Winners and Losers in NBA free agency

By Liam Isola | Posted 2 years ago

Atlanta Hawks 


Atlanta’s front office decided to run it back after making a surprise appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.


The Hawks crucially extended Trae Young and brought back John Collins, both on five-year deals. Atlanta signed interim coach Nate McMillan to a four-year deal to become the full-time head coach.


Atlanta also upgraded at backup PG, acquiring Delon Wright in a three-team deal that sent Kris Dunn to Boston. Draft picks Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper round out a good offseason for Atlanta. 


Grade: A-


Boston Celtics


Former head coach Brad Stevens has been busy in his new role as President of Basketball Operations and has tried to give the Celtics some financial flexibility. 


Stevens traded Kemba Walker and his big money deal to the 16th pick to OKC for Al Horford and Moses Brown. He hired Ime Udoka as his replacement soon after. 


Boston disappointingly missed out re-signing Evan Fournier and getting Lonzo Ball. The Celtics, instead, acquired Josh Richardson for Brown and signed Enes Kanter to a one-year deal. 


Stevens also got rid of Tristan Thompson’s contract in the same deal that brought Kris Dunn to Boston. 


Grade: B


Brooklyn Nets 


With the league’s pre-eminent big three, there was never going to be a major roster overhaul in Brooklyn. Bruce Brown and a rejuvenated Blake Griffin re-signed but Spencer Dinwiddie, Landry Shamet and Jeff Green are gone. 


Brooklyn brought in some good veteran pieces in Patty Mills and James Johnson but strangely added five players through the draft. Nothing too exciting, but no major faults either. 


Grade: B-

Charlotte Hornets 


The Hornets upgraded at center by trading for Mason Plumlee, securing the draft rights to Kai Jones from the Knicks and letting Cody Zeller leave in free agency. 


However, Charlotte failed to extend a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Malik Monk and lost Devonte Graham to New Orleans. Charlotte received a lottery protected 2022 pick from New Orleans in the Graham sign-and-trade, but replaced Monk and Graham with Ish Smith and talented first round pick James Bouknight. 


Monk shot 40% from three and Graham scored 14 ppg for the Hornets last season. Smith has never been known as a scorer and the Bouknight also only shot 29.3 percent from three in his sophomore year at UCONN.


LaMelo Ball has a bright future ahead of him but Charlotte hasn’t immediately improved the roster around him.


Grade: C


Chicago Bulls  


Chicago had one of the NBA’s most exciting offseasonsand could have a downright scary offense. 


The Bulls executed two sign-and-trade deals, winning the Lonzo Ball sweepstakes and landing DeMar DeRozan. Chicago parted ways with Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple in the former deal and Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu in the latter. 


Lauri Markkanen has one foot out of the door but could still be retained on a short-term deal. The Bulls also made solid depth signings in Alex Caruso and C Tony Bradley. PG Ayo Dosunmu could be a second-round gem. Defense could prove to be a challenge, however.


Grade: A-


Cleveland Cavaliers 


I thought Cleveland made an excellent move for its future by trading for Jarrett Allen last season. Allen signed a five-year, $100 million deal to stay with the Cavs this offseason and has a talented new frontcourt mate in USC big man Evan Mobley. 


Mobley was selected with the third pick in the draft but there were whispers he could have gone No. 1. Drafting Mobley could mean Kevin Love is moved, but his contract is an albatross. 


If only for a short time, former Timberwolves Love and Ricky Rubio will be reunited as Rubio was acquired for Taurean Prince and a 2022 second-rounder. I think the Cavs have a bright future but still have moves to make. 


Grade: B+


Dallas Mavericks  


Rick Carlisle resigned in June after 13 years as head coach. Jason Kidd was brought in as his replacement after two years as a Lakers assistant and won the 2011 NBA Finals with the Mavs as a player. 


Dallas re-signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $72-million deal and brought back fan-favorite C Boban Marjanovic. 


Luka Doncic is a generational talent but the Mavs haven’t improved the roster enough around him. New additions Reggie Bullock, Sterling Brown and Moses Brown don’t exactly move the needle. A high-profile Kristaps Porzingis trade could change that but there might be limited interest around the league. 


Grade: C-


Denver Nuggets 


The Nuggets didn’t have much to do in the offseason. The core of reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. should produce a contender for years to come. 


Denver drafted the A-10 player of the year, PG Nah’ShonHyland. Then, the Nuggets re-signed Will Barton and Austin Rivers and poached Jeff Green from the Nets.


Paul Millsap played a big role in transforming the Nuggets but his career in Denver appears to be over. JavaleMcGee also left and signed with the upstart Phoenix Suns. Denver’s title hopes rest more on Murray’s ACL recovery than its offseason additions. 


Grade: B-


Detroit Pistons 


The Pistons appear to have made the right decision by selecting Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with the number one overall pick. The All-American 6-foot-8 guard is a plus shooter, projects as a matchup nightmare and should be able to defend multiple positions. 


Detroit also had three second-round selections, including consensus National Player of the Year Luka Garza. 


Detroit has a young team and added some veterans with its ample cap space. Kelly Olynyk, who averaged 19 and 8 in 27 games with the Rockets signed a three-year, $37 million deal with Detroit. PG Cory Joseph and F Trey Lyles also inked two-year deals. 


Grade: B+


Golden State Warriors  


After leading the league in scoring, Steph Curry earned a four-year, $215 million dollar extension which will keep him in the Bay until 2026. Otherwise, the capped-out Warriors have been quiet in free agency.  


The Warriors have an awkward combination of a big three and three developing lottery picks. Don’t be surprised if any of James Wiseman, seventh pick Jonathan Kumingaand 14th pick Moses Moody are moved for an established player. In any case, Golden State drafted well. 


Golden State also managed to sign underappreciated stretch big Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter. There’s a lot of talent here but the fit is a big question.


Grade: B


Houston Rockets 


The crown jewel of Houston’s offseason is second pick of the draft, Jalen Green. The 19-year-old SG averaged nearly 18 points and seven rebounds per game with the G League Ignite. 


Houston drafted three other first-rounders in Turkish League MVP C Alperen Sengun, F Usman Garuba and G Josh Christopher. 


The Rockets may be stuck with the $130+ million left on John Wall’s three-year contract. A trade partner, like the Clippers, could emerge but it’s far from certain. 


Houston re-signed PG David Nwaba and secured C Daniel Theis for four years. It’s a start but the Rockets still have work to do to clean up their roster.


Grade: B+


Indiana Pacers 


Carlisle took over as Pacers head coach after Nate Bjorken went 34-38 and missed the playoffs in his only season.


The Pacers made an interesting choice by using a lottery pick on 24-year-old Chris Duarte. At number 13, Duarte is a good player but could have limited upside, as he was the first player over the age of 20 taken.


Indiana re-signed steal-hawk PG T.J. McConnell to a four-year deal and picked up Torrey Craig from the Suns. Indiana has a roster full of good players in Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert but failed to improve. 


Grade: C-


Los Angeles Clippers 


He’s expected to stay in LA, but it is concerning that Kawhi Leonard opted out of his contract and it has taken this long to re-sign him. Reggie Jackson’s status is also up in the air. 


The Clippers did secure Nic Batum’s signature for an additional two years and Serge Ibaka opted into the final year of his contract. Shooting guard and first-round pick Keon Johnson also set an NBA Draft Combine record with an absurd vertical leap of 48 inches. 


Until Leonard is officially back, I can’t give the Clippers anything but a failing grade.


Grade: F


Los Angeles Lakers  


While the Clippers have struggled to get deals done, their LA rivals have been the league’s most active team. 


The Lakers made the blockbuster deal of the summer, landing triple double machine Russell Westbrook from Washington in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell. From a talent standpoint it sounds great but Westbrook with LeBron is bound to cause some spacing issues. 


LA agreed a deal to sign its own restricted free agent Talen Horton-Tucker for four seasons. Then, the Lakers scoured the bargain bin and signed Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore and Malik Monk to veteran minimum deals. 


The Lakers used their taxpayer mid-level exception on G Kendrick Nunn, who could provide instant offense off the bench. 


I’m not a huge fan of the Westbrook trade but the rotation looks to still be deep for a title run. 


Grade: A-


Memphis Grizzlies 


The Grizzlies were bold in moving up to No. 10 to take wing Ziaire Williams. Memphis sent Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th pick to New Orleans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe and the 10th pick.


Williams will be a project and is a high-risk high-reward pick for a Memphis team that snuck into the playoffs through the play-in tournament. The Grizzlies also drafted Spanish C Santi Aldama at number 30. 


A lot rests on how Williams is able to develop as Valanciunas was a highly productive player for Memphis. Adams and Bledsoe are coming off of tough seasons and Bledsoe is a candidate to be moved on, once more.


Grade: C


Miami Heat  


Kyle Lowry is 35 but the six-time All-Star still has some gas left in the tank. Miami signed him for three years and $90 million and sent Precious Achiuwa and Goran Dragic to Toronto. 


Sharpshooter Duncan Robinson also signed the biggest contract for an undrafted player at five years, $90 million. 


Miami also added NBA Champion P.J. Tucker with most of its Mid-Level Exception and Markieff Morris. Along with Robinson, the Heat re-signed Victor Oladipo, Dewayne Dedmon, Max Strus and Gabe Vincent. 


Jimmy Butler is expected to sign an extension to cap off a successful offseason for the Heat. The big contracts given to players well into their 30s are a bit concerning, though.


Grade: B+


Milwaukee Bucks 


The 2020-2021 NBA Champion Bucks have virtually no salary cap flexibility. But, they had P.J. Tucker’s bird rights to go over the cap and failed to re-sign him. 


Tucker is a negative on offense but his defense and toughness are invaluable. It seemed more like a money saving decision than a basketball one to let him go. 


The Bucks did re-sign Bobby Portis, who’s coming off his best career shooting season. The minimum guys the Bucks signed are also intriguing in Semi Ojeleye and Rodney Hood. George Hill is also rumored to be making a return to Milwaukee after being released by Philadelphia. 


Milwaukee is in a solid position to defend its title with its core of Giannis, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday still in place. 


Grade: B


Minnesota Timberwolves 


Bizarrely, the most exciting news of the summer is that Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez will assume control of the franchise in two-and-a-half years to end the Glen Taylor regime. Yes, that Alex Rodriguez.


The Wolves owed the No. 7 pick in the draft to the Warriors from the D’Angelo Russell trade and didn’t have a second rounder either. 


Minnesota hasn’t signed any free agents yet but swapped Ricky Rubio for Taurean Prince. The Wolves have the assets to pull off a Ben Simmons trade, but the lack of activity for a team that finished 23-49 last season is more than concerning.


Grade: F


New Orleans Pelicans 


This offseason has been a controversial one for New Orleans. 


The Pelicans shrewdly cleared cap space in the move that sent Bledsoe and Adams to Memphis for Valanciunas. New Orleans was a brutal 3-point shooting team last season and first-round F Trey Murphy III should help with that. Murphy shot 43.3% at Virginia last season. Second-round Alabama F Herb Jones could also strengthen a porous defense. 


On the other hand, the Pelicans may have alienated their young stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram by not re-signing Lonzo Ball. The duo publicly lobbied for the team to keep Ball but he was shipped to Chicago for a meager return of Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and a second rounder. 


New Orleans drafted well and signed a solid scorer in Devonte Graham, but broke up an exciting young core. 


Grade: C


New York Knicks  


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the New York Knicks had a great offseason. Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and Most Improved Player Julius Randle brought the franchise back to relevancy last season and are reaping what they sowed. 


The Knicks added much needed scoring in Evan Fournier and orchestrated Kemba Walker’s homecoming after a buyout with the Thunder.


New York added four players in the draft, most notably Houston G Quentin Grimes with the 25th pick. The Knicks rewarded their role players by re-signing Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson.


Most importantly, the Knicks extended Julius Randle for four years on a team-friendly deal.  


Grade: A


Oklahoma City Thunder  


Sam Presti’s rebuilding project in Oklahoma City is in full force as he continues to stockpile draft picks. 


Presti traded Al Horford to the Celtics and received Kemba Walker and the 2021 16th pick in return. Walker and OKC agreed to a buyout and Presti flipped the 16th pick for a 2022 Detroit first-rounder and a 2023 Washington first-rounder. 


On draft night, the Thunder made four picks, headlined by Australian G Josh Giddey with the sixth pick, Florida G Tre Mann at 18 and NBA-ready prospect Jeremiah Robinson-Earl at 32. 


OKC also took on Derrick Favors from Utah and got another future first round pick in the process. The Thunder crucially extended star G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and appear to have a bright future.


Grade: A


Orlando Magic 


Head coach Steve Clifford and the rebuilding Magic parted ways in the offseason. Clifford led Orlando to the playoffs in his first two seasons as coach but Orlando turned to former Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley to oversee itsrebuild. 


Orlando drafted Gonzaga stud G Jalen Suggs with the fifth pick of the draft and Michigan F Franz Wagner with No. 8. 


Orlando re-signed Wagner’s brother, Moe. Noted Disney fanatic Robin Lopez also agreed to a one-year deal to play for the Magic. 


After trading Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic last season the Magic have one of the youngest rosters in the league, which is chock full of first-rounders from recent seasons. 


Grade: B+


Philadelphia 76ers 


The basketball world awaits what Daryl Morey will do with the much-maligned Ben Simmons after an unceremonious playoff exit. However, the outspoken Morey may have hinted at a return with his cheeky tweet. 



Backup C minutes have been a persistent problem for Philly and now Andre Drummond will relieve Joel Embiid. The Sixers also addressed an area of need and drafted G Jaden Springer with the 28th pick. 


The Sixers also re-signed Danny Green and Furkan Korkmaz and added Georges Niang from the Utah Jazz. 


I’m still a believer in Simmons but his future in Philly is rightfully insecure. Otherwise, the Sixers hit a bunch of singles in the offseason.


Grade: C+


Phoenix Suns 


After a surprise NBA Finals appearance, the Suns signed Chris Paul to a four-year, $120 million contract. That initially sounds like a lot for a guy who will be 40 at the end of his contract. However, only $15 million is guaranteed in year three and the final year is a team option. 


The Suns added more established role players by trading Jevon Carter and the 29th pick for Landry Shamet and signing JaVale McGee. Long removed from his days as Shaqtin’ a Fool punching bag, McGee is Team USA’s backup C at Tokyo 2020.  


Phoenix also re-signed playoff hero Cameron Payne and Abdel Nader. The Suns have given themselves a fighting chance at making it back to the finals. 


Grade: A-


Portland Trail Blazers 


Terry Stotts is out as head coach after nine seasons and eight straight playoff appearances and Chauncey Billups is controversially in


Damian Lillard has taken to twitter to categorically deny he asked for a trade but who could blame him if he did. 


Portland lost Carmelo Anthony, Zach Collins and Enes Kanter in free agency. To little fanfare, the Blazers replaced them with Ben McLemore, Tony Snell and Cody Zeller and drafted F Greg Brown with the 43rd pick. 


GM Neil Olshey might have a trade or two up his sleeve and Norman Powell re-signed for four years, but these are rough times for the Blazers. 


Grade: D


Sacramento Kings  


The Kings have missed out on the playoffs for 15 straight seasons and haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt with their history nor recent transactions. 


Ninth pick of the draft Davion Mitchell is an elite competitor and won a National Championship at Baylor but adds to a crowded backcourt. 


The Kings spent $55 million re-signing Richaun Holmes to a four-year deal and brought back Moe Harkless and Terence Davis. 


Sacramento’s only signing from outside of the organization, so far, is former Wizards C Alex Len. The Kings unfortunately look to be headed toward the longest playoff drought in NBA history. 


Grade: D


San Antonio Spurs 


San Antonio seems to always draft unexpectedly and this year was no different. Out of nowhere, the Spurs took the youngest player in the class, Josh Primo, with the 12th pick. San Antonio added marksman F Joe Wieskamp in the second round. 


For the first time under Gregg Popovich the Spurs are entering what amounts to an actual rebuild. Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, Trey Lyles and Gorgui signed elsewhere and DeMar DeRozan completed a sign-and-trade with the Bulls. 


San Antonio got Al-Farouq Aminu and the versatile Thaddeus Young in the deal, along with a few picks. All in all, it’s a good haul for a guy the Spurs were losing anyway. 


Popovich always seems to get the best out of his players and Spurs fans will be hoping that new additions Zach Collins, Doug McDermott and Australian C Jock Landale are no different.  


Grade: C+


Toronto Raptors 

Masai Ujiri and the Raptors made a bold move drafting Florida State F Scottie Barnes over Jalen Suggs at No. 4. Barnes is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan but has a guard’s skillset and projects as an excellent defender. 


It was inevitable but Toronto lost arguably the most important player in franchise history, Lowry. The Raptors received Achiuwa and Dragic in the sign-and-trade. Dragic is likely to be moved on again and there are rumors surrounding Pascal Siakam. 


Toronto re-signed Gary Trent Jr. to a three-year, $54 million deal and picked up Sam Dekker. If the offseason ended today, it wouldn’t be considered a success but it doesn’t appear Ujiri’s done making moves. 


Grade: C-


Utah Jazz 


New GM Justin Zanik did well in his first offseason. 


He traded from the 30th pick in the draft to 40th and scooped up a first-round level talent and two future second-rounders. Baylor G Jared Butler had a heart condition which was a red flag for teams, but he was cleared to play by an NBA panel.  


To pave the way to re-sign Mike Conley, the Jazz traded Derrick Favors and a future first rounder to OKC. The Jazz also signed key role players in free agency, in Rudy Gay and Hassan Whiteside.


Close friend of Donovan Mitchell, Eric Paschall, was also brought in from the Warriors for a second round pick. 


Grade: A-


Washington Wizards 


The Wizards did about as well as they could have hoped for in the Westbrook trade. At the least, Washington got three borderline starters in Kuzma, Harrell and KCP. The Wizards could also move any of them on in later deals.


Washington’s draft was headlined by Gonzaga 3-point threat Corey Kispert, who should be able to contribute right away. The Wizards also acquired G Aaron Holiday from the Pacers and re-signed PG Raul Neto. 


Washington’s marquee signing was former Brooklyn Nets PG Spencer Dinwiddie for three years and $60 million. 


If the Wizards keep Bradley Beal this could be a playoff team but Washington has a lot of flexibility now with Westbrook’s contract off the books. 


Grade: B+


Get updates on the launch of OSDB Plus and sign up for the OSDB Newsletter.