Kevin Durant and Chris Paul lead our free agency round-up from day one.
The first few hours of NBA free agency were unsurprisingly action-packed as several players, including some top-tier stars, agreed to deals to take themselves off the market.
Paul George returning to the Oklahoma City Thunder on a four-year deal was the biggest story of the first day, but there were enough fireworks to go around, even if LeBron James held off on his decision.
Here’s a round-up of some of the key free agents who committed on day one.
After LeBron, Durant was the best player on the market, but he predictably and promptly re-signed with the Golden State Warriors to remove any doubt of him potentially leaving the defending champions. Durant agreed to a two-year, $61.5 million deal that allows him to enter free agency again next year, so he essentially chose flexibility over a long-term contract that would have paid him a starting salary of $35.7 million. The savings will greatly reduce Golden State’s luxury tax bill.
After coming within a win of the NBA Finals this past season, the Houston Rockets had no choice but to bring back Paul for another run. The sides settled on a four-year, $160 million max deal which allows the Rockets to keep hold of their star without surrendering a fifth year when Paul would be 37, while the point guard gets one last pay day. With Paul’s age, it seems almost certain that he won’t be worth what he’ll be paid near the back end of the contract, but it’s a concession the Rockets had to make.
The Dallas Mavericks finally got the centre after he slipped out of their grasp in 2015, with Jordan agreeing to a one-year deal worht close to the $24.1 million player option he declined with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to ESPN. Jordan will hit free agency next summer when more teams are expected to have cap space, while Dallas get a big man who is one of the best finishers at the rim and rebounders in the league. The Mavericks want to get back to winning games and this move certainly helps with that.
The Denver Nuggets decided to decline Jokic’s $1.5 million team option this summer to instead lock him up to a long-term deal, and that’s
exactly what happened as the sides agreed to a five-year, $148 max contract. While Denver get the security of locking down Jokic for the foreseeable future, they’ll now have to get creative if they want to stay out of the luxury tax, or at least not pay as much as they’re currently slated to. Still, it’s worth it to keep hold of Jokic, who is a franchise cornerstone and still just 23.
Ariza wasn’t one of the top players available, but his decision to take a one-year, $15 million deal with the Phoenix Suns could spell doom for the Houston Rockets and make it easier for the Warriors to get back to the Finals. His ability to play either forward spot as a 3-and-D player was vital to Houston’s success and versatility against the Warriors. Now, Ariza will try to help elevate the young Suns, who should be much improved and have an outside shot at competing for a playoff spot.