NBA free agency was fast and predictable outside of one big point guard exchange for the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls' mortgaging chunks of the future to build something now, and the annual facelift for the Los Angeles Lakers of LeBron James.
Let's take stock!
Winner: the Brooklyn Nets
The Lakers made splashier moves -- discussed in depth on the Lowe Post podcast -- but the Nets, pending good health, enter next season as undisputed favorites.
Losing Jeff Green's versatility hurt, but the Nets recovered well. Blake Griffin is a nice fit on both ends. They retained Bruce Brown on the one-year qualifying offer -- a potential win for both player and team, but more likely team -- and nabbed a bigger, meaner version of Brown in James Johnson.
They can use Johnson just as they do Brown: as the screen-setter and nominal "center" in super-spacing lineups. Johnson doesn't have Brown's pogo-stick floater, but he has more experience in that role -- and he's a better playmaker, though prone to wildness. Johnson meshes with Brooklyn's switch-everything scheme on defense.
Then came Patty Mills, slipping into Green's salary slot. Mills is a beloved veteran. He can play next to Brooklyn's stars as a turbo-charged roving sharpshooter (seriously, Mills scampers like he has a battery pack attached to him), and assume backup point guard duties. (That need may never arise -- James Harden runs second units -- but Mills gives head coach Steve Nash leeway to experiment, and cover for any injury to Harden or Kyrie Irving.)
The capper: retaining Kevin Durant on an extension.
The Nets are never going to be a great defensive team, and maybe not even a good one. But over 12 playoff games, they flashed a good-enough gear.
The Lakers' defense is going to slip a little. Los Angeles faces real questions about how its three stars complement one another on offense, though the Lakers will solve a lot of those questions by go time. The Nets face no such questions. The "only one ball!" pearl-clutching was always overblown given the collective shooting and playmaking of Durant, Irving, and Harden.
Durant has staked an emphatic claim as James' true equal. You can't assume the Lakers have an advantage at the No. 1 spot anymore.
If every team is healthy, the 2022 title is Brooklyn's to lose.