NBA Free Agencies Roundtable: Winners, Losers, and Valuable Signings


Free NBA agency hasn’t even officially started yet and over $1 billion in deals have been struck across the league, including seven deals worth over $100 million.

This week, our NBA reporters – Rick Bucher, Melissa Rohlin and Yaron Weitzman – offer their thoughts on the first weekend of free agency and predict what will happen next.

[2023 NBA free agency tracker: Live updates and latest rumors]

1. Who won the first weekend of NBA Free Agency?

Weitzman: Kyrie Irving. He’s had great success in the last two teams he’s played on and hasn’t seemed to have interested anyone but the Dallas Mavericks in his services. And yet, Irving somehow got away with a three-year, $126 million lease, all of which is guaranteed. Not only that, but the third year is a player option. It’s stunning that Kyrie Irving is getting the second best player-friendly contract ever signed during free agency (second only to the four-year maximum signed by Fred VanVleet). And makes him the winner of the first weekend.

Rohlin: Dillon Brooks. In the first round of the playoffs, he made a fool of himself by talking about LeBron James, then didn’t play well and then dodged the media after losses. Some thought he played his last game in the NBA. Well, Brooks just agreed to a four-year, $80 million deal with the Houston Rockets. He earns more than Russell Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and one-time MVP in 2017, who has agreed to a two-year, $7.8 million deal with the LA Clippers. So in the end, Brooks got the last laugh.

Books: Highest-Paid Undrafted Player in NBA History: Fredderick Edmund Van Vleet. Three years and $130 million means he’ll earn more than Anthony Davis, Luka Doncic and Devin Booker this season. He was an All-Star once in his seven seasons. I’ve never been on an All-NBA or All-Defense team. If he signs for three years at 29, he could land yet another significant contract. Not that he needs it now.

“Lakers win free agency,” keep Kern, sign Vincent, Hayes, Prince and Reddish | THE IMPORTANT THINGS FIRST

2. Who seems to lose?

Weitzman: The Philadelphia 76ers. It’s not over yet so it’s rather incomplete, but right now it looks like they’re on the verge of losing James Harden to the Clippers for a couple of duels. And if that’s the case, how long before Joel asks Embiid out on a date?

Rohlin: The Portland Trail Blazers. You had the loyalty of Damian Lillard. All they had to do was build a good squad around him. You failed at this task. Now he has applied for an exchange. We’ll see what happens from here but it seems like they missed a great opportunity with one of the best players in the league.

Books: Right now it’s the Miami Heat. Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. That’s three rotation players and the only really big center in the squad. The signing of Thomas Bryant fills the gap with Zeller going to the Pelicans, but Vincent was the team’s third-best player in the playoffs behind Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler. The signing of Damian Lillard will make all those losses forgotten, but the Heat will be without other players who were instrumental in helping them reach the Finals – Duncan Robinson, Kyle Lowry and possibly Caleb Martin. That means potentially six players will be replaced by one.

3. Who was the contractor with the best value for money?

Weitzman: Austin Reaves. Four years for a total of $56 million is an absolute steal here. Reaves is a 25-year-old winger who shot nearly 40% from deep last season and is also an excellent pick-and-roll inventor. That’s at least a $20 million annual profile. To be clear, it’s not like the Lakers got Reaves dirty:

They simply capitalized on wanting to stay in LA

Rohlin: I will also choose Reaves. He was expected to receive $100 million in offers from outside teams after being the Lakers’ third-best scorer in the playoffs with a 16.9 point average and a 46.4 percent shot rate while also one combative defender. But the Lakers avoided that by signing Reaves as much as possible without having to match. It was an incredible deal for the Lakers. And Reaves was able to return to the franchise he’d wanted to play in since he was a kid.

[Lakers building a team to fear as GM Rob Pelinka leaves Russell Westbrook deal behind]

Books: The Lakers got Austin Reaves at a great price, but he doesn’t beat the Clippers’ two-year, $7.8 million signing of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook was better than Reaves, was better than him, was better than rebounders and was better than assists last season. Yes, he will be 35 next season, but he has always been very careful with his body.

The Clippers also re-signed replacement center Mason Plumlee for a great price — a year, $5 million. We may have been too hasty in portraying the Clippers as championship contenders, but the dying view of the franchise has definitely changed as the boys sign team-friendly deals to stay.

Russell Westbrook and Clippers agree on two-year, $7.8 million deal | THE IMPORTANT THINGS FIRST

Russell Westbrook and Clippers agree on two-year, $7.8 million deal |  THE IMPORTANT THINGS FIRST

4. Which newcomer caused the most confusion?

Weitzman: HOW MUCH did the Blazers give Jerami Grant?! It’s not just that they spent over five years and $160 million on Grant (who exactly were they bidding against?). They did so knowing that Damian Lillard was likely about to ask out, which meant a complete rebuild was about to begin. This one didn’t make any sense and it doesn’t make any sense either.

Rohlin: I have to agree with Yaron. I don’t understand the Trail Blazers’ thought process here. How should this give Lillard confidence that the franchise is going in the right direction? I don’t want to take anything away from Grant, but that wasn’t the kind of move that would make your franchise player think it’s a championship roster. No wonder Lillard wanted out.

Books: The Rockets spent over $60 million on a Fred Van Vleet and Dillon Brooks backcourt. An all-star performance between them. I like both players, just not at this price point for a team that already has a lot of backcourt talent. It also means some young players – Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Jabari Smith Jr. – will lose their starting job. Sounds great until this player starts bitching in the dressing room and sulking on the bench. The new head coach Ime Udoka will have a lot of work ahead of him.

5. Which offseason signing has been your favorite so far?

Weitzman: Max Strus to the Cavs. Four years and $63 million might seem like a lot, but there hasn’t been a team in the NBA more desperate for a winger who could shoot than the Cavs. Strus will make a HUGE difference in Cleveland and fits in perfectly with their Big Four.

Rohlin: I really like that the Lakers are getting Gabe Vincent. He was very impressive during the Heat’s playoff run. He’s not scared, he’s a great shot and he has the right attitude. He’s a fighting talent that I think will have a huge impact on the Lakers, who clearly see him as an improvement in backfield over Dennis Schroder. Vincent has already gone from being an undrafted player to a household name on the Heat. We can bet his stardom will only grow with the Lakers.

Books: I would go for a sentimental variant: Derrick Rose signs with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies desperately needed a bigger veteran presence and if anyone can convince Ja Morant that his ferocious courtside attacks could lead to short-lived glory, it’s Rose with his first-hand experience. Rose can also show Ja how to become an effective goalscorer and distributor without acrobatics, since he made that transition himself. Getting Rose to go back and play in front of the people who saw him rise to stardom at the University of Memphis is just icing on the cake.

And with Ja out in the first 25 games, chances are he’ll have more success than he did with the Knicks, where he made just 27 regular-season appearances and a single cameo in the playoffs.

bonus: Where do Damian Lillard and James Harden end up?

Weitzman: Lillard has made it clear he wants to be in Miami, and Harden, as we know, has his sights set on the Clippers. I’m sure both the Sixers and Blazers will have strong public stances, but in the NBA, where a star wants to go is almost always where they end up.

Rohlin: Lillard will land with the Heat. It’s clear that Lillard wants to go there. Jimmy Butler wants him there. And after enduring so many disappointing seasons with the Trail Blazers, it’s about time Lillard played for a winning team in exactly the situation he desires.

Would Damian Make Lillard Heat Best in the Eastern Conference? | SPEAK

Would Damian Make Lillard Heat Best in the Eastern Conference?  |  SPEAK

As for Harden, he has made it clear that he wants to end up with the Clippers. The Clippers are in dire need of help after several injury-plagued seasons with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. I bet they can as long as the Clippers can put together an enticing package.

Books: Star players who request a trade generally end up where they want to be sent, whether or not they have a no trade clause or trade kicker. Donovan Mitchell is the only recent exception I can think of, and I don’t know if Sixers GM Daryl Morey and Blazers GM Joe Cronin are cut from the same cloth as Jazz Team President Danny Ainge, who ditched Mitchell for Mitchell’s preferred choice sent to Cleveland, the Knicks. Nor is Mitchell cut from the same cloth as Lillard or Harden, who I could easily imagine would refuse to play if assigned to a team they didn’t want to join.

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He is the author of “Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Boldest Trial in Professional Sports History.”.” Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books: Rebound, about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease at a young age, and Yao: A Life In Two Worlds”. He also has a daily podcast called On The Ball with Ric Bucher. Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.

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