Updates on the Premium Priced Free Agents
It’s been five days since teams have been able to freely speak with players and their agents, and despite the fact that no contracts can be officially signed until the moratorium is lifted on July 10th, we’ve seen plenty or parties reach verbal agreements.
Below we provide updates on the top-tier free agents available this summer…
It seemed to be a lock that CP3 would return to L.A. even before the offseason began. Then the Clippers went out and aggressively pursued head coach Doc Rivers, purportedly on the advice of their star point guard. Now, not only do the Clippers have a new coach, they’ll have one of the league’s preeminent point guards in red, white, and blue for half-a-decade more as Paul and his agent have confirmed that he has verbally agreed to a five-year, $107 million contract. The Clippers weren’t done however, as they agreed to a three-team deal in which they will trade away Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, in exchange for Jared Dudley and JJ Redick (via a sign-and-trade). It’s a terrific move by L.A., adding two phenomenal role players that will fit in perfectly alongside Chris Paul. The Clippers are having as good an offseason as any team in the NBA.
The unending saga that is the “Dwight Howard Decision” was still ongoing as this article went live. The front-runners appear to be the Houston Rockets, with the Dallas Mavericks and Lakers obviously still in the mix. If Howard doesn’t sign with the Lakers he’ll be leaving a significant amount of money on the table – approximately $30 million; although much of that could be recouped if/when Howard signed his next huge contract. The latest serious entrant into the Dwight sweepstakes is the Golden State Warriors, who may be willing to offer up enticing young pieces (Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson) along with Andrew Bogut and draft picks, in order to clear the requisite cap space. As with all things Howard-related, speculation seems futile. We’ll just have to wait and see.
As one of the true up-and-coming teams in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers were intent on keeping their core together. And on a team teeming with young athletes, West was a leader both on an off the floor. In fact, he was the only player on the Indiana roster over the age of 27 (West is 32). All along, Indiana declared loudly that retaining stud PF West their top offseason priority. And they appeared to have accomplished that mission, as West has reportedly agreed to a three-year $36 million deal (that may include a player-option on that third season).
Yes, there are flaws in Jefferson’s game, but the fact of the matter is he’s a rare back-to-the-basket big man that can efficiently and effectively score on the low block. In addition, at age 28, he is still relatively young. Those types of players don’t hit the free agent market all that often. He was looking for a deal starting at $15 million a year, which seemed unlikely. However, the Bobcats, who have had trouble attracting free agents, swooped in and gave him more than any other team was willing to commit. Word broke yesterday that Big Al and Charlotte have agreed to a three-year, $41 million contract (the final year includes an opt-out clause).
Of the consensus top-five talents on the free agent market this summer, Smith and Howard remain the last two up for grabs. And that may not be a coincidence, as Smith is likely patiently waiting to see what happens with Howard, and how that impacts the rest of the free agent field. If Howard lands in Houston, there has been talk that the Rockets will attempt to pull off a sign-and-trade with the Hawks to get the two pals from Atlanta together in Houston. If not, the Rockets could still be in play for Smith, as they would then have the cap space to sign him outright. Either way, it appears Smith will likely remain in a holding pattern until Dwight finally makes up his mind.
Earlier in the week, the Kings reportedly we offering a four-year, $52 million contract to Iguodala, but then pulled the offer when he hedged and hesitated. Iguodala still has plenty of interested suitors, as he is undoubtedly one of the best two-way players still left on the market. In a league with so many supremely talented wing scorers, having a lockdown perimeter defender is an extremely valuable asset, which is why Iggy will eventually receive a big pay day. But which team will step up and get a deal done? Could it be the Pistons, Nuggets, Hawks, Warriors, or some other dark horse team?
Evans’ career in Sacramento got off to as good a start as possible. During his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009-10, he became just the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists during his first professional season. The other four members of that exclusive club are Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. Clearly, the talent and upside Evans possesses is off the charts. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to put it together on a consistent basis over his final few disappointing seasons in Sacramento. Now it appears Evans will have a fresh start in New Orleans, where he’ll sign a four-year, $44 million contract once the moratorium is over.
For more free agency updates, keep checking HOOPSWORLD’s free agency diary.