The Roar
The Roar


James, Baynes and Exum enter contract frenzy

Dante Exum. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Roar Rookie
30th June, 2018

The NBA’s annual multi-billion dollar free agent market frenzy is about to erupt with Australians Aron Baynes and Dante Exum joining A-listers LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Chris Paul seeking new contracts.

Teams can open negotiations with players from 2.01pm AEST Sunday.

All-Star Kawhi Leonard added juice to the wheeling and dealing after requesting a trade from the San Antonio Spurs.

Last year NBA teams spent $US2.5 billion ($A3.4 billion) signing free agents.

James, a three-time NBA champion and four-time NBA MVP, is the top target.

James will test the free agent market after declining a one-year $US35.6 million contract option on Friday to stay with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Newly minted Australian NBA Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, who has a close relationship with James and shares the same agent, quickly went public with his campaign to entice the 33-year-old to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Simmons, taking time out from hanging with celebrity girlfriend Kendall Jenner, posted “KJ x FP” on Instagram.

The cryptic message included a photo of himself and James.


James’ nickname is King James and Simmons goes by Fresh Prince.

The 76ers’ coach and interim general manager Brett Brown has made no secret of his desire to attract James, Leonard or another superstar to slot next to Simmons and All-Star centre Joel Embiid.

“We are star-hunting,” Brown said after last week’s draft.

The Los Angeles Lakers are also going after James and have cleared a potential $US70 million in salary cap space to not only entice him, but also George and Leonard to create a super team to challenge the star-studded back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

Warriors general manager Bob Myers says he will give his NBA Finals MVP Durant “whatever he wants” to remain with the team, opening up the possibility of a four-year $US160 million contract.

In recent years Baynes and Exum have watched their Boomers team-mates Joe Ingles (four-year, $US52 million), Patty Mills (four-year, $US50 million) and Matthew Dellavedova (four-year, $US38.4 million) sign huge deals.

This free agent season may not be so bountiful for Baynes, Exum and other second and third tier players with 80 per cent of teams over the salary cap.

The Boston Celtics want to keep Baynes who was a defensive force and surprise three-point threat in their run to the Eastern Conference finals.


Baynes has also proven to be a phenomenal team-mate.

“He just brings an infectiousness that I can’t describe,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Baynes may only receive a relatively cheap deal worth around $US5 million a year.

The Celtics are also keen to re-sign defensive stopper Marcus Smart.

The Utah Jazz want to keep Exum and, as a restricted free agent, have an advantage over teams pursuing the Australian guard.

The Jazz have presented Exum with a $US6.6 million qualifying offer to stay in Utah the coming season and can match offers from rival teams.