Another day in free agency is in the books and a week has gone by since the process began. At this point, we know where all the power players are — the big trades and acquisitions all appear to be complete for now.
There were no huge names moving on Thursday, but a lot happened. We saw a lot of patience early on from teams, but Thursday night was a spending frenzy.
At some point, all of the big fish are going to go away. The talent well always dries up. But teams still have tons of money to spend and lots of cap space to fill. On Thursday, they did. Here are the winners and losers.
Winner: Tim Hardaway, Jr.
Hardaway was drafted with the No. 24 pick in 2013, which was a reasonable place for him to go as a potential sharpshooting, athletic wing. He fell out of favor in New York during Phil Jackson’s tenure before he was traded, despite being just 22 years old.
After Kyle Korver was traded to Cleveland from Atlanta, Hardaway stepped into a starting role and performed well. He averaged 17.5 points per game and had a 111 offensive rating in Korver’s place. He earned himself a huge payday from his time.
Loser: The Knicks
Sure, you can say this was Phil Jackson being Phil Jackson as a team president. But the bottom line is the Knicks once gave up on a talent they had in hand that they ended up just buying back later.
Hardaway played fairly well last season, but this is an overpay. The reason the Knicks had to do it is because Hardaway is a restricted free agent, and Atlanta can match any lowball deal. They probably won’t match this offer, but the Knicks are going to pay for it down the line when Hardaway is making $19 million in the fourth year of this deal.
Knicks' offer sheet to Tim Hardaway Jr. is $71M-plus and has final year salary of nearly $19M. Hawks have 2 days to decide whether to match. https://t.co/6kau6yaiVw— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 7, 2017
Loser: Derrick Rose
There’s a full circle of incompetence here. To sign Hardaway, the Knicks had to renounce Derrick Rose’s bird rights. In a vacuum, that’s fine because Rose isn’t a great player anymore. But the Knicks traded Grant away to Chicago for Rose in 2016. In 2015, Hardaway was traded to Atlanta for the 19th overall pick to draft Grant.
Rose lost out on returning to the Knicks, who could have paid him the most money to return. He was never going to get a max deal, but having his rights renounced by the team that owned them is never a good thing in terms of leverage.
There are a few teams with interest in Rose, but at this point the market doesn’t seem to have the lucrative offer he’s been searching for.
Winner: Otto Porter and Restricted Free Agents
Restricted free agency won the day for the players on Thursday. Hardaway and Otto Porter, Jr. both sought out huge, player-friendly deals and got them from teams with cap space.
Porter’s four-year, $106 million deal comes with a player option in its final year plus a 15 percent trade kicker, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post. The deal also has a very weird, but great, stipulation where Porter gets paid 50 percent of his annual salary October 1 of each year.
Restricted free agency helps teams retain younger players, but we’re also seeing them hurt each other with it. But either way, the players get the payday they’re looking for.
Loser: Washington Wizards
The Wizards have maintained they’d match any offer sheet Porter signs in restricted free agency and they probably will. But now, because they didn’t sign him the first opportunity they could, they’ll end up with less security with Porter having a fourth-year option on his deal.
As we just saw with Gordon Hayward, having extra years of security on players is important. If Porter breaks out at any point, the leverage the Wizards have to retain him is gone. They could’ve offered him a max deal with a fifth year and no option, but they didn’t. In three years, they could pay for it.
Loser: The Brooklyn Nets
The Wizards are going to make the Nets pay with their time for signing Porter to that deal, according to Bontemps.
And the Wizards intend to take their time doing so, forcing the Nets to sit around for four extra days with their cap space tied up because of the offer. In addition to the two days the Wizards have to match Porter’s offer initially, there also is a two-day window in which Porter will need to report to the team and be given a physical and another two-day window after that for the team to announce he has passed the physical.
Live look at the Washington Wizards:
Winner: Dion Waiters
This is really what we all were waiting for. The NBA finally got some sense and paid Waiters the money he deserves. Waiters signed a four-year, $52 million deal to stay with the Heat and we are still not worthy.
In all seriousness, it’s good to see Waiters returning to the Heat after being dropped by the Thunder in 2016. His career was hanging on a thread and he still managed to cash out. Good on him.
Winner: Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Miami Heat after having his rights renounced by the Celtics when Gordon Hayward announced he would be playing in Boston next season.
Olynyk isn’t a great player, but he was solid last season and is a stretchy big who can do some really nice things on both ends of the court. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs outside of Boston’s read-and-react system, but he’ll be paid nicely to do it.
Loser: The Miami Heat
Over the next four years, the Heat will be paying $102 million to Waiters and Olynyk. They missed out on Hayward and Blake Griffin this season, Kevin Durant last season and LeBron James left them two seasons before that.
The Heat are supposed to be a destination team, but they haven’t attracted any top end talent since Dwyane Wade orchestrated one of the biggest coups in league history by bringing Chris Bosh and James to Miami. Maybe Pat Riley isn’t as magical as we all think he is. His hair is still nice though.