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Grading Every 2020 NBA Free-Agency Signing

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    After a relatively slow start to this unprecedented November free agency, the NBA did what it does late Friday night.

    There was a bonanza of trades, free-agent signings and reporters on Twitter trying to keep up with it all.

    By the time the dust settled…

  • The Miami Heat had preserved much of the core that took them to the Finals last season;
  • The Detroit Pistons had signed a million bigs (slight exaggeration, but still), including nearly $100 million on the Denver Nuggets’ reserve bigs (not an exaggeration);
  • The Los Angeles Lakers landed Wesley Matthews and scooped Montrezl Harrell from the Los Angeles Clippers;
  • The Utah Jazz re-signed Jordan Clarkson and brought Derrick Favors back after one year in The Big Easy;
  • The Atlanta Hawks secured Danilo Gallinari with a multiyear, eight-figure per year deal;
  • The Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets retained their sharpshooters, Davis Bertans and Joe Harris;
  • The Houston Rockets landed one of the game’s most intriguing centers, Christian Wood;
  • The Clippers re-signed Marcus Morris; and
  • Dwight Howard tweeted he was going back to the Lakers minutes before news broke that he would sign with the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was a wild ride. And that list doesn’t even cover the trades or all the signings. For a detailed look at each individual free-agent deal, scroll below for Day 1 grades from Dan Favale and Grant Hughes.

As Day 2 unfolds, each new deal will get the same treatment at the top of this slideshow.

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    In theory, Maurice Harkless is exactly the kind of role player many teams want this season. He has the size (6’7″, 220 lbs) and mobility to play as a wing or forward. His three-point shot looks good. And he collects numbers at a decent rate in just about every category but assists.

    The theoretical version of Harkless is almost certainly worth more than the Miami Heat just committed to him.

    ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported he signed for one year at $3.6 million and noted, “Harkless turned down more lucrative deals for a chance to play a prominent role with defending Eastern Conference champions…”

    If there’s a downside, it’s that Harkless’ accuracy from outside fluctuates drastically from year to year. Over his eight NBA seasons, he’s somehow shot 29.4 percent from three in odd seasons and 35.5 percent in even seasons.

    If Miami gets the player who was 41.5 percent from deep in 2017-18, this deal is a steal. If it gets the 27.5 percent he shot in 2018-19, his impact will be severely dampened.

    At that price, though, this is a gamble well worth taking.

    Grade: A

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Michael Carter-Williams hasn’t had a chance to put up eye-popping numbers with the Orlando Magic. Over his 57 games in a Magic jersey, he’s averaged just 18.6 minutes. His impact in Orlando has been clear, though, and Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reports he’s staying.

    Thanks to his length and athleticism, MCW can frustrate opposing guards and wings and get in and out of passing lanes without sacrificing defensive rotations.

    He’s also an underrated offensive rebounder. In 2019-20, he had the best offensive rebounding percentage of any player his height (6’5″) or shorter. And those extra possessions often lead to easy looks.

    That all translates to a strong net rating swing for Carter-Williams. Since he joined the Magic during the 2018-19 season, he’s played 1,153 regular and postseason minutes. Orlando is plus-4.0 points per 100 possessions in those minutes, compared to minus-1.7 in all other minutes. Believe it or not, the bulk of that swing happens on the offensive end.

    That kind of value from a reserve (there’s likely an understanding he’ll maintain that role) does a lot for a team’s bottom line.

    Grade: B

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Unfortunately, injuries have been a significant theme of Denzel Valentine’s brief NBA career. After the Chicago Bulls selected him with a lottery pick in 2016, Valentine has appeared in 170 of a possible 311 games (54.7 percent). He missed all of 2018-19 with ankle problems.

    If you squint real hard at his numbers (particularly those from his sophomore campaign), you can see an intriguing wing with some playmaking chops. So, it makes sense for Chicago to bring him back on a qualifying offer (one-year, $4.7 million), a move Charania reported Saturday.

    This isn’t a move that jams up long-term flexibility. And with Otto Porter opting into his player option earlier this offseason, the Bulls didn’t have any cap space to think about right now, either. There isn’t a ton of risk in this deal.

    If Valentine looks like his 2017-18 self, though, Chicago might second-guess not being able to get a couple more years.

    That season, Valentine averaged 10.2 points, 3.2 assists and 1.9 threes in just 27.2 minutes. Perhaps most importantly, he shot 38.6 percent from three.

    A return of that kind of production will make it more difficult to bring him back in 2021. On the other hand, if he continues to struggle with his shot, as he did in 2019-20, the Bulls can simply let him walk next offseason.

    There are pros and cons for both the team and the player on this one.

    Grade: B

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Dwayne Bacon is signing a two-year contract with the Magic, according to Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill. The contract is most likely for the league minimum and includes a team option on the second season, per The Athletic’s Josh Robbins.

    Landing in Orlando could be a potential boon for Bacon. He spent a year under Magic head coach Steve Clifford in Charlotte, and it was toward the end of that season he made the type of impact worth regular minutes.

    Whatever momentum Bacon built up during the 2018-19 campaign largely dissipated last year. He fell out of the Hornets rotation in a hurry, so much so they didn’t bother extending him a qualifying offer.

    Orlando is making a no-risk bet that Bacon can scratch the surface of the player he was for large chunks of 2018-19, when he canned 43.7 percent of his triples, hinted at some off-the-bounce creation and defended his butt off. He spent that year under James Borrego, but a reunion with his first NBA head coach could be just what the career-reboot doctor ordered. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that the Magic seem like they’ll need a Wes Iwundu replacement.

    Grade: B+

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    JaMychal Green is leaving the Clippers for the Nuggets on a two-year deal worth $15 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The second season is a player option.

    Woo buddy, did the Nuggets need this one. They won’t have trouble approximating Mason Plumlee’s value next season, but losing Jerami Grant to the Pistons was a blow. He was among their only two-way wings, and, well, very few teams can stand to subtract a four-position defender who shot almost 39 percent from downtown. 

    Green will fill part of the voids left by both Grant and Plumlee. He doesn’t have Grant’s defensive range, but he can match up with both 4s and 5s, and he’s shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc over the past two seasons. Denver should have no trouble leaning into smaller lineups with him at the 5 when Nikola Jokic is on the bench. The Clippers didn’t utilize them much this year, but Green-at-the-5 combinations were a pivotal reason they made their 2019 first-round series with the Warriors so interesting.

    Keep an eye on what comes next for the Nuggets. Green’s arrival could portend Millsap’s departure, though they still feel one combo big short—unless Bol Bol is ready to take on an everyday role next season.

    Grade: A

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    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

    James Ennis III is returning to the Magic on a one-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. Good thing, too.

    They need him more than ever.

    Exact terms of Ennis’ contract weren’t immediately reported, but he should end up around the league minimum or with Orlando’s bi-annual exception. Neither outcome changes the context of this return. The Magic won’t have Jonathan Isaac next season as he recovers from an ACL injury and didn’t tender a qualifying offer to Wes Iwundu. They don’t have two-way wings to spare.

    Ennis does need to hit a higher percentage of his threes than the 28.6 percent he drained with Orlando last season, but he’s at least someone defenses respect enough to guard from beyond the arc. More than anything, he ensures the Magic don’t have to give Aaron Gordon too much run at small forward. And when he’s not knocking down shots, he’s not someone who will hijack possessions. He’ll keep the ball moving, and his engagement on defense won’t change.

    Grade: B+

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    At least Milwaukee didn’t let all its wings get away. Pat Connaughton is coming back on a two-year, $8.3 million deal, with a player option on the second season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

    The Bucks needed this one. They lost Bogdan Bogdanovic before they ever really had him and then, just as critically, saw Wesley Matthews sign with the Lakers for the bi-annual exception. They still have plenty of wing defense in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, but the ranks behind them are wearing thin.

    Connaughton doesn’t give Milwaukee much of an on-ball solution, but he’s quick enough to track some of the league’s premier off-ball roamers. His offensive utility is less of a sure thing. He’s best described as an unhinged play-finisher.

    He runs the floor but can be a leaky faucet in transition, and though his shot profile is mostly plug-and-play, he converted just 32.2 percent of his spot-up threes last season. The Bucks will need a dab more from him—especially if Donte DiVincenzo still winds up being on the move.

    Grade: C+

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Jakob Poeltl has agreed to re-sign with San Antonio on a three-year deal worth nearly $27 million, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. This agreement comes after the Spurs already brought back fellow center Drew Eubanks on a three-year, $5.3 million pact.

    Poeltl’s contract stands to age extremely well if he’s primed to take over as the team’s starting center. He doesn’t have a ton of range outside the paint, but he screens, rim-runs, hits the glass and is just generally in the right spot on defense.

    Whether Poeltl is cut out for a higher-volume role remains to be seen. He has never averaged 20 minutes per game for an entire season and can get into foul trouble when he’s logging heavier minutes, as he showed during San Antonio’s stint in the bubble. Reserve reps may prove to be his ceiling.

    That’s not a problem. The Spurs aren’t into him for a ton of money, and as of now, they don’t have significant dollars committed to any one big man after LaMarcus Aldridge‘s contract comes off the books next offseason. Poeltl should have an opportunity to take on a more prominent role in the rotation, but San Antonio will hardly be screwed if he’s best suited in his current small-to-medium-bursts capacity.

    Grade: B

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Justin Holiday is coming back to Indiana on a three-year contract worth a little more than $18 million, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

    Pacers fans may now exhale.

    Re-signing Holiday was at once a necessity and not necessarily a given. Indiana was only working with non-Bird rights and couldn’t go higher than $5.7 million in the first year before tapping into the bigger mid-level exception, but it’s close enough to the luxury-tax line where doing so might’ve been seen as an issue—even with an entire season to duck it.

    To that end, it isn’t quite clear what route the Pacers went. A three-year deal using non-Bird rights would come in at just over $18 million—around $18,019,260, to be exact. But the Indianapolis Star‘s J. Michael was told the deal came in $18.8 million, which would necessitate MLE usage while toeing the razor-thin line separating the team from the luxury tax.

    Salary-cap nerdom aside, the Holiday contract is excellent value for Indiana either way. His length allowed him to tussle with power forwards on defense last season, and he has a universally scalable offensive profile. His usage from last season should actually have more value under new head coach Nate Bjorkgren, given the aggressive style he hopes to install.

    More than 55 percent of Holiday’s attempts came as catch-and-fire threes, on which he shot 40.1 percent, and his 1.24 points per transition possession ranked in the 77th percentile and included ample looks from beyond the arc. Color me shocked he couldn’t get more than three years and $18 millionish.

    Grade: A

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Jerami Grant is signing a three-year, $60 million contract with the Pistons, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The Nuggets reportedly offered him the same deal to stay, but he wants a bigger role than they’re able to promise, per T.J. McBride of the Rocky Mountain Hoops podcast.

    This immediately goes down as the Pistons’ best free-agency signing so far. (It looks even better if somehow folded into the Mason Plumlee deal as part of a Blake Griffin trade.) Grant isn’t your typical $20-million-per-year player, but that’s not an unreasonable price to pay for a 26-year-old wing who can switch across almost every position, runs the floor and has shot 39.1 percent from long distance over the past two seasons.

    It’ll be interesting to see what offensive role exactly Detroit promised him to gain the edge over Denver. He’ll be overstretched if he’s given license to create off the dribble. On the flip side, he’s never enjoyed that level of agency, so maybe he has other levels.

    The Pistons better hope so. They’ve not only committed quite a bit of money to him, but they’re fairly light on functional shooting after moving Luke Kennard to the Clippers and signing-and-trading Christian Wood to the Rockets. They need one of the youngsters to go off—namely Killian Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya—or for Grant to plumb untapped shot creation to even out the losses.

    Grade: B-

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    Marcus Morris Sr. entered free agency as the Clippers’ most important free agent, and they just paid him like it. He’s coming back on a four-year, $64 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Hardly anyone should be taken aback by the value here—particularly after seeing Joe Harris get $75 million from the Nets over the same term. Morris’ tenure with the Clippers didn’t go off without a hitch, but he was very clearly their third-most important player by the end of the postseason.

    That’s technically not saying too much following a second-round collapse. But Los Angeles’ implosion wasn’t on Morris. He spent a bulk of the first round chasing around Luka Doncic—and doing a damned good job despite how well Dallas’ wunderkind played—and buried 47.5 percent of his threes through 13 postseason games.

    It comes as little surprise that, by the looks of things, the Clippers made him more of a priority than Montrezl Harrell, who just signed with the Lakers. Ivica Zubac had a stronghold on Los Angeles’ traditional center minutes by the end of the bubble as Harrell struggled—he did need to leave Disney World to mourn the death of his grandmother—and Morris is better suited for small-ball 5 minutes as someone who stretches defenses beyond the three-point line and can more effectively switch at the other end.

    Shelling out $16 million per year, on average, can still be construed as an overpay when the recipient is functionally a three-and-D specialist. That’s not all Morris does. He has more to offer as a from-scratch scorer; he made 38.1 percent of his pull-up threes last season splitting time in New York and Los Angeles. If the Clippers look into moving Lou Williams, it’s at least in part because they know he (and Luke Kennard) can ferry some of the half-court burden.

    Grade: B+

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The Knicks peeled off a few stray bills from their towering stack of cap-space cash for Alec Burks, a 6’6″ guard who put himself back on the map with a strong 2019-20 split between the Warriors and Sixers.

    The agreement will pay Burks, who averaged 15.0 points per game and shot 38.5 percent from distance, $6 million in 2020-21, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. Whether New York intends to keep the 29-year-old around or flip him at the 2021 deadline is immaterial; this is a solid value play either way.

    Burks isn’t known for his defensive contributions, and several injuries have sapped what was once top-notch open-floor speed. Once a player who lived at the rim, Burks’ shot distribution trended toward the perimeter last year. If he can sustain his accuracy rate, that won’t be an issue. But if that 38.5 percent mark from deep was an outlier and he again fails to get to the cup, this grade is going to seem too high.

    Grade: C+

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    The relatively young Bulls may have spent a little too much to assure Thaddeus Young will have a buddy at the adult’s table.

    Garrett Temple agreed on a one-year, $5 million deal, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, to (presumably) serve as a veteran mentor and all-around good dude in Chicago. The Bulls can’t expect much in the way of production from a 34-year-old combo guard who shot 37.8 percent from the field in 62 games for the Brooklyn Nets last season, but leadership and professionalism are still worth something.

    In fairness, Temple can also still defend a bit. He’s almost always in the right place, and his steal numbers were elite until last season. Those skills will matter in light of the Bulls’ surprising decision to ditch Kris Dunn by declining to make him a qualifying offer.

    Still, it’s hard to get past the notion that Chicago could have gotten much of what Temple will provide for the minimum.

    Grade: C-

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Davis Bertans is returning to the Wizards on a five-year, $80 million deal that includes an early termination option after the fourth season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Related: It pays to be a shooter in this market.

    Coughing up $16 million per year for Bertans verges on vexing. He just turned 28, so this deal only takes him through his age-32 season. But this commitment is less about him and more about the Wizards.

    Teams thinking about a rebuild don’t shell out this much money to keep a win-now player who won’t necessarily be eminently movable if they reverse course. Paying such a premium for Bertans infers a belief in the present—that Bradley Beal is around for the long haul, and that John Wall‘s trade request, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, won’t complicate matters.

    This isn’t to say Washington is out of line. Shooting costs money, and Bertans is among the best snipers alive. He just hit 42.4 percent of his triples on a whopping 10.7 attempts per 36 minutes. Stephen Curry is the only other player in league history to match that efficiency and per-minute volume.

    And it wasn’t like Bertans made the record books finding nylon on gimme looks. He launched ultra-deep, quick-fire treys. His spacing is functional. That matters.

    So too does the rest of his game. There isn’t much to it. And the Wizards aren’t the kind of postseason lock, let alone fringe championship hopeful, that can make this steep of an investment in their third-best player without thinking twice. The financial commitment is fine in the interim, but relative to how they fair next year, it has the potential to age poorly.

    Grade: B-

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    Joe Harris is more than a shooter, which is probably the best place to start when explaining how $75 million over four years, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, actually constitutes a fair deal for the Nets.

    Yes, the 29-year-old is basically Hawkeye on the catch, as evidenced by his league-best 43.0 percent conversion rate on threes since 2016-17. That’s the most accurate figure in that span by anyone with over 1,300 attempts. But in addition to league-best high-volume marksmanship, Harris can put the ball on the deck against frantic closeouts (and they’re all frantic closeouts when he’s teeing it up), make a good decision or finish at the rack.

    Harris gets to the rim at above-average rates for his position and has finished at least 61.0 percent of his close-range looks in each of the last three years. That’s also significantly above the median for wings. Add to that his non-pushover status on D, and Brooklyn is getting a starting-caliber wing with few real weaknesses and one elite strength.

    The Nets, angling for a title, paid a premium. But they got a premium player.

    Grade: B+

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Apparently, the Pistons found one big they wouldn’t pay: their own. Christian Wood is headed to the Rockets on a three-year, $41 million deal that’s expected to be completed as a sign-and-trade with Detroit, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Few could have envisioned saying nice things about Houston at the start of free agency. And yet, here we are.

    Acquiring Wood for what amounts to under $14 million annually is a fantastic gamble by a team presently without a concrete direction. The Rockets cannot decide whether they’re win-now or rebuilding until they hash out the futures of the disgruntled James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Their predraft moves—most notably their decision to unload Robert Covington—suggest they’re getting ready to start over, but their outlook is for the time being etched in sand.

    Wood jibes with whatever timeline Houston settles on or is forced into. He’s only 25, and this contract could feasibly turn into a trade asset if the team ever leans into a longer-term reset.

    The depth of his scoring, meanwhile, pretty much makes him a universal roster fit. He is comfortable squaring up for standstill triples, fanning out behind the rainbow, running into quick catch-and-fire opportunities, slipping to the baskets off screens, beating closeouts off the dribble and even driving baseline, through traffic, creating his own looks at the rim. His minutes are best served coming at the 5, where he’s a matchup nightmare, but he can give you reps alongside another big.

    Pretty much everything that comes next for the Rockets will likely be steeped in disappointment. The Harden and Westbrook situations loom, and team governor Tilman Fertitta has yet to show a willingness to spend like this without strings attached (the Trevor Ariza salary dump). This specific move, though, qualifies as a home run.

    Grade: A

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Blazers have been short on wing and frontcourt defense since the Al-Farouq Aminu-Moe Harkless tandem disbanded following the 2018-19 season. Now, after swinging a deal for Robert Covington and inking Derrick Jones Jr. to a two-year, $19 million agreement, as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Blazers have improved significantly on the original model.

    Jones keyed the Miami Heat’s highly effective zone defense last season, leveraging his length, quickness and supreme athleticism at the point of attack. He was a disruptive force regardless of how the Heat deployed him, which his block and steal numbers reflect. The 6’6″ forward ranked in the 87th percentile in steal rate last season, and lest we undersell his bounce, he’s been in or above the 91st percentile in block rate at his position in all four years of his career.

    It’s rare for an impactful 23-year-old to hit unrestricted free agency, and you would have thought Jones was in line for much more than a two-year deal at the MLE. Even with a player option on the second year, as The Athletic’s David Aldridge reported, this is a steal of a signing for Portland.

    Jones is going to run amok in transition, and he and Covington are on the short list of the most intimidating defensive forward combos in the league.

    Grade: A-

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Montrezl Harrell is moving across the hall. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is signing a two-year, $19 million deal with the Lakers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. His second season is a player option.

    Poaching Harrell from the Clippers for only the mid-level exception is great value in a vacuum. He doesn’t space the floor, but he’s a versatile finisher in his own right. He will lay down the boomstick rolling off screens, can put the ball on the floor in open spaces and has a semblance of a post game. The Lakers’ opportunism in transition should serve him well, and on most nights, they won’t field anyone with a fiercer motor.

    Completely celebrating this deal mandates you ignore the prospective wonky fit. Harrell will shrink the floor if the plan is to play him beside Anthony Davis. Then again, the Lakers just did that with Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee, and it held up.

    Looking at Harrell strictly as a backup center renders this a rosier decision. He is a demonstrative offensive upgrade over Howard and McGee, and the Lakers aren’t paying him so much money they’ll feel obligated to have him on the floor during crunch time, when Davis-at-center arrangements seem to make most sense.

    Anyone entirely against this is probably more rankled by what Los Angeles could have done. That’s fair. The MLE was its best spending tool. Parlaying that money into Harrell rather than a big who can shoot threes or another wing is questionable. But the overarching value, coupled with the fact that the Lakers just stole a Clippers rotation player, makes the move justifiable.

    Grade: B

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Malik Beasley is returning to the Timberwolves on a four-year, $60 million deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. That is…quite the price tag.

    Wings under 25 who can stroke threes and move on defense command premiums. That’s a given. And Beasley averaged 20.7 points while drilling 42.6 percent of his triples through 14 games in Minnesota last season. His offensive fit remains divine even after the acquisitions of Anthony Edwards and Ricky Rubio. He is a battled-tested off-ball threat, dating back to his time with the Nuggets.

    Still, around $15 million per year is a lot for someone who might be a one-position player. The Timberwolves can certainly get away with using Beasley as the 3, but he’s not incredibly long and doesn’t have the ready-made strength to hold up against power wings.

    Absent any leverage on his part, it’s tough to reconcile the final number. The Knicks are the only team at this writing who can afford to go this high. Maybe sign-and-trade interest landed around this number, in which case the Timberwolves know they can move him later. Overall, though, this feels like a fairly appreciable overpay until Beasley proves he can hang defensively in lineups that feature two of Edwards, Rubio and D’Angelo Russell.

    Grade: C-

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Trey Burke’s 14-game stint (playoffs and regular season) with Dallas at Disney World was enough to earn him another contract. He’s re-signing with the Mavericks on a three-year, $10 million deal, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein.

    They are giving Burke quite the vote of confidence. This isn’t a huge number, but they couldn’t use Bird rights to re-sign him, so this eats into their mid-level exception. That’s not an insignificant decision after such a small sample.

    Perhaps it helps that this was their second go-round with Burke, the first coming in 2016-17. Or maybe he was just that convincing. He averaged 12.0 points and 3.8 assists while swishing 43.2 percent of his threes through eight regular-season appearances in the bubble, admirably filling the reserve spark-plug role amid the absence of the injured Jalen Brunson.

    Burke likely sealed this return during the playoffs. He had three games in which he scored 15 or more points and converted 47.1 percent of his threes during the Clippers series. The Mavericks had him in the starting lineup by the end of their first-round set.

    Running it back at this number seems fair. If anything, it tilts toward team-friendly. Burke isn’t the answer to the Mavs’ shot-creation problems behind Luka Doncic, but he’s the best secondary from-scratch option they have as of now.

    Grade: B+

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Dwight Howard is leaving the reigning champs to sign with the Sixers on a one-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. He will be getting the veteran’s minimum, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

    It turns out you don’t need to offer nine-figure contracts to adequately fill the minutes behind Joel Embiid. Who knew?

    *Puts on serious face*

    Howard is coming off a resurgent season with the Lakers, in which he binged on putbacks, crashed the glass and didn’t lag on defense because he wasn’t getting the ball on offense. He proved less valuable in the playoffs against more mobile frontcourts, but he successfully showed he can succeed as an accessory. Let’s just hope that doesn’t change in a Sixers locker that has been, shall we say, far from a billboard of synergy in recent years.

    Philly’s offense might be ready-made to give him actual post touches, depending on how it continues to use Embiid. That’s inconsequential. Howard isn’t a difference-maker on the block anymore. The Sixers would do well to work in more pick-and-rolls. That has yet to be a staple in the Embiid-Ben Simmons era, but they have the requisite shooting around the 1 and 5 spots now to make it happen.

    As an aside, we need the backstory on what happened with Dwight’s return to Los Angeles that wasn’t. He deleted a tweet announcing it only to sign with a Sixers team that, theoretically, gave him less money but perhaps the promise of more playing time? Shrugs.

    Grade: B+

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    Rodney Hood is putting pen to paper on a two-year, $21 million to stay with the Blazers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The final season is a team option.

    That Hood entered free agency at all was a slight surprise. His player option would’ve paid him just $6 million, but he suffered a torn left Achilles in December. This didn’t seem like the market to test coming off such a major injury.

    His price point is even more of surprise. The Blazers didn’t need to use their mid-level exception to keep him, and this can be considered a one-year deal, but it’s a sizable season-over-season increase for someone working his way back from an injury that has torpedoed careers.

    To Hood’s credit, he was having a fine season before he went down, averaging 11.0 points while canning 49.3 percent of his threes. He adds another layer of shot creation at his peak but has shown he can feast on standstill looks. More than one-quarter of his attempts last season came as catch-and-fire triples, of which he converted 55.3 percent.

    In the event Hood remains healthy, the Blazers have a wing rotation that stretches more than two capable players deep for the first time in what feels like forever. Along with Robert Covington and Gary Trent Jr., Hood gives them three viable options. Carmelo Anthony’s return would arm them with a fourth.

    This probably isn’t the Blazers’ endgame, but they could have also given Hood an annual raise knowing he can be used as a walking trade exception. He should have an implicit no-trade clause, since he was re-signed using Bird rights, but his 2020-21 cap hit will make for a nice salary-matching anchor should Portland broker a move that he approves.

    Grade: B

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    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Danilo Gallinari is joining the Hawks on a three-year, $61.5 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. His destination comes as little surprise given Atlanta and New York were the only two teams who entered Friday with max cap space.

    Signing Gallinari fits with the Hawks’ attempts to enter the Eastern Conference playoff picture and what they need most to do it: another consistent shot creator. He doesn’t do much to beef up their playmaking behind Trae Young, but he should allow Atlanta’s superstar to move around off the ball a teensy-bit more.

    Mostly, though, Gallinari assures the Hawks of spacing and a stopgap. No team shot a lower percentage from three last season, and their offensive rating placed in the 3rd percentile whenever Young was off the floor. Gallinari gives them a line to substantially improving both marks, with the bandwidth to drum up their volume at the charity stripe to boot.

    What this signing says about John Collins’ future is less certain. Gallinari is best deployed at the 4. The Hawks are assuming a good amount of risk giving him $20 million-plus per year on average at the age of 32 and given his injury history. This investment is a lot harder to spin if they intend predominantly to use him at small forward. For now, their grade mostly reflects the downside attached to Gallinari in a vacuum. Figuring out the lineup intricacies is a job for later.

    Grade: B

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    Patrick Patterson will return to the Clippers for a second season after agreeing to a one-year deal, according ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Expect him to fetch no more than the veteran’s minimum.

    Keeping Patterson won’t make headlines but is a borderline necessity under the circumstances. The Clippers have three key players currently wandering around the open market: JaMychal Green, Montrezl Harrell and Marcus Morris Sr. Chances are they’ll keep at least two of them, if not all of them, but bringing back Patterson safegaurds them against absolute disaster. Mfiondu Kabengele and Ivica Zubac are the only other frontline options under contract if you exclude Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

    Granted, the Clippers don’t want to be in a position where they’re actually counting on Patterson. The idea of him has long been better than his productivity. He drilled 39 percent of his threes last season but is no longer as matchup-proof on defense.

    Grade: B+

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    Derrick Favors’ departure from the Jazz didn’t last long. He’s returning to Utah on a three-year, $27 million deal, with a player option on the final season, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones.

    Spending what amounts to most of the mid-level exception on a backup center wouldn’t sit right in every situation. Utah, in theory, should be one of them. It has Rudy Gobert to sponge up 30 to 35 minutes a night at the 5.

    But backup center was a sore spot all last season. Ed Davis, now of the Knicks, didn’t pan out, and Tony Bradley wasn’t ready. The Jazz’s defense cratered without Gobert as a result; opponents scored 8.2 points per 100 possessions more while shooting a preposterously high 65.7 percent at the rim when he was on the bench.

    Favors completely neutralizes those minutes. He is an elite rebounder and dependable rim protector, the type of big who can steady an entire defense as the starter. His job gets even easier as a backup, and he has enough experience playing beside Gobert that Utah can steal dual-big minutes when matchups permit it.

    The Jazz only need to be concerned with Favors’ health. Lower back issues hindered his availability and, at times, mobility in New Orleans last season. But he’s still on the right side of 30 and won’t be burdened with too much responsibility. And when he was healthy, he had a hugely positive impact on the Pelicans’ interior defense. This reunion is a smart one.

    Grade: A- 

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Jordan Clarkson is re-upping with the Jazz on a four-year, $52 million deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That is…a great deal of money to invest in a sixth man.

    Utah has just cause for going this high. Clarkson injected life into an otherwise comatose bench after coming over in a trade from Cleveland. Through 42 appearances with the Jazz, he put up 15.6 points while downing 54.7 percent of his twos and 39.0 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. His efficiency also held up during the playoffs in the absence of Bojan Bogdanovic. He averaged 16.7 points in Utah’s seven postseason tilts on 58.3 shooting inside the arc.

    This number still feels a touch high in the aggregate. It is noticeably more than the non-taxpayer’s mid-level at a time when few, if any teams, have the flexibility to offer him more. The Jazz need reliable scorers to continue optimizing Donovan Mitchell, but Clarkson’s off-the-bounce creation is erratic, and he doesn’t generate a ton of trips to the free-throw line.

    Maybe Utah envisions him shouldering more of the backup point guard duties. Clarkson isn’t a dependable table-setter, but the Jazz outscored opponents by 18.4 points per 100 possessions in the sparse time he spent as the de facto floor general. If he can’t be saddled with more of those reps or increase the pressure he puts on the rim in the half-court, this deal feels like it has a ceiling of net neutral.

    Grade: C+

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    De’Aaron Fox has agreed to a five-year, $163 million extension with the Kings, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. His max scale is based off a $112.4 million projected salary cap in 2021-22, when his deal kicks in, and the value could change depending on how much revenue the league generates in the upcoming season.

    Sacramento had no decision to make here. Maxing out Fox was the only move. The Kings don’t project to be a cap-space team in the 2021 offseason, and more than that, he is, without question, the polestar around which they’ll build.

    Certain people outside Sacramento might see this as an overpay. Fox isn’t yet a consensus top-30 player. But this is akin to the Suns extending Devin Booker before he reached that level. It is an investment on what yet’s to come, and a worthwhile one at that.

    Fox is the vessel through which the Kings run their offense. They don’t have someone who puts consistent pressure on the rim without him—only five players averaged more drives per game last season—and his probing is mission critical to the team’s outside shooting.

    While a left ankle injury hobbled Fox to start the year, he was all the way back long before the hiatus. From Jan. 1 onward, he averaged 23.0 points and 6.9 assists while nailing 54.2 percent of his twos.

    Shooting remains his swing skill. He hit only 29.2 percent of his threes after converting 37.1 percent in 2018-19 and wasn’t especially efficient on catch-and-shoot triples (33.3 percent). Sacramento needs more bankable shooting from him at the charity stripe as well (70.5 percent), given how many trips he now generates.

    Few max rookie extensions are without risks. Fox’s is no exception. The Kings must also reconcile the $72.9 million combined they currently owe him, Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield in 2021-22—plus whatever they might possibly pay to keep Bogdan Bogdanovic now (restricted). But a questionable cap sheet only means the opportunity cost of signing Fox now is lower. Sacramento made the right call.

    Grade: A

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Josh Jackson is joining the Pistons on a two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The exact terms of his contract aren’t yet known, but similar to the Jahlil Okafor agreement, Detroit will in no way need to break the bank.

    Failing a smack-you-in-the-face price point, there’s nothing to dislike about this marriage. The Pistons need capable wings even after signing Jerami Grant, and Jackson, while still a project, made strides at both ends last season.

    Most of his bright spots came on the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate, with whom he averaged over 20 points and four assists per game while splashing in 38.2 percent of his threes. That shooting didn’t carry over to the parent club—he canned just 31.9 percent of his triples at the NBA level—but he looked more under control when working off the dribble and, equally if not more paramount, was far more disciplined on the defensive end, including off the ball.

    Grade: B+

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Another free-agent big man is off the board, and he’s headed to…the Pistons!

    Jahlil Okafor has agreed to a two-year deal with Detroit, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We don’t yet have the net-value details, but we don’t really need them. Okafor won’t be making a whole lot.

    That doesn’t make this move any less of a head-scratcher. The Pistons have Blake Griffin, drafted Isaiah Stewart, traded for Dewayne Dedmon and already locked up Mason Plumlee. They’re apparently loading up on all the non-shooting bigs while Christian Wood remains on the market, which makes total sense*.

    The sheer low-risk nature of signing Okafor spares Detroit from the absolute lowest grade. He shouldn’t earn enough money or command enough minutes to materially impact what the team is doing. But it says a whole lot when that’s the silver lining.

    (*It makes zero sense.)

    Grade: D

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    Drew Eubanks will be sticking with the Spurs on a three-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski. The full value of the contract is worth just under $5.3 million, per HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto.

    This is a really shrewd signing by San Antonio. Its center depth isn’t the greatest even if Jakob Poeltl (restricted) stays put, and it becomes flimsier if a LaMarcus Aldridge trade is ever on the table.

    Eubanks flashed a lot of upside after assuming an expanded role in the bubble. Most notably, he moves his feet well enough on the defensive end and shoots a high enough clip from the foul line to be in late-game lineups.

    Bagging someone who may be more than just a viable backup center for under $2 million annually is a straight-up bargain.

    Grade: A

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Mason Plumlee is inking a three-year, $25 million deal with Detroit, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We’re still awaiting word whether the Pistons made this move on purpose.

    Look, Plumlee is a quality big man. He hits the glass on both sides of the floor, can finish strongly on rolls to the basket and remains an underrated passer. But the Pistons have Blake Griffin, just traded for Dewayne Dedmon, drafted Isaiah Stewart and retain the ability to re-sign Christian Wood, a combo big who is waaay better than Plumlee.

    Adding another center isn’t absurd. It also shouldn’t be costing more than $8 million per year on average. And if it does, he should be more matchup-proof on defense. (To be clear: Good on Plumlee for getting his money.) It’d be different if the Pistons view him as their starting center. That’s problematic in itself if they do.

    A 30-year-old Plumlee doesn’t fit the tenor of a rebuilding squad with veteran bigs already in place, and this signing will look much worse if it contributes in any way to Christian Wood landing somewhere else. The latter scenario remains to be seen, but even if you remove that from the equation, Detroit’s line of thinking here makes little sense unless it’s participating in some sort of sign-a-Plumlee-or-Zeller bingo tournament on the side.

    Grade: F

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Wesley Matthews is heading to the Lakers on a one-year, $3.6 million deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. This is a huge win for a team that just traded away Danny Green (and a first-rounder) to get Dennis Schroder.

    Starting-caliber wings who knock down threes and assume some of the tougher perimeter covers don’t typically run bi-annual-exception money. The value here is off the charts. Matthews will inexplicably freelance in the half-court far more than Green, but he reinforced his defensive value while matching up with Jimmy Butler as a member of the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.

    Though landing Matthews definitely makes the Schroder trade easier to celebrate—people continue to underestimate how important a three-and-D wing like Green remains, wild shooting swings and all—the Lakers still need another stopper-type on the perimeter at this writing.

    They currently forecast to have Matthews, a likely re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James as their primary wing defenders. That’s a little too sparse, even if Avery Bradley sticks around.

    Grade: A+

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Meyers Leonard will be sticking with the Heat on a two-year, $20 million contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The latter season will be a team option, per the Associate Press’ Tim Reynolds.

    Treating this as a one-year deal definitely improves the optics, but a level of WTF-ness still lingers. Leonard hit more than 41 percent of his treys while starting in all except two of his 51 regular-season appearances, but he barely played during Miami’s push to the Finals.

    Shifting circumstances dictated some of his absence. He suffered a sprained left ankle in early February, and by the time he returned, when the NBA began its Disney World restart, the Heat had traded for Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala and favored playing more one-big lineups.

    Bringing back Leonard could signal Miami doesn’t plan to stick with that model all year. And again: The team hasn’t jeopardized any of its 2021 spending power with this deal.

    It is nevertheless bizarre to spend so much on someone who doesn’t project to have a consistent role and at the very least probably becomes less of a factor in the postseason. This stands to change if the Heat move Kelly Olynyk and don’t re-sign Crowder or Derrick Jones Jr., but for now, it’s mostly curious.

    Grade: C

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Goran Dragic cares not for your league sources. He announced his return to the Heat on Twitter.

    Miami is signing him to a two-year, $37.4 million deal, with a team option on the second season, according to Shams Charania of the The Athletic and Stadium. This move, right down the contract structure, felt inevitable, but that doesn’t render it any less of a win.

    Dragic was excellent during the regular season and turned it up a notch during the playoffs, averaging 19.1 points while dropping in 50.9 percent of his two-pointers. Paying him carries some risk going into his age-34 campaign, given his injury history and that he’s coming off a left plantar fascia issue, but the Heat exited the Finals needing another shot creator even when factoring in Dragic’s likely return. Keeping him around was a must without a viable contingency.

    That this is a one-plus-one with a team option makes it a no-brainer from Miami’s perspective. It retains the chance to maximize 2021 cap flexibility but can also bring back Dragic should Giannis Antetokounmpo and other prospective free agents appear to be off limits.

    Grade: A+

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