Los Angeles Lakers all-star forward Anthony Davis is this year’s headliner, but his decision lacks both suspense and urgency. Davis, who played sensationally in the bubble en route to his first championship, has indicated that he plans to re-sign with the Lakers and that he will take his time in weighing the exact length and structure of his next contract.
Aside from Davis, the NBA’s biggest names — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard — are already under contract for next season. If there are fireworks over the next week, it will likely be because the Houston Rockets opted to trade James Harden or Russell Westbrook or if the Washington Wizards can find a way to move John Wall. All three guards have reportedly requested a change of scenery, with Wall asking out after his name was linked to a possible trade with the Rockets for Westbrook.
With Davis on pause, the Lakers’ biggest agreement on free agency’s opening night was to poach Montrezl Harrell, the NBA’s sixth man of the year, from the Los Angeles Clippers on a two-year deal worth a reported $19 million. The move, which could further tilt the balance of power between the crosstown rivals and Western Conference favorites, required the mid-level exception and represents excellent value to the Lakers. Harrell received a player option on the second year, giving him the opportunity to reenter free agency next summer when the league’s financial outlook might be rosier.
The defending champs also inked Wesley Matthews to a one-year, $3.6 million contract with their biannual exception, plugging a hole created by a trade that sent out Danny Green earlier in the week. The Lakers also watched as backup center Dwight Howard, who provided some key minutes in the playoffs, agreed to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers in a surprise move.
The Miami Heat, who emerged as surprise Eastern Conference champions, joined the Lakers with a tidy and efficient start to free agency. Within the first hour, the Heat agreed to re-sign point guard Goran Dragic on a two-year deal worth $37.4 million. The 34-year-old point guard was a key figure on the Heat’s unexpected push to the Finals, averaging 16.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists last season. Miami also quickly re-signed backup center Meyers Leonard to a two-year deal.
Much of the early action Friday evening centered on two teams with cap space: The Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons. Eager to accelerate a rebuilding effort around all-star guard Trae Young, the Hawks offered Danilo Gallinari to a three-year contract worth $61.5 million, according to ESPN.com. Gallinari has never made an all-star team, but he was one of the top-five names in this year’s class after averaging 18.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.
Detroit continued its radical roster overhaul under new General Manager Troy Weaver, agreeing to sign centers Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor to two-year contracts, as well as forward Jerami Grant on a three-year, $60 million agreement, according to The Athletic. Those moves will lead to the departure of Christian Wood, a 25-year-old journeyman center who emerged as one of this year’s most coveted big men after breaking out in Detroit last year.
The most lucrative contract of the opening hours went to De’Aaron Fox, who agreed to re-sign with the Sacramento Kings on a five-year maximum extension worth a reported $163 million. Fox held all the leverage as a rising star on a small-market team that is otherwise short on bankable talents, and a quick agreement was no surprise. He was the only player to receive a max contract in the first three hours of free agency.
As teams generally looked to tighten their belts, the Washington Wizards were one of the few other teams to hand out a five-year deal, re-signing sharpshooting forward Davis Bertans to an $80 million contract. Bertans, 28, averaged a career-high 15.4 points while shooting 42.4 percent on three-pointers last season, his first in Washington.
As free agency continues into the weekend, the list of notable unrestricted free agents who haven’t yet signed deals includes Gordon Hayward and Fred VanVleet, while Brandon Ingram and Bogdan Bogdanovic top the restricted list. Second-tier free agents might need to settle for shorter-term contracts at lower than usual figures, as the NBA has forecast the possibility of a 40 percent revenue hit if fans are unable to return to arenas this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
See the big moves from day one of free agency below.
November 21, 2020 at 12:35 AM EST
Jakob Poeltl nears deal to re-sign with San Antonio Spurs
By Ben Golliver
Jakob Poeltl, a restricted free agent center, plans to re-sign with the San Antonio Spurs on a three-year contract worth roughly $27 million, according to The Athletic.
The 25-year-old Poeltl was selected with the ninth pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors and subsequently traded to the Spurs in 2018 as part of the return package for Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio’s interest in retaining Poeltl at a reasonable price was no surprise as he is part of a developing young core that includes Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, Lonnie Walker and Devin Vassell.
Rumors have suggested that the Spurs might be ready to pursue a youth movement by trading LaMarcus Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan, and Poeltl would be a logical candidate to start at center full time if that plan unfolds.
November 21, 2020 at 12:23 AM EST
Christian Wood agrees to sign with Houston Rockets
By Ben Golliver
Christian Wood, an unrestricted free agent center, agreed to sign a three-year contract worth $41 million with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN.
The 25-year-old Wood, who emerged as one of this year’s top free agent big men, averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds during a breakout 2019-20 season with the Detroit Pistons. After going undrafted and playing for five teams in five years, Wood established himself as a dependable three-point shooter and an advanced stats darling. Despite Wood’s success, Detroit went a different direction Friday by overhauling its frontcourt with the additions of Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant and Jahlil Okafor.
Houston was in desperate need of a center after trading Clint Capela at last year’s deadline to pursue a micro-ball approach that utilized P.J. Tucker, a 6-foot-5 forward, at center. Wood will be called on to play heavy minutes for a Rockets team that is in transition after parting ways with Mike D’Antoni and hiring first-time coach Stephen Silas. Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook have both reportedly expressed a desire to be traded, but it’s unclear whether those wishes will be granted before the start of the 2020-21 season in December.
November 21, 2020 at 12:08 AM EST
Marcus Morris agrees to re-sign with Los Angeles Clippers
By Ben Golliver
Marcus Morris, an unrestricted free agent forward, tweeted Friday that he had re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers on a four-year deal that was worth $64 million according to ESPN.
The 31-year-old Morris, who landed in Los Angeles last season thanks to a trade with the New York Knicks, emerged as a starter in the postseason, averaging 11.8 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Clippers in the playoffs as they lost in the second round. A versatile combo forward with three-point range, Morris also served as an enforcer at times for the Clippers.
Re-signing Morris took on greater urgency after the Clippers lost backup center Montrezl Harrell, the reigning sixth man of the year, to the crosstown Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. The Clippers are having a fairly busy week after also trading guard Landry Shamet to the Brooklyn Nets for Luke Kennard of the Detroit Pistons in a three-team trade.
November 20, 2020 at 11:59 PM EST
Joe Harris agrees to re-sign with Brooklyn Nets
By Ben Golliver
Joe Harris, an unrestricted free agent wing, agreed to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets on a four-year, $75 million contract, according to ESPN.
The 29-year-old Harris averaged a career-high 14.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 42.4 percent on three-pointers last season. One of the league’s best outside shooters, he will be tasked with spacing the court for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in what is sure to be a high-powered and freewheeling offense under new coach Steve Nash.
Few players on the first day of free agency commanded as much as Harris. Perhaps the best comparison point is Davis Bertans, another high-volume, high-efficiency shooter who landed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Washington Wizards.
November 20, 2020 at 11:32 PM EST
Davis Bertans agrees to re-sign with Washington Wizards
By Ben Golliver
Davis Bertans, an unrestricted free agent forward, has agreed to re-sign with the Washington Wizards on a five-year deal worth $80 million.
Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard stressed in recent interviews that re-signing Bertans, a 28-year-old sharpshooting forward from Latvia, was his organization’s top offseason priority. He proved it by handing out a rare five-year deal on the opening night of free agency.
Bertans averaged 15.4 points and 4.5 rebounds as a second-unit scorer in his first season with the Wizards. With his free agency pending, he opted against traveling with Washington to compete in the NBA’s Disney World bubble in the summer.
In a weak free agent market, Bertans’s 42 percent three-point shooting carried a hefty premium. The Wizards have been intent on making a playoff push this season, and Bertans’s ability to stretch the court around Bradley Beal and John Wall is a key ingredient to those hopes. However, Wall expressed a desire to be traded by the Wizards Friday after his name was linked to discussions with the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook earlier this week.
November 20, 2020 at 11:17 PM EST
Dwight Howard agrees to deal with Philadelphia 76ers
By Ben Golliver
Dwight Howard, an unrestricted free agent center, agreed to a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to Yahoo Sports, after first indicating on Twitter his plans to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The 34-year-old Howard averaged 7.5 points and 7.3 rebounds as the Lakers’ backup center last season, but he started at times and provided key contributions during their run to the title. Last year not only provided the first championship of Howard’s career, it also helped him rebuild his reputation as a positive locker room presence as he recast himself as an energetic role player.
Philadelphia needed depth behind all-star center Joel Embiid, who has missed significant time with injuries during every season of his career. A spot for Howard opened up after the 76ers traded Al Horford to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a cost-cutting move on Wednesday night.
November 20, 2020 at 11:09 PM EST
John Wall seeking to be traded by Washington Wizards
By Ben Golliver
After his name surfaced recently in trade talks involving the Houston Rockets and Russell Westbrook, John Wall wants to be traded by the Washington Wizards, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Washington Post.
Wall, 30, is set to make his long-awaited return to the court next month after missing the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles’ tendon injury. The five-time all-star point guard averaged 20.7 points and 8.7 assists per game in 32 appearances in 2018-19 before an injury sidelined him on Dec. 26, 2018.
The Wizards’ front office has expressed its support of Wall throughout his lengthy rehabilitation, and franchise shooting guard Bradley Beal has repeatedly spoken about his excitement to welcome Wall back to the court. Wall’s interest in a trade was first reported by The Athletic.
Wall is set to make $40.8 million this season and is on the books for more than $130 million total over the next three years, a contract widely considered to be one of the most difficult to move in the NBA given Wall’s age and injury history. The Rockets have reportedly struggled to generate much interest in Westbrook, who presents similar financial and health questions as Wall.
Wall, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft, is one of the longest-tenured active players to remain with a single team in the NBA.
November 20, 2020 at 11:06 PM EST
Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor agree to sign with Detroit Pistons
By Ben Golliver
The Detroit Pistons were one of the few teams to enter free agency with significant cap space, and they wasted no time spending it.
Unrestricted free agent forward Jerami Grant agreed to a three-year, $60 million contract with the Pistons, according to The Athletic. Grant, 26, averaged 12 points and 3.5 rebounds per game for the Nuggets last season, and played well in a starting role during the playoffs.
While Denver was reportedly interested in keeping him after reaching the Western Conference finals, Grant opted to join Detroit to ensure a larger role. Grant is a coveted player type: a versatile two-way forward who can defend multiple positions and contribute offensively without dominating the ball.
The Nuggets also lost unrestricted free agent center Mason Plumlee to the Pistons on a three-year, $25 million contract, according to ESPN.com.
Plumlee, 30, averaged 7.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as Nikola Jokic’s backup on the Denver Nuggets last season. A solid finisher with decent mobility, Plumlee’s lack of shooting ability could present some fit challenges with Blake Griffin in Detroit’s frontcourt.
Jahlil Okafor, a 24-year-old center, has also agreed to sign a two-year deal with the Pistons. The No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft has been relegated to a bench role due to his poor defense and lack of offensive versatility while bouncing from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Brooklyn Nets to the New Orleans Pelicans in recent years.
The arrivals of Plumlee and Okafor signal the departure of free agent center Christian Wood, who will reportedly head to the Houston Rockets on a 3-year, $41 million deal after a breakout 2019-20 season for the Pistons.
November 20, 2020 at 10:39 PM EST
Montrezl Harrell agrees to sign with Lakers, spurning Clippers
By Ben Golliver
Montrezl Harrell, an unrestricted free agent big man, has reportedly agreed to sign a two-year, $19 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers after spending three productive seasons with their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers.
The NBA’s reigning sixth man of the year averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds last season, and at age 26 he entered this offseason as one of the top free agent frontcourt talents. His signing, which could further tilt the balance of power between the crosstown rivals and Western Conference favorites, required the mid-level exception and represents excellent value to the Lakers.
An energetic, offensive-minded forward and center, Harrell played poorly in the NBA bubble following the death of his grandmother. That, combined with a tight free agency market, likely cost him a big payday. Harrell is represented by agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, close friend of Lakers superstar LeBron James, and the signing bolsters a frontcourt rotation that saw the departure of Dwight Howard to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday.
Harrell received a player option on the second year, giving him the opportunity to reenter free agency next summer when the league’s financial outlook might be rosier. In the meantime, he will chase the first title of his career while the Clippers scramble to replace his bench production.
November 20, 2020 at 10:35 PM EST
Danilo Gallinari close to signing with the Atlanta Hawks
By Ben Golliver
The 32-year-old forward averaged 18.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but decided to explore his options with the franchise entering an extended rebuilding period by trading away Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder.
Atlanta was one of the few teams that entered this summer with substantial cap space. Eager to accelerate their own rebuilding effort around all-star guard Trae Young, the Hawks needed Gallinari’s scoring punch and versatility to bolster a young wing corps. They have also been linked with interest to Gordon Hayward, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Rajon Rondo, among other free agents.
November 20, 2020 at 8:13 PM EST
Utah Jazz agrees to sign Jordan Clarkson and Derrick Favors
By Ben Golliver
The Utah Jazz has reportedly agreed to re-sign guard Jordan Clarkson, an unrestricted free agent guard, and Derrick Favors, an unrestricted free agent center who spent last season with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Clarkson, 28, will receive a four-year, $52 million contract, according to ESPN.com. The 6-foot-4 scoring guard arrived in Utah last season via a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he emerged as a valuable sixth man, averaging 15.6 points in 42 appearances. The Jazz’s bench was light on ballhandlers and playmakers, so retaining Clarkson was a top priority.
Favors, 29, will return to Utah, where he played eight-plus seasons, on a three-year contract worth close to $30 million, according to The Athletic. Although he isn’t the most nimble center, Favors is a strong interior defender and unselfish complementary piece on offense. He averaged 9 points and 9.8 rebounds last season as a starting center and was a starter throughout most of his tenure with the Jazz. With Utah looking to add spacing and versatility to its frontcourt, Favors will probably move to a backup role behind all-star Rudy Gobert.
After only a few hours of free agency, the Jazz already has the makings of a deep and well-balanced rotation as they seek a fifth straight postseason appearance.
November 20, 2020 at 7:44 PM EST
De’Aaron Fox agrees to sign max extension with Sacramento Kings
By Ben Golliver
De’Aaron Fox, a restricted free agent, agreed to re-sign with the Sacramento Kings on a five-year, maximum rookie contract extension worth $163 million, according to The Athletic.
There wasn’t much need to negotiate between the Kings and their 22-year-old franchise point guard. Fox, one of the NBA’s fastest players and a dynamic on-ball threat, averaged a career-high 21.1 points and 6.8 assists per game last season, taking another step forward on his path to becoming a potential star.
With Marvin Bagley III limited by injury issues during his two seasons, Fox has emerged as the best player on Sacramento’s roster. As a small-market organization, the Kings had little choice but to offer the full max extension, which will kick in for the 2021-22 season. Sacramento will celebrate the deal, knowing that it has locked up Fox through his age-28 season.
November 20, 2020 at 6:56 PM EST
Enes Kanter traded to Portland Trail Blazers
By Ben Golliver
Veteran center Enes Kanter confirmed on Twitter that he had agreed to a trade that will send him from the Boston Celtics to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kanter, 28, averaged 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds last season in his only year with Boston and saw his minutes cut in the playoffs due to his struggles on the defensive end. The trade represents a return to the Pacific Northwest for Kanter, who averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 23 games for the Blazers down the stretch of the 2018-19 season as Portland advanced to the Western Conference finals. Earlier this week, the Turkish center picked up his $5 million option.
In the move, Portland sent Mario Hezonja and Desmond Bane, who was selected with the 30th pick in Wednesday’s NBA Draft, to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Celtics will receive draft compensation from the Grizzlies. The Blazers were able to work the deal using a trade exception. ESPN.com first reported the terms of the agreement.
Kanter’s arrival will slot him in as a back-up center behind Jusuf Nurkic and likely lead to Hassan Whiteside’s exit in free agency.
Given its lack of frontcourt depth, Boston’s willingness to part with a center could suggest that it is targeting the position with its upcoming moves. The Celtics have been linked to a possible sign-and-trade agreement with Indiana involving Gordon Hayward and Pacers center Myles Turner.
November 20, 2020 at 6:44 PM EST
Wesley Matthews agrees to sign with Los Angeles Lakers
By Ben Golliver
Wesley Matthews, an unrestricted free agent guard, has agreed to sign a one-year, $3.6 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, according to The Athletic and Yahoo Sports.
Matthews, 34, will be moving from one title contender to another, after averaging 7.4 points and 2.5 assists per game for the Milwaukee Bucks last season. A 3-and-D wing with plenty of playoff experience, Matthews will help fill minutes following the Lakers’ trade of Danny Green to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Dennis Schroder. After starting throughout most of his 11-year pro career, Matthews might shift to a reserve role in Los Angeles.
This looks like a strong fit: Matthews isn’t much of a creator on offense, and he will benefit from playing off LeBron James as he chases the first title of his career. The Lakers, who are coming off a championship run through the NBA bubble, will view re-signing Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as their top offseason priorities. They entered free agency hoping to add veterans on short-term, cap-friendly contracts around their returning core, and Matthews checks those boxes and is a logical use of their biannual exception.
Matthews’ departure creates a hole in Milwaukee’s starting lineup that was supposed to be filled by Bogdan Bogdanovic. However, a reported sign-and-trade agreement for the shooting specialist between the Bucks and Sacramento Kings fell through earlier this week.