The 2021 NBA free agency period officially began at 6:00 p.m. ET on Monday, and there have already been enough deals to fill up the morning paper ten times over.
The first day of free agency is often the most important, as teams look to dole out the Lion’s share of their cap space to priority targets before other teams have the opportunity to lure them away; while there were a few players that stayed put, most of the talent on the market will be suiting up in a different jersey than the one they last wore.
The Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers were the most active teams on Monday, while several teams are yet to get on the board.
Sit back, buckle up, and get ready for a review of every player that signed a deal on the first day of free agency.
FREE AGENCY MOVES
Trae Young: Five-Year Super Max Extension Worth $207 Million
Young was one of the best players in the playoffs, and he is back in Atlanta on max dollars. ”Ice Trae” showed the world that he is a bonafide stud by leading the fifth-seed Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell in six games after Young went down injured.
Gorgui Dieng: One Year, $4 Million
Dieng is not going to play much in Atlanta and is simply filling a spot on the roster for a team whose backup center, Onyeka Okongwu, is recovering from a serious injury; once their young backup is back, Dieng will become a benchwarmer.
Solomon Hill: One Year, TBD
Hill was a part of the Hawks’ defensive lineup but did not contribute much outside of that when Cam Reddish was not injured. Hill is experienced and a solid JAG (just another guy), but little other than that.
Blake Griffin: One Year, TBD
Griffin slid into the starting lineup for the Nets’ playoff push and played decently well, though it is strange to see him as a spot-up three-point shooter and defender rather than a high-flying rim attacker. With the complements of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving surrounding him, Griffin will be the fourth option, at best.
Lonzo Ball: Four Years, $85 Million
The Bulls found their backcourt mate for Zach LaVine in Ball, who will shore up LaVine’s defensive deficiencies with productive all-around play. The deal came in a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans, though the full details have not been released yet.
Alex Caruso: Four Years, $37 Million
Caruso will rejoin Lonzo Ball in the backcourt as the backup point guard, bringing a defensive identity to a team that had trouble slowing down opponents last season.
Jarrett Allen: Five Years, $100 Million
Re-signing Allen was a priority for the Cavaliers, who will pair their elite rim protector with the third-overall pick in this year’s draft, Evan Mobley. Allen was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in the middle of last season and has proven to be a key contributor since.
Tim Hardaway Jr.: Four Years, $74 Million
Hardaway emerged as the second-best player on the Mavs roster during the most recent playoffs, transforming himself from a player on a salary dump to one that earned his paycheck. He is not a typical number-two option but will serve the Mavericks well as the second or third option.
Reggie Bullock: Three Years, $30.5 Million
After revitalizing his career with the Knicks, Bullock is headed to Dallas as their new swingman. As a Maverick, he will help create space around Luka Doncic and can play aggressive on-ball defense on opposing wings.
Sterling Brown: Two Years, $6.2 Million
Brown, another three-point shooting wing, continues the Mavs’ theme of surrounding their superstar Slovenian with snipers. He does not figure to play many minutes, but he is an above-average bench replacement that could find his way into the rotation.
Boban Marjanovic: One Year, TBD
Boban, a fan favorite, is back in Dallas for another year; he is not a terrible defender for a man of his size (7’4) and has a soft touch that he can use in the low post or at the free-throw line, where he shot 81.6% last season.
Will Barton: Two Years, $32 Million
Many around the league thought that Barton would be on the move, but he is returning to the Nuggets on a team-friendly deal. Barton did not play well after returning from injury and could be on the outside looking in as Michael Porter Jr. continues to emerge, but he is a proven scorer that will help carry the load.
JaMychal Green: Two Years, $17 million
Green did not play a massive role for the Nuggets during their postseason run, but he is a big body that can sink threes and clean the glass when called upon. If he did not return to Denver, he would have been a hot target for other teams in need of a solid stretch-four.
Austin Rivers: One Year, TBD
Rivers is returning to Denver, who signed him as a free agent during the season after he was bought out of his contract by the Oklahoma City Thunder as the result of a trade; he can create his own shot and helped Nikola Jokic a surprising amount after Jamal Murray went out injured, but will head back to the bench once Murray returns to full health.
Kelly Olynyk: Three Years, $37 Million
Olynyk was one of the best floor-spacing fives on the market and heads to a team that is building around a core of cade Cunningham, the number-one draft pick in this year’s draft, and Jerami Grant. Olynyk could feature in the starting lineup or off the bench and with the same effectiveness.
Cory Joseph: Two Years, $10 Million
Joseph has not developed into the player that he was once heralded to be, but he is an average backup point guard for a Detroit team that will primarily be enlisting him to Dennis Smith Jr. and Cade Cunningham as the playmaker of the team.
Trey Lyles: Two Years, $5 Million
Lyles is making the move from San Antonio to Detroit to play for a team that will be centered around moving towards a younger roster and developing its raw talent; Lyles has been in the league for six years, and although he is 25, he is not showing real signs of improvement.
Daniel Theis: Four Years, $36 Million
Theis is a solid backup center that can start in moments of need, though he is best as a contributor off the bench. He is playoff tested, and although he is far from a star, he can provide 10-20 quality minutes in high-leverage games.
David Nwaba: Three Years, $15 Million
Nwaba is re-signing with the Rockets after he started nine games for them last year, though he did not play well. There is a chance that he could be cut from the roster in the future, but for now, he brings game experience and can eat minutes off the bench.
TJ McConnell: Four Years, $35.2 Million
McConnell returns to the Pacers, having crafted a niche for himself as the backup point guard. He is not a scoring threat, but he is smart, a willing passer, and an active defender that disrupts passing lanes.
Torrey Craig: Two Years, $10 Million
The Pacers got excellent value for an above-average defender that was a member of the Phoenix Suns’ team that reached the NBA Finals and has started before in his career. Craig is not the three-point shooter that many confuse him to be, but he can get buckets in lower amounts and is a solid addition to any roster.
Los Angeles Clippers
Nicolas Batum: Two Years, TBD
Batum was a starter for a Clippers team that reached the Western Conference Finals— his best years are behind him, but he can rebound, defend, knock down threes, and is intelligent with the ball in his hands. Bringing him back is a major plus for LA.
Los Angeles Lakers
Wayne Ellington Jr.: One Year, TBD
Ellington brings much-needed shooting to a Lakers roster that struggled to find perimeter production and is strapped for cash after trading for Russell Westbrook. Ellington is probably on a minimum deal, or at least near it, and if he can knock down 42.2% of his long-balls like he did last year in Detroit, he will be worth it for the purple and gold.
Trevor Ariza: One Year, TBD
Ariza won a title in Tinseltown during the 2008-09 season and is back for another crack, this time playing alongside LeBron James instead of Kobe Bryant. Ariza has held opposing players to 42.2% shooting as the primary defender during the last two seasons, per Second Spectrum, making 36.8% of his triples in the process.
Dwight Howard: TBD
Howard was a member of the Lakers’ 2020 Finals-winning squad and was highly missed against tougher starting centers, as Andre Drummond was too slow and found himself in foul trouble more times than not. With him back, they can deploy him when they need stops, and his physicality adds another dimension to the Lake Show.
Kent Bazemore: TBD
Bazemore turned down a two-year deal worth more money to re-sign with the Golden State Warriors, opting to head to LA as he searches for the first title of his career. Bazemore shot 40.8% last year and hopes to have a larger role on a team that needs shooters and defends on the wings.
Jimmy Butler: Four-Year Max Deal Worth $184 Million
Butler’s deal will see him stay with the Heat until he is 36, at which time he will make over $50 million in the calendar year. Butler led the Heat to an NBA Finals appearance in 2020 but was swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round in 2021, during which he drastically underperformed.
Kyle Lowry: Three Years, $90 Million
Lowry thought that he was on his way out of Toronto at last year’s deadline but survived the season, failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012. The multi-time All-Star will join Butler and Victor Oladipo in Miami’s talented but expensive rotation of “smalls.”
Duncan Robinson: Five Years, $90 Million
The Heat made Robinson the highest-paid undrafted player in NBA history by locking him for five years and $90 million. Robinson is one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league and averaged the fifth-most three-pointers per game last season.
P.J. Tucker: Two Years, $15 Million
Tucker is taking his talents to South Beach after starting on a championship-winning Milwaukee Bucks team this year. Tucker is one of the most valuable “Three and D” guys on the market, never takes a night off, and is rarely injured; Miami’s moves are positioning them to compete for a championship again, and Tucker is a huge pickup.
Max Strus: Two Years, $3.5 Million
Strus did not and will not play much, but he is a streaky shooter that can knock down threes in limited appearances.
Dewayne Dedmon: One Year, TBD
Dedmon is a mediocre backup center that can rebound and score put-backs, but he does not excel in many other situations. He will not play a ton behind Bam Adebayo but could see minutes in spurts during the regular season.
Bobby Portis Jr.: Two Years, $9 Million
Reports had surfaced that Portis would be demanding in the neighborhood of $15 million per year, but he elected to stay with the team that he just won a championship with rather than taking a pay increase to play elsewhere. Portis Jr. cited his comfort within the organization as the primary reason for his decision, and they will welcome his tenacious defense and third-best three-point percentage in the association.
Semi Ojeleye: One Year, TBD
Ojeleye was a rotational piece for the Boston Celtics that made 56 appearances last season but only averaged 4.6 points in 17 minutes. He will not play regularly, but given that Bucks’ coach Mike Budenholzer likes to rest his stars when he can, he could appear in blowouts or late-game situations that the Bucks have a sizable lead in.
New Orleans Pelicans
Devonte’ Graham: TBD
Graham ended up in New Orleans as a product of a sign-and-trade after being relegated to the bench behind Rookie of the Year, LaMelo Ball. Graham was the runner-up for Most Improved Player two years ago after averaging 18.2 points and 7.5 assists on nearly 40% three-point shooting, and he will add to a young and exciting Pelicans team that has playoff aspirations.
Garrett Temple: TBD
Temple is a veteran wing that brings defensive intangibles and three-point shooting to a young team that is looking to surround Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson with shooters. Temple plays his role and will not single-handedly win a playoff game, but he will contribute in spurts.
New York Knicks
Evan Fournier: Four Years, $78 Million
The Knicks were terrible at three-point shooting last year, and Fournier will help quell these concerns as a fringe-starter or sixth man. The 28-year-old shooting guard put up 17.1 points per game last season and will help the Knicks decrease their dependency on isolation scoring from their stars.
Derrick Rose: Three Years, $43 Million
Rose will remain in the Big Apple with Tom Thibodeau after a resurgent season, during which he helped lead the Knicks to the fourth seed in the playoffs. The former MVP led New York in playoff scoring and was third on the team with 14.9 points per night during the regular season.
Nerlens Noel: Three Years, $32 Million
New York’s main rim protector returns after having a resurgent season and playing some of the best basketball of his career. He is an excellent fit for Thibs’ tough, defensive style, and will feature heavily.
Alec Burks: Three Years, $30 Million
Burks is yet another returning member of New York’s 2020-21 roster that is one of its best shooters and bench scorers. Burks dropped a playoff career-high last season and earned himself a paycheck despite the opening-round loss.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Mike Muscala: Two Years, $7 Million
Muscala is an okay player for a team that is mostly rebuilding, so he could lose his minutes as the Thunder develop their young talent; he is a buyout candidate ahead of next year’s deadline and will not alter the Thunder’s fortunes this season.
Furkan Korkmaz: Three Years, $15 Million
Korkmaz is a streaky shooter that has familiarity with the Sixers’ organization and has hit clutch shots during his time in the City of Brotherly Love. He is little more than a role player who can get cut from the rotation during playoff games, but he is a solid piece.
Chris Paul: Four Years, $120 Million
Paul had been rumored to be a target of the Los Angeles Lakers, but after their trade for Russell Westbrook, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be back with the Suns. Phoenix lost in six games to the Bucks in this year’s NBA Finals, though Paul, a Second-Team All-NBA member, was instrumental in guiding them there.
Cameron Payne: Three Years, $19 Million
Payne put together a few incredible performances this season, his first full-time stint back in America after he spent time in the Chinese League. Payne was, at times, the Suns’ best guard in the playoffs and has an element of speed that Chris Paul does not, which can help Phoenix give opponents different looks on offense.
JaVale McGee: One Year, $5 Million
The Suns’ lack of depth at center was exposed by Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who shredded Deandre Ayton at every turn for most of their matchups. McGee is a three-time champion that hustles and plays hard, and although he does not have the upper body strength of a regular bruiser, he is long and athletic and can handle himself on the post.
Portland Trail Blazers
Cody Zeller: One Year, TBD
Zeller will replace Zach Collins, who is moving to the San Antonio Spurs, as the backup center. He is an experienced veteran who will always give what is expected of him, nothing more and nothing less.
Norman Powell: Five Years, $90 Million
Powell was acquired from the Toronto Raptors in the middle of the season after having a career year, going for 18.6 points per night on 41.1% shooting from beyond the arc. Re-signing Powell was extremely important to a Portland team that is trying to do everything it can to appease superstar point guard Damian Lillard, who could request a trade before the end of the summer.
Richaun Holmes: Four Years, $55 Million
Holmes was expected to command a hefty fee on the market, and it cost the Kings a fair bit to get him back. Holmes is coming off of a career year in which he averaged 14.2 points and 8.3 rebounds, and he is one of the team’s bright spots
Maurice Harkless: Two Years, $9 Million
Harkless is an average-to-mediocre “three and D” guy that can provide when expectations are low. The Kings are horrible and could be getting even worse if they trade Buddy Hield this offseason, and Harkless’ addition does not move the needle.
Alex Len: Two Years, $7.65 Million
Len proved that he can still play at a decent level in Washington last season, though his role will be reduced as a backup in Sacramento. Again, the Kings are not going to make any noise this season, and this move will not change the landscape in Sacramento.
San Antonio Spurs
Doug McDermott: Three Years, $42 Million
Doug McBuckets is going to the Spurs, where he will help reinvent the Spurs as they continue to put up more threes year by year. Gregg Popovich may be approaching the end of his coaching career, but bringing in an experienced veteran should help stabilize the Spurs off the bench.
Zach Collins: Three Years, $22 Million
Collins heads South after serving as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers; he will provide good backup minutes for San Antonio, spelling Jakob Poeltl mostly.
Gary Trent Jr.: Three Years, $54 Million
Trent Jr. was acquired in a midseason deal for Norman Powell last year and will remain North of the border on a new three-year deal. The former Portland Trail Blazer dropped a career-high 44 points last year and has become a legitimate sixth-man, borderline starting guard in the NBA.
Mike Conley: Three Years, $72.5 Million
Conley, the oldest first-time All-Star in NBA history, will run it back in Utah for a team that lost in the Conference Semifinals. He and Donovan Mitchell were on the elite backcourts in the NBA, and his presence on the Jazz has turned them into a contender.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.
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