The hamster wheel of free agent rumors has been spinning furiously during the first week of July, interrupted by the occasional trade and contract agreement. Today's column will begin with a summary of players who have verbally agreed to deals -- nothing can be officially signed until July 10.
If you want a broader view of a player's free agency situation, recent performance and season outlook, check out my updated Free Agent Frenzy columns:
Part 1: Point guards and shooting guards
Part 2: Small forwards and power forwards
Part 3: Centers and restricted free agents
Later in today's column we'll also touch on injuries and standout Summer League performances. These are the most pertinent topics at this time in the offseason, but I'll likely return to advanced stats and analysis next week.
Free Agency Agreements
The dominos will fall rapidly once Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James agree to deals, and until then many teams and players are biding their time. Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza, for instance, are 'Plan B' options for teams with cap space who fail in their pursuit of Melo and LBJ. Teams eyeing restricted free agents are similarly leery of tying up their cap space, particularly for a player whose team is likely to match any offer, as the Jazz likely will for Gordon Hayward.
Nevertheless, we have seen a handful of players sign on the dotted line in the first week of free agency. Let's start there.
Kyrie Irving extended his contract with the Cavaliers. Although Irving wasn't a free agent, it was still a momentous occasion for the Cavs when he accepted their five-year, $90 million maximum extension offer. He's been reasonably criticized for poor defense and a ball-dominant offensive approach, the latter of which frequently bogs down the Cavs' offense, but fantasy owners haven't had much to complain about. Last year he averaged 20.8 points, 1.7 threes, 3.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals, returning top-20 fantasy value on a dysfunctional team with a lame-duck coach. New head coach David Blatt should easily improve upon Mike Brown's offensive schemes and the biggest concern about Irving is his ability to stay healthy -- he had 11 DNPs last season and has missed 21.3 percent of the Cavs' games since entering the league in 2011.
Dirk Nowitzki re-signed with the Mavericks. It's a three-year deal worth around $30 million, and there was never any doubt that Dirk would remain in Dallas. He exceeded expectations last year, missing only two games and piling up first-round fantasy value with 21.7 points, 1.6 threes, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks per game, to go along with typically stellar percentages. Factoring in his age (36), however, it's probably wiser to target him in the second round of typical fantasy drafts.
Kyle Lowry re-signed with the Raptors. He inked a four-year, $48 million deal and his decision to stay in Toronto is great for fantasy purposes -- he played at an All-Star level under coach Dwane Casey last year, averaging multiple career highs with 17.9 points, 2.4 triples, 4.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Only four PGs were more valuable on a per-game basis last season (Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and John Wall), and to Lowry's credit he only missed three games despite beginning the season with a torn tendon in his left ring finger.
Marcin Gortat re-signed with the Wizards. He'll earn $60 million over five years. Gortat will be 35 years old when his contract expires in 2019, but it's a reasonable amount of risk for Washington since dependable two-way centers don't come cheap. Gortat cited his enjoyment of the D.C. area, his desire to keep playing under coach Randy Wittman, and particularly the lure of catching passes from last year's league-leader in total assists -- John Wall. The Wizards have their work cut out to retain Trevor Ariza, but either way they're poised to make another run into the Eastern Conference playoffs. With his role virtually unchanged, Gortat should once again provide top-50 fantasy value on the strength of his FG percentage, rebounding and shot-blocking.
Josh McRoberts verbally committed to signing with the Heat. I will again emphasize that nobody can officially "sign" with a team until July 10. He's agreed to a four-year deal worth the full mid-level exception, or approximately $23 million. This could prove to be a very important acquisition since it provides some idea of the roster's makeup and may help the Heat lure back LeBron James...and thus Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. McRoberts is a terrific passer with 3-point range (36.1 percent last season) but his subtle contributions aren't likely to result in more than late-round fantasy value in Miami. If your league includes assist-to-turnover ratio as a separate category, however, McRoberts will get a major boost.
Channing Frye agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with the Magic on Monday. Orlando came out of the blue to land him, and he should move straight into the starting lineup alongside Nikola Vucevic. The Magic have been in desperate need of scoring, particularly perimeter shooting, so Frye should have a major role in the offense. He shouldn't have much trouble improving upon last season's averages of 11.1 points, 2.0 threes, 5.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 0.8 blocks per game.
Spencer Hawes signed with the Clippers. Hawes accepted the full mid-level exception, earning him around $23 million over four years (the fourth year is a player option). It's a tremendous value signing for L.A., giving them an imposing and versatile frontcourt trio of Hawes, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but there's no doubt that Hawes' fantasy value takes a big hit. Doc Rivers will find ways to maximize Hawes' abilities, and his stellar 3-point shooting (44.8 percent with Cleveland last season) is a major draw for fantasy purposes, but he's best left untouched until the later rounds when his upside outweighs the likelihood of diminished playing time.
Boris Diaw re-signed with the Spurs. The deal is worth $22.5 million over three years, but the final season is only partially guaranteed (in case Tim Duncan retires and the Spurs decide to blow up their roster). Diaw's passing and versatile defense is a wonderful fit for San Antonio, but his 25-minute role off the bench doesn't yield more than late-round fantasy value.
Darren Collison signed with the Kings. He'll earn the full mid-level exception, worth about $16 million over three seasons, and his arrival makes it even more likely that Sacramento will part ways with restricted FA Isaiah Thomas. The Kings reportedly view Thomas as an elite sixth-man, but he (supported by all manner of statistics) views himself as a starter. Assuming he does land the starting PG job in Sacramento, Collison's value will undoubtedly surge into the middle rounds -- he barely missed top-100 value last season (eight-cat) despite playing under 26 minutes per game. Collison's splits in 35 starts last year are a good measuring stick: 14.8 points on 48.1 percent FGs and 87.2 percent FTs, 1.4 three-pointers, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and only 1.9 turnovers. Don't shy away from him in the middle rounds of your fantasy draft.
Jordan Farmar signed with the Clippers. With Collison out of town, L.A. quickly secured a veteran backup for Chris Paul, and they landed Farmar for the relatively skimpy cost of $4.2 million over two years. He played in only 41 games last year, however, and even if he stays healthy his backup role severely restricts his upside. If you draft Chris Paul next season think about picking up Farmar as an insurance policy in the final rounds.
Avery Bradley re-signed with the Celtics. He'll earn a guaranteed $32 million over four years, and his $8 million annual salary makes it obvious why Lance Stephenson has balked at the Pacers' reported offer of $44 million over five years. Bradley has increased his scoring every season in the NBA and there's no doubt that the 6'2" guard is best suited to playing SG -- he's a 36.6 percent shooter from downtown and has the skills to defend bigger players at SG, whereas he's averaged a mere 1.4 assists vs. 1.3 turnovers in his career. Ankle injuries caused him to miss 22 games last year and he's had an average of 26.8 DNPs in his four NBA seasons. Fantasy owners should turn to him for offensive production and steals in the late rounds.
Shaun Livingston signed with the Warriors. He'll make $16 million over three years, and should slot into a combo-guard role off the bench now that Jordan Crawford and Steve Blake are gone. Livingston had an excellent year with the Nets in 2013-14 but his utter lack of perimeter shooting reduces him to an afterthought in fantasyland.
Patrick Patterson re-signed with the Raptors. He'll make $18 million over three years, and gives the Raptors a sweet-shooting PF to help space the court for Jonas Valanciunas. Whether he'll emerge with fantasy value is another question, as he faces stiff competition for playing time from JV and Amir Johnson, not to mention guys like Tyler Hansbrough and Chuck Hayes nipping at his heels.
Jodie Meeks signed with the Pistons. He was one of the first players to agree to a deal and it's no surprise that he jumped at Detroit's offer of $19 million over three seasons. He's coming off a breakout year and the Pistons were desperate to add pure shooters to their roster, so they splurged on Meeks -- he shot 46.3 percent last year, including 40.1 percent from downtown, and it's likely that Stan Van Gundy will start him at SG ahead of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Kyle Singler. Meeks posted mid-round fantasy value last year with a usage rate of 19.1 percent, though it seems unlikely that he'll be such a prominent option in the Pistons' offense.
Danny Granger signed with the Heat. He'll earn $4.2 million over two seasons, having accepted the bi-annual exception, but at this stage in his career he's little more than a 3-point specialist. His name may still appeal to fantasy owners who remember his glory days, but everyone should resist the impulse to draft him.
Damjan Rudez signed with the Pacers. The deal is three years long, but the financial details aren't known. Rudez is a 6'10" small forward from Croatia whose calling card is a deadly perimeter game. Scouting reports make him sound like a duplicate of Chris Copeland, more or less, and the signing received a near-universal shrug.
Cartier Martin signed with the Pistons. In another subtle move to add shooting, Stan Van Gundy's Pistons scooped up Martin on a one-year contract. His fantasy outlook is blackened by the presence of Jodie Meeks, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Luigi Datome and Kyle Singler, and he's best left undrafted in standard formats.
C.J. Miles signed with the Pacers. Miles landed a lucrative four-year deal worth $18 million, and he gives Indy a safety net in case they lose Lance Stephenson in free agency. He's a perimeter sniper who could emerge as a late-round fantasy value, at least as a specialist, but I'll reserve judgment until we see where Stephenson lands.
Thabo Sefolosha signed with the Hawks. He'll make $12 million over three years as a tough, long defender who will come off the bench behind Kyle Korver. With limited offensive ability and a new bench role, Thabo's fantasy stock has crashed.
Chris Kaman signed with the Trail Blazers. Portland was hoping to land Spencer Hawes or Channing Frye, but they settled for Kaman on a two-year, $10 million deal. He projects as the backup behind Robin Lopez, and his scoring will be eagerly welcomed by the team with the poorest bench production last season, but there's no reason to expect reliable fantasy value from Kaman at this point in his career.
Devin Harris is expected to sign with the Mavericks. The two sides were reportedly "putting the finishing touches" on a three-year, $9 million deal over the weekend, though nothing can be made official until Thursday. Harris may land a bigger role this year with Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin both traded away, but the 31-year-old is a dubious fantasy option. In the final two months of the 2013-14 season he averaged only 7.4 points, 0.8 threes and 4.8 assists in 21 minutes per game, while shooting 35.6 percent from the field.
Patty Mills re-signed with the Spurs. He landed a three-year contract despite being out for seven months after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Until he's healthy enough to play the Spurs will likely use Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli and Manu Ginobili as backup PGs.
Sebastian Telfair signed with the Thunder. It's a one-year deal at the veteran's minimum, befitting a veteran NBA guard who found himself playing in China last season. He may luck into a sizeable role if OKC starts Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson, and doesn't pick up another guard to fill out the backcourt, but there's no reason to rely on Telfair in fantasy leagues -- he's a career 39.1 percent shooter, including 32.0 percent from downtown.
Nando De Colo agreed to a deal with CSKA Moscow. Farewell, Nando.
Steve Novak was traded from the Raptors to the Jazz this week, along with a second-round pick, in exchange for Diante Garrett. It's not a free-agency move, but I figured it was worth mentioning. Toronto is expected to waive Garrett, who will fill a marginal backup role no matter where he lands. The real victory here was Raptors GM Masai Ujiri's ability to unload the two years and $7.2 million left on Novak's contract -- 3-point shooting has become increasingly important in the NBA, but that's a hefty salary for a one-trick pony.
If you want to follow every twist and turn of free agency just bookmark the Rotoworld NBA news page and follow the @Rotoworld_BK crew on Twitter:
Aaron Bruski: @aaronbruski
Dominic Ridgard: @DLRiddy
Ed Isaacson: @
Mike Gallagher: @MikeSGallagher
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Ryan Knaus: @Knaus_RW
Steve Alexander: @docktora
Injuries and other news
Manu Ginobili suffered a stress fracture in his tibia late in the Spurs' playoff run, but doctors are hopeful that he'll be 100 percent recovered in time for training camp. It would be shocking to see him play for Argentina in the World Cup this summer, as the Spurs will take every precaution with their 36-year-old shooting guard. Spurs guard Patty Mills (shoulder surgery) is out seven months, as discussed above.
Jrue Holiday (shin surgery) said recently that he hopes to be cleared for full basketball activities in August. He's been limited to off-court workouts since January, but it sounds like he's on pace to play in training camp.
Chase Budinger, whose season was ended by knee and ankle injuries, has been fully cleared to play in voluntary workouts with the Wolves. After two knee surgeries in the past year, it's great to see the perimeter gunner healthy and ready to roll.
Victor Oladipo said that he's lost 20 pounds since the end of the 2013-14 season, bringing him down to 6'4" and 210 pounds. "I’m still strong, and I feel more explosive," he said. "Last year, towards the end of the season, if you told me to pick up full [court defense] ... I would’ve looked at you like you were crazy." As I noted in a recent blurb, Orlando's decision to trade Aaron Afflalo and waive Jameer Nelson means that Oladipo has an unimpeded path to starter's minutes.
Roger Mason Jr. was hoping to play in Summer League but he was prevented by a back injury. It's doubtful whether the 33-year-old journeyman will be able to land a guaranteed contract in the NBA this season.
Injury updates are hard to come by in the summer, but as usual the latest available information can be found in Rotoworld’s NBA Injury Report.
Pistons SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been on fire at the Orlando Pro Summer League, averaging 28.0 points in the first two games. He'll be fighting for minutes in a suddenly crowded wing rotation, which isn't a recipe for fantasy success.
Another Pistons player, Peyton Siva, has also played well in Orlando. He's averaging 14.0 points and 6.5 assists through two games but he'll face plenty of competition for playing time this season with Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum clogging up minutes at PG.
Heat F James Ennis has increased his odds of making the roster with a strong showing in Orlando, knocking down 7-of-8 threes in a game over the weekend. He may bob to the surface of Miami's rotation this season, but will spend most of the year cheering from the sidelines.
Grizzlies rookie Jarnell Stokes racked up 16 points and 12 rebounds in under 30 minutes on Sunday, a solid showing from the No. 35 draft pick. He picked up six fouls in just 20 minutes the day before, however, so don't read anything into his double-double.
Thunder rookie C Mitch McGary played this weekend for the first time since suffering a lower back injury that ended his NCAA season. He made a few nice passes and some athletic plays, saying afterward that his back feels "great," and he's poised to battle Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams for minutes in OKC's busy center rotation.
Heat rookie Shabazz Napier missed his first 10 shots in Orlando before settling down, and he followed up his lousy debut with a 17-point, seven-assist game on Sunday. He admitted afterward that he's "unable to do a lot of things [he] was on the college level," and it's hard to see him emerging as a fantasy factor as a rookie (even if LeBron James, who lobbied for Miami to acquire him, stays with the Heat).
Mason Plumlee is averaging 20.5 points through two games, while playing with evident ease against inferior competition. He's made 14-of-18 field goals with 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals in under 24 minutes per game. He flirted with top-100 fantasy value over the final month of the 2013-14 season despite logging only 24 minutes per game, and coach Lionel Hollins will likely have to find him more minutes in Brooklyn's frontcourt. It makes sense to target Plumlee in the late rounds of fantasy drafts, where he'll be a low-risk, high-upside source of typical big man stats (FG percentage, rebounding and blocks).
Perhaps the most high-profile performer has been Nerlens Noel, who dominated in his first game with 19 points, two rebounds, three assists, four steals and one block. The Sixers rested him as a precaution in their second game, but he could emerge as a tantalizing fantasy option if he stays healthy throughout the summer. Joel Embiid (foot) is expected to miss 5-8 month, so Noel will have every opportunity to assert himself in the Sixers' rotation.
Other solid performers include Memphis rookie Jordan Adams (23.5 points per game), Pacers PG Donald Sloan (21.0 points, 3.0 assists), Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (20 points, eight rebounds and four steals in his only game), and Philly guard Casper Ware (18.0 points, 3.5 assists).
The Orlando Pro Summer League hosts fewer teams than the better-known Las Vegas Summer League, which runs from July 11-21 and has yielded some impressive MVPs in recent years:
2013: Jonas Valanciunas
2012: Damian Lillard & Josh Selby (Selby, by the way, was waived by a team in Croatia after getting injured last February)
2010: John Wall
2009: Blake Griffin
Mike Gallagher will be on hand in Las Vegas, gleaning fantasy insights from the busy slate of games, so check Rotoworld in the coming weeks for his columns.
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