The final dominoes on the free-agent market continue to fall and reshape the NBA.
While not as exciting as tracking private jets during bidding wars for superstars such as Gordon Hayward, there is still plenty of impact when a guy like Rajon Rondo puts ink to paper with a team like the New Orleans Pelicans, according to The Vertical’s Shams Charania.
It doesn’t sound like much at first—until one recalls Rondo’s playoff performance with the Chicago Bulls last year and what his addition may mean for a playoff hopeful featuring Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
Not every signing will be as impactful at this stage, but lineup changes made now have a way of being felt when it matters. Here’s a look at the latest rumors around some of the biggest names.
Carmelo Anthony isn’t a free agent per se, but he might as well be courtesy of the New York Knicks and his control over where he goes thanks to a no-trade clause.
Clause in hand, it doesn’t sound like Anthony cares much if Phil Jackson is still around after the former president nuked the bridge that was the relationship between the team and its superstar player.
A note by ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski says it all: “Whatever stance a post-Phil Jackson front office is taking now, Anthony expects the Knicks to resume trade talks soon and honor the franchise’s long-standing goal to rebuild without him, league sources said.”
This isn’t a shocker because coming back from this now wouldn’t make a ton of sense and joining a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets might give Carmelo a shot at a ring before he hangs up the sneakers.
Perhaps more interesting than Carmelo still seeking a trade, though, is a nugget buried in the same report about a team getting greedy and hoping to steal him from other contenders in the conversation: “One team that New York and Houston had hoped would facilitate a multiteam trade for Anthony, the Portland Trail Blazers, plans to participate in a deal for Anthony only if he decides to expand his no-trade clause to include them, league sources told ESPN.”
C.J. McCollum, joking or not, provided a rather interesting Instagram post recently:
While Portland doesn’t have the allure and star power of a Cleveland or Houston, Carmelo pairing with McCollum and Damian Lillard would give opposing teams a handful of problems on the defensive end of the court.
Both those teams don’t seem to have the pieces available to make a deal, which means Carmelo could make his way to free agency and choose the destination that makes most sense.
Prediction: Carmelo ends up with the Rockets
McGee’s Trip to Market
It sounds funny to think JaVale McGee might be one of the biggest names on the free-agent market, yet his run with the Golden State Warriors last year revived his stock in dramatic fashion.
After bouncing around with four different teams since 2008-09, McGee landed with the Warriors and played all of 9.6 minutes per game over 77 games while averaging 6.1 points.
But McGee showed his true value in the playoffs when the Warriors decided to veer away from small-ball lineups at times, such as a pair of double-digit outings against Portland or a 16-point outburst against the San Antonio Spurs over all of 13 minutes.
Now McGee wants his due, according to Marcus Thompson II of the Mercury News: “But one source said he is not happy with the Warriors for not giving him a shot at the starting slot and giving all of the mid-level to free agent guard Nick Young. McGee believed his play this season earned him more minutes and money, and is looking for that on the market.”
McGee has every right to be frustrated, though the writing was on the proverbial wall here when the Warriors brought back Zaza Pachulia
The problem for McGee is interest. He has value, but only for a handful of teams who still haven’t managed to find frontcourt depth at a time when the backcourt is far more important. And interested teams will know there isn’t any guarantee the 29-year-old center can replicate what he did with the Warriors on a consistent basis.
Meaning, money likely the same, McGee might up and decide to stick with the team that helped him revive his career while pursuing a title. A bit of a boring conclusion, sure, but he might take the option giving him the best career longevity at this point.
Prediction: McGee re-signs with the Warriors
It seems like it has been a long time coming—the Los Angeles Lakers finally sit as an attractive free-agent destination once again.
The team just missed on Rondo but arguably scored a bigger prize when unexpected free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope decided to sign a front-loaded deal with the team, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
While the move eats up much of the cap space the Lakers feel comfortable spending while leaving droves of space open for 2018 for shots at guys like Paul George and LeBron, the team still wants an upgrade in the backcourt to help ease rookie Lonzo Ball into the league.
It just so happens the Lakers have an interest in two of the more interesting free agents left on the market, as noted by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: “The Lakers have also shown interest in guards Rodney Stuckey and Ian Clark, though their interest has not been considered as strong.”
Stuckey, now 31 years old, spent last year with the Indiana Pacers and only appeared in 31 games. He’s on the downswing of his career, but adding a guy who averages 12.6 points on 42.3 percent shooting since he entered the league in 2007-08 to mentor Ball isn’t a terrible idea.
The real prize here for a team like the Lakers, though, is a free agent like Clark. He has the upside a rebuilding team like the Lakers covet at 26 years old. Like McGee, he played a key rotational role with the Warriors a year ago while knocking down 48.7 percent of his shots from the floor.
Stuckey and Clark are the picture tug-of-war dilemma facing the Lakers right now. Grab a veteran to bring along Ball or get another younger player who might turn into a contributing asset for years?
For now, look for the Lakers to err on the side of the veteran presence after neglecting it for most of the summer. And Stuckey is more likely to agree to a one-year deal anyway, as Clark’s upside will creating a small bidding war the Lakers won’t be able to match.
Prediction: Stuckey signs with the Lakers
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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