In Dallas, Irving is a disaster waiting to happen.
Almost all of the significant free agents took around 48 hours to sign. There are still a few notable players left (would Boston allow Grant Williams to escape?) At this time, we have all the information necessary to begin evaluating the significant sums of money that have been distributed throughout the league, and there will undoubtedly be some transactions involving Damian Lillard and James Harden at some point.
The following are my current favourite deals, followed by my least favourites, in terms of either free-agent trades or signings.
Deals that make Brad glad
FRED VANVLEET TO ROCKETS :For FVV, three years at $130 million is a large sum of money, possibly even a tiny overpayment, but I adore this deal for both parties. Everything VanVleet brings is needed by the Rockets. With the young roster, his presence is most important. Amen Thompson and Jalen Green might be on a very different career path in three years than they would have been if their growth had been allowed to its own devices.
VanVleet defends and can shoot on or off the ball (well north of 40% on catch-and-shoots and on “open” 3s over the past four seasons), so his production can be in support of Thompson and/or Green rather than necessitating that he take too many of their creation reps. This is true even though his numbers last season were down.
Although VanVleet has already achieved legendary wealth ($82 million in career earnings to date), this is no longer the heartwarming tale of the undrafted man succeeding, and yet I will always be moved by his transformation from an unknown to one of the highest paid point guards in the league. The Rockets had plenty of money to spend, and there was no one else who should have received the first batch of their gifts.
GABE VINCENT TO LAKERS:We’ve all grown accustomed to the absurd sums of Monopoly money that the NBA hands out—$200 million to this player, $180 million to that player, and $120 million to that one player who doesn’t even start—but there are always a few contracts given to players who have never received such obscene compensation that make me smile. One of those players is Gabe Vincent, along with former Heat teammate Max Strus, who just signed a $63 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers after going undrafted.
Vincent earned $79,000 his first year as a Miami Heat player. His first two seasons’ earnings were significantly below $1 million, and throughout his career, he never exceeded $1.8 million. His new contract with the Lakers is for $33 million over three years. money that can change your life. He earned every cent of it, too. But this arrangement appeals to me so much since it also benefits the team greatly.
Vincent is a great addition for the Lakers, who also did well by agreeing to a two-year contract with D’Angelo Russell, which is both reasonable compensation for a regular-season innings eater who is less important in the postseason and realistic trade bait. According to me, Russell becomes a potential payroll filler in a trade at the deadline while Vincent takes over as the starting point guard.
BRUCE BROWN TO PACERS:In Denver, Bruce Brown wished to remain. Nobody, in my opinion, would contest that. However, the Nuggets were only able to enhance his salary from his 2022–2023 contract by $7.8 million. Theoretically, they could have let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope loose and handed Brown the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, which is just shy of $13 million, but it would have been about $9 million less than the $21.9M Brown will receive from Indiana in the first year of a two-year, $45 million contract.
Brown, who has earned a total of $15 million in his career to date, was simply unable to refuse that amount of money. As a result, the Nuggets lose him, and Indiana benefits as a result. Brown is one of those uncommon guys that “nobody ever has anything bad to say about”; you know, the kind of player.
You’d be hard pressed to find a basketball fan who is even remotely serious who doesn’t love Bruce Brown, who joins Indiana in an awesome offseason that also saw them sign rising star Tyrese Haliburton to a max contract and steal Obi Toppin from the Knicks. Even in this day and age where we all tend to criticise every player at some point or another.
AUSTIN REAVES BACK TO LAKERS:The Lakers got lucky because no one else made Reaves a huge offer since they would have had to match it. He might have accepted an offer sheet from another team for up to $102 million, which would have truly placed the Lakers under pressure. Instead, they agree to pay him $56 million over four years, or an average compensation of $14 million, which is somewhat more than the non-taxpayer midlevel exception. Reaves, who might have aided many teams and begins this season as clearly L.A.’s third-best player, received that for nothing.
Another undrafted player who has found success is Reaves. His total earnings throughout his career are less than $2.5 million. He made a smart decision in 2021 when he mentioned the possibility of being selected by the Detroit Pistons in the late second round on a two-way contract. He made the decision that the Lakers offered a better opportunity, went undrafted, and ended up as a key player next to LeBron James on a team that reached the conference finals.
Right now, Reaves is much more valuable than $14 million annually. The second deal for this person might be worth well over $100 million. The Lakers will have one of the best deals in the league between now and then.
OBI TOPPIN TO PACERS: Toppin was essentially given away by the Knicks in exchange for just two second-round picks. Toppin, who backed up Julius Randle and played less than 15 minutes per game on average over his three seasons in New York, was never given regular court time by Tom Thibodeau.
Fans of the Knicks were upset because Toppin demonstrated his ability to play when given the chance. In his few starts, the player scored just under 21 points per game. He is also a proficient 3-point shooter and a dominant force in transition. In Indiana, adjacent to the powerful Myles Turner, Toppin will have a genuine opportunity to demonstrate his abilities. Tyrese Haliburton, one of the league’s most dynamic passers, will be a feast as a finisher for him. I’m excited about the potential deal for Toppin and the Pacers.
Deals that make Brad sad
JERAMI GRANT BACK TO BLAZERS ($160 million):
Grant’s $160 million contract with the Blazers can only be partially explained by the fact that the team knew that losing Grant would mean losing Lillard as well. In order to completely preclude the prospect of Lillard departing, the Blazers inundated Grant with money and a five-year contract.
They’re stuck with a third-option, sub-All-Star player earning the same average annual salary as Jayson Tatum does under his current contract since it turns out they’re going to lose Lillard anyhow.
Who exactly were they competing against, one wonders. Again, a fine but not great player who will turn 30 in March and doesn’t make nearly as much sense on a club that is going to pivot into a youth movement around Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe is locked to this sort of money for five years is a long time.
Flexibility will be king under this new CBA, yet this agreement is rather rigid. Even while it isn’t nearly Tobias Harris, it isn’t far off. Grant will be very challenging to trade at this figure for this long, if not downright impossible.
Joe Cronin needs to give an explanation if the Blazers knew Lillard was leaving but still signed Grant to this contract. I’m going to presume that Cronin had just enough faith in his ability to maintain Lillard that he was ready to offer Grant a last-ditch contract since he didn’t know for sure that Lillard would wish to leave. It’s still difficult to imagine. For some time, it has been clear that Lillard will leave the franchise, and this agreement with Grant will have a significant negative impact.
KYRIE IRVING BACK TO MAVERICKS ($126 million): When the Mavericks acquired Irving through trade in February of last year, they put themselves in a bind. They were aware that he will become a free agent this summer. They were aware that trading away quality players who had assisted Dallas in reaching the conference finals would only result in the loss of Irving.
According to that logic, the Mavericks did well to keep the Irving injury to a maximum of three years. But who was going to offer Irving an average annual contract worth even somewhat near to the $42 million Dallas paid him, just as I wonder who the Blazers were competing with for Grant’s services?
I get that Irving is a wild card and that if he felt insulted by the Mavericks’ offer, he might have been foolish enough to go take the mid-level exception from another team just to spite them, but there is a lot of range between the MLE and $126 million over three.
The Mavericks were in a precarious situation, yet they made it there in the first place. It would be a nightmare to be tied to Irving during what could turn out to be the most important years for Luka Doncic.
Even the most blissfully naive Irving admirer must be wondering how this can possibly go well at this point. Do you forget about Boston? Brooklyn? The Mavericks were better without him, even when he behaves himself. At best, Irving is a player (a miniature Carmelo Anthony) who doesn’t have nearly the same impact on winning as his talent would indicate he should. He’s a really gifted stick of dynamite, at worst. Simply put, the risk of $126 million is not worth the potential payoff.