The N.B.A. off-season this year may be defined just as much by which players teams are able to get as by the ones they are able to keep.
The trade market opened Monday with Chris Paul going to the Phoenix Suns, and now free agency is here, with all eyes on Houston and Milwaukee — teams hoping to bring in sufficient talent to satisfy the expectations of their biggest stars.
Teams were allowed to begin negotiations with free agents at 6 p.m. Eastern time Friday, but the new contracts cannot be signed until 12:01 p.m. Sunday.
Check back here for updates on some of the notable transactions. Follow Marc Stein on Twitter @TheSteinLine for more.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Serge Ibaka will reunite with Kawhi on the Clippers.
- Montrezl Harrell is staying in Los Angeles — with the Lakers.
- In a surprise, Gordon Hayward is headed to Charlotte.
- Bucks fans are confused right now. With good reason.
- Fred VanVleet is staying in Toronto … uh, Tampa?
- What does Klay Thompson’s injury mean for the Warriors?
- Rajon Rondo says bye to the Lakers and hello to the Hawks.
- The Nets hang on to Joe Harris.
Serge Ibaka will reunite with Kawhi on the Clippers.
The Clippers badly needed a free-agent victory and finally got one Saturday when Serge Ibaka agreed to a deal that will reunite him with Kawhi Leonard, his former teammate.
The Raptors, along with the Nets — largely because of Ibaka’s close relationship with Kevin Durant — were widely considered the favorites to sign Ibaka, a versatile 7-footer who had spent the past three-plus seasons in Toronto. But Ibaka is joining the Clippers after they offered a two-year deal worth $19 million, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. The deal includes a player option that would allow Ibaka to return to free agency next summer.
The Clippers had a major need in the frontcourt after Montrezl Harrell, the league’s reigning sixth man of the year, agreed to a deal with the Lakers on Friday.
The Nets were limited to offering Ibaka $5.7 million for the first year of a potential deal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Ibaka will receive the league’s full mid-level exception of $9.25 million from the Clippers this season.
Ibaka averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds a game for the Raptors last season while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range — a huge asset for any team looking to space the floor.
The Clippers have become an off-season nemesis for the Raptors, who lost Leonard to them in free agency a little over a year ago — mere weeks after the Raptors finished their run to the 2019 N.B.A. championship.
Ibaka was a popular figure in Toronto, on and off the court. As the host of his own online show “How Hungry Are You?” he invited guests like Leonard and Durant to sample cuisine from the Republic of Congo, his home country. (Ibaka got Durant to sample some snake.) On another online show, “Avec Classe,” he memorably argued with Raptors forward OG Anunoby about who had a better scarf game.
Montrezl Harrell is staying in Los Angeles — with the Lakers.
The Lakers keep making moves — to get younger and more dynamic. The latest seemed to come as a surprise to many, including some players around the league. Montrezl Harrell, the league’s reigning sixth man of the year, is joining the Lakers on a two-year, $19 million deal, according to Rich Paul, his agent at Klutch Sports.
Harrell, a bruising, high-energy forward, isn’t moving far — in fact, he won’t need to move at all. He spent last season with the Clippers, averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game, both career highs. The Lakers and the Clippers, of course, both play at Staples Center.
Patrick Beverley, Harrell’s now-former teammate, appeared to express his displeasure with the news on Twitter: “what,” he wrote, bracketing the word with an emoji of a man smacking his forehead and another of an emoji cursing. Beverley followed that up by tweeting that he was happy for Harrell.
The Lakers now have last season’s top reserves. Harrell and Dennis Schroder, the point guard whom the Lakers acquired from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a trade this week, finished first and second in voting for the sixth man of the year award.
Schroder is likely to start for the Lakers this season. Harrell could continue to come off the bench. Either way, he will give the team added toughness. A second-round pick of the Houston Rockets in 2015, Harrell has also developed a reliable offensive game from the low post.
In a surprise, Gordon Hayward is headed to Charlotte.
Several days (and even weeks) of speculation about Gordon Hayward’s future were resolved Saturday with a surprise: Hayward is headed to the Charlotte Hornets, who are spending big — and we mean big — on the veteran swingman.
Hayward, 30, who struggled to stay healthy in three seasons with the Boston Celtics, agreed to a four-year deal worth $120 million, according to ESPN. His agency, Priority Sports, confirmed that Hayward had agreed to a deal.
The Hornets are expected to waive the veteran Nicolas Batum to create the needed salary-cap space for Hayward and spread the payments they will owe Batum over the next three seasons. Going that route would mean Charlotte is in essence paying in the $39 million range in each of the first three seasons of Hayward’s contract.
The Knicks and the Indiana Pacers both had interest in Hayward — but not at that price. The contract is the most significant outlay for Michael Jordan in his tenure as the Hornets’ owner, and a gamble for a team that has been making moves in an attempt to become more of a factor in the Eastern Conference. Worth noting, perhaps: Last summer, the Hornets lost Kemba Walker in free agency in a sign-and-trade with the Celtics.
After developing into an All-Star with the Utah Jazz, Hayward signed a big-money deal with the Celtics in 2017 — then sustained a grisly season-ending ankle injury in his first game with the team. Hayward made a halting return for the 2018-19 season, averaging 11.5 points game. He was more productive last season — he averaged 17.5 points a game while shooting 50 percent from the field — but missed a large chunk of the regular season with a fractured hand and sat out most of the playoffs with an ankle injury. The Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
In Charlotte, Hayward will be a part of a new-look roster. On Wednesday, the Hornets drafted LaMelo Ball, the former high school prodigy from Southern California, with the third overall pick. Charlotte has not gone to the playoffs since 2016.
Hayward became an unrestricted free agent on Thursday after declining his player option for next season with the Celtics.
Bucks fans are confused right now. With good reason.
The N.B.A. has opened an investigation into the Milwaukee Bucks’ reported attempt to trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings, according to a person with knowledge of the probe.
The league, as The New York Times first reported Thursday, is looking into whether the reported transaction violated its anti-tampering rules, according to the person, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. The N.B.A. will seek to determine if the Bucks and Kings, as ESPN first reported early Tuesday, had already reached an agreement on a sign-and-trade deal that would bring Bogdanovic to the Bucks — several days before free-agent discussions were allowed to start.
The Bucks and the Kings declined to comment.
Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, pledged in September 2019 that the league would enforce its anti-tampering rules more stringently after numerous free-agent deals in June 2019 became public within minutes of the start of free agency, suggesting that they had been negotiated in advance. The maximum penalty for a tampering violation was raised to $10 million from $5 million and set at $6 million for teams making unauthorized agreements with players, with Silver adding that penalties could also include voiding contracts, suspending team executives and forfeiting draft picks.
Fred VanVleet is staying in Toronto … uh, Tampa?
VanVleet, a 26-year-old guard who was part of Toronto’s championship team in 2018-19, has agreed to a four-year, $85 million deal to stay with the Raptors, according to The Athletic.
VanVleet averaged a career-high 17.6 points and 6.6 assists per game last season as the Raptors, without Kawhi Leonard, sought to defend their title. They came up short, losing to the Boston Celtics in seven games in the second round of the playoffs, but VanVleet performed well. He averaged 19.6 points and 6.9 assists per game during the postseason, including a 30-point, 11-assist game to open the first round against the Nets.
He first signed with the Raptors after going undrafted out of Wichita State in June 2016. Pinned to his Twitter feed is a tweet posted late the night of that draft that reads, “Bet on yourself.”
This season, VanVleet and the Raptors will be based out of Tampa, Fla. — at least to start — after Canadian health officials decided not to let them play in Toronto because of the coronavirus pandemic.
What does Klay Thompson’s injury mean for the Warriors?
Bob Myers, the general manager of the Warriors, recalled getting the bad news from one of Thompson’s agents. It came in the form of a text message:
Klay might have hurt himself. Call me.
It was only hours before Wednesday’s draft, and the news quickly circulated among Thompson’s teammates and friends around the league, and among fans who had been rooting for the Warriors to reassemble the pieces needed this season for another title chase.
But that calculus had all changed by Thursday, when tests revealed that Thompson — one of the great shooters of his generation and a key cog in three championship runs — would miss the season after tearing his right Achilles’ tendon during a workout in Southern California.
Thompson, 30, missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2019 N.B.A. finals. Back-to-back seasons for a player in his prime: Gone.
“Watching his journey, watching his growth — nobody deserves this,” Myers said in a news conference Thursday. “This is a guy that loves basketball. He bleeds basketball.”
Of course, the cupboard is not entirely bare for the Warriors. Stephen Curry should be back to full strength after missing all but five games last season with a broken left hand. Draymond Green is no slouch. And the Warriors bulked up their post presence by using the second overall pick in the draft on James Wiseman, a center from the University of Memphis.
But Thompson’s absence looms large — especially in the Western Conference. The Los Angeles Lakers just won a championship. The Los Angeles Clippers want one of their own. The Denver Nuggets are emerging as a perennial threat.
The Warriors wasted no time trying to compensate — a little, at least — by agreeing to trade for Kelly Oubre Jr., a 24-year-old forward, from the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday in exchange for a future first-round draft pick, according to two people familiar with the deal who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. Oubre spent last season in Phoenix, where he averaged a career-best 18.7 points a game while shooting 35.2 percent from 3-point range.
Rajon Rondo says bye to the Lakers and hello to the Hawks.
On Saturday, the Clippers were thwarted in an attempt to round out their backcourt when Rajon Rondo, fresh off his championship run with the Lakers, agreed to join the Atlanta Hawks on a two-year deal worth $15 million, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss them publicly.
In a post on Instagram, Rondo bade farewell to the Lakers, writing that he was “truly grateful” for the opportunity. Despite struggling to stay healthy, he had been a key (and timely) presence for them in the playoffs, scoring 19 points in the Lakers’ title-clinching win over the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals.
The Nets hang on to Joe Harris.
Long-range shooting is a valuable commodity. Ask Joe Harris.
The Nets are re-signing Harris to a four-year deal worth a whopping $75 million, according to a person briefed on the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. Harris’s agency confirmed that he had reached an agreement with the team.
After barely playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in his first two seasons in the league, Harris was recovering from foot surgery in 2016 when the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic, who promptly waived him.
He eventually landed on the Nets, who signed him to the league minimum. He quickly developed into a dependable 3-point shooter, then continued to expand his game. In 2018, he signed a two-year deal worth $16 million.
Last season, Harris averaged 14.5 points while shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range, which put him among the league leaders. He set up himself up well for free agency. The Nets were not about to let him get away.
A former second-round pick, Harris will space the floor for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this season, and his importance is reflected in his new contract.
Wesley Matthews agrees to a 1-year deal with the Lakers.
The Lakers made a splash at the start of free agency by agreeing to a one-year deal with Wesley Matthews for $3.6 million, according to a person briefed on the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Matthews, a 34-year-old wing, started for the Milwaukee Bucks last season, averaging 7.4 points while shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range.
The Lakers could be getting a small discount as the defending champions. Matthews likely wants a ring, and the Lakers are gearing up for another title run.
The Sixers are bringing in shooters.
Less than three weeks into his job as the Philadelphia 76ers’ president of basketball operations, Daryl Morey is already addressing an area that he clearly wanted to upgrade: the team’s perimeter shooting.
On Thursday, the 76ers worked out a trade for Seth Curry after moving toward a deal for Danny Green. The two are veteran guards who figure to help the team space the floor around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. There is no doubt that Simmons and Embiid are ascendant stars. But they have not quite figured out how to put it all together when it matters most, a problem that was especially glaring when the 76ers got swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs a couple of months ago.
Perhaps playing with some teammates who can make 3-pointers will help. Last season, the 76ers ranked just 22nd in the league in 3-point attempts.
To that end, Morey made a couple of bold moves. First, he agreed to send Al Horford to the Thunder as a part of a package for Green, according to ESPN. Hobbled by a hip injury last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Green was largely ineffective in the postseason — but when healthy, he is a reliable perimeter threat.
Later, Morey sent Josh Richardson and the rights to the No. 36 draft pick, Tyler Bey from the University of Colorado, to the Dallas Mavericks for Curry, who averaged 12.4 points a game last season while shooting a career-best 45.2 percent from 3-point range. Curry, whose older brother, Stephen, stars for the Warriors, also happens to be the son-in-law of 76ers Coach Doc Rivers.
Goran Dragic will re-sign with the Miami Heat.
Dragic told The Associated Press that he had agreed to a two-year deal to remain with the Miami Heat after helping lead the team to the N.B.A. finals last season.
“Happy to be back,” Dragic told the A.P. “That was my plan, to come back, but in this crazy business you never know.”
Dragic, 34, had a terrific season in Miami, averaging 16.2 points and 5.1 assists a game — mostly off the bench. He excelled as a starter in the postseason, averaging 19.1 points a game as the Heat made a deep run in the bubble. But he injured his foot in Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals, and his absence at point guard went a long way toward derailing the Heat’s title hopes against the Los Angeles Lakers.