The Golden State Warriors have landed a coveted free agent — just not the one everybody was talking about.
The Warriors reached an agreement with swingman Andre Iguodala on a $48 million, four-year deal Friday, two people with knowledge of the situation said.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because NBA rules prevent confirmation of moves until July 10. One person said the Warriors cleared more than $24 million in salary cap space by sending Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush to the Utah Jazz along with a package of draft picks.
Yahoo Sports, which first reported the deal, said the Warriors were only taking back Kevin Murphy and his non-guaranteed $788,000 deal for next season. Utah also will receive multiple draft picks from Golden State, including its 2014 and 2017 first-round picks.
While the Warriors had hoped to sign Dwight Howard, the seven-time All-Star center informed the team he would not sign with them. Howard wrote on Twitter a few hours later that the Houston Rockets are “the best place for me.”
Instead, Golden State unloaded its expiring contracts for what it believes was the next best player on the market.
The complicated moves give the rejuvenated franchise, fresh off an appearance in the second round of the playoffs and with a stockpile of promising young talent, a potent scorer and perimeter defender to team with point guard Stephen Curry and company.
And for Iguodala, it’s a chance to play with another contender.
Iguodala averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds last season for the Denver Nuggets, who lost in six games to the Warriors in the opening round of the playoffs. He spent his first eight years in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers and has averaged 15.1 points on 46 percent shooting for his career.
The Nuggets were hoping to entice Iguodala to come back to the Mile High City, especially because he could return on a five-year deal while the most he could get elsewhere was four years. The Nuggets offered Iguodala a five-year contract worth $60 million with $52 million guaranteed, a person familiar with the situation said, adding that Iguodala would’ve made only $4 million in the final year of the frontloaded deal.
Sacramento, led by new general manager and former Denver executive Pete D’Alessandro, also sought Iguodala’s services. The Kings reportedly offered Iguodala a four-year deal worth at least $52 million but pulled the offer when Iguodala didn’t immediately agree, in part, because they didn’t want to be used as leverage.
The departure of Denver’s top defender could be a big blow to a team that won a franchise-best 57 games during the regular season only to flop in the first round again. This already had been a tumultuous offseason for the Nuggets, who had NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri leave to take over as general manager in Toronto. Later, the team severed ties with Coach of the Year George Karl.
A few Nuggets players turned to Twitter to express their feelings on Iguodala’s decision to bolt for the Warriors.
“It was a pleasure. Great guy!” forward Wilson Chandler wrote.
Speedy point guard Ty Lawson said: “Smh!!!!” (shaking my head) and later added, “Business is business.”
Iguodala even sent a message to Curry that ended with the phrase, “LETS GET IT!!!!” Curry responded by saying it would be a great four years.
On the flip side, the biggest boon for Utah might be three veterans with expiring contracts, which will give the Jazz tons of space when a slew of top free agents hit the open market next summer. Jefferson is due about $11 million, Biedrins $9 million and Rush $4 million in the final year of their deals.
While production from Jefferson and Biedrins has declined substantially, Rush was considered Golden State’s top reserve and perimeter defender until he tore a ligament in his left knee in the home opener. Rush has averaged 9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds since he was drafted 13th overall out of Kansas in 2008 by Portland, which immediately traded him to Indiana.
“Only makes me work harder,” Rush tweeted.
The Warriors had been chasing Iguodala for years, but the right move never came together until now.
General manager Bob Myers had said all along that despite the team’s perceived salary cap restrictions that a big-time free agent could be signed this summer. The Warriors also will renounce their rights to restricted free agent guard Jarrett Jack to clear space for Iguodala — a price they believe is more than enough for his addition, which could push standout rookie Harrison Barnes into a reserve role, albeit a leading one.
Jack had helped the Warriors go from a 23-43 team during the lockout-shortened season to a 47-35 team last year, earning the conference’s sixth seed and upsetting Denver in the first round. But mounting injuries wore the Warriors down and the eventual Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs sent Golden State home in six games.