NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers: How Wild First Day Reshaped League - NBC Bay Area

NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers: How Wild First Day Reshaped League

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers: How Wild First Day Reshaped League
    Marcus White
    NBA free agency winners and losers: How wild first day reshaped league

    When the dust settled on the first day of the NBA free agency, the league looked a heck of a lot different. 

    Kevin Durant announced he would join his third team in five seasons, and Kyrie Irving reportedly is coming with him. The Warriors reportedly reshuffled their roster in response, while other contenders around the league wasted no time to take advantage of the uncertainty in the Bay Area. 

    That all happened in fewer than 24 hours, with questions surrounding Kawhi Leonard's future looming over the entirety of the proceedings. Still, more than enough happened during the first official day of free agency for some winners and losers to emerge. Here they are, beginning with a team which can now be considered a legitimate title threat. 

    Winners: Utah Jazz

    The Jazz looked around the rest of the Western Conference, and saw an opportunity. Just under two weeks after reportedly acquiring point guard Mike Conley from the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies, the Jazz continued to build out its roster and reportedly agreed to contracts with Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis on Sunday. 

    Bogdanovic and Davis each brings a particular skill to the Jazz. The former can shoot the lights out, having knocked down 42.5 percent of his 3-pointers last season. Davis, meanwhile, finished second in the NBA by averaging a whopping 17.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last season. The Jazz finished in the top 10 by both measures last season, but what was already a solid team now has added elite talents in areas that previously could have been considered strengths. 

    That's how a perennial playoff team leaps into championship contention -- even if we were in an alternate reality where the Warriors have a healthy Klay Thompson to start the season. The Jazz is still looking for its first NBA title, but is set up for its best chance at a Finals appearance since the days of Karl Malone and John Stockton.

    Losers: Los Angeles Lakers

    The Lakers seemed intent on testing the cliché that good things come to those who wait. As players LA previously was linked to reportedly agreed to contracts with other teams, the purple and gold stayed quiet. 

    It made some sense, considering the Lakers were linked to Leonard, the reigning NBA Finals MVP. But if Leonard opts to sign elsewhere -- whether that's with the cross-town Clippers or the champion Toronto Raptors -- Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka likely will be kicking himself for playing the waiting game. 

    Pelinka won't have many options to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis with talent, considering just how many players reportedly were no longer available at the end of Sunday. Rumored backup plans, like ex-Lakers Brook Lopez and D'Angelo Russell, reached agreements with other teams, leaving the possibility that the Lakers end the free-agent frenzy empty-handed outside of its pair of superstars. They won't sweat the early inaction if they eventually land Leonard, but that remains a big if.

    Winner: ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

    Free agency officially began at 3 p.m. PT on Sunday, but you wouldn't have known it if you scrolled through Adrian Wojnarowski's Twitter feed. The ESPN reporter scooped the biggest news of the day -- Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors to sign with the Brooklyn Nets -- over an hour before Durant and Brooklyn legally could begin negotiating. 

    In all, Wojnarowski reported seven contract agreements ... within the first five minutes of free agency actually beginning. Those must have been some quick negotiations ...

    Loser: Tampering rules

    Speaking of which: According to the NBA's rules, "teams may negotiate deals with free agents but cannot officially sign them until [9 a.m. PT] on July 6." What isn't allowed under the NBA's rules, according to the collective bargaining agreement, is when a player or team "directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade" a player under contract to join another team. 

    Considering how many players reached deals before or shortly after the moratorium lifted, it's fair to assume many in the league are taking this as a suggestion rather than a rule. If it's going to be like this -- and to be absolutely clear, it's a lot more fun this way -- why not get rid of the rule altogether? 

    Winners: Brooklyn Nets

    The Nets' haul might not bear fruit until the 2020-21 season, as that's when Kevin Durant likely will return after rupturing his right Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. And even then, that fruit depends on how Durant returns from said injury, 

    But make no mistake: Durant joining Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn is a major coup for the Nets. They no longer will live in the shadow of the dysfunctional Knicks in the Big Apple, and general manager Sean Marks has assembled a talented young group to supplement two All-NBA talents. 

    The Nets' path to contention sans Durant looks difficult next season, especially after the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly loaded up by agreeing to re-sign Tobias Harris and poaching Al Horford from the Boston Celtics. But if Durant even comes close to playing like his old self, the Nets haven't been so well-positioned since ... well, maybe ever? 

    Loser: James Dolan

    The Celtics and Danny Ainge salvaged their day by reportedly agreeing to a four-year deal with Kemba Walker, a nice consolation prize after all they ultimately got from a one-sided, draft-day trade with said Nets in 2013 was a pile of picks, no superstar and a lousy t-shirt. The same cannot be said for the New York Knicks. 

    With cap space to burn -- and then some -- the Knicks reportedly opted against offering Durant a maximum contract. The concern surrounding Durant's Achilles is understandable, but reportedly agreeing to deals with Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis is no way to assuage a(n admittedly-delusional) fanbase that envisoned a summer starring Durant, Irving and Zion Williamson. 

    The latter meant putting their faith in ping-pong balls, and the former two meant placing it in owner James Dolan, who's the real loser at the start of free agency. Dolan, of course, told ESPN Radio in New York back in March that free agents were telling the Knicks how much they wanted to play in Madison Square Garden. There is a rich irony in J.D. of "J.D. and the Straight Shot" fame not exactly being a straight shooter, but given his history, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise at this point.

    Winner: D'Angelo Russell

    At this time in 2017, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft was on his way out of LA. Two years, an All-Star appearance and a reported max contract later, Russell appears to be the focal point of the Warriors' biggest pivot yet. 

    Golden State reportedly agreed to acquire the guard in a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn, ensuring it wouldn't be left empty-handed after Durant announced he intends to sign there. Getting any kind of an asset, let alone an All-Star who might or might have been headed to a rival if you didn't, is smart work from general manager Bob Myers. 

    The questions surrounding his fit are real, but the biggest winner is Russell himself. He revitalized his career in Brooklyn, and now has the chance to take another step while the NBA's most successful team over the last half-decade reinvents itself on the fly. Assuming Russell is in the Bay Area for the long haul, he would face plenty of criticism if said reinvention falls flat. That's a lot to ask of a 23 year old, but it represents a remarkable turnaround from where he stood just two years ago. 

    [RELATED: Latest NBA free agency rumors, live updates, trade chatter]

    Loser: Anyone trying to predict what comes next

    For the second straight summer, the Warriors threw a wrench into just about what everyone expected. Reportedly acquiring Russell might not be as titanic as adding DeMarcus Cousins to a core of Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but it is no less surprising. 

    Once again, the Warriors reminded us to expect the unexpected when it comes to the NBA's silly season. Yes, the whispers surrounding Durant and Irving largely came to fruition, but Sunday showed there are still plenty of surprises in store as the league enters uncharted territory. 

    Golden State is vulnerable with Durant gone and Thompson out for much (if not all) of 2019-20, just as Toronto will be if Leonard leaves. Because of that, the upcoming NBA season looks to be the first in recent memory where things are truly wide open. How that shakes out is anyone's guess, and guessing looks to be a pointless endeavor if a wild start to free agency was any indication.