Free Agency is far from over with plenty of formidable role players still on the market. Oh and that guy Kawhi Leonard who won the NBA Finals MVP remains unsigned. But in the early days of free agency, here are the winners and losers thus far.
The Winners of Free Agency
The Nets kickstarted the free agency frenzy when they landed Kyrie Irving, and sent shock waves when they also landed Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan just minutes after. The moves are more about the 2020-21 NBA season when KD returns from his achilles injury, but the initial boost out will give the Nets franchise can’t be dismissed. Landing the marquee free agents who were also considering your “big brother” New York Knicks, is a huge W for the Nets. In no way is New York a Nets town but landing arguably the best player in the game when healthy in KD and a top 3 point guard in Kyrie Irving, the Nets fanbase will swell and expand outside of Brooklyn and New Jersey. This year will be a soft landing for Kyrie as everyone waits on KD return in 2020-21, but the Nets have just become a talking point after years of being ignored.
The offseason moves made by the Utah Jazz front office have been under the radar, but very impactful. The trade for Mike Conley Jr. is a massive upgrade over Ricky Rubio who ran the offense for the past few seasons. They also added wing player Bojan Bogdanovic, who will fill the role of scorer off the bench, on a 4 year/$73 million deal and defensive Center Ed Davis to replace Derrick Favors, and to spell Rudy Gobert for short bursts.
The Utah Jazz could become true contenders in the Western Conference on the backs of these sneaky good moves added to an already slept on team with a core of Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert with a top 5 coach in Quin Snyder.
When I seen Jimmy Butler and D Wade joking on Twitter about if Butler comes to Miami that Wade might run it back, I just thought a Butler-Miami pairing was nothing more than a fantasy or a joke. But Pat Riley made things happen to allow Butler to take his talents to South Beach. It was a sign and trade involving 4 teams. Butler got his 4 year/$142 million max deal that he seemed this offseason, and the Heat were able to move on from the abysmal Hassan Whiteside contract, and bring in Myers Leonard from Portland who can replace the minimum output of Whiteside. They do part ways with Guard Josh Richardson, but in a vacuum who do you want Jimmy Butler or Josh Richardson? The Heat will be fine and probably make a 7th, or 8th seed next season with Butler as their lead man.
Golden State Warriors
I know you are saying how could a team last loses Kevin Durant be a winner? Well the Warriors were able to turn injured KD and Iguodala who is far from the Finals MVP he was years ago, into 23-year-old all star guard D’Angelo Russell. That is a good consolation prize when you consider they could have lost Durant for nothing.
Russell has had experience playing the combo guard last season playing alongside Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. With him playing with Curry and Klay, expect that you saw form Russell last season but on steroids.
He can fill the roll as primary ball handler while Steph and Klay runs off of screens to get wide open three point looks. Or Russell can space the floor while Curry handles the ball. Russell and Draymond Green’s PnR game should work well together as well. When Klay Thompson Returns from his ACL injury around late February/March, Klay can slide to the 3. That would allow great spacing with the three guards on the floor at once.
The Warriors also brought back center Kevon Looney who was vital to the Warriors success last season, on a 3 year $15 million deal. That is s steal for the Warriors to secure Looney long term on such a cheap deal.
New Orleans Pelicans
Im not going to go over drafting Zion and the AD trade because we all know how that turned out great for the Pels, but their offseason has been sneaky good. GM David Griffin lured JJ Reddick to New Orleans on a 2 year $26.5 minion deal, and veteran big man Derrick Favors. Reddick will space the floor to open lanes for Zion, Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holliday. Derrick Favors brings some veteran leadership to the young bigs the Pels drafted, while being able to give you a double double on a constant basis.
The Pelicans have put together a fun and maybe dangerous team for years to come.
The Losers of NBA Free Agency
New York Knicks
Before I rip into the Knicks, I actually like the moves they made. 24-year-old Julius Randle on a 3 year $63 million deal is a clean pickup to add to the Knicks young core. Veterans like Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington and Reggie Bullock will be good influences on the kids both on and off the court. Bobby Portis was a low risk high reward signing too on a two year deal. However the Knicks find themselves on the losing side of the list because of their expectations going into the summer combined with the Nets success just a borough away.
On The Michael Kay Show, James Dolan claimed the New York Knicks were told they would land two big free agents. A few months later the Knicks are trying to force the narrative that they didn’t want KD after this achilles injury, so they didn’t offer the max to him. The truth is they lost out on the marquee names and had to spin it so they didn’t look bad, and some how they still look bad. Knicks fans were sold on the idea that they were going to have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Zion Williamson come the 2019-2020 season. They dropped in the draft to the third pick, to no fault of their own, and then struck out on the big name guys. The Knicks save face because they didn’t throw a max contract at a guy who didn’t deserve it, and set themselves up to have cap flexibility going forward. But the offseason is still an L when you take expectations into consideration.
The Boston Celtics lost Kyrie Irving, Al Horford and couldn’t land Anthony Davis in a trade. It would be a massive L if they weren’t able to replace Kyrie with Kemba Walker and Al Horford with Enes Kanter, but its still an L. Kyrie is better than Kemba and Horford is miles ahead of the player Kanter is, so they Celtics downgraded at two key positions. Losing Horford to the 76ers hurts even more considering the Celtics and 76ers could see each other in a playoff series. It also looks like the Celtics are losing Marcus Morris and have already lost Terry Rozier. So their depth has quickly dissolved into a thin rotation for now.
The Philadelphia 76ers lost Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick, their two best shooters from last season and have not replaced them with shooters so spacing will be evermore of an issue this season. They retained SF Tobias Harris which was necessary after losing Butler, but they greatly over paid. Harris secured the bag with a 5 year $180 million deal from the 76ers when many around the league questioned if he was even a max level player.
The 76ers also brought in PF/C Al Horford on a 4 year max contract. I really enjoy Al Horford’s game and think he is underrated. But I don’t see the fit with the 76ers. Joel Embiid standing at 7’1″ and Ben Simmons standing at 6’10”, both pack the paint and congest the lane. Adding 6’10” Al Horford to that mix just seems like a mess. There is already no floor spacing, and they struggle to defend small quick guards. With a lineup of Ben Simmons Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Joel Embiid, small, quick guards will have a feast every night. The overall length will help against the Milwaukee Bucks, but outside of the Bucks, the entire league has gone to small ball with pace and space.
The 76ers will be a contender based off of strictly talent, but I don’t see this roster meshing together well enough to take that next step.
Which Ever Teams Loses the Kawhi Leonard Sweepstakes
The Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are in a fight to land arguably the best player in the NBA. Kawhi can literally shift the balance of power by signing a sheet of paper. If he stays with Toronto, its safe too say the Raptors are in position to run it back and have a good chance to win it all again. If he ends up on the Clippers, he makes them a true title contender. And if he ends up with the Lakers, there goes the competitive balance that seems to be in place right now.
For the two teams who lose out on Kawhi, they are in some trouble. The Lakers have a full roster to fill out with dwindling amount of players to fill those rotation spots. The Clippers would have done everything right to set themselves up to land two max free agents, and could end up with no marquee fee agent. And for Toronto, losing Kawhi hurts a little less since he just produced a the first championship in franchise history. But take Kawhi off of the Raptors roster and they become an ordinary team with no way to replace Kawhi’s excellence.
Whatever happens two of these teams will be scrambling to piece together their teams with the scraps left over.