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Grading Every Deal From Day 1 of the NBA’s Free Agency Bonanza

The NBA is a different place today than it was yesterday. Which of the many, many moves will pay off? We evaluated each and every one.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Forty-eight contracts totaling $3.2 billion were agreed to within the first eight hours of NBA free agency, according to SB Nation’s Matt Ellentuck. We graded every single one based on the reported terms (excluding extensions and those without full terms).

Kevin Durant

Four-year, $164 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets

Yes, he’s coming off an Achilles injury and probably won’t play at all next season, but any concern over contract value is missing the forest for the trees. This is Kevin Durant, one of the best players to ever lace them up. He’s still just 30 years old, and he’s going to a franchise that was more deprived of talent and assets than any other team just a few seasons ago. That the Nets were able to turn cap space and a restricted free agent (D’Angelo Russell) into a top-five player without having to sacrifice any draft picks or significant parts of their young core is nothing short of amazing. The Nets are immediate contenders, even without Durant, and have the makings of a dynasty with him for the next few years.

Grade: A+

Kyrie Irving

Four-year, $140 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets

Irving has some image rehabilitation to do after a disastrous final season in Boston, but Brooklyn is a perfect landing spot, as he’ll have teammates who won’t stray from their defined roles. You can see a path where Durant meshes better with Irving than LeBron James did, as Durant is much more comfortable finishing off created advantages and taking open spot-up shots. That should allow Irving to ease Durant back in once he’s healthy, and not in a way that feels like the two are taking turns. The chemistry here—especially since they both chose Brooklyn as a destination—should be better than a lot of superstar pairings. Brooklyn is going to be really good, really quickly, and Irving will be the force behind it from the jump.

Grade: A

Jimmy Butler

Four-year, $140 million sign-and-trade to the Miami Heat

Butler’s evaluation of his own weaknesses might be a little too much like Michael Scott’s (“I work too hard. I care too much.”) for other franchises, but Miami and Erik Spoelstra pride themselves on a culture that’s all about outworking everyone else. Butler will dig that, and though it hasn’t materialized into a ton of wins when he hasn’t been paired with a star, Butler can immediately take on the top scoring role he’s seemingly yearned for. Butler is good enough on both ends to lift up a cast of solid role players that desperately needed an alpha-dog scorer late in close games. Miami still has work to do and limited means to get it done, and still has some cap maneuvering left to do in order to fit Butler into its books. But pulling off a deal like this while residing firmly in salary cap hell is impressive.

Grade: A-

Kemba Walker

Four-year, $141 million deal with the Boston Celtics

The Celtics might have lost two stars in Irving and Al Horford, but they might get two back in Walker and Brad Stevens. Walker’s signing should allow Stevens to return to his ideal offense and reclaim some of the selfless, motion-based magic the Celtics had when Isaiah Thomas was flying off screens. Walker, meanwhile, finally gets to play meaningful basketball with real talent next to him. For a team recently plagued by having too many cooks in the kitchen, getting back to a familiar recipe may be exactly what’s needed, even if this was far from the outcome Boston envisioned when it traded for Irving two years ago.

Grade: B

D’Angelo Russell

Four-year, $117 million sign-and-trade to the Golden State Warriors

The five stages of a Woj bomb: combustion, confusion, concern (is Klay Thompson still in?), conceptualizing (can they all play together?), and contentedness. This might be as simple as the Warriors getting something instead of nothing for Kevin Durant, or keeping Russell around long-term as the young successor could be part of the plan. The latter is harder to imagine—Russell needs the ball in his hands, and he does most of his damage with floaters and midrange shots off his own dribble in a decidedly non-Warriors kind of way. What seems most likely is that the Warriors could use Russell to fill in for Thompson, who will be recovering from a torn ACL, until the trade deadline and then flip him for a better fit. Unless something has changed and Thompson isn’t signing his max extension, Russell seems more likely to spend four months than four years with the Warriors.

Grade: C+

Tobias Harris

Five-year, $180 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers

We didn’t really need the “Why I stayed” letter, Tobias. We get it. You just made $180 million as a complementary player. That’s not a dig—Harris is extremely valuable as a shooter for a team that needs that more than anything else. Devoid of context, it would be hard to imagine paying this much for a player who will spend most of his time off the ball, but we know the parameters with which Philadelphia is working. The 76ers are gunning for a title for at least the next four years (the contract window for Joel Embiid and now Al Horford) and won’t have a shot at cap space if Ben Simmons signs an extension, so whatever financial hit was necessary to keep a player of Harris’s caliber was worth it. You can pick apart how clunky the spacing might be next to a bunch of giant humans in the starting lineup, or whether he can guard quicker wings full time, but the sticker shock really doesn’t matter. Harris can absolutely be the third or fourth offensive option on a title team, and that’s what he’ll be asked to do. This is more of a bet on Embiid and Simmons than it is on Harris alone.

Grade: B

Al Horford

Four-year, $109 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers

There are more reasons to love Horford’s game than there are to dislike this deal, but I have questions. How much longer will Horford, 33, be able to defend smaller players? Are the Sixers paying for past performance and banking too much on how he slowed down Giannis Antetokounmpo this past offseason? Is it concerning that a team built around two players that can function at center just added another center? Is Horford’s 3-point shooting (1.1 made 3s on 36 percent shooting last season) good enough? There’s almost zero chance that Horford becomes a net-negative player at any point during this contract—he’s too smart. But you have to wonder whether an already shaky fit between Simmons and Embiid just got shakier.

Grade: C+

Khris Middleton

Five-year, $178 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks

Optimist: Milwaukee wasn’t creating cap space for any free agents and couldn’t even retain everyone on its own roster, so keeping Middleton for whatever price he demanded was a win. He’s a 45 percent career playoff 3-point shooter, he can defend multiple positions, and he can function as a secondary creator and scorer. Giannis likes him. This is great!

Pessimist: Are you really beating the Splash Brothers, Kyrie and KD, Philly’s jumbo lineup, LeBron and AD, or a Kawhi-led Raptors team with Khris Middleton as your second-best player? Sure would be a shame if Giannis decides that he wants to play with a bigger name in the summer of 2021 but has to leave Milwaukee because locking up Eric Bledsoe and paying Middleton (and letting Malcolm Brogdon go) was the priority way back when.

Grade: B-

Malcolm Brogdon

Four-year, $85 million deal with the Indiana Pacers

The Pacers sent out a future first-round pick and two second-round picks to get this deal done, which takes a little shine off the acquisition. Still, young players that can defend and shoot at this level are nearly impossible to find, and Indiana took full advantage of a conference rival feeling the financial squeeze of retaining multiple players. Brogdon won’t get as many open shots in Indiana as he did with Giannis drawing multiple defenders in Milwaukee (he routinely ranked near the top of the league in wide-open 3s), but he’s an ideal fit next to a risk-taker like Victor Oladipo, on both ends of the court. Even if the 26-year-old Brogdon plateaus and remains exactly who he has been, the Pacers are getting a player who really takes nothing off the table and fits perfectly into their schemes on both ends.

Grade: A-

Kristaps Porzingis

Five-year, $158 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs made their choice to re-sign Porzingis the moment they stole him from the New York Knicks. There are massive injury and durability concerns with Porzingis, who has missed 142 games over his first four seasons and has yet to actually play for Dallas. But it’s not as though he is an unknown entity. He was an All-Star at 22 years old, and he’s the only player in NBA history to average two blocks a game and 1.5 made 3s over his career. You gamble on 7-foot-3 players capable of being unguardable by even the league’s best defenders. Avoiding the ugliness of restricted free agency and earning some capital with Porzingis was the right thing to do.

Grade: B+

Harrison Barnes

Four-year, $85 million deal with the Sacramento Kings


Grade: C

Nikola Vucevic

Four-year, $100 million deal with the Orlando Magic

Part of me feels for Orlando. Vucevic was an All-Star last season and has worked hard to evolve his game, and the franchise is riding the wave of winning a playoff game against the eventual champions. Also, Orlando just seems generally tired of being bad. Letting Vucevic walk for nothing instead of dealing him at the deadline for something would have been a little too Charlotte. Maybe the young guys take a …

You know what? No. Enough, Orlando. I know it’s a new front office, but three years ago the previous regime gave Bismack Biyombo $72 million when Vucevic was on the roster. Then they drafted Mo Bamba. Vucevic’s breakout has CONTRACT YEAR written all over it and yet you still outbid yourselves for a 28-year-old center who has led you to one winning season in seven years? Assuming neither is particularly playable in the postseason for long stretches, would you rather have Jonas Valanciunas on a three-year, $45 million deal or Vucevic on a four-year, $100 million deal? Right.

Grade: D

Bojan Bogdanovic

Four-year, $73 million deal with the Utah Jazz

Utah isn’t waiting out the Warriors anymore. Swapping Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder for Mike Conley and Bogdanovic is a massive offensive upgrade, one that means the Jazz should finally have enough firepower to supplement one of the league’s best defenses, anchored by Rudy Gobert. Bogdanovic is more than just a shooter; like Joe Ingles, he can defend his position and make plays off the bounce as well. After losing to the Houston Rockets in a first-round series that wasn’t as competitive as anticipated, largely because the Jazz missed an unfathomable amount of open shots, it was well past time to get another wing scorer who could protect against the scoring slumps that made Donovan Mitchell press too much. For a team that was probably never going to be a marquee destination for free agents, this was a perfectly acceptable use of cap space. Utah has long been good, but never balanced. Signing Bogdanovic moves the Jazz in the right direction; perhaps right to the top of the pecking order in the Western Conference.

Grade: A-

JJ Redick

Two-year, $26.5 million deal with the New Orleans Pelicans

Dukies unite! Redick joins Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson as Coach K disciples in New Orleans, and will be tasked (almost solely) with providing as much floor spacing as possible for the young forwards to thrive. Redick checks off a lot of boxes for new EVP David Griffin: He’s a veteran with a great work ethic who can set the example for the team’s younger players, and he’s the willing transition 3-point shooter the team desperately needed. With Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday taking the tough assignments defensively, it’s hard to see any real downside here.

Grade: A

Julius Randle

Three-year, $63 million deal with the New York Knicks

Is it a good thing when the team president issues a memo conceding just how poorly free agency is going right after you agree to sign? Will Randle’s introductory press conference just be a bunch of people apologizing over and over? My goodness, Knicks, get yourselves together. This is a surprisingly fair deal, especially since the last year is a team option. Randle’s 21-9-3 line last season for New Orleans is certainly in play again this season, and at 24, there’s improvement likely coming down the pipe. Mitchell Robinson, theoretically, covers up a lot of Randle’s defensive warts. But look: If you aren’t in the mind frame that literally none of this matters until James Dolan sells the team, get there.


Ricky Rubio

Three-year, $51 million deal with the Phoenix Suns

Through trial and error, Phoenix has finally discovered that having one starting point guard is preferable to having three or zero. Rubio will make Phoenix a lot more fun: He’ll throw lobs to Deandre Ayton and he’ll create open shots for young players still finding their footing in the league. Devin Booker will get a break from doing literally everything, which is probably for the best, and Rubio will defend the tougher assignment and be the likable, unselfish veteran Phoenix has often lacked. Is it an overpay? Probably, but if Rubio can help the Suns establish a real offensive identity and make Booker’s time on the court slightly less miserable, it’s an easier pill to swallow.

Grade: C+

Terry Rozier

Three-year, $58 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets

As a general rule, if you’re in a bidding war for a player with the Suns, maybe just let them win? Charlotte got its man, I guess, but it’s hard to separate the Rozier signing from the completely bungled asset management with Kemba Walker. How could you not get some sort of future asset for Walker at the trade deadline if you had no intention of signing him to a new deal once his contract expired? Instead, the Hornets end up downgrading with a career 38 percent field goal shooter on a team that has no realistic shot of contending. I guess anytime you can take possessions away from your younger players and put $20 million on the books for the first season you’ll finally have cap space in order to overpay a replacement-level player at the league’s deepest position, you have to do it.

Grade: D

Derrick Rose

Two-year, $15 million deal with the Detroit Pistons

Detroit traded the high floor of last year’s backup, Ish Smith, for the higher ceiling (but much lower floor) of Rose. For a team stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference, you can see why that gamble might be appealing. Add in that Rose’s fans will help sell tickets for a team with a shiny new arena (but a lot of empty seats), and you can see the logic behind the signing. Rose started last season off hot, generating some early Sixth Man of the Year hype before his jumper came crashing back down to earth (5-for-40 from 3 to end the season). There’s plenty of evidence to suggest Rose can’t shoot, and a team in need of shooting using resources on a non-shooter isn’t great. It’s hard to blame the Pistons for trying anything at this point, though.

Grade: C-

Patrick Beverley

Three-year, $40 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers

Beverley was the heart and soul of last season’s playoff team, and in a conference full of elite point guards, keeping a defensive menace on tap is a solid plan. While it’s difficult to evaluate anything the Clippers do this offseason before seeing what happens with Kawhi Leonard, Beverley is the type of role player stars want to play with. After getting Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams on cheap deals, the Clippers can afford to overpay a bit for a cultural tone-setter like Beverley.

Grade: B+

Lightning-Round Grades

George Hill to the Milwaukee Bucks for three years, $29 million:
Hill is a solid insurance policy for the roller coaster that is Eric Bledsoe. Keeping Hill around makes sense, given that Milwaukee otherwise can’t add anything but minimum-level players. The Bucks should hope that one of their young players supplants Hill by the end of this deal, when Hill will be 35, but he’ll help in the short term for a team with title aspirations.

Grade: B-

Brook Lopez to the Milwaukee Bucks for four years, $52 million:
Few players were more important to Milwaukee’s scheme. Would be a letter grade higher had the Bucks retained Brogdon as well. Grade: B-

Terrence Ross to the Orlando Magic for four years, $54 million:
This is probably the going rate for a 3-point shooter and athletic scorer with size off the bench. Ross is a key signing after the Magic decided to acquire every non-shooting 6-foot-9 forward on the planet. Grade: B

Jonas Valanciunas to the Memphis Grizzlies for three years, $45 million:
One of the best value signings for an “82-game” player for a team that won’t have to worry about shifting to small ball in the postseason yet. Valanciunas was a 20-10 guy down the stretch last season, and he’s still only 27. Grade: A-

DeAndre Jordan to the Brooklyn Nets for four years, $40 million:
It is not any fun if the homies can not have none, and maybe there’s some of the Clippers version of DeAndre still in the tank, but it could get awkward fast if Jarrett Allen is clearly the superior option. Whatever it takes for KD and Kyrie, though. Grade: C

Dewayne Dedmon to the Sacramento Kings for three years, $40 million:
A natural fit with the young roster in Sacramento and a highly underrated player the last few years in Atlanta. De’Aaron Fox still has to hit another level for Sacramento’s offseason signings to go from good to great. Grade: B+

Rudy Gay to the San Antonio Spurs for two years, $32 million:
This feels a little like Pau Gasol’s last contract. San Antonio wasn’t really in a great position to replace Gay, but the dollar amount feels like a legacy payment for a loyal 33-year-old wing. Grade: C

Al-Farouq Aminu to the Orlando Magic for three years, $29 million:
I like what Aminu brings defensively, but this is the worst possible fit imaginable. Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and rookie Chuma Okeke should soak up as much time as possible at the 4. Orlando could have gotten a shooter, a point guard—basically anything other than this would have been fine. Grade: F

Bobby Portis to the New York Knicks for two years, $31 million:
Averaging 2.3 3s on 40 percent 3-point shooting and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes in your final 28 games is going to get you a nice payday. Still only 24, Portis is realistically a quality scoring big man off the bench who will be paid like a higher-end starter in New York. There’s some hope here for a Montrezl Harrell–like breakout, but at more than double the annual cost of Harrell with defensive turnstiles all around him on a losing team, Portis is going to be a black hole. Grade: C

Reggie Bullock to the New York Knicks for two years, $21 million:
Before a rough stint with the Lakers, Bullock had been one of the league’s best 3-point shooters (44.5 percent in 2017-18). There’s a fine line between giving Knicks coach David Fizdale a chance with proven veterans and giving him too many crutches to lean on while sitting young players who need floor time. New York is toeing that line here. Grade: B-

Jeremy Lamb to the Indiana Pacers for three years, $31 million:
Sneaky-good signing at a fair price. Strictly from a value standpoint, Lamb’s deal has a better chance of being team-friendly than Bogdanovic’s would have. Grade: A-

Thomas Bryant to the Washington Wizards for three years, $25 million:
Emerged late last season as a valuable pick-and-roll partner for Bradley Beal. At this price and his age (21), there was no reason for Washington not to jump, especially given its cap situation. Grade: A-

Trevor Ariza to the Sacramento Kings for two years, $25 million:
Ariza securing the bag from a team that missed the playoffs worked out so well last time, right? He’s cooked. Grade: F

Thaddeus Young to the Chicago Bulls for three years, $41 million:
Solid, flexible veteran who can be a stabilizing force in a young locker room. Grade: B

Taj Gibson to the New York Knicks for two years, $20 million:
New York had tons of cap space to use, and it has shown in the past that there are worse ways to spend it than on proven veterans who can teach the young pups a thing or two. Grade: C

Rodney Hood to the Portland Trail Blazers for two years, $16 million:
“It’s time for Rodney Hood to cash in on those playoff earnings. It remains Rodney Hood time.” –Rodney Hood. Grade: D

DeMarre Carroll to the San Antonio Spurs for two years, $13 million:
It’s always fun when incredibly Spursy guys who have never been Spurs finally get to Spur, even if it’s a little too late. Grade: C-

Danuel House to the Houston Rockets for three years, $11 million:
House is a great G League success story, and he seemed to earn some trust throughout last season. If his 41.6 percent 3-point shooting is real, he’ll stick in the rotation and make this look really smart. Grade: B+

Ed Davis to the Utah Jazz for two years, $10 million:
The perfect bargain-bin replacement for Derrick Favors (traded to the Pelicans) and backup to Rudy Gobert. Will set big screens, box out, and play his role to perfection. Grade: A

Garrett Temple to the Brooklyn Nets for two years, $10 million:
A versatile, end-of-rotation guy that needs some positive shot regression in order to earn time on a suddenly loaded Nets roster. Realistically, he’s not much of an upgrade from a minimum guy that a New York–based superteam should be able to find. Grade: D

Mario Hezonja to the Portland Trail Blazers for two years, $3.6 million:
It might not shake out, but betting that Orlando and New York mishandled him is a logical strategy. This is probably his last chance. Grade: B

Mike Scott to the Philadelphia 76ers for two years, $9.8 million:
He ain’t no bitch. Grade: B-