While big names like Gordon Hayward have long made league-altering decisions, younger players can dramatically alter the future of franchises trying to build something special.
Along those same lines, veterans like David Lee, Derrick Rose and maybe even someone like Manu Ginobili could reshape next year’s title picture by simply putting ink to paper.
This isn’t a stretch capable of being as entertaining as when the free-agency floodgates first opened. But to deny its potential impact on pretenders and contenders alike as they round out rosters would do a disservice to history suggesting its importance.
Here’s a look at the latest.
Rondo now assumes the position as the biggest name on the market after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
Interestingly enough, those Lakers could still have an interest in bringing Rondo aboard for at least a year, though Magic Johnson and the front office will face competition from teams such as the New York Knicks.
ESPN.com’s Ian Begley confirmed mutual interest from both sides: “One free agent they’ve remained in touch with is Rajon Rondo, per sources. There is interest from both sides, sources say.”
As an aside, Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News reported the Lakers have an interest in Rondo, alongside several other backcourt names.
The Knicks and Lakers want Rondo for the same thing—productivity while helping a new potential franchise point adapt to the league. The Knicks want to bring along Frank Ntilikina at a steady pace and the Lakers have Lonzo Ball.
On his own, Rondo posted averages of 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game last season with the Chicago Bulls, keying a short upset-minded postseason run before suffering an injury. He doesn’t have the best perception from an outsider’s viewpoint, but two teams needing veterans to groom their futures suggest perception indeed isn’t reality.
For Rondo, it comes down to what he wants. The Lakers will offer him a chance to help rebuild one historic franchise while playing alongside Ball and Brandon Ingram. The Knicks will offer him another while trotting him out next to Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis, if not Carmelo Anthony if the drama subsides.
Keep in mind the Knicks can offer Rondo more money after the Lakers can after the KCP deal, so more talent and cash there might help New York get a win.
Prediction: Rondo signs with the Knicks
Jerebko Sweepstakes Continues
Jonas Jerebko isn’t the biggest name on the market by any means, but he’s the sort of signing capable of making the difference in a playoff hunt over a long season.
Jerebko, 30, is a nice veteran presence who fits today’s mold for big men quite well given his ability to stray from underneath the basket and knock down shots. He only averaged 3.8 points per game in 15.8 minutes last season with the Boston Celtics, but the arrival of Al Horford and odd rotations would do that to any quality depth piece.
The Celtics signed Aron Baynes, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical, meaning a possible new chapter for Jerebko. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported recently that he is meeting with a few teams, with Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press following with further context:
The Pistons ended up getting Anthony Tolliver back under contract, according to Charania, but it’s hard to imagine that ruins the sweepstakes for Jerebko if the price is right.
Detroit is an interesting spot for Jerebko, who would get to back up a first unit now featuring Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley and Andre Drummond. The Swede, whose first five NBA seasons were with the Pistons before getting traded to the Celtics in 2015, could fight for time behind Tobias Harris, with his shooting giving him at an advantage.
Things are starting to run dry for Jerebko, so look for him to land in a spot where he can make comparable money to elsewhere while fighting for minutes on a team with a budding future.
Prediction: Jerebko signs with the Pistons
Race for Ian Clark Begins
It was only a matter of time before teams started gunning for Ian Clark.
Clark, all of 26 years old, has played a key rotational role for the Golden State Warriors over each of the past two seasons. He only posted 6.8 points per game in 14.8 minutes but did so while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor and 37.4 percent from three-point range.
It makes sense, then, a team like the Milwaukee Bucks would have a strong interest at this stage of free agency, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.
“Several sources said the Bucks have expressed interest in Ian Clark, who played a key role off the bench for the reigning champion Golden State Warriors the last two seasons. The interest is apparently mutual,” Woelfel wrote.
Clark would be smart to roll with whichever teams shows him the most interest after the Warriors went with more of a veteran presence after signing Nick Young for his former roster spot.
In Milwaukee, he’d join a backcourt featuring Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell, bringing serious playoff experience to a Giannis Antetokounmpo-led team hoping to turn the corner and make serious noise in the playoffs starting next season.
At the least, Clark’s arrival helps everyone get better via competition. If the price is right, look for Clark to put ink to paper in the hopes of carving out a role and growing alongside one of the league’s most intriguing young teams.
Prediction: Clark signs with the Bucks
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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