With the balance of power having shifted from the teams to the players in recent years, NBA free agency has become one of the most important parts of the NBA calendar year. Many superstars are teaming up and signing shorter details to keep their options open, and more and more big name players are hitting free agency each year. The 2019 NBA free agency and offseason period may have been one of the craziest of all of them. Below is my summary and reaction to the biggest moves this offseason.
Los Angeles Lakers trade for Anthony Davis in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, the draft rights to De’Andre Hunter, two first round picks, a first-round pick swap right and cash.
At the time, the Lakers acquisition of Anthony Davis was the most that any team has given up for a star players and simultaneously made LA the title favorites for 2020. It was no secret that both Lebron and AD wanted Davis to be LA, and after a botched attempt prior to the trade deadline it finally happened in June. AD will have a chance to establish himself as a superstar in a big market, and Lebron will be able to take a step back and rest at times during the season to be healthy for the playoffs. I expect the Lakers to be a Top 4 team in the West this year, but they will have to make other moves on the roster besides their two superstars to be a serious contender.
Free agent Kyrie Irving signs 4 year $141 million deal with the Brooklyn Nets
Halfway through the 2018-2019 season it was pretty clear that Kyrie Irving was not a good fit for the Boston Celtics. The only question is whether he would sign with the Knicks or the Nets, ultimately Kyrie returned home to join the team he grew up rooting for. This is a great move for the Nets, although they did sacrifice up and coming point guard D’Angelo Russell to make it work. However, the Nets now have one of the best point guards in the game who is still in his prime, and more importantly set the stage for Brooklyn’s next free agency move….
Free Agent Kevin Durant signs 4 year $164 million deal with Brooklyn Nets
The Nets weren’t done making moves after acquiring Kyrie Irving. Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors to join Brooklyn and create a formidable force in the East….when healthy. Durant will miss all of next year with an injury, and now that he’s in his thirties there is some question about his long term health. However, if Durant is healthy when he returns, Brooklyn instantly becomes a title contender. All year everyone was saying that Durant would go to the Knicks, but I never thought that would happen. KD is smart enough to know that it’s never good to be part of a franchise with a horrendous owner. He made the smart move by joining his good friend Kyrie while still remaining in a big New York market.
Free agent Kemba Walker signs a 4 year $141 million deal with the Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker spent his entire career on an irrelevant Charlotte Hornets team. The Boston Celtics had just lost Kyrie Irving. Therefore, it was perfect match for the Celtics to fill their roster needs and for Kemba to join a team that can compete in the East. I think Kemba Walker will be a much better fit for the Celtics offense under Brad Stevens, and will allow players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to be more involved in the offense. Furthermore, Kemba will not be a distraction off the court and will make the Celtics fun to watch again this season. Boston may not be a top contender in the East, but with Kemba Walker on board they are one move away from being a contender again.
Free agent Klay Thompson signs 5 year $190 million max deal to remain with Golden State Warriors
Although there were rumblings that he might end up on the Lakers, most people expected Klay Thompson to sign the max and remain with Golden State. After losing Durant, this was an important move for the Warriors to lock up Klay and still remain competitive in the West this year. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are still the best backcourt in the league and both are capable of stepping up and replacing the void that Durant left on the team. However, Klay will likely miss all of next season with an ACL injury as well. Curry will have to carry the team and has the potential for another monster shooting season given the volume of shots he will have to take this year.
D’Angelo Russell receives four year $117 million deal in sign and trade with Warriors
Although some are questioning the move long term, it’s pretty clear that the Warriors acquired D’Angelo Russell to replace Klay Thompson for this season. It remains to be seen how Russell will be used when Thompson returns, since it may not work with three shooters and ball handlers on the floor at the same time. However, I still like this move for the Warriors to acquire a young up and coming point guard and I think Steve Kerr will figure out how to best utilize his personnel once all his guards are healthy.
Jimmy Butler signs a 4 year $142 million with the Miami Heat
After a brief stint with Philly, Jimmy Butler decided to take his talents to South Beach and play for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. Butler reportedly turned down the max offer from the 76ers and very much wanted to go to Miami. Now he will have an opportunity to be the best player on his own team and lead Miami back to the playoffs. However, Butler has now clashed with teammates in Chicago, Minnesota, and Philly, and if he can’t recruit other stars to join him in Miami than the ceiling for the Heat will be a second round exit at best. It is a nice move for the Heat to make them relevant again after the Dwayne Wade era, but they are not going to be a serious threat in the East.
Free agent Al Horford signs a four year $109 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers got a huge pickup when they acquired Al Horford after he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Celtics. Not only can Horford and Embiid be a dominant force under the rim for Philadelphia, but Horford was the key to the Celtics success against the 76ers throughout Embiid’s whole career. This is a significant loss for the Celtics and a great pickup for the Sixers after losing Jimmy Butler. The 76ers can now have one of Horford or Embiid on the court at all times and can become one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this year if both stay healthy.
Free agent Malcolm Brogdon signs a 4 year $85 million deal with the Indiana Pacers
Malcolm Butler may be one of the most underrated players in today’s game. He put up a 50/40/90 season last year for the Bucks and was a key role player to the success of that team. This will certainly be a key loss for Milwaukee and a good pickup for the Pacers. Brogdon will join a core of Oladipo, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis, a team that grabbed the 5 seed last year despite losing Oladipo to injury. I don’t think this moves makes the Pacers a contender by any means, but they could be one of those sneaky young teams that gives a contender trouble.
Khris Middelton signs a five year $178 million deal to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks
It was expected that Middleton would stay with the Bucks but it was important enough nonetheless. Milwaukee had the best record in the NBA last year and now ensures that it’s two stars will stay together for the long term. I expect the Bucks to be dominant again this season as both Giannis and Middleton continue to improve.
Tobias Harris signs a five year $180 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers
After trading for him in the middle of the season, the 76ers made sure to keep Tobias Harris around. Harris has emerged as a solid perimeter option to complement Simmons and Embiid, and may be able to take on a bigger role now that Jimmy Butler is gone. The 76ers will certainly be among the top three teams in the East year, although bench depth is still a concern.
Kawhi Leonard signs 4 year $142 million deal with Clippers, Thunder trade Paul George to Clippers for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and five first round picks
Perhaps the most stunning and impactful move of the entire offseason was the Los Angeles Clippers managing to land both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Kawhi had been linked to the Clippers as a possible destination, but it wasn’t until he convinced Paul George to ask for a trade that the final decision was made. The Clippers have now overtaken the Lakers as title favorites, and will be one of the best defensive teams in recent memory. Kawhi and Paul George are arguably the two best two-way players in the game today, and pose a deadly threat to opposing offenses. L.A. certainly gave up a lot in the trade, but it was worth the risk to go all out especially given that the Lakers had already made their big splash with Anthony Davis. I do think the Clippers should be the favorites right now and I expect them to reach at least the Western Conference Finals where there may very well be an all-LA showdown.
The Oklahoma City Thunder trade Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul and multiple first round picks.
After Paul George was traded, it was inevitable that Russell Westbrook would follow suit as the Thunder execute a full rebuild. Although Westbrook’s contract is certainly not ideal, Houston was unable to unload Chris Paul and add a former MVP that is still in his prime. The Rockets should be just as competitive as ever now with Westbrook and Harden reunited. The two LA teams have gotten most of the attention but with Golden State no longer a threat it wouldn’t surprise me if the Rockets made it out of the West this year.
Let me know your thoughts on free agency and the NBA offseason in the comments down below.