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NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers: Lakers, Mavericks in Good Shape

During the offseason, the 76ers, Bucks and reigning champion Nuggets made moves that will help—or hurt—their chances at winning big.

While NBA contracts can start being negotiated at 6 p.m. ET on June 30, they cannot actually be signed until 12 p.m. ET on July 6. So to celebrate the end of the free-agency moratorium—and with several deals now in our rearview mirror—let’s run through some winners and losers from the first week or so of the offseason.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James looks to pass

L.A. will have a deeper roster surrounding LeBron in 2023-24.

Winner: Lakers

Allow me to throw my hat in the ring of pundits who believe the Lakers have done a very solid job this offseason. Los Angeles added Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish in free agency, while also retaining Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura and D’Angelo Russell. Vincent started every game for the Heat in the playoffs during their run to the 2022 Finals and was essential as an operator in pick-and-rolls. He should provide more steady two-play at point guard than Los Angeles received at any point last season. At the same time, Russell was brought back on a reasonable deal and can still provide value as a scorer.

Prince and Reddish aren’t perfect wings, but their lives will never be easier than playing off LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Prince fits the 3-and-D archetype needed around superstars. And though Reddish hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential, he’s absolutely worth taking a flier on this early in his career. Ultimately, Los Angeles retained all the important pieces from the core of a team that just made the West Finals and found a way to upgrade the roster without sacrificing depth or future cap flexibility.

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Loser: Joel Embiid

The reigning MVP just can’t seem to find a proper running mate. Ben Simmons imploded. The former front office didn’t want Jimmy Butler. And now James Harden is on the trade market after not signing an extension this summer. Embiid is in his prime. Philly can’t afford to keep wasting years of his career by missing on his costars. Even in the event Harden returns, I’m not sure how the Sixers will be any better than the team that just lost in the second round. Embiid has earned the right to send all the cryptic tweets he wants.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid sits

Embiid isn’t getting a lot of help in Philadelphia.

Winner: Heat culture

Miami’s run to the Finals was enough to convince Damian Lillard to push hard for a trade to the Heat. While it remains to be seen whether Lillard will get his wish, the Heat’s brand appears to be strong for superstars around the league.

Loser: Running it back

The champion Nuggets are losing two key pieces from their title team—Bruce Brown and Jeff Green, who signed for raises with the Pacers and Rockets, respectively. Both Brown and Green provided solid play all last season for Denver, also contributing majorly during the Finals. Denver has some young players waiting in the wings who could help the team more long term. It’s a shame we won’t see the entire band back together for a title defense, though.

Winner: Mavericks

Even if the Kyrie Irving contract raises eyebrows, Dallas has done some solid work. The Grant Williams contract may go down as the steal of the summer, and he’s the exact type of defender and shooter who should thrive playing off Kyrie and Luka Dončić. Seth Curry is back for another stint, which is fun. The Mavs also added some frontcourt depth through the draft, and if they can steal Matisse Thybulle from Portland, they’ll be adding even more defensive edge. I don’t know if Dallas is a true contender, and relying on Irving is a dicey proposition. Still, given the situation the team had created for itself by acquiring Irving in the first place, the Mavs have done solid work in the margins.

Loser: Raptors

Going from Fred VanVleet to Dennis Schröoder is a significant downgrade, to say the least. Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam is on an expiring deal, and OG Anunoby’s contract is also effectively expiring. Yes, Toronto will get trade offers for those players, but their value will likely be much lower than it was a season ago. Even if the Raps sign those guys long term, how will the team both lose VanVleet and improve a roster that missed the playoffs last year? Toronto could finally be headed for a serious rebuild by the trade deadline, despite having an enviable collection of talent.

Winner: One timeline

The Warriors re-signed Draymond Green and traded Jordan Poole for Chris Paul. New GM Mike Dunleavy has a long way to go before he can truly be evaluated for his work in the role. Still, I applaud the commitment on going all in to win now, a strategy that should have been obvious with Stephen Curry on the roster.

Push: Bucks

Bringing back Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will keep Milwaukee’s title window open for next season, at the very least. On the other hand, the Bucks lost Joe Ingles and Jevon Carter. Milwaukee has a very high floor with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Jrue Holiday. My fear for the Deer is this team still needs to make some moves on the margins to bolster its playoff rotation. Will bringing back Jae Crowder and adding Malik Beasley be enough?