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#pounditWednesday, February 1, 2023

10 best and worst deals of NBA free agency so far

Paul George

It’s still very early in NBA free agency, but players are already committing to sign contracts with teams — some old, some new. Some of these deals make a lot of sense, while others are headscratchers, even with many of the offseason dominoes yet to fall.

Here are five of the best and worst deals of free agency in the NBA so far — and remember, none of these contracts can become official until July 6, so things are subject to change.


5) Nuggets to sign Will Barton to four-year, $54 million deal

Keeping their core intact is a big deal for the Nuggets, who are also set to ink Nikola Jokic long-term in the week ahead as well. It’s a great deal for Barton, who gets a lot of guaranteed money, and the Nuggets get to keep a player who became very valuable to them. He’s a 37 percent three-point shooter and a threat on the perimeter coveted by many teams. It’s a deal that works for both sides.

4) Bucks to sign Ersan Ilyasova to three-year, $21 million deal

Ilyasova knows Milwaukee well, and he does a lot of things that will help a team. He’s a competent defender who can stretch the floor and shoot from the perimeter, and the Sixers even employed him as a small-ball center at times, opening up a new possible route for his game. It’s not hard to envision him paired with Giannis Antetokounmpo in a smaller lineup causing some havoc. The three year deal is a risk for Milwaukee, but a big win for Ilyasova, who should fit in nicely and rather affordably in Milwaukee.

3) Nets to sign Ed Davis to one-year, $4.4 million deal

Davis seems perpetually underused and underpaid, and here he is again on a rather cheap deal, but one that could pay dividends for Brooklyn. Davis isn’t a starter, but he can come off the bench and grab you rebounds and score you some points in stretches. Players like that are very valuable, and it’s even better if you can get them on low-risk contracts such as this one. Worst-case scenario? He becomes a nice little trade chip in February.

2) Mavericks to sign DeAndre Jordan to one-year, $24 million deal

It’s a low-risk, high-reward move for both sides. The Mavericks aren’t contenders, but getting a year of Jordan ensures that they have a quality player that they’re not married to long-term if things don’t work out. Jordan gets a nice payday and the opportunity to rebuild some value. He’s still an offensive weapon, though some concerns began to arise about his defense last season. If he answers those, he could either opt to make his stay long-term or get one more big contract somewhere else next summer.

1) Warriors to sign Kevin Durant to two-year, $61.5 million deal

There is nothing surprising about Durant’s decision to remain with Golden State, but what he and the Warriors have done is work out a deal that’s beneficial to both sides. Durant gets paid, can hit free agency again next summer and, perhaps most importantly, his decision to opt for a 1+1 deal instead of a full two-year pact saves the Warriors $5 million, which means they have a taxpayer midlevel exception to play with as well as $20 million in luxury tax savings. Nice deal for all involved.


5) Timberwolves to sign Derrick Rose to one-year deal at the minimum

What’s the point? Well, it’s a bit silly to criticize — it’s the minimum, so financially, there’s basically no downside here. It’s just hard to see what Rose brings to the table. It’s a Tom Thibodeau thing, and perhaps he likes Rose’s veteran presence, but this deal is all about how he’s utilized. If he just hovers in the background, fair enough, and he did show some flashes of his old self in the playoffs. The Timberwolves already have better players on their bench, though, such as Tyus Jones. If Rose gets big minutes despite everyone else being healthy, there’s a problem.

4) Pacers to sign Doug McDermott to three-year, $22 million deal

There is nothing wrong with the Pacers adding a shooter, and there isn’t even anything particularly off about the contract. The question is whether, despite all their cap room, Indiana added the best fit available. McDermott is a good scorer, but for this to really pay off for Indiana, he has to improve on his below-average defense. If he doesn’t do that, he’s just a three-point shooter who’s capable of some good off-the-ball movement. That’s useful, but it’s a big risk. Why not pursue an option like Trevor Ariza instead, sacrificing a bit in the shooting department but getting a big defensive upgrade?

3) Suns to sign Trevor Ariza to one-year, $15 million deal

It’s hard to figure out the point of this if you’re the Suns. Yes, Ariza is a good player, and he was a vital defender in Houston’s playoff run that nearly led them to the NBA Finals. But in Phoenix? He’s not on a contender. He doesn’t fill a positional need. He doesn’t offer enough offensively to help the team. He’s not so good a defender that he’ll make over the Phoenix defense by himself. He’s on a one-year deal, but not a cheap one, and it’s hard to come up with a coherent reason for the Suns to be committing that much cap space to this kind of player on a young team.

2) Rockets to sign Chris Paul to four-year, $160 million deal

This was a necessary deal for the Rockets, but not a good one. If Houston loses Paul, they’re no longer title contenders, and they’ve had to swallow a fairly bitter pill to get it done. It’s a lot of money to pay a guy in his mid-30s, especially when he blew a hamstring in the final game of last season. Houston’s window will not be open for long, and they have to take advantage of it as quickly as possible before this contract becomes an albatross.

1) Thunder to sign Paul George to four-year, $137 million deal

To be completely clear, this is a phenomenal deal for the Thunder for many of the same reasons that it’s an iffy one for Paul. They made a bet that they could convince George that Oklahoma City was the place for him to be if they had him for a year. They did exactly that, and they come out of this huge winners. George, though, seems to have settled. He didn’t even meet with the Lakers after pushing his way out of Indiana with the explicit intention of signing there, passing up the chance of signing a $219 million supermax deal in the process. He then could have done the next-best thing for himself by taking a two-year deal to set himself up for the largest possible max contract after he hits ten years of NBA service, but he didn’t do that either.

It has been suggested that, having broken his leg and missed an entire season, George values long-term security over making the most money he can. Fair play to him if so — he’s capable of making his own decisions and setting his own priorities, and if that is what he wanted, it’s what he got. He just potentially lost out on a lot of money in the process to play for a team that, to be blunt, probably won’t win a title, at least in year one.


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