his career. Dunn's plus-3.0 defensive rating in ESPN's real plus-minus ranked second behind Patrick Beverley among rotation guards, helping him finish as the leading vote getter among guards not to make last year's All-Defensive Team.
In Atlanta, Dunn projects as a backup who can share ballhandling duties and guard the opposition's best weapon while also generating high-value steals (his 3.8 per 100 possessions last year led the NBA). I would have preferred that the Hawks make a run at De'Anthony Melton or Jevon Carter, two similar players who are a bit younger than Dunn. However, Atlanta may not have wanted to tie up its cap space with an offer sheet to one of those restricted free agents. Because the Bulls surprisingly elected not to make a qualifying offer to Dunn, the Hawks are able to sign him outright.
Rondo is another curious investment. There's no question he fills a need. The Hawks collapsed offensively any time that starting point guard Trae Young hit the bench last season, scoring 15.5 fewer points per 100 possessions, according to NBA Advanced Stats. However, for all of Rondo's gifts as a passer, his teams have posted a better offensive rating with him on the court just once in the past six seasons, per Cleaning the Glass data.
Of course, when I cite that stat, I mean regular seasons. We're long past the point where so-called "Playoff Rondo" can be considered fluky. Rondo's teams have made the playoffs nine times in his career, and he's rated better on a per-minute basis by my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric in six of them despite the typical decline against playoff competition.
Back in the Boston days, this meant Rondo going from playing at an All-Star level to an all-NBA one. Nowadays, he's a marginal contributor at best during the regular season (he's totaled 7.7 WARP over the past four) but a valuable role player once the postseason hits. Last year's transformation was one of his most dramatic. Not only did Rondo make 3-pointers at a 40% clip, he also contributed on defense after limiting his effort at that end during the regular season.
All of that is to say I'm wary about Atlanta signing Rondo based on what the team saw in the playoffs and getting the regular-season version instead. It's also worth remembering that Rondo will turn 35 in February, making age a real concern. In a best-case scenario, adding Rondo still does nothing to help the Hawks beyond the length of this contract.
Next up for Atlanta appears to be an offer sheet for Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent. If the Hawks sign Dunn using their room exception, they still have somewhere in the neighborhood of $19 million in cap space, more than enough to offer Bogdanovic a contract that will make the Kings' decision on matching difficult.
As has been heavily rumored, a former teammate of Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City is rejoining him with the Nets. No, not that one (yet). Or that one (yet).
Since the last of his big paydays from the Orlando Magic in 2016-17, Green has reinvented himself as a contributor to contenders while making the veteran's minimum. That's meant an itinerant lifestyle for Green, who's joining his ninth team in the past seven seasons. He split 2019-20 between the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets, spending more than a month on the sideline in between those spots.
It will be interesting to see whether Brooklyn sees Green as a center, the role he frequently played for the small-ball Rockets. Against 5s, Green's ability to run inverted pick-and-rolls with a guard as the screener and knock down open 3s (including 43% in the playoffs, far better than his career 33% mark in the regular season) made him valuable.
The Nets now have 14 players, including two that will become guaranteed within the next week (newly acquired Bruce Brown and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, both locks to stick). The team could fill that 15th spot if the right player (Serge Ibaka?) is available with its taxpayer midlevel exception. Otherwise, the Nets might just focus on filling out the roster with non-guaranteed invitees to training camp.
The Nuggets found themselves subject to a hostile frontcourt takeover by the Detroit Pistons, who got commitments Friday from Denver free agents Jerami Grant (three years, $60 million) and Mason Plumlee (three years, $25 million).
I suspect the Nuggets were already planning to replace Plumlee given their luxury-tax concerns. Retaining Grant was a much bigger priority. Denver gave up this year's first-round pick to get him from the Oklahoma City Thunder in the summer of 2019, presumably with the intent of Grant replacing Millsap long-term at power forward.
Nonetheless, the Nuggets are probably better off without Grant on their books for $20 million a season, which would have made it difficult for them to keep the rest of the roster together. Denver came up with a solid Plan B, bringing back Millsap at a deep pay cut on Saturday and adding JaMychal Green as a backup big man on Friday.
For 2020-21, Millsap is probably still a better player than Grant. Nuggets lineups with Millsap, point guard Jamal Murray and All-NBA center Nikola Jokic performed much better last season (plus-9.6 net rating) than those with Grant in Millsap's place (dead even), per Cleaning the Glass data. Millsap is a much better rebounder and elicits more respect from defenses as a shooter than Grant does.
Green brings the versatility to both back up Jokic and play alongside him more effectively than Plumlee did. He's developed into a plus outside shooter, knocking down 39% of his 3-point attempts over the last two seasons, and is a more switchable defender than Plumlee. Green doesn't really protect the rim, which might make it wise to pair him in second-unit frontcourts with 2019 second-round pick Bol Bol.
Besides getting older with Grant's departure, Denver has lost its top wing defender in the playoffs. The three players he matched up with most frequently, according to Second Spectrum tracking, were Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell and LeBron James. My ESPN colleague Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday the Nuggets pulled their qualifying offer to defensive specialist Torrey Craig, so they're suddenly light on wing defense.
Before dealing with the frontcourt, Denver on Friday agreed to sign Argentine national team point guard Facundo Campazzo, a two-time EuroLeague champion with Real Madrid who was playing for them as recently as Wednesday. My SCHOENE projection system comps the 5-foot-11 Campazzo to a variety of backup point guards of recent vintage, including Earl Watson, suggesting he should be a quality contributor over the length of this contract.
Adding Campazzo may clear the way for the Nuggets to trade backup point guard Monte Morris, who could become too expensive for the team as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Morris can play a larger role elsewhere than is possible backing up Murray.
1. Agreed to a reported three-year, $60 million deal with Jerami Grant
In a confusing sequence of events, the Pistons spent the week using their cap space to take on other team's contracts for draft picks -- getting the No. 16 and No. 38 picks in Wednesday's NBA draft -- before reversing course Friday and handing out one of the biggest deals for a player to change teams so far.
Recreating enough room to offer Grant $60 million over three years and Plumlee $25 million over the same span will require creative and self-sabotaging cap maneuvers. At a minimum, Detroit will waive center DeWayne Dedmon and stretch the $14.3 million remaining over the next five seasons. That decision explained acquiring Dedmon from the Atlanta Hawks in a trade on Thursday: Because it had two seasons remaining, Dedmon's contract counts less per year after being stretched than Tony Snell's expiring deal would.
Depending on the exact amount needed to sign both Grant and Mason Plumlee, the Pistons may have to waive Rodney McGruder and stretch his $5.2 million guarantee over five years too. The most Detroit could pay Grant and Plumlee without stretching McGruder's salary is about $81 million, shy of the $85 million reported combined value of their deals.
If the Pistons indeed stretch both contracts, that would put $3.9 million in dead salary on their payroll each of the next five seasons. That's a tough price to pay just as Detroit finally clears a $5.3 million cap hit for Josh Smith that dated back to when his salary was stretched way back in 2014.
The stretch provision can be a useful tool to managing cap space for teams in the established phase of the building process. The Pistons aren't there yet, making a lavish offer to Grant questionable. His 3-and-D skill set makes Grant ideal as the final piece of a puzzle, like he was for the Nuggets, not an early building block. Detroit will be paying Grant, a useful though limited role player, like an above-average starter over the life of this contract.
There's a similar valuation issue with Plumlee and perhaps centers in general. Over the past week, Detroit drafted a center (Isaiah Stewart, the No. 16 pick), traded for a center (Tony Bradley) and signed two centers in free agency (Jahlil Okafor and Plumlee). This is tough to understand for a couple of reasons.
First, center has been far and away the easiest position for NBA teams to fill. Last year, the Sacramento Kings (Richaun Holmes) and Los Angeles Lakers (JaVale McGee) signed starting centers for less than $5 million apiece. The Lakers (Dwight Howard) and Oklahoma City Thunder (Nerlens Noel) signed quality backups for the veteran's minimum. The Pistons themselves proved this rule by claiming Christian Wood off waivers and seeing him average 21.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in 12 starts after they traded Andre Drummond.
In a vacuum, then, expending scarce resources on replaceable centers doesn't make sense. Bradley and Okafor came cheap, but Detroit used a premium pick just outside the lottery on Stewart and had to create additional cap space to sign Plumlee. Based on the ease of finding centers, I rate Plumlee no better than replacement level next season. Plumlee's projection only drops from there because his game is so much more dependent on athleticism than skill and he'll turn 31 in March.
In this case specifically, the Pistons' moves make even less sense because they chose them over re-signing Wood, who went to the Houston Rockets in a sign-and-trade that will pay him $41 million over the next three years. At the same price point, I'd rather have Wood than Grant. For $19 million less over the same time period, that isn't even a question.
All of this feels like a rerun of the Stan Van Gundy era for the Pistons, which was sabotaged by his regime's tendency to overpay role players, eventually forcing Detroit into making tough choices on which ones to keep.
In re-signing Caldwell-Pope, the Lakers did a good job of avoiding what John Hollinger of The Athletic has termed the "Bird rights trap," where teams far over the cap overpay to re-sign their own players because they have few avenues to replace them.
To some extent, the Lakers hard capping themselves by using the non-taxpayer midlevel exception to sign Montrezl Harrell prevented that; the Lakers couldn't actually have started Caldwell-Pope's contract any higher than this if they wanted to. Still, the Lakers held the line on years (three instead of four or the maximum five) and actually got a partial guarantee on the third season.
With four roster spots open and nothing but the veteran's minimum to offer, the Lakers now will get busy trying to sell free agents on the L.A. lifestyle and a chance to join the defending champs.
For my full analysis of the Caldwell-Pope news and the Lakers' offseason so far, click here.
With Jae Crowder's departure for the Phoenix Suns, Miami could comfortably use the $9.3 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception to replace him. The Heat opted to split that total between Bradley and Harkless to complete their 2020-21 roster.
By replacing Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. with Bradley and Harkless, Miami has remained equally deep and strengthened its backcourt rotation. Remember, Kendrick Nunn was out of that rotation for much of the postseason, and a healthy Nunn can play a key role. Now the Heat have added Bradley, who started 44 of the 49 games he played last season for the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers before opting out of the restart.
The big question entering training camp will be how Miami starts games. Erik Spoelstra could put either Bradley or Nunn in the starting lineup and play with a smaller frontcourt duo of Jimmy Butler and Duncan Robinson. Alternatively, Harkless as a starter would be the closest thing to a like-for-like substitution for Crowder. Or the Heat could go back to the bigger lineups they used for much of the 2019-20 regular season with Meyers Leonard at center and Bam Adebayo at the 4. Spoelstra is going to have plenty of options.
Miami got good value on both Bradley and Harkless, considering the team's unwillingness to spend beyond this season. (The Heat hold a team option on Bradley's 2021-22 salary, similar to deals for Leonard and Goran Dragic struck Friday.) Harkless at $3.6 million looks like a particular bargain after he started 48 of the 62 games he played last season for the LA Clippers and New York Knicks.
One downside is that Miami might miss Crowder's combination of strength and quickness at power forward. Harkless is slightly taller at 6-foot-7 but not as strong, making him better suited to defend wings than 4s. Still, given the self-imposed limitations on the Heat's offseason, they have to feel good about the results.
Augustin should help Milwaukee during the regular season after the Bucks traded their incumbent point guards, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, to get Jrue Holiday. Augustin could back up Holiday or play alongside him with Holiday moving off the ball. A 38% career 3-point shooter, Augustin should bounce back from last year's relative slump to 35% and provide floor spacing in addition to a steady hand at the point.
I'm less convinced Augustin will work in a big role during the postseason. His teams have advanced beyond the first round only once in his career, back in 2013 when Augustin was a backup to Hill with the Indiana Pacers. As a result, we've never seen how much Augustin's small stature (5-foot-11) might become an issue deeper in the playoffs, when mismatch basketball becomes common.
A three-year commitment also looks generous to Augustin, who turned 33 earlier this month and will be 35 in the final season of this contract. I would have targeted a big man who can switch on defense with the Bucks' non-taxpayer midlevel exception instead.
Milwaukee seems to believe Portis fills that need on a two-year contract for the $3.6 million biannual exception with the second season a player option, per my ESPN colleague Bobby Marks. Portis is a big man who shoots 3s (36% career), so he fits the Bucks' system from that standpoint. The problem is Portis is a dreadful defender. His minus-0.8 defensive rating in ESPN's real plus-minus ranked 75th among power forwards last season.
Portis doesn't protect the rim (his career block rate, 1.2 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts, is worse than the average for small forwards) and hasn't proved quick enough to keep up in switch-heavy schemes. Consider me unconvinced that Portis, who has played six career playoff games back in 2016-17, is ready for the crucible of high-level competition.
Connaughton got a nice bonus when the original contract he agreed to (two years, $8.3 million with a player option on the second season) didn't fit into Early Bird exception, which requires at least two years -- not counting options. With the midlevel exception spoken for, Connaughton got a bump to $16 million over three years. For the Bucks, that's still decent value for the one free agent Milwaukee has re-signed so far, though it could make it harder for the Bucks to skirt the luxury tax.
Later, Milwaukee agreed to a two-way contract with guard Jaylen Adams, who finished second in G League MVP voting last season while playing for the Bucks' Wisconsin Herd affiliate.
1. Agreed to re-sign Elfrid Payton to a reported one-year, $5 million deal
Perhaps it is a new day in New York, as the Knicks' two moves so far in free agency have shown admirable restraint and reasonable value.
I was a little surprised that New York waived Payton on Thursday before the remaining $7 million of his $8 million salary became fully guaranteed for 2020-21. Well, that made a lot more sense when the Knicks were able to bring him back for $5 million. Payton, who started 36 of the 45 games he played last season, is a capable transitional point guard for a team like New York lacking a long-term starter at the position.
Payton's value was perhaps best reflected by the 17 games he missed due to a hamstring strain in late October, during which the Knicks went 2-15 and head coach David Fizdale lost his job. New York's offensive rating was 7.0 points per 100 possessions better with Payton on the court, according to NBA Advanced Stats, second to Marcus Morris Sr. among Knicks regulars.
Assuming he comes off the bench, adding Alec Burks should help New York score when Payton sits. Quietly, Burks was one of the league's better reserves last season, averaging 16.1 points per game before being traded by the Golden State Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline. He's developed from a shooting liability into a strong threat off the dribble, hitting 1.8 3-pointers per game at a 38.5% clip in 2019-20.
Given Burks' reasonable salary and his skill set, I wouldn't be surprised if the Knicks are able to get a second-round pick or two for him at the deadline.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, New York still has $25 million in cap space remaining. We'll see whether the Knicks can continue to use the rest of it in a responsible fashion.
In my analysis of the Chris Paul trade, I docked the Suns a bit for making the trade prior to the draft rather than waiting to maximize their cap space first. A few days later, it's clear Phoenix had a better read of the market than I did.
The Suns' $17 million or so in cap space might not have been enough to get Danilo Gallinari (three years, $61.5 million), Jerami Grant (three years, $60 million) or Davis Bertans (who got $16 million annually but on a five-year deal only the Washington Wizards could offer). But Phoenix pivoted nicely, using the $9.3 million non-taxpayer midlevel exception to sign Crowder away from the Heat after he started all 21 playoff games during the team's run to the NBA Finals.
Because the vast majority of his shot attempts are 3s (80% during the 2020 playoffs), Crowder's value will always be tied to how often those go in. He seemingly couldn't miss during the first few weeks of the postseason, shooting 42% from beyond the arc through Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Crowder slumped thereafter and finished at 34%, right at his career mark.
Since Crowder is undersized for a combo forward at 6-foot-6, there's a little concern about how he might age. This deal takes him through age 32, which is about as long as I'd be willing to commit.
With Crowder on the books, Phoenix stands about $22 million below the luxury-tax line with 10 players under contract. That should give the Suns the ability to re-sign either Aron Baynes or Dario Saric using Bird rights as well as restricted free agent Jevon Carter.
I thought this week's other moves spelled the end of Melo's time in Portland after one happy season. The Blazers, who were down to 19-year-old rookie Nassir Little at power forward before signing Anthony almost exactly a year ago (Nov. 19), suddenly are flush with options at the forward spots.
Zach Collins' shoulder surgery opened the door for Portland to sign Anthony, and it worked out well for the Blazers that starting small forward Trevor Ariza opted out just as Collins returned for the restart of the season, allowing Anthony to slide to the wing. Now, Collins should be back in the lineup. So too will wing Rodney Hood, who suffered an Achilles rupture not long after Portland signed Anthony. And the Blazers have added forwards Robert Covington (via trade for Ariza) and Derrick Jones Jr. (via free agency).
In interviews, Melo has made it clear that he thinks his stint in Portland went better than his other post-New York Knicks stops (Oklahoma City and Houston) because the organization was up front with him about his role. As a result, I have to assume Anthony is re-signing with eyes wide open to the possibility -- or even likelihood -- that he won't start or play as many minutes per game as last season.
Based on that understanding, the Blazers weren't going to do much better for the veteran's minimum. Their star players look up to Melo, who was a positive presence in the Portland locker room last season. Here's hoping things go equally well the second time around.
The market for VanVleet appeared to dry up before free agency opened for business. The Phoenix Suns, who might have been able to create sufficient cap room for a big offer by trading Kelly Oubre Jr., instead decided to add Chris Paul at point guard. And the Detroit Pistons, frequently linked to VanVleet -- who started his career in Toronto playing for current Pistons coach Dwane Casey -- opted to sign big men and trade for VanVleet's former teammate Delon Wright to play point guard.
As a result, it's no surprise to see VanVleet return to the Raptors on a long-term deal that should be reasonable for both sides. That option was always going to be tough to beat provided Toronto wasn't too scared of committing multiyear salary because of the possibility of using cap space next summer.
If the Raptors structure this deal to decline in Year 2 before raises in Years 3 and 4, $19.55 million is the minimum possible salary for VanVleet in 2021-22 based on the reported total. Add in OG Anunoby's cap hold if Toronto waits on a new contract until next summer ($11.6 million) and the Raptors can get to a maximum salary slot for a player with 7-9 years of experience (like, say, two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo) if Norman Powell declines his player option or is traded.
I am a little disappointed we won't get to see VanVleet run his own team, at least not before Kyle Lowry's contract expires next summer. While VanVleet has adapted well to an off-ball role, point guard is his more natural position. In 848 minutes with Lowry on the bench last season, VanVleet averaged 22.0 points and 7.8 assists per 36 minutes according to NBA Advanced Stats -- better than Lowry's per-36 averages (19.4 and 7.4, respectively).
Lineups with VanVleet at point guard were effective, outscoring opponents by 5.6 points per 100 possessions. However, I'm not sure the Raptors could count on VanVleet shooting as well as he did in that smallish sample -- he was both more accurate from 3-point range and dramatically better as a finisher with Lowry on the bench.
With VanVleet back in the fold, Toronto still has plenty of work to do before beginning training camp in Tampa Bay, the team's temporary home due to Canadian travel restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The only center currently under contract for the Raptors is 2019 second-round pick Dewan Hernandez, with starter Marc Gasol, sixth man Serge Ibaka and reserve Chris Boucher (restricted) all free agents.
Whether Toronto can re-sign Gasol and Ibaka, and for how long, will give us a better idea of just how important a run at Giannis in the summer of 2021 remains. If the Raptors are still prioritizing 2021 cap space, we're probably looking at one-year offers, which may not be enough to retain both players.
Here's my analysis of the initial wave of major free-agency moves and what they mean:
Danilo Gallinari | Atlanta Hawks
De'Aaron Fox | Sacramento Kings