The Best Under-The-Radar Moves At The Start Of NBA Free Agency

We’re about a week into the start of the NBA’s free agency period, and while there’s still business that can (and should) be done, a number of big moves have already been sorted out. Those (like Paul George going to the Sixers) have gotten the lion’s share of the attention, but teams build out their rosters by making moves on the margins to shore up their weaknesses.

To one extent or another, teams have spent the first week of the new league calendar doing just that, and we wanted to highlight the lesser-heralded moves that deserve as much attention as the big swings we’ve seen. None of these players will (in all likelihood) turn into star additions, but it’s very easy to see how they positively impact winning.

Kyle Anderson (3 years, $27 million), Buddy Hield (2 years, $21 million), and De’Anthony Melton (1 year, $12.8 million) to the Warriors

Losing Klay Thompson obviously hurts the Warriors, but they did a solid job bringing in a trio of really nice players to round out their rotation. Hield’s shooting is a gigantic asset for a team that wants to let it fly from deep, Anderson is a steady hand off the bench whose passing should fit right into Steve Kerr’s system, and Melton is one of the best 3-and-D guards in the league, assuming he’s able to get past the back issues that plagued him last year. Golden State’s days of being a no-doubt championship contender are probably done, but between these moves, a presumed step forward for some of their promising young guys, Steph Curry being Steph Curry, and the hope that Draymond Green can stay on the court, the team has positioned itself nicely to be in the playoff hunt in the Western Conference next year.

Naji Marshall (3 years, $27 million) to the Mavs

The Mavericks bringing in Klay Thompson got a ton of attention, but losing Derrick Jones Jr. was gigantic, as the team did a great job turning him into their hyper-athletic wing stopper last year. Their bet is that Naji Marshall, who started his career as a member of the Pelicans, can fill that role while providing a bit more shooting than Jones did — Marshall has never been a super high-volume shooter, but he took a real leap in efficiency last year, shooting 38.7 percent from three on 2.3 attempts per game last year, and if he can continue to shoot them at that kind of clip on a bit higher volume, he’s going to be a steal at $9 million a year. Regardless, his ability to defend and rebound is going to get him on the floor, and should fit nicely alongside everyone else in Dallas.

Kelly Oubre (2 years, $16.3 million) to the Sixers

Oubre’s long had the reputation of being a volume scorer whose numbers didn’t match his impact on winning. And yet, last season in Philadelphia, he really blossomed into a useful member of Nick Nurse’s starting lineup. He really competed on defense, and while he wasn’t great from three, he gave the Sixers some rebounding and a willingness to attack the rim that fit well alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. With Paul George in town to replace Tobias Harris, the amount he’ll need to do will probably go down, but Philly entered this offseason needing to build out its roster, and Oubre on a relatively cheap deal is a good way of doing that.

Isaiah Joe (4 years, $48 million) and Aaron Wiggins (5 years, $47 million) to the Thunder

It wasn’t as splashy as trading for Alex Caruso or signing Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency, but Oklahoma City quietly took care of business with two of their better developmental stories. Joe is flat out one of the best shooters in the NBA, and made his way into the starting lineup over the recently-traded Josh Giddey in the final games of their playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Wiggins has turned into a nice member of their army of switchy wings on the perimeter, and while he picks his spots offensively, when he tries to put the ball through the rim, it usually goes in. They might be the eighth and ninth guys in the rotation for the Thunder, but boy, having two rock solid NBA players that far down your rotation is one heck of a luxury.

Jonathan Isaac (5 years, $84 million) to the Magic

No matter how you slice it, Isaac is on the short list for the best defensive players on earth. When he is healthy and on the floor, Orlando’s defense goes from excellent to absolutely terrifying, while he had his best year from the field during the 2023-24 campaign — he shot 51 percent from the field and 59.8 percent on twos. Yes, his injury history is a gigantic concern, and he absolutely has to build on what he did offensively last season, but the Magic now have him under contract for the next five years at a nice AAV before they’re going to start paying their core dudes (Franz Wagner, Jalen Suggs, Paolo Banchero). Again, so much of it comes down to staying healthy, but Orlando did a good job here.

Taurean Prince (1 year, $2.9 million) and Delon Wright (1 year, $3.3 million) to the Bucks

Milwaukee’s hands are tied due to their financial situation, but all things considered, they did a respectable job bringing in two guys who are good fits alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Neither Wright nor Prince are the kinds of players who will immediately fix every single problem, but price can provide more size and shooting on the wing (which the Bucks desperately need), while Wright is a steady hand in the backcourt who should be able to come off the bench and keep things moving — and if he’s reinvigorated after his spells in Washington and Miami, this could end up being an incredible value signing. The Bucks really needed to build their rotation out a bit, and both of these players should help do that.

Leave a Reply