NBA free agency 2024 winners and losers, starring 76ers, Nuggets, Thunder, and more

The biggest names on the 2024 NBA free agent market came off the board almost immediately. Paul George kept NBA insiders up until 3 a.m. before choosing the Philadelphia 76ers, and rest of the big names quickly followed suit with their decisions the next morning.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are loading up for a run at the NBA championship, the Orlando Magic found a veteran who complements their young core perfectly, and the Dallas Mavericks got creative to add talent to an NBA Finals team.

Not everyone can be a winner in free agency, though. Some teams lost key players on the open market, while others stayed static as their rivals improved. While there’s still plenty of time in the offseason to add talent, the 2025 NBA championship picture is already shaping up. With most of the big names already choosing new homes, here’s our look at the winners and losers of NBA free agency.

Winner: Philadelphia 76ers

When Paul George changes teams, there are usually All-NBA players and a bundle of first round picks going the other way. The Oklahoma City Thunder gave up Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo when they acquired George in 2017, while the Los Angeles Clippers forfeited Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a cascade of draft capital to get George in 2019.

The Philadelphia 76ers agreed to terms with George at the start of free agency, and they all surrendered to do it was cap space. George’s four-year, $212 million deal with Philly is certainly rich for a 34-year-old, but acquiring a talent like this for nothing but money is an unquestionable win for Philly.

Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey, and George isn’t just arguably the league’s best “big three” on sheer talent — it’s also a trio that fits together perfectly. Embiid can dominate the paint, Maxey puts pressure on the rim with his speed, and George can space the floor and fill in as a ball handler in a pinch. It won’t be easy to breakthrough in the East with the Celtics reigning supreme and the Knicks looming, but the Sixers have given themselves a real chance.

Loser: Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers drew a hard line in the sand for George: either accept a three-year deal similar to the one Kawhi Leonard signed, or get out. George was determined to sign a four-year deal, and when Philadelphia offered one, he was gone.

The Clippers cited the new CBA and second-apron fears in their bizarre statement on George’s departure, but the worst of those penalties wouldn’t kick in for years. While the Kawhi Leonard-George pairing never lived up to the hype, losing him for nothing is just a disastrous outcome for the Clips. Making matters worse, the Sixers already own the Clippers’ unprotected 2028 pick, and have swap rights in 2029.

Couldn’t the Clippers just offer George a fourth-year and deal with the fallout later? There was likely always going to be a trade market for George and Leonard if the Clips ever decided to break up the team. LA rebounded with some solid role player signings in Derrick Jones Jr., Nic Batum, Kris Dunn, and Mo Bamba, but they aren’t making up for the impact of PG-13. The Clippers’ ceiling is so much lower without George this year, and they still don’t control any of their first round draft picks until 2030.

The Clippers have a smart front office and great ownership. They will probably figure out a way to remain competitive in the short-term and keep their options open long-term. Still, losing George for nothing doesn’t look good.

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder started the offseason by stealing Alex Caruso from the Bulls for only Josh Giddey. Then OKC drafted the No. 1 overall player on our draft board with the No. 12 pick by selecting Nikola Topic. The Thunder still needed some beef in the middle and help on the glass, and they answered those fills holes emphatically with one great signing in free agency.

Isaiah Hartenstein signed a three-year, $87 million deal with the Thunder. Hartenstein is a seamless fit: he’s an elite interior defender, a high level passer, and he’s a great rebounder. The fact that the Thunder got him to agree to the last year of the deal being non-guaranteed makes this an even better signing.

The Thunder were No. 29 in defensive rebound percentage, and No. 28 in offensive rebound percentage last year. Hartenstein was just about the best offensive rebounder in the league, and he was great at cleaning the glass on the defensive end, too.

OKC’s weak rebounding didn’t stop them from winning 57 games and grabbing the No. 1 seed in the West last year. It loved to play five-out last year, and Hartenstein isn’t a shooter, so his addition will change the dynamic of the team. Whether he can play alongside Chet Holmgren or mostly spell him when he goes to the bench, this is still an inspired signing that adds the type of toughness and physicality in the middle that OKC desperately needed. The Thunder look like the bet team in the West on paper heading into the season.

Loser: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets continue to bleed talent from their 2023 championship team with nothing coming back. First it was Bruce Brown and Jeff Green last offseason. Now it’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

KCP was a perfect fit for the Nuggets as a three-and-D wing who could take on the toughest defensive assignments and rip catch-and-shoot threes. He was something close to an elite spot-up shooter and the team’s best defender against speedier guards. Denver could have resigned him, but they were too scared of the second apron — and too cheap! — to do it.

Nikola Jokic is the best player in the world, and he’s squarely in the middle of his prime at 29 years old. These should be the years that Denver is going all-in to win championships, but instead they’re opting to maintain flexibility moving forward. If the Nuggets’ young players like Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Julian Strawther develop, Denver could still be a championship-level team. It’s just a very bold bet to make when you have the three-time MVP and a player who fits so seamlessly around him in Caldwell-Pope.

Winner: Orlando Magic

The Magic were the biggest surprise team in the Eastern Conference last year by winning 47 games. Orlando took a big leap up the standings despite being one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA by both volume and percentage. Signing KCP gives the Magic a veteran floor spacer who can fire up shots around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner without taking the ball out of their hands.

The defensive fit is also wonderful for KCP in Orlando. Jalen Suggs and Caldwell-Pope will form one of the league’s most ferocious defensive backcourts. Add in an elite defender in Jonathan Isaac off the bench, and versatile ones in Franz Wagner, Anthony Black, and Wendell Carter Jr., and the Magic are starting to build a complete team on both ends of the floor.

Replacing Markelle Fultz with KCP is a big upgrade for the Magic.

Winner: Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs entered this offseason with limited flexibility, but still found a way to add talent to a team that just reached the NBA Finals. Dallas created cap space by swapping out Tim Hardaway Jr. for Quentin Grimes, then aggressively targeted free agents who could help their defense and improve their shooting.

Naji Marshall felt like one of the best under-the-radar players on the free agent market, and Dallas got him for three years, $27 million. Marshall will be the team’s de facto Derrick Jones Jr. replacement, and while he’s not as explosive or as quick defensively, he’s a stronger forward with a bit more shooting potency. Speaking of shooting, the Mavs also reeled in Klay Thompson on a three-year $50 million deal. Thompson is still such a great shooter darting around screens, and with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving attracting so much attention defensively, he should be able to run into open shots whenever he wants.

It won’t be easy for Dallas to make another Finals run in the West, but it feels like it improved the roster even after the loss of Jones. That deserves some praise.

Loser: Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference contenders loaded up this summer to chase the champion Celtics. The Sixers added Paul George, the Knicks added OG Anunoby, and the Milwaukee Bucks … well, they haven’t done anything. After Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury sabotaged their playoff run in the first round this past season, Milwaukee’s plan appears to be nothing more than crossing its fingers and hoping a flawed roster can stay healthy and find some answers.

The Bucks looked good under Doc Rivers when the full roster was available. The team never had many avenues to add talent over the summer. Still, Milwaukee doing a whole lot of nothing is disappointing as their key pieces get another year old, and the Knicks and Sixers add premium talent behind then. If the Giannis-Damian Lillard pairing is ever going to work, it has to be this year.

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