Every NBA Team’s Biggest Win and Loss of the 2022 Offseason
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Just as no NBA team ever runs the table or goes 0-82 over a full year, every squad’s offseason comes with a mixture of success and failure. Even the best summers included a mistake or two, and the clubs that mostly whiffed in the transaction game still connected on at least one swing.
There will be cases where we have to look a little harder or resort to some mental gymnastics to find them, but all 30 teams logged at least one win and one loss this summer. We’ll focus on the most conspicuous examples of each, pulling from the draft, free agency, trades and even coach or front-office changes if the circumstances call for it. Everything’s fair game.
Other than potential deals involving Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell, most of the league’s summertime business is complete. As August approaches, the NBA equivalent of hibernation takes over, and teams go dark. That makes this the right time to assess the most significant hit and miss of each team’s offseason.
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Biggest Win: Acquiring Dejounte Murray
Though there’ll be kinks to work out between Murray and Trae Young, both of whom ranked in the top five in total time of possession last season, the Atlanta Hawks got significantly better by adding a top-flight backcourt defender who can run the show with or in relief of Young.
Murray is coming off a breakout season with averages of 21.1 points, 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebounds and a league-leading 2.0 steals. The Hawks paid handsomely in the form of Danilo Gallinari, three first-rounders and a swap, but there aren’t a lot of 25-year-olds out there with near-triple-double averages and shutdown chops on D. If the Hawks can work through the ball-sharing dynamics their new backcourt presents, ideally by weaponizing Young off the ball more than in the past, this move will pay off nicely.
Biggest Loss: Diminished Wing Depth
De’Andre Hunter is still around, and he’ll reprise his role as defensive stopper on the wing. But Kevin Huerter, whose average matchup difficulty wasn’t far behind Hunter’s last season, is gone via trade to the Sacramento Kings. Delon Wright took a few turns against larger guards and smaller forwards last year as well, and he signed with the Washington Wizards in free agency.
Murray will handle the toughest assignments in the backcourt, but the Hawks will need some wing D from rookie AJ Griffin, second-year forward Jalen Johnson or some other source to make up for what they lost. Maurice Harkless and Justin Holiday, both added in the Huerter trade, are stopgaps at best.
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Biggest Win: Trading for Malcolm Brogdon
Durability concerns loom large for Brogdon, who’s played 64 games or fewer in each of the last five years, bottoming out with 2021-22’s 36-game total. But considering how little the Boston Celtics surrendered to add the 29-year-old combo guard, they could get a half-season (and hopefully the playoffs) out of Brogdon and still come out way ahead. All they had to send the Indiana Pacers were scraps and a 2023 first-rounder (top-12 protected) that will likely fall in the last five picks of the first round.
Brogdon is a career 37.6 percent shooter from deep, he can function in Boston’s switching scheme and he’s averaged at least 6.1 assists per 36 minutes in each of the last three years. He’ll bolster what was already a solid eight-man rotation by keeping the ball moving, attacking the rim and providing a spot-up outlet—key areas of need that, if filled, could put the Celtics over the top.
Biggest Loss: N/A
The Celtics really didn’t suffer any losses worth mentioning. They earn the only N/A we’ll award in this exercise.
Perhaps there are some Aaron Nesmith devotees out there lamenting his departure in the Brogdon deal, but he played 3.5 minutes per game during Boston’s 2022 playoff run. Of all the players dealt in that move, Daniel Theis tops the list at 12.5 postseason minutes per game. But he only saw action in two Finals contests, so it’s similarly hard to argue the Celtics will miss him too badly.
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Biggest Win: Holding Strong on Kyrie Irving
Some might argue that the Brooklyn Nets sold their souls and surrendered their culture to superstar talent when they acquired Irving and Kevin Durant, and that their hard line on Irving’s contract extension was a mostly meaningless show of resolve that came too late.
Maybe that’s true. But it’s also true that committing anything to Irving, who’d shown no commitment in return, would have been a mistake. Brooklyn deserves credit for its enough-is-enough approach, and the team is better off for its strong stand. Irving isn’t exactly a hot commodity on the trade market, and it’s tough to imagine that would be much different if a hypothetical acquiring team knew it had to take Irving on a multiyear agreement. Maybe his status as a flight risk in 2023 free agency is driving down his value, but it’s not like being locked into a deal has prevented Irving from operating like an independent contractor for most of his career.
If refusing to pay Irving also costs the Nets Kevin Durant, as seems likely, so be it. Brooklyn will get value for KD and can resume operating like a normal franchise going forward.
Biggest Loss: Trading for Royce O’Neale
This one was a head-scratcher from the moment it came across the early free-agency wire. Fortunately for Brooklyn, everyone (except for ESPN’s Brian Windhorst) immediately forgot about the Nets giving up a first-round pick for O’Neale, a three-and-D vet who was complicit in the Utah Jazz’s most recent postseason failure.
O’Neale wasn’t up to the task of guarding top-flight wings last year, and though he continues to shoot it well from deep, you’d think a Brooklyn team that had reason to know an overhaul was coming might value its own first-round picks. The deal wasn’t a catastrophe, but it didn’t make sense at the time, and it’s no less puzzling now.
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Biggest Win: Drafting Mark Williams
Few position-specific voids have gone unaddressed for longer than the Charlotte Hornets’ need for a center, and they may have finally taken a step toward filling it by drafting Duke big man Mark Williams.
Though he’ll probably be limited to dive-man duties on offense for the foreseeable future, Williams flashed some perimeter skill in college. His real value will come on defense, where his mobility and 7’7″ wingspan could soon have Hornets fans drawing comparisons to Robert Williams III. If he comes anywhere close to that level as a rookie, Williams will immediately displace Mason Plumlee at center and give Charlotte some punch and athleticism on both ends.
Biggest Loss: Bringing Back Steve Clifford as Coach
Clifford will bring a no-nonsense work ethic and an emphasis on defense to a team that needs both. The problem is, we have such a good idea of what to expect because we saw Clifford stress those things to this same Hornets team as recently as 2018.
Retreads aren’t always a bad idea, and Clifford has a chance to turn Charlotte into a more balanced and professional operation. But it’s just a bad look when the man ownership picks for the job is the same one it fired at the end of the 2017-18 season. The roster is significantly different now than it was when Clifford was last in charge, but it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of a 60-year-old Van Gundy Brothers disciple with a 292-345 record leading a young team.
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Biggest Win: Re-Signing Zach LaVine
The Chicago Bulls caved on every negotiable point besides granting a no-trade clause, but the five-year, $215.2 million deal (player option in the fifth year) they gave Zach LaVine was still the right call.
This team went all-in on the present when it foolishly gave up two future first-rounders and Wendell Carter Jr. for Nikola Vucevic in 2021, so keeping its All-Star unrestricted free agent at the market rate was the only real option.
LaVine has lost time to knee issues in the past, but he’s a high-volume, high-efficiency scorer who can play on or off the ball. Top scoring options who can scale and shift roles depending on the personnel around them are rare. The lack of cap space around the league could have allowed the Bulls to play hardball, knowing LaVine was unlikely to get a better offer anywhere else. But maxing out their best player without any fuss sends the right message, and it might even make people forget about how Chicago once traded Jimmy Butler because it didn’t think he warranted a similar commitment.
Biggest Loss: Lonzo Ball’s Knee Situation
Ball’s progression in his rehab following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January continues to drag on, with Bulls executive Arturas Karnisovas giving an ominous update: “He’s progressing,” Karnisovas said on NBA TV. “That’s as much as I can say. He’s getting better, probably not at the speed we would like, but he’s getting better. Hopefully, he’s going to be ready for training camp. That’s just our hopes.”
It’s not a coincidence that Chicago got off to such a hot start when Ball was healthy and logging big minutes early in the 2021-22 season. His hit-ahead passing, spot-up shooting and stellar defensive work were all keys to the Bulls’ surprisingly strong first three months. When Ball was on the floor, Chicago’s defensive rating was a whopping 8.6 points per 100 possessions better than when he sat. If he isn’t ready to roll, we might be in for a full season that looks more like Chicago’s stumble to the finish than its sprint out of the gates.
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Biggest Win: Signing Ricky Rubio
Darius Garland is an All-Star (whose extension could have easily filled this Biggest Win space), and the young Cleveland Cavaliers may already be good enough that they don’t need an adult-in-the-room veteran to keep things on an even keel.
But sentimentally, you’ve got to love the return of Rubio on a three-year, $18.4 million contract.
A critical piece in Cleveland prior to tearing his ACL and then being traded as essentially dead salary for Caris LeVert last season, Rubio returns to back up Garland and dish out dimes and good vibes in equal measure. The Cavs won’t get a full season out of the 31-year-old point guard, but his presence will still matter. And once healthy, he and fellow facilitating acquisition Raul Neto will assure Garland’s trips to the bench no longer coincide with cratering offensive production.
Biggest Loss: The Collin Sexton Situation
This is really more of a series of bad breaks than a loss, as the Cavs never had an opportunity to get value for Sexton prior to this offseason. Now, there’s a realistic scenario in which he signs the qualifying offer and bolts in unrestricted free agency next summer.
A couple of years ago, Sexton may have been considered a core piece, but his injury-shortened 2021-22 season made him too difficult to trade, and Garland’s emergence changed the team’s makeup. Cleveland is probably correct to hold off on paying Sexton on a multiyear contract he’d accept. He could play well enough to rehab his value by the trade deadline, but most teams would view him as a rental.
It’s nobody’s fault, but the Cavs don’t have many great options here.
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Biggest Win: Christian Wood
Until the Celtics onboarded Brogdon, the Dallas Mavericks’ acquisition of Christian Wood was probably the offseason’s banner something-for-nothing deal. In exchange for the No. 26 pick in the 2022 draft and four non-rotation players on expiring contracts, Dallas got an exceptionally skilled big man who shot at least 37.4 percent from deep on solid volume in each of the last three years.
Wood comes with defensive questions, and it remains to be seen if he can close games at center against playoff opponents. But his spacing and ability to attack off the dribble against scrambling defenses will add exciting variety to a Mavs offense that leans too heavily on Luka Doncic.
Biggest Loss: Jalen Brunson
Spencer Dinwiddie has a good shot to replace most of what the Mavericks lost when Brunson left them for the New York Knicks, so the lefty guard’s departure is far from catastrophic. That said, it’s a tough look for the Mavs that they lost their second-best offensive player to a lottery team for fewer years and less money than they could have offered him.
Maybe Brunson will flop in a larger role and it’ll become clear that the Mavs were better off not giving a nine-figure deal to a player who doesn’t profile as a star. For now, Dallas is a little worse on the floor and might be nursing a bruised ego.
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Biggest Win: Signing Bruce Brown and Trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (tie)
Brown is a defensive dynamo whose cutting and screen-setting couldn’t fit any better with facilitating savant Nikola Jokic, and KCP brings the ideal backcourt three-and-D skill set the Denver Nuggets need. Choosing between two perfect additions like these inherently diminishes one of them, and that feels wrong.
So we’re going with a dual win.
Brown might even find himself in closing lineups that need some defensive oomph, perhaps at the expense of Michael Porter Jr.. When you’ve got a relatively cheap free-agent acquisition that might see major minutes ahead of a player you maxed out just last summer, you know you’ve done something right. One could argue you might have also done something wrong with respect to the maxed-out player in that scenario, but we’re staying positive.
Biggest Loss: Signing DeAndre Jordan
The Nuggets will be Jordan’s sixth team in the last four years, and the veteran center hasn’t posted a positive on-off differential in any of the last five seasons. An odd choice for Denver team that should have been looking for a change-of-pace small-ball center to relieve Jokic, Jordan isn’t even adept at conventional big-man duties any longer.
With their offseason additions and returns to health of Jamal Murray and MPJ making them a realistic contender, the Nuggets added a backup 5 who will probably be unplayable in the postseason.
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Biggest Win: Jaden Ivey Falling to No. 5
Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe or any number of other options expected to be on the board when the Detroit Pistons selected fifth in the 2022 draft would have been fine; the team isn’t anywhere close to the point where drafting for need makes any sense. But Ivey’s slight slippage to that No. 5 spot immediately turned the Pistons’ offseason into a success.
It’s admittedly irresponsible to get excited about a rookie who hasn’t played a meaningful minute yet, but the in-theory potential of Ivey and Cade Cunningham is too tantalizing. Plus, it’s the offseason. This is when we’re all supposed to get swept up in an optimistic wave.
Ivey is an A-plus athlete whose speed and agility in the open floor conjure echoes of Russell Westbrook. If he proves his gains as a shooter in his second season at Purdue were real, he’ll slot neatly into a secondary playmaking role alongside Cunningham, whose poise and craft exist in stark contrast to Ivey’s explosiveness.
These two cornerstones could hardly be more different, and that’s kind of why they’re so perfect together.
Biggest Loss: Re-signing Marvin Bagley III for $37.5 million
Bagley is only 23, and it’s hardly a condemnation when the Sacramento Kings and their one-star-rated player development apparatus fail to produce results. But it’s difficult to understand how the market for Bagley set itself so high. What team out there in the cap-space desert of the 2022 offseason was pushing Detroit to pay a tweener on offense with no defensive value over $12 million per season?
Bagley’s perimeter shot has never been reliable, and he might have the least interest in and facility for passing in the league. On D, he’s a poor rim protector who struggles to guard in space. Trim the draft pedigree and the perceived upside that comes with it out of the analysis, and that’s a description of a minimum-salaried player.
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Biggest Win: Signing Donte DiVincenzo
A smart cutter and passer whose perimeter shot looked trustworthy (36.8 percent on 5.8 deep attempts per game) in a stint with the Kings last season, DiVincenzo is going to fit right into the Golden State Warriors system.
The 6’4″ combo guard racks up steals and pounds the boards on both ends, which will allow him to provide value to the Warriors even when he’s not scoring.
DiVincenzo’s injury history allowed Golden State to buy low, and this high-IQ guard with plenty of experience playing for a winner with the Milwaukee Bucks will provide an outsized return for the defending champs.
Biggest Loss: Not Keeping Gary Payton II
Attrition is part of winning, but that didn’t keep a contingent of Warriors fans from getting upset about Payton’s departure. The cognitive dissonance of knocking Golden State for stinginess while it totes a historic tax bill is hard to fathom.
It’s still a bummer that the Warriors won’t have Payton’s services next season. He was the team’s best on-ball option against guards and a constant source of disruption away from the ball. His 5.2 deflections per 36 minutes narrowly trailed Matisse Thybulle’s average for the league lead among rotation players.
Payton also found his niche on the other end as a screener and cutter. The Warriors will compensate for his absence in other areas, but there’ll be fewer highlights and less chaos (the good kind) on both ends without GPII around.
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Biggest Win: Jae’Sean Tate’s Contract
The Luguentz Dort comparison isn’t totally fair, as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s recently re-signed wing is three-and-a-half years younger and a more proven shooter than Tate. But factoring in price, the Houston Rockets might have actually consummated the more team-friendly deal. Tate’s three-year contract costs just $20.6 million overall with a team option on the third season, while Dort will collect $82.5 million over five years.
Tate is a bruising offensive rebounder who racks up steals and spent more time than any Rocket other than Kevin Porter Jr. guarding high-usage and dangerous opponents last year. Houston’s defense was 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with Tate in the game, a significant figure that gets even more meaningful when stretched across the 2,056 minutes he played. Durable, possessed of a high-revving motor and still not too far into his career to preclude improvement as a three-point shooter, Tate is a valuable starter being paid like a ninth man. His is the kind of bargain deal that makes it so much easier for a team like Houston to lavish its lottery talent with big extensions when the time comes.
Biggest Loss: No Eric Gordon Trade
The Rockets did well to collect a first-rounder from the Mavs for Christian Wood, but it’s a little surprising they couldn’t get the same return for Gordon. Houston values the 33-year-old guard’s leadership experience, but Gordon is essentially an expiring $19.6 million salary this season. Unless he makes an All-Star team or logs 500 minutes en route to a championship, Gordon’s 2023-24 salary is nonguaranteed. Considering he’s still a two-way threat who just shot 41.2 percent from deep and can use his strength to guard multiple positions, Gordon would seem to be a hot commodity.
Houston can still move him ahead of the trade deadline, but it would have been better to sell high with Gordon coming off such a strong season. At his age, decline could come quickly, diminishing his trade value.
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Biggest Win: Trading Malcolm Brogdon
The time was right for the Indiana Pacers to move off Brogdon and hand the keys over to Tyrese Haliburton. So while the acquisition of the veteran guard was a win for the Celtics, Indy also comes out looking good. Had the Pacers not swung the deal when they did, they might have missed their opportunity to collect a solid asset. Considering Brogdon’s games played totals over the last three years—54, 56 and 36 games—Indiana cannot have been confident he’d stay healthy long enough to profile as a trade target by the deadline.
Add to that the minutes and responsibilities freed up for players other than Haliburton, and the Brogdon move makes even more sense. Assuming they don’t trade him prior to the season, the Pacers can now hand Buddy Hield more playing time, which could inflate his market value. And for a development-focused organization, removing impediments to rookie Bennedict Mathurin’s playing time is another plus.
Biggest Loss: The Brevity of the Deandre Ayton Era
For a second there, the Haliburton-Ayton pick-and-roll was one of the most exciting theoretical team-ups around. The cornerstone duo made perfect sense together—a smooth playmaking guard and a defensively imposing, soft-handed center. Their ages, 22 and 24, respectively, meant the Pacers had their point guard-center bookends entrenched for the next half-decade or so.
And then the Phoenix Suns matched the offer sheet Ayton signed with Indy, and the whole fanciful daydream evaporated.
Maybe this was always the way Indiana’s pursuit of Ayton was going to end, but you can’t blame the Pacers for shooting their shot. Even this “loss” could morph into a win if Indy uses the cap space it was going to give Ayton to take on bad salary with picks attached during the year.
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Biggest Win: John Wall on the Cheap
There’s no denying the risk attached to Wall, a speed-dependent guard entering his age-32 season after seeing action in just 40 games since December 2018. He could be completely washed, only a little diminished or anything in between; nobody will know for sure what the Los Angeles Clippers are getting until the games start and Wall either looks like his old self or doesn’t.
But for just $13.3 million over two years, with the second season a team option, the Clips will be none the worse for wear if every potential downside in Wall’s profile materializes. This is a Grade-A flier on a player whose potential upside justifies the gamble.
If everything works out, Wall will give Los Angeles an elite facilitator who generates corner threes for teammates like few others. The five-time All-Star guard’s open-floor speed, once the most blistering in the league, may not be there. But Wall’s vision should be undimmed, and he can ease the burden on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George by setting them up for easier looks than they’ve enjoyed over the last few seasons.
Biggest Loss: Isaiah Hartenstein’s Exit
The Clips chose to retain Ivica Zubac for three years and $32.8 million, a reasonable price for a solid starting center. That makes their decision to let Hartenstein walk excusable, particularly since Los Angeles figures to play most of its most meaningful minutes without a center on the floor at all. At the same time, Hartenstein showed a level of dynamism as a passer and shot-blocker last season that distinguished him from Zubac. Maybe some of the breakout we witnessed had to do with Hartenstein playing against backups, but he presented an intriguing skill set nonetheless.
Losing him won’t prevent the Clippers from chasing a ring, but it’s possible they look back in the next couple of years and wonder whether they kept the right center.
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Biggest Win: Signing Lonnie Walker IV
In each of his four seasons, Walker has shown at least one facet of a quality starter’s game. As a rookie who played just 17 contests, the 6’5″ guard’s athletic gifts were undeniable. Walker was a blur in the open floor and a high-riser at the rim. The next season, he shot 40.6 percent from deep. In his third year, Walker started 38 of the 60 games he played, upped his three-point rate by more than double and made marginal improvements as a self-sufficient generator of offense. Though his shooting abandoned him last year, Walker reached a new level as a passer, climbing from the 47th percentile to the 76th in assist rate at his position.
None of this guarantees he’ll put all the pieces together with the Los Angeles Lakers, but Walker is exactly the kind of “second draft” prospect that has shown enough flashes to make a leap seem realistic.
Biggest Loss: No Major Moves
That Walker stands out as the Lakers’ most significant signing speaks to how uninspiring their offseason has been overall. No blockbuster Russell Westbrook trade, no infusion of top-end talent (or even proven role players) and no real reason to believe the supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be meaningfully better than last year’s.
Trading Westbrook for a helpful return may be impossible, and the Lakers have almost no other positive-value trade chips on the roster. They did this to themselves, though, so it doesn’t feel unfair to ding them for failing to move the needle in the offseason.
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Biggest Win: Securing the Future at Point Guard
We’ll wrap Ja Morant’s drama-free max extension and Tyus Jones’ return on a new deal into one big win for the Memphis Grizzlies backcourt.
Morant wasn’t even a free agent, and his seventh-place finish in MVP voting meant there was no doubt the Grizz would lock him up for as long as possible at their first opportunity. Jones was different. He hit a free-agent landscape that seemed to have more point guard demand than supply, which created the potential for another team to view him (and pay him) as a starter.
Jones’ work with the first unit when Morant missed time was among the most interesting subplots of last season, with the Grizz boasting a 19-4 record in those games. The leader in assist-to-turnover ratio (among regulars) for four straight years, Jones proved he was more than a game manager. He elevated the Grizzlies with his reliable shooting and mistake-free play.
Two years and $29 million is pricey for a backup, especially one locked behind a superstar on the depth chart. But Jones is as good as it gets in his role, and Morant’s high-risk style makes it all the more critical that Memphis has the luxury of a great contingency plan.
Biggest Loss: Jaren Jackson Jr.’s Latest Surgery
The Grizzlies won more games than anyone but the Phoenix Suns last season, and they tested the eventual champion Warriors in the playoffs. This is why we can’t just dismiss Jackson’s fractured foot and its four-to-six-month recovery timeline as a hiccup. This team is ready to contend right now, but it can’t do it without him.
Jackson was an All-Defensive first-teamer at age 22 last season, leading the league in blocks and conjuring realistic hope that he could anchor a title-winner. The untapped potential of his floor-stretching offense only added to the excitement. This might have been the year Jackson took real strides toward his final form as one of the best playoff bigs in the league.
An unusually long recovery from a torn meniscus limited him to 11 games in 2020-21, and we should expect similar caution with this new injury. Jackson’s absence could hurt Memphis’ playoff positioning, and he might not be at full strength upon his return. Add to that the darkening long-term outlook for a player who’s already undergone two significant operations in four years, and Jackson’s foot is among the offseason’s biggest bummers.
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Biggest Win: Victor Oladipo’s Contract
This is among the more dubious “wins” we’ll cover, but the Miami Heat still did well to make sure all the time and effort they’ve put into rehabilitating Oladipo won’t go to waste. Originally signed for one year and $11 million (which would have been fine), Oladipo agreed to restructure his contract, adding a second year and a player option for a new total of $18 million.
The change kept the Heat a little further from the tax and hard cap in 2022-23 and provided Oladipo with the security of a player option next year. Though he only logged eight regular season games this past season, Oladipo looked better than he had at any point since he made an All-NBA team in 2017-18 with the Pacers. Though he couldn’t carry his 47.9/41.7/73.7 shooting splits into the playoffs, it’s telling that Oladipo’s minutes spiked as the stakes rose. If his progress continues, and his body cooperates, he could be a sneaky candidate to start and close games for the Heat. Worse alternatives are on the table with his injury history, but Miami was wise to keep Oladipo around in case this is the year he finally gets his mojo all the way back.
Biggest Loss: PJ Tucker Joins a Rival
The Heat are objectively worse than they were a year ago, and that has everything to do with the absence of their starting power forward. Tucker’s decision to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers for the full MLE over three years has the added effect of strengthening a team the Heat may have to face in the 2023 postseason.
It’s not the worst idea in the world to cut bait on a 37-year-old with a limited skill set; the steep falloff Tucker has eluded for longer than most could arrive at any moment. But the Heat didn’t backfill Tucker’s spot in the rotation, and they’ll now have to cobble together big-game lineups that are much shorter on shutdown defense than they once were.
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Biggest Win: Bobby Portis Returns
Portis was the Milwaukee Bucks’ best player that had a chance to leave town, so even if his four-year, $48.6 million deal is a little rich, keeping him still counts as a win.
In his prime at age 27, Portis put up averages of 14.6 points and 9.1 rebounds while starting 59 of the 72 games he played last season. Brook Lopez’s back surgery created the opening for Portis to join the first unit as a stretchy starting center, and that’s a look we may continue to see going forward. Lopez is 34 and on an expiring deal, two factors that could combine to land him elsewhere.
Portis doesn’t defend the rim like Lopez, but he’s more mobile and is a demonstrably better shooter. Among players 6’10” or taller, only Karl-Anthony Towns and Lauri Markkanen made more than Portis’ 133 triples last season.
Biggest Loss: Using the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception on Joe Ingles
The Bucks used their best roster-building tool on Ingles, who may not be of much use in the high-leverage playoff games they hope to see in pursuit of another title.
Prior to tearing his ACL last season, Ingles had established himself as a knockdown shooter who could expertly run pick-and-roll sets as a wing. Now on the other side of that injury at age 34, Ingles may be able to contribute those same skills. But even before getting hurt, he’d become a liability on defense. The Bucks could find themselves shuffling minutes between Matthews, Grayson Allen and Ingles, looking hopelessly for a wing who who can do something with the ball on offense without being a walking target on D.
It’s asking a lot given their limited resources, but the Bucks needed to add someone who can play both ends in the postseason.
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Biggest Win: Trading for Rudy Gobert
The cost was high, but you’ve got to appreciate a franchise with so little success in its history taking a massive swing to reach a level it has rarely seen. Gobert is a transformative defensive force, and all the Utah Jazz’s recent playoff disappointments prove for certain is that he’s not quite transformative enough to compensate for four other sketchy defenders.
It shouldn’t come as a shock if his new Minnesota Timberwolves advance at least as far as his old Jazz ever did, which would only mean seeing the second round of the postseason.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a star, and Anthony Edwards has a shot to be something even greater than that. All the draft equity Minnesota surrendered might not end up including a premium pick if those two and Gobert reach their win-piling potential together. The Wolves took a risk, and everyone is fixated on all those first-rounders going to the Jazz and the $169.7 million left on Gobert’s contract. But I’d argue that this type of deal is far more defensible than the smaller version of it we saw when the Bulls coughed up a package of Wendell Carter Jr. and two firsts for Nikola Vucevic in 2021.
We get a little too future-asset obsessed in trade analysis sometimes. Four first-rounders and a swap aren’t meaningless, but Gobert is a defense unto himself, and he’s joining a team with enormous offensive potential. The Wolves are going to be better than they’ve been in years.
Isn’t that worth celebrating?
Biggest Loss: Trading Patrick Beverley
The Timberwolves’ pick-centric trade package for Gobert didn’t include any actual players you’d consider cornerstones, unless you’re among Jarred Vanderbilt’s biggest believers. But Minnesota may miss Beverley’s attitude and intensity.
Gobert’s presence on the back line means point-of-attack defense matters less than it used to, and Beverley is at a juncture in his career (age 34) where his bite will start lagging way behind his bark. But it’ll be hard to replace the raw emotional energy he brought to the team.
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Biggest Win: Extending Zion Williamson
Nothing has changed about Williamson’s considerably risky profile. He’s still the same mega-talent whose iffy conditioning and injury concerns render his future as cloudy as that of any big name in the league. But that same uncertainty once extended to the New Orleans Pelicans’ ability to keep Williamson happy enough to stick with the franchise.
And now, at least that variable is gone.
Never rule out a trade demand down the line, and pray that the Pels built as many health-focused clauses into Williamson’s contract as possible. For the moment, New Orleans’ main stress-inducer, Zion’s contentment, has been mitigated.
If Williamson supercharges the momentum the Pels built down the stretch last year and turns them into a contender, great. If his satisfaction is only fleeting and he asks out down the line, New Orleans can expect a colossal haul for a young star under contract through 2028.
Biggest Loss: No Consolidation Trades
New Orleans had 14 players already under contract for 2022-23 when last season ended, which limited free-agent intrigue but shouldn’t have precluded roster changes. Few clubs were better positioned for a consolidation move, one sending out multiple pieces and other assets for a difference-making addition.
I beat the drum all offseason and won’t mention it again, but Jaxson Hayes, Devonte’ Graham and a first-round pick should have been on the table for someone like Jerami Grant.
Quantity has its merits, but it would have been exciting to see New Orleans make a play for quality.
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Biggest Win: Signing Jalen Brunson*
Four years and $104 million might sound like too much for Jalen Brunson, who’d only been a full-time starter for a year prior to signing with the New York Knicks. He’ll surprise many if he earns any All-Star consideration during the life of his deal. But Brunson’s cap hit in 2022-23 will only be the 14th highest among point guards, so if he’s an average starter at the position next year, which seems doable, the Knicks won’t have overspent.
More broadly, New York targeted a player and acquired him. That’s significant for a franchise that hasn’t turned free-agent dreams into reality very often. The CAA and familial connections were a factor, but a team that doesn’t use every available advantage in negotiations is doing it wrong.
Quickly, Isaiah Hartenstein was one of the best value signings in the whole league, but it feels too cute to give a backup signing a win over a nine-figure starter.
Biggest Loss: Still Being Stuck with Julius Randle
Mitchell Robinson’s $60 million contract is tough to comprehend in an NBA with decreasing interest in non-stretch, non-switch centers. But the big man still has the defensive upside to potentially make that investment pay off. Nobody was sure about Robert Williams III’s four-year, $48 million payday last summer… until he barged into the DPOY conversation after signing it.
That leaves Randle and his continued presence on the roster as New York’s biggest loss. With Brunson in tow, Randle’s playmaking, his best skill, matters far less. So now, the Knicks have a vastly overpaid secondary facilitator (tertiary if RJ Barrett pops in his fourth year) who can’t shoot and doesn’t defend. With four more years and $117 million coming his way, Randle is a tough player to trade. The smart move might be to hope for a bounce-back that increases his appeal. Barring that unlikely turn of events, the Knicks are simply stuck.
*Unless they trade for Donovan Mitchell. That’d be a bigger win than Brunson.
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Biggest Win: Crushing the 2022 Draft
The Oklahoma City ended up rostering three of the top 12 picks in the 2022 draft, and two of them, Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams, are ready to contribute immediately. The third, Ousmane Dieng, is the kind of pure upside project a team with a surplus of draft capital as vast as OKC’s can gamble on.
Holmgren’s Summer League work revealed in instant impact defender and shot-blocker. He’ll be at a strength disadvantage against most matchups, but the rail-thin Gonzaga product offsets his lack of heft with timing, feel and rugged competitiveness. He’s a good long-odds bet to lead the league in swats as a rookie, and his flashes of shooting and ball-handling suggest he’s got the highest ceiling of any incoming rookie.
Grabbed out of Santa Clara after rocketing up draft boards, Williams has done nothing but validate his rise. The rangy wing’s play in Vegas made it hard to understand why he didn’t climb even higher. Ideal size, soft touch, a trustworthy perimeter shot, surprising athleticism and no shortage of craft as a playmaker combine to make Williams among the most complete prospects in his class.
Biggest Loss: No Chet Protection
We’re nitpicking, but the Thunder might have erred by not bringing in a bruising big man to spare Holmgren from some pounding. Low-block bullies are fading in the modern NBA, and Holmgren might benefit from taking some lumps as a rookie. But an old-school veteran center could have stepped in to absorb the odd Jonas Valanciunas or Joel Embiid tenderizing.
Dwight Howard or DeMarcus Cousins are just sitting out there unsigned.
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Biggest Win: Paolo Banchero’s Fit
Holmgren may wind up the better player, but Banchero addresses the Orlando Magic’s lack of a first-option shot-creator. The team has no shortage of young guards, including Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz, but none of those three has shown the ability to generate efficient looks for himself and others. Banchero may be able to do that from a forward spot, which takes the pressure off the Magic’s developing guards and, down the line, opens up a broad range of roster construction options.
He averaged 20.0 points in two summer league games before shutting it down, initiating the offense a fair amount and looking very comfortable on the ball.
A team that can run most of its action through a big wing can get creative at other positions, focusing on shooting, defense or length. The Celtics and Mavericks are just two examples of what’s possible when a non-point guard runs the show.
Biggest Loss: Still No Timetable for Jonathan Isaac
Isaac has now missed two full seasons following a torn ACL in 2020 and a hamstring procedure earlier this year. He’s played a total of 136 games in his five-year career. So while it can’t come as a surprise that he has no official return timetable, it’s still disappointing.
Orlando Magic Daily @OMagicDaily
Jeff Weltman giving an update on Jonathan Isaac on the ESPN broadcast.<br><br>Says they are optimistic he will be back for camp but will not put a timeline on it. Repeats what he has been saying that right now they are trying to get him back to where he was before the surgery. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Magic?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Magic</a>
Wendell Carter Jr. is ensconced as the center of the future and present, but if Isaac could ever get back on the floor, he and Banchero could give the Magic some exciting 4-5 combinations.
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Biggest Win: All the Wing and Forward Upgrades
PJ Tucker and Danuel House might have been the best power forward and small forward to change teams in free agency, and both landed with the Philadelphia 76ers courtesy of a James Harden opt-out and paycut that freed up cash.
Acquired from Memphis for Danny Green and draft compensation, De’Anthony Melton could end up mattering more than either of those two. He shot 41.2 percent from deep in 2020-21 and followed it up with a 37.4 percent hit rate last year, all the while bringing intelligent passing and tenacious defense as a combo guard. Only 24, Melton is the offseason acquisition who could become a fixture in Philly for years to come.
Biggest Loss: No Backup Center Additions
As much great work as Philly did to bolster its depth and add defense at other positions, backup center remains a spot that needs attention. Joel Embiid’s 68 games last season were a career high, and he’s been more durable than one might have anticipated after the way his career started. But the MVP runner-up still wore down and accumulated injuries throughout the year, and the Sixers might want to rest him more often as a precaution.
Paul Reed continues to have promise, but he’s only 23 and hasn’t looked like a rotation player for long enough stretches in his two seasons to this point. He could render this issue moot with a breakout, but the Sixers need a safer alternative, even if that comes with a much lower ceiling than Reed’s.
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Biggest Win: Playing a Cold Game with Deandre Ayton
The Phoenix Suns could have panicked. They could have succumbed to the pressure to give Ayton a max five-year extension last October. They could have traded him for limited value at the most recent February deadline. They could have rushed to action during free agency.
Instead, they waited.
Ayton went out and got a four-year max offer sheet from the Pacers, and the Suns almost immediately matched, retaining their starting center. Now on a four-year deal, Ayton has lost leverage to angle for a trade, which the Suns couldn’t even complete until Jan. 15. If and when Phoenix decides to move Ayton and his new four-year deal, the return will be greater than it would have been ahead of his restricted free agency. His four-year contract brings the security acquiring teams covet.
Bad blood and hurt feelings could make this Suns season complicated, but that’s not a given. Ayton has a max deal and a starting role on a contender. If he’s outwardly disgruntled, nobody will feel sorry for him. Phoenix understood its leverage, set a limit on what it would pay Ayton and followed through. That’s a shrewd and rare approach to negotiating with a non-superstar.
Biggest Loss: Not Finding Insurance at the Point
Devin Booker’s playmaking at the 2 makes the Phoenix Suns’ reliance on backup point guard Cameron Payne less of a concern than it’d otherwise be. But Chris Paul is entering his age-37 season, and Payne’s slippage from the heights of 2020-21 that included a drop in true shooting percentage from 60.2 to 50.0, means the Suns are a little thin at a key spot.
Payne could rebound, and Landry Shamet passes the ball decently for a wing. Phoenix has gone overboard on point guard depth before, and nobody’s suggesting they rehash the era of Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic sharing the floor. It just feels dangerous for the Suns to enter the season without a third point guard who could credibly slide into the backup role if necessary.
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Biggest Win: Adding Defensive Reinforcements
The Portland Trail Blazers finished no better than 27th in defensive efficiency over the last three seasons, and they remarkably ranked 25th or worse in opponent turnover rate every year from 2012-13 to 2020-21 (they were 11th last year). That is an institutional commitment to not making anyone uncomfortable on D, and it had to change.
Gary Payton II and Jerami Grant can handle that.
The former creates chaos from the moment he steps on the floor, as evidenced by last year’s 100th-percentile steal rate (not a typo) and his second-place finish to Matisse Thybulle in deflections per 36 minutes.
The latter made his name in the league as a five-position defender. Though Grant isn’t quite the switchable lockdown weapon he once was, he still gives the Blazers their best option against wings and forwards since Al-Farouq Aminu manned the spot.
None of this guarantees the Blazers will be an upper-tier playoff team in the West, but at least they addressed their longest-standing and most glaring weakness.
Biggest Loss: Unnecessarily Extending Damian Lillard
Lillard could win MVP this season, and the two-year, $122 million extension the Blazers gave him would still rate as a mistake. As great as Dame may be in the short term, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be worth $63 million when he’s 36 years old in 2026-27.
Portland went to extreme lengths to reciprocate Lillard’s loyalty, or at least that’s what this extension seems to indicate. Otherwise, why tack on two more years at max rates for a player whose original contract already kept him under team control for two more years after this coming season?
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Biggest Win: Keegan Murray’s MVP Summer League Showing
Murray did all he could to justify the Sacramento Kings’ decision to take him ahead of Jaden Ivey at No. 4 in the 2022 draft, winning Summer League MVP and flashing the on-the-move shooting that could make him a deadly offensive weapon. Though Murray’s inability to athletically overwhelm opponents in Vegas doesn’t augur well for his chances against the turbo-charged competition he’ll see in the regular season, the Iowa product showed enough skill and competitiveness to ease any draft-bust concerns.
Ivey’s speed, bounce and occupancy of a higher-value playmaking position mean he still has the higher ceiling, and sometimes that’s the only thing worth considering in a lottery pick. Murray, though, seems capable of contributing in a few areas right away.
At the very least, this isn’t a repeat of the Marvin Bagley III over Luka Doncic decision Kings fans will go to their graves lamenting.
Biggest Loss: The Donte DiVincenzo Saga
The Kings’ affinity for DiVincenzo extends back to the scuttled sign-and-trade deal they swung (which the league un-swung due to tampering) with the Bucks back in November of 2020. They finally landed the combo guard in a four-team trade at last season’s deadline, but then, curiously, the Kings treated the guy they’d been chasing for so long like an afterthought.
Sacramento held DiVincenzo out of the starting lineup in all but one of the 25 games he played with the team. The smaller role limited his value ahead of restricted free agency and caused his qualifying offer to stay beneath the starter-criteria threshold. A frustrated DiVincenzo then saw the Kings pull his qualifying offer altogether. All’s well that ends well, as DiVincenzo landed with the Warriors. But this whole affair was a bad look for the Kings and could sour players on a franchise that already has a decades-long reputation for mismanagement and unpredictability.
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Biggest Win: Trading Dejounte Murray
Murray is a fantastic young talent, and the Spurs will be worse with him gone. But the pain they’ll feel without their All-Star point guard is actually part of the reason we’re lauding the Spurs’ decision to trade their best player. San Antonio acted decisively when Murray informed them he wouldn’t sign an extension, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
Rather than waiting around while his trade value declined as he moved closer to free agency in 2024, at which point Murray would have been eligible for a max contract worth something around $200 million, the Spurs moved him at the peak of his worth. They netted a package that included three future first-rounders and swap rights on a fourth, assets that will speed the rebuild process San Antonio had already begun.
The return was massive for a one-time All-Star, and the Spurs got it because they made the difficult, pragmatic, unsentimental decision so many teams in their position don’t.
Biggest Loss: Chip Engelland’s Departure
The exit of a shooting coach wouldn’t normally be worth mentioning, but the end of Engelland’s run with the Spurs has real significance. If only symbolically, Engelland’s decision to leave San Antonio, with whom he’s worked since 2005, for the Thunder symbolizes the end of an era. Sure, Gregg Popovich is used to losing branches from his coaching tree. But Engelland is as close to a true guru in the league as there is, and he’s ditching one rebuilding franchise for another.
It feels like the days of Spurs exceptionalism are officially over, though three straight years in the lottery might have been the more obvious indicator.
The methods Engelland used in reforming Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker’s jumpers (among countless others) will no longer be available to Josh Primo, Jeremy Sochan and the rest of San Antonio’s young core. Instead, he’ll be leveling up Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Lu Dort.
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Biggest Win: Signing Otto Porter Jr.
Durability may always be a concern for Porter, who played nine straight games to start last season with the Warriors and then never saw that much uninterrupted action again until the playoffs. But the combo forward’s fit with the positionless Toronto Raptors is just about perfect, and all it cost to add Porter’s 37.0 percent three-point stroke and 98th percentile defensive rebounding (among forwards) was two years and $12.3 million.
The Raptors already have a bunch of like-sized, similarly skilled wings and forwards. But for them, that’s kind of the point.
Biggest Loss: Running It Back
Speaking of Toronto’s unusual lineup construction choices, are we totally sure this bold approach actually works?
Last year’s most-used lineup featured four players—Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam—between 6’5″ and 6’9″ alongside point guard Fred VanVleet. That group predictably flew around on defense and created heaps of turnovers, but it got bludgeoned on the boards and struggled mightily to score in half-court sets. Maybe another year’s worth of reps and the addition of Porter will bring improvement, but it’s also possible that the lineups Toronto likes best will always have major vulnerabilities.
If that’s the case, the Raptors may have erred by not bringing in a rotation-caliber point guard or conventional center in free agency.
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Biggest Win: The Rudy Gobert Haul
The Utah Jazz reset the market for star trades by reeling in four first-round picks (three unprotected) a swap and Walker Kessler, who’d just come off the board at No. 22 in the 2022 draft. That package sets them up to rebuild through future drafts or, less likely, make a play for the next disgruntled big name.
Gobert was and is a defense all by himself—albeit one with limitations. Though his presence on the floor has guaranteed elite stopping power for years, the Jazz’s terrible perimeter defenders proved even Gobert couldn’t paper over problems at four other positions come playoff time. Already 30, due $169.7 million over the next four years and part of a core whose ceiling was the second round, Gobert’s value was only going to decrease as they years passed. Utah, like San Antonio with Murray, made its move at a good time for a great return.
Biggest Loss: The Legacy of Competitiveness
The Spurs and Lakers are the only franchises with a higher winning percentage than the Jazz over the last 40 seasons, and Utah has missed the playoffs just eight times since 1983. This organization is as unfamiliar with rebuilding as any other, and the Gobert move (along with others that are likely to follow) signaled loud and clear that the Jazz are taking the step toward deliberate losing that they’ve avoided for so long.
That’s not to say starting fresh is the wrong decision. If Donovan Mitchell and Gobert didn’t get along and the team had topped short of contender status, retrenching made sense. Small-market operations aren’t as afraid of this approach as they used to be (see: Thunder, Oklahoma City), and the Jazz could find themselves in a better position than most rebuilders if they get a haul for Mitchell that rivals or exceeds what they got for Gobert.
Still, this is going to be a new chapter for the Jazz and their fans, and it won’t involve nearly as much of an emphasis on winning every night as it once did.
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Biggest Win: Taking Care of Guard Depth
Few teams had worse positional shortcomings than the Washington Wizards had at point guard last year, so it’s encouraging that the offseason brought help.
Monte Morris is a high-end backup who performed fine as a starter with a Nikola Jokic safety blanket in 2021-22, but even he’s a major upgrade at the point over Raul Neto, Ish Smith and Aaron Holiday.
Delon Wright brings another playmaker, along with the bonus ability to slide up to a wing spot that should help keep as many facilitators on the floor as possible. Though Will Barton is a shooting guard, he ranked in the 87th percentile at his position in assist rate last season. Throw in rookie Johnny Davis, who’ll be a project but comes with upside as the No. 10 overall pick, and Washington committed many of its offseason resources to solving its biggest problem.
Biggest Loss: Bradley Beal’s Contract
Miss me with the excuses and rhetorical questions about the $251 million contract the Wizards handed Beal.
What were they supposed to do, let their best player walk away in free agency for nothing?
The Wizards painted themselves into this corner by failing to trade Beal two years ago when he might have brought back a Jrue Holiday-level package of future first-rounders. That they faced the possibility of Beal leaving is their own fault, arrived at through inaction and a bizarre commitment to chasing a first-round out. And even if we forget Washington tied its own hands, it’s not like there was a queue of other teams out there clamoring to pay Beal as much as possible. If they’d wanted to, the Wizards could have drawn a harder line on years or dollars and, for crying out loud, at least avoided giving Beal the only no-trade clause in the league.
Multiyear max deals for veterans almost never age well. But the Wizards put themselves in a position where the early seasons of Beal’s contract won’t return positive value, and the trade restriction means that Washington won’t get teams’ best offers if it ever comes to the point of moving him. Franchises that know Beal will veto a deal won’t offer anything at all, and the teams he approves will be incentivized to lowball, knowing the Wizards face a narrowed market.
This is going to start and end badly, and the middle won’t be a picnic either.
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