Livingston, Gortat get ball rolling

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Two of the earliest agreements announced on the first day of free agency were the return of Marcin Gortat to Washington and the deal with Shaun Livingston by the Golden State Warriors.

Here's some quick analysis on both of those transactions:

Marcin Gortat

It was a well-known fact that Washington would be aggressive in re-signing its key free agents, but the five-year, $60 million price tag might have pushed the envelope. Gortat was an invaluable part of the the Wizards' success as an effective pick-and-roll partner to John Wall, and a player who could both back up and play alongside Nene. He's also an excellent defensive rebounder, and his mobility up and down the floor made him an ideal target in transition. Re-signing him was a priority for Washington because continuity was a priority for a team that experienced its most successful season in a decade.

I had Gortat valued at four years and $36 million, using Tiago Splitter's deal from last summer as a comp. Splitter is a similarly mobile, rebounding big man, although it bears noting that Splitter is the better defender while Gortat is the superior finisher. The high end of the center market set last summer was  Nikola Pekovic 's five-year, $60 million deal, which obviously was the benchmark the Wizards and Gortat's agent went with. Basketball-wise, Pekovic is a better finisher on the interior, and one of the best offensive rebounders in the game, while Gortat is more capable away from the rim and makes his mark on the defensive end.

However, the main distinction between the two players is age: Pekovic was 27 when he inked his deal, while Gortat is 30. For a player so reliant on quickness and speed, you have to wonder whether this contract will be a worthwhile investment in years 3-5, especially if he was signed to a standard, escalating contract that would call for Gortat to be paid approximately $13.6 million in the final year of his deal. With no other team capable of offering a fifth year (or indeed, even offering a deal approaching that average annual value), it seems like the Wizards did a poor job of using the leverage they held to make the last year a team option, partially guaranteed or even wholly unguaranteed.

Shaun Livingston

Golden State was in the market for a backup point guard after struggling with the absence of Jarrett Jack, who left last summer via free agency. The Warriors moved quickly on Livingston, agreeing to terms to a three-year deal worth the full midlevel exception, with a partial guarantee on the last year of the deal. Livingston has successfully reinvented himself after a gruesome knee injury diverted his career path from a preps-to-pro star drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson and Penny Hardaway, to a wily vet and versatile super-sub.

Playing on a minimum contract last season, Livingston was a pivotal member of Brooklyn's surge after Jan. 1 as a ball handler, playmaker and post-up option. He's a high-IQ player who knows his game and plays within it, and that should alleviate some of the Warriors' overreliance on Stephen Curry to create most of the team offense, especially with new head coach Steve Kerr expected to install a more motion-based offense with elements of the triangle. I do question Livingston's fit as another non-3-point shooter on the roster; there's a perception of the Warriors as a gunslinging outfit with 3-pointers flying everywhere, but the truth is two players (Curry and Klay Thompson) accounted for more than 60 percent of the team's 3-point makes, with no other player on the roster making more than one 3-pointer per game.

I don't think anyone anticipated Livingston drawing full midlevel action so early in free agency, even with a partial guarantee in the third year. I had him valued at $2.8 million per year, based on the room midlevel exception (or even the taxpayer midlevel exception), and this deal almost doubles that amount. The only explanation is the Warriors anticipated the post-LeBron free-agency market would work to inflate the values of all the remaining free agents, and that Livingston might garner a more lucrative deal, either with more guaranteed dollars or more years. Furthermore, using the midlevel to sign Livingston means the Warriors become hard-capped at the tax apron, estimated to be roughly $81 million. This could create complications down the line should Golden State try to revive trade talks with Minnesota for Kevin Love, as the Warriors are restricted in the amount of salary they can take back.