In case you missed these reports ...
• The biggest news of the day found Miami Heat icon Dwyane Wade, a surprise free agent after opting out of his contract Monday, coming back to the club at one year for $20 million. That's a hefty price for a 33-year-old guard without much three-point prowess, but Wade has sacrificed max-level money several times in the past for the good of the franchise. This deal also allows the Heat to avoid the public relations nightmare of offering the best player in franchise history (adjusted for seasons played, at least) a relatively low salary while still keeping them in play to add free agent Kevin Durant next summer.
If that's not enough, Yahoo's own Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Heat have worked their way into this summer's multi-team pursuit of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
• Meanwhile, the only difference between Wade and Monta Ellis is more wins, three championship rings, and three years and $24 million. Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com reported that the Indiana Pacers and Ellis have agreed to terms on a four-year, $44-million deal to bring athleticism and scoring punch to a squad looking to get faster and more versatile. Woj had previously reported that Ellis and the Pacers were in serious negotiations. Our Dan Devine likes the fit quite a bit, particularly because Indiana seems prepared to cover for the explosive scorer's clear weaknesses as a defender.
• The Dallas Mavericks will replace Ellis with Wesley Matthews, added on a four-year contract at a dollar value that will not be finalized until they hear back from targets Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. Matthews apparently turned down a more lucrative $64-million offer from the Sacramento Kings but opted to play for the considerably more stable Mavericks. Matthews probably owes agent Jeff Austin a meal of his choice, because there were no assurances that the market would be there for an admittedly excellent player still rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon.
• Those small-market teams get all the breaks. Despite heavy interest from the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, erstwhile Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe will join the Milwaukee Bucks on a three-season, $50-million max-level contract with a player option after the second year. Our Kelly Dwyer thinks that the Bucks could be "a perfect fit" for Monroe, who should add options to a limited offense.
• News we largely assumed to be true is now official — Tim Duncan will return to the San Antonio Spurs for at least one more season. Although he is technically a free agent, Duncan joined the franchise's pitch meeting with Aldridge and has been a part of any Spurs-related projections and analysis this offseason. The 39-year-old legend was the team's most consistent player in an epic first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and should occupy a major role for the title contender again in 2014-15.
• Knicks fans clamoring for an early free-agent bounty will have to settle for a move more akin to a consolation prize. Veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo will join the team for two years at $16 million with a player option after one, reasonable terms for a solid, if unspectacular, all-around player. Ramona Shelbure of ESPN.com was the first to report the deal.
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The Knicks are also potentially on the brink of landing center Robin Lopez, another quality player who will nonetheless not inspire visions of the rebirth of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed. Phil Jackson has yet to make any moves that will convince Knicks fans that he can lead them back to contention, but the reality is that a franchise as dysfunctional as this one is not in a position to do anything of the sort. Minor victories still count.
Several more Wednesday's deals are worthy of attention.
Suns clear cap space, break up Morris twins
One day after the San Antonio Spurs dumped center Tiago Splitter to free up cap space to sign top available free agent LaMarcus Aldridge, the Phoenix Suns rid themselves of roughly $8.4 million in 2015-16 salary in the hopes of making the same move. As reported by Woj, the Suns have dealt forward Marcus Morris, veteran wing Danny Granger, and young wing Reggie Bullock to the Detroit Pistons for a 2020 second-round pick. That's about as close as a team can get to trading three players for nothing concrete, but the Suns need the flexibility to make this offseason a tremendous success.
Their pursuit of that goal has required them to give up Morris, a solid young player capable of contributing at both forward spots. He averaged 10.4 ppg in 2014-15 and has shot at least 35 percent from long range in three of his first four seasons, which should give Stan Van Gundy some flexibility and options as the Pistons remake the frontcourt with Greg Monroe gone to Milwaukee. Morris will also average only $5 million in salary over the next four seasons, so he will remain affordable well into the future.
The worry for the Suns is what happens if Aldridge picks another destination, and not just because they just got rid of a capable player for the mere possibility of adding the four-time All-Star. Morris signed his contract extension as part of a 2-for-1 deal with his twin brother Markieff Morris totaling $52 million over four seasons — the Morrises literally get their paychecks direct-deposited into the same bank account. (They are also currently facing matching felony assault charges.) When they agreed to those terms, the twins likely thought they'd play together for a long while. Not suprisingly, Markieff was not very excited by the news of Thursday's trade:
Lol this a foul game here man!
— Keef Morris (@Keefmorris) July 2, 2015
If Aldridge picks Phoenix, then Markieff is expendable and the Suns can trade him to the Dallas Mavericks as part of a sign-and-trade to complete the addition of new center Tyson Chandler. If Aldridge goes elsewhere, though, then the Suns must find a way to please Markieff (the superior twin) or find a suitable replacement in a market with rapidly dwindling options. It's clear why Phoenix made this trade, but it's definitely a risk.
Blazers continue to press forward, add underrated Ed Davis
No matter what their assistant coaches say, the Portland Trail Blazers are still technically in the mix to bring back Aldridge. Nevertheless, general manager Neil Olshey should be commended for proceeding in a way that will ensure the franchise and its freshly extended point guard do not fall too far into irrelevance. Olshey's latest move involves bringing in 26-year-old big man Ed Davis at $20 million over three years, terms reported by Woj. Davis will either slide into the starting lineup to replace Aldridge or serve as a very capable backup big man.
Davis had the best season of his career with the Lakers in 2014-15, averaging 8.3 points and 7.6 rebounds over 23.3 minutes per game with a PER of 20.0. Davis is a limited offensive player — 71.4 of his field goal attempts came inside of three feet — but he finishes well and brings defensive activity to a Blazers squad that will need to replace the presence of unrestricted free agent Robin Lopez. New additions Davis, Mason Plumlee, and Al-Farouq Aminu should give the Blazers a versatile and energetic frontcourt, albeit one that will sorely miss the scoring of Aldridge.
Then comes Dudley: Wizards bring in new stretch four
Ernie Grunfeld wasted little time in finding a replacement for the departing Paul Pierce, although it's hard to say that they got someone to mimic his production. As reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Washington Wizards have obtained veteran wing Jared Dudley from the Milwaukee Bucks for a future second-round pick.
At 29, Dudley is still relatively young and has proven his value as a career 39.6 percent three-point shooter and willing defender. Expect him to play 20 to 25 minutes per game at small forward and as a stretch four, although a breakout campaign from Otto Porter could minimize his role a bit. Dudley recently opted into the final year of his contract and will make roughly $4.25 million before becoming a free agent next summer.
While Dudley represents good value for Washington, he is pretty emphatically does not bring Pierce's reputation as a clutch performer. Unless the Wizards add another vet such as David West, they will have to depend on improvement and maturity from guards John Wall and Bradley Beal to compensate for Pierce's leadership and mettle.
Pistons go big for Baynes
Sometimes it pays to be associated with a championship organization. The loss of Greg Monroe pushed Detroit to act quickly in adding another big man, and they did just that by agreeing to terms with San Antonio Spurs reserve Aron Baynes on a three-year contract that could pay up to $20 million, according to a report from Stein. The 28-year-old New Zealander put forth solid playoff performances to help San Antonio to the 2014 title and averaged a career-high 16.0 minutes per game and PER of 15.9 in 2014-15, although he is probably best known as a designated fouler during Gregg Popovich's Hack-A-Shaq flights of fancy.
This is a pretty serious payout for a player who has contributed only intermittently for an organization with a long history of maximizing the effectiveness of its role players. For the sake of comparison, Memphis Grizzlies addition Brandan Wright has a more established record of more impressive personal success and is set to sign for $18 million over three years. Of course, the Pistons are trying to trudge their way back to respectability and may have to overpay players like Baynes to build out a more complete roster. Value is never determined in a vacuum.
• The Brooklyn Nets have added Shane Larkin as a backup point guard at $3 million over two seasons, including a player option for the second. Larkin tried his best on a poor New York Knicks team in 2014-15 before losing playing time to upstart rookie Langston Galloway. Larkin figures to serve as a backup to Deron Williams and most crucially will not have to find a new apartment.
• Yahoo's Marc Spears reports that the Indiana Pacers will re-sign big man Lavoy Allen for three years at $12 million. With Roy Hibbert almost certainly leaving Indianapolis, the 6-9 Allen could build on his 2014-15 mark of 17.0 minutes per game as the Pacers embrace smaller, more versatile lineups.
• The Atlanta Hawks have agreed to a multi-year deal with 7-3 center Walter Tavares, the 43rd pick in the 2014 draft. The Cape Verde native spent last season with Gran Canaria in Spain and is considered quite raw, although his height and 7-9 wingspan provide considerable hope that he can become a contributor. It would not be surprising to see the 23-year-old Tavares spend some time in the D-League next season.
• The Sacramento Kings have added 26-year-old wing James Anderson on a multi-year deal. A first-round pick of the Spurs in 2010, the 6-6 Anderson spent 2013-14 with the Philadelphia 76ers before playing last season for Žalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania. Expect him to occupy a spot at the end of the bench.
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