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Winners and Losers of 2021 NBA Free Agency so far

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are all set to play together
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are all set to play together
Adam Taylor
EXPERT

It's normal for a tidal wave of news to crash into our smartphones when NBA free agency opens for business. Each roster move acts as a butterfly effect, as NBA teams scramble to improve their rosters.

Although fans adore this time of year, players will undoubtedly view things a little differently. Every player acquisition will squeeze another player's court time, even pushing some into the dreaded DNP-CD territory. Regrettably, the risk of losing playing time is a fact of life for the role players of the NBA.

As such, with every NBA free agency comes a list of winners and losers, both players and teams alike.


NBA Free Agency Winner: LA Lakers

Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards - Game Three
Philadelphia 76ers v Washington Wizards - Game Three

The Los Angeles Lakers are the clear winners of NBA free agency thus far, after netting Russell Westbrook in a sign-and-trade deal with the Washington Wizards. There's a saying in NBA fandom circles, and it goes, "sign the best players available, and figure the rest out afterward."

The Lakers are the guiding light to that saying in the NBA free agency. By adding Westbrook, the team created a new Big 3 but removed all aspects of spacing on the roster. Since that blockbuster deal, the Lakers have added a plethora of NBA veterans to the roster.

Those additions are: Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Malik Monk, Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker.

Those signings have strengthened the Lakers in both veteran presence and shooting. Ellington and Ariza are known sharpshooters who will feed off the space provided due to the Lakers star trio while being in the latter stages of their careers.

Anthony gives the Lakers another big-time scorer to lean on, especially in the mid-range and low block. At the same time, Nunn and Monk can fill roles as ball-handlers and spot-up shooters.

After an abrupt end to their playoff hopes last season, the Lakers have wasted no time re-tooling their roster and will be one of the favorites to end next season as NBA champions.


NBA Free Agency Winner: Jimmy Butler

Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets
Miami Heat v Charlotte Hornets

Jimmy Butler signed a four-year contract extension with the Miami Heat in one of the first moves in NBA free agency.

Butler, while a star in the league, is not a superstar. So to sign an extension of this magnitude is a clear win for the player. The Miami Heat are clearly enamored with their current roster and believe they're capable of winning their first trophy since the LeBron James era ended.

Butler, a career 32.7% three-point shooter, is coming off the back of a dominant season for Miami. In 52 regular-season games, the Texas native averaged 21.5 points, 7.1 assists, and 6.9 rebounds per game on a 29.4% usage rate (96th percentile in the league).

Butler will be turning 32 to start the 2021-21 NBA season, and with this extension in place, he will be expecting to earn $51,646,000 at the ripe old age of 36.


NBA Free Agency Winner: Chicago Bulls

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers
New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers

The Chicago Bulls failed to figure it out after going all-in on their roster at last season's trade deadline. Despite trading for All-Star big-man Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls failed to make the NBA play-in tournament.

As such, the Bulls have been active to start NBA free agency. A sign-and-trade deal for Lonzo Ball gives the team a high-level open court facilitator. Ball, a sturdy perimeter defender, will also help cover for Zach Lavine's misgivings on the business end of the floor.

Ball comes into Chicago on the back of two highly productive seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans. After re-working his shooting form and embracing an off-ball role, the LA native's three-point percentage took a favorable uptick.

Despite landing their primary target, the Bulls didn't stop there. Demar DeRozan, Alex Caruso and Tony Bradley all quickly followed in Ball's footsteps.

DeRozan's presence now gives the Bulls three primary scoring options. Meanwhile, Caruso's tenacity on both ends of the floor will ensure the team always has a competitive edge.

Chicago clearly has championship aspirations - or at least deep playoff dreams - and by making these moves, they've positioned themselves to do just that.


NBA Free Agency Winner: Stephen Curry

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Play-In Tournament
Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Play-In Tournament

Whenever you sign the biggest contract in NBA history, you're winning. It's that simple. Stephen Curry will now be earning north of $40 million until the end of his age 37 seasons.

News of Curry's contract broke on the NBA free agency's second day, with Woj tweeting the news in the early afternoon.

Curry, the league's greatest ever shooter, doesn't rely on athleticism, making this deal easier to understand from the Golden State Warriors perspective.

Curry, who returned from a serious injury earlier this season, averaged 32 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. The Oakland native also ended the year with the coveted 50/40/90 statline to boot.


NBA Free Agency Loser: Coby White

Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets
Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets

Coby White has only been in the league for two seasons and has been Chicago's starting guard for both. Now, with the additions of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso during the opening days of the NBA free agency period, White finds himself on the outside looking in.

Entering his third year in the league (the year where players usually take their biggest jump), White's minutes project to be drastically reduced.

For White, the most logical outcome would be to take the role as "the first guard off the bench" while Caruso operates as the backup two-guard. However, losing your starting spot during NBA free agency has to be counted as a loss.

White averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists this season on 54% true shooting.


NBA Free Agency Loser: Boston Celtics

San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics
San Antonio Spurs v Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics entered this year's NBA free agency period with two trades lined up. The first one was bringing Josh Richardson to the team. The second was sending Tristan Thompson to the Sacramento Kings in a three-team deal; this trade is still in negotiations.

The Celtics also lost recently acquired free agent Evan Fournier to the New York Knicks.

Roster holes at point guard and wing position have gone unfilled by the Celtics front office. Teams dilly-dallying over trade negotiations have seen the NBA free agency talent pool begin to dwindle. And while the Celtics were never projected to be big players in this free agency, moves needed to be made.

Despite the Celtics not being players on the open market, the limited talent available and the teams' inability to finalize the Thompson deal makes them early losers in the 2021 NBA free agency period.


Also read: What is a max contract in the NBA?


Edited by Rohit Mishra

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