The second day of NBA free agency in the 2023 offseason was dominated by conversations surrounding Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard’s trade request, but there were still plenty of big signings to evaluate. Here’s our grades for some of the prominent activity on Day 2.
Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell return to Lakers: A
The Lakers also added Jaxson Hayes on a minimum deal, and they’ve put together an excellent supporting group around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Reaves was poised to get a huge offer from outside teams, but ultimately no one wanted to tie up cap space with him only for LA to eventually match the offer. Russell adds perimeter shooting and creation skills, and now has a full offseason and training camp to work with James and Davis. The Lakers are legitimate title contenders in a loaded Western Conference.
Donte DiVincenzo joins Knicks on four-year deal: A
Chemistry does matter in sports, and it’s especially important in basketball. The Knicks are building the professional iteration of Villanova’s title teams, which featured Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and DiVincenzo. Brunson might be the only star of the three, but New York is banking on the overall outcome being greater than the sum of the individual pieces. The price point isn’t terrible, and DiVincenzo provides perimeter shooting and defensive versatility for New York.
Rockets sign Dillon Brooks, Jock Landale to big deals: C+
Houston is also in the process of trading for Patty Mills, and sent former first-round picks TyTy Washington and Usman Garuba to Atlanta in a roster dump. Having cap space is cool, but spending it on minor upgrades now doesn’t really make sense for Houston. The Fred VanVleet deal was already stunning, but bringing in Brooks on a big financial commitment could backfire. Houston is looking for a culture change but this isn’t the way to get that done. Landale is on an affordable deal, though the center might not get as much run as he would’ve in Phoenix.
Clippers bring back Russell Westbrook: B
Westbrook’s stint in Los Angeles wasn’t poor, but the more important bit here is the price point. It’s a two-year deal at around $8 million total, which is an absolute bargain for a player of Westbrook’s caliber. His athleticism has waned but his instincts remain great and he’s a capable offensive player off the bench. The Clippers are exploring a trade for James Harden, so there’s a chance Westbrook moves into a bench role. That might actually be where he excels the most at this stage of his career.
Bucks bring back Brook Lopez on two-year deal: A
Lopez could’ve gone elsewhere in free agency, but the Bucks know how important he is for them in the interior. He takes pressure off Giannis Antetokounmpo defensively and can hit the triple on the other end at a good enough clip to make opponents worry about him. The Bucks likely feel injuries robbed them of a title run last season, so they’re bringing the key players back for another shot at the title. Jae Crowder also returns to Milwaukee on an affordable deal.
Cavaliers add Max Strus in sign-and-trade deal: B
This is an excellent deal for Strus, who gets a long-term commitment from Cleveland. It’s a bit less fun for the Cavaliers, who aren’t actually getting a true “lights out” shooter that many feel Strus is. The guard shot 35% from deep last year, and his career percentage from behind the arc is 37.1. It’s a solid number, but not one that would classify Strus as an excellent shooter. He’ll help Cleveland’s bench tremendously, and the Cavaliers do need some perimeter threats. However, the price point is a bit off.