NBA free agency 2024: Grading the most interesting moves, including the 76ers' big splashes

More than 36 hours have passed since the NBA free agency negotiating window opened, and we've already seen future Hall of Famers Paul George, Chris Paul and Klay Thompson switch teams.

Let’s grade some of the most interesting acquisitions in free agency, baking in elements such as contract, age, presumed fit and overall organizational direction.

Contract: 3 years, $50 million
Presumed role: Starter

In the NBA Finals, it became unmistakably clear the Mavericks needed a shot-maker who isn't Luka Dončić or Kyrie Irving.

Josh Green couldn't get it done. Nor could Tim Hardaway Jr. So the Mavericks decided to go out and acquire the second-best shooter of all time.

Thompson clearly isn't who he used to be, nor will he ever return to All-NBA status, but the man can still shoot the heck out of a basketball, which seems kind of important in the year 2024.

The Mavericks are banking that the importance of shooting doesn't go away next season. They might be onto something.
Grade: A-

Contract: 2 years, $70 million
Presumed role: Star(ter)?

Harden is getting up there in age and has enough mileage to make a ’65 Mustang blush.

That's why $35 million per year for him, at first glance, seems a little steep. After all, his physical decline initiated some time ago, and it's clear it's affected his consistency.

However, a two-year contract in the NBA is viewed as short, and this allows the Clippers to get the most out of him in the time he's got left as a high-end starter.
Grade: B+

Contract: 5 years, $90 million
Presume role: Starter

Say what you will about the Bulls – and a lot can be said – but they flat-out know how to get their restricted free agents back at a good price point.

Williams is a 6-foot-8 wing/big who can defend multiple positions and hit the 3-ball at a high rate, which most teams covet. A rookie contract that came and went without a breakout likely soured some teams on him, but at 22 there's time for Williams to take a leap.

For what the Bulls are paying – $18 million per year – they've, at the very least, secured a stable two-way forward for the next half decade.
Grade: A-

Contract: 4 years, $212 million
Presumed role: Star

There's no getting around the fact that George just signed for an almost obscene amount of money for a player already 34 years old.

Here's the thing about that: In this specific case, money doesn't matter. Lord knows how little is left of Joel Embiid's prime, and the Sixers used cap space to sign George, relinquishing no assets to get him.

As one of the best off-ball scorers of his generation, George projects as nothing short of a tremendous fit in an offense featuring Embiid and the newly re-signed Tyrese Maxey.
Grade: A

Contract: 5 years, $204 million
Presumed role: Star

While on the subject of the Sixers, it's impossible to not talk about Maxey, who was directly the reason for their great summer.

The All-Star could have demanded a year ago that the Sixers sign him to an immediate extension, but he and the 76ers saw the logic of keeping his cap hold low, allowing Philadelphia to chase George this summer.

Maxey is bound to get better after winning the Most Improved Player Award, and a max contract for a player of his caliber is an immediate victory now and in the long-term.
Grade: A+

Contract: 3 years, $87 million
Presumed role: Starter

Three things can be true at the same time: Hartenstein is immensely valuable on a basketball court, he'll help the Thunder dominate in non-Chet Holmgren minutes, and this might still have been an overreaction.

The Thunder's defense did need some sharpening, but it was their lack of consistent offensive creation that cost them dearly in the playoffs.

With Hartenstein in place, Holmgren will slide down to the four, where you have to wonder if that optimizes his strengths.

All that said, Hartenstein is so brilliant, it's impossible to not like the addition in a vacuum.
Grade: B

Contract: 3 years, $66 million
Presumed role: Starter

Leaving a starting role on a team for which he helped win a championship just a year ago takes both guts and a lot of money.

Caldwell-Pope assuredly got the latter and will now step into the role of starting two guard for Orlando, providing veteran leadership and hoping to see the young Magic level up while he's cashing some heavy checks.

Despite what could be viewed as an overpay, Caldwell-Pope is at least as clean a fit for Orlando as you can find, particularly as a floor-spacer and defender.
Grade: B-

Contract: 4 years, $60 million
Presumed role: Rotation

The Toppin contract is endlessly fascinating. Do you dock the Pacers for spending $60 million on a player who won't start for them? Do you give them extra credit for locking up a tremendous player on a value deal? Do you do both?

Toppin plays a huge role in Indiana's fast-paced offense, as he's not just an athletic rim-runner but also a reliable outside shooter.

With Jalen Smith now in Chicago, odds are good that Toppin will see an increase in minutes, making it much easier to like this deal.
Grade: A-

Contract: 2 years, $52 million
Presumed role: Starter

Harris was always underappreciated as a Sixer due to his $180 million contract.

While not as grotesquely overpaid, it's difficult to see whom the Pistons were negotiating with for his services and why they decided he was worth this much.

He'll help Detroit win some games they probably shouldn't be winning, and he's a solid locker room guy, but this feels ... desperate.
Grade: C

Contract: 1 year, $11 million
Presumed role: Starter/mentor

If there ever was a player in need of a point guard, it's Victor Wembanyama. As it turned out, the Spurs went out and got him one of the best to ever do it.

Paul, who is a pick-and-roll maestro, will have an immense effect on Wembanyama next season, which is really what this short-term marriage is all about.

For Paul, he'll have every chance to assert himself as well, even if he is 39 and Father Time is coming for him. For one year, Paul should be able to keep him at bay.
Grade: A+

Contract: 3 years, $27 million
Presumed role: Rotation

Smith was one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA last season, some of which was potentially due to the offense run by Indiana, allowing him plenty of 3-pointers and shots near the rim.

The Bulls are seemingly rebuilding, and to add a player like Smith is finally a sign of creative roster construction, which Chicago has lacked for decades.

Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Smith will inject offense into a Bulls team that desperately needs it.
Grade: A

Contract: 3 years, $30 million
Presumed role: Starter/mentor

With Alexandre Sarr in place, the Wizards wasted no time finding the young Frenchman an older, Lithuanian teacher.

Valančiūnas is one of the most adept post scorers in the NBA, a skill Sarr would unquestionably benefit from having in his own bag.

It's unclear how big a role Valančiūnas will play in the offense, but for Washington to have the option of milking his scoring if needed, this deal is incredibly team-friendly.
Grade: B+