NBA Free Agency – Winners & Losers

NBA Free Agency hit the ground running on Friday evening with an onslaught of deals carrying some sort of impact on the entire betting landscape. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the “Winners” and “Losers” from the first few days of the free agency frenzy.

Winner - Los Angeles Lakers

At the original time of this posting, the Lakers still had a crucial task that needed to be scratched off their offseason checklist, which was the re-signing of Austin Reaves – but even before agreeing to terms with Reaves on a four-year, $56 million deal on Saturday afternoon, L. A. was already off to a very solid start to Free Agency.

Most notably on Friday, Rui Hachimura agreed to re-sign with the Lakers on a three-year $51 million dollar deal – which is a huge pay bump for Hachimura after making just $6.3 million last season, but when you look at how important he was to L. A.’s latest playoff run, locking up the 25-year-old now at that price should be worth it in the longhaul.

L. A. also acquired former Heat’ guard Gabe Vincent, who inked a three-year, $33 million contract with the team – and this was actually my favorite move of the evening by the Lakers.

The Lakers are a top notch basketball team when everything is firing on all cylinders for them, which was on full display throughout their latest playoff run, but sometimes, LeBron and AD find themselves in desperate need of a spark plug, especially from long-range, and Vincent will provide just that – emphasis on the “sometimes.”

Vincent’s tenure with the Lakers is sure to be a rollercoaster ride, but that’s exactly why Los Angeles was the perfect landing spot for him.

D’Angelo Russell is staying with the Lakers on a team friendly two-year, $37 million deal – a huge pay cut for Russell after raking in $117 million over the last four years at an average annual salary of $29 million.

The Lakers have also agreed to terms with Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, and Jaxson Hayes for lesser deals – which may not be groundbreaking acquisitions, but nevertheless, some solid cheap complementary pieces to place alongside their superstar duo – count the Lakers as “winners” on Days 1 and 2.

Loser - Toronto Raptors 

The Raptors decided to part ways with long-time point guard Fred VanVleet during Friday’s free agency frenzy, and while the Rockets could also be considered “losers” at this juncture after overpaying VanVleet with a massive three-year, $130 million deal – this is more about Toronto quickly trending downwards as an immediate threat.

Prior to the departure of VanVleet, the Raptors were already a fringe playoff team as Toronto finished 9th in the East with a record of 41-41 before falling to Chicago in the opening round of the Play-In Tournament last year.

The Raptors quickly filled the spot by signing Dennis Schroder to a two-year deal, but VanVleet was the second-leading scorer on last year’s team at 19.3 PPG, and while he’s still a solid player, Schroder is a significant downgrade in the backcourt averaging just 13.8 PPG over the last three seasons – and it’s going to take a toll on Toronto’s offensive numbers.

Jakob Poetl has also agreed to re-sign with the Raptors on a four-year, $80 million deal, putting him in the ballpark of the 10th highest paid center in basketball alongside Clint Capela and Nikola Vucevic – so the real question is, what is the Raptors’ goal here?

The Raptors have a pair of big contract decisions coming up next year with Pascal Siakam and OG Annunoby potentially hitting the open market, and because of that, we’re seeing them flirt with the idea of greenlighting a rebuild, while at the same time, trying to put the pieces in place to be a good basketball team next year.

Bringing back Poetl and adding Schroder ensures that the Raptors don’t totally fall off the cliff next year, but it certainly won’t make them any better – and in the meantime, they aren’t accumulating any valuable draft capital hovering in the mid-range.

Here’s a good rule of thumb, though – you never want to be in No Man’s Land, and that’s exactly where Toronto appears to be at the moment.

Winner - Golden State Warriors

Oftentimes, basketball fans tend to downplay Draymond Green’s importance to this Warriors’ team as he grows older simply because he doesn’t score as much as he used to – but make no mistake about, Draymond still finished 4th in the Defensive Player of the Year voting last year, and bringing him back on a four-year, $100 million deal is a huge win for Golden State.

The Warriors have posted a miserable record of 31-45 in the 76 contests that Green has missed since the 2019-20 season, a pretty large sample size, and their most recent campaign was no exception, as Golden State went 3-6 in nine games without Green last year.

It may not always be visible on the stat sheet, but Green is crucial to the identity of this Golden State’ team, and without him, it’s tough to say how much longer “the Warriors as we know them” would continue to exist.

The Warriors were never the same following Green’s infamous scuffle with Jordan Poole last preseason – and people began to wonder if the clock was running out on this Golden State’ team.

But in the aftermath of Poole’s departure and the addition of Chris Paul, it seems like the Warriors have successfully pressed the reset button to two years ago when they won a title.

Plus, they’ve managed to replace an immature asset in Poole with a savvy veteran in CP3, which in theory, should help improve morale and provide them with some much-needed late-game scoring on the road  – long live the Warriors’ dynasty.

Loser - Dallas Mavericks

Lastly, we’ll talk about the Dallas Mavericks, who should also be considered “losers” at this point in free agency after agreeing to terms with Kyrie Irving on a three-year, $126 million deal.

There’s no way to spin this situation in a positive way for the Mavs unless they’re banking on the Luka-Kyrie experiment playing out much differently next season.

Since leaving Cleveland, Irving has become an absolute plague. He’s forced three teams to trade him since 2017, and garnered very little postseason success to show for it – without even taking into account his off-the-court issues.

Kyrie is an incredible basketball player, and the Mavericks sacrificed a ton of trade capital to acquire him. So they couldn’t just let him walk in free agency – but all things considered, the quickest route out of this mess is by the current version of this Dallas’ team living up to its full potential.

The odds are certainly stacked against them. The Mavericks posted a record of 5-11 with Kyrie in the lineup last season, and there’s not much depth behind their superstar duo – but it’s tough to imagine their struggles continuing at such an alarming rate as the duo’s chemistry grows and develops.

There will be good days, and there will be bad days for this Dallas’ team – probably more bad than good, but we’ll see. 

That said, though, the Mavericks are going to look great at times, sometimes for extensive stretches, and the trade market will return for Kyrie, just like it always does – and that’s when Dallas will strike, shipping him off to another fringe contender.

But until that happens, consider this move a “loser.”