NBA free agency is here, and while trade rumors about Paul George continue to swirl, teams are looking to remake their fortunes on the open market. Here's a look at what you need to know about when free agency begins and what to look for this year:
When does free agency start?
Saturday, July 1, at 12:01 a.m. ET begins what's called the NBA moratorium period. In that time, no one can actually "sign" players, but teams can come to agreements on deals and offer sheets. The moratorium lasts until July 7, at which point teams can actually formally sign players and hold their introductory press conferences. But July 1 is when he madness begins. There will be meetings as early as 12:01 a.m. July 1.
If a team signs another team's restricted free agent to an offer sheet, the player's original team has 72 hours to match the contract.
There are typically a handful of deals that are made right after the start of free agency (like the Lakers' awe-inspiring overpay for Timofey Mozgov last year). But there are also typically dominoes that hold up other deals, like Kevin Durant last year. Teams usually hold out negotiations for those big fish, and then after they fall, the rest of the deals go quickly.
Who are the big free agents?
Here are the marquee free agents and their potential suitors:
- Kevin Durant Warriors on a discount deal that allows them to retain their other role players. Stephen Curry will re-sign for the max with Golden State. with the
- Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and will be unrestricted free agents. It remains to be seen if one or even both players leave the Clippers. A team like the Thunder would have have to make drastic moves to clear the necessary cap space for a player like Griffin, who is from OKC. The same goes for San Antonio and Chris Paul, who , though the Spurs have been heading towards that direction recently, convincing Pau Gasol to and being for LaMarcus Aldridge.
- Gordon Hayward is the other big name commonly discussed, with outside of Utah.
Who are the expected big spenders?
- Boston has max space, and is expected to pursue the big names, with Hayward at the top of the list, but expect them to be involved in meetings with Griffin as well.
- The Rockets have made vows to try and improve, but will need to trade pieces to get there.
- Miami is another team that's going to have plenty of options, as well as a promising team already under contract.
- Philadelphia is expected to try and make serious signings for the first time since their rebuilding started, to fill out their young core. They were rumored to be a potential landing spot for Kyle Lowry, but that was before the Sixers traded for the No. 1 pick to take Markelle Fultz.
- Brooklyn is in a rare spot. With no picks and little actual talent to build on, they can take wild stabs at restricted free agents with all their cap space, as they did last summer with several players. Expect them to play free agency spoiler.
What are the stages of free-agency talks?
Step 1: Typically, a player's incumbent team will get the first meeting. If they do not, that's a bad sign for them. They will often also get the last meeting. Meetings are typically conducted in one of three ways:
- A player's agent handles all of it, and the player makes a decision remotely. This rarely happens for star players but often happens for role players.
- A player visits various destinations as part of a "tour." The teams provide presentations, take the player and his camp out to dinner, and put up special banners. You know, the works.
- A player hosts various teams in a central location. Kevin Durant did this in the Hamptons last summer, LeBron James did it in Cleveland in 2010. It's typically reserved for the cream of the crop.
Step 2: Meeting occurs, and the player is wooed. My favorite wooing story involves the 2010 LeBron James presentations, which reportedly involved the Knicks pitch to make LeBron the first billionaire athlete, and the Cleveland Cavaliers putting together a "Family Guy"- style cartoon about him staying. If it's a role player, sometimes there's no meeting, just a contract agreement.
Step 3: The money part, which is toughest for role players and easiest for stars. Big sticking points include the number of years for older players, trade kickers and how many years are guaranteed.
Step 4: Teams agree to a deal, and the agent and/or team personnel leak that information to various media members, often in a group text function. (It's why you'll see the same language used consistently across reporters.) If after the moratorium, the deal is announced after it is physically signed.
Things you should know
- Teams can sign other free agents up to their available cap space. They can re-sign their own free agents, if they have what are called "Bird rights" over the cap and into the luxury tax.
- A team's position above or below the cap and above or below the luxury tax determines what exceptions (example: the mid-level exception, the room exception, etc.) are used.
- Teams can sign players to a veteran minimum even if they are over the cap or in the tax.
- Small markets do tend to be concerned with the luxury tax, particularly Memphis and Oklahoma City. Making those teams financially viable with the punitive luxury tax is more difficult than in big markets due to the fact that teams still control their own local TV deals.
- If you read "agreed to terms," that means a deal is done. Those situations are almost never broken.
- Unless you're DeAndre Jordan.
- We'll have complete coverage of everything free agency all this summer on CBS Sports.