NBA free agency 2023: Reaction to the biggest signings of the summer

Christian Wood agreed to a two-year, minimum deal with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sept. 6. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File

Which players are sticking with their current teams and which stars are on the move in NBA free agency?

Many players are staying put, headlined by Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis, who signed a three-year, $186 million maximum contract extension Friday. Other notable players sticking with their home team are Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton, Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball and Portland Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant.

Among players finding new homes: forward Christian Wood, guard Fred VanVleet (Houston Rockets), forward Bruce Brown (Indiana Pacers) and guard Gabe Vincent (Lakers).

ESPN insider Kevin Pelton reacts to the latest free agency signings and analyzes what free agency means for the league this summer.

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Los Angeles Lakers


Friday was the first day Davis was eligible to sign an extension with the Lakers, coming at the same point in the offseason as the extension he previously signed coming off the 2020 championship. (Because of the bubble-extended season, that deal came through in December, but the NBA's system treated it as an equivalent to Aug. 4 under the normal offseason calendar.)

Although this is the largest extension seen in the NBA on a per-year basis, it could have been even more lucrative if not for an unusual decision Davis made in 2020. Instead of having the final year of his contract (2024-25) be a player option, Davis instead made it an early termination option (ETO). Unlike an option, which can be declined in conjunction with an extension, Davis had to stick with his existing $43.2 million salary for 2024-25.

Had Davis instead played out the upcoming season and exercised the ETO, he could have re-signed with the Lakers for up to five years and a potential $303 million next summer. Even in a worst-case scenario in which the NBA's salary cap did not increase at all, Davis would still have made more money in 2024-25 by playing out his contract, since the current maximum for players like him with 10-plus years of experience is $47.6 million.

As things played out, the larger raise players can get via extensions under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement (up to 40% instead of the previous 20%) ensures Davis' salary will go up to the max when this extension kicks in ahead of the 2025-26 season. The estimated $186 million value is based on full 10% growth each of the next two years.

From the Lakers' perspective, extending Davis now was surely the preferable path. Not only do they have him under contract at a lower number in 2024-25, when LeBron James could become an unrestricted free agent by declining his $51.4 million player option, the deal covers one less year than Davis could have gotten as a free agent next summer.

Given Davis will turn 36 during 2028-29, the last season of a potential five-year contract as a free agent, avoiding committing nearly $70 million to him at that point is a win. In the wake of Austin Reaves re-signing as a restricted free agent, this is the second time this offseason the Lakers have benefited from a player taking the security of signing a long-term deal rather than waiting to maximize potential earnings.

To some degree, that's surely a benefit of being the Lakers, a glamour team in a desirable market that Davis chose as his destination when he requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. Still, give the Lakers credit for immediately stepping up with the largest possible offer in both cases to lock in a deal rather than trying to get cute.

Surely, Davis' history of injuries played a factor in his decision to extend now rather than waiting for free agency next summer. As was the case in 2020, he's extending near the peak of his value, rather than after the injury-plagued regular seasons that came in between. Given how Davis can control games with his defense, particularly in the playoffs, he likely would have been looking at a max deal at any point in that span. Still, taking the extension is the safer play even if it means giving up a few million in possible 2024-25 salary.

Extending Davis just about wraps up a busy offseason for the Lakers, who have continued moving toward putting younger talent around their veteran stars. The Lakers do have one spot remaining on their roster to fill, while they could also pursue an extension with forward Jarred Vanderbilt entering the final season of his contract.

Arguably the best free agent remaining on the market in early September, Wood played 25.9 MPG last season for the Dallas Mavericks and averaged 16.6 PPG and 7.3 RPG but was forced to settle for a deal at the veteran's minimum because of concerns about his defense and limited experience on winning teams.

After the Mavericks dealt for Wood last summer in a deal that sent a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets, albeit partially as compensation for the contracts Dallas sent back, coach Jason Kidd treated his new big man with skepticism. Kidd was reluctant to start Wood even when the team's other new center, JaVale McGee -- recently waived with two years remaining on his contract -- washed out of the rotation.

Coming off the bench for 50 of his 67 games, Wood remained as productive as ever, putting up 23.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, similar marks to his 2020-21 season with the Houston Rockets where Wood averaged 32.3 MPG on the league's worst team, enabling him to score 21.0 PPG.

Wood's output is a product of efficiency as much as volume. He made 59% of his 2s and 38% of his 3s last season, posting a .624 true shooting percentage that ranked No. 12 among the 60 players who had a usage rate of 25% of their team's plays or higher. As a result, Wood's 20.4 PER ranks 30th among active players with at least 200 career games, per Stathead.com.

By contrast, Wood's team impact statistics tell a different story. The Mavericks' net rating was 2.3 points per 100 possessions worse with Wood on the court last season, according to NBA Advanced Stats, largely because their defensive rating was 3.1 points per 100 possessions higher. The three-year version of NBAshotcharts.com's luck-adjusted RAPM assessed his impact over that span as 1.3 points per 100 possessions worse than average.

It's certainly not entirely Wood's fault he's never played regularly for a good team or appeared in a playoff game. He first got an extended opportunity with the 2019-20 Detroit Pistons, then joined the Rockets via sign-and-trade expecting to play with James Harden only for Harden to immediately request a trade and send Houston into a rebuild. Wood wasn't the biggest reason Dallas disappointed last season.

Still, this is an important opportunity for Wood to prove he can contribute to a winning team. It will be interesting to see exactly how Lakers coach Darvin Ham uses Wood, who should be most valuable filling minutes during the regular season. At full strength, the Lakers have Wood, fellow newcomer Jaxson Hayes and incumbent rotation players Anthony Davis, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt in the frontcourt. Not all of those players will be able to see rotation minutes.

Over the course of the season, however, we can expect Davis to miss time and other injuries to thin the team's depth. At the minimum, Wood is undoubtedly a great value for that purpose alone. It still may take some managing from Ham to keep him happy with his role when the Lakers are healthy, particularly if they reach the postseason that way. In a playoff setting, Wood's difficulty protecting the rim as a center and chasing around power forwards on the perimeter would be magnified.

The interesting wrinkle here is the Lakers' tax situation. Signing any player to fill their required 14th roster spot would have pushed the Lakers into the tax, but because Wood got a two-year deal with a player option for 2024-25, he counts at his full $2.7 million salary rather than the $2 million hit for players on one-year deals at the minimum. (The Lakers did the same thing with Hayes and fellow minimum signing Cam Reddish, but with a more modest impact because they're less experienced than Wood.)

If things don't work out with Wood, the Lakers would be heavily incentivized to move him before the trade deadline without taking back salary in return, allowing them to fill out the roster with a prorated minimum contract and duck the tax. This year's savings would be marginal, but if the Lakers could avoid paying the tax two years in a row, they'd no longer be subject to the higher repeater rate by 2025-26.

Philadelphia 76ers


When the Sixers decided Sunday night to match the Jazz's offer sheet for Reed, their backup center, it was the first contract they've signed for more than the veteran's minimum this summer. That's meaningful in terms of both Philadelphia's situation this season with regard to the luxury tax and the team's possible cap space next summer.

Based on reporting by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that the second and third years of Reed's contract become guaranteed if his team reaches the conference semifinals, I couldn't help but think of Steve Hutchinson.

For those of you who aren't avid followers of the NFL in general or the Seattle Seahawks in particular, Hutchinson was a future Hall of Fame guard on the Seahawks team that reached the Super Bowl in 2006 before signing an offer sheet with the Minnesota Vikings that included a clause guaranteeing the entire deal -- atypical for NFL contracts -- if Hutchinson was not the team's highest-paid offensive lineman.

That clause had no impact for the Vikings but would have forced the Seahawks to either trade fellow Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones (arguably the team's most valuable player) or guarantee Hutchinson's deal. After a special master ruled the clause legal, the Seahawks declined to match the offer sheet.

Unlike the NFL's rules at the time, the NBA is much more restrictive about the potential terms of an offer sheet. However, they don't limit guarantee language, a loophole Utah utilized here. Naturally, the 76ers are far more likely to reach the conference semifinals -- having done so five times in the past six years -- than the building Jazz.

Guaranteeing Reed a salary in the $8 million range might not be the worst thing, the reason Utah was comfortable offering this deal in the first place. A favorite of statistical models entering the draft, Reed has been productive in a reserve role in Philadelphia and had back-to-back double-doubles starting in place of the injured Joel Embiid in last year's playoffs. Still just 24, Reed has room for continued development.

All of those factors led the Sixers to match the offer sheet, taking them $6.6 million over the luxury tax line, according to ESPN's Bobby Marks, with 13 players under guaranteed contract -- one shy of the minimum 14.

Already, Philadelphia saw reserves Jalen McDaniels (Toronto Raptors), Shake Milton (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Georges Niang (Cleveland Cavaliers) depart for more lucrative multiyear offers than the 76ers were willing to make. Philadelphia has signed Bamba and Beverley to minimum-salary deals.

Both additions look like good values. Beverley showed during his late-season stint with the Chicago Bulls that he can still be a difference-maker after an underwhelming half-season with the Los Angeles Lakers. That's particularly true if his shooting bounces back. A career 37% 3-point shooter, Beverley has hit just 34% the past two seasons and seen his free throw shooting decline as well.

This time a year ago, Bamba commanded a $10.3 million salary to re-sign with the Orlando Magic on a deal with a non-guaranteed second season. He lost his role in the Orlando rotation to Mo Wagner and was subsequently traded to the Lakers for Beverley. Still just 25, Bamba has developed into a capable 3-point shooter (38% the last two seasons) who also protects the rim.

The issue for the Sixers right now is their roster looks heavier on the guard and center spots than at forward, where Danuel House Jr. is the only holdover behind starters Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker. We may see more three-guard lineups from Philadelphia and perhaps Bamba and Reed could play together as a backup front line thanks to Bamba's shooting.

Hanging over everything is what happens with James Harden's reported trade request. A Harden trade has the potential to reorient the roster with more big wings, albeit at the expense of a premier playmaker. Stay tuned.

The Green deal brings him back to Philadelphia, where he started all 20 playoff games he played in 2021 and 2022. However, at age 36, Green is likely coming back in a role where his leadership will be more valuable than his on-court contributions.

Green's 2022 playoff run concluded with an ACL tear early in the Sixers' series-ending loss to the Miami Heat. Although Green was able to return to the court less than nine months later, one of the quickest comebacks from an ACL tear in recent NBA history, he wasn't the same player.

The Memphis Grizzlies, who had acquired Green in an offseason trade, moved him shortly thereafter at the deadline and Green landed with the Cleveland Cavaliers following a buyout. Despite Cleveland badly needing a player in Green's 3-and-D mold, he played just 95 minutes during the regular season for the Cavaliers and was ineffective in their first-round playoff loss.

We did still see Green shoot the ball well during the regular season, making 43% of his 3s on a 37-shot sample. It's possible Green will be more mobile defensively after a full offseason, but his age would be a concern in terms of declining athleticism even without the injury.

If Green proves capable of contributing, great. If not, Philadelphia is well-stocked on the wing and can benefit from Green's experience winning championships with three teams -- including one playing for new 76ers coach Nick Nurse with the Toronto Raptors.

Charlotte Hornets


  • Agreed to re-sign forward P.J. Washington to a reported three-year, $48 million contract

  • Agreed to a reported five-year extension with guard LaMelo Ball

  • Forward Miles Bridges signed one-year, $7.9 million qualifying offer