Free-agency is only three days old, but plenty of deals are already in the works. Which are the best and worst so far? Our panel sorts through the summer signings.
1. What's been the best deal given out this offseason thus far?
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: Dirk Nowitzki for $10 million per year. This is exactly the sort of deal he needed to sign for Dallas to be able to augment the supporting cast significantly and keep Dirk productive long into the final years of his career. They basically stole a page out of the Spurs' playbook with Tim Duncan, and it'll allow Dallas to be a major player in free agency and the trade market.
Andrew Han, TrueHoop: Apologies to Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, Kyle Lowry and #WeTheNorth, but the Mavs re-signing Dirk Nowitzki to the "Tim Duncan value plan" is about as good as it gets. Nowitzki was likely the best offensive big man in the league last season and accepted a salary commensurate of a third man to a contender in an effort to help Dallas compete.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: Kyle Lowry: Four years, $48 million. Honorable mention to Patty Mills, but at least there's some risk there with Mills' shoulder surgery. Lowry is a top-10 point guard in his prime who will make the same amount for the next four seasons as Kobe Bryant will for the next two.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: I loved Thabo Sefolosha's deal with the Hawks, even if he's coming off a terrible season and he's never been paid more per year. With the cap rising, $4 million per season is good value for a defensive ace. If Sefolosha returns to form, the Hawks have a scary perimeter defense with him and DeMarre Carroll.
Royce Young, ESPN.com: Dirk. It's not so much the money or years, it's just the overall commitment from both sides. The Mavs will be paying Dirk until he's 39, but he also made a clear decision to make sure he took a considerable pay cut in order to preserve as much remaining cap space for the team to work as possible.
2. What's been the worst deal given out this offseason thus far?
Elhassan: So many to choose from! I have to go with Jodie Meeks' three-year, $19 million deal. Why did Detroit pay so high a price out of the gate? Did they even explore other options? Meeks isn't even the best catch-and-shoot prospect on the market. This smacks of all the problems of when a coach is in charge of basketball ops: a failure to see the big picture financial context.
Han: This one flew under the radar a bit, but Avery Bradley for four years, $32 million is a bit of a head-scratcher. Bradley showed hints of becoming a reliable 3 and D guard this past season, but his 3-point percentage has been erratic over his past three seasons (40.7, 31.7, 39.5 percent on an average of 2.2 attempts per game). And he's never played a full season. Also, who were the Celtics bidding against?
Pelton: Darren Collison: Three years, $16 million. There are worse deals on their own, but in the context of building a team, the Kings signing Collison will have the biggest ramifications because it surely means letting restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas walk. Not only does Collison not upgrade Thomas' weaknesses, he's not as good at Thomas' strengths.
Strauss: I don't like Sacramento's signing of Collison, an average offensive player who happens to be terrible on defense. Every year, the Kings try to replace Isaiah Thomas, who's been a revelation as a second-rounder. I think they're selling him short.
Young: Jodie Meeks. He had a nice season with the Lakers, and as a specialist he has value. But he'll be making more than $6 million per year the next three seasons. A few players (non-rookie scale) that make around that: J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin and Wesley Matthews. And now Meeks. One of these is not like the others.
3. What's been the biggest surprise of this offseason thus far?
Elhassan: Sacramento pre-empting losing Isaiah Thomas by signing Darren Collison to a four-year, $16 million deal. Like Detroit, I'm not entirely sure who they were trying to outbid, but it seemed extremely premature to offer Collison that much money (not to mention, apparently, the starting job).
Han: Undoubtedly the bungled power play by Jason Kidd in Brooklyn. Sure, Kidd landed on his feet in Milwaukee, but how often do you see a rookie head coach struggle for half the season, openly joust with a top assistant, show some of the perceived preseason promise and then unceremoniously be shown the door? All it needs is a promo on Netflix.
Pelton: Ben Gordon getting more than the minimum. Granted, Gordon was released too late to be eligible for a playoff roster, but nobody even bothered picking him up when Charlotte waived him in March. For him to get nearly mid-level money, even if not fully guaranteed and entirely non-guaranteed beyond this season, was shocking.
Strauss: The big surprise is Gordon getting a contract with the Magic. He could theoretically make sense as a piece on a stable, veteran team. But on a rebuilding squad? Why bother?
Young: Jason Kidd. It's as if Vince Gilligan is writing this NBA offseason. Kidd tried to force his hand to the top, only to be put in his place, then forcing his way to a new situation and therefore leaving collateral damage thrown all over (Larry Drew). A stunning development that nobody could've seen coming.
4. What possible free agent-team pairing you've heard is most intriguing?
Elhassan: Pau to OKC! He's just what the doctor ordered, as a high IQ passing big man that the Thunder can run their offense through to solve their stagnant isolation problems. Meanwhile, Serge Ibaka is the perfect, mobile defensive complement to help "hide" Pau's weaknesses.
Han: Chris Bosh to the Houston Rockets offers the most intrigue for a couple of reasons. Bosh's arrival in H-town would not only vault the Rockets into the upper echelon of West contenders, but it would also cause a domino effect in Miami. Does LeBron go back to South Beach with only Wade? Do they try and attract Melo or Pau Gasol? Bosh seems like the key support to the Miami 3; pull him out and the whole league could be impacted.
Pelton: Pau Gasol to the Thunder. If Oklahoma City signs Gasol, and if it means replacing Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup, I'm definitely intrigued by what that might mean for the Thunder.
Strauss: I'd love to see the aforementioned Isaiah Thomas paired with Marcus Smart in Boston. I'm not sure what that'd mean for Rondo, but the Thomas-Smart backcourt would complement each other on defense while generating a lot of League Pass excitement.
Young: Pau Gasol to OKC. It's not just that Gasol's unique offensive skills would fit so beautifully next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It's not just that Gasol's passing ability would remedy a lot of what often ails the Thunder in the halfcourt. It's not just that Gasol alongside Serge Ibaka would not just cover a lot of deficiencies, but produce some kind of an offense-defense tandem. It's not just that OKC would have some unbelievably interesting lineup options. It's all those things.
5. What's one bold prediction about the rest of free agency?
Elhassan: Lance Stephenson will regret turning down the reported $44 million, five-year deal that the Pacers offered him. It wouldn't surprise me if he made the circuit, realized no one's trying to pay him, and came back to Indiana only to find out that offer has been withdrawn, leading him to sign for less.
Han: LeBron James signs a short-term deal, maybe a two-year max deal with a player option for the second year. James will turn 30 next season, and it's possible that once he completes another long-term contract he will no longer be the NBA's best player. So for King James, it could be in his best interest to leverage as much influence as he can while he still wears the crown.
Strauss: LeBron doesn't sign for the max. It seems like being the highest paid player on his team is the main sticking point. So long as he's that, I predict he'll cede a little cap space to Pat Riley.
Young: The Suns come away with a marquee free agent. Probably not LeBron, probably not Melo. Chris Bosh could be intrigued if the Big 3 can't sort things out in Miami. Or maybe Greg Monroe. Or Chandler Parsons. Or Luol Deng. With such an intriguing young roster and loads of cap space, the Suns seem like an offseason destination for somebody.