Stein’s Latest: Barnes, Reaves, Rockets, Harden, Irving, More

The Pacersinterest in signing Max Strus may be an indication that free agent forward Harrison Barnes will remain with the Kings, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

Stein reported recently that Indiana was interested in adding Barnes, who has huge supporters in Rick Carlisle, his former coach in Dallas, and Tyrese Haliburton, his ex-teammate in Sacramento. However, the Pacers only have $30MM in cap space, and Stein assumes Barnes is no longer in their plans if they’re preparing an offer for Strus in the $16MM range.

Sacramento radio host Carmichael Dave tweets that Barnes’ return to the Kings is “picking up major steam,” but the final details of a new contract still have to be worked out.

Stein offers inside information on a few more free agents:

  • Even though the Lakers are reported to have significant interest in Bruce Brown, Stein believes somebody will offer the Nuggets free agent more than the mid-level exception. L.A. appears certain to match any offer for restricted free agent Austin Reaves, who is eligible for nearly $102MM over four years from a rival team. A source told Stein that it should be considered an “automatic match.”
  • Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks are increasingly expected to commit to the Rockets shortly after the start of free agency, according to Stein, who says there would be “legitimate leaguewide surprise” if it doesn’t happen. Stein hears that Brooks will likely get a two-year contract with an annual salary in the $14-16MM range, while Houston is prepared to make a two-year, maximum-salary offer of $83.6MM for VanVleet. Stein states that the Rockets are confident new coach Ime Udoka can maximize Brooks’ game while limiting his excesses, while VanVleet is viewed as a leader and culture setter for a young roster.
  • The “prevailing expectation” is that Sixers guard James Harden and Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving will re-sign with their current teams, according to Stein. He added that it remains difficult to project the length and dollar value of their new contracts as of Thursday morning.
  • According to Stein, multiple rival teams expect Andre Drummond to join the Mavericks, who added two new centers last week by drafting Dereck Lively II and trading for Richaun Holmes. Sources tell Stein that free agent Christian Wood and JaVale McGee are no longer in the team’s plans, though McGee has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, along with a $6MM player option for 2024/25.
  • Free agent guard Damion Lee is considered likely to sign a new deal with the Suns, Stein adds.
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