We just have a few days left until things start to get really hairy in terms of NBA free agency, so here’s a quick run-down of some important dates on the NBA calendar in the next couple weeks.
This date is when decisions on team, player, and early termination options must be made unless otherwise stated. This is different from contract guarantee dates (Sindarius Thornwell’s contract guarantees on July 20, for example). Additionally, the 29th is the last day that teams can extend qualifying offers, making players restricted free agents. For the Clippers, this will be the deadline for them to make Ivica Zubac and Rodney McGruder restricted free agents, which they have not done yet. Finally, at 6:00 PM ET, teams can begin to contact agents and players to set up meetings for free agency. News of these meetings will start leaking quickly, and we should have a bigger idea of where significant free agents stand around this time. However, as can be seen from the explosion of news today, particularly on Kemba Walker, teams tamper with free agents all the time before this deadline.
At 6:00 PM ET, free agency will officially begin, six hours ahead of where it has in previous years. While this is the official start of the 2019-2020 season, it’s still a moratorium, so while free agents can verbally agree to deals with teams, they can’t actually sign the dotted line. However, restricted free agents will be able to sign offer sheets, though the clock doesn’t officially start ticking on them yet. Starting at this date, teams can also sign players to rookie scale, two-way, and vet minimum salaries. The rookie scale contracts don’t matter a lot (almost all teams now use the 120% end of the scale to pay their rookies), and two-way guys don’t take up any cap and are easy to waive, so neither of those is truly significant for roster building. Vet minimum deals can be influential, of course, but most of the minimum signings don’t occur until later in the summer anyway, when money has dried up.
July 1 is when the California Classic and Salt Lake City Summer Leagues begin play. Each league has two games every day for three days, with play ending on the 3rd. The California Classic, which takes place in Sacramento, will feature the Heat, Warriors, Lakers, and Kings, with all the games on NBATV. Of those teams, only the Heat had a lottery pick, so there won’t be too many exciting names there. The SLC summer league contains the Jazz, Cavs, Spurs, and Grizzlies, and can be seen on NBATV and ESPNU. The Cavs and the Grizzlies both had top selections in the 2019 Draft with Darius Garland Ja Morant, so it might be fun to tune in to those matchups.
On July 5, the Las Vegas Summer League begins. One of the crowning events of the NBA summer, and a league that has gained much greater attention in recent years, the Vegas SL will feature all 30 NBA teams, as well as the Chinese and Croatian national teams. The Clippers, of course, will be featured, with their schedule detailed here. After each team has played three scheduled games, the “playoffs” begin, with the championship occurring on July 15. Vegas games can be found on a vast variety of networks, but a large chunk of them will be on ESPN, and thus vastly available.
At noon eastern time, the free agency moratorium ends, so free agents can start signing their contracts for real. This is also when trades that were agreed upon during the moratorium, or involved players who were signed there, can be completed. Additionally, the 6th is when the two day matching period for restricted free agents who signed with other teams begins. If another team signed Ivica Zubac during the previous week, for example (and the Clippers had previously extended him a qualifying offer), the Clippers would have 48 hours to match the deal or lose him to the other team. This is also when extensions can become official, though the Clippers probably don’t have any extension candidates on their roster.
This is notable as the last day for teams to withdraw qualifying offers from restricted free agents. If teams do so, the players become unrestricted, and the teams free up the space taken by the cap hold. This usually occurs if a team’s plans change during the previous two weeks, and they no longer have the need or the space for the restricted free agent.
That’s it! There are a couple other minor dates, such as when draft picks need to be tendered contracts, but they almost never come into play. After this, there’s not an important NBA date until late September, which is when training camps begin. Hope this covers everything – if you have questions, leave them below!