2023 NBA Free Agency grades, Day 1: All 30 teams ranked from best (Suns) to worst (Blazers)

Khris Middleton Milwaukee Buck

2023 NBA free agency was no different from any other year. There was a flurry of moves at 6 p.m. ET that made your head spin before you could even blink.

Luckily, we are here to recap what was a chaotic day with team-specific grades. Some teams will get an incomplete for not participating in the action, but most of the teams pulled off at least one move to get their fans talking. 

Who had the best and worst opening day of free agency? The Sporting News has you covered with complete rankings below.

Live grades & analysis for every signing on Day 1 | Top 50 Free Agents board

NBA Free Agency grades 2023 Day One: Ranking the best & worst teams

Phoenix Suns

Signings: Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu, pulled qualifying offer on Jock Landale

The Suns had very limited means of adding talent. They got some really nice players on minimum salaries.

Watanabe and Bates-Diop are both underrated wings that will be worth more than the minimums that the Suns doled out. Eubanks is a good rim protector that made Landale expendable.

MORE: Why Yuta Watanabe is a perfect fit for the Suns

Dallas Mavericks

Signings: Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry

The Mavericks didn’t overpay for Irving on an average annual salary basis and won the negotiation in terms of how many years they were giving him. Three years and $126 million with a player option is about as good as they could have hoped for, and they had no other real choice but to retain him. 

Curry is a nice pickup on the margins. His salary will be low, and he’s still a lights-out shooter. 

The Mavs’ free agency continues a good run for them. They also had a solid draft. 

Philadelphia 76ers

Signings: James Harden opt-in

The Sixers faced the unexpected news of James Harden demanding a trade and opting into the last year of his contract. 

They didn’t get a trade done before the collective bargaining agreement switched over, making it harder to salary match in a deal. But they also didn’t rush to make a bad deal, in typical Daryl Morey style. They’re going to wait this out and get maximum value, which is probably the correct approach. 

Milwaukee Bucks

Signings: Khris Middleton

Middleton declined his $40 million option to get a bigger payday at less average annual value. The Bucks absolutely could not afford to lose him, so this is a great deal for them given their lack of leverage.

Middleton will turn 32 this season and has already started to see his play decline. Getting him back on a three-year deal (instead of four) is a win for the Bucks. He is still capable of playing at a very high level in the short term, and they badly need his offensive creation.

The Bucks still need to re-sign Brook Lopez, but this was a great start for them.

Miami Heat

Signings: Josh Richardson, Kevin Love, traded Victor Oladipo

Richardson is worth way more than a veteran minimum deal, but he chose a reunion with Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra over money and came to the Heat for two years on that type of deal. 

Richardson played the best basketball of his career back in his early Heat days. The eight-year veteran has lost a step since then, but he’s still a capable defender and a good 3-point shooter. And Spoelstra’s familiarity with him might help bring him back to his old form. 

Trading Oladipo was strictly a salary dump. The Heat have created a $9.45 million trade exception, and we will have to wait and see if anything becomes of it. 

Sacramento Kings

Signings: Chris Duarte (trade), Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles

The Kings came into the day with over $30 million in cap space and big potential. They went the safer route, bringing back Barnes on a reasonable three-year, $54 million contract, Lyles at two years and $16 million, and absorbing a talented shooter in Duarte into their cap space.

Duarte should have a bounce-back year by reuniting with Domantas Sabonis, with whom he had great chemistry on the Pacers. 

Minnesota Timberwolves

Signings: Shake Milton, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Troy Brown

Milton might be the best value signing of Day 1. He didn’t have a great fit with the Sixers, and he’s a steal at two years and $10 million. 

Alexander-Walker and Brown are both on cheap two-year deals. Alexander-Walker is a good defender who is improving as a shooter. Brown is a busted prospect on his fourth team, but he’s likely on a minimum or close to it.

San Antonio Spurs

Signings: Justin Champagnie, Tre Jones

Champagnie is a nice value signing at four years, $12 million. Jones was a vital part of their team last season. He should easily outplay his $20 million over the next two seasons. 

Golden State Warriors

Signings: Draymond Green

Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors) 05042023

Kudos to the Warriors for paying up. Bringing Green back will cost them well over $100 million in tax payments alone, but they saved $40 million by not having him opt-in, per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater.

Green is still an A+ defender, and re-signing him for four years and $100 million was their best possible move this offseason. The $25 million average annual salary is right in line with what I predicted, but the length of this deal is a bit of a surprise.

At age 33, I was expecting Green to get a three-year deal to line up with the end of Stephen Curry’s contract. Instead, he got a highly-coveted player option in Year 4 that he will almost certainly exercise.

Los Angeles Lakers

Signings: Cam Reddish, Rui Hachimura, Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent

Prince and Vincent are good 3-and-D players who slot in well next to the Lakers’ stars. Hachimura has already shown his value in the playoffs, and kudos to Los Angeles for paying to keep him. Reddish is a total flier on a tiny salary who probably won’t pan out. 

MORE: Lakers free agent signings: Los Angeles keeps Rui Hachimura, adds Gabe Vincent to roster in free agency

Orlando Magic

Signings: Joe Ingles

The Magic badly needed some wings on their roster. At age 35, Ingles is not a totally natural fit for them, but he will make them significantly better.

He showed in his return from a brutal ACL injury that he is still capable of playing at a high level, hitting 41 percent of his 3-pointers for the Bucks last season. He’s a good secondary playmaker, giving the Magic some much-needed passing.

Chicago Bulls

Signings: Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, Jevon Carter

The Bulls didn’t overpay too badly on Vucevic, and they got White at a good price. 

Carter is the real win of the day, though, who addresses their lack of 3-point shooting. He can get them up, and he’s a career 40 percent shooter from deep. He’s also a tenacious defender who fits in perfectly in their starting rotation. 

Indiana Pacers

Signings: Bruce Brown, Tyrese Haliburton extension

Two years and $45 million was an overpay for Brown. But the Pacers had cap space to spend, and they will be able to re-sign him to a new deal with Bird Rights down the line. Their free agent dollars don’t go as far as a team like the Lakers, so they did what they had to do to get their guy. The team option in Year 2 gives them plenty of flexibility too.

The Pacers also gave Tyrese Haliburton a much-earned maximum extension that will give him up to $280 million over the next five seasons. 

Boston Celtics

Signings: Kristaps Porzingis, Oshae Brissett

Porzingis was the best free agent center on the market before opting in and getting traded to the Celtics. He was at a fringe All-Star level last season, and I expect him to earn that honor this year with more eyes focused on his play.

The Celtics gave up a lot to get him, so extending him and making sure he stays on the team makes sense in that regard. The length of this extension seems like a win, too.

Porzingis’ health is always a legitimate concern, so two years at a high annual average value is a nice piece of business for the Celtics.

MOREKristaps Porzingis contract details: Celtics forward signs two-year, $60 million extension to stay in Boston

Brissett is a gritty player who will give great energy on defense. 

New Orleans Pelicans

Signings: Herb Jones

Jones is one of the premier defenders in the league. “Not on Herb” became a rallying cry among Pelicans fans because of his lockdown ability.

Four years and $54 million is a good deal for Jones, although he needs to see some improvement on his career 34 percent shooting to make it a steal.

Brooklyn Nets

Signings: Cam Johnson, traded Joe Harris

The Joe Harris trade accomplished multiple goals. It cleared salary to avoid the luxury tax, and it erased a good chunk of the Pistons’ cap space so that they couldn’t make an offer to Johnson themselves. 

Brooklyn then got Johnson on a market-rate deal, which had to be a relief given that he was a serious flight risk. Four years and $108 million sounds like a lot, but worse players in his draft class earned a lot more. 

Houston Rockets

Signings: Fred VanVleet

Fred VanVleet

The Rockets needed a tough veteran to clean up their culture. They overpaid, but they got one in VanVleet. The bidding needed to get high because the Raptors had no way of replacing VanVleet and were fighting to keep him.

VanVleet is not an efficient scorer, and the miles on his body are a concern. Still, the fit here is good.

As a former undrafted free agent, VanVleet has worked for everything he’s gotten. He gives the team organizing principles with his heady passing skills and defensive intensity. Too often, the Rockets played undisciplined basketball, and their young players received entitlement minutes.

VanVleet and incoming coach Ime Udoka are instantly going to change the culture of this team.

Toronto Raptors

Signings: Dennis Schroder, Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam embrace in a hug after beating the Magic

Schroder isn’t a great fit and is probably an overpay at two years and $26 million, but the Raptors were stuck with scarce options once VanVleet bolted for the Rockets on a big deal. It was prudent to have a walk-away number for VanVleet, so they get points for that. 

Poeltl is a solid signing at $20 million per year. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Signings: Georges Niang, Caris LeVert

Niang was one of the best volume 3-point shooters on the market. His defensive weaknesses should be covered up with the rim protection that Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley bring. 

LeVert had his moments where he looked good in Cleveland as an offensive creator. On a two-year, $32 million deal, he’s tradeable if an upgrade does become available on the market. 

Detroit Pistons

Signings: Joe Harris (trade), Monte Morris (trade)

The Pistons used their cap space to absorb veterans and get some second round picks. Harris and Morris aren’t pure salary dumps — both of them can play at a high level and might have trade value later in the year. 

The Morris move is a bit perplexing given their depth at guard. How will he find minutes when there are so many young players on that roster to develop? 

Nevertheless, they added two good veterans and picks, so it’s hard to find too much fault with their night. 

New York Knicks

Signings: Josh Hart opt-in 

The Knicks didn’t do much on Day 1 of free agency. Josh Hart opted into his $12.9 player option, which was a nice way to preserve their mid-level exception. 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Signings: Traded for Victor Oladipo and draft compensation

The Thunder have decided to use their cap space to keep on adding to their war chest of draft picks. Oladipo is a straight salary dump into a crowded guard rotation. He likely won’t contribute, but they don’t need him to. 

Washington Wizards

Signings: Kyle Kuzma, traded away Monte Morris

The Wizards probably weren’t going to find a better use of their cap space than signing Kuzma. With the added penalties under the new collective bargaining agreement for not hitting the salary floor, they needed to make a move like this.

Kuzma has improved in all areas of his game, including as a defender, passer and scorer. With average starters making something around $20 million these days, four years and $102 million is a fine deal for him. 

Trading away Morris for only one second round pick was a bit confusing. If that’s all they could get for him at this time, then it may have made sense to hold out and wait for better offers. 

Memphis Grizzlies

Signings: Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose

The Grizzlies need some point guard depth with Ja Morant suspended for the first 25 games of the season. Perhaps Rose can fill that role. 

Rose was still a good player two seasons ago. He had improved as a shooter, up to 40 percent from 3. Those shooting gains fell off a cliff last season, where he connected on only 30 percent of his attempts from deep. His 38 percent on all field goals was by far the lowest of his career. 

Rose may still be able to offer some veteran leadership inside the locker room. He’s a well-respected player. But he will have to improve substantially from last season’s performance in order to add value on the floor. 

Denver Nuggets

Signings: Reggie Jackson

It wasn’t a good day for the defending champions. They lost Bruce Brown, a key contributor, but there was nothing they could do about it.

They followed up Brown’s loss by signing Jackson to two years and $10 million. He couldn’t get on the floor for the Nuggets in the playoffs and was let go by the Clippers for his ineffective play.

When Jackson was at his best, he was a tough shot-maker and clutch playoff performer. At age 33, those days look like they might be behind him.

The Nuggets are going to be limited to minimums in bringing outside free agents, so they must have figured that Jackson was better than anyone else they could add. His salary could also be used as a trade chip down the line.

Portland Trail Blazers

Signings: Jerami Grant

Grant was a great trade addition to the Blazers. His defense and 3-point shooting were essential for a roster built around Damian Lillard. But $160 million over five years is a lot of money to be giving him — he projected a starting salary of $24 million in my simple salary model.

Grant seemed to have good leverage over the Blazers, who still appear to be trying to keep Lillard happy. This might be a tough contract to get out of down the line, though. 

Utah Jazz, LA Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks

Signings: None

These teams were inactive on Day 1 of free agency.

Dave Gallo

Dave Gallo is a pioneering sports analytics expert, renowned for his revolutionary work in AI-driven sports simulations, projections, and advanced statistical analysis. With a profound passion for sports and technology, he crafts cutting-edge computer models that accurately predict outcomes. Dave's game-changing insights have reshaped strategy, player evaluation, and decision-making across various sports. His dynamic presentations make complex analytics accessible and inspiring, ensuring his legacy as a visionary in sports analytics. Check out Dave's Pick Record.

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