So…things have happened since our initial free agency tracker from Sunday. Several players have found new places to call home for the coming NBA season. Some players nearly broke NBA Twitter with their announcements (thanks, Boogie) while others took devastating pay cuts. It’s been a whirlwind of confusion and reality TV-esque drama but every second of it has been enthralling to watch unfold. All but two players from Sunday’s post have decided who they’re going to play for next season, let’s a take a look at who went where and the potential fit they have with their new teams.
DeMarcus Cousins – Signed: Golden State Warriors (one-year, $5.3 million)
Not even the Golden State Warriors saw this one coming. Not be overshadowed by LeBron James announcing his decision to leave the beautiful city of Cleveland for some town in California, the Warriors hauled in a fifth All-Star and All-NBA player. My initial reaction to this signing was mostly blank stares with a sprinkle of rage and disappointment, but after looking at it from all angles, this may actually have been the best possible situation for Boogie. As Drew wrote yesterday regarding Boogie’s decision, there is really no downside for him to go to The Bay. He’ll have zero pressure to return, can rehab to the best of his ability, make a run as the starting center for the NBA title favorites, probably win a ring, then test the free agent waters again next summer. Even if he doesn’t receive a max offer in 2019, he can very easily sign another one-year deal – this time for his actual worth – and prove himself for the summer of 2020.
He’ll be 28 by the time the season begins and 30 by 2020, so despite the Achilles injury, he’s still in the prime years of his basketball career. It all just depends on how that Achilles heals (and the track record for players returning from Achilles injuries in the NBA isn’t great) and if he can be even 80 percent of the player he was before the injury, a max deal will still be on the table. Initial reports stated that zero teams offered him a “significant contract offer” – which I find hard to believe – and it turns out that the Pelicans did, in fact, offer him a two-year, $40 million deal, although it was shortly after he was ruled out for the season. But the front office also had a meeting scheduled with Boogie, which ultimately didn’t happen as he signed with Golden State before they could get to that point.
If you subscribe to the @nytimes weekly NBA newsletter, it’s already in your inbox and you have fresh reporting on DeMarcus Cousins’ stunning move to Golden State — including this bit on New Orleans offering Cousins an extension late in the season that was declined: pic.twitter.com/bABWuaOnCO
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) July 3, 2018
Truth & nothing but the truth:
Pelicans DISCUSSED numbers w/ Boogie & his reps.
Cousins camp didn’t like those numbers.
Both sides agreed, test FA.
Humbling experience for DC.
NOLA pivoted to Randle.
Pelicans wanted sign & trade deal.
Boogie & his camp walked.
Took GSW $5.3 mil pic.twitter.com/impPUpx4gF
— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU) July 3, 2018
In the end, these minute details don’t matter. Cousins chose the best decision for him both financially and as a professional and he should never be blamed for that, especially in a league as cutthroat as the NBA, where front offices will screw over players in favor making money. Cousins treated his situation exactly like what it is: a business.
Julius Randle – Signed: New Orleans Pelicans (two-year, $18 million)
Of all the free agency news that has erupted since July 1st, Julius Randle signing with the Pelicans has easily been my most favorite. He signed a deal below his expected value, but only on a two-year deal and the second year is a player option, meaning he can test the open market again next season if he so wishes to do so (which he should and probably will).
Mannnnnnnnn tooooo excited!! Excited about the future. Let’s get to work! @PelicansNBA
— Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) July 3, 2018
Randle has effectively taken over Boogie’s role and the three-man rotation of Randle-Anthony Davis-Nikola Mirotic is going to be exhilarating to watch. Only time will tell if the Los Angles Lakers made a mistake by not taking a chance on Randle, especially since this contract is similar to the one Rajon Rondo received (which we’ll discuss in a moment). Davis was apparently a giant factor in the recruitment of Randle and the Pelicans front office wasted no time signing him after the Lakers renounced his rights. Signing Randle was the first true sign that Boogie wasn’t coming back to New Orleans, but there are a lot worse ways for a front office to spend $9 million.
Enes Kanter – Opted in with New York Knicks ($18.6 million)
This one had already been established since before free agency began, but it’s still worth nothing because Enes Kanter opted into his $18.6 million player option. Which – if my math is correct – is more money than I’ll ever make in my entire lifetime. Looking across the league and at how other deals have panned out, Kanter would have received nowhere near $18 million on the open market. The $10-12 million range would have been closer to his value, so it made zero sense financially to opt-out. The East hasn’t been this open in close to a decade and even if the Knicks aren’t the projected favorites, the playoffs are well-within their goals for next season.
Rajon Rondo – Signed: Los Angeles Laker (one-year, $9 million)
The Los Angles Lakers had nearly won the entire offseason after they coaxed LeBron James into joining their franchise, only to follow it up with some of the most head-scratching signings I’ve ever seen. A plethora of one-year deals were dished out to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Lance freaking Stephenson, and finally Rajon Rondo (if the Lakers are trying to create the Cleveland of the West, they’re doing a hell of a job). Rondo was an excellent fit in New Orleans for multiple reasons (mainly his friendship with Boogie) and going to LA seems like the exact opposite. The Lakers offered him more money than the Pelicans could, but the fit – especially next to Lonzo Ball – seems questionable at best. LeBron is at his best surrounded by shooters, which means the odds of having both Rondo and Ball on the floor at the same time is low – and quite frankly it should never happen.
From the Lakers perspective, all they did was add another non-shooter to their rotation. From Rondo’s perspective, he just got a pay raise at age 32 to go play with LeBron James. That, my friends, is how you secure the bag.
Nerlens Noel – Signed: Oklahoma City Thunder (two-year, veteran minimum)
There’s good news and there’s bad news for Nerlens Noel. The good news is he signed a deal to play with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The bad news is it’s because his stock has never been lower. After turning down a $70 million extension with the Dallas Mavericks *sighs*, Noel was forced to take the veteran minimum contract with a player option for the second season. The minimum will pay him roughly $1.7 million per season as he hopes to reestablish himself as a potential defensive anchor. He’s only 24, so he has time to recover, but man, what a fall from grace it has been for Noel. Having the player option is a bonus, though, especially if he shows significant improvement. His fit with the Thunder could work as he’ll backup Steven Adams, bringing a defensive presence to the interior that most teams don’t have the luxury of. In reality, Noel just needs to show signs of competence.
Tyler Ulis – Unrestricted Free Agent
Since his release from the Phoenix Suns, the market for Tyler Ulis has been silent (even though his best friend Devin Booker signed a $158 million extension shortly after reportedly being upset about said release, but I digress). There are plenty of teams that could give him a look, mainly the Orlando Magic or even the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls. As the market continues to dry up, teams are going to be looking for cheap backup guards and Ulis will be an option at or near the top of front office lists.
Aaron Harrison – Unrestricted Free Agent
Aaron Harrison, like Ulis, hasn’t received any offers just yet. But unlike Ulis, Harrison has yet to establish himself as an NBA player. He joined the Washington Wizards summer league team and will play in his first game for them on July 6th (which you can catch on NBATV at 9 p.m.), but odds are he won’t receive any offers until summer league is well-underway or even finished. He’s going to have to prove himself and dominate against subpar competition if he wants to make a mark in the NBA.
Follow me on Twitter as I discuss this NBA free agency frenzy: @ZackGeoghegan