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NBA Daily: Ranking The Free Agents – Power Forwards

All week, Basketball Insiders has examined the best potential free agent signings at each position ahead of free agency. Ben Nadeau assesses the free agent power forwards hoping to sign new deals.

Ben Nadeau

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Basketball Insiders has recently started a new series detailing the top free agents by position as a primer for the free agency period beginning on July 1.

As a short recap, or if you’re looking for more pre-research, we’ve got you covered. Drew Maresca grabbed the point guards, then Jordan Hicks hit up the shooting guards a day later. On Friday, Spencer Davies went into the available small forwards — which now brings us to this point.

Before getting into the actual free agents, here’s a look at what the salary cap numbers project to be. The NBA’s salary cap is expected to jump from $101 million to $109 million this offseason. Based on that, here are the projected numbers for max contracts:

$27,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience

$32,700,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience

$38,150,000 for players with 10+ years of experience

In addition, the mid-level exception for teams in the first year is expected to be $9,246,000, while the taxpayer MLE is expected to be $5,711,000 and the room MLE is expected to be $4,760,000.

If you want a full list of players in the pool, feel free to refer to this page for a list of all the notable free agents-to-be.

Max Guys

Kristaps Porzingis* – Dallas Mavericks – Last Year’s Salary: $5,697,054

Needless to say, this category both begins and ends with the Latvian unicorn, an insanely unique power forward that the Knicks had to ship off ahead of an oncoming trade demand. Although Porzingis himself has floated the idea of accepting the qualifying offer — a move that would make him unrestricted in 2020 — the Mavericks seem absolutely committed to keeping him around. Of course, Porzingis is currently in the latter-end stages of ACL recovery but the talents are undeniable. The last time he was healthy, the seven-footer was averaging 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks on 39.5 percent from three-point range. So being paired with Luka Doncic for the next decade, that’s a seriously dangerous core.

As reported, the Dallas appears ready to offer Porzingis the full five-year max worth $158 million — and, more, that the generational talent will accept it.

Naturally, it is worth noting the active rape allegations against Porzingis — although quiet currently  — but it will not impact his free agency at this point in time.

Where Does He Fit: Everywhere, but Dallas will keep him.

New Deal: We’ll say 5 years/$158 million with the Mavericks.

Near Max Guys

Julius Randle – New Orleans Pelicans – Last Year’s Salary: $8,641,000

In March, this writer looked hard at Randle’s career-year and discussing his impending major payday — at long last, it’s almost here. Randle was surplus in the offseason that brought LeBron James to Los Angeles, so, instead of signing a long-term deal, the power forward bet on himself in a big way. Randle averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 52.4 percent from the floor in New Orleans, a team that openly struggled with Anthony Davis’ mid-season trade request. He’ll have no shortage of suitors this summer — although those with the available money that Randle commands will be chasing bigger fish — Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, etc. — during the opening week of free agency.

Where Does He Fit: The amount of teams that could use a bullish, high-scoring power forward is not a short one, although the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls are all reportedly interested in his services.

New Deal: The Knicks, after missing out on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, move to a Plan B that includes young, potential-laden players like Randle. In New York, Randle grabs a well-deserved 4-year/$72 million deal and joins forces with Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett. All things considered, it’s a nice fallback plan for the Knicks.

Above Mid-Level Guys

Nikola Mirotic – Milwaukee Bucks – Last Year’s Salary: $12,500,000

Although his numbers bounced a bit after joining the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks in February, Mirotic has put himself in the crosshairs of a big offseason. Prior to that deal, Mirotic was thriving with the Pelicans, just like Randle, to the tune of 16.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 three-pointers per game on 36.8 percent from deep. In today’s NBA, Mirotic is not a unicorn by any means, but the stretch four is a position that every legitimate contender will chase this summer.

At 28 years-old, the Montenegran will be looking for a juicy, long-term deal and the Bucks have plenty of other big free agent concerns on their plate — Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Malcolm Brogdon in particular.

Given Giannis Antetokounmpo’s swift rise to MVP status, it would behoove the Bucks to keep surrounding him with elite shooters and Mirotic fits the bill. But with all that other business taking precedence, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another team in need of shooting attempt a scoop on the 6-foot-10 flamethrower.

Where Does He Fit: Again, everywhere, especially teams that can make up for his defensive deficiencies like the Bucks or the rumored Utah Jazz.

New Deal: Mirotic could receive offers in the range of $13 million according to Jordan Brenner of The Athletic. Again, we’ll need to wait and see on a number of other conclusions before Mirotic becomes a priority, but the Bucks should remain the favorites for a 3-year/$39 million contract.

Bobby Portis* – Washington Wizards – Last Year’s Salary: $2,494,346

Bobby Portis wants as much as $16 million per year, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones and Fred Katz, but the market is still very murky for the young forward. For their efforts, the Wizards have tendered a qualifying offer to Portis, thus making him restricted this offseason, but they’re not expected to match a huge offer.

The 24-year-old averaged 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game between two teams in 2018-19, continuing his ascent up the positional ladder. As an added bonus, Portis has improved his three-point shot along the way too, even hitting on 1.7 three-pointers on an excellent 40.3 percent clip.

That type of consistent rise might be worth investing in for a team that strikes out big, but wants to add a piece with potential nonetheless.

Where Does He Fit: The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Utah Jazz, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks all have interest in the rangy Portis, as reported by Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Additionally, the Knicks may increase their interest – a la Randle — should their Plan A goes sideways.

But if Favors moves on in Utah — or returns on a much, much smaller deal — Portis seems like an intriguing marriage, although his defense leaves much to be desired.

New Deal: Portis won’t quite reach his $16 million per year asking price, but the Mavericks will come close with a deal near 4 years/$52 million.

Derrick Favors** – Utah Jazz – Last Year’s Salary: $16,900,000

Favors, a long-time consummate piece for the steadily-growing Jazz, has a $17 million deal set for 2019-20 — but the Jazz have until July 6 to guarantee it. If not, Favors will become unrestricted — in fact, reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, he will field interested calls when free agency opens just in case. Favors, who turns 28 next month, averaged 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and paired perfectly with Rudy Gobert, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

Where Does He Fit: Favors is a high-percentage forward that rebounds well, so although he wouldn’t command another $16 million-plus deal, there will be a market with little question. The nine-year veteran is the type of defender that can help transform a unit without eating up offensive possessions either. He won’t drag defenders away from the hoop, but he’s excellent at shutting down the opposition at the rim — so expect many, many teams to kick the tires.

New Deal: If the Lakers opt for depth over star status with that new-found cap space, Favors would be a fantastic option for Los Angeles. With Anthony Davis’ injury history and LeBron James’ need to rest up more often, Favors provides no-nonsense defense and strong rebounding at a reduced cost. If he doesn’t stay with Utah, it’s feasible to see Favors to the Lakers on a 2-year/$24 million agreement.

Thaddeus Young – Indiana Pacers – Last Year’s Salary: $13,764,045

The perennially-underrated Young hits free agency as a will-be targeted piece for many on-the-edge franchises. It’s not difficult to see how Young, a strong scorer with range and a big-time motor, could find a home across most of the league. As a highly-regarded team player, Young averaged around 12 points and 6 rebounds over 81 games in back-to-back seasons for the upstart Pacers. But with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner developing nicely, the need to bring Young back has certainly lessened with Indiana in search of a valuable point guard instead.

Young is not a standout at any one thing, but he’s averaged 10 or more points in every campaign since 2008 and has a nose for tough, clutch baskets — often just when the Pacers needed it the most. Favors is the better defender, so expect the former to grab a slightly bigger deal, but Young won’t be far behind.

Where Does He Fit: Need a locker room guy? Hello, Phoenix. Need to plug some holes? The Boston Celtics sure make sense there. Hell, if the Jazz end up waiving Favors and need a new plan, Young would thrive in Utah, too.

New Deal: For this exercise, Young does the trick for a suddenly-thin Boston frontcourt at 2 years/$22 million.

Jabari Parker – Washington Wizards – Last Year’s Salary: $20,0000

Even with the tough injuries Parker has suffered over the years, it’s hard to believe that we’re here with the talented 24-year-old. After signing a two-year deal worth a whopping $20 million per season with the Chicago Bulls last summer, Parker dipped in and out of the rotation before he was traded with Bobby Portis to Washington. Parker can undoubtedly score, but he’s far removed from the campaign in which he averaged 20 points and 6.2 rebounds per game back in 2016-17 — still, it may be a worthy endeavor. The Wizards declined their option on year two of that aforementioned deal, but there’s mutual interest to negotiate a new one, reportedly.

Where Does He Fit: Parker fits well on a roster like Washington, a place where the expectations are low and their playoff chances are stuck in fifth gear. They’ve got Bradley Beal, obviously, but beyond that, the Wizards don’t have any choice but to keep looking for solutions that do work. Parker’s not a shooter with consistent range yet, unfortunately, but teams like Cleveland, Miami, Minnesota, Memphis and Charlotte should all do their due diligence on the 6-foot-8 bucket-getter.

New Deal: Parker’s got a next-to-no chance of receiving the same financial amount from last summer — but the structure might be similar. Memphis takes the dive at a 2-year/$20 million agreement, plus that all-important team option for year two once again.

Mid-Level or Below Guys

Ed Davis – Brooklyn Nets – Last Year’s Salary: $4,449,000

Davis was a beacon of shining light in Brooklyn, often gobbling up rebound after rebound as the Nets surprised everybody. Although he wasn’t a starter and much of the highlight-reel plaudits went to Jarrett Allen, Davis was, as always, one of the most valuable players on the roster for Brooklyn. He outpaced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the Nets’ best defender by rating (102.2) and had 32 outings with 10 or more rebounds in just 17.9 minutes per contest. When Davis left the Trail Blazers as surplus last summer, Portland fans rioted. Wherever Davis goes, he’s well-loved.

And if he took a discount to play for Brooklyn last year, he’s probably won’t do it again, per Michael Scotto of The Athletic.

The most the Nets can offer, via Bird Rights, is around two years at a total of $11 million.

Where Does He Fit: Whew, the flexibility! If the Nets snuck a fast one past the NBA last summer, the secret is definitely out now: Ed Davis, without a doubt, makes your team better. He, too, should be an option for just about everybody — but the Lakers should be the first to make that call. The Clippers, Jazz, Pelicans, Celtics and more, the list goes on as most franchises could use a rebounder like Davis.

New Deal: After bouncing around the league for much of his nine-year career, Davis can settle in with the Nets. He continues to fill a very real need, but until Jarrett Allen gets bigger and stronger — as well as the recently-drafted Nic Claxton — the Nets will need somebody like Davis. If he likes the opportunity for consistent minutes on a likely playoff-bound team, Davis could take the 2-year/$11 million offer and stay put.

Marcus Morris – Boston Celtics – Last Year’s Salary: $5,375,000

The Morris-wrapped enigma has been tough to nail down as of late, but he was an essential piece of that deep Boston roster. Over the last two years, Morris has done well both as a starter and off the bench alongside Al Horford and company. Notably, Morris has made one-plus three-pointer per game in every season since 2012 but also made a career-best 1.9 on 37.5 percent last year. When the Celtics were going through their mid-season slump, Morris didn’t mince words in the locker room and was key in righting the ship — so what team wouldn’t love a veteran like that?

Where Does He Fit: Morris may be Mirotic-lite from three-point range, but he’s a much better defender. The 6-foot-9 forward can play in a featured role or thrive as an energy piece off the bench. The Lakers need shooting, while the Kings need some new veterans to steer the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles towards their respective next steps. With a nearly non-existent frontcourt, however, it might make sense for Morris to stick around in Boston too.

New Deal: Deep shooting and solid defense would be worth the mid-level exception/2-year partnership for the young and fast Sacramento Kings.

Taj Gibson – Minnesota Timberwolves – Last Year’s Salary: $14,000,000

DeMarre Carroll – Brooklyn Nets – Last Year’s Salary: $15,4000

Kevon Looney – Golden State Warriors – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Jordan Bell* – Golden State Warriors – Last Year’s Salary: $1,378,242

JaMychal Green – Los Angeles Clippers – Last Year’s Salary: $7,666,667

Zach Randolph – Sacramento Kings – Last Year’s Salary: $11, 692,308

Noah Vonleh – New York Knicks – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Kenneth Faried – Houston Rockets – Last Year’s Salary: $683,661

Mike Scott – Philadelphia 76ers – Last Year’s Salary: $4,320,500

Other Notable Free Agents

Ryan Anderson** – Miami HEAT – Last Year’s Salary: $20,421,546

Daniel Theis* – Boston Celtics – Last Year’s Salary: $1,378,242

Luc Mbah a Moute – Free Agents – Last Year’s Salary: $4,320,500

Dante Cunningham – San Antonio Spurs – Last Year’s Salary: $2,487,000

Maxi Kleber* – Dallas Mavericks – Last Year’s Salary: $1,378,242

Richaun Holmes – Philadelphia 76ers – Last Year’s Salary: $1,6000,520

Dragan Bender – Phoenix Suns — Last Year’s Salary: $4,661,280

Marquese Chriss — Cleveland Cavaliers – Last Year’s Salary: $3,206,160

Markieff Morris – Oklahoma City Thunder — Last Year’s Salary: $427,288

Cheick Diallo — New Orleans Pelicans – Last Year’s Salary: $1,544,951

Georges Niang** – Utah Jazz – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Jonas Jerebko – Golden State Warriors – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Lance Thomas – New York Knicks – Last Year’s Salary: $7,119,650

Michael Beasley – Free Agents – Last Year’s Salary: $3,500,000

Jeff Green – Boston Celtics – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Trey Lyles* – Denver Nuggets – Last Year’s Salary: $3,364,249

Anthony Tolliver – Minnesota Timberwolves – Last Year’s Salary: $5,750,000

Mike Muscala – Los Angeles Lakers – Last Year’s Salary: $5,000,000

Darrell Arthur – Denver Nuggets – Last Year’s Salary: $7,464,912

Jarell Martin* – Orland Magic – Last Year’s Salary: $2,416,222

Udonis Haslem – Miami Heat – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Sam Dekker – Washington Wizards – Last Year’s Salary: $2,760,095

Amir Johnson – Philadelphia 76ers – Last Year’s Salary: $1,512,601

Henry Ellenson**** – New York Knicks – Last Year’s Salary: $341,831

Quincy Acy – Free Agents – Last Year’s Salary: $85,458

Tyler Lydon – Denver Nuggets – Last Year’s Salary: $1,874,640

Chris Boucher** – Toronto Raptors – Last Year’s Salary: $457,418

Ivan Rabb** – Memphis Grizzlies – Last Year’s Salary: $1,378,242

Alize Johnson** – Indiana Pacers – Last Year’s Salary: $838,464

Duncan Robinson** – Miami Heat – Last Year’s Salary: $9,474

Ray Spalding – Phoenix Suns – Last Year’s Salary: $184,746

Isaiah Hartenstein** – Houston Rockets – Last Year’s Salary: $838,464

Yante Maten** – Miami Heat – Last Year’s Salary: $18,948

Gary Clark** – Houston Rockets – Last Year’s Salary: $596,873

*Qualifying Offer (If made and accepted, the player becomes a restricted free agent)

**Non-Guaranteed Contract (If the player is waived by his current team before the contract becomes fully guaranteed, he becomes an unrestricted free agent)

***Player Option (The player has the choice of whether to opt-in for another year with his current team or opt-out to become an unrestricted free agent)

****Team Option (The team has the choice of whether to pick up a player for another year or opt-out to have him become an unrestricted free agent)

Although this position isn’t as star-studded as the others, there are plenty of notable pieces worth adding. There are potential-laden youngsters and hard-working veterans to be hard — but most of these names won’t come off the board until the big shopping is done and dusted. Tomorrow, our series will wrap up just ahead of free agency opening, so be sure to stay tuned into Basketball Insiders.

Ben Nadeau is a Seattle-based writer in his third year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Why Boston Rebuffed Indiana

Many reports have come out explaining why Boston didn’t trade Gordon Hayward to Indiana when they had the chance. Matt John provides an alternative theory for why Danny Ainge didn’t take Indy’s offer.

Matt John

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Let’s be clear on this: There is some valid intrigue to one Myles Turner.

He is one of the rare hybrid bigs who can block shots (at a high clip) and shoot threes (at an average clip) – and all in a league that values that sort of skillset in bigs now more than ever. He’s a seven-foot rim-runner that jumps like his legs are made out of pogo sticks with arms long enough to make Mr. Fantastic jealous.

Although he hasn’t grown much as a player over the last three years, you can make the case that none of that is on him. The Indiana Pacers outgrew him for reasons out of his control, which, in turn, has limited his effectiveness and made him a little underrated.

And best of all, had the Celtics acquired him for Gordon Hayward, Turner would have strengthened their frontcourt on depth alone. Their frontcourt weaknesses definitely showed itself in the postseason when it mattered the most. Turner was attainable, is a better fit in Boston than he currently is in Indiana and he fits with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s timeline, so why didn’t the Celtics agree to take him from Indiana when they had the chance?

At first glance, the simple answer is that they just didn’t want him that badly. More and more details have come out saying that the Celtics gauged trade interest around the league for Turner and didn’t really get anywhere, so they wanted more from Indiana.

Not too long after the Hayward debacle, it was announced that the Celtics were bringing in Tristan Thompson – a starting-caliber big who rebounds better, costs half as much as Turner and has championship experience – further reinforcing that Boston just wasn’t that into the center.

That sadly doesn’t really answer the question, since, all things considered, getting someone like Turner surely would have been a better alternative than letting Hayward walk for nothing. Even if the Celtics didn’t have much interest in Turner to begin with, why this route?

Well, maybe it wasn’t about the prospect of getting Myles Turner. Maybe it was more about what kind of asset they were letting go of. Maybe, just maybe, Boston didn’t want to make an Eastern Conference rival potentially stronger than them.

If everything went Boston’s way, Gordon Hayward would still be suiting up for the Celtics. They were willing to pay Hayward upwards of nine figures to keep him as the fourth guy in their pecking order. Evidently, Hayward didn’t want that, and it’s not hard to see why.

Besides getting a bag so expensive that pretty much everyone unanimously agrees that it was a gross overpay, Hayward’s injuries combined with the unexpectedly rapid growth spurts of Tatum and Brown greatly diminished his role in Boston since first joining back in 2017. Remember that when Gordon Hayward signed a max contract with the Celtics, nobody second-guessed it from either side because he was supposed to be a featured player on a team aiming for a title. Subsequently, that went *poof* just six minutes into his first season in Boston.

You know the rest.

Fast forward to the end of this season and it was clear that Hayward wasn’t a featured player anymore and just part of the supporting cast. Being the fourth option has its perks, like not having the pressure to be the guy night-in and night-out. Especially when you’re being paid $30 million to do it. Alas, no player signs a max contract intending to be a complementary piece on a contender. Hayward wanted a bigger role and that wasn’t happening in Boston.

He’s going to get just that in Charlotte, probably would have gotten that in Indiana, and Myles Turner, Doug McDermott and a first-rounder isn’t the worst return for someone who was leaving anyway.

But know why the Gordon Hayward era in Boston turned out to be a dud? Hayward never quite figured out what he was supposed to be on the team. He was the most overqualified fourth option in the league and, yet, never quite ran with that role. Hayward brought more good than bad, but the inconsistency was maddening.

There were moments where the Celtics saw the Hayward of old, but they were flashes in a pan. Upon further inspection, there was a pattern. Almost every time Hayward put on a retro performance, someone else on the team happened to not be playing.

The first one of these performances came during the comedy of errors that was Boston’s 2018-19 season. His first season post-leg injury, Hayward wasn’t exactly the bucket-getter he was during his Utah days. He managed to eclipse the 20-point mark only seven times in the 81 games he played for the Celtics that season – and that included the postseason. So, whenever he had it going, it was safe to say that it was a rare occasion. Such an occasion happened on Jan. 2, 2019.

Hayward’s 35 points off the bench helped the Celtics rout the Minnesota Timberwolves, 115-102. This wasn’t Hayward’s first 30-point performance of the season. Hell, it wasn’t even his first 30-point performance against the Timberwolves that season. What made this even more surreal was that Hayward managed to do this without mercurial star Kyrie Irving. Well, it wasn’t like Minnesota was exactly the team to beat so there wasn’t too much to take from it. But then, on Feb. 12, it happened again.

Gordon Hayward put up yet another excellent performance – and this time against the twice revamped and very legitimate Philadelphia 76ers with Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler. Yet again, no Kyrie, no problem. The Celtics won 112-109 going away, and they wouldn’t have done it without Hayward.

Any Celtics fan would tell you that it was a Kyrie thing seeing how badly that relationship ended. In fact, he had his best performance as a Celtic against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 5, 2019, where he hung a career-high 39 points on them.

This time though, there was no Jaylen Brown. Huh. So maybe it didn’t have much to do with Kyrie. Maybe Hayward played better when more touches were available. Hayward never put up a performance quite as strong as that one again – but anytime he had a standout performance, it usually fell under the exact same conditions. If Hayward had a great game it was because a vital player on the Celtics had been absent, and he was good enough to make up the difference.

For instance, on Jan. 28, Boston faced off against their future conference finals opponent Miami HEAT without the blossoming Jayson Tatum – moreover, it was in South Beach, where the home team had lost on their home floor only twice beforehand. Boston prevailed 109-101. How did they do it?

A month later, it happened again. This time against old friend Minnesota and this time without Kemba Walker. It didn’t matter then either. Hayward looked like himself.

Sure, Hayward had some fantastic games when the squad was at full strength and had some not-so-fantastic games when featured players were out, but this didn’t feel like a string of coincidences. At that time, it didn’t seem as evident, but in light of his departure, it stands out more now: The bigger role Gordon Hayward had in the offense, the likelier he was to perform better.

That was the conundrum with sending him to Indiana. Should he have been sent to the Pacers, there would have been more touches for him. Indiana already has some impressive offensive talent between All-Star center Domantas Sabonis and bubble-darling TJ Warren. Even with how good those two have been, theoretically, they wouldn’t have demanded the ball enough to limit Hayward’s role on the team like Boston inadvertently did with the Jays and Kemba.

With the ball in his hands more, the Hayward that showed up oh-so-sporadically in Boston may have been a mainstay in Indiana. That’s not a sure thing, but Ainge may not have wanted to take that chance.

It’s also worth mentioning that with the emergence of Sabonis, Indiana had less and less use for Turner. They’ve tried to make the pair work for the last three years. Their two-man net rating together is plus-2.1, which is fine, but it doesn’t show much progress compared to the plus-2.8 the year prior. With Sabonis’ emergence as their center of the future, it seems much more apparent that Turner is the odd man out.

So if the Celtics agreed to sign and trade Hayward for Turner among others, they’d be doing the Pacers potentially two favors:

1. Giving Indiana the better player and fit who would thrive in a bigger role.
2. Ridding Indiana of an already expendable player, talent and all.

Let’s now point out the obvious. Of course Danny Ainge didn’t want to lose Hayward for nothing. No one in his shoes would. But evidently, he didn’t think acquiring Turner as the centerpiece was worth possibly making the Pacers, an Eastern Conference rival, not only better with Hayward, but potentially better than the Celtics too.

Indiana was a mere 3.5 games behind Boston for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Hayward, even with his injury history, could have conceivably raised their ceiling high enough to supplant Boston. If Boston believed he wasn’t capable of that, then maybe they would have pulled the trigger on this deal – or more definitively, wouldn’t have been offering him $100+ million to keep him around.

Here’s a better way of putting it: The Celtics are much more likely to fear a team with Gordon Hayward if his supporting cast has the likes of Sabonis, Warren and Malcolm Brogdon than they are if his supporting cast has the likes of LaMelo Ball, Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington.

Optimistically, Hayward makes Charlotte a borderline playoff team. There’s no telling what he could have done for Indiana if all they had to give up was Turner, McDermott and a first-rounder.

Ultimately, too, Hayward was moved by Charlotte’s out-of-the-park mega-offer – and that’s why he’ll be donning a Hornets uniform next season.

In the end, Boston did get something out of Hayward. A league-record $28.5 million trade exception. One so big that it took forking over two second-round picks to get Charlotte to comply. It’s hard to believe that Boston won’t use an exception that large – look at what Golden State just did with the exception they got for Andre Iguodala – just like it’s hard to believe that they’ll get someone of Hayward’s caliber on the trade market. A star is probably out of the question, but a young player with upside definitely isn’t. Someone like Myles Turner comes to mind. As stated earlier, there’s definitely some intrigue to Turner.

Just not enough intrigue to trade Gordon Hayward for – as Boston has made so abundantly clear.

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2020 NBA Draft and Free Agency Roundable

Drew Maresca, Matt John and Steve Kyler discuss winners and losers of the NBA Draft and free agency.

Drew Maresca

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ALERT. ALERT. ALERT. The NBA’s 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin in less than a month.

If it feels like we just crowned the 2020 NBA Champions, that’s because we did. The Los Angeles Lakers secured their 17th championship on October 11, just over a month ago. Still, the new season kicks off in less than a month, on December 22; and the preseason could start almost two weeks earlier (December 11). And while there is much to look forward to pertaining to the new season, there is also much to assess.

November brought us trade season, the 2020 NBA Draft and a flurry of free-agent moves – all of which kicked off within days of one another, beginning on November 16. Basketball Insiders begins its 2020-21 coverage with Drew Maresca, Matt John and Steve Kyler assessing the abbreviated 2020 offseason:

NBA Draft Winners:

The draft had its share of surprises, but nothing outdid Tyrese Haliburton slipping to 12th. Haliburton shot up draft boards since the NCAA season came to an abrupt stop in March. His size and versatility were highlighted over and over again, and he was billed as an ideal running mate to pair with a score-first point guard. It seemed all but certain that he’d be a top-6 pick, with the Pistons at 7 being his assumed floor.

Well, this one was a mind-bender. Not only did he fall past the Atlanta Hawks — who he was linked within the lead up to the draft surprisingly — he was passed up by Detroit (who took another point guard in Killian Hayes) AND New York (who selected the 2019-20 Naismith Player of the Year, Obi Toppin) — both of whom were in the market for a point guard of the future.

But while it’s surprising that he fell to Sacramento, it’s far from a bad thing for Haliburton. He’ll line up next to point guard phenom De’Aaron Fox, who just inked a 5-year max extension. The Sacramento backcourt will look to move the ball up the court (FAST), and Sacramento could have found its backcourt of the future.

And it looks like Sacramento will give Haliburton more responsibility than originally assumed as they opted to pass on matching an offer sheet for shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanović (who will head to Atlanta). Further, guard Buddy Hield has a notoriously tumultuous relationship with head coach Luke Walton, making it look as though Haliburton can begin leaving his mark on the NBA immediately. Keep an eye on the rookie from Iowa State as a dark horse in the rookie of the year race.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

If we’re being completely honest, the fact that this draft wasn’t renowned for its upfront talent and more renowned for its deep pool of solid players makes it difficult to determine who really are the big-time winners of this go-round. So for this year, I think I’ll label the teams that usually get maligned for their draft decisions that definitely made the right choice.

Let’s start with the Charlotte Hornets. Michael Jordan has been routinely made a laughingstock for the moves he’s made for the Hornets, but instead of playing it safe, he went with the high upside pick. Out of all the prospects in this draft, LaMelo Ball arguably has the highest ceiling. There are definitely red flags to his game but the Hornets swung for the fences here because Ball may very well have the best chance at becoming a star. If he flops, he flops but that’s not relevant here. For the Hornets, drafting him at the very least signifies that they really do want to change their fortunes.

Then there’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland has made some… interesting draft choices with their lottery picks over the past decade, most recently with their 2019 pick, Darius Garland. This time, however, they actually picked the guy who actually fit with what they needed. Cleveland’s been sporting a piss poor defense over the last few years, so they brought in one of the draft’s most talented defenders. Isaac Okoro’s probably not going to be a star, but he definitely aids a big weakness of Cleveland’s. There just might be a light at the end of the post-LeBron tunnel.

Finally, as Drew pointed out, the Sacramento Kings made the perfect selection with Tyrese Haliburton. The do-it-all guard should be an excellent backcourt partner with De’Aron Fox, and his selection eases the pain of the recently departed Bogdan Bogdanovic. No one exactly knows what to make of the Kings’ current roster makeup with all the personnel and roster shakeups, but Haliburton should be another step in the right direction for them.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

They say the true test of an NBA Draft is not known for two maybe three years, and that likely will be true of the 2020 NBA Draft class. To that end, there were a couple of picks that jumped off the page, so let’s start with LaMelo Ball to Charlotte.

From a talent perspective, Charlotte may have gotten one of the best players in the draft. When you combine Melo’s natural ability with having Michael Jordan in his ear, the Hornets could end up with the top player in the class when it is said and done. The risk on Melo is two-part – first, durability, which we have seen with his brother Lonzo’s NBA career. Melo has played a lot of high-level basketball and his body does not reflect high-level physical development, and that could catch up to him as it did with Lonzo.

There is also a side-show factor.  There are enough things going on in an NBA season, but to have the sideshow that comes with the Ball family in Charlotte is a risk. James Borrego has built a strong foundation for Charlotte’s youth — will the spotlight and the bully pulpit Melo’s father Lavar Ball receives be a distraction? Time will tell, but the pick was an excellent one.

With the 15th pick, the Orlando Magic selected Cole Anthony, and while on the surface Anthony had an underwhelming season at North Carolina, its easy to forget he was one of the top scorers coming out of high school and was, by his own account, playing at 70 percent at UNC. If that’s true and Anthony can rebound to his stature coming out of high school, Orlando may have nabbed exactly what they were looking for — namely, an impact scorer. Time will tell if Anthony can be that guy at the NBA level, but getting Anthony’s offensive punch with the 15th represents incredible value.

With the 20th pick, the Miami HEAT selected Precious Achiuwa out of Memphis. Talk about the prototypical HEAT player. Achiuwa checks so many boxes for the HEAT; they now have interchangeability with Bam Adebayo, as they have similar physical styles of play. Achiuwa is a quality defensive presence that can guard four positions. To get such a perfect fit at 20 is uncommon and for Miami, it could be a nice selection.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

NBA Draft Losers:

Most teams drafted pretty well this year, or they strategically swapped their pick(s). But the Hawks’ selection of Onyeka Okongwu was curious for a few reasons. Before I get into the downside of the pick, let’s make one thing clear — this is no way means I think Okongwu wasn’t deserving of the 6th pick. On the contrary, Okongwu is a long and athletic big man who will probably affect the NBA game beginning on Day 1. But the Hawks didn’t need him. They just completed a trade for an athletic, shot-blocker in Clint Capela in February. Regardless of Okongwu’s upside, the Hawks simply don’t need another starting-caliber center. But they could have used a big, versatile forward like Deni Avdija.

The NBA is moving toward a positionless game. Avdija fits that mold to a T. He is a 6’9″ point forward who can score and create for others. Further, he’s a high IQ player who competes hard, plays on and off the ball and possesses strong defensive fundamentals.

Ultimately, the Hawks set themselves up for the future in free agency, so a wonky – but still productive – draft pick won’t set them back too much. But Avdinja’s upside is substantial. And he could have been inserted into the rotation immediately without stealing too many minutes from major players  (whereas Capela will obviously lose minutes to Okongwu).

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

As I said earlier, a draft like this makes it hard to decide who are the winners, and the same goes for the losers. For example, the Bulls definitely reached when they picked Patrick Williams, but a draft like this was the perfect time to reach for a prospect if you really liked him. In a case like this, if the other prospects aren’t good enough to make you think they’ll come back to haunt you, then go for the guy you like the most no matter what anyone else thinks.

In an offseason where pretty much everything uncharacteristically went their way, the Suns made an odd choice when they selected big Jalen Smith seeing how they already have a talented frontcourt and were perhaps better off with a guard like Kira Lewis or a swingman like Haliburton. However, if they think that developing DeAndre Ayton’s backup is the way to go, then go right ahead! We also have to remember that everyone thought that the Cam Johnson pick was terrible last year, and he made the whole NBA world eat their words.

There are definitely guys picked later in this draft who might wind up being better overall than Aaron Nesmith, but the Boston Celtics needed someone who can help them now. The Celtics’ second unit was desperate for a shooter and that’s exactly what Nesmith brings to them. The guys who could wind up being better than Nesmith will need time to develop, and Boston’s not waiting anymore. Maybe in previous years, but not now.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

There were not a lot of crazy questionable picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. Maybe we had too much time to micro analyze the class, or maybe teams just went more with popular opinion  That said there was one pick that sort of stood out as something of a reach – Patrick Williams at four to the Chicago Bulls.

To be fair, Williams is a quality NBA prospect and he could go on to have a fruitful NBA career; but at four with Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton still on the board (and able to solve more pressing needs), Williams seems to be a stretch.

Every year there is a pre-defined order that most believe the draft will go in, so Williams going several spots higher isn’t out of the ordinary. The question is will Williams be a game-changer for a Bulls team desperate for a player in the draft that really moves the needle?

They say the draft should never be about solving positional needs, rather grabbing the best player available. I’m not sold on the idea that Williams was the best talent available at the four spot, so time will tell.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

Free Agency Winners:

The rich seemed to get richer in the NBA this offseason. Very few elite teams lost marquee players, and many actually added one or more. But one outlier is the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had an impressive offseason, first adding elite prospect Onyeka Okongwu in the draft, and then adding Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanović, Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondon in free agency. That’s an impressive haul for any team, but the Hawks just sped up their rebuild considerably, placing themselves squarely in the playoff discussion. Their new additions join an incredibly young core of Trae Young, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela. Rondo will be especially important for Young’s development, as Rondo is known to be an incredibly high-IQ player and cut-throat competitor. Gallinari and Bogdanović add versatility and shooting to a team in need of it. The Hawks were probably going to take a step forward and fight for one of the final playoff spots in the East prior to these signings. They’ll be even better now.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

It’s tough to decide who really are among the biggest winners in free agency because it depends on what the team sought out to do and also because this free agency class was so weak that it was seen as basically the calm before the storm that will be next year’s class. If even. It honestly wasn’t too impressive.

Keeping what goals they had in mind, more teams won than lost. Atlanta got the best pool of players in free agency by a landslide. Houston got the best economic value for the players they added in the offseason. Utah and Miami for the most part ran it back while adding some new faces that should serve to make them better. Those guys were among the biggest winners, but not the winner of free agency. That belongs to the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Not a lot of NBA champions can brag that they got better after winning a title, but the Lakers have definitely been the exception. While it was not perfect, the free agency period went as fantastically as they could have hoped. Signing Wes Matthews was their most key signing of the summer because a. the Dennis Schroder trade makes even more sense now and b. Matthews will do everything Danny Green did for the Lakers at basically 1/5th of the price. Coming in at a close second was re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was brought back at a reasonable deal after an awesome playoff performance.

Honestly, they didn’t have to bring in Marc Gasol, but getting him for chump change, even on the back end of his career, was a steal. They were better off keeping Markieff Morris than letting him walk so they did just that. The one head-scratcher was giving Montrezl Harell the full mid-level exception. On the one hand, Harell’s better than the no-show he put up for the Clippers when they got spanked by the Nuggets, so that might be a good value for the Sixth Man of the Year. On the other, it’s hard to see Harell play in their closing lineups alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis. They learned that the more spacing they had during their title run, the better.

At best, Harell adds second unit scoring to a team that didn’t exactly have a whole lot of that last season, and at worst, he’s an expendable asset to dangle at the deadline. No matter what happens, the Lakers have had one of the best offseasons a reigning champion can have to the point where it’s really not a hot take to say that they are a considerably better team now than they were back in October.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

Free agency winners? The Lakers.

Seriously, to see the 2020 NBA Champions deepen their roster with Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol without giving up anything that truly mattered to their core? That is incredible front office work.

Here are a couple of other situations worth mentioning:

The Atlanta Hawks have completely remade their team and did so without doing anything break the bank silly. The veteran additions of Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill and Tony Snell are solid pick-ups and nabbing Bogdan Bogdanović will be a great get, maybe on the high side money-wise, but given his talent so far, it was a solid signing and what you have to do to steal another team’s player.

The Miami HEAT running it back with functionally the same core is smart, too. The HEAT are just scratching the surface of their potential given how young so many of their core guys are. They wisely structured their deals to remain flexible, although the Bam Adebayo extension takes them out of the direct free agent market next summer, they won’t be tied to long-term boat anchor type deals and could always trade into a free agent they covet because of how many great assets the HEAT have.

Overall, all three teams did a really good job in such a compressed chaotic timeframe.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

Free Agency Losers:

To Matt’s point above, winners are tough to crown without seeing a finished product on the hardwood. Losers are a little easier. And there are a few clear losers. But the team that hurt itself the most is the Charlotte Hornets. It’s a weird pick because I do actually like their roster, and I think it’s significantly improved from last year’s team. And the guy that’s most to blame for the Hornets’ hate will probably be their best player in 2020-21, but the Hornets also grossly overpaid to get him.

The announcement that Gordon Hayward was signing with the Hornets took most of the NBA universe by surprise. Hayward waited until (essentially) the last minute to announce he would opt out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $34.2 million. It was widely assumed he did so to secure more long-term money, not to essentially duplicate his salary AND stretch it. But that’s exactly what he did.

Hayward ultimately announced his intention to sign with the Hornets for 4 years/$120 million. Now, signing a 30-year-old, former all-star is usually celebrated, but Hayward hasn’t been able to re-establish himself after suffering a brutal foot injury in the first game of the 2018-19 season. He did manage to 17.5 points per game last season, and he averaged a career-high in rebounds (6.7), but he averaged only 2.8 free throw attempts per game (down considerably from what he tallied in Utah). He also suffered more injuries last season, breaking a bone in his hand in November and suffering nerve pain in his foot during the playoffs. So exactly what player are the Hornets getting? And worse still, what will he be in 2023-24?

Numerous reports state that the Hornets and Boston Celtics are still working on a sign-and-trade deal, which could improve the Hornets’ future cap situation. But either way, they’re still on the hook to pay Hayward the entirety of this massive contract — and that’s not ideal.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

If they manage to win the championship anyway, then the following won’t matter, but man oh man, the Bucks really missed out on such a golden opportunity when their sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic fell through.

For a couple of days there, it really felt like Milwaukee had added the last piece of the puzzle. Bogdanovic’s abilities as a combo guard felt like such a perfect fit for what the Bucks are all about. His abilities as a scorer would have taken more pressure off of Khris Middleton, and his abilities as a shooter should have complemented Giannis’ game like a glove. As an added bonus, his 6’6” frame and his playmaking abilities would have further strengthened the Bucks’ motion offense and positionless basketball. This was it. The Bucks were going to be better than ever.

Until the rug got pulled right out from underneath them. The tampering debacle canceled everything, and the Bucks at this point can only wonder what could have been. Failing to acquire a superstar is one thing. Having a superstar then failing to get the guy that definitely would have made your championship aspirations the strongest they’ve been in years is another. That’s why they are my pick for the biggest loser in free agency.

In all fairness, their offseason wasn’t a total failure for them. In fact, props to them for not stubbornly trying to run it back when it was clear that something had to be done. Jrue Holiday is definitely an upgrade over the likes of Eric Bledsoe and George Hill. Getting a haul of buy-low additions like DJ Augustin, Bobby Portis, Torrey Craig, and Bryn Forbes will help fill out the bench, but none of those guys compare to what Bogdanovic could have done for them. With what’s at stake, it could very well haunt Milwaukee knowing that Bogdan Bogdanović slipped through their fingers.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

There were a few head-scratchers in free agency…

Not sure what the Detroit Pistons were thinking. They let their best free agent walk in Christian Woods, then turned around and gave a big deal to a slightly-average guy. Jerami Grant is a quality player, but three years and $60 million is a ton.

If the motivation was to go all in for one more run with Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, mission accomplished; but I’m not sure that means anything, even in the East.

The Orlando Magic stayed largely quiet in free agency, which was surprising given that it seems the current squad has run its course. The Magic have long valued the idea of growing youth in an environment built around trying to win, but it’s clear that Evan Fournier who opted in to a massive final contract year worth $17 million, is primed to be moved and looks to be in camp next week.

The Magic do have some injury concerns specifically Jonathan Isaac who is recovering from an ACL tear and the questionable outlook of Mo Bamba, who had to leave the Orlando bubble unexpectedly back in August, due to physical struggles related to the Coronavirus.

With so much uncertainty around the Magic’s youth, their lack of movement in free agency was a surprise.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

One Move We’d Like To See:

Kevin Love to the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland enters 2020-21 with a bit to be excited about. They’re looking forward to a full season with Jusuf Nurkic in the middle, they re-signed Rodney Hood and they added a high-ceiling youngster in Harry Giles (as well as Derrick Jones Jr.). But even if they also bring back Carmelo Anthony, they’ll still need help at the forward spot. Enter Kevin Love.

Love is badly mismatched with the rest of Cleveland’s roster. He is 32, whereas nine of their players are 25 or younger. Further, Love is a five-time all-star and NBA champion, whereas the Cavaliers are in a full-on rebuild. It’s not an ideal match, and the Cavs should cash Love in before it’s too late.

Love to Portland makes perfect sense. He hasn’t been seen as a primary option in a number of years, but he still adds incredible value as a scorer, rebounder and passer. And that works perfectly considering Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum appears poised to stick in Portland for at least the next few seasons. Portland could sit tight, but adding Love would put them in the conversation with teams like the Nuggets and Clippers who hope to knock off the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Even if Portland can’t make a deal for Love, they should look to add a versatile power forward like Julius Randle. They can’t rely on Anthony and Giles to hold down the four spot and expect to compete for a championship. But if they maneuver correctly, Dame-time could translate to championship time in the Rose City.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

DeMar DeRozan/LaMarcus Aldridge to the Charlotte Hornets. By drafting LaMelo Ball and maxing out Gordon Hayward, the Charlotte Hornets are out to prove that they really want to be… not subpar! There will be no argument here that Charlotte paid above and beyond for Hayward’s services, but his contract is in the same ballpark as Tim Hardaway Jr’s- As overpaid as he is, he’s not going to take the money and run. He’ll do his best to live up to the deal Charlotte gave him even if it’s not very likely.

Alas, adding Hayward and Ball only puts Charlotte in discussion for one of the lower playoff seeds, and in no way does it guarantee that they’ll get one of them. If MJ and co. truly are serious about getting the Hornets back to the playoffs, what harm could it do to go all in and pry DeRozan and Aldridge from San Antonio? They have the expiring and near-expiring deals to make it work, like Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, and Terry Rozier, as well as appealing enough young talent without sacrificing the most appealing assets like Miles Bridges Malik Monk to pull it off. Aldridge’s and DeRozan’s names aren’t as sexy as they were three years ago, and that, along with their contracts expiring, is what makes a possible trade for them feasible. All signs are pointing to San Antonio moving on from both of them, so Charlotte needs to strike while the iron is hot- er, lukewarm in their case if we’re being really honest here.

Those two don’t make Charlotte a contender in the east – again, if it was 2017, it would be a different story – but they do make the Hornets more formidable as a playoff team. If there aren’t many better options for Charlotte, and from the look of things, there really aren’t, acquiring those two at least puts Buzz City back in the postseason, and might just complete the most talented Hornets teams we’ve seen in ages.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

Let’s go with Houston…

When Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey left the Rockets, you knew the clock was ticking. It really hasn’t stopped, the question is when is Houston going to pull the trigger on a Russell Westbrook trade, and how soon after will James Harden follow?

The talk in NBA circles is Westbrook could be headed to Washington in a package for John Wall. Wizards president Tommy Sheppard has said that deal is not happening – that does not mean it couldn’t resurface later.

There was talk of James Harden wanting to be in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Houston at this point seems set on waiting out the process and seeing if they can get both Harden and Westbrook back on board… How frequently has that worked out? Typically, when guys ask for the door, they usually get it, and the return usually goes down before it goes up.

Trying to move some $82 million in committed salary during the season is nearly impossible. This is why if Houston wants all the Nets’ and Wizards’ cookies, they need to make the move now or risk the offers or even the opportunity to dwindle away fast.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

The 2020-21 NBA season could end up just as chaotic as last season; but looking past the many challenges facing the league’s schedule, player movement has once again shifted the balance of power. There are new favorites this season, and more importantly, there will be surprise teams to look forward to, also. But regardless of which team you root for, NBA fans have much to be thankful for right this holiday season.

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Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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