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2018 NBA Free Agency: Early Winners and Losers

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Since the start of free agency at 12:00 a.m. eastern early Sunday morning, many teams have wasted little time planning the future of their franchises. Rather than wait around for LeBron James to make a move as seen in previous offseasons, players agreed to contracts and made moves in an offseason during which many teams’ cap space is limited.

There’s still a lot of free agency to go, but that doesn’t make it too early to proclaim the winners and losers so far.

Winners

Dallas Mavericks

DeAndre Jordan agreed to a one-year, $24.1 million contract with the Mavericks after opting out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. Jordan’s signing fills the Mavericks’ big man void and provides them with an elite-level player who offers solid rebounding and interior defense. Jordan’s addition also gives Dallas a better chance at being competitive in the West.

Denver Nuggets

By retaining Nikola Jokic (five-year, $148 million contract) and Will Barton (four-year, $54 million deal), Denver keeps two of their best players and give themselves a better chance of making the playoffs next season. The Nuggets just missed out on the postseason in the spring, so even if just re-signing them doesn’t make them a better team in what will be a more talented Western Conference, they’ll at least have the talent to be a challenger.

Los Angeles Lakers

This one’s simple: The Lakers’ top goal this offseason was to sign LeBron James, and they did. Not only that, but James has committed to Los Angeles long term, agreeing on a four-year, $154 million contract. Regardless of the fact Paul George didn’t even talk to them and whether they land Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers are the winner of free agency 2018.

Oklahoma City Thunder

In a move no one suspected, the Thunder managed to re-sign Paul George on a four-year, $137 million contract. Most everyone was convinced that George would flee Oklahoma for the fame and fortune of Los Angeles and the purple and gold of the Lakers. After all, George going to the Lakers has been the preconceived narrative. But now the Thunder get to retain George and remain competitive in what will be an even more difficult Western Conference.

Toronto Raptors

Fred VanVleet will re-sign with the Raptors on a two-year, $18 million deal. He finished third in Sixth Man of the Year voting last season and played an integral role for Toronto’s run last season. As such, he was expected to be highly coveted this offseason, but the fact the Raptors came to terms with him on the first day of free agency without other offers in the way is a big win for them — especially because they didn’t end up having to overpay him. VanVleet will also help the Raptors stay atop of a now wide-open Eastern Conference.

Losers

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers haven’t made any moves yet, but they no longer have LeBron James. Given his importance to not only the team but the city as a whole, losing James might as well be the epitome of losing in free agency. Cleveland basketball will be miserable yet again.

Golden State Warriors

Golden State re-signed Kevin Durant, which is an obvious win that everyone expected. But this isn’t about Durant, whom they kept; it’s more so about who they lost and which team they lost him to: JaVale McGee

Nearly three hours after James’ signing with the Lakers was announced, news broke that McGee would also be signing with the Lakers. Will losing McGee hurt the Warriors that much? No, McGee isn’t a superstar player by any means, but the fact he’s leaving the reigning championship team to join James on a Western Conference team isn’t good for the Warriors.

Houston Rockets

Although Houston are re-signing Chris Paul to a four-year, $160 million deal, they are also losing Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns and couldn’t land LeBron James. Signing James would have put the Rockets over the top, but they already proved just how close they were to making the Finals — if not for Paul’s hamstring injury. So without James, they’d be fine, but that’s only if Ariza is still there. Now Houston has to fill the crucial 3-and-D void Ariza leaves open.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia had a chance to land LeBron James, as it had a meeting with his team, but such an attempt was unsuccessful. But not only have the 76ers lost out on the LeBron sweepstakes, but they’ve also lost Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli — two key players from last season who provided 3-point shooting. Both are making homecomings of sorts: Ilyasova is heading back to the Milwaukee Bucks on a three-year, $21 million deal, and Belinelli will return to the San Antonio Spurs — where he won a championship — on a  two-year, $12 million contract. So far, all the Sixers have going for them in free agency is re-signing JJ Redick to a one-year deal in the $12-13 million range.

Portland Trail Blazers

With Ed Davis heading to Brooklyn Nets on a one-year, $4.4 million contract, the Trail Blazers have lost an important, efficient bench player. He averaged 5.3 points and 7.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes last season. Given the fact the West has become even stronger, letting a solid player like Davis go to the East doesn’t help the Blazers remain a force. Perhaps even worse, the fact Portland didn’t re-sign Davis upset the franchise’s two stars: Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

So the Blazers are out a key bench player and have two upset stars; that’s not exactly a formula for success.

Sources for contract details: Shams Charania, Marc Stein and Adrian Wojnarowski

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About Ashley Wijangco

Ashley is a writer based in the Chicago suburbs who has over seven years of sports writing experience. She writes about the Bulls and general NBA content for TLSM. Twitter: @wijangco12

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