NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at the start of the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

All About the Money: Day 1 of NBA Free Agency

Per usual, the first day of the 2021 NBA free agency period was jam-packed with action. A couple max deals were signed. Sign-and-trades were made. And playoff teams continued to build their rosters. Here’s what went down on Day 1:

Deals Heat Up For Miami

As NBA free agency began, the Heat had their name in the hat’s of a couple big name players. One player specifically…Kyle Lowry. A long-time leader and 2019 NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors, Lowry’s resume landed him high on the Heat’s target list. The Heat successfully facilitated a sign-and-trade for the point guard and it was announced that Lowry’s deal will be three years and worth about $90 million. But he’s not the only $90 million contract. One of Miami’s resident sharpshooters, Duncan Robinson, re-signed with Miami for five years.

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With the addition of Lowry and retention of Robinson, the Heat were still looking to make more deals. The Heat started the day by giving team leader, Jimmy Butler, a max contract extension to stay with the team for the next four years. The 36 year-old All-Star will be earning more than $184 million with this contract. On top of that, Miami added some more championship-caliber talent, stealing 2021 NBA Champion, PJ Tucker, from their conference rivals the Milwaukee Bucks. Miami locked in Tucker for a two year, $15 million deal.

Adding and maintaining championship-caliber talent keeps Miami in title contention. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said “this is certainly the most win-now team.” After falling in five games in the 2020 NBA Finals, Miami has been trying to prove they weren’t a fluke. Being swept by the Milwaukee Bucks in this year’s playoffs, Miami’s signings certainly signal they are still trying to win a championship right now says Wojnarowski.

Big Money Moves

Jimmy Butler agreed to the first max contract of 2021 free agency. As a result, other teams around the league were also ready to lock down their stars. In Atlanta, All-Star point guard Trae Young agreed to his first max deal, a five-year designated rookie maximum extension worth over $200 million. Young’s remarkable play and leadership all throughout Atlanta’s 2021 playoff run proved he is an elite level talent in the league.

Much like Trae Young, fellow 2018 NBA draftee Shai-Gilgeous Alexander also landed himself a rookie maximum extension. He agreed to a five-year deal; however, Alexander is slated to make $172 million. Alexander truly broke out into the spotlight when playing along side future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul. Paul elevated the Oklahoma City Thunder to a playoff team in his one year with the team.

But his ability to help grow young talent landed him in Phoenix. In playing with the Suns, Paul helped elevate their young stars Deyonte Ayton and Devin Booker to a championship-caliber team. With such a remarkable run in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, the Phoenix Suns were keen on keeping their current core of stars together for at least a few more years. Wojranowski further speculated that this deal could keep Paul in Phoenix for “the rest of his career.” In hopes of doing so, Phoenix signed Paul to a four-year, $120 million deal.

Moving Out West (Again)

Chris Paul staying in the Western Conference means the competition level there stays high. With the Lakers making a deal for Russell Westbrook a couple days ago, they were in much need of depth. To stay competitive in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Suns proved this postseason that depth is everything. With the Lakers creating a frightening “Big 3” of stars, they lacked a lot of depth.

Within the first day of free agency, the Lakers added four players who formerly played in a Lakers uniform. Former NBA champion with the Lakers Dwight Howard (2020 Champion) and Trevor Ariza (2009 Champion) both agreed to one-year deals with the team. In addition, role players Wayne Ellington and Kent Bazemore also signed for one year. These four signings offer much needed depth and extra veteran experience for the Lakers.

Donovan Begins Building

With competition in the East getting interesting after the Miami Heat’s big first day of free agency, the Chicago Bulls were also looking to make some moves.  Two time NCAA national champion and former Florida Gator basketball coach and current coach of the Chicago Bulls, Billy Donovan, was keen on starting to build his roster. Led by All-Star Zach Levine, the Bulls have been looking to make a splash for some time. In hopes of doing so, the Bulls acquired former second overall pick in the NBA Draft, Lonzo Ball, in a sign-and-trade. Ball’s contract is worth $85 million and will last for four years.

But the Bulls were not done; they also locked down another former Los Angeles Laker, Alex Caruso. Caruso’s four-year deal worth $37 million adds another layer of depth to the Chicago Bulls roster. Having not made the playoffs in four of the last five years, Donovan and the Bulls organization are hopeful that their recent deals will result in once again playing in the postseason.

As NBA free agency always shakes up the league, there are quite a few intriguing storylines to follow in the upcoming 2021-2022 season. And after a busy first day of free agency, it is interesting to see what other big deals occur in the coming days.

About David Churba

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