By Yaron Weitzman
FOX Sports NBA Writer
So that was an interesting first few days of the NBA offseason.
We’ve seen multiple All-Stars change teams, mega extensions — oh, and Kevin Durant seems to be on the move.
More big moves are sure to come, but this seems like a good time to pause and reassess where things stand across the NBA. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five winners and one loser of the offseason so far.
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Winner: Rafael Stone and the Houston Rockets
Ever look at a team’s situation and wish a market existed for you to place some sort of short bet? Well, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone basically did exactly that when he sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a package of draft picks, as opposed to a young star in Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Two years later, the Nets are on the verge of collapse, and the Rockets own all their future picks. Combine that with their addition of Jabari Smith via the third pick in the draft, and suddenly the Rockets look to be on the cusp of something interesting.
Winner: The Boston Celtics’ title chances
Remember how during the NBA Finals it became increasingly clear that the Celtics could really use another guy who can generate offense? Well, apparently the team’s brain trust agreed.
Enter Malcolm Brogdon, whom the Celtics acquired for a mix of reserves and a 2023 first-round pick. They also added Danilo Gallinari. Neither is a perfect player, and both have to prove they can remain on the court, but they’ll also both add much-needed juice to a Celtics team that came within two wins of a title.
Winner: Fans of chaos
It’s incredibly unlikely that Kyrie Irving ends up in Philly. All signs point to him landing alongside LeBron James again, this time in Los Angeles Lakers purple and gold. No other team is in a position that makes it worth them taking a swing on Irving. So, yeah, we’re going to be hearing a lot about him over the next 12 or so months.
Winner: Fans of “WOW” trades
We had two in the first 48 hours of free agency.
The first was the Atlanta Hawks’ decision to send a bunch of picks to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for 25-year-old All-Star Dejounte Murray. That was a fun deal and one that will make the Hawks better. Murray’s defense and versatility make him a nice fit alongside Trae Young.
The trade of the week, however, belonged to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz, the latter of whom sent three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to Minnesota in exchange for what seemed like 22 draft picks.
This was as fascinating a deal as we’ve seen in recent years. From the Minnesota side, the addition of Gobert means they’ll now be playing Karl-Anthony Towns at the 4. You don’t see many teams these days rolling with two 7-footers on the court.
The T-Wolves and new head honcho Tim Connelly clearly think Gobert — specifically his defense — is what the current Towns-Anthony Edwards core needs to make the next leap. I’m not sure I agree, at least not to the extent that I’d surrender all unprotected picks. But also: Who cares! This deal makes the T-Wolves better, and the basketball fan in me loves it.
Loser: Donovan Mitchell (for now)
Meanwhile, for Utah, this seems to be the beginning of the end of the Mitchell era. Sending out Gobert is one thing, but doing so for a package centered around draft equity is a clear message from new CEO Danny Ainge. There’s also this:
Loser: Nets Culture
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To be fair, the Nets’ decision to sell their soul three years ago in exchange for the services of Durant and Irving is one every team would have made. And they certainly knew that Irving would come with baggage. That said, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.
Or Durant requesting a trade just a year after signing a four-year contract extension.
The good news for the Nets is they should have some solid options. You’ll never get fair value for Durant, but general manager Sean Marks could recoup a nice crop of young players and/or draft picks in a deal that, combined with Simmons (remember him?), could give the Nets a nice, young core to rebuild around.
But Irving and Durant were supposed to bring titles to Brooklyn, not just headaches. This “superteam” is going to go down as one of the greatest flops in the history of professional sports.
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.
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