NBA free agency is a time where constant change takes place post NBA draft, and many teams either get better or get worse. Some teams turn into contenders with the signing of a superstar caliber player. Players who are free agents also can come out winners in free agency based on the fact they get to choose where they go, and this is especially true of players who move on from dysfunctional franchises and join a team moving in the right direction. There are also teams, players, and GMs that come out with not much to show for during free agency.
The losers of free agency make moves that have us as fans scratching our heads. At times someone may not even be directly involved in free agency and come out a loser at the end of it, and this often time ends with a superstar not getting the much needed help he deserves. There are also teams that make signings thinking it'll make them competitive, but in reality the team will struggle throughout the year. We saw this last year with the Chicago Bulls when they added Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo and the New York Knicks when they thought Derrick Rose was the missing piece.
Here are 8 Losers and 7 Winners of NBA Free Agency:
15 Loser: Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers headline the lists of losers this offseason due to the loss of a top 10 NBA player in Paul George. Everyone was well aware that George no longer wanted to be a part of the Pacers franchise, and the Boston Celtics were anxious to acquire the superstar offering as much as three first round picks and a starter. Instead of accepting this offer they ended up trading George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
The Pacers could have gotten way better talent in return from the Celtics, and now they are looking at a much longer and tougher rebuild ahead. The only additions the Pacers were able to make in the offseason were for veteran point guard Darren Collison, a sign and trade that sent C.J. Miles to the Raptors for Corey Joseph, and the signing of Croatian big man Bojan Bogdanovic.
14 Winner: Philadelphia 76ers
The offseason was already looking bright when they acquired the first pick in the draft and got Markelle Fultz with that selection, but now Philly may be able to make a run to the playoffs in 2018 with their newly acquired veteran leadership. One of the hottest commodities in a somewhat weak free agent market was shooting guard JJ Redick formerly of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Sixers ranked towards the bottom of the NBA in three point percentage despite ranking towards the top in attempts per game, and Redick should help those numbers go up due to his averages of 15 points a night while shooting nearly 43% from three last season. Amir Johnson gives the 76ers another frontcourt player who can be a leader on one of the youngest teams in the NBA.
13 Loser: Dwyane Wade
Let’s face it Dwyane Wade is not getting any younger, and a rebuild is not what he had in mind when he signed with the Chicago Bulls last offseason. The Bulls barely squeaked into the playoffs last season, but they gave a serious scare to the number one seed Boston Celtics when they won the first two games of the series. Wade and the Bulls lost the remaining four games of the series after Rajon Rondo was sidelined due to injury. Rondo is now no longer with the team, and Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick in the draft were traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Levine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh pick in the draft. On top of all of this coach Fred Hoiberg has made it clear the team does not plan to buyout Wade from the final year of his contract.
12 Winner: Russell Westbrook
The winner of the MVP award for the 2016-2017 NBA season was Russell Westbrook after he put up eye popping numbers in which he averaged a triple double for the year, but he did not have much help from his teammates as the Oklahoma City Thunder exited after the first round of the playoffs. I’m sure Westbrook made it clear to GM Sam Presti that he needed more help. Presti essentially answered Westbrook's prayers as he was able to acquire superstar Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, and now the Thunder have one of the best one two punches in basketball in Westbrook and George. The Thunder also appeased Westbrook by signing veterans Patrick Peterson and Raymond Felton and resigning defensive guru Andre Roberson to a three year deal.
11 Loser: LeBron James
It was obvious after watching the 2017 NBA finals that LeBron James needed more firepower to be able to take down the Golden State Warriors in the future, and it seems like James and the Cavs may have trouble getting over the hump once again. The Cavs have not been able to make the splash that they had hoped they could make this offseason. There were rumors that they were pursuing Paul George and Jimmy Butler which evidently fell through, and now LeBron James’s banana boat buddy Carmelo Anthony may not be available to pursue if he does in fact get traded to the Houston Rockets. LeBron asked for more playmakers and the Cavalier brass have given him an aging Jose Calderon and an often injured swing man in Jeff Green.
10 Winner: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets had an incredibly successful year under first year coach Mike D’Antoni with limited star power other than James Harden on the roster, but this offseason has given the Rockets a great chance to be able to compete with the Golden State Warriors. First they acquired Chris Paul in what was a shocking move that sent tremors throughout the league. Now one of Chris Paul’s good friends Carmelo Anthony could also be headed to the Rockets, and this would give Houston a star studded Big Three in one of the most lethal offensive systems in the NBA. The Rockets also made tons of trades for scrubs that more than likely won’t be on the roster. P.J. Tucker gives the team a good piece coming off the bench, and the return of Nene gives the Rockets much needed depth.
9 Loser: Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers lost a superstar and their best three point shooter in one offseason, and it appears the Clippers on paper have regressed. They were able to sign Blake Griffin to a max deal which is risky because of his injury history. The Clippers also have attempted to replace J.J. Redick with Danilo Galinari formerly of the Denver Nuggets, but Galinari is also like Griffin frequently injured. Milos Teodosic has been looked upon to replace Paul’s production. Teodosic has been widely considered the best player outside the NBA the past few years now, but it is a tall order to ask him to be a double double machine the way Paul was scoring and passing wise. In a tough western conference the Clippers may have trouble making it back to the playoffs next season.
8 Winner: Paul Millsap
It is pretty clear that the once top eastern conference power Atlanta Hawks are now in rebuilding mode after losing their entire starting lineup that got them the best record in the eastern conference three years ago led by Paul Millsap. Millsap saw the Hawks backsliding and decided to ditch them despite having a career year with them during the 2016-17 NBA season where he averaged a career high 18 points a night to go along with nearly eight rebounds a game. The Denver Nuggets are a team on the rise that just barely missed the playoffs last year in a tough western conference, and Millsap decided the Nuggets were trending in a better direction than the Hawks. The three year, $90 million deal will allow Millsap to get paid while being a veteran leader to a young team on the come up.
7 Loser: Atlanta Hawks
Three years ago the Hawks won 60 plus games on their way to the number one seed in the eastern conference, but now the team is far away from being a contender in the east after a tumultuous offseason thus far. The Hawks started the offseason by trading Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets for Marco Bellinelli and Miles Plumlee. This is a bit of a lopsided deal, and trading your best rebounder and shot blocker for two bench players was a clear salary dump. Paul Millsap also chose to leave the team to join the Denver Nuggets. The Hawks now missing their leading scorer from last season weren’t done losing pieces, and their best on ball defender Thabo Sefolosha has also chosen to leave the team in free agency.
6 Winner: Dion Waiters
Dion Waiters was virtually on the edge of not even being in the NBA before he arrived in Miami at the start of the 2016-17 NBA season, but now he is arguably one of the 10 best shooting guards in the whole NBA. Waiters led the Miami Heat in scoring for the year and was rewarded with a big fat contract extension that will net him over $50 million. The Heat were competing with the Brooklyn Nets for the worst record in the NBA halfway through the season with only 11 wins and 30 losses, but the team as a whole caught fire led by Waiters and his clutchness in the fourth quarters of games. Now that Waiters has the freedom to play his best style of basketball, the Heat may be in line for a playoff berth next season.
5 Loser: New York Knicks
The New Yorks Knicks seemingly cannot do anything right as of late, and it is clear now that after another down year the team is in rebuilding mode. The negative offseason began with Kristaps Porzingis skipping his exit meeting with the team because of his disgust with then team president Phil Jackson. Jackson received the boot, and this gave many Knicks fans hope.
The Knicks have done little in free agency to suggest the team will do any better this upcoming year. Tim Hardaway Jr. has been their biggest signing so far, and many would argue the Knicks have overpaid him by giving him $75 million. Now there are rumors swirling around the NBA that Carmelo Anthony will be dealt soon. The Houston Rockets are the team primed to acquire Anthony, and the Knicks will more than likely not get much of a return for the All Star.
4 Winner: Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors didn’t make a splash with any big name new acquisition like they did last offseason when they signed Kevin Durant, but they made all the signings they needed to make and then some. David West, Zaza Pachulia, and Shaun Livingston are all back on generally speaking low salaries. The biggest signings came in the resigning of Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, and Curry was able to cash in with a five year deal worth over $200 million. Durant took a big time discount by agreeing to a two year $51.25 million contract. Andre Igoudala was also brought back into the fold on a three year deal, and the Warriors added even more top notch three point shooting to their arsenal by signing Nick Young.
3 Loser: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz were dealt a serious blow when Gordon Hayward decided to leave them to go join his college coach Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics, and now the Jazz’s hopes of rising through the West have been ended. The Jazz’s offseason has been highlighted by the acquisition of Ricky Rubio and the resigning of three point slinger Joe Ingles. With the departure of Hayward the Jazz are now forced to move forward in a different direction, and they were able to sign veterans Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko to deals.
These two can help groom the young talented Donovan Mitchell and often injured Dante Exum. George Hill left the Jazz to join arguably the most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA in the Sacramento Kings, and the Jazz will have a tough time making it back to the playoffs in a tough western conference next year.
2 Winner: Sacramento Kings
This may seem like a typo, but trust me the Sacramento Kings actually made some good moves for their roster moving forward. The Kings were one of the youngest rosters in the NBA last season featuring Buddy Hield and drafting and signing four of their draft picks from the 2017 NBA draft led by De’Aaron Fox. These young guys need veteran leadership to be able to thrive in the NBA in the future, and the Kings went out and got two former superstars to teach these young guys how to succeed in the NBA. Vince Carter signed a one year deal with the team and will be a great mentor for the young Buddy Hield. Zach Randolph got a two year deal and George Hill got a three year deal, and although the Kings still probably won’t make the playoffs they are finally making smart transactions.
1 Loser: Ryan McDonough
The past two years the Phoenix Suns have been in the basement of the NBA and have gotten the number four pick in the past two drafts. As of July 14th, 2017 Ryan McDonough has not added anyone new through free agency, and it is pretty obvious that the Suns will more than likely be tanking. If McDonough does not have a good grip on his job this may cost him his job. The only significant addition to the team was through the draft when Josh Jackson fell to them. The Suns have also resigned forward Alvin Williams, but waived a much needed veteran locker room leader in Leandro Barbosa. The Suns are headed for another tough year thanks in large part to Ryan McDonough not making any noteworthy moves so far in free agency.