NBA Free Agency: Breaking Down the Latest Moves (7/7/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank
As NBA free agency heats up, let's break down the latest moves among potential contenders. We previously covered the Rockets deal to bring Chris Paul to Houston, which improves their team, but not enough to compete adequately with the Warriors. As most plus free agents have made the move out West so far, the most lucrative signing went from West to East.

Jazz Trade for Rubio
The Utah Jazz will undergo a bit of a face lift next season. With Gordon Hayward and George Hill on the move, the Jazz have some room to make up. Rubio is a good first step in that direction. Rubio is often overlooked at the point guard position considering his below average shooting ability; however, he had his best shooting percentage last season by a decent margin. By efficiency metrics like RPM and BPM, Rubio was a plus player last year and ranked in the top ten in NBA point guards in overall efficiency and value. The Jazz are still worse than they were a few weeks ago, but they should have some space to improve throughout the free agency period.

Paul George Traded to Oklahoma City
As Paul George alerted the Pacers that he'd opt out of his contract at the end of this season, the Pacers promptly worked out a deal to get something for him. That something happened to be Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis from the Oklahoma City Thunder. In many of the rumored deals with the Celtics, it seemed the Pacers could have gotten a bit more than those two for George, but this trade seemed more evenly sided than public perception would have you believe. The Pacers get some future players and OKC gets their win-now potential with Westbrook in his prime. Collectively, the Thunder get a bit better while trading for George as we would project them as the fourth best team in the West. Oladipo and Sabonis are solid pieces to work around for the Pacers as they do a mini-rebuild, but they'll almost certainly be worse next season than this season.

Paul Millsap Signs with Denver
Paul Millsap continues to be one of the more under-appreciated players in the NBA. With the expansion of the salary cap, the Nuggets made sure he's no longer undervalued. Millsap will get $30M for the next three seasons from Denver. Many will scoff at the price tag, but Millsap is well worth the price tag. He finished the season 16th overall in RPM wins. Millsap wasn't as loved by BPM (Basketball Reference's efficiency metric), but was still a plus player on each side of the ball. In terms of power forwards, Millsap ranked third overall last season in value, per RPM. Danilo Gallinari will leave the Nuggets in a trade with the Clippers. This is an immediate improvement to Denver's roster who missed the playoffs by one game last year. They still won't be close to the Western Conference leaders, but they should have a real shot at making the playoffs.

Rudy Gay Joins the Spurs
Rudy Gay received a ridiculously cheap two-year, $17M deal from the Spurs. It would be tough to question any decision the Spurs make these days, especially on older players, as Gay continues to rehab his torn achilles from last season. At 30-years-old, Gay is a bit worse than he was a few seasons ago, particularly offensively, though still adequate, but he is still a plus overall player. In Popovich's system, the sky is the limit. On paper, though, it's a small improvement, and the Spurs are still the third best team in the West, next to Golden State and Houston depending on how the Rockets reposition their roster after trading half their team to the Clippers.

Gordon Hayward Signs with Boston, Bradley is Traded
The Celtics made the biggest splash in the off season thus far by signing Gordon Hayward to a four year, $128M contract. At $32M per season in Boston, Hayward is expected to be the guy to push the Celtics over the Cleveland LeBrons. Will that happen? Well, to make room for Hayward's contract, Boston was forced to let Kelly Olynk walk along with trading Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris. The Bradley move is purely salary-based; however, it's a lateral movement for the Celtics. Morris instead of Bradley doesn't make them any better or worse. Evaluating what Hayward is worth with the new salary cap expansion is difficult to do considering the small amount of free agents that have gone through the process thus far. By just comparing his deal to Millsap's, the Celtics were about on market for Hayward, who regularly ranks among the top five small forwards in the NBA each season. The Celtics were able to win the East without Hayward last season, but they weren't able to put much of a challenge against a geared-up LeBron James in the playoffs. Hayward makes the Celtics about two points better per game than their previous roster. Assuming the Cavs don't get drastically worse in the off season, Boston would still open as an underdog at home against Cleveland. That doesn't mean they will lose; their odds of winning that series have improved, but they still will have an issue slowing LeBron James or Kyrie Irving on offense.