Top winners, losers from busy first day of NBA free agency

Kyle Lowry

NBA free agency is underway, and as expected, it didn't take long to heat up.

Pending free agents and teams were barred from negotiating prior to 3 p.m. PT on Monday, and yet there were plenty of contractual agreements that were reported in the first few minutes thereafter. Amazing how that happens.

There was a lot of money thrown around on Monday. Some of it was well spent, but a significant portion of it surely will be looked back on with regret. Ultimately, only a handful of big names changed teams, but there were plenty of players who struck deals.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from the opening day of free agency:

Winner: Miami Heat

The Heat were the big winners on Monday, and not simply because they acquired the top prize on the market. Signing point guard Kyle Lowry was the biggest addition made by any team thus far, but Miami didn't stop there.

The Heat re-signed Duncan Robinson and stole P.J. Tucker away from the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. They project to have a starting lineup of those three alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, with Tyler Herro coming off the bench. The Heat aren't a darkhorse contender; they're gonna be really darn good.

Loser: Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks had Tucker's bird rights, meaning they essentially could have paid him whatever they wanted to keep him. Instead, they let him walk right over to a team that figures to directly compete with Milwaukee next season. If that caught you by surprise, you weren't the only one; Tucker himself seemed to indicate that it was an unexpected outcome.


The Bucks are still going to be very good, but it's incredibly tough to repeat in the NBA, and that task just got considerably more challenging without Tucker.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

The Bulls got a lot better on Monday. Lonzo Ball makes for a tremendous guard pairing alongside fellow UCLA alum Zach LaVine, and Alex Caruso gives them yet another strong defender and finisher in the backcourt. Chicago might still have full use of the mid-level exception, too. The Bulls won't be mistaken for a title contender, but they should be in the mix for a playoff spot in the East.

Loser: New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans positioned themselves to make a play for Lowry before free agency began. That obviously didn't work out. Then they didn't pay up for Ball, and pivoted to a sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Devonte' Graham, which cost New Orleans a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick. Graham's contract (four years, $47 million) is fine value; he's a good player who will improve the spacing for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingraham on offense.

But the Pelicans probably would have been better off just keeping Ball and the pick. Their moves on the first day of free agency did not paint a picture of an organization that has all of its ducks in a row.

Winner: Northern California teams

Both the Warriors and Kings checked off very important boxes on Monday. Golden State needed to add a wing who can shoot, and not only does Otto Porter Jr. qualify, but the Warriors got him for the veteran's minimum. That has the potential to be the steal of the offseason, especially if you factor in the taxpayer mid-level exception that the Warriors still have in their back pockets.

Similarly, Sacramento accomplished its top priority with the re-signing of center Richaun Holmes. That had to get done. Surely, both teams were sweating out the opening hours of free agency -- and were plenty relieved at the close of the first day.

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Loser: Dennis Schroder

Schroder reportedly turned down a four-year, $84 million contract extension from the Los Angeles Lakers back in February, which is looking like a terrible miscalculation on his part. He has not yet found a new team, and there isn't an obvious spot for him to land in which he will get anywhere near that kind of money.

The teams that do have significant cap space remaining -- the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets and OKC Thunder -- all have better players at his position. Schroder is going to sign for far less than he thought just months ago. The most likely outcome is a one-year deal that allows him to enter the market again next offseason.

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