By Rick Bouch

The NBA Finals are a just a few weeks passed and already the league’s landscape has changed. Free agency opened July 1 and several teams have entered into the foray to find the pieces needed to compete with the likes of Cleveland in the Eastern Conference and NBA champ Golden State in the West. Several stars have jumped ship and will be in new uniforms come the 2017-18 season. Here’s a look at the winners and losers in free agency thus far.

WINNER: BOSTON

The biggest winner thus far may be the Celtics, the top seed in last year’s Eastern Conference playoffs. Boston successfully courted and obtained former Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward.

Utah’s leading scorer last year, the 6-foot-8 Hayward will reunite with his college coach, Celtics head man Brad Stevens. He may also be the last piece of the puzzle that will help Boston get past Cleveland and on to the NBA Finals. Couple Hayward’s acquisition with Boston’s pre-draft trade and the Celtics come out with a huge win. Boston traded picks with Philadelphia and used their No. 3 pick to take Jayson Tatum, a 6-8 talent out of Duke.

WINNER: 2016 Free Agents

A number of teams had $20 million or more in remaining salary cap space last summer. Any free agent last year was able to benefit from the existence of that excess cash. Case in point. Bismack Biyombo.

If you are a true NBA fan, maybe you have heard of him. Biyombo is a six-year veteran who has been a backup most of his career. The 6-9, 255-pounder averaged 6.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last season with Orlando. Last summer, he signed a deal worth $17 million per season…to be a backup. Unfortunately, teams do not have that kind of salary cap room this summer.

LOSER: UTAH

The exit of Hayward leaves the Jazz with no apparent path to follow in their rebuild. The Jazz were building a winner around their former star. They signed point guard George Hill prior to last season. The 2016-17 season did not go as planned. Hill was one of several Jazz players that battled injury all season.

Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, and Derrick Favors were all hurt at one point or another. Rudy Gobert gives the Jazz the big man they need and Utah did acquire Ricky Rubio, but without a legitimate scorer like Hayward the Jazz might not make next season’s playoffs.

Do you think it is possible for a trade to benefit both teams?

LOSER: PORTLAND

The Blazers have one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are outstanding. Last year, the Trail Blazers bet big on Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe. They have over $36 million tied up in those two for next season. That bet didn’t pan out, and now there is no chance of moving either Turner or Crabbe without offering a first-round draft pick.

Jusuf Nurkic proved that he could be Portland’s future at center, but the Trail Blazers lack effective wing scoring and rebounding production. Portland is young, but with serious salary cap issues for the next two to three seasons, the Trail Blazers might get caught standing still in the free agent market while teams like Denver pass them by.

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