Teams and free agents technically couldn’t speak with each other until 12:00 AM on July 1st. Yet that didn’t prevent the usual sly dealings from taking place, and the corresponding dropping of Woj (Adrian Wojnarowksi) bombs on Twitter. Two of the very first names to go were Doug McDermott and Joe Harris, both of whom were linked to the Clippers as wing players who might be available for the MLE or less. Here’s a look at those deals as well as how the remaining wing market might play out for the Clippers.
Harris re-signed with the Nets on a 2 year, $16 million deal, which seems like fair value on the surface. The MLE, as Lucas detailed yesterday, will be $8,641,000 next season. Harris, therefore, signed a deal slightly under the MLE, and for fewer years than the MLE potentially offers. This makes sense for Harris. He turns 27 in September, so he will be heading into year 29 when his contract expires in summer 2020. That’s the perfect age for one last real deal before becoming a minimum-salaried player. As for the Nets, they retained a player who was a key part of their rotation last year, and who fills a much-needed role in today’s NBA: three-point gunner. As the Nets slowly start to work their way up the standings, they will need capable rotation players, and Harris is certainly that. In a different market with more money available Harris could have signed a more lucrative deal, but that’s why he’s going back into free agency just two years from now.
Doug McDermott, on the other hand, was the first player to actually change teams last night, moving to the Indiana Pacers on a 3 year, $22 million deal, also below the MLE. Just like Harris, Doug is 26 years old, and is thought of as a sharpshooter. While he does have fantastic percentages on three-point shots, he doesn’t actually take all that many of them. He’s a more selective shooter than he should be, though I think the right coach could get him to be more of a Kyle Korver/Wayne Ellington type. However, so far, that hasn’t happened, and 3 years is a long time to pay McDermott, especially as he’s a worse player than Harris almost across the board. Indiana is trying to become a contender, and McDermott slots in nicely on their team behind Bojan Bogdanovic, who in many ways he’s a worse version of. I just think they paid a little much for him both in years and dollars.
The wing market this summer is not an extremely deep one. With McDermott and Harris both gone on deals that reasonably resemble what was expected for them, the rest of the market should follow suit. Here’s a look at a handful of other options and the deals they might look to receive:
· Mario Hezonja: Hezonja is a worse player than McDermott or Harris, and it’s not close. Even in his breakout third season his shooting numbers weren’t all that great, and the sample size of him being a legit role player is a mere half a season (from January on). Hezonja is, however, just 23 years old, and is far more athletic than either of the older wings. Any team paying him would assume that he could at least replicate that confident, second-half play from the 2017-2018 season, and hopefully improve from there now that he’s adjusted to the NBA. There is the gamble that his better play was just a flash and not a real step forwards, so Hezonja has the most risk/reward of any of these guys. It seems unlikely that he gets more than the MLE, but a 3/24 is certainly possible if a team really believes in him. And the Clippers could match that with either the MLE if they go over the cap, or with their available cap room if they don’t. Overall, I’d rather have Hezonja on the Clippers than Harris or McDermott due to his youth and potential, even if he’s the lesser player now.
· Luc Mbah a Moute: This seems like a pipedream. While Luc is older than Harris and McDermott and more injury-prone, he’s a much better player than either, a borderline All-Defense level defender who can hit open threes. And with Trevor Ariza departing the Rockets for the Suns, Houston needs to retain him at all costs.
· Wayne Ellington: Ellington is also older, but as one of the best sharpshooters in the NBA (essentially a superpowered Harris), it seems like his baseline is at least the MLE. The Clippers could offer this, but Ellington is more of a guard than a wing anyway.
· James Ennis III: Ennis hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as the rest of these players, but he’s an intriguing option who should be a bit cheaper than many of the Clippers’ other options. Ennis isn’t a shooter or even much of a scorer, instead focusing on defense and providing energy and chaos. This would make him a good fit with the Clippers’ high-powered offensive bench, as he could cover up for some of Lou Williams’ defensive gaffes and would join Montrezl Harrell as a guy who goes hard all over the court. I think he should be available for something a little less than what Glenn Robinson III just got with the Pistons (2/8.4), which would place him around the BAE (3,386,000 per year). If the Clippers can get him for that contract, I think they should.
· Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Already connected to the Clippers, with a meeting scheduled, Pope is more a guard than a wing, though he isn’t all that much smaller than Harris. Still, he’s younger than McDermott or Harris, a better-rounded player, and has improved his shooting the past two years. He was quite good for the Lakers last year if one removes the month or so that he spent in jail when he wasn’t playing, and is young enough that the improvement might be legitimate, possibly with even more growth on the way. I can’t see him making less than Harris, though he could want to take a higher-paying one-year deal so that he could hit free agency next summer, when more teams will have free agency. I can see the appeal for the Clippers, just not the monetary fit.
We will see how the rest of free agency goes, but right now, things seem to have slowed down significantly since last night’s opening flurry. The Clippers have their meeting with Pope tomorrow (it was moved back a day), and even then, I wouldn’t expect a deal right away. And there is still the chance the Clippers get a top 3 wing player in the world, and land Kawhi Leonard. Stay tuned.