NBA free agency early winners and losers: Warriors (losers), T’Wolves (winners), Lakers (who knows)

July 06, 2022 in Sports

You win some, you lose some. The same can be said about NBA free agency.

The free agency moratorium officially opened last Thursday and was quickly followed by a flurry of moves, some logical and some head-scratching. Zach LaVine will stay in Chicago (five years, $215.2 million), Bradley Beal returns to Washington (five years, $251 million) and Anfernee Simons stays with Portland (four years, $100 million), while Jalen Brunson has agreed to join the New York Knicks (four-year, $104 million).

Teams have been busy on the trade front as well, with Utah sending Rudy Gobert to Minnesota. All the news pales in comparison to a bombshell revelation from Kevin Durant. He wants out of Brooklyn. Durant’s availability will significantly altered the free agency landscape.

But that could take some time to settle. But which team made the right or wrong call so far? Although there’s lots of moving parts still in play, USA TODAY Sports’ NBA team is trying to make sense of everything.

Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers from the first five days of free agency:

Loser: Golden State Warriors
It’s hard to refer to the reigning NBA Champions as “losers,” but Golden State parted ways with two role players that were key to their title run. Gary Payton II signed with the Portland Trail Blazers on a three-year, $28 million deal, while Otto Porter Jr. agreed to a two-year deal with Toronto. Although the Warriors were able to retain Kevon Looney (three-year, $25.5 million), Golden State’s depth has taken a major hit.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves may have paid a king’s ransom to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Rudy Gobert – Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and Walker Kessler, the No. 22 pick in last week’s draft, unprotected first-round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027, plus a top five-protected pick in 2029 – but Minnesota adds the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to their lineup.

Gobert will join D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who signed a four year, $224 million extension last week. This line-up could do damage and contend in the West.

RUDY GOBERT: Minnesota makes big move to acquire Jazz star, per reports

Loser: Miami Heat
The Heat, coming off an Eastern Conference finals appearance, lost P.J. Tucker to conference rival Philadelphia, and could lose Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro. However, the Heat could turn from losers to winners quickly, especially if they land Kevin Durant. Miami’s excellent front office will keep working to try and improve the roster.

Loser: Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets woes haven’t come from free agency. Kyrie Irving exercised the player option on the final year of his contract for the 2022-23 season, but it’s not clear if Irving will play another game for the Nets. The same can be said about Kevin Durant, who requested a trade from the Nets just hours before free agency opened. This comes nearly five months after Brooklyn traded James Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons.

Although Brooklyn will certainly get first-round picks if they trade away Durant and Irving, the Nets find themselves on the verge of another rebuild after this failed experiment.

KEVIN DURANT requests trade from Brooklyn Nets before NBA free agency opens

OPINION: Nets’ grand plans for Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving blow up, expose issues NBA owners want to fix

To be determined: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have made moves around the fringes so far, reaching deals with Troy Brown Jr., Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Lonnie Walker IV. But that’s not enough to elevate the Lakers to contenders. We’re waiting to see if they can acquire Kyrie Irving (or another star) in an offseason deal.

Winner: Boston Celtics
The Celtics didn’t need to do much, but they couldn’t remain the same. Getting a playmaking point guard who adds depth to the rotation was a necessity. Boston president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has made deals to improve the team in his one year on the job and made another one in free agency. Boston acquired Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers without giving up key rotational players. A rotation featuring Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Brogdon is dangerous offensively and defensively.

TBD: Sacramento Kings
Not winners or losers, let’s give the Kings temporary props for finding shooters around the De’Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis combo. Offseason acquisitions Malik Monk (free agency) and Kevin Huerter (via trade) will help the Kings stretch the floor. Sacramento also drafted Keegan Murray with the No. 4 pick. It looks good on paper. Let’s see what the Kings and new coach Mike Brown can do with this roster on the court.

Winner: Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers lured P.J. Tucker from Miami (even if it’s a slight overpay but good for Tucker, who is defensive and corner 3-point specialist), and they worked with James Harden to decline his player option at $47.4 million and give him a longer deal at slightly lower per year salary. As a result, the Sixers could have some financial flexibility to improve the roster. The Sixers also added inexpensive depth, reaching a deal with Danuel House Jr., who played with Harden in Houston.

TBD: Utah Jazz
What are the Jazz up to? That’s a question that remains unclear so far. Utah hired 34-year-old Will Hardy as its new head coach last week to replace Quin Snyder. Utah traded away Gobert to Minnesota for multiple players and multiple first-round picks and also sent Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a conditional 2023 first-round draft pick to build around Donovan Mitchell.

TBD: Portland Trail Blazers
New Trail Blazers GM Joe Cronin didn’t sit still as the Blazers acquired Jerami Grant in a trade, drafted Shadeon Sharpe, retained Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic and added Gary Payton II. It’s an improvement with more work to do, but a decent start to help Damian Lillard.

TBD: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks acquired All-Star Dejounte Murray, who was close to averaging a triple-double last season, and that gives Trae Young help. But the Hawks also traded Kevin Huerter to Sacramento, lost Delon Wright to Washington and sent Danilo Gallinari and three first-round draft picks to San Antonio in the Murray deal. The Hawks had a disappointing season in 2021-22, and they may need more than the Murray deal to contend in the East.

Loser: New York Knicks
The Knicks added Jalen Brunson on a four-year, $104 million deal. It’s a fine addition in free agency if not a bit of an overpay. But the question is: how much better does this make the Knicks. Maybe better than they were last season. Maybe not. It does not elevate them to contenders as the roster stands now.