Free agency opened on Sunday with more than two billion U.S. dollars in deals getting struck in the opening hours — and that’s even without Kyrie Irving officially joining Brooklyn, as has been expected, or any word from Kawhi Leonard about his future plans to either stay with NBA champion Toronto or move elsewhere.
Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors looks on against the Toronto Raptors in the first half during Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena on June 10, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photos: VCG)
Even injuries couldn't derail the spending.
Two-time NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant announced that he's leaving Golden State and joining Brooklyn on a 164 million U.S. dollars, four-year deal — even though he'll miss next season with an Achilles injury and could have gotten 221 million U.S. dollars for five years from the Warriors.
And Kristaps Porzingis, who hasn't appeared in an NBA game since February 6, 2018 because of a knee injury, will sign a 158 million U.S. dollars, five-year contract to stay with Dallas.
Meanwhile, point guard Damian Lillard agreed to a 196 million U.S. dollars, four-year extension with Portland Trail Blazers that will kick in for the 2021-22 season. Tobias Harris is staying in Philadelphia for 180 million U.S. dollars over the next five years and Khris Middleton gave Milwaukee a bit of a discount in agreeing to a 178 million U.S. dollars, five-year deal — 12 million U.S. dollars shy of what he could have commanded.
All deals were confirmed by people with knowledge of the agreements, all speaking on condition of anonymity because the NBA moratorium prevents new contracts from being signed until noon Eastern time on Saturday.
Kevin Durant fell to the court with an Achilles' rupture in Game Five of the 2019 NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena, June 10, 2019.
"From the trade to the Sixers in February, through the regular season and playoffs and now on to free agency, this contract is a culmination of so much in my life and basketball career," Harris wrote in an essay published on ESPN.com. "It's also a new beginning."
There were a lot of new beginnings Sunday.
Jimmy Butler agreed to a four-year, 142 million U.S. dollar deal that will send him to Miami. Butler — a close friend of retired Miami guard Dwyane Wade — made clear to the Heat that he wanted to be in Miami, and over the next three hours the basic framework of a trade was worked out.
Miami is sending Josh Richardson to Philadelphia and was still working on a package to Dallas to make the Butler move happen. Goran Dragic was considered at one time for inclusion in that trade, though by night's end he was still with Miami and the Mavs and Heat were still working through options.
Irving and Leonard remained on the market, at least technically in Irving’s case, after the initial flurry of free agency — and even with their deals still not closed, nine players agreed to contracts that will be worth 100 million U.S. dollars or more.
Lillard, Harris, Middleton, Durant, Porzingis, Butler, Kemba Walker (141 million U.S. dollars, four-year deal with Boston), Al Horford (109 million U.S. dollars, four years from Philadelphia) and Nikola Vucevic (100 million U.S. dollars, four years with Orlando) were the big early winners, with more likely to come.
The 76ers moved quickly to add Horford, once the parameters of the Butler trade to Miami were complete.
Damian Lillard averaged 25.8 points per game last season for Portland.
Point guards did particularly well, and will likely keep doing well.
Lillard, Irving and Walker guaranteed themselves nearly a half-billion dollars. Terry Rozier left Boston for Charlotte — essentially the swap for Walker — on what will be a 58 million U.S. dollars, three-year deal that will be completed via trade. Ricky Rubio also cashed in, getting 51 million U.S. dollars for three years from the Phoenix Suns and restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell was believed to be a target for both Minnesota and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Meanwhile, the Leonard watch continued with no hints from his camp. The NBA Finals MVP and now two-time champion will meet with the Raptors in the coming days, Toronto coach Nick Nurse said.
Nurse didn't say where the Raptors will be seeing Leonard, but said the NBA champs believe they "have a really good chance" to keep him.
"I think he had a tremendous year," Nurse said at an event in Jefferson, Iowa, near his hometown. "I think it's a great place. You guys can see our fans and ownership is great. Our front office leadership is great, his teammates. You know, everything went well for him to re-sign. And probably mostly, on top of that, would be his health. He was a guy that missed a whole season, and he had a good, healthy year and played his best basketball in the playoffs."
DeAndre Jordan's agreement came hours after the Nets agrees to a deal with Kevin Durant, Jordan's teammate on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team.
In other key deals on Sunday:
— The Brooklyn Nets have added another Olympian to their frontcourt, agreeing to a deal with center DeAndre Jordan with a 40 million U.S. dollar, four-year deal.
— Indiana is set to acquire 2017 rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee and sign the shooting guard to a four-year, 85 million U.S. dollar deal.
— Harrison Barnes, as expected, is remaining in Sacramento on what will be a four-year, 85 million U.S. dollar contract.
— The Pacers lost forward Bojan Bogdanovic to the Utah Jazz, which agreed to pay the forward 73.1 million U.S. dollar over the next four years.
— New York, with Knicks fans hoping for a shot at Durant, is signing Julius Randle to a 63 million U.S. dollar deal.
— Former NBA MVP Derrick Rose will sign a two-year, 15 million U.S. dollar contract with the Detroit Pistons.
— San Antonio kept Rudy Gay on a two-year, 32 million U.S. dollars deal, and added veteran forward DeMarre Carroll on a two-year, 12 million U.S. dollar deal.