Kyrie Irving and Jerami Grant are two of the worst free agent deals in the NBA, while Fred VanVleet and Austin Reaves are two of the best

Best & Worst NBA Free Agent Deals: Irving, Grant, VanVleet, Reaves

NBA Updates PH – About 48 hours passed before almost every big free agent signed. There are still a few big names left (will Boston let Grant Williams go? There are rumors that Damian Lillard and James Harden will be traded at some point, but at this point, we have enough information to start taking stock of the huge amounts of money thrown around the league. 

Here are my favorite NBA free agent deals so far, in the form of either trades during the free-agent period or free-agent signings, and then my least favorite deals.

Deals that make Brad glad

Fred VANVLEET to Rockets: For FVV, $130 million over three years is a lot of money, maybe even a little too much, but I love this deal because it’s good for both sides. The Rockets need all of what VanVleet has to offer. With such a young team, they need him first and foremost. Amen Thompson and Jalen Green may have a very different job path in three years than they might have had they been left to grow up on their own. 

Fred VanVleet defends, and even though his numbers were down last season, he’s a shooter who can play on or off the ball. Over the past four seasons, he’s shot well over 40% on catch-and-shoots and “open” 3-pointers, which means his production doesn’t have to come at the expense of Thompson or Green’s. 

Fred VanVleet has already made a lot of money ($82 million in his career so far), so this is no longer the feel-good story of the undrafted guy making it big. Still, I’ll always enjoy how Fred VanVleet went from being a nobody to one of the league’s highest-paid point guards. The Rockets had a lot of money to spend, and the first few deals they made couldn’t have gone to a better player. 

GABE VINCENT TO LAKERS: We’re all used to seeing crazy amounts of Monopoly money thrown around in the NBA, like $200 million to this guy, $180 million to that guy, and $120 million to that guy who doesn’t even play, but there are always a few contracts given to players who have never made crazy money that make me smile. Gabe Vincent is one of those guys. So is Max Strus, who used to play for the Heat and just signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers for $63 million after going undrafted. 

Gabe Vincent got $79,000 in his first season with the Miami Heat. In his first two seasons, he made a lot less than a million dollars, and he has never made more than $1.8 million in his career. Now, the Lakers are giving him $33 million over three years. Money that changes lives, and he worked hard for every penny. But I like this deal so much because it is also a big win for the team. 

Vincent is a great addition to the Lakers, who also did well in signing D’Angelo Russell to a two-year deal. This is a good amount of money for a player who eats up games during the regular season but isn’t as useful in the playoffs and could be traded. Vincent should be the starting point guard, and Russell should be used as a salary filler in a trade before the deadline. 

Bruce Brown said to the Pacers that he wanted to stay in Denver. No one would disagree with that. But the Nuggets could only give him a straight raise from his 2022-23 contract to $7.8 million. In theory, they could have let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope go and given Brown the non-taxpayer mid level exception, just under $13 million. However, that is still about $9 million less than the $21.9 million Brown will get from Indiana in year one of a two-year, $45 million deal.

Brown, who has already made $15 million in his career, was not in a position to say no to that much money. So the Nuggets lose him, which is a good thing for Indiana. Do you know those rare people who “nobody ever has anything bad to say about”? Brown is one of those guys. 

Even though everyone criticizes every player at some point, it would be hard to find a serious basketball fan who doesn’t like Bruce Brown. He’s part of an awesome offseason for the Indiana Pacers, who also gave Tyrese Haliburton a max contract extension and stole Obi Toppin from the New York Knicks. 

AUSTIN REAVES BACK TO LAKERS: The Lakers got lucky because no one else gave Reaves a big contract they would have had to match. Another team could have made him an offer sheet for up to $102 million, which would have put a lot of pressure on the Lakers. Instead, they pay him $56 million over four years, an average of $14 million per year. This is just above the non-taxpayer mid level exception. That is a great deal for Reaves, who could have helped a lot of teams and is L.A.’s third-best player going into the season. 

Austin Reaves is another player who did well after not being picked in the draft. So far, he has made less than $2.5 million in his work. He did the right thing in 2021 when he said the Detroit Pistons might pick him up on a two-way deal at the end of the second round. He decided that the Lakers were a better option, so he didn’t get picked in the draft. He ended up being a key player on a conference finals team with LeBron James. 

Right now, Austin Reaves is worth more than $14 million per year. His second deal could be worth well over $100 million. In the time between now and then, the Lakers will get one of the best deals in the game. 

OBI TOPPIN TO PACERS: The Knicks pretty much gave Toppin away because they only got two second-round picks in return. Tom Thibodeau never gave Toppin regular playing time. He was Julius Randle’s backup and played less than 15 minutes per game on average during his three years in New York. 

Knicks fans were upset because Toppin showed he could play when he did get a chance. He scored just under 21 points per game in a limited number of starts, is a good 3-point shooter, and is a great force in transition. Toppin will have a real chance to show what he can do in Indiana, where he will play with big man Myles Turner. He will score many points off of Tyrese Haliburton, one of the best players in the league. Both Toppin and the Pacers love the chance to make a deal. 

Deals that make Brad sad

JERAMI GRANT BACK TO BLAZERS ($160 million): The only half-reasonable reason why the Blazers gave Grant a $160 million contract is that they knew losing Grant would mean losing Lillard, so they gave him a lot of money and a five-year deal to make it impossible for him to leave. 

As it turns out, they’re still going to lose Lillard, so they’re stuck with a third-option player who isn’t an All-Star and makes the same average annual salary as Jayson Tatum on his current deal. 

It makes you wonder who else they were bidding against. Again, five years is a long time to be tied to this much money for a good but not great player who will turn 30 in March and doesn’t make as much sense on a team that is about to switch to a youth movement behind Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe. 

Under this new CBA, freedom will be the most important thing, but this deal is anything but flexible. It’s not exactly Tobias Harris, but it’s close. It will be very hard to sell Grant for this number of years at this price. 

Joe Cronin needs to explain why the Blazers gave Jerami Grant this deal even though they knew Lillard was going. I’m going to assume that Cronin didn’t know for sure that Lillard was going to ask to leave, that he still had a little hope that he could keep Lillard and that he was willing to give Grant a “Hail Mary” deal. Still, it’s hard to understand. The writing on the wall about Lillard has been there for a while, and this deal with Grant will weigh heavily on the club. 

KYRIE IRVING BACK TO MAVERICKS ($126 million): When they moved for Irving last February, the Mavericks put themselves in a bad spot. They knew that this summer, he would be a free agent. They knew they couldn’t trade away good players who helped Dallas get to the conference playoffs and then lose Kyrie Irving. 

From this point of view, the Mavericks did the right thing by limiting Kyrie Irving’s damage to three years. But as I wonder who the Blazers were competing with for Jerami Grant’s services, I also wonder who would offer Irving an average annual salary anywhere close to the $42 million Dallas did.

I get that Kyrie Irving is a wild card and might have been crazy enough to take the mid-level exception from another team to stick it to the Mavericks if he felt disrespected by their offer, but there’s a long way between the MLE and $126 million over three years. 

The Mavericks didn’t have much choice in this situation, but they put themselves there. Having your car hooked up to Kyrie Irving during what could be the most important years for Luka Doncic is a nightmare waiting to happen. 

How can anyone, even the most blissfully ignorant Irving fan, think that things will go well now? You don’t remember Boston, do you? Brooklyn? Even when he’s good, the Mavericks would be better off without him. At best, Kyrie Irving is a guy (a small Carmelo Anthony) who doesn’t help his team win nearly as much as his talent says he should. At the very least, he is a very talented stick of fire. The prize is far from worth the risk of $126 million.

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