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Free Agency 2019

NBA Free Agency 2019: Instant reaction and analysis to the biggest free agent signings

#Kyie KD
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will reportedly become teammates on the Brooklyn Nets.

Here are instant reactions to the biggest news to Day 1 of NBA free agency.

For a complete list of signings, follow our Free Agency Tracker, which will be updated live throughout the coming days.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are the big winners as reports have surfaced that they will be signing both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

It's been quite the turnaround for the Nets, who aren't that far removed from a three-year stretch from 2015-16 to 2017-18 in which they won just 69 games while posting the NBA's second-worst record ahead of only the Phoenix Suns.

Under GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, the Nets have established a strong culture and demonstrated an ability to develop talent as evidenced by the tremendous growth of players like D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen, among others.

While Durant will likely miss all of the 2019-20 season with a ruptured Achilles, the partnership with Irving gives the Nets a star duo to build around over the next four years. Irving will lead the charge sans Durant in the first year with a roster that, in addition to LeVert, Dinwiddie and Allen, also features versatile forward Taurean Prince and sharpshooter Joe Harris, who has one more year left on his deal.

They should be able to contend for a playoff spot next season without Durant but make no mistake, the real intrigue in Brooklyn begins in the 2020-21 season when the Nets will be a legitimate championship contender - assuming that Durant returns to full strength.

Kemba Walker to the Celtics

Speculation built up over the days leading into free agency that Kemba Walker would eventually sign with the Boston Celtics, essentially taking over Irving's role. Had the Celtics lost both Irving and Al Horford without landing a big fish of their own, they could have been staring at a minor reset with the keys officially turned over to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

MORE: What Kemba brings to the Celtics

Walker is an excellent player that keeps the Celtics a contender in a year in which the league could be as wide open as it's been in over a decade. While he's never played with anyone as talented as either Tatum or Brown (or even Gordon Hayward if he continues to round back into form), Walker has shown an ability to thrive off the ball as he led the NBA in catch-and-shoot 3-pt FG percentage two seasons ago (min. 200 attempts).

Ultimately, the Celtics need Tatum and/or Brown to develop into All-Stars for this team to reach its full potential. For that to happen, Walker will likely need to cede some playmaking duties and be OK operating as a secondary options for stretches. Only time will tell how he gels in Boston, but this was a no-brainer move for the Celtics, who in some ways get a do-over on the Irving experiment.

Bucks keep Middleton and Lopez, lose Brogdon.

Milwaukee reached long-term agreements with two of its three key free agents.

Khris Middleton has agreed to a five-year, $178M contract, about $12M less than the full max. Brook Lopez has agreed to a four-year, $52M contract, which is far more in line with his talent than the $3M he played for last season on a one-year contract.

With the clock ticking on a super max extension for Giannis Antetokounmpo, pressure was on the Bucks to show they are serious about spending money to surround him with talent capable of competing for championships year after year.

Middleton may not have the highest of ceilings that you'd ideally want for a second star, but he's a very strong two-way player that can guard the other team's best scorer while taking some pressure off of Antetokounmpo on the offensive end. He turns 28 later this offseason and is in the middle of his prime, meaning there might not be much room for growth.

Lopez, meanwhile, has turned into one of the NBA's most valuable commodities, a legitimate stretch five that also functions as a strong rim protector on the other end. While his shooting should age well, the biggest risk will be on the other end as Lopez is already 31-years-old and will turn 35 during the final year of this contract.

The Bucks are, however, losing Malcolm Brogdon, who is heading to the Indiana Pacers on a four-year, $85M contract. Brogdon will team up with Victor Oladipo to form one of the NBA's most complete two-way backcourts. In addition to being a strong defender, Brogdon averaged over 15 points per game last season on 50-40-90 shooting.

Milwaukee could have dipped far into the luxury tax to keep Brogdon but would have done so on the heels of committing $300M total to Middleton, Lopez and starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, who the team inked to a four-year extension this spring.

Pelicans snag JJ Redick

If there's one thing the Pelicans needed, it's shooting.

Signing perhaps the best shooter available not named Klay Thompson is certainly one way of filling that need as New Orleans agreed to a two-year, $26.5M deal to lure Redick away from the Philadelphia 76ers. He's the second impact piece added in the last few days as the team also recently agreed to a deal with Nicolo Melli, a stretch four and one of the best players in Europe.

While there's lots of intriguing pieces in New Orleans, none provided much in the way of floor spacing as Zion Williamson, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball aren't knock-down shooters and Brandon Ingram regressed last season, shooting 33% from beyond the 3-point line after making 39% in his second season.

Redick should open up the floor for Williamson in particular, just as he did for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Teams won't be able to cheat and help on his powerful forays into the lane knowing that Redick is lurking on the outside.

Though he is 35-years-old, Redick's game should age nicely and he is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 31.3 minutes per game. With the stable of young players, he also provides a much-needed veteran presence for a team that could look to win earlier than perhaps most assumed.

Jazz land Bojan Bogdanovic

Less than two weeks after trading for Mike Conley, the Utah Jazz made another big splash by agreeing to a four-year, $73M contract with Bojan Bogdanovic.

The 30-year-old small forward is coming off the best season of his career in which he averaged 18.0 points per game while shooting 42% from the 3-point line. He functioned as Indiana's No. 1 option over the second half of the season following the season-ending injury to Victor Oladipo. From Jan. 26 onwards, Bogdanovic averaged 20.7 points per game on over 50% shooting.

With Bogdanovic and Conley in the fold alongside Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles, the Jazz are a legitimate contender in the Western Conference with strong defenders at all five positions. There were times last season when it appeared as if Mitchell was Utah's only source of creation. That will no longer be the case with two more dependable veterans comfortable making plays at a high level.

Ricky Rubio is the Suns new point guard

The Phoenix Suns finally have a solution to their point guard problem as Ricky Rubio has agreed to a three-year, $51M to join Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton in the desert.

Rubio's presence allows Booker to transition back to his natural shooting guard position and gives Ayton a legitimate pick-and-roll partner.

Booker spent a significant amount of time with the ball in his hands last season, ranking among the top 15 in average time of possession en route to averaging a career-high 6.8 assists per game. While he certainly showed flashes of playmaking, he's a natural scorer far more comfortable creating for himself than others. Rubio's presence takes some pressure off of Booker to get others involved and instead focus on doing what he does best: scoring.

Rubio also has a well-earned reputation as a hard-nosed defender, which Phoenix sorely needs as neither Booker nor Ayton are positives on that end of the floor. The Suns ranked 29th last season in defensive efficiency and while Rubio alone isn't enough to drastically change that, he'll help in holding others accountable for making defensive strides.

Tobias Harris is returning to Philadelphia

The Philadelphia 76ers have agreed to a five-year, $180M contract with Tobias Harris, ensuring the big haul they gave away at the trade deadline was not for a short-term rental.

It's hard to grade Harris on his expectations moving forward based on what we saw of him with the 76ers given he was operating for most of the time as a fourth and even fifth option behind Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. With Butler and Redick now out of the picture, the prospects for Harris delivering on par with what he did over the first half of the season with the Clippers improves dramatically.

Harris is an incredibly skilled and versatile offensive player that can create in isolation and in pick-and-roll while also serving as a valuable spot-up option. Given the halfcourt limitations of Simmons and turnover problems with Embiid, there's a chance that Harris could be the 76ers' No. 1 option down the stretch of tight games, much in the same way that Butler was last season.

The trio of Embiid, Simmons and Harris played all of nine minutes together without Butler and Redick, so there's essentially nothing to go on in terms of reading into how they've functioned together with the roles they'll have moving forward.

If this came down to ultimately picking between Harris or Butler, they opted for the player that's three years younger and closer to the timelines of Simmons and Embiid. While losing Butler (and Redick) will certainly hurt, the 76ers did right in holding onto Harris, which ensures they can still contend in a year in which the league is wide open.

Jimmy Butler heading to Miami

Pat Riley and the Miami Heat emerged in the days leading into free agency as a potential darkhorse to acquire Jimmy Butler.

They got their man, reportedly agreeing to a sign-and-trade with the 76ers that will result in Josh Richardson heading to Philadelphia.

From a culture perspective, Butler's blue collar approach is a perfect match for the hard-hat mentality that exists within the Miami Heat franchise. It's a team that prides itself on playing hard with a roster full of prove-it players and a coach-president combo in Eric Spolstra and Pat Riley that will command Butler's respect which likely rules out any of the flair ups that marred his time in Chicago and Minnesota.

On the floor, Butler gets to be the unquestioned alpha dog after a weird year in Philadelphia in which he largely picked his spots before taking over top dog status in the fourth quarters of games and then throughout the postseason. He's never truly had his own team. In Chicago, his rise to stardom coincided with Derrick Rose. In Minnesota, he rode shotgun alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. In Philadelphia, it was always going to be Joel Embiid's team. In Miami, Butler finally gets the opportunity to be the focal point.

On the wing, Butler and Justise Winslow offer loads of intrigue as a twin-barreled switch-proof defensive dynamo capable of matching up with any of the league's plethora of talented perimeter scorers. Winslow's presence also eases some of the burden on Butler as he no longer needs to assume primary defensive responsibilities on an every night basis.

Al Horford's mystery team is the 76ers

Within minutes of the Jimmy Butler to Miami news, it broke that Al Horford had agreed to a four-year, $109M contract with the 76ers.

For over a week there have been rumblings that Horford had a mystery team lined up with a four-year offer over $100M. Turns out, that team was the 76ers, who had a crazier day than perhaps anyone including the Brooklyn Nets. In a span of three hours, they once again re-shaped the roster with Horford and Richardson coming on board to replace the departed Butler and Redick.

Horford is an interesting fit next to Embiid and figures to play significantly more stretch four after spending the last several years exclusively as a centre. Not only is he a premium insurance policy for the injury prone Embiid, he was also arguably the best player in the league at defending Embiid, which is now a problem the 76ers don't have to worry about.

Defensively, Horford and Embiid form an incredible rim protecting duo that will make scoring in the paint a nightmare for opposing frontcourts. Given their relative lack of mobility, the biggest question mark on the defensive end will be what happens when teams try to simply run them off the floor. In a league trending smaller with lots of big, mobile, outside shooting wings moonlighting as power forwards, it will be interesting to watch the game of chicken that Philadelphia will engage with on a nightly basis.

Offensively, Horford's a good enough shooter that he can play next to Embiid and potentially bully those smaller power forwards. He's not a threat to get out and run and swapping him in for Butler certainly takes away from the transition game that makes Ben Simmons a handful for opponents.

Questions about fit aside, he's among the most respected veterans in the entire league and a no-nonsense winner, so it's a move certainly worth making even if its one that will certainly take some time to work out the imperfections.

Warriors trade for D'Angelo Russell

So this happened.

Hours after learning that Kevin Durant would sign with the Brooklyn Nets, the Golden State Warriors reached an agreement with the Nets to take back D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade. Getting back a 23-year-old All-Star guard for a player that's already out the door at the very least protects them from losing a player of Durant's calibre for nothing.

It came at a cost as the Warriors had to first unload Andre Iguodala's contract in order to make the money work. They ultimately shipped him to Memphis along with a protected future 1st-round draft pick in 2024.

On the surface, it's a puzzling fit to add Russell to a backcourt that already includes two high volume scorers in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. With Thompson out until February or March with a torn ACL, Russell can slide into the starting guard spot alongside Curry. While he's certainly more comfortable at point guard, he's got decent size (6'5") and should have ample opportunities to run the show himself. Remember, this is a Warriors team that figured out how to integrate the ball dominant Kevin Durant and both Curry and Thompson are among the very best in the league at moving without the ball. When Thompson does ultimately return, the Warriors will once again trot out a team with significant offensive firepower even if there is some overlap in skill sets. Russell is also an incredibly gifted passer which will in theory be maximized in a system that hangs its hat on ball movement.

Judging this acquisition solely on fit somewhat misses the point in the sense that Russell as a young, flippable asset gives the Warriors flexibility moving forward should they eventually want to turn him into multiple pieces. In the meantime, they get a stop-gap to try and keep the Warriors afloat until Thompson returns while also not putting all of their eggs in Stephen Curry's basket every single night. Curry is 31 and has his own checkered injury history. Instead of needing to put the team on his back through the regular season grind, he now has a running mate that's eight years younger to help manage the load.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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