The NBA free agency period got off to a wild start on June 30 at 6 p.m. ET. In the first few hours, the league’s 30 teams had already agreed to more than $2 billion in contracts with players.
Most of the dominoes have fallen already, except for reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s decision. We are starting to get a good idea of how the rosters will look for next season.
Let’s decide which three teams have succeeded in free agency so far. After that, we’ll discuss three squads that haven’t done well.
Biggest Winners of NBA Free Agency
With apologies to D’Angelo Russell, the Nets started free agency as a lower-tier playoff team with no true star. Two days later, they have two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both signed to four-year deals.
Of course, Durant’s Achilles injury makes him likely out for all of next season, but the team’s long-term future as both a championship contender and a free-agent destination got undeniably brighter in nabbing two of the marquee guys on the open market.
Brooklyn’s depth admittedly took a bit of a hit. However, quality players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen remain from last year’s squad that overachieved.
One move that was a bit confusing was signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan to a four-year, $40 million deal when 21-year-old Jarrett Allen already looks like the center of the future. That doesn’t dampen the hope in Brooklyn, though.
The best move the Jazz made this offseason was trading for star point guard Mike Conley ahead of the draft. He gives the team much-needed perimeter creation and shooting alongside rising star guard Donovan Michell. The team has made some pretty nice maneuvers since then, though.
Utah did lose Derrick Favors in the frontcourt rotation, but Utah often fared better with a more modern lineup with a floor-spacer at the 4 position anyway. Ed Davis will step in as Rudy Gobert’s backup and absolutely dominate the glass. Bojan Bogdanovic played well as the Indiana Pacers’ primary scorer for part of last season, but now he can improve his efficiency as a No. 3 option behind Conley and Mitchell.
Utah may be slightly weak at that power forward spot, but the squad can roll out a lot of fun small-ball lineups with guys like Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles or Royce O’Neale all filling in as stretch 4s. You should expect the Jazz to remain near the top of the West for most of the season.
New Orleans Pelicans
As was the case with the Jazz, the big splash for the Pelicans came before free agency. The Anthony Davis era is now over, but Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart all joined the team via the draft or trade.
New Orleans has made two excellent moves since free agency started, getting Favors in a sign-and-trade and signing J.J. Redick to a two-year deal. Both are veterans who can be trusted to mentor the young bucks on the team and make a positive impact on the floor, as well.
Redick’s amazing three-point shooting will open up the paint for the likes of Williamson, Ingram, Favors and Hayes. His lack of size on defense isn’t as big of a deal with Jrue Holiday and Ball being able to check the stronger offensive players of the opposition. Meanwhile, Favors can step in as a starting center until Hayes is ready. Favors now gets to be a full-time center, a role that was hard to come by playing next to Rudy Gobert with the Jazz.
It’s hard to know exactly how competitive this team will be with so many youngsters next to New Orleans’ veterans. There’s no doubt that the Pels have a really nice combination of youth and veterans to build on for the future.
Biggest Losers of NBA Free Agency
Kemba Walker has been the main guy keeping the Hornets afloat for the last few seasons. Many people thought the team should have traded him for some assets before he hit the free agency market this summer. Of course they didn’t and Walker signed with the Boston Celtics, leaving the Hornets with nothing but free cap space in return. The squad also lost Jeremy Lamb in free agency. Lamb was Charlotte’s second-leading scorer by a long shot.
Unfortunately, Charlotte isn’t known as a big free-agent destination. The Hornets’ big move this offseason was inking former Celtics guard Terry Rozier to a three-year, $58 million deal. This was not a smart decision. Rozier had some nice moments when Kyrie Irving was injured during his Celtics tenure, but most of what we’ve seen suggests that he is not a guy you want playing big minutes for your team.
Rozier will put up numbers as the Hornets’ point guard. However, he’s not going to do it efficiently, and his defense isn’t as good as you would think. The Hornets could’ve gone with a much cheaper option at point guard and gotten similar impact while maintaining more cap flexibility moving forward.
The Hornets are in a pretty bad position both this year and for the future. They will need a franchise-changing draft pick next summer to revitalize this franchise.
New York Knicks
The Knicks will be a better team in 2019-20 than they were in 2018-19, when they won a measly 17 games. Unfortunately, they won’t be much better, and they failed yet again even to come close to acquiring a major star in free agency.
Power forward Julius Randle did sign, which wasn’t bad. New York also stockpiled two more guys at his position, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis, who will earn a combined $25 million next season. Other decent veterans like Elfrid Payton, Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington signed, but at this point of their careers, they are probably not looking to play on a team going nowhere, like the Knicks are. New York will probably just win 25 to 30 games in 2019-20 with its combination of unproven prospects that aren’t ready and middling veterans.
On the positive side, New York did maintain a lot of flexibility for next summer, as all of its free agents aside from Randle have team options then.
The Timberwolves seemed close to acquiring D’Angelo Russell, but the Golden State Warriors swooped in to steal him in a sign-and-trade.
Overall, though, the Wolves have been one of the quieter teams this offseason. Their additions (Shabazz Napier, Jordan Bell, Noah Vonleh and Treveon Graham) do not move the needle, and the squad still has a bunch of money going to players who are either very disappointing, injury-prone or downright bad. Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng and Robert Covington will make a combined $74 million in 2019-20.
I did really like their drafting of Jarrett Culver, but I’d feel better about him if Wiggins or Covington were making less money or traded.
Like fellow star Kentucky big men DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis before him, Karl-Anthony Towns is not getting good support from his teammates and the front office. Will trade rumors start to rumble if the Wolves struggle again next season?