NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers

It has been an eventful first 24 hours of free agency with many teams making significant improvements to their roster to put themselves in position to take a leap heading into next season. There were also some teams who took a swing and a miss and did not land any of their preferred targets. Today, we’re going to dive into what teams made the biggest splash on day one of free agency, and what teams still have some work to do to bolster their roster.

Biggest Winners

Chicago Bulls- The Bulls were already having a great first day of free agency, and that was before they added DeMar DeRozan on Tuesday afternoon. Chicago was able to acquire Derozan in a sign-and-trade with San Antonio, sending back Thaddeus Young, a future first-round pick, and two second-round picks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. On Monday, the Bulls added Lonzo Ball from New Orleans on a four-year $85 million deal, sending Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, and a second-round pick back to New Orleans in a sign-and-trade. Ball was rumored to Chicago for a while, and the Bulls will now have an experienced, but youthful point guard to pair with Zach LaVine and DeRozan in the backcourt. Chicago was also able to add former Lakers guard Alex Caruso on a four-year $37 million deal, giving the Bulls a hard-nosed guard to bolster their bench.

Caruso and Ball played together in Los Angeles for two seasons and they will now be reunited in Chicago as the Bulls will certainly now be in position to take a step forward in the Eastern Conference. DeRozan now gives Chicago a third all-star caliber player to go with LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. The Bulls now all of a sudden should have one of the most formidable starting lineups in the East with Ball, Lavine, Derozan, Patrick Williams, and Vucevic. Adding Caruso to their bench, and hopefully, a healthy Coby White, the Bulls’ top seven will be a force to be reckoned with. White though, will likely miss some time to start the season, due to having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in June, but adding Derozan, Ball and Caruso will more than hold down the backcourt for as long as White should be out. The Bulls should now be in the conversation to be a top-five seed in the East. They still won’t be favored over Brooklyn or Milwaukee, or probably even Miami, but they should be in that next tier with Philadelphia, Atlanta, New York, Boston, and Washington.

Miami Heat- Until Tuesday afternoon when Chicago acquired DeMar DeRozan, the Heat were clearly the biggest winners through day one of free agency. The biggest reason for this is that they were able to land Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker while retaining their core pieces. Miami was able to pry Lowry from Toronto via a sign-and-trade, sending Goran Dragic to Toronto. The deal is for a reported three years and $90 million according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Tucker, on the other hand, inked a two-year deal worth $15 million, electing to leave Milwaukee after winning an NBA championship just two weeks ago.

Miami was also able to re-sign Duncan Robinson on a five-year $90 million deal, which is the largest contract ever signed by an undrafted player. Robinson has turned into one of the best shooters in the NBA, knocking down 3.5 triples per game at a 40.8% clip last season. The Heat are also closing in on re-signing Jimmy Butler to a 4-year max extension of $184 million. Miami will now have their core of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Robinson locked up for the foreseeable future, with Lowry locked in for the next three years, and Tucker for the next two. Miami, who was ninth in defensive efficiency in 2020-2021 will certainly be one of the league’s best defensive teams heading into this upcoming season after adding two defensive-minded veterans who both have won NBA championships, to a team that already had a reputation of being one of the toughest in the league.

Washington Wizards- Though Washington began its work before free agency began on Monday evening, the Wizards have done a great job rebuilding their roster and adding some depth, shooting, and playmaking around star Bradley Beal. The biggest move that Washington made was reportedly adding Spencer Dinwiddie late Monday evening. The terms of the deal have not been announced yet, but should things check out, the Wizards will have added a point guard who averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists per game in his last full season. Yes, Dinwiddie is coming off of a torn ACL, limiting him to just three games this season, but according to reports, he is fully recovered, so much so that reports were swirling that if Brooklyn reached the NBA Finals, Dinwiddie could possibly have played. If this is true, and he can return to his 2019-2020 form, the Wizards could have just found a diamond in the rough. They also brought in Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell from the Lakers, sending back Russell Westbrook and his unfavorable contract to the Lakers. Anytime you can rid yourself of a bad contract while bringing in young capable pieces, it has to be seen as a positive.

Lastly, Washington added Aaron Holiday on draft day in a trade with Indiana, which will give them a solid backup point guard behind Dinwiddie. Washington will now have more shooting, adding Dinwiddie, Kuzma, KCP, and Holiday, and will be considerably deeper than they were last year, having earned an eight-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Dinwiddie, KCP, and Kuzma also should fit better alongside Beal from a basketball standpoint because of their ability to space the floor and make three’ at a high clip. Washington still is not a top-five team in the East, but they should be in play for those last two or three seeds in the playoffs come April.

Biggest Losers

Boston Celtics- The Celtics sat back on Monday and watched the Eastern Conference get a lot tougher, while they lost their only key free agent in Evan Fournier to the New York Knicks on a four-year deal worth $78 million. Fournier reportedly wanted to re-sign in Boston, but according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Boston did not want to sign him back at the price that he was requesting. This could mean that Boston knows something that we don’t, and they could have another move up their sleeves; but until that happens, this decision is puzzling, to say the least.

Boston did agree to a deal with the Mavericks to acquire Josh Richardson on Friday, and they acquired Al Horford in the deal for Kemba Walker back in June, but that is the end of their moves up to date. Boston finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and lost in five games in the first round of the playoffs to the Brooklyn Nets, and will have a first-year head coach in Ime Udoka and president of basketball operations in Brad Stevens coming into next season. They should get Jaylen Brown back in time for training camp, but Boston will have some work to do to improve their roster if they want to truly contend to get back to the Eastern Conference finals that they reached three times from 2016 to 2020.

Dallas Mavericks- Dallas, like Boston, sat around and watched teams around them get better, while they missed on a few key targets. Dallas was reportedly pursuing Kyle Lowry, who ended up in Miami, and Richaun Holmes who ended up re-signing in Sacramento. Dallas was though, able to re-sign Tim Hardaway Jr. on a four-year $72 million deal, and they also added Reggie Bullock on a three-year deal worth $30.5 million, who should be a serviceable replacement for the aforementioned Josh Richardson, but barring something unforeseen, this roster as it is presently constructed will look a lot like it did last year, which is not what Mavericks fans hoped for entering this offseason. The clock has not hit zero yet for Dallas, but time is ticking and names are flying off of the board fast, so if Dallas is to make a move, it better be coming soon.

Toronto Raptors- The Raptors saw one of the greatest players in franchise history depart for greener pastures on Monday, as Kyle Lowry elected to sign with the Miami Heat. Lowry is the franchise leader in made three’s, assists, steals, and triple-doubles, and is second in franchise history in points scored, games played, and minutes played to longtime teammate DeMar DeRozan. This officially puts an end to the greatest era in Raptors history as the last piece to the core of that franchise for the better part of the last decade has now departed. Veteran wing Rodney Hood also elected to depart Toronto and sign a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Toronto is now clearly in rebuild mode after and has even been rumored to be shopping star forward Pascal Siakam. The Raptors have, though, made a commitment to their younger players, signing Gary Trent junior to a three-year $54 million deal, and drafting wings Scottie Barnes and Dalano Banton, along with former Louisville guard David Johnson in Thursday’s NBA draft. If these young pieces pan out, and Fred VanVleet continues on the gradual ascension he has been on the last few seasons, the rebuild could be shorter than expected north of the border.

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