NBA Free Agency is officially underway. Once the clock struck midnight, teams and players were able to start negotiations on free agent contracts. Although none of the deals become official until July 7, teams and players can still enter verbal agreements. While there is nothing binding about those initial agreements, players don’t usually break them, DeAndre Jordan notwithstanding. With that said, there was a flurry of activity as soon as the calendar hit July 1. Here’s a look at some of the top free agent news and storylines entering the first day of free agency.
Defending Champs Re-Sign Free Agents
In one move that was not unexpected, Steph Curry re-signed with the Golden State Warriors. It was never in doubt that Curry was going to come back. He will sign for what’s being called a “supermax” contract, the biggest in NBA history. It’s a reported five-year, $201 million deal. The Warriors ensure that they will have their franchise cornerstone under contract for the duration of his prime.
In another smaller, yet extremely important move, Golden States also re-signed Curry’s backup, Shaun Livingston. Livingston has done an amazing job reinventing himself after a devastating injury back when he was with the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s become one of the most dependable backup point guards and is a critical piece in the Warriors’ rotation. Because of the money that will be tied up in the starting lineup, it was unknown how that would impact their key free agents off the bench. Getting Livingston back in the fold was huge for the Warriors.
Clippers Salvage Offseason
The Los Angeles Clippers were dealt a huge blow earlier this week when Chris Paul declared his intentions to sign with the Houston Rockets. With Paul out of the picture, the Clippers turned their attention to re-signing their other superstar, Blake Griffin. Griffin was drawing interest from several other teams, but as July 1 drew near, reports came out that he was re-signing with the only NBA team he’s ever known.
This was a huge development for the Clippers. For a franchise that has struggled since its inception to find legitimacy in the NBA, losing both Paul and Griffin would’ve been a disaster. By keeping Griffin, the Clippers assure themselves a foundational star around whom they can shape the roster. Griffin is in the prime of his career and, when not hampered with injuries, can be a top ten player in the league. As long as they can put the right pieces around him, the Clippers should remain competitive in the foreseeable future.
Gordon Hayward Meeting with HEAT, Celtics, Jazz
One of the top free agents on the market, Gordon Hayward will be meeting with the Miami HEAT, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz, beginning with the HEAT. Both the Celtics and the HEAT would definitely improve their roster should either of them land Hayward. Depending on what teams like the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards do, getting Hayward would further solidify Boston as the second best team in the East. For Miami, a team looking to get back to playoff glory, Hayward likely gets them back into the postseason, especially in the East.
Hayward is the best wing player available and is entering the prime of his career. It would be a huge blow should the Jazz lose him as they attempt to build on last season’s playoff run. He’s emerged as arguably their best player and top perimeter scorer. They must keep him if they want to continue to continue fighting their way up in the tough Western Conference.
Jeff Teague Moves West
In an earlier move, prior to the free agent bonanza, the Minnesota Timberwolves shipped Ricky Rubio off to the Jazz, leaving a hole at point guard. It wasn’t vacant for long as they agreed to terms with Jeff Teague almost immediately when the clock struck twelve.
It was an interesting move. While Teague is not the playmaker nor defender that Rubio is, he is a much better shooter and should help space the floor more effectively, especially with slashers such as Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, and Karl Anthony-Towns operating in the post. The Wolves are a team also searching for legitimacy and they’re looking to win now. Teague’s been a solid starter in Atlanta and Indiana. He should do well in Minnesota and should help them fight for the playoffs.
George Hill Drawing Interest from Knicks, Nuggets
One of the top point guards on the market, George Hill is likely done in Utah after their acquisition of Rubio. Hill has become a dependable starter who plays great defense. He’s also improved his outside shooting; the past two years have been career highs for him (40.8 percent and 40.3 percent respectively).
So far, two of the teams mentioned as being interested in his services are the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. Both teams are in the market for a starting point guard and Hill fits the bill quite nicely. Regardless of what direction the Knicks decide to go in, whether they decide to stay the course and compete or enter a rebuild, Hill’s best fit might be Denver. The Nuggets have amassed a nice collection of young talent, they just need some veteran leadership to help them get back to the playoffs. Hill would be a great addition for them.
Jrue Holiday Back in NOLA
Jrue Holiday was also one of the top free agent point guards on the market and one that the New Orleans Pelicans needed to have back. Holiday gives them somewhat of a “Big 3,” along with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. He gives the Pelicans a capable floor general, and he’s one of the better defensive point guards in the league. Holiday had his share of injury concerns but has been relatively healthy as of late.
With the West getting even stronger after the flurry of activity since the draft, making the playoffs is going to be a daunting task for the Pelicans. But it’s the right move for them. Losing Holiday would’ve been a step back for the team and they might not have been able to replace him. They can’t be satisfied, however, as they still have some other issues to address (specifically their bench), if they want to contend for the playoffs next season.
#17 – Donte DiVincenzo – Milwaukee Bucks
Donte DiVincenzo put himself on the map with his breakout performance in the 2018 National Championship, scoring 31 points and winning the Most Outstanding Player award. The Milwaukee Bucks, needing spacing around Giannis Antetokounmpo, nabbed the sharpshooter with the 17th pick in the draft.
DiVincenzo’s shooting ability and high basketball IQ should fit nicely with new coach Mike Budenholzer’s pace and space offense and will be able to provide rebounding help and toughness at the guard position. One of Milwaukee’s biggest issues last season was spreading the floor, finishing 24th in three-point percentage. DiVincenzo will give them a scoring option off the bench that can stretch the floor. Posting a 42″ vertical leap at the Combine, DiVincenzo is a superior athlete who competes on defense and will benefit from the long-armed Bucks frontcourt behind him.
DiVencenzo has already played in several high stakes games including two National Championship games and was not afraid of the moment, likely a factor in the Bucks’ selection. He projects to be a longtime rotation player with a lot of room for growth.
#20 – Josh Okogie – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie with the 20th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft.
At the NBA level, Okogie probably projects as a shooting guard. Despite being 6-foot-4, Okogie has the physical tools and the ability to guard taller shooting guards. He was a pretty good defensive player in college and that will probably be one of his strengths in the NBA.
On the offensive end, Okogie is a good shooter. He shot 38 percent from the three-point line last season as a sophomore. An outside shooter is something the Timberwolves will definitely welcome to the rotation. In terms of the rest of his offensive game, he might struggle a bit getting his shot off over taller wing defenders in the NBA. At the college level, he was able to get to the rim and score and it will be interesting to see if that translates to the NBA.
Overall, he does project as a nice 3-and-D prospect. Defense and shooting are his strengths and lockdown defenders who can hit the three-ball are highly desired at the next level. It’s a bit difficult to imagine him getting regular rotation minutes right away for a playoff team but down the line he should emerge as a solid rotation player.
#19 – Kevin Huerter – Atlanta Hawks
With the No. 19 pick in the NBA draft, the Atlanta Hawks selected Kevin Huerter from the University of Maryland.
After 10 consecutive seasons reaching the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks failed to win 25 contests in 2018. Gone are All-Stars Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague, each of whom the franchise groomed at various points during their decade of playoff bliss. Now the team is faced with a daunting rebuild under second year general manager Travis Schlenk and first year coach Lloyd Pierce.
Huerter becomes the first Maryland player to be selected in the first round since center Alex Len was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2013. Huerter was projected to be available in the 16 to 24 range and the Hawks get a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who has the ability to spread the floor.
In two seasons at Maryland, Huerter averaged 12 points, five rebounds and three assists on 46 percent shooting from the floor. As a sophomore, Huerter connected on 73 three-pointers on a sparkling 42 percent accuracy from long range.
The Hawks have been looking for consistent production from the two guard spot ever since Tim Hardaway Jr. left the team to join the New York Knicks in free agency last summer.
Huerter will join a young Hawks core of point guard Dennis Schroder and forward John Collins, two of the team’s first round draft picks from prior years, as well as dynamic guard Trae Young, who was selected with the fifth overall pick of this year’s draft (pending the trade with the Dallas Mavericks being finalized).