With free agency just hours away, teams have been rushing to get last minute extensions and trades in before the closing bell. In this edition of Cap Talk, I take a look at the Knicks clearing cap space, the major transactions that have taken place in the past couple days, along with a look at some of the free agencies most heavily impacted by this activity. Take a look below.
The New York Knicks have cleared max space for free agency, the prophecy has been fulfilled. They now are the leader in the clubhouse to sign unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson to, reportedly, a 4 year $110 million deal after shipping Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks off to Detroit. This contract would start out with $25.5 million in the first year, and would be about 21% of the salary cap annually. Signing Brunson would give the Knicks a lead guard to pair with fellow lefties RJ Barrett and Julius Randle. As for Dallas, Brunson signing in New York would ultimately be the worst case scenario, as they have no way of replacing him with their luxury tax issues. At this point, they have to do all they can just to get New York to agree to a sign-and-trade deal that would net the Mavericks a trade exception for about $12.8 million due to Base Year Compensation rules. Not agreeing to a contract extension with Brunson before this past season could end up haunting the Mavericks for a long time.
Trade: Atlanta Hawks receive Dejounte Murray; San Antonio Spurs receive Danilo Gallinari, 3 first round picks, a pick swap
The first blockbuster deal of the offseason comes in the form of Dejounte Murray to the Hawks. Atlanta paid a steep price to bring him in, three firsts and a swap. The three firsts are: CHA 2023 top 16 protected, ATL 2025 unprotected, ATL 2027 unprotected, and the swap is in 2026. Pretty similar to the deal that the Bucks gave to the Pelicans to bring in Jrue Holiday, with just one less pick swap. Atlanta giving up those two unprotected picks in 3 and 5 years is a pretty big risk to take, as they were just the 8th seed last year and Murray will likely become an unrestricted free agent in 2025, as he is unlikely to agree to any extension since his current contract is so team-friendly. But the Hawks needed to make a big change to the roster, and they brought in a very talented backcourt mate for Trae Young. We will see if it pays off for them. It appears the Hawks are not done making moves, as John Collins has been in constant trade rumors.
The Spurs did well to net such a big return for Murray, and it seems like they are embracing the tank in a year where a lot of the league is going to try to be competitive, and Victor Wembenyama is awaiting the winner of the draft lottery. The trade chatter around Murray was an initial shock to most, but with Murray unlikely to agree to an extension and his inevitable unrestricted free agents in two years, it made sense for the Spurs to move him now at his highest value. Especially since they weren't likely to contend in the next two years anyways. Now they can reset the clock and hope they can land another generational 7 footer at the top of the lottery.
Trade: Detroit Pistons receives Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks two second round picks plus cash from the New York Knicks
As discussed above, this trade ultimately set the table for the Knicks to be able to offer a large contract to unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson, all the way up to his max contract. It was long rumored t hat the Knicks were going to clear enough cap space to make a competitive offer to Brunson, and they finally did it in shipping Noel and Burks to Detroit. At first glance, the compensation for taking on almost $20 million in salary seems light, having been just two seconds and cash, but Burks and Noel are still good rotation players that can be valuable veterans on a young Pistons team. Additionally, I'd be willing to bet that the Pistons could still flip those two into even more assets to contending teams looking for rotation players. This deal signifies that the Pistons are not going to be in the market of going after the major restricted free agents in DeAndre Ayton or Miles Bridges, instead using their cap space to take on unwanted salary and accumulating draft capital.
Trade: Washington Wizards receive Monte Morris, Will Barton; Denver Nuggets receive Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ish Smith
This trade kind of came out of nowhere. This is a trade that should benefit both teams, as it fills needs both ways. Denver needed a 3-and-D two guard that can play alongside Murray and Jokic, and Washington needed a solid point guard and some depth on the wing. I thought maybe that the Nuggets could've talked Washington into including a second round pick in the deal, but ultimately I like it for both teams.
Extension: Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Clippers
Terms: 3 years, $33 million
The Clippers turned down Zubac's $7.5 team option for 2022-2023 and extended him at 3 years, $33 million, resulting in a $3 million raise in 22-23 and $25.5 million in new money over the three years. This is good value for the Clippers. MY EPV has Zubac with a value right around $13 million, and it seems to be right around the going price for an average starting center. They could've just opted Zubac into his team option then extended him after that, but they gave him a raise in the current year and got him locked down under his value. Pretty reasonable deal for both parties involved.
Extension: Tauren Prince, Minnesota Timberwolves
Terms: 2 years, $16 million, second year non-guaranteed
I liked this deal for both the team and the player as well. Prince plays a position of need for every team in the league. He's got good length defensively and is a career 37% three point shooter. EPV had a value of about $7.2 million for him. Prince could've become a free agent this offseason but there was no guarantee he would've gotten similar value on the open market. For the Wolves, this deal is very tradeable, especially considering the second year is non-guaranteed. Given all the trade chatter surrounding Minnesota, having another contract to include is beneficial. Or, if they happen to ship out a number of players not including Prince in a consolidation trade, then he can fit right into the rotation and take on more minutes.
Buyout: John Wall and Houston Rockets agree to buyout
After a years-long hiatus from the team, John Wall and the Rockets have finally agreed to a contract buyout, with Wall giving up roughly the equivalent of the taxpayer mid-level exception. It was reported that Wall is likely to land with the Clippers, and since he gave up the TMLE amount, it is likely that he gets the TMLE from the Clippers.
Free Agency Impact
A number of free agents were impacted by the flurry of activity that's happened pre-free agency. Let's take a look at the major ones.
Jalen Brunson: Brunson obviously was the reason behind the Knicks clearing major cap space. It appears a done deal that he will be a Knick next season.
DeAndre Ayton: With Detroit taking on salary and the Hawks making their big splash already, it appears Ayton will now have two less suitors this offseason. We will see how his restricted free agency plays out, as Indiana and San Antonio still linger.
Miles Bridges: Similar to Ayton, Detroit was rumored to have interested in Bridges, but they no longer have the cap space to make a realistic offer. It is looking likely he returns to Charlotte.
Isaiah Hartenstein: With the likelihood of John Wall getting the TMLE from the Clippers and the extension of Zubac, it would appear that Hartenstein may be heading to a new team in 2022-2023, as the only thing the Clippers can offer him is a 120% raise over his minimum salary.
Tyus Jones: One of the main suitors for Jones, the Washington Wizards, ended up getting their point guard via trade in Monte Morris. It wouldn't appear that any of the cap space teams would have interest in bringing Jones in, so he may be relegated to getting the NTMLE from a capped out team or returning to Memphis to back up Ja Morant.
Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.