September 30, 2022

JThe ink isn’t even dry on most of the contracts signed since free agency began last week and a slew of more remain in the works. So, in the great tradition of my NBA Twitter ancestors, it’s time for some seriously premature assessments. Take them with a good pinch of salt because there’s still plenty of slack left…and maybe use that salt to line up a margarita, because it looks like there could be long months of speculation on Kevin Durant. (Did the people who were track Kawhi flights still have access to this technology?)

The winners

Boston Celtics

The Celtics didn’t really need a change before this offseason: they made it to the NBA Finals, after all. But after falling just short of their league target, depth was clearly a primary focus for the team heading into next season and their free agency signings have accomplished just that. Danilo Gallinari, while probably past his prime, is still contributing size and shooting, and they got him for the $6.5 million mid-tier exception. And Malcolm Brogdon, a savvy and reputable 6-foot-5 guard who can plug in and play in multiple roles if needed, is just the remedy for the lack of depth at point guard that proved troublesome in the playoffs. . As the executioner of their final Draymond Green observed in a recent episode of his podcast, Brogdon’s move “could be the best trade (of the summer)”.

LA Lakers

I would be remiss if I didn’t praise the Lakers’ moves in the offseason acknowledging that any success this coming year, or lack thereof, depends on what happens with a Russell Westbrook…and the outcome remains to be seen. see. But the Lakers wisely reversed the script from their free agency philosophy of 12 months ago. If last year’s creed could be described as “the more experience, the better”, it is safe to say that this year’s credo goes more in the direction of “those who do not can’t proficiently navigate TikTok don’t need to apply”. After a disastrous season with a roster filled to the brim with the NBA’s equivalent of AARP members, the Lakers have clearly made a deliberate choice to get younger: The average age of this year’s signers is 25, and they were able to address some of their shortcomings as well. Thomas Bryant, a big man who missed a significant amount of time with a torn ACL, can shoot well from distance in addition to bringing size. And Lonnie Walker, an underutilized San Antonio Spur who has shown great promise, will provide a much-needed jolt of athleticism.

Lonnie Walker, left, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Lakers, will bring some much-needed athleticism to an aging roster. Photography: Matt York/AP

Milwaukee dollars

Another team that would have been foolish to make rash moves in this free agency market is Milwaukee, which was, in all likelihood, a Khris Middleton knee injury away from another trip to the NBA Finals. So good for them to throw the sack at Bobby Portis while retaining free agents Wesley Matthews and Jevon Carter. The addition of excellent spot-up shooter Joe Ingles of Utah Jazz fame also makes a difference. Yeah, he’s a guy who looks more like your Uncle Joe than a surprisingly adept pro athlete, and he’s coming off a torn ACL, but he’s still a great pick-up for a team that needs no more perimeter shooting.


Dallas Mavericks

Look, paying Jalen Brunson $110 million for four years isn’t exactly a given, and I don’t blame the Mavericks for letting him explore greener, more James Dolan-sponsored pastures in the Big Apple. But anyone who watched Dallas’ unlikely run in the playoffs this year would agree: He’s a more than capable playmaker who played no small part in breaking the Mavericks’ dreaded first-round curse. . And if you’re going to let a valuable puzzle piece go for nothing, it’s probably best to have a solid plan of who you’re going to acquire to replace it. Rumors were that the Mavericks had their eye on Goran Dragić, Luka’s veteran point guard and Slovenian brother-in-arms, but those dreams were quickly dashed when he was picked up by the Chicago Bulls. There’s still plenty of time for the Mavs to fill the void at this point, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that it will look like a net positive from what they let go.

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson and the New York Knicks have agreed to a four-year deal worth just over $106 million. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Utah Jazz

In my playoff roundup, I suggested that the Jazz channel their inner volcano and blast this team to pieces, once and for all, after years of disappointing playoff performances going from “almost there” to doldrums of mediocrity. And they have kind of did that, trading their perennial Defensive Player of the Year, Frenchman Rudy Gobert, and shipping Royce O’Neal to Brooklyn. What they have recovered, however, is disconcerting: especially noteworthy is the slew of first-round picks, which would indicate a full rebuild is imminent. But at press time, they may have retained their most valuable asset in Donovan Mitchell, a 25-year-old precipice superstar who has appeared openly confused with the direction of the franchise. If a Mitchell trade is in the works, offseason picks make more sense. But if they’re trying to build a winning team around him, their moves seem misguided at best and half-hearted at worst.

brooklyn nets

As of this writing, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are technically still on the Nets’ roster. And if you ask the front office in Brooklyn, that’s where they’ll stay until they get a business offer that’s good enough for them. The news that Kyrie might ask for a sign and a trade kicked off the offseason with a bang, and the subsequent announcement that Kevin Durant, too, wanted to leave Brooklyn set the Twittersphere on fire. The meteoric rise and spectacular fall of this superstar iteration of the Nets has been something to behold. It’s understandable that management and ownership have grown weary of their star antics to date: Kyrie missed most of last season due to refusing to get vaccinated, and while Durant himself was less of a walking tabloid story, his loyalty to his immunocompromised friend has sometimes proven unnerving. But the inalienable truth remains: any version of this team that can be acquired by swapping its two superstars will most likely have a potential ceiling even close to the heights of the one it currently has. If ever there had been a time for a front office to swallow its pride and ride a roller coaster until the wheels fell off, this would have been it.