2016 NBA Free Agency: Everything You Need to Know from Day 1

NBA teams decided to hand out a large sum of money on the first day of the 2016 free-agency period, and the spending shouldn’t slow down at any point in the near future. Plenty of the players populating our top 100 Big Board are still listening to their suitors’ overtures. 

If you were shocked by some of the price tags, fear not. You weren’t alone.

After all, the NBA spent $1.71 billion Friday. 

The rising salary cap has forced us to reframe our expectations, but it’s still easy to get sticker shock when Adrian Wojnarowski The Vertical reports that Timofey Mozgov has signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for $64 million. Even Jerryd Bayless is getting three years and $27 million from the Philadelphia 76ers, per Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.

This seems like an enormous amount of money. Even the most aggressive Monopoly players aren’t so free with their cash, though the rationale is easier to understand when you think about these deals as percentages of the new cap rather than numbers in a vacuum.

But the big money wasn’t the true theme of the day. Nor were the notable players who changed uniforms, though we’ll get to those soon enough. 

Instead, the opening 24 hours were defined by the marquee free agents who didn’t leave for a new location. 

LeBron James hasn’t yet re-signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Durant is still hearing pitches, though it feels like there’s a strong possibility he’ll return to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Dwyane Wade and plenty others are in the same boat with their respective organizations. 

But a number of All-Stars and potential All-Stars have already made up their minds. Of our top 15 free agents on the Big Board, seven have now committed to their old stomping grounds. So too have nine of the top 20—Shams Charania of The Vertical reported that Jordan Clarkson agreed to a four-year, $50 million deal with the Lakers, and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com revealed that Kent Bazemore re-signed with the Atlanta Hawks for four years and $70 million.

Before he was trumped by a Memphis Grizzlies point guard, DeMar DeRozan was the early favorite to make the most money on Day 1, re-signing with the Toronto Raptors for five years and $139 million, per Charania. The shooting guard endured a difficult shooting slump during the postseason, but Toronto realized just how valuable he’s been to their success.

If they can add a high-quality power forward to the rotation, the future gets even brighter now that this 2-guard is still in the fold. 

That signing wasn’t particularly surprising, even if DeRozan was a candidate to end up with a different organization. The Lakers were always a long shot, and no other primary suitor emerged. But heading into the offseason, his deal was still less certain than Andre Drummond’s. 

If you’re surprised the big man re-signed with the Detroit Pistons for five years and $130 million, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, you haven’t been paying attention. He’s the centerpiece in the Motor City—the man around whom Stan Van Gundy is crafting the four-out, one-in scheme. Without him collecting offensive rebounds and forcing defenses to body up on the interior, everything would fall apart. 

Bradley Beal re-upping with the Washington Wizards for five years and $128 million, per Wojnarowski, falls into this same category. The Florida product hasn’t been as valuable to his squad, and the combination of his stress injuries and stagnated development make him a questionable max-contract recipient. But he was never going anywhere else.

The same is true for Mike Conley, who agreed to a five-year contract worth $153 million to stay with the Memphis Grizzlies, per Krawczynski. Though he was the best point guard on the market, he came to terms quickly enough that he may as well never have flirted with any other organization. 

Ditto for Evan Fournier, who signed a five-year, $85 million contract that allows him to remain with the Orlando Magic, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Though the swingman doesn’t enjoy as much stardom as the aforementioned players, Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan made it clear to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel in April that re-signing him was a big offseason priority. 

However, not every big name officially coming back (well, as officially as possible before the moratorium ends) avoided the “flight risk” label throughout this brief process. 

At one point, Wojnarowski reported that the Dallas Mavericks had become the front-runner in the Hassan Whiteside race: 

So much for that.

Per Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, the big man re-signed with the Miami Heat for four years and $98 million, though he originally announced the decision with a short piece for the Players’ Tribune.  

“I’ve played on eight teams since college—from Reno to Sioux Falls to Sichuan, China. I am not ready for there to be a ninth,” he wrote. “I have decided to re-sign with Miami. I just wanted to take this time to tell all the fans how much you mean to this team, and to me.”

There was no message from Nicolas Batum, but he also spurned any and all suitors—the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, Lakers and Wizards, per Spears (via ESPN.com Tim MacMahon)—by re-signing with the Charlotte Hornets for five years and $120 million, per Charania.

OK. Take a deep breath, because we’re moving on to the notable players who are changing teams—and one who won’t be suiting up for anyone. 


Dwight Howard Going Home

Only one of our dozen top free agents signed with a new squad: Dwight Howard, who Charania reports is joining the Atlanta Hawks on a three-year deal worth $70.5 million.

That means Al Horford will eventually be on the move as well, since there’s only a minute chance Atlanta will spend the money necessary to retain him with Howard already in place. The chance grew even smaller after the news that the Hawks retained Bazemore, though they won’t complain about having their breakout wing back in the fold. 

For the ex-Houston Rockets center, this is a chance to go home. He was born in Georgia’s capital city, and he went to Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy for high school, leading the Warriors to the 2004 state title before making the prep-to-pro jump. His father even serves as the school’s athletic director to this day. 

Coming back to the Peach State also offers a chance for a fresh start. 

Howard’s reputation has justifiably dwindled during recent seasons, but he’s remained an effective player. You wouldn’t mistake him for the MVP candidate of old, but when healthy, he’s still a tremendous rebounder, pick-and-roll threat and rim protector. Atlanta has struggled on the defensive glass for years, so his presence will be helpful there in particular.

It remains to be seen whether he’ll accept a smaller role or continue to demand post-up touches. His fit in the offensive schemes is also questionable, since the Hawks don’t typically throw major minutes at players who can’t provide some semblance of floor-spacing or passing ability.

But we can at least be certain he’ll help shore up the weaknesses on the glass.  


Chandler Parsons Packing His Bags

Chandler Parsons (No. 14) was the second-highest-ranked player on the move, as he inked a four-year, $94 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, per Wojnarowski

As Kevin Pelton writes for ESPN.com, Parsons is immediately the most talented wing player the Grizz have rostered in quite some time: 

If healthy, Parsons should be far and away the most talented wing player the Grizzlies have had alongside their Grit-and-Grind core of Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol since trading Rudy Gay during the 2012-13 season. The most win shares any Memphis wing has posted in a season since then was Tony Allen’s 5.1 back in 2012-13; Parsons had nearly that many last season (4.3) despite missing 21 games due to injury.

The cartilage issues in Parsons’ right knee make the length of this contract a bit troubling, but you can’t blame Memphis for taking the plunge.

For years, the Grizzlies employed a tough, defense-first mentality while pounding the ball into the paint during their offensive possessions. Now, they finally have the shooter they’ve been missing to help space out the floor for Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. 

In 61 games last season, Parsons averaged 4.1 three-point attempts and connected at a 41.4 percent clip. The last time a qualified member of the Grizzlies made at least 40 percent of his triples while taking no fewer than four per game? That would be Mike Miller, all the way back in 2007-08. 

Between inking Parsons and retaining Conley, it was a good day on Beale Street. Cue Robert Pera, the owner of this small forward’s new team:


No One Signing O.J. Mayo

Despite the ridiculous amount of money handed out once free agency commenced, the news wasn’t positive for every player. O.J. Mayo’s contract expired after a disappointing year with the Milwaukee Bucks, and he won’t be signing a new one. 

Instead, the league has chosen to ban him for violating the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program, as reported by Spears. Wojnarowski later revealed that he’ll be eligible to apply for reinstatement after serving the two-year ban. 

Here’s the NBA’s official release, via Spears:

Before jumping to assume this is related to performance-enhancing drugs, you should know CBS Sports’ Ken Berger has concluded that this ban must be the the direct result of testing positive for something else:

We’ll surely learn more details in the future.

But for now, don’t count on your team signing Mayo. No one will be. 


Evan Turner to Rip City

Evan Turner is going to be counting his money for a while. 

According to Wojnarowski, he’s agreed to a four-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers for $70 million. Now, the pressure is on to follow up a campaign that earned him some Sixth Man of the Year consideration.

The Boston Celtics are the only team that has helped him blossom, and that must quickly change. For now, questions abound about the fit—questions that will only become more urgent if the Blazers retain Maurice Harkless and/or Allen Crabbe. 

Sports Illustrated‘s Ben Golliver was particularly harsh after the deal was announced, giving Portland a “D+” for its efforts: 

After capping a surprisingly successful season by upsetting the injury-ravaged Clippers and advancing to the second round, the Blazers found themselves with two weaknesses to address: the center position and perimeter defense. Turner’s size relative to Portland’s small backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum should help to a degree on the second front, but he’s hardly a cure-all on that end, especially if Portland’s defensive hole in the middle goes unfilled. What’s more, his weak outside shooting, deliberate style and desire to have the ball in his hands makes him a questionable fit alongside the ball-dominant Lillard and McCollum.

Is it possible Portland avoids this problem by making Turner the leader of the second unit, allowing him to run the offense when both starting guards are catching their breath? It’ll have to figure something out, because even in this world of larger salaries, $70 million is a lot to pay for a player who is—at best—a questionable fit next to the entrenched studs. 


Struggling Teams Finding Point Guards

Linsanity is returning to New York…kind of. 

Jeremy Lin won’t be going back to the New York Knicks. But as reported by Wojnarowski, the point guard who emerged as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate with the Charlotte Hornets will be playing for the Brooklyn Nets on a three-year deal worth $36 million. 

Should Lin be a starting floor general for a competitive squad? Probably not, even if he has cut down on his turnover issues. He’s best operating in a limited capacity and using his energy in an abundance of pick-and-roll sets without taxing himself by running an offense for a sustained period.

But the Nets don’t have many other options, and Lin does offer a bit of upside. Ideally, he’d continue to break out upon his return to the Big Apple and eventually settle in as a top-tier backup when Brooklyn finds a better long-term solution. 

For now, he’ll have to work. 

The Philadelphia 76ers should be thinking the same way after inking Bayless. 

He isn’t a tenable answer to the franchise’s floor-general woes, but he’s an interesting stopgap who can bring some legitimacy to the position. The Philadelphia offense looked much better when Ish Smith started running the show, and having Bayless, who can emerge as a dual-threat 1-guard, operating at the point should have a similar effect on the growth of Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. 


Full Recap of Day 1 Deals

Below, you can see every deal signed by a top-100 free agent on Day 1, sorted by the amount of money committed over the length of the contract: 

  1. Mike Conley signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for five years and $153 million, per Krawczynski.
  2. DeMar DeRozan signed with the Toronto Raptors for five years and $139 million, per Charania.
  3. Andre Drummond signed with the Detroit Pistons for five years and $130 million, per Stein.
  4. Bradley Beal signed with the Washington Wizards for five years and $128 million, per Wojnarowski.
  5. Nicolas Batum signed with the Charlotte Hornets for five years and $120 million, per Charania.
  6. Hassan Whiteside signed with the Miami Heat for four years and $98 million, per Reynolds.
  7. Chandler Parsons signed with the Memphis Grizzlies for four years and $94 million, per Wojnarowski.
  8. Evan Fournier signed with the Orlando Magic for five years and $85 million, per Spears.
  9. Dwight Howard signed with the Atlanta Hawks for three years and $70.5 million, per Charania
  10. Joakim Noah signed with the New York Knicks for four years and $72 million, per ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne
  11. Evan Turner signed with Portland Trail Blazers for four years and $70 million, per Wojnarowski.
  12. Kent Bazemore signed with Atlanta Hawks for four years and $70 million, per Windhorst
  13. Timofey Mozgov signed with the Los Angeles Lakers for four years and $64 million, per Wojnarowski.
  14. Solomon Hill signed with the New Orleans Pelicans for four years and $52 million, per Wojnarowski.
  15. Jordan Clarkson signed with the Los Angeles Lakers for four years and $50 million, per Charania.
  16. Matthew Dellavedova signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for four years and $38 million, per ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe. The Cleveland Cavaliers have the option to match.
  17. Jeremy Lin signed with the Brooklyn Nets for three years and $36 million, per Wojnarowski.
  18. E’Twaun Moore signed with the New Orleans Pelicans for four years and $34 million, per Scott Kushner of the Advocate.
  19. Mirza Teletovic signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for three years and $30 million, per Stein.
  20. Al Jefferson signed with the Indiana Pacers for three years and $30 million, per Stein.
  21. Jared Dudley signed with Phoenix Suns for three years and $30 million, per Wojnarowski
  22. D.J. Augustin signed with the Orlando Magic for four years and $29 million, per Wojnarowski and ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard.
  23. Jerryd Bayless signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for three years and $27 million, per Krawczynski.
  24. Darrell Arthur signed with the Denver Nuggets for three years and $23 million, per Wojnarowski.
  25. Joe Johnson signed with the Utah Jazz for two years and $22 million Saturday, per David Aldridge of Turner Sports.
  26. Ish Smith signed with the Detroit Pistons for three years and $18 million, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer
  27. Jeff Green signed with Orlando Magic for one year and $15 million, per Charania.

Of course, there were plenty of rumors throughout the day as well. Here, we’re only interested in the many signings that have come to pass, but you can check out those whispers at Bleacher Report’s Live Free Agency Blog.


Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @fromal09

Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball-Reference.com or NBAMath.com.

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