Each year, the wave of NBA free agency deals leaves the league looking different in its wake. This year, we saw Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving join forces in Brooklyn, Al Horford move south to sign with the 76ers, Jimmy Butler spurning Philly to become a member of the Heat and a host of other big names to change teams.
But the biggest deals aren't always the ones that are the most intriguing. With so much action in the first few days of NBA free agency (and as we wait for Kawhi Leonard to make up his mind), The Crossover paneled its NBA staff to find out what they think are the best and worst deals from free agency so far.
Best Deal in NBA Free Agency So Far?
Andrew Sharp: This is going to sound extremely nerdy, but my favorite deal was Kevon Looney going back to the Warriors. A few weeks ago, when Golden State lost Game 6 and Klay Thompson tore his ACL, we were are looking around dumbfounded and wondering whether the Warriors would even make the playoffs next year. Obviously the root of those concerns was uncertainty surrounding Thompson's availability and the likely departure of Kevin Durant (who would have missed the next 12 months regardless), but some of it centered on Looney, too. We'd just seen him put together an excellent run through the playoffs, looking like the prototypical low usage, highly mobile center for the smallball era. He was perfect for everything Golden State wanted to be on both ends of the floor. But late in the Finals there were outsiders who began to wonder: if a team threw big money at him in restricted free agency, could the Warriors match?
Those concerns were later compounded on night one of free agency when news broke that the Warriors would be acquiring D'Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn. That Russell deal made sense (instead of losing KD for nothing they get a 23 -ear-old with high upside to help either on the court or in subsequent trades), but it meant Golden State would be hard-capped, leaving the team with even less room to potentially sign Looney. And then ... I still have no idea how they were able to get him for so cheap (three years for $15 million), but Looney is back. So is Willie Cauley-Stein, a starting center who will arrive in Golden State playing for slightly above the minimum. Altogether, it gives the Warriors some real hope. They won't be able to overwhelm teams the way they have for the past few seasons, but they have enough pieces to make this interesting.
The Warriors looked like they were dead, or would at least be dormant for the next 12 months. Now I'm beginning to wonder if we all wrote that story a bit too early.
Rob Mahoney: It’s not the biggest signing or the best value, but Philadelphia gets points for creativity with the Al Horford signing. Once Jimmy Butler decided to skip town, the Sixers did well to recoup Josh Richardson via sign-and-trade. Then, with the cap space Butler left behind, Philly made a play well outside the box. Horford is a nominal center joining a team that already has the best center in the league. Yet everything about his game seems to fit just what the Sixers need, if in some slightly unconventional way. This move has the potential to take Philly over the top. The best part, though, is how much it leaves to sort out.
Matt Dollinger: Other deals will have bigger impacts on the outcomes of basketball games, but there are two deals in particular that will have an even greater impact on the world: Brook and Robin Lopez joining forces and signing deals in Milwaukee. Finally, the Lopez twins are united. After playing in the league for 11 seasons apart, the two behemoths will now be teammates, road-trip buddies and partners-in-crime for the Bucks. Basketball-wise, I’m not sure this makes a ton of sense. Interest-wise, it’s pure genius. Bucks GM Jon Horst is already the league’s reigning Executive of the Year. On hijinks alone, I’ve got to assume he’s the favorite to repeat at this point. To the mascots around the league, you’ve officially been put on notice.
DeAntae Prince: No move stands to shake up the NBA quite like Kevin Durant’s decision to part ways with the Warriors. After he suffered a brutal Achilles tear, I thought he might be content to rehab in San Francisco and figure out free agency next year on two healthy legs. Durant obviously had other plans, and his move to Brooklyn—along with Kyrie Irving—should bring some much-needed excitement to New York.
Jarrel Harris: It's KD to the Nets. The move changes the balance of power in the NBA and for the first time in years the chase for the championship actually seems open. As a native New Yorker, it is also cool to see basketball superstars actually want to come play in the city. The only negative about this deal is how much Nets tickets are about to skyrocket.
Michael Shapiro:J.J. Reddick is a perfect addition for Alvin Gentry and the young Pelicans. The former Sixers sharpshooter will thrive in New Orleans’ run-and-gun system, sprinting to the corner as Lonzo Ball and Zion push the pace in transition. He’s as steady as they come both on the floor and in the locker room, capable of nudging Williamson, Ball and Brandon Ingram toward winning habits. Reddick is the perfect mentor and marksman for New Orleans’ new-look roster.
Worst Deal in NBA Free Agency So Far?
Sharp: There have been a handful of compelling candidates here, but my worst deal winner goes to the entire Blazers offseason. Keeping Al-Farouq Aminu was always going to be difficult, so maybe they get a pass on that one. Likewise, Kent Bazemore offers more shooting than Evan Turner, so sure, they can get the benefit of the doubt on that trade as well. But why did Portland trade for Hassan Whiteside? Were Heat games blacked out in Portland over the past few years? The Nurkic injury forced Portland's hand to some degree, but Whiteside is uncomfortable in space on offense, which means it's unlikely he'll be unlocking Lillard and McCollum the same way Nurkic did. He's also spacy as a defender, and his Heat teams were generally better when he was on the bench.
The Whiteside deal could work fine, but to me it signifies a front office that has run out ideas as it reshuffles the deck a year after being swept out of the conference finals. There were other teams that made questionable deals (Charlotte, Washington, Phoenix, etc) but not many that did so with a potential title shot on the line. All of the moves in Portland were lateral at best, and altogether, this is more likely a step back. When Evan Turner says that he, Ed Davis, Aminu, Moe Harkless, and Meyers Leonard could run the current supporting cast out of the gym... Is he wrong?
Mahoney: Reasonable people can disagree on basketball talent, but I’m not sure I quite understand the premise that would lead a team—even one desperate for a point guard—to offer $58 million to Terry Rozieer. What was Charlotte’s rush? The Hornets just lost their two highest scorers from last season, and with them, the hope of being a good basketball team next season. Why not play the long game here rather than leap at the first point guard who looks your way?
Dollinger: It's tempting to dedicate this space to the Phoenix Suns, who have gone out of their way to submit several nominations for consideration this summer. But the Suns don't have a lot riding on this summer—as Fran Fraschilla would say, they're two years away from being two years away—so instead I'm going with a move and a franchise that will have an immediate impact: DeAndre Jordan's four-year, $40 million deal with the Nets. Look, I get it. If signing Kevin Durant's friend to an exorbitant deal is the only way to get him to Brooklyn, then you do it. But if that's 100% not what went down, and instead there was some analysis that led to the decision that giving Jordan $40 million is a good idea, then it's by far the worst move of the summer. It starts with already having Jarrett Allen, a young promising center (who also went to Texas, KD!) who you're potentially stunting his growth, and it ends having Jordan as the third-highest paid player on a potential championship team. Neither of those are good things.
Prince: It was a bit of a surprise when Harrison Barnes opted out of a player option for $25.1 million, but he clearly knew what awaited him in free agency (four years, $88 million). Barnes averaged 14.3 points and 5.5 rebounds last season, but never showed anything to suggest he could be the focal point of a franchise. More of a complementary option even on a young, growing team, it will be interesting to see what he brings to a franchise on the cusp of the postseason. If their draft picks pan out, the Kings could regret this deal in a few years when De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles need to be paid.
Harris: I seriously don’t understand what the Magic are doing. Nikola Vucevic made his first All-Star team this past season but they should have traded him at the NBA trade deadline. Orlando barely made the playoffs and it seems as if it is going to stay that way for the next couple of years. The Magic are stacked in the frontcourt and should have gave last year’s lottery pick Mo Bamba the keys instead of handing over $100M to Vucevic. It is one of the biggest head-scratchers of the summer.
Shapiro: Shelling out $58 million for Terry Rozier isn’t exactly a prudent way for the Hornets to save face after letting Kemba Walker walk to Boston. Rozier is a middling point guard in a league filled with them, demanding plenty of shots even at the expense of his teammates. Rozier will get his wish in Charlotte, chucking up jumpers as the Hornets sink down the East standings. Good on him for getting paid and moving into a starting role. As for the Hornets, this is another head scratching move to cap a decade of incompetence.