NBA free agency is supposed to be a time of hope and optimism. Even adding a couple decent role players to a team that continues driving down a dead-end road is something to get a little bit excited about, hypothetically speaking. Save the disdain for your team’s first four-game losing streak. It’s all positive vibes in July.
Almost all of the league’s biggest free agents are spoken for at this point. Cap space has been spent and rosters have been reshuffled. As the league waits to see how trade demands from Damian Lillard and James Harden eventually play out, it remains a good time to review the immediate aftermath of the free agent frenzy.
Not every deal is a winner for teams around the league. Here are six free agent signings organizations might one day regret. Check out our live free agency tracker, and winners and losers for more coverage on league happenings over the last week.
One disclaimer: these are only bad deals from the team perspective. Congrats and kudos to every player on this list for landing the bag they worked so hard for.
Dillon Brooks to Houston Rockets on four-year, $80 million deal
Brooks is legitimately tremendous on the defensive end — with Second-Team All-Defense honors this past season to show for it. Of course, Brooks’ wing stopper ability is just one part of what he brings to the table, and the rest of it is pretty ugly.
Brooks takes a lot of shots, and he doesn’t make many of them. He remains a rough outside shooter who has hit just 32.1 percent of his threes over the last two seasons combined. Brooks is also one of the league’s most annoying players: he started beef with LeBron James, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Donovan Mitchell just last season, and didn’t come out looking good in any of those encounters.
It’s somewhat understandable when a player uses a great playoff run to land a huge bag in free agency, but Brooks was so bad in Memphis’ first round series loss to the Lakers that the team issued a statement that they wouldn’t be re-signing him. Brooks does bring some much needed defensive intensity to the Rockets, but his non-stop antics and shooting struggles make this look like a major overpay.
Jerami Grant to Portland Trail Blazers for five years, $160 million
Damian Lillard’s dream offseason with the Blazers reportedly included re-signing Jerami Grant, who was his best teammate last year. Portland locked in Grant for $160 million over five years in the opening day of free agency. Less than 24 hours later, Lillard asked for a trade. Whoops!
Grant — who turns 30 years old in March — doesn’t fit the Blazers’ timeline in the post-Dame era. There’s no doubt Grant is a solid player on both ends of the floor, but it’s hard to imagine there’s another team out there who will be happy paying him an average annual salary of $32 million, even in a rising salary cap. This contract feels very similar to the deal Jusuf Nurkic signed last year for four years, $70 million that also immediately felt like an overpay.
Good for Grant for landing this type of money, though. I am old enough to remember when his college coach Jim Boeheim shamed him for entering the NBA draft. I remember when he was criticized for leaving the Denver Nuggets to take a much bigger role on a much worse Detroit Pistons team after the bubble. Getting his points per game up in Detroit landed him an Olympic gold medal and now a $160 million contract.
Reggie Jackson to Denver Nuggets for two years, $10.3 million with player option
The Nuggets picked up Reggie Jackson in Feb. after he was bought out by the Hornets following the trade deadline (the Clippers traded him for Mason Plumlee). Denver went on to win the 2023 NBA championship, but Jackson wasn’t in the rotation at all. He played only 18 total minutes in the playoffs.
Denver has rotation minutes to fill in the backcourt next season after Bruce Brown signed with the Indiana Pacers, but the team apparently didn’t trust Jackson enough to play a role last season, so it seems weird to commit to him now. Denver couldn’t get a player option on the second year of that deal? Who else was giving Jackson $10 million guaranteed after he just got mothballed in the playoffs?
Rui Hachimura to Los Angeles Lakers on three-year, $51 million deal
Hachimura picked a great time to have the best stretch of his NBA career. He was one of the breakout stars of the Lakers’ surprising run to the Western Conference Finals, where he hit 48.7 percent of his threes, and had four different 20+ point scoring outbursts during the playoffs.
Hachimura’s hot streak sure seemed like it came out of nowhere. He shot 29.6 percent from three and only had one 20+ point scoring game in the 33 regular season games he played with the Lakers after coming over in a midseason trade with the Wizards. Rui is a talent shot-maker, and his size helps him survive defensively at 6’8, 230 pounds. He’ll be worth the money for the Lakers if he keeps shooting as efficiently from three as he did in the playoffs, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Joe Ingles to Orlando Magic on two-year, $22 million deal
The Magic needed shooting, and they landed a shooter in free agency in Joe Ingles. But at $22 million, the addition feels like a significant overpay given how little Ingles produced last year on Milwaukee as he worked his way back from ACL surgery.
What’s even more disappointing is that Orlando could have opened max cap space this summer to add a real piece to a young, rising team in the Eastern Conference. Instead, all they did was sign Ingles, who turns 36 years old in Oct. There’s value in adding a veteran presence who can space the floor around Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, but I’m not sure if anyone thought Ingles was going to get a $22 million deal this offseason. The Magic should have dared to dream bigger.
Max Strus to Cleveland Cavaliers for four years, $63 million
I actually really like what the Cavs did this offseason bringing in wing shooters in Max Strus and Georges Niang. Both can really space the floor with high volume, highly accurate shooting around Donovan Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen. Cleveland had nothing on the wing last season, so adding a couple of ready and willing shooters will help.
Still, almost $16 million per year for Strus? It’s surprising. He’s going to need to shoot a lot better than his 31.9 percent clip from deep during Miami’s run to the NBA Finals this past season.