This week marks the second week of free agency and the start of the Las Vegas Summer League. This week, we continue our weekly roundup of the happenings around the NBA, with our winners and losers. Specifically this week, we take a look at teams and players that have taken advantage of the second week of free agency and the Las Vegas Summer League.
Rarely can a team “win” Summer League, but that happened this week when the Philadelphia 76ers came out feeling like enormous winners. First, the team was able to convince Furkan Korkmaz to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, and skip out on playing with Turkey’s U-20 team. They also appear to have found another great stash candidate with Jonah Bolden, who has played very well in all of his Summer League appearances.
Of course, the real reason they’re here is because of Markelle Fultz. Fultz backed up his status as a consensus first overall pick in Vegas, but that has nothing to do with this. Facing the Warriors in Summer League, Fultz rolled his ankle so badly that he couldn’t put any weight on it. Fans minds immediately went to the worst-case scenario, as this was how Ben Simmons broke his foot last year, and the immediate reaction was that he’d be out until at least training camp. Fortunately for Fultz and the Sixers, the best case came true, when it was ruled that he would miss only one or two weeks. For that massive sigh of relief, the Sixers and they’re win-starved fan base are big winners this week.
As I said, Summer League doesn’t mean a whole lot, but Brandon Ingram showed enough to warrant his selection here. As a high draft pick in his second Summer League, Ingram should show he’s better than his competition. He did that and much more in his only Summer League performance. Ingram struggled last year with the ball in his hands, often deferring to his teammates and showing the passiveness that prevented him from going first overall.
Facing the Clippers last week, Ingram showed an aggression that he hadn’t previously displayed, even getting to the free throw line eight times. He often controlled the offense even with Lonzo Ball on the floor. Ingram did turn the ball over more than you’d like, but that will happen as he continues to adjust to his newfound aggressiveness. For now, the Lakers will take the bad with the good, and hopefully Ingram will show off his newfound aggression when the season begins in a few months.
If you’re a veteran whose career is faltering, there is no better destination than San Antonio. Gay is the kind of player that could use help from Chip Engelland to improve his shot. Gay is a career 34.5 percent shooter from deep, which won’t cut it in the modern NBA. This holds especially true for someone like Gay, who will provide most of his value on the offensive end of the floor. If he can become a more efficient shooter, Gay could become a stretch four for the Spurs, increasing his value even more.
Gay may only end up spending a year in San Antonio because he also managed to get a player option in his contract. He’ll make roughly $8.5 million this year, which will push him to over $125 million in career earnings. With that kind of money, Gay can afford to take cheaper deals to chase a ring. Of course, the most beneficial aspect in this deal will come if Gay manages to rehabilitate his value and re-enter free agency next year as a much more valuable commodity.
New York KnicksWith Phil Jackson gone, it was reasonable to believe that the Knicks might finally right the ship and stabilize their organization. Of course, reason flies out the window when your team is owned by James Dolan. Steve Mills has been in charge of the Knicks front office while Dolan searches for Jackson’s replacement. Mills could be in the running, but he did nothing to help his cause this week. The team signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four year, $71 million offer sheet, which the Hawks obviously did not match.
I genuinely have no idea what the Knicks are thinking with this decision. Hardaway is a mediocre shooter, and offensive player in general, while also being a liability on the defensive end of the floor. That contract is a massive overpay for a very average player. The Knicks already had most of their cap space tied up, and adding Hardaway does nothing to increase their flexibility. Steve Mills may have won the job of general manager after all because that Hardaway contract is enough to scare away even the most courageous candidates.
Most restricted free agents looked poised to cash in this free agency, with the Nets looking to do whatever it took to lure away young talent. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope looked primed to get a near max offer from the Nets, but then everything collapsed for him. The Pistons traded for Avery Bradley, which caused them to renounce Caldwell-Pope’s rights, making him unrestricted. This diminished his leverage, because negotiating teams no longer had to fear that the Pistons would match their offer.
Even with that in mind, he should have been able to command a lot of money from the Nets to go to Brooklyn. Unfortunately for him, Brooklyn used a lot of their cap space to acquire assets when they traded for Demarre Carroll. After that move, the Nets are left with roughly $14M in cap space, a far cry from the max offer Caldwell-Pope was chasing. After reportedly turning down the Pistons’ offer of five years, $80 million, Caldwell-Pope now may be forced to take much less as most teams’ cap space dries up. His best bet is to take a one-year deal for more money, with the hopes of cashing in next year.
After missing out on Gordon Hayward, the Heat had plenty of cap space to make some moves. So naturally, they moved Josh McRoberts to make more room, which allowed them to add, Kelly Olynyk? Look, I think Olynyk is a fine player and a good option as a stretch four or five off of the bench. That isn’t worth a four-year, $50 million contract, though. He may start next to Hassan Whiteside, but he’s going to have to be hidden defensively.
That money could have been better spent elsewhere, like by adding Mo Speights on a shorter-term deal, which would provide present value and future flexibility for the Heat. If I were Riley, I’d have taken Ryan Anderson and his remaining contract off of Houston’s hands before I went and signed Olynyk to that deal. The Heat may end up being right and turning Olynyk into a better player, but right now, it looks like they severely misused their cap space.