NBA Free Agency: 10 questions (Melo trade? George Hill, anyone?) still unanswered
Gordon Hayward hasn't made his decision yet, and Carmelo Anthony's future also is up in the air
It's July 3, and while this offseason feels insane because several stars already have changed places, the first couple of days of free agency actually have been quieter than last year. There are quite a few dominoes left to fall, so let's have a look at 10 of the most fascinating storylines left.
1. What will Hayward do?
I hesitate to call Gordon Hayward the Kevin Durant of this year's class, but in a way, he is. Everybody knows the three teams who have a chance to get him, and a bunch of other free agents are waiting to see how his decision affects their options. The Utah Jazz must be nervous that he has taken meetings with two teams in the Eastern Conference that can offer him an easier road to the Finals, but it's not clear the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics can convince Hayward to leave the organization that has spent the past few years building a balanced, still-improving team around him. Fair or not, if he chooses any team but Boston, Danny Ainge is going to be roasted for not acquiring a star player this summer.
2. What the heck happens with Melo?
Say what you will about Phil Jackson and his dark and disappointing tenure as president of the New York Knicks, he was right about one thing: It's best for the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony to part ways. New York needs to rebuild around Kristaps Porzingis, and the 33-year-old Anthony would be much better off as a second or third banana on a contender. Reportedly, Anthony is finally ready to waive his no-trade clause, as long as he is sent to the Houston Rockets or Cleveland Cavaliers. This is interesting because it brings with it a bunch of other questions:
- 1. Could a Kevin Love-for-Anthony deal actually happen?
- 2. Would the Knicks accept a deal centered around Ryan Anderson?
- 3. Are Mike D'Antoni and Anthony really ready for a reunion?
- 4. Is Chris Paul the league's new premier recruiter? (He already got P.J. Tucker to Houston)
- 5. Does Anthony make the Cavs any better equipped to beat the Warriors?
3. Will someone rescue Hill from no man's land?
George HIll is one of the best all-around players in free agency. While not a big name, he produced like a star when healthy last season, and his skill set -- awesome defense, shooting, versatility -- is more suited to this era than any other. The Jazz outscored opponents by 8.6 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court last season, and he seemed like the perfect fit there while Dante Exum develops. Utah couldn't get Hill to sign an extension during the season, and replaced him with Ricky Rubio over the weekend. While there isn't an obvious place for him because none of the teams with cap room are looking for a new point guard, the Lakers . If that doesn't work out, Hill has to hope another team dumps salary in order to get him, which is precisely what The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported the Denver Nuggets want to do.
4. What about the other point guards?
Hill is the best player stuck in the wilderness, but he's not the only one. Derrick Rose is reportedly meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. Rajon Rondo might end up with the Los Angeles Lakers on a one-year deal, and both he and Darren Collison are candidates to replace Rose with the Knicks. Ty Lawson reportedly met with the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, and it seems unlikely he'll be a starter again anytime soon. The crazy thing is, even if these guys sign one-year deals, there's no guarantee next year's market will be any better for them.
5. Do the Rockets have anything else up their sleeves?
General manager Daryl Morey is trying to assemble a team that can take down Golden State, and he's not done. Can he get Anthony? Can he figure something else out? Houston already looks like a much better defensive team, and it has an impressive eight-man rotation now, with Eric Gordon, Nene and Tucker coming off the bench behind Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Anderson and Clint Capela. There are roster spots to fill, though, and Morey has acquired a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts that can be used to make an upgrade or add depth.
6. Who's getting salary-dumped, and where?
The Nuggets are far from the only team looking to shed a contract or two. Whether it's to chase free agents now, get in the game next year or escape the luxury tax, there are several front offices trying to reduce payroll. As ESPN's Bobby Marks points out, the way things stand half the league could be in the luxury tax this time next year. Keep an eye on the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic potentially using cap space to absorb contracts and add draft picks. Some players who could potentially be dumped: DeMarre Carroll, Luol Deng, Iman Shumpert, Greg Monroe, Enes Kanter and Omer Asik.
7. Can the Warriors get even better?
Golden State's summer is already a success, as they will re-sign Stephen Curry, Durant, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West when moves can become official. Beyond that, though, they still have work to do. Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, Ian Clark, James Michael McAdoo and Matt Barnes are free agents, and it's unclear how many of them will return. Golden State has been linked to guard Nick Young, who would provide even more shooting, and Dewayne Dedmon, who would provide even more defense. There may be other vets who would like to chase a championship on a minimum contract, too.
8. Who's willing to take the mid-level exception?
Tucker already essentially did this, turning down a bigger-per season salary to stay in Toronto. Given the relative lack of teams with significant cap space available, other guys might be smart to do so, too. Players like Patrick Patterson, Dion Waiters, Andre Roberson, C.J. Miles and even Rudy Gay might consider taking an $8.4 million starting salary on a short-term deal, which seems completely crazy because of all the money that was thrown around last summer.
(Miles should be on every contender's list. He's an above-average defender who shot 41.3 percent last season and can play three positions. Pay him.)
9. What's the Clippers' next move?
Paul is gone, but some things have stayed the same in Clipperland: They are looking for a starting small forward. Los Angeles has been linked to Jonathon Simmons, Danilo Gallinari, James Johnson and Gay, and the Clips reportedly talked to Joe Ingles, Tucker and Iguodala before they came to agreements elsewhere. The trick is that the Clippers only have the mid-level exception to use, so they'd have to get creative if they can't get anybody to accept it. Perhaps a trade is in order -- there's no sense having Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams and Austin Rivers on the same team, is there?
10. Are the Wizards really ready to offer Porter the max?
Otto Porter reportedly received a maximum offer from the Kings on Sunday, though the restricted free agent has not signed the offer sheet yet. Brooklyn could give Porter the same deal. Regardless of where the offer comes from, the Wizards have a decision to make: give him $106.5 million over four years or watch him walk. All signs point to them retaining him, but paying Porter like a star comes with risk. While he broke out last season, an investment of this kind would be a bet that he will continue to improve, becoming a full-fledged stopper and rounding out his offensive game. The fact his shot cooled off in the second half of the season and in the playoffs is a bit worrisome.
10 more (increasingly nerdy) questions: When will the Cavs hire a general manager? … What about the Knicks? … Can the Pelicans find some complementary pieces on the wing? … Who wants to trade for Jonas Valanciunas? … What kind of offer sheet can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sign? … Will Zach Randolph and Tony Allen leave Memphis? … Which contender will sign Andrew Bogut? .. Who's going to take a chance on the streaky Nikola Mirotic? … What does the new Magic front office have planned? … Was the Paul George trade the last stunner of the summer?
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