As of July 6th, free agents can officially sign their new deals. With many players joining new squads, The Daily Californian staff take a deeper look into some of these moves.
Which team did the best to improve their roster?
Kenzo Fukuda: Everything went according to plan for general manager Rob Pelinka and the Los Angeles Lakers. The team was able to retain key contributors in D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura, while also adding some much needed depth in Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince and Jaxson Hayes. Most importantly, the Lakers re-signed rising star Austin Reaves. A big offer from a rival team that would force the Lakers to match never materialized, allowing the team to keep Reaves on a manageable four years/$56 million.
Zoei Torres: After rumors of a possible reunion with James Harden, the Houston Rockets turned in a different direction with their cap space and built around their young core. Just a day after inking Fred VanVleet to a three-year, $130 million contract, they also signed Dillon Brooks to a four-year, $80 million contract. With these signings, the Rockets bring much-needed perimeter defense to a team that had the third-highest average in points allowed to opponents per game. Additionally, the signings of Jock Landale and Jeff Green provide quality depth to their frontcourt.
Jane Kenny: The Phoenix Suns wanted to be a top-heavy team, with a 3-man core in Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal — but lacked depth or contributions from sustainable role players. Yet, even without much financial freedom in free agency, the Suns have acquired some foreseeable value at a bargain rate. Yuta Watanabe, 6’9” swingman from the Nets, compliments Durant and the Suns’ defensive vision well, and may be a useful puzzle piece in rounding off ball-dominant offensive players — as he spaces the floor well and has a great 3-ball at 44.4% from beyond-the-arc last season. Of course, veteran guard Eric Gordon adds to the depth with his proven outside shooting and dynamic leadership. 6’10” rim protector Drew Eubanks is yet another promising piece that just might round out the team’s defense.
What was your least favorite free agent signing so far?
KF: The Raptors signing Dennis Schröder doesn’t make sense to me. The two-year, $26 million contract in itself is fine but it signals Toronto’s unyielding stubbornness to stay the course. Last season proved that the Raptors as currently constructed are a middling team at best. However, general manager Masai Ujiri remains steadfast in over-demanding assets in trade negotiations for OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam. Grabbing Schröder is a win-now move and if Toronto remains in that mode without a core in place, they are on track for play-in games only.
ZT: Jerami Grant has proven to be a consistent scorer, but the Trail Blazers paying him $160 million over five years is a bit questionable to me, especially for a guy who was the team’s number three scorer. With Damian Lillard’s destination next season still in limbo, it seems as if Portland is committed to Grant serving the future of the team alongside Anfernee Simons and first-round pick Scoot Henderson.
JK: Dillon Brooks signing a four-year, $80 million deal with the Houston Rockets is a total calculated risk, and I am not particularly in favor. Sure, Brooks’ physicality and defensive legitimacy are valued assets for the Rockets, but he provides only shaky offensive production. His on-court antics brings off-court baggage to Houston. It seems more than likely that, as one of the NBA’s most hated players, he will pan out as an overpay.
What free agency signing should we be talking about more?
KF: The Knicks signing Donte DiVincenzo for four years/$50 million. The Villanova national champs have reunited in New York City. The Knicks learned after watching Josh Hart that you need players with guts if you want to win. DiVincenzo gives them just that. He’s a bonafide scrapper. Whether it’s hounding opposing guards or diving on the floor, he’s a guy who cares a lot about basketball. Last season with the Warriors, he averaged nearly 40% from the 3-point line. DiVincenzo should add some quality shooting to the Knicks backcourt. It’s a nice add for a Knicks team incrementally improving every year.
ZT: While this technically isn’t a free agent signing, Sasha Vezenkov is a name that many NBA fans might’ve not heard of yet. After initially being drafted by the Brooklyn Nets in 2017, his draft rights were acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers prior to the 2022 NBA draft before agreeing on a three-year, $20 million contract with the Kings this offseason. The 27-year-old is a three-time Greek League MVP and the reigning EuroLeague MVP. Pairing him up with all-stars like Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox makes the Kings a larger offensive threat as a team and a breakout candidate.
JK: With much empathy toward saddened Celtics fans, Marcus Smart is a quality pick-up for the Grizzlies. He is a pervasive defender with leadership and crunch-time experience — essentially an upgrade from Brooks. Overall, he fits perfectly into the “grit and grind” basketball culture in Memphis, offering his intensity and physicality as a lockdown defender. Smart also spoke to the opportunity of mentoring Ja Morant, which could be an ideal situation for his veteran attitude.