There has been a lot of through the first week of NBA free agency. Some stars decided to move onto different teams while others decided to re-up with their old teams.
At least 55 free agents have inked a contract so far. There were some eye-popping deals and a few players received max deals. Also, a few players decided to give their teams salary cap flexibility.
The following is my top 10 2018 free agent signings.
Derrick Favors, Jazz
Favors is a key piece for a team that reached the Western Conference semifinals. And he received a $6 million raise from a year ago in his two-year, $36 million pact that he came to terms to re-sign with the Jazz. But perhaps the most important part of the deal is that year 2 is not guaranteed as Favors is prone to injury.
Favors had a nice bounced back season in 2017-18 after having a disappointing campaign the previous season. The 26-year-old averaged 12.3 points along with 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists last season. He shot a career-high 56.3% from the field. Favors, who produced 15 double-doubles, also set personal bests in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.16), points per shot (1.34) and shooting efficiency (.577).
Favors, the longest-tenured member of the Jazz, has been lauded for his defensive efforts alongside reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert. Over the last 38 games of the season, the Jazz posted a 30-8 record — for the third most wins during that span of games. The Jazz led the league in point differential (+10.5) during that span as they led the league in scoring defense and defensive rating. They also topped the league in defensive rebound percentage and tied for first in opponent field goal percentage.
Favors finished in the top-100 of the league with a 103.0 defensive rating. He recorded the best plus/minus of his career at + 1.9. He also was ranked in the top-20 of the league in defense around the basket with a 52.0 DFG% as well as the top-50 with a 49.8 FG% within 10 feet of the basket.
10. Julius Randle, Pelicans
Randle drew the short end of the stick with the Lakers, which is a shame as he fits in perfectly when the team inked Rajon Rondo. Randle should fit in very nicely with the Pelicans.
I believe Randle will fill the same role as Cousins despite not being as big, productive or talented as the enigmatic 6-11, 270-pound center was. Randle has a high motor, can score inside and out. He is an excellent passer and a very good ball-handler. However, what he does best is rebound the basketball.
As mentioned above, by no means, do I think Randle will come close to Cousins’ production. But I think his skill set will complement Anthony Davis and Niko Mirotic. Plus, Randle’s contract is advantageous for both sides.
Randle signed a two-year pact worth $18 million with the second season being a player’s option. This allows both the player and team some protection as if he does not show significant improvement, his $9 million per year salary is not too tough to swallow. While the contract also allows Randle to pursue a bigger payday next season, if he so chooses.
Randle is coming off a career year, averaging 16.1 points as well as 8.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists. Randle, who posted 28 double-doubles along with one triple-double, also shot a career-best 55.8% from the field. He does most of his work in the paint recording 71% of scoring (11.1 ppg) in the lane. Randle also can score in transition and off the offensive glass.
Overall, the 23-year-old played well on the defensive end. He had a differential field goal percentage of 58.5% when guarding players within six feet. Randle also did a good job guarding out to 10 feet, putting up a 53.6% field goal differential.
9. Rajon Rondo, Lakers
Not everyone loves this signing, but I do. Rondo knows how to run a team and handle the basketball. Plus, he is perhaps the best playmaking point guard that LeBron James has ever played with. Kyrie Irving is the top point guard that James has played with, but he really only creates plays for himself.
Rondo also gives Lonzo Ball someone to learn from, while growing without unneeded pressure. Rondo is very versatile and is a good defender with extraordinarily quick hands.
The 32-year-old had a pretty good season in his only campaign with the Pelicans. He produced 15 double-doubles and two triple-doubles while setting a personal-best 3.54 assist-to-turnover ratio. Rondo, who is still not a threat shooting the ball, averaged 8.3 points along with 8.2 assists and 4.0 caroms over 27 minutes of action in 65 contests. He shot 46.8% from the floor which is his highest percentage since the 2012-13 campaign.
Rondo upped his production in the postseason, producing 10.3 points along with 12.2 dimes and 7.6 rebounds. He collected four double-doubles in nine postseason games.
8. Aaron Gordon, Magic
The Magic have not had a lot of success recently, but losing the face of the franchise would have been devastating for an organization still trying to rebuild after the franchise’s early success.
Orlando went 25-57 last season, marking the sixth straight year the Magic missed the playoffs. The Magic also have failed to win 30 games in each of those six seasons. In their first 23 years, they made the playoffs 14 times and claimed four division titles. The Magic also went to two NBA Finals during that span.
Gordon received a four-year, $84 million pact which is a reasonable contract for both sides. The 22-year-old is coming off a career season where he showed enormous improvement on the offensive end.
Gordon averaged 17.6 points, 7.9 caroms, 2.3 assists and 2.0 triples. All are personal bests. He also posted 17 double-doubles in 58 games. The 6-9 power forward scored in double figures in 56 of the 58 games he appeared in, which included 16 games of 20 or more points and four games of at least 30 points (reaching the 40 point mark twice).
Gordon, who averaged a career-high 0.8 blocks and 1.0 steals, also had the best defensive season of his career in 2017-18.
7. Tyreke Evans, Pacers
Really like this deal for the Pacers. Evans fits really nicely on the wing for Indiana whether spelling Victor Oladipo or when he plays alongside him. Evans can also fill in at point guard as can Oladipo. He essentially replaces Lance Stephenson, which is a player for player swap, it isn’t even close in favor of Evans.
Indiana was one of the surprise teams in the NBA last years, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 48-34 record. The Pacers could have really made some noise in the playoffs if they had someone other than Oladipo capable of taking over a game offensively. Despite having six players average double figures, the Pacers were 17th in the league in scoring at 105.6 a contest.
If it is not obvious from above, Evans can flat out the score. The 28-year-old, who only played in 52 games, averaged 19.4 points along with 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds last season. He shot 45.2% from the field and 39.9% from beyond the arc while draining a career-high 2.2 triples a game. Evans also recorded seven double-doubles.
Evans advanced stats are even more impressive. He produced a career-best 25.1 points per 40 minutes in 2017-18, which is 3.4 points more than his previous high. He also had personal-bests in true shooting percentage, turnover ratio, usage percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, points per shot and shooting efficiency.
Evans also played some of the best defense of his career. Particularly on the perimeter where the nine-year vet had a 33.2% DFG on 3-pointers, which equated to an impressive -2.4% differential. Overall, he had a 42.4% DFG which made the differential -2.6%.
Injuries are an issue for Evans as he has never appeared in 80 games in a season. In fact, he has only played in at least 70 games three times.
6. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Jokic was a restricted free agent and really wasn’t going anywhere. But he has been a triple-double machine the last two years for the Nuggets. The 23-year-old signed a max five-year deal worth $148 million, which along with Will Barton’s 4-year, $54 million pact, means that the Nuggets will have to play over $15 million in luxury tax. Unless they can shed Kenneth Faried’s and/or Darrell Arthur’s expiring contract.
Jokic can score inside and out. He is an outstanding rebounder, passer and ball-handler as well.
Jokic put up career numbers across the board in 2017-18, averaging 18.5 points along with 10.7 rebounds 6.1 assists and 1.3 trifectas. He had a shooting slash line of .499/.396/ .850. Jokic produced 38 double-doubles and 10 triple-doubles last year, giving him 93 double-doubles and 16 triple-doubles over the last three years.
5. Chris Paul, Rockets
Chris Paul is still one of the best point guards in the NBA and last season he was so close to playing in the NBA Finals. He had a great year with the Houston Rockets, averaged 18.6 points, 7.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
Today, Paul signed a four-year, $160 million contract, and he will have another shot to win the championship with James Harden.
Houston Rockets will now try to land Carmelo Anthony and they will have almost the same roster like they had last year (except Trevor Ariza).
It will be extremely difficult to beat the Golden State Warriors with DeMarcus Cousins, but Paul and Harden will have another chance next season.
4. DeMarcus Cousins, Warriors
The Warriors got a gift with Cousins agreeing to a one-year, $5.3 million contract (the Dubs mid-level exception). Everyone wondered if the Warriors could get better and they definitely did. The big thing the Warriors need to figure out is how Cousins fits and determine whether everyone can get along. Expect some bumps along the way.
Cousins is a top-10 talent in the league, he was No. 7 in my MVP rankings before tearing his ACL on Jan 26. The 27-year-old malcontent was having a career season before the injury, producing 38 double-doubles and three triple-doubles in 48 games.
Cousins set personal best in points per shot, shooting efficiency, rebounds per game, assists per game and 3-pointers per game.
Besides his attitude, the biggest issue surrounding Cousins is shot selection and turnovers. There is also questions about when he will be ready to go.
3. Paul George, Thunder
All last season and most of the summer, all you heard was that George was going to take his talents to Los Angeles. But in the end, the Thunder, with the help of Russell Westbrook’s party, convinced George to stay. George inked a four-year, $137 million with a player option.
George, one of the best “two-way players”, had a solid if unspectacular season in 2017-18. He is an outstanding shooter, posting true shooting percentages above 57% the last two years.
The 28-year-old averaged 21.7 points, 5.7 caroms and 3.3 assists while shooting 43.0% from the field and 40.1% from beyond the arc. He set personal highs with 3.1 triples and 2.0 steals a contest. George also recorded four double-doubles.
While it was imperative that the Thunder sign George, the deal sends them into unprecedented territory. Including their luxury tax bill, the Thunder’s roster will cost them $310 million. However, they are reportedly working on buying out/stretching Carmelo Anthony.
2. Kevin Durant, Warriors
Durant is the second-best player in the World. He has two championship rings and two Finals MVP awards. Really enough said.
It is not a surprise that Durant re-signed with the Dubs, but the length of the deal is kind of interesting. Durant’s two-year, $61.5 million deal includes a player option valued at $31.5 million. By agreeing to this deal, Durant saved Golden State $5 million and essentially allowed the Warriors to use their mid-level tax exemption on Boogie Cousins.
1. LeBron James, Lakers
James’ decision to join the Lakers was about as dramatic as Durant staying with the Warriors. At least James did not sign a one-plus-one deal. Meaning that he is in with the Lakers for the long haul. James’ contract calls for him to make $153 over four seasons.
While not a fan of James’, the best player this century made a great decision in selecting the Lakers. That does not mean the Lakers will win any championships, it does mean that they will make the playoffs and have a chance to reach at least to make it to the Western Conference finals.
James is coming off his best season since 2009-10.