It took about 48 hours for pretty much every major free agent to sign. There are a few notable names left out there (will Boston let Grant Williams get away?) and obviously some trades that will reportedly happen involving Damian Lillard and James Harden at some point, but at this juncture we have all the information to start taking stock of the massive money that's been thrown around the league.
In the form of either trades during the free-agent period or free-agent signings, below are my favorite deals so far, followed by my least favorites.
Deals that make Brad glad
FRED VANVLEET TO ROCKETS : Three years, $130 million is big money, perhaps even a slight overpay, for FVV, but I love this deal for both sides. The Rockets need everything VanVleet brings. They need his presence, first and foremost, with the young roster. Three years from now, Amen Thompson and Jalen Green may be on an entirely different career track than they might've been if left to their own developmental devices.
VanVleet defends, and despite his down numbers last season, he's a shooter who can play on or off ball (well north of 40 percent on catch and shoots and on "open" 3s over the past four seasons), meaning his production can be in support of Thompson and/or Green rather than require him to steal too many of their creation reps.
VanVleet has already made generational money ($82 million in career earnings so far), so this is no longer the feel-good story of the un-drafted guy making good, but I'll still always appreciate the journey of VanVleet going from a nobody to one of the highest paid point guards in the league. The Rockets had a barrel of cash to spend, and the first handful they gave out couldn't have gone to a better guy.
GABE VINCENT TO LAKERS: We've all become numb to the preposterous amounts of Monopoly money that gets thrown around in the NBA, $200 million to this guy, $180 million to that guy, $120 million to that one guy who doesn't even start, but there are always a few contracts handed out to players who have never made crazy money that make me smile. Gabe Vincent (along with his former Heat teammate, Max Strus, who just went from undrafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers for $63 million) is one of those guys.
The first season that Vincent wore a Miami Heat uniform, he made $79,000. He made well under a million in his first two seasons, and has never made over $1.8 million in his career. Now he gets $33 million for three years from the Lakers. Life-changing money. And he earned every penny of it. But the reason I like this deal so much is it's a big win for the team as well.
Vincent is a sweet signing for a Lakers team that also did well to ink D'Angelo Russell to just a two-year deal, which is both palatable money for a regular-season innings eater who is less valuable in the playoffs and realistic trade fodder. For my money, Vincent becomes the starting point guard and Russell becomes a potential salary filler in a trade at the deadline.
BRUCE BROWN TO PACERS: Bruce Brown wanted to stay in Denver. I don't think anyone would argue that. But the Nuggets could only offer him $7.8 million on a straight raise from his 2022-23 deal. In theory, they could have dumped Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and given Brown the non-taxpayer midlevel exception, which is a hair under $13 million, but that's still roughly $9 million less than the $21.9M Brown will get from Indiana in year one of a two-year, $45 million deal.
Brown, who has made $15 million over his entire career to this point, was simply not in a position to turn down that kind of money. So the Nuggets lose him, and their loss is Indiana's gain. You know those rare people who "nobody ever has anything bad to say about" ... well, Brown is one of those players.
Even in this age where we all tend to bash every player at some point or another, you'd be hard pressed to find an even halfway serious basketball person who doesn't love Bruce Brown, who becomes part of an awesome Indiana offseason that includes extending emerging superstar Tyrese Haliburton on a max contract and stealing Obi Toppin from the Knicks.
AUSTIN REAVES BACK TO LAKERS: The Lakers lucked out that nobody else offered Reaves big money they would've had to match. Another team could've signed him to an offer sheet for up to $102 million and really put the Lakers to the fire. Instead they get him at four years, $56 million, an average annual salary of $14 million, just north of the non-taxpayer midlevel exception. That is an absolute steal for Reaves, who could've helped a lot of teams and enters this season as L.A.'s pretty clear third-best player.
Reaves is another un-drafted player who has struck it rich. To this point in his career he's made under $2.5 million total. He made a wise move in 2021, when he has spoken about having a chance to be drafted late in the second round on a two-way deal for the Detroit Pistons. He decided the Lakers represented a better opportunity, went un-drafted, and wound up a core guy next to LeBron James on a conference finals team.
Reaves is worth way more than $14 million per year right now. This guy's second contract could be well north of $100 million. Between now and then, the Lakers will have themselves one of the league's great bargains.
OBI TOPPIN TO PACERS: The Knicks basically gave away Toppin, getting just two second-round picks. Tom Thibodeau never found consistent court time for Toppin, who backed up Julius Randle and averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game during his three seasons in New York.
The gripe with Knicks fans was that Toppin showed he could play when he did get the opportunity. The guy averaged just under 21 points per game in limited starts, he's a capable 3-point shooter, and he's an elite transition force. Toppin will get a real chance to show what he can do in Indiana next to big man Myles Turner. He'll feast as a finisher off the one of the most electric passers in the league in Tyrese Haliburton. Love the opportunity for trade for both Toppin and the Pacers.
Deals that make Brad sad
JERAMI GRANT BACK TO BLAZERS ($160 million): The only halfway reasonable explanation for the Blazers giving Grant a $160 million deal is that they knew losing Grant would equate to losing Lillard, so they overwhelmed him with not just huge money but a five-year commitment to eliminate even the remotest possibility of him leaving.
Turns out, they're going to lose Lillard anyway, and now they're stuck with a third-option, sub-All-Star player making the same average annual salary that Jayson Tatum is making on his current contract.
It begs the question: Who, exactly, were they bidding against? Five years is a long time to be tied to this kind of money for, again, a good but not great player who will turn 30 in March and doesn't make nearly as much sense on a team that is about to pivot into a youth movement behind Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe.
Under this new CBA, flexibility will be king, and this deal is decidedly inflexible. It's not quite Tobias Harris, but it's not far off. It will be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, to trade Grant at this number for this many years.
If the Blazers knew Lillard was leaving and still gave Grant this deal, Joe Cronin has some explaining to do. I'm going to assume Cronin didn't know for absolute certain that Lillard was going to request out, that there was just enough hope in his heart that he could keep Lillard around that he was willing to throw Grant a Hail Mary contract. It's still hard to fathom. The Lillard writing has been on the wall for a while now, and this deal with Grant is going to hang over the franchise in a heavy way.
KYRIE IRVING BACK TO MAVERICKS ($126 million): The Mavericks painted themselves into a corner when they traded for Irving last February. They knew he was going to be a free agent this summer. They knew they couldn't trade away good players that helped Dallas get to a conference finals only to turn right around and lose Irving.
Through that lens, you could argue that the Mavericks did well to limit the Irving damage to three years. But just as I wonder who the Blazers were bidding against for Grant's services, who was going to give Irving an average annual salary worth anywhere close to the $42 million Dallas gave him?
I get that Irving is a wild card and just might have been crazy enough to go take the mid-level exception from some team just to stick it to the Mavericks if he felt disrespected by their offer, but there's a lot of room between the MLE and $126 million over three.
The Mavericks didn't have much of a choice here, but they put themselves in that position in the first place. To have your wagon hitched to Irving through what could end up being the most critical Luka Doncic years is a nightmare waiting to happen.
How can even the most blissfully ignorant Irving supporter think this is going to go well at this point? Do you not remember Boston? Brooklyn? Even when he's on his best behavior the Mavericks were better without him. At best, Irving is a guy who simply doesn't impact winning nearly as much as his talent suggests he should (a small Carmelo Anthony). At worst, he's an extremely talented stick of dynamite. The reward just isn't worth anywhere near $126 million of risk.