Stacking up winners and losers of NBA free agency

The dust has settled in the NBA offseason. Who came out on top — and who found themselves worse off?

From even before the tip-off of free agency, things in the NBA were a bit wacky. The Clippers traded Chris Paul, the Pacers traded Paul George, the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and the Hawks even found a taker for Dwight Howard. Once things got into gear on July 1, we were already looking at a changed league.

MORE: NBA free agency tracker

Now that the dust has settled on NBA free agency, it’s time to assess who came out of the last few weeks on top, and who faltered.

NBA free agency winners

Celtics

Boston got the big score of the offseason by signing Jazz free agent Gordon Hayward, pairing him with his former college coach, Brad Stevens, and putting the Celtics that much closer to the Cavaliers in the East. The Celtics now have a core of Hayward, Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas, as well as some young players who shined in summer league — No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum, last year’s No. 3 pick Jaylen Brown and rookies Semi Ojeleye and Ante Zizic.

They still have, potentially, two top-five picks in next year’s draft, so the Celtics have emerged from this summer with an All-Star caliber core of veterans and a budding group of youngsters behind them.

Vlade Divac

Divac’s first year at the helm in Sacramento was befuddling at times and disappointing throughout. But he turned that around in the wake of the poorly-handled DeMarcus Cousins deal pulled off at the trade deadline.

The Kings came out of the draft with point guard De’Aaron Fox and forwards Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, then made three shrewd signings to add veteran depth, landing Zach Randolph, George Hill and Vince Carter. The West is still loaded and a playoff spot is a tall order, but Divac has restored credibility to his operation.

DEVENEY: Hayward signing closes door on Celtics' past free-agency issues

James Harden

It’s entirely possible that the Harden-Chris Paul experiment will flame out completely, and the potential addition of Carmelo Anthony might not help. But if the Rockets are able to make it work, Harden is due for even more MVP-type numbers. At the very least, he got himself a commitment from his team that has thus far been unmatched: a four-year contract extension worth about $170 million that will bump his total salary over the next six years to $230 million, a league record.

Brett Brown

Brown has always carried a reputation as a good coach who just has not had much to work with, dealing with an asymmetric roster and a mostly injured crew of potential young stars. That is slated to change this year, with the addition of No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz and veteran free agents J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson.

With some health (knock on wood there), Brown could have a group built around Fultz, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, one that is ready to turn the corner on the long rebuild sooner rather than later. There will be some pressure on Brown, but he’ll finally get to show his coaching chops.

MORE: How Harden went from odd man out in OKC to megadeal with Rockets

Sam Presti

A summer after watching star Kevin Durant bolt for Golden State, Presti could have stood pat and simply hoped MVP point guard Russell Westbrook signed a new contract ahead of free agency next summer. Instead, Presti was aggressive, pulling together the deal that brought Paul George to the Thunder. It is a risky move because it’s possible, or even likely, that George will bolt in free agency next summer, and Westbrook might still leave, too. But it is a gutsy move with a high payoff.

Warriors

In the end, for all the improvements made to Western Conference teams — Houston, OKC, Denver, Minnesota, Sacramento — nothing was done that can truly be considered a threat to Golden State’s top-dog status.

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The Warriors kept Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and brought back Zaza Pachulia on a one-year deal. They even arguably got better with the additions of Nick Young and Omri Casspi. The battle for playoff seeding is going to be fascinating, but the top seed is all but decided already, and likely the West’s finals representative, too.

NBA free agency losers

James Dolan

At the risk of piling on, there just has been so little that has gone well for Dolan in the last month. He cut Phil Jackson loose just ahead of the draft, and is now on the hook for $24 million of Jackson’s salary. He was pursuing a quality replacement for Jackson, ex-Cavs GM David Griffin, but Dolan would not cede full control of the front office to Griffin, leading Griffin to pull himself out of consideration for the job — worse, the whole thing leaked into public view.

MORE: What money is left for restricted free agents?

In the meantime, the rudderless Knicks made a four-year, $71 million offer to Tim Hardaway Jr., a player the Knicks once traded away for the since-departed Jerian Grant. Now, in one final nail in a coffin of a summer, the Knicks are in the process of giving away Carmelo Anthony, the guy who represents the most significant transaction of the franchise’s last decade and a half.

Dan Gilbert

Gilbert can probably thank Dolan for outdoing him on the scale of owners who had offseason disasters, but Gilbert’s missteps this summer could have a long-lasting impact. Gilbert bungled the situation with former general manager David Griffin, then bungled his talks with Chauncey Billups, the potential replacement for Griffin, by making him a low-ball offer.

The Cavs personnel moves were limited to the adding of Jose Calderon and Jeff Green, while re-signing Kyle Korver, so there is not much to celebrate there. Worse, LeBron James can be a free agent next summer, and given this summer’s troubles, would anyone blame him if he wanted to leave?

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Caldwell-Pope came into the offseason a restricted free agent who was looking to land something close to a max deal worth more than $100 million. Instead, he saw his rights renounced by a Pistons team fighting off the luxury tax, and saw the team that was the most likely to sign him — the Nets — instead accept a salary dump and draft picks from the Raptors. So Caldwell-Pope is a talented guy without a contract. He will have to scramble to find a short-term deal, and hope that he can try again next year.

MORE: NBA free agency 2017: Grading the biggest offseason signings so far

Pacers

It’s not just that they lost Paul George with only Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in return — it’s that the rest of Indiana’s signings didn’t go much better. They gave a two-year, $21 million contract to Bojan Bogdanovic, who is 28 years old, and added point guards Cory Joseph and Darren Collison to replace Jeff Teague and the waived Monta Ellis. The Pacers are beginning a rebuilding process, but the problem is, they only really have one sure rebuilding block on hand, big man Myles Turner.

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