WELCOME TO FREE AGENCY!
This story has started fresh to pick up with midnight coverage of the opening of free agency. The news and rumors are flying in fast, so hold on for dear life as we enjoy one of the most exciting free agencies in memory.
EVAN TURNER HOT ON THE MARKET
Evan Turner is proving to be a hot commodity on the free agent market after a resurgent season with the Boston Celtics. Sporting News' Sean Deveney reported minutes before free agency began midnight Friday that six teams will pursue Turner: New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. Notably absent from that list are the Celtics, who only hold early bird rights for Turner.
The Celtics are expected to get a chance to compete with Turner's best offers, a source told CelticsBlog.
MORE AINGE MAGIC: JOHNSON & JEREBKO MOVE GUARANTEE DATE BACK
ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported earlier today that the Celtics have made a mututally agreed upon amendment to the contracts of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko to move their '16-'17 contract guarantee to July 7th. this opens up the chance for the Celtics to get a commitment from Kevin Durant at their meeting and still have a chance to waive Johnson and Jerebko's $17 million off the books to pursue a max deal for a player like Al Horford or Dwight Howard.
BEAL GETS HIS BIG DEAL
Woj reports that the Wizards are closing a 5-year $128 million max deal with Bradley Beal, without any partial guarantees or team options as had been expected. It is a huge victory for Beal, whose max talent has been overshadowed by his shaky injury history.
Locking up Beal is a crucial early step for the Wizards, who can utilize his low cap hold to save his contract for the back
BLAZERS, GRIZZLIES SITTING DOWN WITH CHANDLER PARSONS
Woj has just about every story, including Chandler Parsons sitting down with the Blazers Friday morning in what will reportedly result in a 4-year max offer for the swingman. Parsons has insisted he is all ears this offseason and may find himself a great fit in Portland, who already have two great perimeter scorers in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Parsons is also sitting down with the Grizzlies Friday morning, where his former coach JB Bickerstaff is on the coaching staff.
KENT BAZEMORE CHANGES MIND, MEETING WITH ROCKETS
A few hours after it was reported that Kent Bazemore would wait until after the July 4th holiday to begin negotiations with his suitors, The Vertical's Shams Charania reports that the Rockets have secured a sudden meeting with Bazemore Friday, with James Harden scheduled to join the pitch. As earlier speculated below, Bazemore will be looking for around $20 million a year.
LAKERS MAKE MIDNIGHT CALL TO...TIMOFEY MOZGOV?!?!
Woj reported that the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to terms with center Timofey Mozgov and for a remarkable 4-year/$65 million deal. The most surprising news to come out of this story is that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak's first call was to Mozgov, a center who toiled at the end of a bench for the champs. It speaks as much to the tight market for centers this year as it does the pathetic state of the Lakers' reputation. But $16 million for a player who hardly played last season is shocking to say the least. The market for centers has been set high, with Mozgov and Noah's large contracts being the first deals to hit the newswire Friday. If injured centers are worth this much, even when factoring for cap inflation, the rest of free agency will be jaw dropping.
CRABBE DRIBBLING TO BROOKLYN?
The Nets are making a strong push for Blazers up-and-coming wing Alan Crabbe according to NBA.com's David Aldridge. The Blazers have reportedly insisted they will match an offer for Crabbe, but the Nets have the cap space and desperation to push the Blazers to the test with a near-max offer. A year after the Blazers threw a max offer sheet with a trade kicker at Enes Kanter to put the squeeze on the Thunder, the Nets may do the same to the Blazers. Considering their situation, overpaying for Crabbe may be a best-case scenario.
KEVIN DURANT SWEEPSTAKES OFF TO A THRILLING START
UPDATE 2:30 pm: The Clippers have been the dark horse in the Durant sweepstakes with the caveat for their candidacy being, "Would they be any better replacing Griffin with Durant?" Well Dan Woike of the Orange County Register and Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi of ESPN.com report the Clippers will pitch Durant on the idea of forming a Big Four, keeping Griffin along with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan. ESPN's report states that the Clippers' Big Three will join owner Steve Ballmer and coach Doc Rivers in the Hamptons pitch meeting to Durant. It is unclear if Lawrence Frank will attend, who was just named VP of Basketball Operations.
The roster maneuvering required to accommodate Durant would be an enormous undertaking, as the Clippers would have to essentially empty their roster without taking in salary. If the Clippers were to trade JJ Redick, Paul Pierce, CJ Wilcox and Brice Johnson into other teams' cap space, they would still be about $3 million short of a max offer of $26.6 million to Durant this year. They would then be left with minimum exception to fill out the roster, as well as one use of the room exception at a shade below $3 million.ESPN's Marc Stein is reporting that the Thunder are working to get the final meeting with Durant in the Hamptons dating game.
The Boston Celtics have reportedly scheduled their free agency meeting with Kevin Durant Saturday, kick starting phase two of a vital offseason for Danny Ainge's front office. After coming away from the draft without the big trade they had been hoping for, the Celtics walk into their meeting with Durant with less ammunition than they had hoped.
They will have to convince Durant that they can still cash in on their assets and potentially move one of their guards or wings, inlcuding Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and top pick Jaylen Brown. With the addition of a dynamic perimeter scorer in Durant, the Celtics would have enough starting-caliber perimeter talent to be willing to move those players in a package for a star or to fill another need. The next step would be to prove they have the best chance at signing Al Horford, a move that would become increasingly viable with a commitment from Durant. The rest of the potential pitch as well as other factors in play has been outlined here and here by Kevin O'Connor.
The Celtics share the stage Saturday with the Spurs, whose ability to squeeze Durant in to their cap situation became murky at best when Tim Duncan picked up his player option and collected his performance bonus.
They will have to make a very tough call on guaranteeing Boris Diaw's contract and set up a potential trade to move Danny Green's desirable contract . UPDATE 12:10pm: Diaw's $7m guarantee will be picked up by the Spurs according to the San Antonio Express-News' Jabari Young, making signing Durant this year incredibly difficult.
The growth in the cap next year and the financial position of the teams meeting with Durant this year lends credence to the idea that these meetings serve to set the table for next summer. The Celtics will have practically enough cap space to sign the USA National Team, while most other competitors will be able to sign a max player with even less hoops to jump through.
Even if signing Durant is unlikely, getting a meeting while he is a free agent and the tampering handcuffs have been removed is crucial. It provides a great opportunity to assess the franchise's perceived value in the eyes of a great player and gain more insight into how the free agency courting process continues to evolve with a new generation of players. The conversations that take place during the Celtics' meeting with Durant can provide ample information and strategic values that will inform their decision-making for the next few years.
But if Isaiah Thomas has anything to do with it, which he will, he'll convince Durant that he can flourish in Boston. In fact, Thomas is trying to talk the Celtics top targets into forming a new big three with him.
Isaiah Thomas on Durant: "He's talked to me about how exciting it is to watch us on NBA LeaguePass and things like that."— Jay King (@ByJayKing) June 30, 2016
IT on Horford's view of C's: "Very serious. I texted him other day. He’s open to opportunity, he’s a fan of my game, he likes how we play."— Mark Murphy (@Murf56) June 30, 2016
The Celtics' cap flexibility hangs on Amir Johnson's $12 million guarantee being picked up, which will be due within the next 24 hours. Jonas Jerebko's cap hit of approximately $5 million makes him a no-brainer, as he could be traded for a conditional second-rounder in a heartbeat to clear necessary space. The Celtics would need to find takers for both contracts to carve out enough room to sign Durant and Horford. But with a huge payday looming if Durant signs a 1 + 1 deal to stay in Oklahoma, these maneuvers may be unnecessary. The question then turns to whether Johnson should be traded if the Celtics sign Horford and let go of Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller. For some backgroud on Horford's plans, read Mr. Celticsblog Jeff Clark's piece here.
UPDATE 12:30 pm: Add the Rockets to the list of teams meeting with Al Horford Friday, per Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston.
DWIGHT HOWARD: HUMAN CONSOLATION PRIZE
The Celtics will join the Atlanta Hawks on the list of teams willing to sit down with Dwight Howard after July 1st. Howard has become one of the most polarizing figures in the NBA, a hall of fame talent that hasn't fit in with a team in half a decade now. Howard could present a unique consolation prize for Boston or Atlanta, as those teams will likely turn to him if they lose out on Horford. Dwight is a prime candidate for a 1+1 max deal with a non-guarantee on his second year. It allows him to rebuild his value as a long-term commitment ahead of the zenith of the cap inflation while giving the signing team the flexibility and risk-mitigation it needs to commit to Howard this season.
After hitting his peak in 2009 when he led a comeback against the Celtics in the conference finals, Howard has been on a steady decline, hitting rock bottom last year. Howard has struggled with injury, while falling behind the league in offensive and defensive scheming. He continues to refuse to be a rim running roll man in the pick-and-roll, continuing to insist on sticking with his now-mediocre back-to-the-basket post up game. He continues to be an elite pivot man on defense, but has been reluctant to serve as a dynamic perimeter defender as would be required in Stevens' system.
For further analysis of his potential fit in Boston, read Kevin O'Connor's story from Thursday,
UPDATE 4:10 pm: The Nets announced they waived Jarrett Jack Thursday after his season ending torn ACL. Brooklyn had to release him today to move cut his cap hit from $6 million to $500,000. Jack has a long road to recovery at his age and the Nets have instead turned their sights to enticing Rajon Rondo to don the black and white.
JIMMY BUTLER STILL AVAILABLE?
The Celtics tried to make a blockbuster trade for Jimmy Butler on draft night, but ended up selecting Jaylen Brown the third pick in the NBA Draft. But just as the trade fervor started to quiet down, Butler himself has revved the trade machine back up to full steam ahead.
"I don't think anything is for certain," Butler said on ESPN's The Jump Wednesday. "I really don't. I love the city of Chicago, Chicago basketball, I think everybody knows that. They drafted me; I've been here my entire career. Nothing is for certain."
Stay woke people. Stay woke.
CONLEY AND WHITESIDE START WITH DALLAS, BUT WILL SEE MANY OFFERS
UPDATE 2:30 pm: Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports that when the clock strikes midnight, Whiteside will quickly decide to enter negotiations for a deal with either the Miami Heat or Dallas Mavericks.
The Dallas Mavericks will have two crucial meetings with free agents Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside Friday, per ESPN's Chris Broussard and Tim McMahon. After being left at the altar by DeAndre Jordan last offseason and having to settle for Deron Williams as their point guard, the Mavericks are in position to add two franchise players to surround free agents Chandler Parsons and Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks will throw max offers at both players, who will need max five-year offers from their current teams to be convinced to stay.
While the Mavericks are the first team in the room with Conley, the Rockets, Pelicans, Nets and Lakers will try to get a meeting as well. While the Rockets, Pelicans and Nets have a clear need for a playmaking starting point guard, the Lakers' pursuit creates a fascinating subplot. With DeAngelo Russell the point guard of the future in LA, committing a four-year max offer to Conley would signal that Mitch Kupchak does not plan on matching a big offer to restricted free agent Jordan Clarkson. A Conley offer would infer that the Lakers either plan to play Russell off the ball or trade him for a major target like DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers would likely also throw a max offer at Whiteside, who fills their biggest need as an interior defender. The Blazers are the dark horse to bring in Whiteside, as they have the cap space, roster versatility and perimeter shooting to make the most out of Whiteside's game.
Then there are the Spurs, who are the natural home for Conley if he chooses to leave. But with Tony Parker and his legacy in the way, Conley may not be willing to go to San Antonio. Watch out for some potential shakeups here after the dust settles on Durant. After their meeting with Durant, there is a good chance they may feel Durant will not be coming to San Antonio this offseason and turn their sights to locking in Conley. A trio of Conley, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge would be a fitting next generation to phase out the Duncan-Parker-Manu legacy.
UPDATE 2:30 pm: PARSONS AND BATUM HAVE BIG MARKET AHEAD
Charlotte Hornets small forward Nicolas Batum and Dallas Mavericks small forward Chandler Parsons will be jam packed with meetings and offers Friday. The two swingmen are versatile and proven veterans who are hitting their prime at the right time. With Parsons making it known that he is all ears this offseason for a big offer, the Mavericks will meet with Batum as a contingency plan if they cannot sign Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside to max deals, per ESPN's Tim McMahon and Marc Spears.
KENT BAZEMORE WAITING THE MARKET OUT?
After his breakout season for the Hawks, Kent Bazemore finds himself hitting free agency at the perfect moment. With most of the league enjoying significant cap space and max contracts taking a huge leap this offseason, Bazemore will wait out the market until after July 4th per ESPN's Marc Stein.
It is a bold but prudent move by Bazemore, who established himself as a dynamic and effective starting wing after DeMarre Carroll left Atlanta last summer under similar circumstances. Like Carroll, Bazemore was plugged into the 3 spot in Mike Budenholzer's system and flourished. He is an athletic defender who can hit a spot-up three and attack in transition. Carroll received a max deal from the Raptors to share time between the wing and as a stretch four and Bazemore is hoping for similar offers.
With so many teams chasing star names with max offers during free agency's opening weekend, Bazemore is looking to collect inflated offers from teams who struck out on big names and have a max slot of cap space burning a hole in their pocket.
JOAKIM NOAH FOLLOWING DERRICK ROSE TO KICKS?
After trading Robin Lopez to the Bulls to headline a package for Derrick Rose, the Knicks are looking to replace Lopez with Rose's longtime partner in crime, Joakim Noah. The Washington Post's Tim Bontemps is reporting that the Knicks will meet with Noah Friday afternoon as they have emerged as clear front runners to sign Noah. He reports the annual value will be $18 million, although the multi-year structure of the deal will be a contentious point of negotiation with Noah's significant injury history and age. It is interesting to note that the Knicks will meet with Noah later in the day, meaning they will use their midnight call to pursue a sharp shooter on the market.
Check back in throughout the day for more updates
Author Note: Something that I have been stressing for a year now is to evaluate all dollar amounts as a percentage of the cap. While $18 million sounds like a lot for Joakim Noah, it would be the equivalent to approximately $13 million last offseason. As the cap continues to soar in the future, percentage of cap will become the new way we discuss salary valuations. Be the smartest guy in your group of Celtics buddies and get ahead of the curve now. So when you freak out over Kent Bazemore getting offers near $20 million, keep this in mind.