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  • Mamadou Tall

Hoops Views Winners & Losers of 2023 Free Agency

The NBA's free agency period is entertaining from the outside looking in. As much as people hate on the player movement and drama of the off season, it's safe to say we all look forward to the news that free agency brings. So why not make a list of my winners and losers so far?


Losers


James Harden

If you ask me, Harden is the biggest loser in all of this. After coming up small during game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Harden's future in Philly was up for question.


Philly declined to offer him an extension, and Houston moved on from the idea of a possible reunion. All of this forced Harden's hand to request a trade. It has been several weeks since then, and he still hasn't been traded. His desired landing spot is in Los Angeles with the Clippers. Only thing is 76ers general manager, Daryl Morey, stands in his way. With all power in Morey's hands, his asking price is fairly high. As of right now there's no team meeting that price. The 76ers have withdrew from any trade talks surrounding Harden as a result, hoping to mend the broken relationship through training camp.


Harden's ultimate goal is to leave Philly. The Sixers on the other hand, have other plans for Harden. Will he capitulate and stay put, or will he continue to make things uncomfortable for the parties involved? The answer is the latter. Harden is about to get in that "get me out of here" bag, the same one that got him out of Houston, I presume. Just a different method this time around.


Philadelphia 76ers

After losing to the Boston Celtics in the ECSF, the Sixers stretched their streak of no conference finals to 22 consecutive years. All the optimism around Harden and Joel Embiid running it back has vanished.


Harden isn't happy and Embiid is dropping hints towards a possible departure from Philly. Harden's trade value is at an all-time low (by his standards) so the chances of the Sixers getting just compensation are low. The clock is ticking, Embiid's patience is wearing thin and his championship window is slowly closing.

The pressure is on for Philly, as Harden is pulling out all the tricks to get himself traded after Morey decided to abandon trade talks. Harden recently came out, and spoke about his dissatisfaction with Daryl Morey and the 76ers. He is going as far as to letting the whole world know that he wants out; destroying the little leverage that the Sixers had before hand.


With about two months remaining until the start of the 2023-2024 season, the Sixers got a lot of things to figure out. As of right now they are losers in all of this. If the season starts and Harden is still in a Sixers jersey then this will be the biggest L of the summer. If this upcoming season produces no success, we might have to speak about the 'The Process" and its ramifications. Decade plus of disappointment and failed potential.


Portland Trailblazers

Portland has a lot to look forward to in the future. With young talents such as Afernee Simons, Shadeon Sharpe, and Scoot Henderson, the future is bright. Only thing is that's all wishful thinking. We can't see what happens in the future.


In the present day, they have a lot of things to figure out. Damian Lillard (their franchise player for the last 11 years) has finally requested a trade after years of dealing with mediocrity. This lands Portland in the losers section is because Dame is a big loss for any team that loses him. To make things worse for the Trailblazers, Dame and his agent have made it clear that the Miami Heat are the preferred destination. After everything he has done for the franchise and city, do they trade him to his place of choice or trade him for the best package available? Decisions, decisions.


New York Knicks


After an impressive season and a second round exit, Knicks fans had high hopes entering free agency. A month has passed and that's all everything was. Hopes.


No big moves have been made. So far, Obi Toppin was dealt away to the Indianna Pacers in exchange for second round picks. Donte Divencenzo was signed to add to their Villanova duo of Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart. Besides these moves, nothing else has taken place. Rumors have been passed around involving trade ideas for the likes of Harden, Joel Embiid, Paul George, and even Damian Lillard. Rumors hold no real credibility, so all we can do is speculate.


I'm no Knicks fan. Far from it. One thing I am is a New Yorker. As a New Yorker, these lack of moves during the free agency period screams "content." The Knicks front office is content with what they have now. Content with peaking as a second round playoff team? Perhaps.

Winners


L.A. Lakers

After pulling off a late season turnaround and making it to the Western Conference finals; the Lakers have meant business during free agency.


They started off by resigning some key late season acquisitions: D'Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimora, and Jared Vanderbilt. Aside from the resigning those players, the Lakers explored the free agent market. Gabe Vincent and Taurean Prince were free agent signings. Vincent brings his shooting along with steady point guard play. Prince adds shooting, rebounding, and defending.


Their most crucial move this summer was resigning Austin Reaves to a team friendly deal. The four-year $56 million contract extension was at the top of the priority list for the Lakers. It's undeniable that he played a crucial role in the Lakeshow's post-season run. Currently on Team USA for the FIBA World Cup, he's continuously proving his worth on the basketball court. Safe to say that Reaves will be a key piece in the Lakers hopes for contention this upcoming season.

Aside from the positive dealings that Rob Pelinka (Lakers general manager) pulled off this summer, the Lakers and Anthony Davis agreed to a three year contract extension worth $186 million. Now I don't know how I feel about this, if I'm being honest. Davis' injury history and aging makes me skeptical. Time will tell with that situation, but the past has shown us that we shouldn't be too excited.


Last season everyone counted the Lakers out. They proved many wrong. After a plethora of good moves, I don't see how you can count them out again.


Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers have emerged as a young teams on the rise. After a handful of sneaky moves during this free agency period, I have them walking into training camp as winners.


The Pacers started things off with a five year $260 million contract extension for their young all-star point guard, Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton averaged 20 points, 10.4 assists, and 1.6 steals this past season. At 23, the future is bright for Haliburton, so it's no surprise that the Pacers decided to lock him down for the future.


One of the more surprising moves from the Pacers this off season was securing the free agent, Bruce Brown Jr. The same Bruce Brown who was a notable contributor to the Denver Nuggets title run. The Pacers inked Brown to a two year $45 million contract. Brown has showcased his ability to do a little things on the court. Indiana being able to add this to a team with Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, and Bennedict Mauthurin will be beneficial.


Phoenix Suns

This pick was the toughest one on this list. I wasn't a big fan of the moves the Suns were making. The skepticism was never ending. Time has passed, and it's hard to deny that Suns are better than they were last season (after the Kevin Durant trade).


Their first and most publicized move was the trade centered around Bradley Beal and Chris Paul. The Suns were able to get rid of an aging CP3 and replace him with a three level scorer in Beal. While they mortgaged their whole future (trading away numerous picks), it is clear that they aren't thinking that far ahead; they are in the business of contending now.


Aside from making the big flashy trade for Beal, the Suns have been making some lowkey moves to help strengthen the roster around the big three of Devin Booker, KD, and Beal. Names such as Damion Lee and Josh Okogie remain on the squad, providing useful shooting and defense. On the other end of things the likes of Keita Bates-Diop and Yuta Watanabe have been added to the squad. Bates-Diop adds versatility to the Suns' roster that lacks depth. The Suns hope he can act as a Swiss army knife for them off the bench. Watanabe is a great shooter, and that skill is useful on any team in today's NBA.


The most impressive move that the Suns made outside of the Beal trade is acquiring veteran guard Eric Gordon. Gordon adds a scoring punch outside of the Booker, Beal, KD trio. With range on his shot, Gordon will help space the floor more for his teammates. In addition to his capabilities as a scorer and shooter, his experience might bring something helpful to their locker room.


Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks were at the mercy of Kyrie Irving until he agreed to resign for three years $126 million. Imagine gutting the depth of your roster for a player who leaves several months after, leaving you empty handed. That could have easily been the Mavericks if Irving took his talents else where.


The Mavericks still have a lot of work to do when it comes to building a roster that compliments both Luka Doncic and Irving. Having already completed the most important part of their free agency. Now they need to lock in on some defenders, shooters and a reliable big to make life easier for their duo.


Kyrie Irving is the most offensively skilled player in the NBA. The media's obsession with him these past several years has subsided. No real distractions surround his name. Irving will enter this season with a vengeance. Kyrie revenge tour 2023-2024 incoming. I'm calling it.


Honorable Mentions


Losers: Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors might look back on this move in a couple years and ultimately regret it. Trading away a young player who averaged 20 points a game for a point guard past his prime with a notable injury history is a little crazy to me.


It's clear that the Warriors picked Draymond Green's side in the whole Poole situation. We will have to see what Chris Paul will bring to the team. They are hoping for variety in their offense, I'm hoping CP3 stays healthy enough to provide said "variety."


Losers: Denver Nuggets

he Denver Nuggets went from being one of the hunters to becoming the hunted after they won the Larry O'Brien trophy last season. The NBA champs have been silent during free agency. It's alarming to me. Their opponents are working to improve. The Nuggets have lost some pieces and not added any significant ones.


The have lost the reliable off the bench production of Bruce Brown Jr and the veteran presence of Jeff Green. This might not hurt them, but no improvement might hurt in the long run.


Winners: Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets has a plethora of young talent. During the draft they doubled down on their youth movement by drafting Amen Thompson with the fourth pick and Cam Whitmore with the 20th pick. Thompson and Whitmore showed out during the Summer League and showed a lot of potential for the future. Adding those two players to the youth movement of Jabari Smith, Alpren Sengun, Jaylen Green, and Kevin Porter Jr has them looking scary in the future.


On the other hand the Rockets got the services of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. Inking them to a three year $128 million and a four year $86 million contracts respectively. On top of that they hired Ime Udoka the former coach of the Boston Celtics. Adding two vets in VanVleet and Brooks with playoff experience lets us know that there is a shift going on. Ime Udoka is a capable and respected coach among NBA players, and he will push the young players to new heights. Playoff contention coming up for the Houston Rockets? A play-in spot potentially? I definitely see it happening.






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