NBA Free Agency Roundup: Gordon Hayward chooses, and the Kings, Clippers and Thunder get stronger

Ball Don't Lie
It took a minute, but <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4724/" data-ylk="slk:Gordon Hayward">Gordon Hayward</a> chose the Celtics. (Getty)
It took a minute, but Gordon Hayward chose the Celtics. (Getty)

After a quiet 36 hours, NBA free agency exploded into life on Tuesday. As Fourth of July picnics hummed along and fireworks were readied, Gordon Hayward and his Players’ Tribune editors scrutinized a 2102-word final draft and Hayward’s agent desperately tried to repel reports that his client’s decision had been made.

Ultimately, it had been made, and it dominated headlines for a good six hours. But it wasn’t the only significant move of the day. A Western Conference contender also loaded up, a restricted free agent got a max offer, a rebuild was spiced up with veterans, and a Los Angeles team might want to sign Derrick Rose.

But before we get to that rumor … To the grades!


Gordon Hayward agrees to join the Celtics: It sure as hell wasn’t the most graceful process we’ve ever seen, but at the end of Independence Day, the Celtics got their man. Boston finally let off some fireworks on the Fourth of July, agreeing to terms on a four-year, $128 million maximum-salaried contract with Gordon Hayward, the top remaining free agent in the class of 2017 and the All-Star swingman Boston has coveted to bolster its efforts to knock the Cleveland Cavaliers off their perch atop the Eastern Conference.

The 27-year-old Hayward chose a Celtics team led by Brad Stevens, who coached him as an undergrad at Butler, over the Utah Jazz, the team that drafted him and helped him develop into a 2017 All-Star, and the Miami Heat, who offered a championship culture crafted by godfather Pat Riley and the allure of South Beach. In doing so, Hayward adds another top-notch offensive weapon to a Boston side that won 53 games last season, earned the East’s No. 1 seed, and made the conference finals.

Hayward has long ranked among the NBA’s steadiest risers, improving his skills and per-game scoring average year-over-year to the point that he stood last season as one of just a dozen players to average better than 21 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. After spending the last seven seasons in Utah, Hayward might not have the Q rating of the 11 other names on that list, but he’s big, strong, efficient, effective and versatile.

He’s adept at running the offense in the pick-and-roll or running off screens for catch-and-shoot looks, capable of defending multiple positions, and comfortable either acting as a No. 1 option without shrinking from the moment or working off the ball in the presence of another dominant playmaker. He was the best and most important offensive player on a 51-win Jazz team, and now he slots in on the wing between dynamic All-Star point man Isaiah Thomas and smooth playmaking center Al Horford.

Like Horford, Boston’s top free-agent signing last year, Hayward can do more than a little bit of just about everything, and do it all somewhere between adequately and exceptionally. As good as Jae Crowder’s been for the C’s, Hayward is a better overall player, offering an immediate upgrade whose presence allows Boston’s last two top draft picks, forwards Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the benefit of not needing to be ready for war immediately. Hayward is really good, and he makes a really good Celtics team better.

Whether he makes them good enough, of course, is the $64,000 question.

As noted by ESPN Insider Bobby Marks, Celtics president Danny Ainge and his front office will have to pull off “a series of transactions” in order to create cap space to comfortably fit Hayward’s max contract on their books. Key reserve Kelly Olynyk is gone. One of Boston’s prior top perimeter pieces — Crowder, Avery Bradley or Marcus Smart — might have to head out, too.

Sacrificing some of the depth that helped make last year’s model so tough might mean that the addition of even a player as talented as Hayward won’t vault the Celtics into a high-50s win total and status as one of the NBA’s truly dominant teams. Come the postseason, though, he’ll give Stevens another legitimate ball-handler, shooter, scorer and wing option — a star-caliber talent who raises the Celtics’ ceiling in a way that the complementary pieces Boston will have to jettison to make room for him simply couldn’t.

Ainge has been building — slowly, patiently, carefully, agonizingly building — to try to craft a team with young star talent and depth that suits his coach’s system on both ends of the floor. One with hopes of competing now, and with the promise of being able to compete for many years to come. Well, right now, Ainge has grafted a perfect fit, in-his-prime All-Star onto the spine of 53-win team without sacrificing either of two potential top-five picks in next year’s draft. Yeah, it would’ve been nice to get Paul George, too, but a win is a win. Adding the best reasonably available wing on the market more than qualifies … even if Hayward took the scenic route to announcing his decision. — Dan Devine

Boston grade: A

The Danilo Gallinari Nuggets-Clippers-Hawks sign-and-trade is completeOr at least the exact terms have been nailed down. The Clippers get Gallinari on a three-year, $65 million deal. The Hawks get Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, Houston’s 2018 first-round pick (top-three protected, via the Chris Paul trade) and cash. The Nuggets get a second-rounder, and, per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Paul Millsap — though it’s inconsequential whether Millsap is included in the deal or simply signs with Denver as a free agent.

At the center of the deal is Gallinari, who is both an intriguing and problematic fit in Los Angeles. On one hand, he, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will form one of the more fearsome offensive frontcourts in the league. Both Gallinari and Griffin are versatile and skilled, while Jordan is a force around the rim.

On the other hand, Gallinari, who will be 29 on opening night and 31 by the end of his contract, is better suited to a stretch-four role. Alongside Griffin, he’ll often slide to the three, and will consistently be asked to chase quicker wings around the perimeter. But he’s still in his prime, and L.A. didn’t overpay. This deal is fine.

Leg two of the trade is the most difficult to gauge. Crawford is a salary dump, and the price of the dump is a first-round pick. But that pick, the Rockets’ first-rounder, will very likely be in the 25-30 range, and therefore not that valuable. Nonetheless, the trade makes sense for Atlanta, who has the room to take on Crawford’s salary and no designs on contending anytime soon.

The winner of the trade could actually end up being the contender that gets Crawford as a bench scorer on a cheap, short-term, post-buyout contract. — Henry Bushnell

Los Angeles Grade: C+   Atlanta Grade: B   Denver Grade: N/A

George Hill and Zach Randolph go to the Kings: Entering Tuesday, Sacramento’s roster included nine players age 23 and under, including four who have yet to play an NBA game. Only two Kings, center Kosta Koufos and guard Garrett Temple, have ever suited up for a winning NBA team, let alone played in a playoff game. Now, head coach Dave Joerger has two more legit veterans who can produce in the here and now, and to whom he can point as examples for his baby Kings to follow for the future.

Hill (three years, $57 million) was the best point guard left standing after a frenetic first few days of free agency, and he will immediately slot in as the starter ahead of 2017 draft picks De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason. At age 36, Randolph (two years, $24 million) isn’t the All-Star bruiser he once was, but he proved plenty capable of bullying opposing second units as a sixth man in Memphis last season, and should help add all sorts of seasoning to young bigs Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis and Harry Giles.

On one hand, spending a combined $81 million on vets when your team looks to be eons away from pushing for a playoff berth seems kind of pointless. On the other, though, at some point Vivek Ranadive’s Kings have to start being about something — a defined and real way of approaching playing NBA basketball, something that goes beyond theorizing about NBA 3.0 and how the Golden 1 Center portends the future. Something real. Importing grown-ups who play hard, tough and smart is a start, even if neither Hill nor Randolph are likely to be in uniform on the next legitimately competitive iteration of the Kings. — DD

Sacramento grade: B-

Patrick Patterson is the Thunder’s Taj Gibson replacement: Oklahoma City got Patterson on a three-year, $16.4 million contract using its mid-level exception. Amazingly, it’s the biggest free agent signing that Thunder GM Sam Presti has ever made. It’s also an absolute bargain.

After Gibson jumped at a two-year, $28 million deal in Minnesota, Oklahoma City picked up a more versatile power forward at a significantly lesser price. Patterson, a 37 percent career 3-point shooter, will offer floor-spacing that Gibson simply couldn’t, and that OKC sorely lacked this past spring. The Thunder’s new-look starting five of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Patterson, Andre Roberson (provided Oklahoma City retains him in restricted free agency) and Steven Adams looks mighty strong. — HB

Oklahoma City Grade: A-

Brooklyn goes hard after Otto Porter, but he’s likely staying in D.C.: The Kings presented Porter, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NBA draft and a key part of the Washington Wizards’ starting lineup, with a maximum-salaried offer sheet on Sunday. After he didn’t show an inclination toward accepting it, though, Sacramento moved on to its Sign Some Grown-Up Veterans plan, while Porter took a meeting with the Brooklyn Nets — who’ve had sort of a thing for going after other teams’ restricted free agents under the leadership of GM Sean Marks — and got a four-year, $106.5 million max sheet from them, too.

The 6-foot-8 forward is the class of a thin small forward crop after All-Stars Kevin Durant and Gordon Hayward, a gifted and efficient player capable of defending multiple positions, spacing the floor, filling the lane in transition and generally bringing lots of things to the table without taking many (or any) off of it. At 24, Porter’s already a very solid NBA player, and might have the potential to blossom into something more.

Throwing a max offer at Porter makes plenty of sense for a Nets team with acres of salary cap space, an ongoing dearth of draft picks thanks to the 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn, and a need to find any avenues possible to add more young talent to a growing core of intriguing young pieces like D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Unfortunately for Marks, though, it looks like his RFA bet is once again about to be called:

Once Porter signs the sheet at the end of the moratorium on consummating free-agent deals (July 6), the Wizards will have two days to formally match. If they do, as we detailed on Sunday night, they will be on track to pay the luxury tax next season, and to have $90 million committed to the trio of Porter, John Wall and Bradley Beal for the 2019-20 season. Matching the max offer and essentially locking in a core that came one win shy of the conference finals might carry its own consequences, but ultimately, the Wiz can’t afford to lose Porter if they hope to remain in contention for an Eastern Conference finals berth. Still, you can’t blame Brooklyn for trying. — DD

Brooklyn grade: B+ Washington grade: B

Omri Casspi will go to the Warriors: Clearly, that 3-point shootout with Stephen Curry made an impression on Golden State’s front office:

After taking care of their more pressing business in the opening days of free agency — giving Steph the super-max, re-upping top reserves Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and getting Kevin Durant to agree to The Pay Cut Heard ‘Round The World — the defending champs turned attention to filling out the bench, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with Casspi, an eight-year vet who’s spent time with the Kings, Cavaliers, Rockets, Pelicans and Timberwolves. Finally, the Israeli journeyman’s tour of the league lands him in a situation that can maximize his talents and put him in position to potentially play a more meaningful role than the minimum salary might suggest.

The Warriors still need to figure out what they’re doing at center, with Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee still unsigned and only veteran David West and youngster Damian Jones under contract in the middle, but Golden State’s latest signing doubles down on the team’s core compentencies of versatility and shooting. The 6-foot-9 Casspi can slot in at both forward spots and shot better than 40 percent from 3-point land in each of his last two full seasons before being limited to just 36 games by injuries last year. He’s tough, energetic and a well-regarded teammate — the kind of dude who’ll fix your headband for you, without you even asking, just because:

On top of that, the Warriors won’t even need to pay the full freight for Casspi’s one-year deal:

Getting the league to pay you back for signing a dude who can help. Maybe there was something to all that light years talk, after all. — DD

Golden State grade: B

Mike Scott will join the Wizards: Ernie Grunfeld’s efforts to inexpensively bolster the second unit that hamstrung Washington all last season — a struggling reserve corps that Grunfeld himself assembled, but, y’know, Kermit — led him to take a flyer on Scott, a 28-year-old combo forward out of Virginia who spent the bulk of the first five seasons of his career with the Atlanta Hawks. Scott will join the recently signed Jodie Meeks as another potential shooting and scoring option off the Wizards’ bench, and will make the veteran’s minimum for a player with five years of service time, or just over $1.7 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The 6-foot-8 forward earned a role as a scorer off Mike Budenholzer’s bench during the 2013-14 season, but began to see his minutes dip during the Hawks’ 60-win 2014-15 campaign due to a combination of defensive ineffectiveness and a late-season foot injury. He shot a career-best 39.2 percent from 3-point range the following campaign, but his role diminished, and after missing the first month of last season with a knee injury, he struggled with his shot (29 percent from the floor, 15 percent from 3-point land in 18 games) and never found his way back into Budenholzer’s rotation before Atlanta shipped him to Phoenix with $500,000 just to offload the rest of his contract. The Suns promptly waived him.

Scott and his brother were arrested in July of 215 after being pulled over in Banks County, Ga., in a traffic stop during which a deputy found MDMA and marijuana in the car. He was cleared of felony drug possession charges this past May when a Banks County Superior Court judge ruled that the arresting deputy had neither sufficient grounds to support stopping the vehicle nor probable cause to arrest the brothers, and that the stop might have been motivated by racial profiling.

A healthy, motivated Scott could be a nice source of bargain-bin offense, but his signing is more notable for what it might portend for the Wizards’ future moves. As noted by ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Scott at the minimum puts Washington at $98.8 million in guaranteed contracts for next season, just south of the $99.1 million salary cap … and that doesn’t include the expected max-offer match for restricted free agent Porter, which would push the Wizards $7.2 million over the luxury tax line.

Owner Ted Leonsis has long been viewed as leery of crossing that tax line, which could mean some rearranging for next year’s Wiz:

Stay tuned. — DD

Washington grade: C-


Celtics coach Brad Stevens looks toward team president Danny Ainge during a news conference. The Celtics have some more moves to make after luring Gordon Hayward to Boston. (Getty)
Celtics coach Brad Stevens looks toward team president Danny Ainge during a news conference. The Celtics have some more moves to make after luring Gordon Hayward to Boston. (Getty)

The Celtics renounced their qualifying offer to Kelly Olynyk, making the skilled big man an unrestricted free agent. For Boston, it’s a necessary sacrifice to make way for Hayward. For Olynyk, it represents an opportunity to go get paid elsewhere.

Per USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Hawks and Pacers are both interested. Other serious suitors could soon emerge as well. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Hayward decision incited a “flurry of action surrounding Olynyk,” who immediately became one of the more intriguing names on the market. He basically singlehandedly won a Game 7, after all. – HB

What else will the Celtics do to create cap room? To take in Hayward’s max deal, Boston still has some maneuvering to do. Even if it renounces its unrestricted free agents and waives both forward Jordan Mickey and guard Demetrius Jackson, the task won’t be complete. That likely means either Jae Crowder or Marcus Smart will be on the move. According to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, Hayward’s announcement prompted teams to inquire about the availability of Boston’s potential cap casualties. Atlanta could reportedly be one team that pursues a trade for Crowder. Boston reportedly has been contacting teams about Smart, too. – HB

The Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari sign-and-trade is complete … which means Jamal Crawford is now only one step away from free agency. He’s headed to Atlanta, but likely won’t stay there. He could be traded. He could be bought out. Regardless, the market for Crawford is already taking shape.

Golden State was mentioned as a possible destination before the Casspi news, and still remains a potential landing spot. ESPN’s Chris Haynes also reported that Cleveland and San Antonio, among others, are interested. But Haynes and others have made it clear that Atlanta would prefer to trade Crawford, who has two years left on his deal, and recoup something of value. Crawford, meanwhile, would reportedly prefer to go back to L.A. — to the Lakers. – HB

Nick Young is still an option for the Warriors. With Casspi taking a minimum deal, Golden State still has its full taxpayer mid-level exception at its disposal. That will presumably be spent on a bench guard, and that guard could still be Swaggy P. Crawford is also in play. Young, for his part, has also drawn interest from the Timberwolves and Pelicans. – HB

What’s happening with JaMychal Green and Memphis? According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Memphis made Green an offer on July 1. According to Green’s agent, who spoke to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal, he’s “looking at two offer sheets and sign-and-trades. Seems to us Memphis is going in a different direction.” So it’s a bit unclear what exactly is happening, especially after the Grizzlies watched Z-Bo, their other free-agent power forward. head to Sacramento. At the very least, this is a situation to watch through the rest of the week. – HB

The Knicks are in the market for a shooting guard, and two names to watch are Spurs wing Jonathon Simmons and Heat scorer Dion Waiters. For their void at point guard, they have shown interest in bringing back Derrick Rose or signing Shelvin Mack– HB

The Pacers might be ready to move on from Monta Ellis. According to Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star, Ellis and the Pacers are discussing a possible buyout that would end Monta’s time in Indiana after two seasons. New Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard is steering the team into a rebuilding phase after shipping franchise centerpiece Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and paying an eight-figure salary to a 31-year-old guard fresh off the least productive season since his rookie year doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for an Indiana club set to enter the season with new trade acquisition Victor Oladipo and incoming point guard Darren Collison as its starting backcourt.

A buyout would lop the remaining two years and $22.9 million on Ellis’ contract off the Pacers’ books and add the 12-year veteran to the free-agent market. Ellis averaged 8.5 points, 3.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 27 minutes per game for Indiana last season, but found himself bumped to the bench for the bulk of the year amid defensive struggles and offensive inconsistency. Any team that signs Ellis will do so knowing that he’ll miss the start of the 2017-18 season serving a five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug program after testing positive for marijuana use for a third time. — DD


Derrick Rose will meet with the Los Angeles … Clippers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. With Chris Paul off to Houston and Jamal Crawford now heading to Atlanta, the Clips are somewhat thin at guard, and Rose, although not the most attractive name at this point in his career, makes a lot more sense there than he does elsewhere. Other teams reportedly interested in Rose are the Knicks and Bucks. – HB

The Lakers, meanwhile, will meet with two different guards. Those guards, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, are Dion Waiters and Rajon Rondo. The Lakers had been linked with Rondo earlier in the free agency window, and there appears to still be interest in a Rondo-Lonzo Ball point guard tandem. – HB

C.J. Miles is an under-discussed free agent, and could be one of the next dominos to fall. He has reportedly attracted interest from the Wolves, Heat, Hawks and Kings, and will soon begin taking visits to find his next home. – HB

TOP 10 BEST AVAILABLE (via The Vertical’s Fab 50 Free Agents)

1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
2. Dirk Nowitzki, PF
3. Rudy Gay, SF
4. Nerlens Noel, C
5. Andre Roberson, SF
6. Derrick Rose, PG
7. Pau Gasol, C
8. Tim Hardaway Jr., SG
9. Mason Plumlee, C
10. Bojan Bogdanovic, SF


Friday: Grading the Paul George trade, the Blake Griffin signing and more
Saturday: Grading the signings of Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, J.J. Redick and more
Sunday: Grading the signings of Paul Millsap, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and more
Monday: Kevin Durant takes a pay cut and Gordon Hayward nears a decision

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