A free agent is a sports player who is not bound by a contract and so is eligible to join any team, defined by the Oxford Dictionary. For many teams, free agency is a crucial period that will either send their franchises to the next level or back into a state of mediocrity. The NBA free agency class is usually loaded with talent as superstars look to either resign with their current teams or look to join forces with a different franchise. With the increasing rise of star players leaving their current team to join other star players in hopes of winning a championship, one may say the NBA free agency is more entertaining than the actual season itself. The anticipation of waiting to see where star players decide to take their talents creates high levels of suspense that keep many analysts, reporters, and fans up late at night. With the 2023 NBA Free Agency underway, here are some teams that either hit the jackpot or regret making a crucial decision.
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the clear-cut winners of this free agency class. Last season, GM Rob Pelinka made some exceptional trades at the trade deadline to turn a struggling Lakers team into a strong playoff contender that ultimately made it to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the eventual champions, the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers brought back key role players that were instrumental to their playoff success in Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt. In the free agency market, they signed Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish and Jaxon Hayes. Not only did the Lakers bring back most of their roster that helped them make it to the Western Conference Finals, their free-agency signings just bolster an already-loaded roster, which makes the Lakers one of the early favorites to win the title next season.
The Phoenix Suns are kind of slept on in this free agency. Of course, they had the blockbuster trade a couple of weeks ago that sent Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and a ton of first and second-round picks to the Wizards for All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal to form a deadly big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, and Beal. The elephant in the room after the trade was the lack of depth surrounding the three superstars. GM James Jones made sure to address this issue by signing Drew Eubanks, Keita Bates-Diop, Chimezie Metu, Yuta Watanabe, and bringing back Damion Lee and Torrey Craig. These signings were not eye-popping, but these players play their roles at an adequate level that will help the Suns succeed in other ways besides scoring, which will be covered by their trio of stars.
The Milwaukee Bucks have an interesting case to be a winner in this year’s free agency. The reason why they are a winner in this free agency isn’t that they landed a big superstar or signed a bunch of great role players; rather, they brought back their core that got them the best record last season. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez were due for new contracts and many teams were looking to sign those veteran players. However, GM Jon Horst was able to bring back both Middleton and Lopez to help superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo have another shot at his second championship. There are still some pieces that need to be filled out on this Bucks roster if they want to overcome their playoff meltdown they had last postseason, but if they lost Middleton or Lopez, there would be no chance of Giannis and the Bucks winning a second championship.
The Houston Rockets have made some head-scratching decisions in this year’s free agency. The future of the Rockets was starting to look bright with this year’s draft selection of Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore. Thompson and Whitmore would join a young core of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, and Kevin Porter Jr. to form one of the most exciting young cores in the NBA. However, GM Rafael Stone decided to sign point guard Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks to a combined $210 million dollars. Although VanVleet and Brooks are great players, they do not match the timeline of the Houston Rockets. VanVleet and Brooks are most likely going to be inserted into the starting lineup and will take valuable minutes away from the young players, who need those minutes to develop into better players. Even though the Rockets had one of the largest salary cap rooms in the NBA this offseason, they should have used the money to bring in veteran players that will help mentor the young core.
The Denver Nuggets are a surprising choice to be on this list as they just won the NBA championship. However, the Nuggets lost some pretty important role players that were instrumental in their championship run in Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. Bruce Brown was their Swiss army knife off the bench as he was able to shoot, defend, and cut to get easy layups off of Nikola Jokic. Brown was then rewarded a two-year, $45 million dollar contract to join the Indiana Pacers. Jeff Green also played a crucial role off the bench with the ability to shoot the long ball and be a veteran presence for a young Nuggets team. He then decided to join the Houston Rockets on a one-year, six-million-dollar contract. Denver still has one of the best starting fives in the NBA led by Jokic, but the huge losses off the bench may severely hurt their chances of repeating as champions.