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Ten things learned on wildest day in NBA history

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Insane.

Sunday ended up being the wildest, most frenzied day in NBA history — 48 contracts and $3.1 billion worth of frenzied. Seriously, that is how much money was agreed to in one eight-hour window on Sunday. And that is with a big contract or two left hanging out there.

It was too much to absorb, but after taking a deep breath, here are the 10 things we learned on the first day of NBA Free Agency

1) Kevin Durant wanted to play with his friends more than anything and with that Brooklyn thought it won the day…

Who is the King of New York now?

All season long Durant was linked to the Knicks — some around the league thought it was a done deal — and midway through the year suddenly Kyrie Irving was in the same rumors and joining the same party.

Then Brooklyn swooped in and got them both. The Brooklyn Nets — the team that had the worst record in the league two years ago — landed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Let that sink in. It wasn’t about chasing more rings with the Warriors or moving to the biggest brand in the biggest market, it was Durant and Irving going where they wanted so they could play together as friends.

Speaking of friends, Durant and Irving both took slightly less than the max so the Nets could drastically overpay Durant’s good friend DeAndre Jordan (four years, $40 million).

Durant likely doesn’t play next year coming off a torn Achilles, but the Nets will still have a playoff team. We’ll see if Jordan ends up taking minutes away from up-and-coming Jarrett Allen. He shouldn’t, but politics sometimes win out in these things.

In a couple of years, the Nets could be a contender out of the East.

2) …But then Jimmy Butler was signed-and-traded to Miami, and Philadelphia’s day of moves made it the East favorite.

When the first reports of Jimmy Butler wanting to go to Miami came up, it was greeted with a lot of “how are they going to make that work?” Giving up the talented Josh Richardson is how. Miami and Philadelphia worked out a sign-and-trade that shook the league (but they need a third team, ideally to take on Goran Dragic, to make it all work out. They are expected to be able to iron that out).

Miami gets a star they have coveted and who is a great cultural fit in Butler. There is still a lot of roster building to do in South Beach but Butler, Justise Winslow, and Bam Adebayo is an excellent place to start.

Philadelphia replaces Butler with Josh Richardson — not as good, but not dramatically worse, younger, and cheaper — and that was just one of the smart moves they made on Sunday. They retained Tobias Harris on a max $141 million contract. Then they signed Al Horford as a free agent to a four-year, $109 million contract.

The Sixers’ starting five is now Ben Simmons, Richardson, Harris, Horford, and Joel Embiid. That is the best starting five in the East and keeps them in the mix as serious title contenders. Add a little depth — they also retained Mike Scott — and the Sixers will be tough to beat.

3) Golden State kept Klay Thompson and added D’Angelo Russell, but had to let Andre Iguodala go. That team is interesting.

The award for “least surprising thing to happen when free agency opened” goes to Klay Thompson and the Golden State Warriors, who reached the expected five-year, $190 million max contract extension. Without any drama.

The Warriors were saving the drama for a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets that brings D’Angelo Russell to Golden State on a max four-year, $117 million contract. Russell, a pick-and-roll, ball dominant point guard is an interesting fit next to Stephen Curry, but it gives the Warriors another talented player as they try to adapt to Kevin Durant’s departure and Thompson missing most of the season due to his ACL injury. Curry, Russell, and Draymond Green should be able to get the Warriors to the playoffs (and Russell is a good trade asset if the Warriors decide to go that route).

That sign-and-trade for Russell will ultimately send Iguodala to Memphis to make room under the cap. That move is a punch to the gut for the players on that team. Iguodala is an admired leader.

(By the way, now the real drama is Green’s contract next summer. Will the Warriors give him the full max of five-years, $204? Will Green take the four-years, $157 another team can offer? He doesn’t fit everywhere, he fits the Warriors, but do they want to pay him that kind of money.)

4) Meanwhile, Kawhi Leonard is taking his time, leaving Lakers/Raptors/Clippers dangling on the hook.

While everyone else was moving at light speed on Sunday, Kawhi Leonard was laying low. He met with no teams. He will get to that over the coming days and then make his decision. Good for him, don’t rush the big decisions.

But it’s bad news for the Lakers and Clippers (and Raptors, to a lesser degree). The Lakers and Clippers both have bet big on landing Leonard at this point, and both have had to sit on their hands and keep a max cap slot open as free agents are being snapped up around them. For the Lakers in particular, if they don’t get Leonard, other max players like Jimmy Butler are gone, and some of the role players they would have wanted (J.J. Redick, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, for example) are off the board, making it harder to fill out the roster around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

5) Major League Baseball is stupid.

Did you know the MLB All-Star Game players were announced today — at 6 p.m. Eastern. The exact time that the frenzy of NBA free agency started and dominated the sports media.

The MLB runs its entire league like it’s the Knicks.

6) Utah has had a really impressive offseason.

Utah is a legitimate threat to come out of the West next season. The Jazz won 50 games last season and addressed the offensive weaknesses that have hurt them in the playoffs this summer. Utah made a massive upgrade from Ricky Rubio (now in Phoenix) to Mike Conley at the point guard spot. Then on Sunday, they added a lot more shooting to the mix in the 6’8” form of Bojan Bogdanovic — the kind of player a lot of casual fans don’t know but who has his own fans in front offices around the NBA for a reason. He averaged 18 points a game last season for the Pacers and is a great floor spacer to open up room on Donovan Mitchell (and Conley) drives.

To get Bogdanovic, the Jazz had to give up fan favorite Derrick Favors (and his $16.9 million contract), but then they did a nice job replacing a big chunk of his grit and production with veteran, solid big man Ed Daivs (and for two-years, $5 million). Favors is off to New Orleans.

Utah’s starting five next season is probably Conley, Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert. With a solid bench behind them. That team is going to win a lot of games and be a postseason problem.

7) Dallas just paid Kristaps Prozingis a lot of money coming off a torn ACL.

The Mavericks really made this bet back at the trade deadline, but on Sunday they made it official by agreeing to a five-year, $158 million extension with Porzingis.

The bet is Porzingis can bounce back from his torn ACL to be an All-NBA level big man who plays 70+ games a season. Porzingis has the tools, he is a 7’3″ unicorn who can defend inside, knock down threes, and has averaged 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds a game while shooting 36.1 percent from three. Mark Cuban dreams that Porzingis and Luka Doncic become Dallas’ new Steve Nash/Dirk Nowitzki pairing.

Dallas also locked up Dwight Powell with a new deal, as they should have.

8) James Dolan and the Knicks continue to find ways to embarrass themselves.

All season long, around the league the Knicks were seen as the frontrunner to land Kevin Durant, and he was going to bring another star player with him. Some league sources had it in an “as long as they don’t blow it” kind of place. Dolan went on the radio in New York and said, “New York is the mecca of basketball… From what we’ve heard, I think we’re going to have a very successful offseason when it comes to free agency.”

Well, Dolan blew it.

And the cross-town Brooklyn Nets swooped in and got both Durant and Irving — and Brooklyn looks like it will be the better team for a while.

Knicks gonna Knicks.

But they did land Julius Randle, which is a quality pickup fans will love. Not like Durant love, but Randle plays hard and is fun to watch.

9) Portland pays Damian Lillard like they should, hang on to Rodney Hood, also.

If Klay Thompson re-signing was the most obvious thing ever, the Trail Blazers giving Lillard a full max — five years, $195 million — was next on the list.

Lillard is an All-Star, an All-NBA player, a clutch player and one of the best guards in the NBA. More than that, Lillard is flat out one of the best guys in the league, great in the community, and loved by Portland. This was a no-brainer.

The Blazers also retained Rodney Hood, and combine that with the addition of Kent Bazemore and a healthy Jusuf Nurkic at some point next season, and this team is going to be better than this year’s squad.

10) Both Lopez brothers in Milwaukee? Robin Lopez signs with Bucks (and they re-signed Khris Middleton).

Let’s not bury the lead here — the Milwaukee Bucks maxed out and retained All-Star Khris Middleton at the wing, on a five-year, $178 million max offer sheet. Is that overpaying a little for Middleton? Yes. But they had to. He’s an All-Star who averaged 18.3 points per game last season, and he fits well with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Who they have to keep happy. So the deal gets done.

In another must-make move, the Bucks re-signed Brook Lopez at four-years, $52 million. They needed his shooting. Brook’s backup is now his brother Robin Lopez, who signed on in Milwaukee. That’s good news for everyone… who is not a mascot.

Report: Nets interested in signing Kevin Durant’s friend DeAndre Jordan

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The Nets are hot on the heels of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

What could put Brooklyn over the top to land those star free agents?

Maybe DeAndre Jordan.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

If Jordan would help the Nets attract Durant and Irving, great. Sign Jordan.

But Jordan would also fit well at center if Brooklyn signs Durant and Irving.

The Nets need another center with Jarrett Allen, as Ed Davis hits free agency. They could ideally use someone bigger, like Jordan. Though Allen has positioned himself well as Brooklyn’s long-term center, Jordan could even start – if he comes motivated.

Jordan has drifted lately. He fell out of favor with the Clippers, never meshed with the Mavericks then finished last season with the losing Knicks rather than taking a buyout. Jordan has ability as a finisher and rim-protector, but he’s not as active as used to be, and energy is important for playing that style.

The Nets’ room exception, which projects to be worth nearly $5 million, might be the right amount for him.

Report: Pelicans’ new front office now listening to Anthony Davis trade ideas

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Here we go again…

Except this time, things will be different on the Anthony Davis trade front. For one thing, he almost certainly will get traded.

Also, it will not be the circus it was at the trade deadline, mostly because new Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin — read: the guy with the hammer — will not let it. This will not be a negotiation conducted through the media and teams that leak things will get a cold shoulder on their next call. Finally, this time around the Pelicans have not felt blindsided by the request and the timing, this time they are prepared.

That said, the wheels of a trade have started again. New Orleans has begun to listen to offers again, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

As teams continue placing calls into New Orleans, Griffin has begun listening to teams and their inquiries on Davis, league sources told The Athletic. Previously, the Pelicans had been trying to pitch Davis to stay — and now they are at least open to hearing people out.

Griffin was not taking those calls for a long time, opting instead to pitch Davis to stay and play along Zion Williamson (who the Pelicans will take with the No. 1 pick) and with things changing around the organization, such as the training staff. It was always a longshot pitch, but Griffin was going to take his swing (this also was about sending a message, first to the fan base, and second to other agents/free agents, that things are different with him running the show).

Expect a deal to go down around the draft (even if the trade can’t be executed until July 1).

The usual suspects will call. Boston has the pieces to put together the offer most executives believe would be the best, but if Kyrie Irving is leaving (as most of those same executives also expect) then will Boston put that best offer on the table? The Lakers have the same group of nice young players, plus now the No. 4 pick in the draft. The Knicks have the third pick and fewer nice young players (they are reportedly playing from behind with their offer). The Brooklyn Nets could potentially have the best offer with some good young players (Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen) and a bevy of draft picks. Other teams will at least explore the idea (Clippers are one to watch), and there are potential multi-team trades that could happen. Things are wide open. It depends on how David Griffin values certain players and picks.

Davis can be a free agent in the summer of 2020, which gives him some leverage in this trade, his agent Rich Paul can let specific teams know he would not re-sign with them to try and scare them off. Griffin and the Pelicans, however, will not care what Davis wants, they want the best package in return. What happens in 2020 is not their concern.

The Pelicans have a strong veteran point guard in Jrue Holiday, some decent role players, but mostly it’s about Zion and their cap flexibility. The Pelicans are now building for their future without Davis and whatever team can further that process along the best will get a deal done.

 

Rumor: Nets targeting big man to back up Jarrett Allen in draft

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Brooklyn has its center of the future in Jarrett Allen. He’s athletic, a strong rim protector, and got the Nets an efficient 10.9 points and 8.4 rebounds a game last season.

But what happens when he goes to the bench? Ed Davis was a reliable, veteran option last season, but he’s not on the same career timeline as the Nets young core.

Which brings us to the NBA draft — the Nets are going to think big, as in bigs, with one of their picks (17, 27, 31), reports Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

“But there is one priority for the Nets on draft night: Per SNY sources, the Nets are targeting a big to complement/ back up starting center Jarrett Allen with one of their picks.”

In the NBC Sports Mock Draft myself and Rob Dauster put together this weekcheck out the podcasts detailing the picks — we had the Nets taking Kentucky forward P.J. Washington with the No. 17 pick, then rolling the dice on Bol Bol at 27 (although, if they did like him, they could wait until the 31st pick, in the second round, so the money is not guaranteed). While Bol could be that backup big, he’s also a multi-year project who may not stick in the league.

Other players who could be on the board around 17 are Cameron Johnson, Rui Hachimura, and Nassir Little — all forwards. At 27 they could target centers such as Goga Bitadze or Florida State’s Mfiondu Kabengele, too. Just expect them to think big man with one of those picks.

Rumor: Nets very interested in trading for Anthony Davis

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The Nets are reportedly interested in Kyrie Irving.

They could even try to pair him with Anthony Davis.

Chris Broussard of Fox Sports 1:

Brooklyn is going as hard after Anthony Davis as anybody. A package of like D'Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, who’s a nice piece, shot-blocker, athletic at the rim, nice for this day and age in basketball. They’ve got the 17th and 27th pick. Now, Brooklyn, their dream is to pair AD with Kyrie. They really only want to try to get AD if they got Kyrie, because that will help them keep AD.

Davis will be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, and signing him to an extension before then is unrealistic. So, any team trading for the Pelicans star would be taking a major risk.

Obviously, that risk would be somewhat mitigated by the presence of Irving. Davis is more likely to stay with a co-star.

But the timing here is extremely difficult.

Russell will be a restricted free agent this summer. So, he’d have to agree to a sign-and-trade to New Orleans. Likewise, it sounds as if  Brooklyn’s offer for Davis is predicated on getting Irving first. That’s a lot of moving parts.

Plus, the draft is before free agency. So, if the Nets are sending 2019 picks to New Orleans, who makes those selections? Would Brooklyn pick on behalf of the Pelicans just in case the teams later trade? Would the Pelicans reject other trade offers before/during the draft in case this scenario comes to fruition?

This seems very difficult to pull off.

More likely is the reverse: The Nets try to trade for Davis in June and use him as a draw for Irving. But Russell couldn’t be part of that deal. Still, Brooklyn could built an intriguing package from Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and picks.

But if the Nets trade all those assets for Davis then don’t sign Irving or another star, how likely would Davis be to stay in 2020?

From every direction, this plan will be extremely difficult for Brooklyn to execute.