NBA free agency has been open for just over a week, and several teams have already emerged as winners and losers.
2023 NBA Free Agency Winners And Losers
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers had a flurry of signings over the past week, strengthening their supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The team is coming off a Western Conference Finals run, one they were able to make thanks to some much-needed trade deadline moves. The Lakers further addressed their biggest needs, shooting, and defence, by acquiring Gabe Vincent, Cam Reddish, Taurean Prince, and Jaxson Hayes. This was in addition to re-signing key players Austin Reaves (for a great price), D’Angelo Russell, and Rui Hachimura. These upgrades also provide depth insurance for when the injury bug comes around.
One of the most significant issues the Phoenix Suns faced last season was their lack of depth, the price of trading for Kevin Durant. After landing Bradley Beal, a move that solidified a new big three and raised their title odds, their bench became scarcer. However, they brought back Josh Okogie and Damion Lee and added Eric Gordon, Yuta Watanabe, Drew Eubanks, Keita Bates-Diop, and Chimezie Metu. Considering their options for rotation players were limited thanks to the luxury tax, this was a solid haul. Their bench now has a collection of sharpshooters, rebounders, and big defenders.
Houston Rockets fans have had mixed reactions over the latest additions to the team. Nevertheless, signing Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks, Jeff Green, Jock Landale, and Aaron Holiday puts them in a better spot than last season. Their offensive and defensive ratings were among the worst in the league. VanVleet, alongside Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., and Alperen Sengun, gives their offence a solid shooter and playmaker. Brooks will be most valuable defensively, and new head coach Ime Udoka should help the “villain” control his antics. Overall, the Rockets added veteran experience to a young core as they work to rebuild.
A first-round playoff exit at the hands of the New York Knicks highlighted the Cleveland Cavaliers’ depth and three-point shooting issues. They wasted no time finding some sharpshooters in free agency, acquiring Max Strus and Georges Niang, as well as Ty Jerome and Damian Jones. Strus also upgrades the small forward starting spot, moving Isaac Okoro to the bench. He was instrumental in the Miami Heat’s surprising Finals run, and Niang shot an efficient 40% from deep with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Cavaliers also brought back Caris LeVert, keeping their core intact and surrounding them with floor spacers and reliable scorers.
The Indiana Pacers made out like bandits in free agency with two surprising moves. First, they snagged NBA champion Bruce Brown, who is coming off a career year. He fills multiple needs for the team, being a three-level scorer and a versatile defender. Later, they received Obi Toppin from the New York Knicks for just a couple of second-round picks. The 25-year-old thrived in extended minutes while Julius Randle dealt with an injury, and he’ll help carry the scoring load. On top of this, Indiana secured their future by signing All-Star Tyrese Haliburton to a five-year contract extension.
Portland Trail Blazers
Following Damian Lillard’s trade request, the Portland Trail Blazers’ free agency is centred around one big conundrum. They can either honour the star’s wishes and deal him to the Heat or send him wherever they’ll get the best return. This trade will determine how the franchise continues to rebuild, stirring up immense pressure to make the right decision. To boot, they extended Jerami Grant to an expensive five-year, $160 million deal right before Lillard’s request. While the Blazers have promising young players, they’re faced with a retool that may turn sour, continuing a streak of failed offseasons.
While the Heat are coming off a Finals appearance, their magic has run out after losing several key players in free agency. Strus and Vincent, who played vital roles in their playoff success, took their talents elsewhere. Rotation players Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller also found themselves on new teams. The only solid signings the Heat made so far are Thomas Bryant and Josh Richardson while also bringing back Kevin Love. Also, the Lillard trade talks are proving to be complicated. Portland is reportedly “not impressed” with Miami’s offers, and on the other hand, their depth will take a hit if they pull off a trade.
The Toronto Raptors had an opportunity to trade VanVleet back in February, but instead, he walked in free agency for nothing in return. He was quickly replaced by Dennis Schroder, who is a substantial downgrade from the All-Star. His 33 3P% also doesn’t provide much of a boost for one of the worst shooting teams in the league last season. Moreover, the team still lacks guards (with an overabundance of forwards). While they signed Jalen McDaniels and brought back Jakob Poeltl, the team’s future is still uncertain.
For the third time in just two-and-a-half years, James Harden has requested a trade. Now, the 76ers are tasked with bringing in a solid return for the disgruntled star. They’ve already lost McDaniels, Niang, and Shake Milton and didn’t extend Tyrese Maxey. Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Mo Bamba all inked contracts with Philadelphia, but the team doesn’t seem to have improved. The potential package from a Harden deal will be crucial as they look to compete in a stacked Eastern Conference.
You wouldn’t expect the reigning NBA champions to be on the loser’s side, but the Denver Nuggets lost two key players in free agency. Brown, an excellent two-way and role player, and Green, a veteran with leadership skills, signed elsewhere. The team’s only addition was Justin Holiday while bringing back Reggie Jackson and DeAndre Jordan. The Nuggets still have championship potential; however, they have yet to use this offseason to get better.