When NBA Free Agency began on Sunday with the opening of the moratorium period floodgates at 6pm, the NBA landscape changed in a matter of moments. For the sake of Knicks fans I will refrain from speaking badly about your franchise here, this is a safe space for all knicks supporters, I know this is a hard time.
But back to the good stuff: Kevin Durant and Kyrie irving did what most suspected them to do since early June, team up in Brooklyn. What most didn’t expect was for both to take less than the max for KD’s friend Deandre Jordan to join them and create a formidable big three. What absolutely nobody expected was for the Warriors to then complete a 4 year $117 million sign and trade for D’Angelo Russel, allowing Golden State to immediately reload following Durant’s departure.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about those deals, I know I sure have, so let's dive into some other moves that I think make certain teams winners and losers so far.
Sixers, Clippers, Blazers and Heat: All winners
Before the offseason began, most media and fans alike, including myself, thought Pat Riley had little to work with and would most likely have an uneventful and quiet offseason. Well boy were we wrong. Not only did Pat Riley pull off a sign and trade for forward Jimmy Butler, bringing a bona fide star to South Beach, but he sent away Hassan Whiteside in the process. Whiteside has had longstanding issues with Pat Riley and the Heat front office and coaching staff, and Whiteside also had a bad contract. Riley sent Whiteside to Portland for Mo Harkless and Meyers Leonard. Harkless was then shipped to the Clippers in addition to a protected 2023 first round pick to compensate LA for taking on his salary. This wheeling and dealing allowed the Heat to have the cap space to take Jimmy Butler, and usher in a new era in South Beach. While they gave up young guard Josh Richardson, I think most franchises would do that in order to bring in Jimmy Butler in his prime.
I like this deal for every team involved, not just the Heat. The Blazers take a flyer on a one year deal for a center who can fill the starting role until Nurkic returns from his leg injury sometime during next season. They maintain almost the same amount of cap space, and also allow Zach Collins to now start at the 4, where he would’ve been moved to once Nurkic returns. For the clippers, they bring in a starting caliber forward who potentially could play alongside Kawhi Leonard, but still maintain the capability to sign Leonard but acquiring a pick and a serviceable forward as a plan B. The Sixers get a quality 3 and D guard to replace the losses of Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick, but also staying under the luxury threshold after singing Tobias Harris to a 5 year $180 million contract.
Possible Losers: Dallas Mavericks
At the beginning of free agency, the Mavs locked up Kristaps Porzingis to a 5 year $158 million contract, pairing him with young star Luka Doncic for the foreseeable future. While the Mavs could be locking up a potential superstar, they also could be shelling out way too much cash on a tall, skinny center who is coming off major ACL surgery. On top of that, there are character and legal problems that come with Kristaps, who forced his way out of NY and has had criminal allegations against him in recent months. While this deal will take a little bit of time to see the success or failure, I am skeptical about Kristaps returning to peak form without causing any drama on the Mavs.
Utah Jazz: Quiet Winners
The Utah Jazz made quite the splash off the bat this offseason, trading for Mike Conley and subsequently singing Bojan Bogdonavic to a 4 yer $77 million deal, replacing Ricky Rubio and Jae Crowder respectively in the Jazz starting lineup for the 2019-20 season. This move brings an experienced playoff point guard and a stretch scoring four to a team which has struggled to advance in the playoffs with young star Donovan Mitchell carrying most of the load. This provides a very balanced starting five, one that has suddenly risen to the top of the Western conference contention next season.
NBA Players: BIG winners
After 24 hours of NBA free agency, players had agreed to a combined $3 billion in contracts, ranging from the veterans minimum to Damian Lillard’s $196 million supermax extension. In a nation that has long been ruled by the NFL, the NBA is doing it’s best to create excitement and intrigue, and given how many of the trending items on Twitter Sunday evening related to basketball, I would say Adam Silver and the NBA community are doing a very good job. While some older analysts and players may not love the new superteam culture of the NBA, for the younger generation it provides a lot more excitement and curiosity 365 days a year.