Ranking five best moves of NBA offseason: 76ers, Knicks close gap on Celtics; Thunder make two key additions (2024)

We're into Day 4 of NBA free agency and plenty of big names have agreed to new deals

By Brad Botkin

1 min read

There aren't many more moving parts to track in the NBA's 2024 free agency period, but some big trades are still on the table. Lauri Markkanen and Brandon Ingram are believed to be immediately available, and DeMar DeRozan is still out there for someone, as all reporting indicates he will not be going back to the Bulls.

So, which teams have made the biggest improvements? We've been keeping tracking everything, but as it stands right now, here are my five best signings -- either via trade or free agency -- of the summer.

1. Mikal Bridges to Knicks

Bridges to the Knicks, for my money, is the best move of the summer so far. He's not quite as good as Paul George, though it's closer than general perception might imagine -- but his fit with New York is so incredible that I can't put anyone else at the top of this list.

New York's defense goes to another level with Bridges and the re-signing of OG Anunoby. Only Oklahoma City, which we'll get to shortly, can be mentioned with the likes of the Celtics and Knicks in terms of their perimeter defensive firepower, which you could argue has become the single most important element of a championship blueprint.

This is to say nothing of Bridges' offense. He's a 20-point scorer who is best suited scoring a little less than that. Overtasked in Brooklyn, Bridges slots perfectly as a space shooter and secondary creator who allows for the clarity of Jalen Brunson's offensive control to continue. The Knicks are a title contender, no question about it.

2. Paul George to 76ers

The reports that Philadelphia was cooling on the prospect of signing George, which have obviously proven to be false, were always ridiculous. Like Bridges with the Knicks, you couldn't dream up a better basketball fit than George with the Sixers.

To be fair, George is one of those players who fits anywhere because of his ability to thrive both on and off the ball, his shooting and his defensive versatility, and with Philadelphia that is an unbelievable weapon to have as, on some nights, your third offensive option. George is not a 1A superstar. He is most valuable as the rarely overqualified wingman who functions fine in a slightly lesser role than his talent could command.

Joel Embiid is the centerpiece. Tyrese Maxey is the electric scorer. George is the soothing breeze of talent who calmly, and willingly, fills in all the gaps. Philadelphia, like New York, is a title contender.

3. Isaiah Hartenstein to Thunder

OKC had one true weakness last season: Rebounding. Hartenstein is one of the best rebounders in the league, particularly on the offensive end. He will get the Thunder a ton of extra possessions, which will always impact playoff games in a significant way as it becomes increasingly difficult to stop today's top scorers the more chances you give them.

The two-big movement is roaring back into style across the league, and OKC will be able to partake with Hartenstein and Chet Holmgren. One, spacing won't be compromised due to Holmgren's shooting, and both these guys are elite rim protectors.

Gook luck getting through OKC's brick wall of perimeter defenders only to meet up with Holmgren or Hartenstein on the other side, and Hartenstein will also thrive as a hub passer with all of OKC's cutting. OKC, like Philly and New York, has taken the leap into legit title contention.

4. Alex Caruso to Thunder

As I noted in the Bridges to the Knicks breakdown, perimeter defensive firepower has arguably become the single-most important element of a championship blueprint.

Firepoweris the operative term. I'm not talking about capable perimeter defenders who can merely hold their own in an array of situations, which, for the longest time was all the rage as switchability became the NBA's biggest buzz word; I'm talking about the defenders who can dictate possessions on their terms, asserting dominance over even the best of scorers in the way Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday and Derrick White did against Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.

Caruso is that type of defender. So is Lu Dort, and Jalen Williams, and Cason Wallace. The Thunder are loaded with these top-shelf defenders now, and Caruso can quietly shoot the 3 decently well, too, which makes him more viable as an offensive support piece that Josh Giddey. Caruso has long been at or near the top of the theoretical wish list of so many contenders, but the Bulls continued to be adamant about competing in their own right. They finally let Caruso go, and it didn't even cost the Thunder a first-round pick. Incredible deal in what has been an incredible summer in OKC.

5. Dejounte Murray to Pelicans

I debated Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Orlando -- a terrific signing -- in this spot, but I'll give the edge to the Pelicans landing Dejounte Murray for sheer talent. I think KCP fits better in Orlando, but Murray can be, if he recommits defensively, a significant boost on both ends for a Pelicans team that is starting to feel like something close to a serious threat in a Western Conference that virtually demands offseason upgrades.

Murray can play off the ball as Zion Williamson does his bulldozer point guard thing; he's a pretty decent shooter off the catch and a more-than-capable creator -- especially against defenses in rotation from the collapses Zion creates. Murray is like another CJ McCollum (it's always nice to have multiple creators on the floor), only with much more defensive upside.

Plus, we still have to see what New Orleans does with Brandon Inrgram. If it brings him back, that's even more firepower, though at that point the Pelicans would probably be oversaturated with midrange pull-up artists. The more likely outcome is a trade, which will bring back even more reinforcements. New Orleans looks good.

CBS Sports was keeping track of the biggest moves, rumors, signings and trades as free agency opened. You can catch up below.

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Joe Ingles joins the Wolves

Veteran forward Joe Ingles is reuniting with former Jazz teammates Mike Conley and Rudy Gobert in Minnesota. Ingles will join the Minnesota Timberwolves on a one-year deal, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

Ingles, who has spent 10 seasons in the NBA, spent the 2023-24 campaign with the Orlando Magic. He scored 4.4 points per game off the bench in 68 games. He gives the Wolves a veteran shooter off the bench after the team lost Kyle Anderson earlier this week.

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LeBron has his new deal

And it comes with a lot of flexibility. James agreed to a two-year, $104M max deal to stay with the Lakers. The second year is a player option, so James can reenter free agency next season if he chooses. He also gets a no-trade clause, joining Buddy Hield as the only players in the league with that perk in their contracts.

LeBron James contract: Lakers star gives himself flexibility with two-year, $104M maximum deal Sam Quinn

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Golden State and Minnesota work a deal out

Kyle Anderson is set to ink a three-year, $27 million pact with the Golden State Warriors as part of a sign-and-trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. As part of the deal, the Warriors are sending cash and a future second-round pick swap.

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Jonathan Isaac and Magic come to terms

It's been a busy day for the Magic, because after bringing back Moe Wagner, Orlando has now agreed to an extension with Isaac, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. It's a reported five-year, $84 million deal that'll ensure the forward stays with the Magic for the long haul.

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Latest on DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan is the biggest non-LeBron free agent left on the board, but he might be facing a cooler-than-anticipated market. The Bulls seem ready to move on, and teams are reportedly hesitant to offer three-year deals to the veteran forward. Adrian Wojnarowski notes there is some interest from the Lakers in DeRozan.

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Suns add to backcourt depth

The Suns have agreed to a deal with veteran guard Monte Morris, per Shams Charania. Phoenix gets a reliable guard to play alongside and/or back up Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.

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LeBron attending Bronny press conference

LeBron James remains unsigned. All indications are he will be back with the Lakers, including this one: LeBron is at the Lakers press conference Tuesday afternoon as they introduce their 2024 draft picks, including Bronny James. The Lakers took Bronny with the 55th overall pick last week.

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Moe Wagner stays in Orlando

The Magic are keeping Moe Wagner. Orlando has agreed to a two-year, $22 million deal with the big man, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Wagner, who has spent six seasons in the NBA, is the brother of Magic star Franz Wagner.

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Steph reacts to Klay's departure

It's the end of an era in Golden State. The Splash Brothers have been broken up as Klay Thompson is heading to Dallas in free agency. Steph Curry reacted to Thompson's departure on Tuesday, posting a message on his Instagram. "Couldn't have imagined a better run," Curry said. Here's more:

Stephen Curry reacts to Klay Thompson's Warriors departure, team plans to retire No. 11 jersey Jack Maloney

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Pacers add former No. 2 pick

James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, is heading to a new team. The center has agreed to a deal with the Indiana Pacers, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Originally drafted by the Warriors, Wiseman was traded to the Pistons at the 2023 deadline. He averaged 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 17 minutes mostly off Detroit's bench last season.

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Klay's dad reacts to Mavs signing

Mychal Thompson, a former Lakers player and current broadcaster for the team, was hoping his son, Klay, would wind up in L.A. as he left Golden State for the first time in his long NBA career. Klay, however, picked the Mavericks and is heading to Dallas as part of a sign-and-trade. Mychal Thompson expressed his disappointment in a radio interview on Tuesday.

"He grew up a Laker fan, he grew up idolzing Kobe Bryant like most kids his age so I just thought it seemed to be the perfect fit for him to come back home," Mychal said. "We had always talked about him playing for the Lakers if he was not a Golden State Warrior. Of course, being a fan of Kobe, he would have loved to have played for the Lakers. But he had a chance, and when the chance came he chose the Mavericks instead."

Here's more:

Klay Thompson's father, a Lakers broadcaster, 'really disappointed' after son picks Mavericks in free agency Jack Maloney

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Lakers to sign James to deal

No, not that one. The Lakers are planning to sign LeBron's son, Bronny, to a guaranteed multi-year contract after drafting him with the 55th overall pick in last week's draft, per Shams Charania.

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Latest on LeBron, Lakers

LeBron James has yet to sign a new contract. He was reportedly willing to take less than his max deal (three years, roughly $160 million) if the Lakers could use that money to bolster the roster elsewhere. Those choices are dwindling with most of the top free agents (including potential Lakers targets Klay Thompson and Jonas Valanciunas) having agreed to deals elsewhere. There is still one option reportedly left on the free agent market, however: DeMar DeRozan. From The Athletic:

"After missing out on Thompson, the Lakers quickly turned their attention to another James target: free-agent wing DeMar DeRozan. Similar to Thompson, DeRozan, 34, is both a potential non-taxpayer midlevel exception candidate and a sign-and-trade candidate for Los Angeles, according to league sources. He is another player whom James would be willing to take less for, league sources confirmed and ESPN first reported."

DeRozan spent the last three seasons with the Bulls. The Southern California native averaged 24 points, 5.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. DeRozan will be 35 at the start of the 2024-25 season.

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Gary Harris staying in Orlando

Harris has agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal to stay with the Magic, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

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The Klay Thompson sign-and-trade is complete

Dallas will send two second-round picks over to Golden State in order to complete the sign-and-trade of Klay Thompson, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Of those picks, one will be Dallas' own 2031 pick, per Wojnarowski.

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Magic make another move

The Magic, who landed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with a $66M deal on Sunday night, have made another move. Orlando has agreed to sign center Goga Bitadze to a three-year deal, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

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Tatum agrees to biggest contract in NBA history

This was an expected move, but Jayson Tatum is the owner of the largest contract in NBA history. Tatum takes that title from his teammate, Jaylen Brown, thanks to a five-year, $314 million supermax extension he agreed to with the champion Celtics.

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Warriors trade rumors

With Klay Thompson on his way out (and likely heading to Dallas), how will the Warriors reload alongside Stephen Curry? They are rumored to have their eye on Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz, a 7-foot All-Star who has been in a handful of rumors so far this summer. Here's more:

NBA trade rumors: Can the Warriors actually pry Lauri Markkanen away from the Jazz? James Herbert

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Latest on Klay Thompson-to-Dallas deal

Sign-and-trade is still being worked through. Thompson intends to join the Mavs as long as Warriors finalize the deal:

And the deal now appears to not have a player option for the third year:

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Happy Holiday

Aaron Holiday is staying in Houston on a two-year, $10 million contract, per Shams Charania. Holiday, brother of Celtics guard Jrue and Nuggets guard Justin, was part of the Rockets rotation last year. Houston is hoping to take a step toward playoff contention next season.

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Melton heads to Warriors

The Warriors are moving on from Klay Thompson (who is likely going to the Mavs), and they've found a way to replace some depth at shooting guard. The Dubs are in agreement with De'Anthony Melton on a $12.8 million deal for the 2024-25 season, per Shams Charania.

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Clippers get Batum back

Veteran forward Nico Batum is heading back to the Clippers. Batum spent almost all of last season with the 76ers after he was traded to Philly by.. the Clippers. Well, Paul George is now in Philly. James Harden is staying in L.A., and Batum is heading back to the team that traded him eight months ago.

He's getting a two-year deal worth $9.6M, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

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Potential snag in Klay deal

So Klay Thompson intends to sign a three-year, $50 million deal that would land in him Dallas. However, it would need to be part of a sign-and-trade. Reports indicate the Charlotte Hornets would join a potential deal with the Mavs and Warriors, but Golden State has yet to finalize the deal. We'll keep an eye on this.

Klay Thompson to join Mavericks on three-year, $50 million deal after Warriors complete trade, per report Sam Quinn

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Klay heads to Dallas

Warriors legend Klay Thompson is heading to the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks. The Splash Brother will leave Step Curry and Golden State behind after 13 years and four titles. He's getting a three-year, $50M deal. It's part of a sign-and-trade that also includes the Charlotte Hornets. More details:

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In non-free agency news...

The Boston Celtics are about to be sold. Owner Wyc Grousbeck announced his intentions to sell his majority stake in the team less than one month after winning the 2024 NBA title. A sale is expected to be completed in the coming months, but Grousbeck intends to remain the team's owner until the sale is completely finalized in 2028. Here's more:

Celtics sale: Owner Wyc Grousbeck planning to sell after 2024 NBA title, team valued at nearly $5 billion Sam Quinn

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Champs extend White

The Boston Celtics are keeping their core intact. They agreed to a four-year extension with Derrick White for four years and $125.9M. White was a key part of the Celtics' championship run. He scored 15.2 points and had 5.2 assists per game. He's been a huge part of the Celtics rotation since Boston acquired him at the 2022 trade deadline.

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Bucks make the Wright move

The Milwaukee Bucks have made their first move of free agency. They are signing veteran guard Delon Wright to a $3.3 million deal, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Wright spent last season with the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards, averaging 4.5 points per game.

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Would you like some Western Conference center news?

I sure hope so. Because Drew Eubanks is heading from the Suns to the Jazz on a two-year, $10 million deal.

Elsewhere, the Wolves are bringing back Luka Garza on a two-year deal.

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Ranking five best moves of NBA offseason: 76ers, Knicks close gap on Celtics; Thunder make two key additions (8)

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Ranking five best moves of NBA offseason: 76ers, Knicks close gap on Celtics; Thunder make two key additions (2024)
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