It seemed like we were headed for a normal start to day one of NBA free agency. However, Kevin Durant decided to drop a nuke on those plans. After learning that Durant had requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets, people had about three hours to prepare themselves for the start of free agency.
Due to Durant’s trade request, a handful of teams have been selective with their moves because they don’t want to use too much cap space if they think there’s a chance the four-time scoring champion wants to play for them. Still, there were signings in the first few hours of free agency that were intriguing for a multitude of reasons.
Victor Oladipo, SG, Miami Heat – 1 year, $11 Million
Oladipo has been on an uphill battle ever since he ruptured his quadriceps tendon in January of 2019, but in the eight regular-season games and 15 playoff games he appeared in this year, he showed flashes of his former self. In the final two regular-season games Oladipo played in, he scored a combined 61 points on 60% shooting and went 11-for-20 from deep.
In the playoffs, Oladipo had six games where he scored 13 or more points and provided the Heat with some much-need perimeter defense.
Now some of these numbers don’t jump off the page, but with what Oladipo has endured and what he displayed in the handful of games he appeared in this year, a one-year prove-it deal gives Oladipo extra motivation going into next season.
Gary Payton II, G, Portland Trail Blazers – 3 years, $28 million
It’s been quite the journey for Payton in the last year. He struggled to make an NBA roster, but the Warriors’ brass gave him a chance and he didn’t let them down. After sustaining an elbow injury in round two of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, it looked as though Payton’s season had come to an end.
However, Payton returned in Game 2 of the NBA Finals and provided contagious energy and defense that helped propel the Warriors to their seventh championship.
He’ll fit perfectly with the Blazers because he won’t be asked to do anything different. Since guards Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons are underwhelming on defense, Payton can come in and do what he does best without worrying about the offense.
Jae’Sean Tate, G/F, Houston Rockets – 3 years, $22.1 million
Say hello to the Swiss Army knife. Tate’s averages won’t blow you away, but he’s the exact type of player winning teams need. Now the Rockets won’t be in contention for a couple of years, but it was smart of them to lock Tate in for the next few years.
He’s a great defender who can guard one through three most of the time, but he’s limited offensively. Tate’s averaging 11 points in his two years in the league, shooting 50% from the field and 31% from three.
Of course the Swiss Army knife comparison wouldn’t be complete without mentioning his passing and rebounding. So far in his career, Tate’s averaging five rebounds and three assists a game, but has shown on multiple occasions that he can take over those categories if he needs to. All facets of the game are affected by Tate and he’ll be key for the development of the Rockets’ young core.
Andre Drummond, C, Chicago Bulls – 2 years, $6.6 million
The days of Drummond dropping 20 points and grabbing 20 rebounds are long gone, but if he accepts his role he’ll be a big boost to a Bulls team that had to rely on Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green at backup center last year.
In the 73 games Drummond played for the Philadelphia 76ers and Nets last season, he averaged eight points and nine rebounds on 57% shooting. The Bulls were the 29th ranked rebounding team in the NBA last year so Drummond should be able to help with that issue at both ends of the floor.
He’s limited defensively, but if he’s used as a drop defender then they’ll be able to hide some of his deficiencies.
JaVale McGee, C, Dallas Mavericks – 3 years, $20.1 million
McGee has come a long way from his “Shaqtin’ A Fool” days just a decade ago. He’s transformed himself into a solid center that can give you 15-16 minutes off the bench or start a handful of games if needed. Last season, McGee started 17 games for the Phoenix Suns and averaged 15.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in those games.
A lot of that had to do with Chris Paul, who’s one of the greatest playmakers of all-time, but thankfully he’s about to play with Luka Dončić who’s on his way to being in that conversation.
The Mavericks had to overpay for the 34-year-old center, but the team has lacked a constant rim protector for a while and he provides another lob threat for Dončić.
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