You gain what you lose what. The same can be said about NBA free agency.
The free agency moratorium officially kicked off last Thursday and was quickly followed by a wave of moves, some logical and some mind-bending. Zach LaVine will stay in Chicago (five years, $215.2 million), Bradley Beal will return to Washington (five years, $251 million), and Anfernee Simons will stay with Portland (four years, $100 million), while Jalen Brunson has agreed with the New York Knicks (four years, $104 million).
Teams have also been busy on the trade front, with Utah sending Rudy Gobert to Minnesota. All the news can be compared to a great reveal from Kevin Durant. He wants to get out of Brooklyn. The availability of Durant will significantly change the landscape of free agencies.
But that may take a while to resolve. But which team has made the right or wrong decision so far? While there are still many moving parts to the game, the USA TODAY Sports NBA team is trying to make sense of everything.
Here’s a rundown of the biggest winners and losers from the first five days of free agency:
NBA FREE AGENCY: The money flies fast as seven players total $1.5 billion
DAY 3, NBA FREE AGENT TRACKER† Darius Garland signs extension with Cleveland
DAY 1-2, NBA FREE AGENT TRACKER: Trade T’Wolves for Gobert; Warriors love Looney; LaVine stays with Bulls
Loser: Golden State Warriors
It’s hard to call the reigning NBA champions “losers,” but Golden State said goodbye to two role players who were essential to their title run. Gary Payton II signed a $28 million three-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, while Otto Porter Jr. agreed to a two-year deal with Toronto. While the Warriors were able to keep Kevon Looney (for three years, $25.5 million), Golden State’s depth has taken a major blow.
THE HIGHEST PAID PLAYER OF NBA? Steph Curry, Lebron James lead the pack
Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves may have paid a king’s ransom to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Rudy Gobert – Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and Walker Kessler, 22nd pick in last week’s draft, unprotected first round picks in 2023, 2025 and 2027, plus a top five protected pick in 2029 — but Minnesota adds the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to their lineup.
Gobert joins D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns, who signed a $224 million four-year extension last week. This lineup can wreak havoc and battle in the West.
Loser: Miami Heat
The Heat, who came out of an Eastern Conference final, lost PJ Tucker to conference rival Philadelphia and could lose sixth man of the year Tyler Herro. However, the Heat can quickly turn from losers to winners, especially if they land Kevin Durant. Miami’s excellent front office will continue to work to improve the roster.
Loser: Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets’ problems don’t come from free agency. Kyrie Irving exercised the player option in the final year of his contract for the 2022-23 season, but it is not clear whether Irving will play another game for the Nets. The same can be said about Kevin Durant, who applied for a transaction with the Nets just hours before the opening of the free agency. This comes almost five months after Brooklyn traded James Harden to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons.
While Brooklyn will definitely get the first round if they trade Durant and Irving, after this failed experiment, the Nets are on the cusp of another rebuild.
To be determined: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have so far made moves on the margins, signing deals with Troy Brown Jr., Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Lonnie Walker IV. But that’s not enough to elevate the Lakers to contenders. We’re waiting to see if they can acquire Kyrie Irving (or any other star) in an off-season deal.
Winner: Boston Celtics
The Celtics didn’t have to do much, but they couldn’t stay the same. It was a necessity to get a playmaking point guard that adds depth to the rotation. Brad Stevens, Boston’s president of basketball operations, made deals to improve the team in his one year on the court and made another at free agency. Boston acquired Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers without giving up key rotation players. A rotation with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Brogdon is dangerous both offensively and defensively.
TBD: Sacramento Kings
No winners or losers, let’s give the Kings temporary props for finding shooters around the De’Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis combo. Off-season signings Malik Monk (free agency) and Kevin Huerter (via trade) will help the Kings stretch the floor. Sacramento also fielded Keegan Murray with the No. 4 pick. It looks good on paper. Let’s see what the Kings and new coach Mike Brown can do with this roster on the field.
Winner: Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers lured PJ Tucker out of Miami (even if it’s a little overpaid, but good for Tucker, who is defensive and a corner specialist), and they teamed up with James Harden to turn down his player option for $47.4 million and give him a longer deal at a slightly lower annual salary. As a result, the Sixers could have some financial flexibility to improve the roster. The Sixers also added cheap depth and struck a deal with Danuel House Jr., who played with Harden in Houston.
To be determined: Utah Jazz
What are the Jazz up to? That is a question that remains unclear until now. Utah last week hired 34-year-old Will Hardy as their new head coach to replace Quin Snyder. Utah traded Gobert to Minnesota for multiple players and multiple first-round picks and also sent Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a conditional first-round draft pick in 2023 to build around Donovan Mitchell.
TBD: Portland Trailblazers
New Trail Blazers GM Joe Cronin didn’t sit still as the Blazers acquired Jerami Grant in a trade, drafted Shadeon Sharpe, retained Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic, and added Gary Payton II. It’s an improvement with more work to do, but a good start to helping Damian Lillard.
To be determined: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks bought All-Star Dejounte Murray, who was close to a triple-double average last season, helping Trae Young. But the Hawks also traded Kevin Huerter to Sacramento, lost Delon Wright to Washington, and sent Danilo Gallinari and three first-round draft picks to San Antonio in the Murray deal. The Hawks had a disappointing season in 2021-2022 and they may need more than the Murray deal to compete in the East.
Loser: New York Knicks
The Knicks added Jalen Brunson on a $104 million four-year deal. It’s a great addition in free agency, if not overpaid a bit. But the question is, how much better does this make the Knicks. Maybe better than last season. Maybe not. It doesn’t elevate them to contenders the way the roster currently stands.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA free agency 2022 winners (T’Wolves, Celtics) and losers (Warriors)