With the onslaught of free agency now finished and the biggest names signed, it’s time to assess what teams came out ahead and which fell flat.
The onset of free agency might as well be a national holiday. Excitement mounts as rumors roil through NBA Twitter and anonymous sources pop up everywhere like dandelions in a summer field.
The past season only lives on in memory and free agency opens a door for all teams to gain competitive advantage. Of course, competition is a zero-sum game, producing a yin and yang of winners and losers.
Winning free agency comes through shrewd signings of value and rationality. It’s made possible by meticulous planning and salary cap craftsmanship. Or, in other cases, by holding geographic supremacy. On the flip side, a losing cocktail consists of poor decisions and panic moves, tying up payroll in incongruous players for too many years.
Loser: Toronto Raptors
Deep down, the Raptors knew Kawhi Leonard wasn’t long for Canada. Masai Ujiri made a calculated gamble when he swung the deal and reaped immediate gratification with the franchise’s first title. The biggest risk can be not taking one and Ujiri’s venture will go down in NBA lore as one of the ultimate leap-of-faith payoffs.
Toronto still bathes in its championship afterglow, but in the wake of confetti and the musty aroma of stale champagne, they’re left with a void to fill. Losing one of the league’s premier players (along with Danny Green) opens holes on both sides of the ball. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson come in as smart signings but top out as low-end starters.
Yes, you make the Leonard trade every day and twice on Sunday and happily live with the fallout, but in the pure context of this exercise, the Raptors are losers.