We’re only into the second day of free agency and there have already been some interesting deals among players and teams. There hasn’t been much movement among the big names, and some teams went ahead and locked up players already on the roster to big deals. Here’s a look at the early winners and losers in the 2022 offseason.
Winner: Bradley Beal
There’s a theory out there which suggests a player should secure his contract and worry about his team after. Beal did exactly that, inking a five-year, $251 million deal with the Wizards. Washington has shown a commitment to improving the roster and Beal will give them a chance, but it only takes a few bad weeks for the rumors to swirl. The trade deadline should interesting if the Wizards are not competitive.
Winner: Extension candidates
Devin Booker, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zion Williamson all got maximum extensions with their incumbent teams. It’s no coincidence that these teams are all considered small-market clubs, outside of the Suns. Franchises are recognizing the value of stars and paying up now, even it means a little bit of financial pressure down the line.
Loser: Brooklyn Nets
When Kevin Durant requests a trade, this is where you end up. Durant and Kyrie Irving are not absolved from blame as to what went wrong in Brooklyn, but it appears they’re both going to be on the way out. The Nets are going to recoup enough to field an interesting roster, but this is the end of what was supposed to be a window of championship contention. It ends with zero conference finals or Finals appearances.
Winner: Ben Simmons
The Nets are now Simmons’ team, which is something he’s always wanted. He won’t have major expectations to contribute on a contenders, since Brooklyn probably won’t be high in the East standings. He’s going to be the focal point of the team once he returns to the floor. And he’s going to be making a lot of money. This is what Simmons wanted and he got it.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
This might be a bit harsh because the Sixers will be a contending team as long as Joel Embiid and James Harden are healthy. Harden opted out of his player option to help the team build a winner, only to see Philly add P.J. Tucker on a three-year, $33.2 million deal and Danuel House on a two-year, $8.5 million deal. Those players are not moving the needle much, and using that space on Tucker at this point in his career is a questionable call.
Winner: Zach LaVine
LaVine was never really going to leave the Bulls due to the lack of suitors in the market but he did slow-play the decision enough to garner some attention. Ultimately, both parties understood what was best for them and LaVine returns on a five-year deal worth $215.2 million. He’s the franchise player now, as he should be. The Bulls believe they can compete when everyone is healthy, and LaVine might have one more gear to reach as he enters his prime.
Loser: Portland Trail Blazers
It appeared the Blazers would be a big winner when Damian Lillard posted an Instagram story of him and Durant in Portland uniforms. That dream is still alive but looks to be diminishing by the day. The Trail Blazers did trade for Jerami Grant, lock up Anfernee Simons and bring back Jusuf Nurkic but will that be enough to satisfy Lillard and contend? It’s hard to think this movie has a different ending than the previous six versions.
Loser: NBA tampering rules
If the NBA is going to issue penalties for tampering, they need to be more strict. The Heat and Bucks were out a second-round selection each for tampering with Kyle Lowry and Bogdan Bogdanovic. If that’s going to be the cost of landing a player, teams will gladly give up a pick in a round which they can buy back into. The Knicks probably tampered with Jalen Brunson, and they weren’t the only ones getting a leg up. It’s time to either ignore the pointless rules or attempt to bolster them. Taking the middle ground doesn’t do anything.