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Grading Every Eastern Conference Teams Free Agency

NBA Free Agency
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Just like that, the 2021 NBA free agency period has come and gone like a flash. While teams will still make moves between now and the start of the regular season, most of the big-name players have made their decisions. With most of the moves already completed, let’s take a look at how every team did this year with some grades.

Boston Celtics

Boston is a year away from having a huge free agency. The team’s players want to pair up with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will become free agents next season. Newly promoted general manager Brad Stevens has indicated that he would rather wait for these superstars in next year’s free agency class rather than put too much strain on their cap this season. The team did make trades that helped complete their offseason from being a total waste, as the team acquired Josh Richardson, Kris Dunn and brought back Al Horford through trades. 

The team did sign Enes Kanter to a one-year deal, bringing him back to the team for his second stint. Boston lost Semi Ojeleye, who was a big-time defensive stopper. Fan-favorite Tacko Fall also did not receive a qualifying offer from Stevens and the organization making him an unrestricted free agent. It has been rumored that the team will offer Dennis Schroder a one-year contract to fill out the missing starting point guard role that is missing. However, Schroeder’s camp is looking for a longer contract. 

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Grade: C-

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are finally filling out their bench depth. The bench was a major weakness last season, and it showed during the playoffs. With Kyrie Irving and James Harden missing most of the playoffs, the team struggled with Kevin Durant was off the court. The team re-signed Blake Griffin which allows the team to have an efficient low post scorer. 

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Brooklyn would also bring in guard Patty Mills on a two-year contract. Mills will provide the much-needed bench scoring as he is a premier shooter. The team also brought in gritty ‘3-D’ players to help ease the load off Durant in forwards DeAndre’ Bembry, Bruce Brown, and James Johnson. The biggest sigh of relief for the team is that Durant would be extended for the next four years. The deal is worth $198 and will keep the superstar locked up for the coming seasons. 

Grade: B+

New York Knicks

New York kept their mid-tier player spending alive this free agency as the team double down. The Knicks whiffed yet again on signing a marquee free agent but made up for it by signing a few quality players. The theme of this team is signing borderline all-stars, and have a roster filled with B-caliber players. The team signed Evan Fournier to a four-year $78 million contract, while also bring back Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel to all three-year deals. The team will also sign Kemba Walker to a very cheap deal after he was just bought out in Oklahoma City. 

These moves do not make the Knicks a title contender, the team is filled with talent but no superstars. The moves made will eventually make the Knicks a more lucrative landing spot for bigger names, but the team will still not be anything higher than a fifth seed. Adding these players keeps the organization afloat in the conference for the playoffs, but without a superstar, the team will not progress any further. It is good to have these players around RJ Barrett who can use them as experienced veterans to help him progress. 

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Grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers

Once Ben Simmons is off the team via trade this free agency grade will turn into an A or higher. Philadelphia needs to find a trade partner quickly as Simmons is hinder the team’s financial cap space. Daryl Morey’s asking price of four first-round picks and a young player is outrageous. All 29 teams will not answer that asking price and it has caused the 76ers to lose out on free agency. With Simmons still on the roster, Morey will have to try and build a bench around his star point guard. By surrounding Simmons with shooters, Morey had to find players willing to take a pay cut. 

Philadelphia re-signed Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green to small deals, which gives the team good shooting off the bench. Although the team could have gotten better players if they had Simmons of their book. The team would also sign Georges Niang to a two-year deal. Another forward who can spread the floor to help Simmons out. Morey did make one questionable signing this free agency, as he signed 27-year-old center Andre Drummond to a one-year deal. Drummond is a post presence and is unable to spread the floor. Having both Simmons and Drummond on the floor is just asking for a disaster. Drummond also in the past never got along with the team’s superstar center Joel Embiid. As Embiid on multiple occasions trolled and fired shots at the big man through social media. 

Grade: C+

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors lost their star point guard Lowry over free agency but received compensation as they acquired guard Goran Dragic in the sign-and-trade deal. The only signing that the Raptors made so far is the re-signing of guard Gary Trent. The Raptors struggled last season with the guys that they had, and now the team lost their vocal leader and best player. If Toronto still believed they were contenders for the playoffs, the organization would have signed more players to help Pascal Siakam and Fred Vanvleet

Grade: C-

Chicago Bulls

Chicago last season traded for Nikola Vucevic, indicating that the team was ready to come out of the bottom of the eastern conference. The organization made big free agency moves this offseason and is looking to become a contender for the title. Chicago brought in New Orleans guard Lonzo Ball on a four-year, $85 million deal. Ball is a great playmaking guard who can defend both guard and forwards. An underrated part of Ball’s game is his scoring ability, as he has become a very reliable three-point shooter. 

Chicago was not done after one signing, as the team also had a sign and deal with forward DeMar DeRozan. The team did have to surrender Thaddeus Young and a first-round pick, but the team acquired another scoring wing to complement Zach LaVine. DeRozan will become the third option for the team, which is a suiting role for the aging forward. Chicago also bolstered their bench as they brought in the athletic Alex Caruso to a four-year, $37 million contract. Tony Bradley and Javonte Green also re-signed to the team for smaller and shorter contracts.

Grade: A+

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland had one big signing this offseason and it was re-signing defensive center, Jarrett Allen. Allen is a tremendous center in the league but is limited offensively. Cleveland signing him for five years worth $100 seems a bit of an overpay. However, Allen is still young and can develop into become a cornerstone to the team’s young core. 

Cleveland has not made a deal since the signing of Allen and has not been in any rumors to sign other free agents. The team should look into signing veteran forwards to help progress the young core’s development. The Kevin Love situation is also getting stale as the league saw Walker get bought out by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Cleveland needs to buy out Love to create more flexible cap space and to free him from rotting his career away. 

Grade: B-

Detroit Pistons

Detroit is still rebuilding, as they now have a plethora of young talent from the past two draft classes. The team during this offseason just needed role players that wanted to prove themselves and find veteran leaders to help progress the young core. Detroit would sign Kelly Olynyk to a three-year, $37 million deal, as this move will be the replacement to the recently traded Plumlee. The team would also sign Trey Lyles who is looking to prove himself as a valuable rotation player. 

The best signing for Detroit came as they signed veteran point guard Cory Joseph. Joseph has been with multiple contending teams and has been a leader in the locker room. His role with the Sacramento Kings when De’Aaron Fox was just coming into the league was very important to his development. Joseph can do the same with Cade Cunningham, and become the much-needed veteran and mentor for the young guard. 

Grade: B-

Indiana Pacers

Indiana made some solid signings that will ultimately help the bench. The team re-signed T.J. McConnell to a four-year deal. McConnell is a great guard defender and provides defensive leadership from the bench. The Pacers also signed Torrey Craig who has been bouncing around the league for the past year and a half. Craig will be another great ‘3-D’ player to come off the bench for the team. 

Grade: C

Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee is coming off a championship title, and the main core is still under contract for another few years. The team did not need to make many moves, except for filling at the end of their bench. Milwaukee did see P.J. Tucker head to Miami and decided to replace his gritty defense with Boston’s forward Ojeleye. The Bucks also re-signed Bobby Portis to a team-friendly contract as he signed a two-year, $9 million contract. Milwaukee would finish by signing guards Rodney Hood and George Hill to round out the bench depth. Both signings bring perimeter shooting and experience defense which only heightens the team. 

Grade: B

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta did re-sign forward John Collins to a five-year $125 million contract. The team also extended all-star guard Trae Young to a five-year $207 million contract. These were the biggest headlines to their free agency, as the team would only sign two bench players for depth. Atlanta brought back forward Solomon Hill for another year and brought in Gorgui Dieng to a one-year deal worth $4 million. The team would also bring back an important piece from their playoff run in Lou Williams. Williams re-signed with the team on a one-year deal worth $5 million. 

These moves will look good if the team deals with injuries again, as the team is still young and they want to give the majority of the minutes to the young core. So instead of spending more money on veterans that will sit on the bench, they saved money. This allows the team to be more flexible during the season if they need to make a big trade to improve their team for a title run. 

Grade: C+

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets went all-in during draft night, as the team brought in a handful of promising rookies. Charlotte during trade night also filled in their starting center role as they traded for Mason Plumlee who had a career year in Detroit last season. The team before free agency was filled with young talent, and the team needed to fill in the bench with veterans that can help progress these young players. 

The team would sign guard Ish Smith who is now on his 12th team. Smith will provide the experience and knowledge of playing with diverse teams and players. These experiences will help the young LaMelo Ball become more aware of different cultures and playstyles. Charlotte also signed Kelly Oubre Jr. who will be a great bench piece for the team. Oubre will be the team’s sixth man and could become the league’s best one at that. The forward is a versatile wing who can score from anywhere on the court. Although he had a tough season with Golden State, Oubre can provide the much-needed offense off the bench. 

Grade: B

Miami Heat

In the short term, Miami had a great free agency. They extended Jimmy Butler on a four-year $184 contract which means that Miami will have him under contract until 2025. The team also re-signed Duncan Robinson to a five-year, $90 million contract. Miami’s biggest move though was signing Toronto’s point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry’s contract is three years, $90 million and the team did have to trade Goran Dragic in return for Lowry. Miami also brought in bench help as they signed Tucker and Dewayne Dedmon while also re-signing Victor Oladipo

These moves are great for the Miami Heat, as the team now has a big three in Butler, Lowry, and Bam Adebayo. The team is still a defensive juggernaut and has reliable shooting off the bench. However, in the long term, this team will go into a dark era. After two seasons, there is a high chance that both Lowry and Butler could regress rapidly. As both players are already in their mid-thirties, by the time they reach the last year or two of their contracts they will be in their late thirties. Most players fizzle out by age 35, as not every player can play at a high level such as LeBron James and Chris Paul

Grade: B+

Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic are in a complete rebuilding state. The team during this offseason should be looking to sign veteran players that do not need to play and provide a more leadership type of role. The Magic did sign center Robin Lopez to a one-year $5 million contract. A bit of a head-scratcher as Lopez is not one to be known as a leader. Lopez should have signed to a team with a chance of winning a title. The Magic also never signed any other player to fill in that leadership role. 

Grade: D

Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards are between a rock and a hard place. The Bradley Beal situation is on a very fine line, as the superstar wants to win. Beal has been loyal to the organization and has been willing to give the team another chance. This offseason means a lot for the organizations as they need to build a roster to keep Beal for the long term. Before free agency started, the team traded Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers for forwards Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This trade frees up cap space to sign a marquee free agent this offseason. 

Unfortunately for Washington, the team has yet to lure in that second star for Beal to play along with. The team’s biggest signing so far is former Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who signed a three-year 62 million contract with the Wizards. The signing was a bit of a head-scratcher, as Dinwiddie is not a premier ball-handler or a premier scorer. The guard is a great talent but is best suited as the fourth option for a team or the league’s best sixth man. The team still needs to fill out the roster, and with most of the headlining free agents already signed, the organization will have to face Beal head-on this coming season. 

Grade: B


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Tyronn Lue, NBA
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