The NBA opened up its free agency period on Sunday Night and things started to get spicy from the jump. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant joined forces in Brooklyn, Jimmy Butler took his talents to South Beach and the Pelicans made a couple of fantastic under the radar moves.
However, for every team that had a great free agency, there’s always those that struck out in the most imaginative ways possible. Look no further than the Knicks and the Rockets for two of the roughest forays into free agency.
Below, we get into some of the biggest winners and losers thus far in NBA’s free agency.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
Going into free agency, it seemed like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were looking to team up in New York with either the Knicks or the Nets. Throughout the entire season, the prevailing idea was that the Knicks had the upper hand in bringing in the two all-stars, but with Brooklyn overperforming with their young core and the fact that they had space for two max-level players, Brooklyn was able to swoop in and sign Irving and Durant.
Of course, Durant is essentially going to miss all of next season, but with the additions of DeAndre Jordan and Garrett Temple to go along with the Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris core that already exists, Brooklyn is going to look really good next season even without Durant.
In the midst of all of this, the Nets lost D’Angelo Russell who made his first all-star game lasts season, but with who they were able to bring in to replace his production, Brooklyn would do this exactly the same if they had to do it again.
Loser: New York Knicks
With every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction — and the Knicks got the worst of the Nets adding both Durant and Irving. Not only did they miss out on their top two targets, but they also missed out on Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and are not even rumored to be in the running to bring in Kawhi Leonard. For much of the season, it seemed like Kevin Durant was the Knicks to lose in free agency, and the Knicks lost him.
To make matters worse, the Knicks had the most cap space heading into free agency, and weren’t able to bring in a single immediate impact guy. Julius Randle is going to give the Knicks a good 20 and 10 per night. Bobby Portis is fine, Elfrid Payton is fine, Reggie Bullock is fine. Taj Gibson might be the best signing after Randle, but in an ideal world, this just isn’t the team you wanted to place around rookie RJ Barrett.
Winner: Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz are coming off a season that saw them lose in the first round of the NBA postseason to the Houston Rockets, but the core of the team has set them up to be, at the very least, a playoff team for the next few years with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert leading the charge. Very quietly, however, the Jazz made huge improvements to their roster.
Utah was able to add Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis after adding Mike Conley during the NBA draft. The Jazz got the shooting they needed, they got a guy who can run the offense and, in Davis, a big who can defend and crash the boards, taking some of the pressure off Gobert. Bogdanovic was one of the NBA’s best perimeter shooters last season, and when he shares the floor with Joe Ingles, the Jazz are going to be nearly unstoppable on the offensive end with the floor spacing.
Loser: Charlotte Hornets
We all should have seen this coming with the way that Charlotte handled building their roster. The Hornets were handcuffed to the tune of $68 million through the contracts of Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Even if Kemba Walker did want to come back with the full max that Charlotte could have offered him, the number of bad contracts already on the team would have made it impossible for the Hornets to get better and build a contender around Walker.
Now, the team is going to be without Walker, who spent his entire eight-year career with the franchise. Walker begins the next part of his career with the Celtics and the Hornets are heading toward another lottery season.
Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have been nearly perfect in rebuilding the team after the loss of Anthony Davis. They drafted Zion Williamson; brought in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart; and now they’ve added another key piece in free agency.
The Pelicans are going to be incredibly fun, they have tons of youth and athleticism, but they needed a shooter and another big to play alongside Williamson. In free agency, they got both in J.J. Redick and Derek Favors.
The Pelicans may not be a playoff team, but they might be the most fun team to watch in the NBA next season.
Losers: Houston Rockets
The Rockets went into free agency with the idea that they may move either Chris Paul or Clint Capela to free up some cap space to build a better team around star James Harden. When it became clear that it may be difficult to just trade either one of their contracts, the Rockets began exploring the idea of a sign-and-trade deal for Jimmy Butler.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, the weren’t able to pull that off, either, as the Miami Heat were able to swoop in and snatch up Butler from the 76ers before the Rockets could present a package that made sense for everyone involved. Instead of a huge change, the Rockets re-signed Austin Rivers, Gerald Green and Danuel House.
Not only did they lose two games against the Warriors without Kevin Durant, not only did they not have a single draft pick — they had an awful free agency and will essentially return with the team they ended the season with.