The five biggest winners from the NBA’s 2022 free agency period, including Celtics and Lakers

After the first week of free agency is over, signings slow to a crawl. Most teams have a rough idea of ​​what their rosters will look like, barring the addition of a potential top five player that will no doubt shake up the entire league.

Aside from Kevin Durant’s trade, five teams stood out for what they accomplished in the first week. Here are my biggest winners from the 2022 NBA free agency period.

MORE: Free agency notes and instant analysis

The Clippers’ wing depth makes them favorites for the Western Conference Finals

Important transactions:

  • Signed John Wall for two years, $13 million
  • Signed Nicolas Batum for two years, $22 million
  • Signed Amir Coffey for three years, $11 million
  • Signed Ivica Zubac for three years, $33 million

NBA analyst Danny Leroux likes to say that ownership is the greatest competitive advantage in the NBA. Steve Ballmer of the Clippers confirms this adage. According to Spotrac, his team is paying an estimated $144 million in luxury tax this season. That’s nearly the entire payroll for one of the non-tax-paying teams in the league.

Ballmer uses this money wisely. John Wall is a nice, low-risk addition that can still provide some hits. Nicolas Batum has given the Clippers a great performance and Amir Coffey is perhaps the best totally unknown wing in the league.

While other teams try to find a wing that can play, the Clippers now have an embarrassment of riches with Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Marcus Morris, Robert Covington, Terance Mann, Batum and Coffey on their roster.

The Clippers lost big man Isaiah Hartenstein to the Knicks (they couldn’t bring him back because of the Wall addition), but they tied Zubac to a long-term deal. They might not need a lot of depth behind him down center — they’ll have one of the most killer small-ball lineups in the league when playoff time comes.

They’re my very early pick to make it out of the Western Conference this season.

The Jazz won big in the trade with Rudy Gobert

Important transactions:

  • Traded Rudy Gobert for Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Walker Kessler, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, four first round picks (unprotected 2023, 2025, 2027 and top five protected 2029), first round pick swap-in 2026
  • Traded Royce O’Neale for a first-round pick

The Rudy Gobert trade was good for both teams but excelled for the Jazz. This kind of draft compensation — four first-round picks, a pick swap in 2026, and Walker Kessler, the No. 22 pick in this year’s draft — is historically outrageous.

The Wolves make a bet that Gobert will keep them out of the lottery through this 2027 window. But the NBA is an unpredictable league. The Nets took the same risk when they traded for James Harden. Ask her how this is working for her now.

MORE: How Kevin Durant’s trade request completely changes the Rockets deal for Harden

Lost in the mix of all draft equity, including another choice the Jazz got from Royce O’Neale’s move, is that they also got some nice veterans back from the Wolves.

Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt were the main reason Wolves formed a respectable No. 13 defense last regular season. These guys will have trade value if the Jazz are looking to completely bust their team. If they decide to stick with them, it immediately addresses the massive Achilles heel of Jazz’s perimeter defense that led them to a playoff disappointment in the Gobert-Donovan Mitchell era.

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The Celtics have all their holes plugged with Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari

Important transactions:

  • Received Malcolm Brogdon in exchange for Daniel Theis, Aaron Nesmith, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, 2023 first round pick
  • Signed Danilo Gallinari to a two-year deal with the taxpayer midlevel exemption

The Celtics were a fantastic team last season, but their two biggest weaknesses were a lack of playmaking from a lead guard who could take care of the ball and consistent 3-point shooting.

If Malcolm Brogdon can stay reasonably healthy, then he fills that first need perfectly.

That’s a big if, as he’s averaged just 55.5 games per season in his career and only completed 36 games last season. Brogdon is an exhilarating pick-and-roll player who can save the Celtics from themselves when their offense sees dreaded breaks during games.

Danilo Gallinari is a nice bench addition that addresses that second need. He turns 34 in August and can’t stand anyone on defense anymore, but he can still shoot damn off the ball. He scored 38 percent of his 4.5 attempts per game last season for the Hawks.

The Celtics added some offensive clout to the league’s best defense next season. They’re my first choice to come from the east when Durant rules out a trade to one of the other competing teams.

Irving-Westbrook FTR

The Lakers found a potential trade for Russell Westbrook in Kyrie Irving

Important transactions:

  • Signed Lonnie Walker to a one-year, $6.5 million deal
  • Signed Juan Toscano-Anderson and Troy Brown Jr. to minimal deals
  • Signed Damian Jones to a two-year, $4.9 million deal

The Lakers are the big winners here, not because of what they did at free hand, but because they could potentially find a massive upgrade over Russell Westbrook. Westbrook’s swap for Kyrie Irving hasn’t happened yet. But even the possibility of that deal is a big win. The Lakers had no serious title ambitions before this trade opened. Now they have a viable way.

Westbrook was obviously a bad fit for the Lakers when that trade was announced last year. They badly need some shootings to kill Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Westbrook was the opposite – a ball-dominant non-shooter who clogged the lane for everyone.

Irving solves so many of these problems. It’s a fantastic 3-point shooter and can offer a much more efficient offense.

I didn’t particularly like the other moves the Lakers made at free hand. Her biggest acquisition was Lonnie Walker with her mid-level taxpayer exception. He’s a broken prospect that Spurs gave up. It’s a marginal step, but I thought they could have done better. Juan Toscano-Anderson is a nice addition. He won’t have a huge impact, but he’s solid in a lot of different areas. Damian Jones is a decent young big who can offer some athleticism. And Troy Brown Jr. is another broken prospect I don’t believe in, but they don’t risk anything with a flyer on the minimum.

The Kings got better by adding Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk

Important transactions:

  • Acquired Kevin Huerter in exchange for Justin Holiday, Mo Harkless, 2025 protected first round pick
  • Signed Malik Monk to a two-year, $19 million deal

Everyone likes to fool the kings, but they’ve made some neat under-the-radar moves this offseason.

I loved her pick up from Kevin Huerter. He has a lot more playing ability than what he was able to show alongside Trae Young with the Hawks. And his career 38 percent 3-point shooting is obviously immensely valuable, especially considering a lot of them came on the move.

Huerter is a tough, intoxicating player who turns 24 in August. He’s still room for improvement and the cost of getting him was shockingly low. The Kings aren’t missing out much, losing two veterans to expiring contracts and a protected future first-round pick.

Malik Monk was another very nice addition. Monk was one of the Lakers’ rare bright spots last season. He’s another great 3-point shooter that has improved defensively and still has room to improve at 24.

Monk and Huerter are perfect characters to pair alongside the De’Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis duo, who will control most of the action on offense. The kings got better both in the present and for their future. For that they deserve recognition.


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