NBA Free Agency Round-up: 1st July - LeBron James signs with Lakers; KD, PG13 & CP3 re-sign with former teams

2018 NBA Finals - Game Two
Kevin Durant and LeBron James
Amulya Shekhar

The opening day of the free agency window was as action-packed as any in the league's recent past. Many deals, formally agreed upon during the past season, were concluded within 24 hours of the commencement of the free agency window.

Most of the marquee free agents whose futures were speculated upon were snapped up by teams quickly enough that they look premeditated. The likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul all signed deals in order to put themselves in position to contend for the title next season - all in the Western Conference.

Other teams made moves to either preserve their long-term stability or to strengthen their roster on fronts that were weaknesses. The Los Angeles Lakers were also able to fulfil some questions of fit, picking up some good backups on sneakily good deals. The following is a wrap-up of all the movement in the league.

#1 LeBron James signs a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Lakers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven
LeBron James

Pretty much like 2010, this decision has caused a seismic shift in the balance of the league. Having made it to 8 straight NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference, LeBron James has finally set his heart upon Hollywood, where he believes his kids are best-served. Coming to Los Angeles was a huge, career-altering path for The King, although the Lakers move is the one most people tipped him to make following the Cavaliers' abject surrender to the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

In LA, James faces the challenge of grooming young, talented players for the first time during his storied NBA career. At the same time, the likes of Ingram, Ball and Kuzma are no slouches, and could very well be the kind of pieces he loves playing around. Ingram and Ball are capable ball-handlers who can allow him to rest on offense, unlike the high-octane usage rates he had with Cleveland this past season.

#2 Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George re-sign with their teams

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors
Durant guards Paul George, April 2018

Kevin Durant returned to the Warriors on a 2-year, $61.5 million deal that has a player option for the second year. This lowers the luxury tax burden on the Warriors, allowing them to use the mid-level exception of around $5 million to sign a free agent. KD's re-signing ensures that the Warriors will still be predominant favourites to win it all, irrespective of who the Lakers are able to attract over this summer.

Paul George, widely tipped to be joining the Lakers this summer, did not give Magic Johnson even a face-to-face meeting before announcing that he'd be re-signing with Oklahoma City Thunder on a 4-year, $137 million deal. This buoys the Thunder's attempts to contend in the West, giving them more time to figure out how to use their Big Three to dethrone the Warriors.

Chris Paul, who was a hamstring strain away from the first NBA Finals appearance, was re-signed by the Rockets to a supermax deal of 4 years, $160 million. The Rockets are looking to keep their Conference Finalist core together, and have also begun talks with Clint Capela.

#3 The Los Angeles Lakers consolidate LeBron's supporting cast

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game 6
Old rivals reunite

The Lakers, in addition to adding LeBron, have also signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson. While Caldwell-Pope sparkled as a sniper from January onwards for the Lakers last season, shooting 42% or more from downtown every month, he also played some great perimeter defense through the course of the entire season. He came for a discount of $6 million as well, having played the 2017-18 season on a 1-year, $18 million deal and now signing a 1-year, $12 million contract.

McGee was indisputably the Warriors' best frontcourt player during their playoff run. He was one of the few players who were actually decent at guarding James one-on-one, and he played stifling defense in the first round as well as the Finals, which were the two series that he was put to the greatest use. He signed a minimum deal with the Lakers yesterday.

Possibly the most intriguing addition the Lakers made was that of Lance Stephenson. The journeyman has played in LA in the past (for the Clippers). The Pacers had a $4.3 million team option on his deal, which they did not pick up - leaving him a free agent. The 6'5", 230-pound swingman joins the Lakers on a 1-year, $4.5 million deal and will be an able playmaker off the bench for them.

#4 The Denver Nuggets attempt to bring their 2017-18 roster back

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic averaged historic numbers last season

The Nuggets went all out to establish a solid young core, offering Nikola Jokic a max deal of 5 years, $148 million after declining the team option on the final year of his contract. Jokic became the first center in 50 years to average 17 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists through the course of the regular season, and he also set the record for the fastest triple-double in NBA history, notching it up in 14:53 of playing time.

Other than Jokic, the Nuggets also signed Will Barton to a 4-year, $50 million deal that ties the 27-year-old to Mile High City for 4 more years. Wilson Chandler also opted into the final year of his contract, worth $12.8 million this season.

Clearly, the Nuggets are satisfied with the roster they have, and should be a playoff contender with Paul Millsap healthy once more.

Edited by Yash Matange


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