NBA Free Agency 2019: Former Duke, UNC stars find new homes; others searching


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — This summer’s version of the NBA’s free agency period has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride.

As the proverbial “ball-dropped” on June 30 at 6 p.m., the league had about 200 of its players up for grabs, including a few guys that fans of college teams around the Triangle will recognize.

Players like Kyrie Irving (Duke), JJ Redick (Duke), and three standouts from North Carolina’s 2009 National Championship winning squad will all have new homes once the 2019-20 NBA season rolls around.

NOTE: The NBA’s moratorium period lasts until July 6, which means signings before that time are not “official” until the period passes.

Let’s dive in

Kyrie Irving takes his talents back ‘home’ to New York City

Kyrie Irving was one of this summer’s most sought after talents after spending two seasons with the Boston Celtics.

After being acquired via trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for point guard Isaiah Thomas, Irving endured an up-and-down tenure in Boston, marred by media controversy and injuries despite helping the team to a 55-win season in 2017 and 49 wins this past season. Irving waived his player option this summer to become an unrestricted free agent.

Due to injuries, Duke fans only got a tease of what Irving was capable of during his lone season in Durham. Though he only played 11 games for the Blue Devils, Irving was electric in his time with the team.

His 31 points against Michigan State in December 2010 marked just the fourth time a Duke freshman had scored 30 or more in a game.

Although the Nets no longer play in New Jersey, the team is still a “return home” for the Jersey native.

“It was fourth grade,” Irving said in his introduction video. “I had just got done watching the Nets in the Finals. I knew that this is a dream I want to fulfill.”

After a move to Brooklyn, the Nets have built an enticing team after years of suffering through bad trades and mishandling of draft assets, among other things. General Manager Sean Marks, hired in 2016, has turned the tide with a no-nonsense, yet fun-loving culture that works hard, makes smart front office decisions, and leaves it all out on the floor every night.

“In my heart, I knew I always wanted to play at home,” Irving explained in his introduction video. “Home is where my heart is and it’s always been there, simply because of such a great love that I have for my family and the way I grew up. I wouldn’t change anything about this journey at all. It brought me back here and that’s home. Home is where my family is and home is where I want my legacy to be. I’m happy to be in Brooklyn.”

Many are concerned with Irving’s track record of being a “team chemistry killer,” but getting the chance to play in his stomping grounds with fellow superstar and close friend Kevin Durant, who also was a part of the Nets’ big splash in free agency may quiet those apprehensions.

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 17: Kyrie Irving #11 and Kevin Durant #25 of Team LaBron laugh during practice for the 2018 NBA All-Star game at the Verizon Up Arena at LACC on February 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

New Orleans Blue Devils?

The New Orleans Pelicans won the NBA’s draft lottery and used the first pick on Duke’s standout freshman Zion Williamson. The Pelicans also acquired another former Blue Devil — Brandon Ingram — via a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and retained former Duke point guard Frank Jackson for another season.

Center Jahlil Okafor, who was a one-and-done talent with the Blue Devils, had his rookie team option picked up for next season by the team.

Now the Pelicans have another one of Duke’s beloved alumni: JJ Redick.

Seems like the Pelicans’ strategy for winning this upcoming season may be to acquire as many former Blue Devils as possible.

Redick, 35, is coming off of one of his strongest seasons in the NBA after posting a career-high 18.1 points per game and cashing in on nearly 40 percent of his 3-pointers. The Sixers voted against bringing back the veteran.

The Pelicans were one of the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting teams and will welcome Redick’s sharpshooting ability.

The 2006 consensus national college player of the year winner played for Duke from 2002-2006. Redick had his number retired by the university in 2007.

Redick once held the NCAA’s record for most three-pointers made, before it was broken just a few weeks later. He also finished his career with 2,769 points and the leading scorer in ACC tournament history.

For his NBA career, Redick is a 41.3-percent shooter on 3-pointers.

Four UNC National Champions move on to the next chapter

The 2008-09 season for the North Carolina Tar Heels was a magical season.

The senior-laden team ended their careers in Chapel Hill as the winningest group in school history to go with a National Championship.

DETROIT – APRIL 06: Wayne Ellington #22 of the North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down a piece of the net after they won 89-72 against the Michigan State Spartans during the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Wayne Ellington reaches agreement with Knicks

Wayne Ellington, a junior that season and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, found himself on the open market going into his 11th NBA season. Ellington spent time with the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons this past season.

Ellington hopes to find some stability after signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the New York Knicks.

NBA champion and National Champion Danny Green still available

Danny Green was Ellington’s teammate as the Tar Heels cut down the nets in 2009 has enjoyed championship success in the NBA as well.

DETROIT – APRIL 06: Danny Green #14 of the North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down a piece of the net after their 89-72 win against the Michigan State Spartans during the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship game at Ford Field on April 6, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

A member of the reigning champion Toronto Raptors, Green says he’s searching for a long-term deal.

“This is the time where I’m getting older now, so I think I probably want to get as many years as possible. Because as I get even older, I don’t think there will be many teams offering me that kind of longevity or as much money,” Green said.

Though he wants longevity in his next deal, Green seems too accustomed to winning to put himself in a position where he can’t do such.

TORONTO, ON – JUNE 17: Danny Green #14 of the Toronto Raptors waves from his bus during the Toronto Raptors Victory Parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 4-2 to win the 2019 NBA Finals.

“For me, my biggest thing, my biggest mantra, is winning. I want to be in a situation where I can play, be effective and win. I want to be in an organization that is a contender, so I’m looking at a lot of places that have a really good foundation,” Green went on to say.

Green is coming off a season where he shot a career-high 45.5 percent from behind the arc. The 11-year vet is receiving interest from the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers, among other teams.

Former UNC forward Ed Davis reaches agreement with the Utah Jazz

Ed Davis, one of the NBA’s best rebounders and a steady contributor throughout his career, has found himself a new team.

Davis, a freshman on UNC’s 2009 National Championship team, is entering his 10th season as a pro. Prior to that, he spent two seasons with the Tar Heels.

The journeyman forward has not spent more than three seasons with a team, but may get a chance to change that after agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Utah Jazz.

Another UNC national champion still searching for a home

Raymond Felton, a member of the Tar Heels’ 2005 National Championship team, is searching for a new home after spending the past two seasons in Oklahoma City backing up Russell Westbrook.

Felton is entering his 15th season as a pro and may find himself on a team needing veteran locker room leadership and a steady bench piece. At this juncture of his career, he may not receive much more than a veteran minimum deal, albeit, possibly, on a championship contending squad.

Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and other elite teams will need guys like Felton to fill out their rosters. His experience will also be invaluable to a young point guard looking to find his way in the NBA.

Duke’s Austin Rivers, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes return to their respective teams

Once opponents in college, Austin Rivers and Harrison Barnes inked deals with the NBA teams they finished the season with.

CHAPEL HILL, NC – FEBRUARY 08: Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils guards Harrison Barnes #40 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 8, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Barnes and the Sacramento Kings agreed to a four-year extension worth $85 million. Barnes averaged 14.3 points in 28 games with the Kings after his trade from the Dallas Mavericks.

Barnes will likely be one of the focal points of a young Kings team and will get a full season and then some to gel with teammates and become more comfortable with the system.

Rivers will suit up for the Houston Rockets again this season. The Rockets acquired Rivers in December of last year after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns. He became a valuable contributor for them off the bench, averaging 7.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in 29 games.

In the playoffs, Rivers posted similar numbers — 7.4 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.0 apg — as the Rockets fell to the rival Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals.

Most Duke fans remember Rivers for his game-winning shot over the Tar Heels.

Tar Heel fans will likely skip over this part.

Duke’s Seth Curry retraces his steps, UNC’s Reggie Bullock getting to play at MSG

One of Austin Rivers’ teammates at Duke just earned himself another payday after a strong season.

Seth Curry has agreed to a four-year, $32 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Curry previously played 70 games for the Mavs in 2016.

DURHAM, NC – FEBRUARY 16: Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrates with teammate Seth Curry #30 as the Duke Blue Devils defeat the North Carolina State Wolfpack 78-73 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 16, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

After trading away point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to the Knicks, the Mavericks shuffled point guards throughout the rest of the season. Curry will likely provide some stability at the position and will finally get a chance to be a regular starter, should he win the job. The $8 million annual salary shows the Mavericks are serious about him.

Reggie Bullock spent the latter half of the 2018-19 season in Los Angeles and will move across the country to NYC. The Knicks offered Bullock a two-year, $21 million offer, one that the former Tar Heel couldn’t refuse.

The Knicks have signed a ton of quality veteran talent to offset their inability to nab superstar players this offseason. Bullock fits the bill of a guy who will come in, work hard, play hard and knock down shots.

On a team with no true star, Bullock’s role is undefined. On the flip side, the lack of elite talent may allow Bullock to carve out an important spot in the rotation.

Bullock was able to reach the Elite Eight twice in his three-year tenure in Chapel Hill.

Champion point guard Quinn Cook searching for new home

After losing out on Kevin Durant, and Andre Iguodala, while resigning Klay Thompson, the Golden State Warriors will look much different next season.

Klay Thompson is slated to miss most if not all of next season, but the Warriors may also kick the tires on former Duke Blue Devil Quinn Cook.

Cook, who spent the last two seasons with the Warriors, was a valuable contributor off the bench. He was asked to step into a bigger role after the team dealt with injuries to their star players.

Though the Warriors ultimately lost, it does not take away from the fact that Cook can make another team happy.

After spending four years at Duke and becoming just one of just seven players in program history to record 1,000 points and 500 assists, the Blue Devil spent time in the G-League and the New Orleans Pelicans before carving out a role and winning a championship with the Warriors.

Cook is reportedly garnering interest from teams like the Nets, where his once teammate and close friend Kevin Durant now plays.

Cook cut down the nets as part of Duke’s 2015 National Championship team.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – APRIL 06: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils watches “One Shining Moment” with Quinn Cook #2 after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Duke defeated Wisconsin 68-63. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It will be interesting to see how these former local college stars perform at their next stops. Best of luck to them all.

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