Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, right, reacts after scoring a 3-point basket in front of Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Free Agency: Standout Teams Across the NBA

Following the NBA Draft on June 22, the offseason officially tipped off. Teams across the league began to set their sights on players that could assist with their mission, whether that mission is a ring or a high draft pick. During this moratorium period of NBA free agency, four teams stood out — two that are making an obvious championship push and two that appear to be entering a rebuild stage.

Building Up

Phoenix Suns

Last year, Phoenix was a legitimate contender. With a core of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, the Suns made it to the Western Conference semifinals, where they took two games from Denver. This was the best performance of any of Denver’s opponents during the playoffs.

Although they fell short, the Suns’ front office chose to add pieces instead of changing the core. Their blockbuster trade of this free agency period was adding star shooting guard Bradley Beal from the Wizards.

Along with Beal, the Suns were able to add Eric Gordon, another shooter who can put up points in bunches. Lastly, they were able to retain some of their depth, keeping role players Damion Lee and Josh Okogie.

While the roster is promising, the chemistry between these players remains to be seen. Gordon and Beal will likely have to facilitate a bit more than they are used to.

Los Angeles Lakers

Although the Lakers entered the 2023 playoffs as a seven seed, they had the talent to be seeded much higher. LeBron James is not getting any younger, but he is still a prolific player and leader at 38. Also, when he stays healthy, Anthony Davis is one of the best scoring centers in the NBA.

This offseason, the Lakers needed to ensure they had young talent and depth in their surrounding cast. They did so by retaining Rui Hachimura, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell, all of whom are impact players when they are at their best. They also added two dynamic guards to their roster in Cam Reddish and Gabe Vincent.

The talent on this new depth chart leaves the Lakers with very few holes. If they are able to require another center to come off the bench, they will be a serious threat in the West.

Tearing Down

Charlotte Hornets

While other teams were having loads of fun signing players who were going to help their cause, the Hornets chose to remain on the bench. Their only notable offseason decision was to extend point guard LaMelo Ball.

Other than that, the front office seems to have disregarded fans’ cries for the team to build around him. It appears they are setting up to rebuild in 2024.

Washington Wizards

In the 2022-2023 season, Washington ended as the 12 seed in the Eastern Conference. There appeared to be no clear direction for the team to go during free agency.

The direction the front office chose was to trade away the franchise shooting guard and build a a roster around a 24-year-old ball handler: Jordan Poole. They also retained Kyle Kuzma to create a young duo with a high ceiling.

The youth of this team makes it evident the team is looking ahead and expecting results to come a few years down the road. In the meantime, they may be looking for the right puzzle pieces in the upcoming draft classes.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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