Winners and Losers from NBA Free Agency: Timberwolves set to take another leap

After the first wave of free agency, several teams across the league have emerged as clear winners and losers.
Karl-Anthony Towns
Karl-Anthony Towns / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages

The first and most important part of the NBA free agency period has now passed. After the draft, several teams were still left with big roster needs, and multiple big-name free agents were waiting to sign lucrative deals with new teams. For the Minnesota Timberwolves, the name of the game was consistency.

After a wildly successful year, the Wolves were looking to retain most of their roster and retool only where necessary. They achieved that by only losing one of their big-minutes players in Kyle Anderson, effectively replacing him with Joe Ingles.

But Minnesota's competition around the Western Conference leveled up as well, and the competition only continues to grow. Through the first week and a half, here are the biggest winners and losers from free agency so far.

Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

In an era of first and second aprons and harsh financial penalties for high-spending teams that make roster construction difficult, what the Oklahoma City Thunder have pulled off this summer is nothing short of incredible. Of course, the trade with the Bulls to acquire Alex Caruso was a massive fleece. Chicago seemed determined to give up arguably their best player for pennies on the dollar.

But then their biggest splash came after the free agency period began when they signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a three-year, $87 million deal. The top seed in the West from last season filled one of their biggest needs while still remaining below the second apron. The Thunder are quickly becoming one of the top blueprints for success under these new, restrictive spending guidelines.

Loser: Denver Nuggets

The 2023 NBA champions have been far from successful since free agency began. They failed to make the Western Conference Finals with a fully healthy squad for the first time since 2019, and it was already clear Nikola Jokic could use another high-level piece next to him.

But instead of making a swing for the fences, the Nuggets let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leave to Orlando while not making any moves of their own. As the West gets stronger, Denver is making it harder on themselves to get back to the biggest stage in basketball.

Winner: Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers are the other obvious biggest winner of free agency after the Thunder thus far. We all saw what kind of level Philadelphia was able to reach with a fully healthy squad last year, and it was once again the huge workload placed on Joel Embiid that led to his ultimate injury and a quick exit in the playoffs.

Now, with Paul George playing next to Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, the 76ers will have a lot more firepower to get through the regular season gauntlet. By all accounts, they should be considered the second-best team in the East behind Boston next season.

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers' story this offseason has been somewhat similar to the Nuggets' - they are a team clearly in need of more, and their front office has not given them anything to work with. The biggest difference being, Denver was still a top-level contender this past season, while the Lakers were struggling just to make the playoffs.

It is hard to imagine this is how LeBron James wanted his final few years in the NBA to go. If this cycle continues for Lakers' management, it is not hard to envision them falling out of the West playoff race entirely next season.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves

No, the Timberwolves have not made any big splashes in free agency, but that is largely what was expected. For Minnesota to land a big name like a Lauri Markkanen, it would have required them moving one of their large contracts like Karl-Anthony Towns. Tim Connelly and the front office have made it clear that is not their intention for this offseason.

As such, the Wolves have succeeded in free agency simply by keeping all their main guys, minus Kyle Anderson of course. This is a group that won 56 games last season, and will seek to carry over that roster consistency into next season. Keeping around a core of guys that did not win a championship seems to be a lost art in the NBA these days, and Minnesota is set up to achieve even more than they did last season.