The NBA’s second season is finally underway, with a few key free agents already landing with their new (or old) teams. As the dominoes continue to fall, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this season of free agency. We can break everything down into three different categories; players who have already signed, free agents yet to sign, and trades. Players who have already signed new contracts won’t have them become official until after Friday’s moratorium ends, but for all intents and purposes, they should be treated as officially signed deals.
A year ago, Paul George told the Indiana Pacers that he would be leaving in this offseason to join his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, and many people believed that he would end up there this offseason. The Pacers traded him to the Thunder, who had no idea if he would resign with them after his contract expired or leave for the coast. George wasted no time in signing his new four-year $137 million deal with the team that brazenly decided to trade for him last summer. The trade paid off, with George’s new deal being three guaranteed years and one player option, meaning George can come back the fourth year or opt out to leave early if he so chooses. Having already retained Carmelo Anthony on his player option for this year, Oklahoma City will return its core from last season and look to make a deeper run in the playoffs this season.
Another star rumoured to have connections to joining the Lakers squad, Paul re-upped with the team who came closest to knocking off the Warriors since the addition of Kevin Durant (more on him later). As president of the NBA Players Union, Paul worked a clause into the collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, allowing players to receive max salary benefits into their 38th year in the league, moving the bar up from 36 years of age. Paul signed a 4 year $160 million deal that expires when the superstar will turn 37, making the new clause a home run for the All-Star point guard.
No one expected the two time consecutive NBA Finals MVP to leave Golden State, but when he opted out of his player option, the NBA rumour mill sparked up. Instead of shocking the world, Durant resigned with the Warriors on a one-and-one deal, meaning one year guaranteed and one year on a player option. The CBA allows players to earn more money on long-term deals so Durant is leaving money on the table in the name of future flexibility.
In 2015, Jordan signed a deal with the Mavs, only to be swayed by his Clipper teammates to stay in Los Angeles, to the dismay of most all of Texas. Here we are again, and Jordan has signed another deal with Dallas to be their starting center. Hopefully, for the Mavs faithful this time works out better and Jordan will be a welcome addition to second-year-pro Dennis Smith Jr., new rookie Luka Doncic, Dirk Nowitzki, and Vince Carter. This 2018 Mavericks team is an even blend of veteran skill and leadership and youth and potential.
Sunday night marked the renaissance of the purple and gold, with Lebron James opting to sign a 4 year $153 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, with the fourth year being a player option. James defied expectations by committing before any other superstars to join the Lakers. His gamble has paid off with JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Rajon Rondo agreeing to contracts with the Lakers in the last two days. The pressure isn’t on Lebron to win a championship in his first year there given the length of contract he signed, but if the Lakers fail to even make the playoffs, Lebron will shoulder 90% of the blame; with the other 10% going to president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.
In a move fitting of the Soviet era arms race, the Golden State Warriors sign Boogie Cousins to a one year “prove it” deal. The Warriors want him to prove that he can return healthy from his Achilles injury, he can get along with the players and coaches, and that he can return to the levels of production he had while in Sacramento. With the Western Conference getting stronger with the addition of Lebron, the Warriors went out and got one of the biggest stars left to maintain their dominance atop the NBA
Players Yet to Sign
The one time MVP candidate has faded away from the spotlight due to two injuries and two trades that landed him in Cleveland momentarily, and then to Los Angeles. He might still be in Boston if he had signed a contract extension instead of going for a one year contract designed to set him up for a max contract this offseason. His plan has backfired with only a few suitors and no max contract. If he can return to the offensive mastermind that he was in Boston, he could be a steal for a contender.
The only way for Lebron to put together his super team in Los Angeles now is for the Lakers to put together a trade for Kawhi. The Spurs have been engaged with both the Lakers and the 76ers in trade talks. Philadelphia has been reluctant to give San Antonio everything they’re asking for because Leonard has stated he wants to go to LA when he becomes a free agent. Another scenario would involve the 76ers trading for Kawhi and leaving enough cap space open to also sign Lebron in the hopes of winning it all this year. Look for Pop and the Spurs to be patient and even take Kawhi into this preseason while waiting for the right deal.
While it is a long shot, there have been rumors of a trade between Boston and the New York Knicks involving Kyrie. Last summer when Kyrie wanted out of Cleveland he gave Dan Gilbert a list of teams that he would want to be traded to and the Knicks were at the top of that list. The only thing keeping this deal from getting done is the reluctance of the Knicks to trade Kristaps Porzinges and their lack of other trade pieces. Any trade would certainly have to involve a pick from the Knicks, which is expected to be high for at least the next year.