NBA Free Agency is winding down. It’s been arguably the most entertaining Free Agency period in league history. I figured it’s time to dig into the winner and losers of the last few weeks.
LA Clippers: The biggest winner of free agency, in my opinion, is the LA Clippers. They go from a fringe playoff team to arguably the favorites to win it all next season, with the addition of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. For anyone who wants to give them grief for the haul they gave up to get PG-13, you need to realize this wasn’t a trade just for George. It was the only way they were getting Kawhi. Essentially, they were trading for both players. They now have arguably the 2 top defensive wings in the NBA. Pair them with the re-signed stud defensive point guard Patrick Beverly and the Clippers have a chance to be the best defensive team in the NBA. They didn’t lose the best 6th man in the league (i.e. Lou Williams), or their Most Improved Finalist, Trez Harrell, in the trade for Kawhi. This should be a very scary team next season.
Photo Credit: The Spun
Anytime you land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the offseason, you have to feel good about yourself. Let me set the record clear now as a Celtics fan. Over the last week I’ve heard a lot of Celtics fans calling sports talk radio saying, “Kyrie will request a trade in 2 years, I’m not afraid of the Nets. Kevin Durant will never be the same player coming off his injury”. These people are what I like to call frauds. Had the Celtics re-signed Kyrie after everything that occurred this past season and he brought KD to Boston, fans would be going crazy with excitement and for good reason. Is there a chance Kyrie’s ego acts up and causes issues? Of course, but he’s still a top 12 player in the league and at 27 years old he still has his best basketball ahead of him. Is there a chance Durant is never 100% of what he once was? Once again, of course but he’s such an amazing shooter that even if he comes back at 90% of what he was, he’s still probably a top 5 player in the NBA. Nets fans should be feeling very good right now
Philadelphia 76ers: This one might surprise people a little considering they lost Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick, two key players from last season. In my opinion, Reddick was one of the most underrated players in the league last year. Butler was the best player for the 6ers at times in the playoffs last year. With that said, I think the additions of Al Horford (man that burns as a Celtics fan) and Josh Richardson will help the 6ers take a huge leap on the defensive end of the court next season. Most people know how versatile Horford is on both ends of the court. He should be an absolutely phenomenal fit next to Embiid in the front court. JJ Reddick is a much better shooter than Josh Richardson, but Richardson is the better all-around player. For those who haven’t seen Richardson play the last 2 years, he’s looked very good. He’s also a big upgrade over Reddick defensively. He can handle the ball at PG when Simmons is out of the game and can still shoot and score the ball a little. Combine these additions with the re-signing of Tobias Harris (who will be able to take a little more control offensively with Jimmy Butler gone) and I think the 6ers should be the favorites out of the East.
Honorable Mentions: Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz
Toronto Raptors: Pretty easy one here. You lose arguably the best player in the league and are left with no back-up plan, you get put in the losers column. Had Kawhi returned, I don’t think any team in the East had added enough to unseat the Raptors as the favorite. Instead, Kawhi has bolted and you’re now left with a core around an aging Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry, along with up-and coming star Pascal Siakam. The Raptors ceiling at this point is an exit in the second round… and their floor might be getting bounced quickly out of the first round. Had they not just won it all, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them shopping around Lowry and Gasol to start to re-tool. All in all, I don’t feel that bad for Raptors fans nor fault them for going all in on Kawhi for one year. Clearly their plan worked and I think they made Kawhi’s decision to leave, much more difficult than anyone could have imagined. No one will forget their special season.
Photo Credit: Uproxx
Let me preface this by saying that if they can find a way to get Russell Westbrook, then they would be removed from the losers column. That doesn’t mean I would love the move. We heard chat that the Rockets really wanted Jimmy Butler, and they were also linked to Celtics first team all-defensive guard Marcus Smart in trade rumors. After reports came out that there’s a huge rift between James Harden and Chris Paul (although they’ve denied it) it appeared to become clear that something needed to change with this team. Couple that with the fact that their nemesis the Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant and will be without Klay Thompson for much of next year, the Rockets had a chance to mix things up a little and maybe go into next season as favorites in the West. Instead their challenging salary cap situation and inability to get creative with it has pretty much left them with the same team. I think it’s been proven by now that the Mike D’Antoni ISO ball system doesn’t really work come playoff time.
New York Knicks:
Photo Credit: NY Post
Why not save the best for last? Boy oh boy, I have to say there’s actually a part of me that feels bad for Knicks fans. Before the lottery back in May, fans were dreaming about the potential of Zion Williams, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all coming to New York next season. Fast forward a month and a half later and the Knicks went 0-3 in securing these players. Obviously, the lottery was out of their hands and no one can blame them for not getting Zion. Kyrie and KD on the other hand, that’s a tough hit losing them to the other team across town, the Brooklyn Nets, a team with no tradition, history, or superstars. It has to burn big-time for Knicks fans. They’re now left with no kind of back-up plan other than letting their young players Kevin Knox, Mitch Robinson, and RJ Barrett develop. These guys are good young players, but won’t make the Knicks serious title contenders anytime soon. The Free Agency class next year is very weak, so there are no superstars they can try and lure. Even if they attempt to trade a package of their young core for a superstar in the next 6-12 months (should one become available), they won’t be able to pair that guy with anyone. It’s a tough time to be a Knicks fan. On the bright side, at least they didn’t go overspend on second tier FA’s like Tobias Harris, Boogie Cousins, or Nik Vucevic. For now, all the Knicks and their fans can do is stay patient and hope their young guys develop into something special.
Honorable Mentions: Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves