Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press
“We have free agents that are losing their minds, as are teams that want to engage and negotiate. So that’s something we don’t have the luxury of delaying a decision on.”
As Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, indicated to Mark Medina of USA Today, the league’s players and teams are anxious to get free agency started. Although the draft has been set for November 18, the free-agent signing period remains undetermined.
Tentatively, most expect free agency to begin within a week of the draft. And with the bidding market so visible on the horizon, speculation has begun to ramp up.
Two prominent subjects of said speculation are the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rajon Rondo and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Danilo Gallinari. Both are exceptionally capable veterans and should be unrestricted free agents, as Rondo is expected to decline his $2.6 million player option.
The L.A. Bidding War for Rajon Rondo
Rondo may be shifting to a new team next season, but he likely won’t need a moving truck to do so. As reported by the New York Times‘ Marc Stein, one team interested in acquiring Rondo’s services is the Los Angeles Clippers.
The fit is evident with both teams in the City of Angels. As the bench point guard, he played 24.7 minutes per game in the playoffs and coupled an expected 6.6 assists per game with a surprising 40 percent clip from deep. That playmaking and improved shooting helped the Lakers clinch a title, representing a skill set the Clippers sorely missed in their disappointing run.
Outside of just Kawhi Leonard’s and Paul George’s uninspired playoff performances, the Clippers’ other playmakers were shoddy at best. Both Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams were notably ineffective floor-spacers, as neither shot better than 36.4 percent from three. And, as playmakers, the two averaged 6.6 assists combined.
With players like Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell subject to re-signing deliberations, the Clippers may end up needing to offer Rondo their mini mid-level exception (around $5 million). As the market’s opening nears, the decision should grow clearer.
Could Big Gallo Return to the Big Apple?
Gallinari has averaged more than 18 points in four of the past five seasons, with the sole exception being the 2017-18 campaign, when he could only play 21 games because of glute injuries. At 6’10”, the Italian forward has become a quintessential stretch four in the modern NBA after playing most of his career at the small forward spot.
At 32 and coming off of a three-year, $64.8 million contract, Gallo’s market is a nebulous one. Many teams will be interested in a dangerous scorer who can run both forward positions and has shot 41.8 percent from deep on 6.2 attempts per game over the past two seasons, but Gallo’s own interests appear more limiting.
Gallinari has already said that playing for a championship is more important than a hefty contract (h/t Sportando). But on the Truth and Basketball with George Karl podcast, he stressed that, with his first child on the way, location plays a significant factor if championship contention isn’t feasible: “I think the best is looking at everything. I’m not saying I’m just going to go to teams that are going to fight for the championship because I don’t know if they are going to call me.”
One team that isn’t a contender but boasts a great location and appealing relationships is the New York Knicks. Familiar with New York thanks to a few seasons there after being drafted, Gallo’s closeness to team president Leon Rose could be compelling. As he told HoopsHype‘s Michael Scotto, Gallo is “very happy for [Rose] and the Knicks. … We have a great relationship, and he did such a great job for me working with him.”
New York sorely needs shooters, as no player finished the 2019-20 season shooting better than 36.2 percent from deep. While the Knicks might be eager to secure Fred VanVleet’s services, one has to wonder whether their coupling of location and fit could be enough to prise Gallo from a stingier contender.