In case you missed these reports ...
The NBA's 2015 free agency period began at 12 a.m. ET on Wednesday, and several franchises wasted little time in locking up star players to long-term deals and pursuing many of the biggest names on this offseason's market. Yahoo's own Adrian Wojnarowski reported the two biggest stories of the night — New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis agreed to a massive five-year, $145-million max-level extension to start in the 2016-17 season, while the San Antonio Spurs agreed in principle to a five-year, roughly $90-million max-level deal with 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Our Kelly Dwyer calls the Davis deal a no-brainer, particularly given that it includes a player option after the fourth season to allow the All-NBA First Team selection increased flexibility. While Davis will make 30 percent of the league's salary cap in each year of the extension, that's the value of a player who could supplant LeBron James as the sport's best very soon.
Bucks don't wait to match, keep Middleton
Milwaukee Bucks wing Khris Middleton entered this offseason as one of the best available restricted free agents, but it now looks as if he's unlikely to receive offers from any other teams. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Middleton and the Bucks are very close to agreeing on a five-year, $70-million contract. That per-season average is below what many analysts expected the 23-year-old to fetch in an offer sheet, but Middleton appears to have valued the extra season that only the Bucks could have offered.
These are good terms for an improving player who contributes at both ends. Middleton averaged 13.4 ppg with 46.7/40.7/85.9 shooting percentage splits, all of which are excellent numbers for a young wing. He also served as a key member of the league's second best defensive team per 100 possessions and figures to get better at both ends as he matures. There's no guarantee that Middleton will continue to improve at the same rate he has so far in his career, but these is still a good contract for a quality starting wing.
Plus, Milwaukee can now swiftly move on to other matters as the franchise attempts to build on last season's surprising playoff berth. It's hard to imagine a better start to July for the Bucks.
Nets stay the course with Lopez and Young
As reported by Woj, the Brooklyn Nets are nearing deals to retain unrestricted free agents Brook Lopez and forward Thaddeus Young. Both were expected to return to Brooklyn when they opted out of their past deals in the last week. The reported figures are $50 million over four years for Young, who was acquired in a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the trade deadline, and the maximum $60 million over three years for Lopez, a career-long Net. The contract will also include a player option for the third season and protections for the Nets in case Lopez sees a recurrence of his foot injuries.
The terms of contracts signed this offseason must be assessed in terms of the record salary-cap increase set to go into effect next summer, but these figures still stand out as iffy for the Nets. Lopez has always been an odd fit for this era as an excellent post scorer without the attendant skills to excel as a facilitator and defensive anchor. He was arguably the team's best player during the late-season run that vaulted them into the East's No. 8 seed ahead of an unimpressive group of challengers, but it feels as if general manager Billy King is paying for numbers rather than an observable impact. Young is theoretically a better long-term fit as a capable scorer with versatile defensive skills, and the team's draft-night swap of big man Mason Plumlee for potential lockdown defender Rondae Hollis-Jefferson suggests that the team could shift towards a Warriors-esque wing-heavy lineup. Yet Young is perhaps best considered as a role player, and he's now being paid like a key piece even after the cap rises.
The problem with these deals might not really be about the players, who are both perfectly fine despite some obvious problems. Rather, the issue is more that the Nets continue to lack direction or much semblance of a long-term plan. With Joe Johnson under contract for another season and Deron Williams likely to stick around for two more at $20-million-per-season each, the Nets have marginal flexibility and little hope of either improving the roster significantly or dumping enough salary to begin a rebuilding process. It's not as if bringing back Lopez and Young changes that situation, but it also won't help to extricate the team from mediocrity.
Blazers move quickly to nab Aminu
The Portland Trail Blazers continue to prepare for life without LaMarcus Aldridge. Erstwhile Dallas Mavericks forward Al-Farouq Aminu became the first player to switch teams on Wednesday when he agreed to terms with the Blazers on a four-year, $30-million contract first reported by Woj.
This deal is perhaps the first contract of the offseason that makes any sense in the context of 2016, because Aminu will look more properly paid (though likely still overpaid) when the cap balloons next year. Despite middling per-game averages of 5.6 points (41.2 percent from the field) and 4.6 rebounds over 18.5 minutes, Aminu is a very good defender who rates surprisingly well in several advanced metrics that prize per-minute defensive contributions. General manager Neil Olshey selected Aminu with the eighth pick of the 2010 draft as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers front office.
Headed to Portland with my guy Neil Olshey, who believed in me since day one. Much love Rip city here I come
— Al-Farouq Aminu (@farouq1) July 1, 2015
The question is if Aminu was far more valuable to a slow-footed Mavericks team with many offensive options than he will be to a Blazers squad that's about to lose its best scorer and possibly also essential wing Wesley Matthews. In other words, Aminu could look more effective now than he will when the Blazers ask him to play more minutes for a team trying to reformulate itself.
• Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that the salary cap will be a couple million dollars higher than expected, which could help cash-strapped teams like the Los Angeles Lakers in opening up more room to make a run at several high-profile free agents.
• The Lakers got the first meeting with LaMarcus Aldridge and wasted little time in enlisting some of the city's celebrities for their pitch. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 donned an LMA jersey:
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 1, 2015
Meanwhile, Snoop Dogg tweeted to catch Aldridge's attention:
— Snoop Dogg (@SnoopDogg) July 1, 2015
Mitch Kupchak and the Buss siblings must have inside info that Aldridge really loves anyone who has been a part of the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.
• Contrary to earlier reports, the Dallas Mavericks managed to get a 9 p.m. dinner meeting with DeAndre Jordan. What's really shocking, though, is that Jordan apparently can't stop eating with one potential future teammate:
I believe this is the fifth straight night that Chandler Parsons dined with DeAndre Jordan.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 1, 2015
Maybe Parsons is pulling a Kenny Bania and keeps ordering just a soup instead of a full meal?
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