Now that all the smoke has settled and every free agent worth noting has chosen their teams, lets recap what has happened, how this shakes up each conference, and a look at the favorites to win it all next year.
Kawhi Leonard Chooses the Los Angeles Clippers and Gets Paul George Out of Oklahoma City to Join Him in L.A.
The biggest move of the NBA off-season took the longest to make. Kawhi kept Laker, Raptor, and Clipper fans hopes in the palm of his hands and ultimately, Kawhi was a master manipulator and went to the team it was reported he wanted to go to from the start of the 2018 season – The Clippers. It took one specific move from the Clippers though to get this done, and that was getting Paul George.
It’s now being reported that Kawhi talked to Kyrie and KD about playing together, but ultimately those two decided to play together in Brooklyn. Kawhi then set his sights on Paul George from OKC. George just signed a multi-year deal with OKC last year and chose them over LeBron and the Lakers. The Clippers sent Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari along with four unprotected first-round picks, one protected first-round pick, and two pick swaps to the Thunder for Paul George. A remarkable haul for the Thunder and they are in full rebuild mode.
The Clippers realized that without another start to help Kawhi, then he was either going to the Lakers on a max deal or back to the Raptors for another one year deal. The Clippers couldn’t allow the Lakers to run the West with Kawhi, LeBron, and Davis so they did what they had to do.
Now the Clippers with Kawhi and George are the favorites to win it all, and its because of how loaded they are on defense. Kawhi and George are two of the very best wing defenders in the league, combine those two with Patrick Beverley (resigned on a 3 year, $40 million deal), and Lou Williams coming off the bench, and you have an outright nasty defensive team. The Clippers also finished off their roster by resigning big man Ivica Zubac who is only 22 to a 4 year deal.
The Clippers are loaded and Kawhi has already shown he can take a team filled with mostly role players and win a championship. Now he has better players than he did in Clippers but the one thing he doesn’t have is great shooting, or proven good shooting around him. Kawhi, and George can shoot the three well but Beverley, Montrez Harrell, and Zubac aren’t shooters.
The guys that need to continue to step up for the Clippers are Landry Shamet and Jamychal Green who the Clippers also resigned this offseason. Green shot 40.3% from three this year with the Grizzlies and Clippers, while Shamet as a rookie shot 42.2% from three. If those two guys can keep shooting like that from deep, the Clippers will have a ton of lineups to throw out there. And guess what, even if those guys shoot worse, come playoff time its going to be fucking tough to score on the Clippers.
Kawhi pulled off one of the all time moves in sports free agency history. He played the Raptors and mostly the Lakers to get what he wanted. What he got was a loaded team with another superstar, he’s in LA playing for an organization with a passionate and very rich owner, a Clipper organization with one of the best front offices in basketball, and one of the best active coaches in the NBA. There’s a reason the Clippers are 3/1 favorites to win it all next year.
The Los Angeles Lakers Get Anthony Davis by Finally Trading with the New Orleans Pelicans
The Lakers finally got Davis after trading Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, two first round picks, a first-round swap, cash, and the #4 pick in this years draft that the Pelicans spent on De’Andre Hunter from Virginia. The Lakers also sent Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner, and a 2nd round pick to the Washington Wizards, who sent cash to the Pelicans. All of that for one player.
For the Pelicans, they now have a young core of Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, and De’Andre Hunter. They also have Jrue Holiday, Derric Favors, and J.J. Redick to go along side those young guns. The Pelicans rebuilt very quickly and they should actually compete for that 8 seed right away even in the West.
For the Lakers, this was all about salvaging LeBrons time in L.A. The Lakers needed another start or two to be the centerpiece of their franchise while LeBron slowly fades out. Make no mistake about it, LeBron is still at op 5 player in the league, but his time is ticking. This is not only about trying to win immediately with two of the best 6 or 7 players in the league but the Lakers will resign Davis next year and he’ll be the face of this franchise long after LeBron is gone. The Lakers now go from missing the playoffs to having the best duo in the NBA and a great chance at winning a championship within the next few years.
Lakers Fill Out Their Team After Missing Out on Kawhi
After getting Davis and missing out on Kawhi, the Lakers desperately needed to fill out their team. However, because they waited on Kawhi they missed on other potential free agents like J.J. Redick or a move expensive guy, D’Angelo Russell. Well the Lakers made a few moves to fill out their roster and it looked like this.
- Danny Green (SG): 2 yrs, $30 million
- DeMarcus Cousins (C): 1 yr, $3.5 million
- Quinn Cook (PG): 2 yrs, $6 million
- JaVale McGee (C): 2 yrs, $8.2 million
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG): 2 years, $16 million
- Alex Caruso (PG): 2 years, $5.5 million
- Rajon Rondo (PG): 2 years, veteran minimum
- Avery Bradley (SG): 2 years, $9.7 million
Now the question is how do the Lakers setup their starting lineup. You want shooters around Davis and LeBron but that lineup would involve playing LeBron at PG most likely. That way you get LeBron, Davis, Kuzma, and Danny Green on the court for most of the game. In that scenario, you’d have LeBron (PG), Green (SG), Kuzma (SF), Davis (PF), and then you most likely start Cousins at center over McGee. The other scenario is starting Rondo (PG), Green (SG), LeBron (SF), Davis (PF), and Cousins (C). That leaves Kuzma coming off the bench, which the Lakers might not likely. The other option is moving and Davis to C so you can play Kuzma at SF or PF with LeBron taking that other spot.
It’s going to take the Lakers awhile to figure out their rotations and there’s still questions with their coaching situation. However, their best bet is to get their best players on the court around Davis and LeBron that involves shooting. That lineup needs Kuzma and Green on the court.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant Take Their Talents to Brooklyn
It seems like Kyrie hated Boston, and Boston fans hated him. It’s been reported that KD and Kyrie have talked about teaming up together for a long time. KD might be the most self-aware, petty, sensitive star in the league. He hears everything you say about him, and reads everything you write to the point where he creates burners to defend himself and seems to always be blaming the media in one way or another. KD just wanted to play with his friends, so the Nets went out and got Kyrie and DeAndre Jordan to play in Brooklyn with him.
Now, Kyrie and KD were always going to play together whether that was Brooklyn, L.A., or New York. In fact Bobby Portis who is now on the Knicks said in February every player in league “knew that (Durant and Kyrie Irving would to to Brooklyn). Everybody knew that. I just don’t think the media knew that. Us basketball players, we all knew that.”
For the Nets, this is a move for 2020 and not 2019. Durant is out with his ruptured Achilles until at least the playoffs next year most likely. That leaves Kyrie to carry this team to the playoffs and maybe if a miracle happens, KD comes back for the playoffs next year but who knows what kind of player he’ll be.
So what does that mean for the Nets next season? Well this past year they were the 6 seed and got beat by the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs. They’ve basically replaced Kyrie for D’Angelo Russell so they get an upgrade there. But I’m not sure how much better Kyrie makes this team in the East. Maybe the Nets could compete for the 3 seed, MAYBE if Kyrie has a career year. More than likely this Nets team will be slotted in that 4-6 spot and is looking at possible a second round exit. This team just isn’t deep enough and doesn’t have the fire power to contend in the East next year.
However, come 2020 with Durant and Kyrie in the starting lineup and the Nets will be in the conversation to represent the East in the NBA Finals along with Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Golden States Snatches Up D’Angelo Russell to Fill the Kevin Durant Void, and Keep Them Afloat Until Klay Thompson Comes Back
So this was and interesting move that kind of came out of nowhere. The Warriors had all this money to spend and after KD left for Brooklyn, it was just sitting there. The Warriors decided to add D’Angelo Russell who reinvented himself in Brooklyn after his fuck ups with the Lakers.
This move seems like one to keep the Warriors in the playoff hunt, preferable around the top 4 seeds before Klay Thompson comes back from his ACL injury. However, once Klay is back how the hell do you put all three guys on the court at once? I mean you would need to play Kevin Looney at the 5 probably, which gives the Warriors no size with only Looney and Draymond Green as their big guys. Combine that with the poor defense of Steph and Russell and you’re gong to have problems.
So the speculation here is that the Warriors will play Russell at PG and Steph at SG until Klay comes back healthy, and if things are going as well as they’d like, then the Warriors are going to flip Russell in a trade for a big man before the trade deadline. This could work out well for the Warriors, Russell is basically a rental option for half the year that will keep the Warriors in the hunt and then they’ll improve their team going into the playoffs to try and compete with the LA teams and the Rockets.
However, you need find a suitor that wants not only Russell but him and his max contract AND a team that is willing to trade a big man that fits with the Warriors. So far nobody has brought up that player or that team but it is only early July and the Warriors have time.
I mentioned Looney briefly bu the Warriors did resign him to a pretty team friendly deal honestly. 3 years and only $15 million, he could have probably gotten more on the open market. The Warriors also signed SG Glen Robinson III, SG Alec Burks, and C Willie Cauley-Stein. Robinson and Stein were both higher picks that haven’t lived up to expectations. Maybe like the Patriots in the NFL, the Warriors and Steve Kerr can get the best out of those guys.
The Boston Celtics Pick Up Kemba Walker to Replace Kyrie Irving, and Enes Kanter for Al Horford
Kemba gets to return East to where he dominated in college and he fits quite well with the Celtics. The Celtics have everything in place and the only position they were really missing was a PG. The got one who fits better than Kyrie did, and lets be honest here, he’ll be better in the locker room than Kyrie. THe Celtics also let Terry Rozier guy, and he signed with Charlotte to replace Kemba there.
Kemba has been hidden in Charlotte his whole career and has rarely been seen on national television, but he’s done good for himself. For his career Kemba has averaged 19.8 PPG on 41.8 FG% and 35.7% from 3, along with 3.8 RPG, and 5.5 APG. Last year Kemba put up 25.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 5.9 ASG. With the Celtics, I would expect Kemba to put up close to 20 PPG than 25 with guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylon Brown, and Gordon Hayward in the starting lineup.
The other big missing piece for the Celtics was at Center with Al Horford leaving and trading Aaron Baynes to make frrom for Kemba. The Celtics got Enes Kanter for cheap on just a 2 year deal for $9.7 million. Kanter is not as good offensively or defensively than Horford but for the situation the Celtics were in, this was an absolute steal. Kanter came to the Celtics for $13 million less than he made last year, and he was the best available big man out there to fill that void. The Celtics may have lost talent with Kyrie and Horford, but they probably improved their locker room and outside drama with these two signings.
The Celtics have another year on Brad Stevens to develop their young talent, and Gordon Hayward should only be better with one year under his legs after returning from injury. Are the Celtics a threat to win the East? I mean they own the 76ers but I am going to say no. I think they need to get a deeper bench and add some pieces but they are not far away at all, and we all now the magic Danny Ainge can pull out of his ass.
Al Horford Goes From Boston to Philly, Philly Resigns Tobias Harris as Well, and Trades Jimmy Butler to the Heat for Josh Richardson
The aforementioned Horford left Boston to go to one of their biggest rivals and give the 76ers the best front-court in the NBA with him and Embiid. Philly tried to sign Jimmy Butler to the max but he decided he didn’t like Philly and went to Miami so the 76ers had to spend that money elsewhere. They split it between two main guys, Horford (4 years $109 million) and Tobias Harris (5 years, $180 million). The 76ers actually completed a sign and trade with Miami for Jimmy Butler, and got Josh Richardson in return.
So lets check out this starting lineup and how Philly differs from last year. Philly now lost Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick and replaced those guys with Horford and Richardson. What his means is the 76ers have a huge starting lineup. Richardson is the shortest guy in their starting five at 6’6. Their defense should be phenomenal and up there with the Clippers as the best in the league. Horford and Embiid is going to be daunting to attack in the lane, and think about who their biggest competitor is in the East, the Bucks and Giannis. Giannis loves the lane.
Not only that but Simmons and Richardson are both great on defense and can switch. The only real liability if you want to call him that is Tobias Harris. But when you have two seven footers behind you, who the fuck cares. The question mark with these moves for the 76ers is their 3 point shooting. Horford can hit the three but he’s not as good as Jimmy Butler and obviously J.J. Redick was phenomenal. Richard only shoots 36.8% from 3 for his career but that can improve around a better team.
The problem here is the lane with their starting 5. If Ben Simmons doesn’t develop a shot, defenses can just sink in the lane because Harris is the only guys who can beat you from three. Sure the other guys scare you, but not enough for you to change your defensive game-plan. The 76ers need to find some three point shooting at some point during the year, whether that is trading for someone or some guy on the roster develops to be that person if they want to make the Finals and upend who ever comes out of the West.
Jimmy Butler Signs a Four Year Deal With the Miami Heat
Butler left the 76ers and they found a team in the Miami Heat who would take the star and his new max contract. The deal was actual a four team deal with the Trail Blazers and the Clippers that involved sending big man Hasaan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers and getting Meyers Leonard from them.
What Butler brings is an overall attitude and some offensive play-making the Heat have lacked since the Big 3 disbanded. Butler does make this team interesting and shifts some of the power in the East. If Butler had stayed in Philly, then the 76ers would have been the clear favorite but another star went elsewhere instead of making more super teams.
The interesting thing here is that Miami might not be done retooling their roster. It was reported that Goran Dragic was traded to the Mavericks but that never materialized for various reasons. The Heat also have been linked to Russell Westbrook but that would involve probably giving up guys like Dragic, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiter, and James Johnson. That’s a lot of dudes for one player who might not mesh well with Butler.
Butler makes the Heat a good team, but by no means are they a great team. Miami is probably looking at a first round exit in a tough series against a top 4 team in the East.
Malcolm Brogdon Leaves Milwaukee for the Indiana Pacers
A bigger move in the East that hasn’t been talked about enough is Brogdon leaving Milwaukee for the Pacers. Brogdon had a good thing going in Milwaukee and made Milwaukee not only a great team, but a deep team. Now in Indiana, he’ll team up with Victor Oladipo once back from injury, and Jeremy Lamb to create a formidable opponent in the East.
The Pacers just two years ago took LeBron James and the Cavs to 5 games in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Pacers were on track to be a top 4 seed in the East, maybe top 3 before Oladipo got hurt. If Oladipo comes back healthy with the addition of Brogdon, then the Pacers can slide right into that #3 slot in the East.
Brogdon apparently didn’t want to be in Milwaukee anymore. Whether that’s because he didn’t think he fit with the team or what, but he was going to be the #4 option on that team and it was clear the Bucks liked Middleton and Bledsoe more than Brogdon. You could argue Brogdon was the second best player in the ECF for the Bucks behind Giannis so this is a big loss for Milwaukee and a big gain for Indiana. Brogdon was added to Indiana through a sign and trade.
The Bucks Keep Khris Middleton, Brooke Lopez, George Hill, and Sign Robin Lopez From Chicago
The Bucks lost Brogdon but kept other parts of their core in Khris Middleton, Brooke Lopez, and George Hill. Lopez had a career year with Giannis and new Bud at HC, Middleton made is first All-Star team, and George Hill played like a starter during the Bucks playoff run.
Those signing kept the core of Bledsoe, Giannis, and Middleton in tact. You could probably add Brooke Lopez to that mix now at Center. Now the open position on the Bucks comes at SG with Brogdon gone. They didn’t add anybody here but Sterling Brown and first-round pick last year Dante DiVincenzo will probably compete for that starting spot. Also, don’t be surprised to see some lineups with Hill playing PG and Bledsoe or SG or vice-versa. Hell, they might start out the year that way if Budenholzer doesn’t like what he sees from Brown or DiVincenzo.
The interesting signing here is Robin Lopez. Robin won’t stretch the floor like his brother Brooke, but Robin will be a better defender and low presence for the Bucks. Robin will provide a good yin to Brooke’s yang when he subs in for him basically solidifying the Bucks as a top defensive and rebounding team in the NBA for the second year in a row. The Bucks also lacked a big man like Robin last year and it’ll be a switch up for opposing teams when Robin comes in. Last year with the Chicago Bulls, Robin averaged 9.5 PPG, and 3.9 RPG in 21.7 minutes of action.
The Utah Jazz Trade for Mike Conley and Sign Bojan Bogdanovic
With Memphis picking Ja Morant second overall in this years draft, the writing was on the wall for Conley in Memphis whether it was at some point this year, or during next off season.
Well the Jazz decided to pull the trigger this year, in a somewhat surprising move. The Jazz needed a PG with letting Ricky Rubio go but few suspected they’d be in the hunt for Conely. Conely is one of the most underrated PGs in the NBA right now partially because he’s been in the league so long, and partially because he plays in Memphis.
In the past, Conely has played with more big men and playing good solid defense. The’ll still be good defensively but now they’re opening up the offense with Conely and Bojan on the roster. Conely will bring consistency and good shooting to the PG position for the Jazz, which they’ve lacked in years past. Conely averaged 6.4 APG and has shot 37.5% in his career from three.
Bojan is coming over from Indiana, where the past two years he’s shot over 40% from three. At 6’8 and a the shooter that he is, he’s a much different player than former Jazz SF Derrick Favors.
The Jazz got smoked by the Rockets in this years playoffs, and they needed some offensive firepower to go along with a great defense. They may have lost some defense this off season, but there’s no doubt they’ve upgraded their offense. Conely, Mitchell, Bojan, and Joe Ingles are a great foursome that can really shoot the ball. Combine that with Rudy Gobert down low, and you have a team that can compete with the best of the best in in the NBA.
Other Notable Moves & Notes
- J.J. Redick signed a 2 year $26.5 million deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are a team that can probably compete right away in the West and Redick is a great fit for a team that was lacking shooters.
- Julius Randle signed a 3 year $63 million deal with the New York Knicks. The Knicks missed out on every big names this off-season and needed something to show for it. Randle is good and this gets nobody excited. The Knicks also signed guys like Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, and Reggie Bullock.
- Marcus Morris moves from Boston to San Antonio on a 2 year $18,978,900 deal. This is a good pickup for the Spurs but this maybe makes them the 7 seed in the loaded West.
- Dallas was busy rebuilding their roster. They signed Porzingis to his 5 year max deal and also signed Seth Curry to a 4 year $32 million deal to surround Porzingis and Luka with more shooters. They also signed big man Boban Marjanovic from Philly.
- The Thunder actually offered the Raptors George and Westbrook and a bunch of assets but the Raptors backed off. Now with George gone, and shipping Jerami Grant to the Nuggets, Westbrook sees the writing on the wall and expect him to be traded before the start of the 2019 season. Some teams to keep track of: the Timberwolves, Heat, Spurs, and Pistons.
- Kyle Korver has been sent all over the league and was waived by the Phoenix Suns finally. Expect many contenders to want him, especially the Lakers.
2019 Quick Rankings & Odds
So here’s how’d I’d rank the top 8-10 teams in the East and West as of right now who will compete for playoff spots. Their odds as of July 8th are in parenthesis so you can see how Vegas views each team as well via The Action Network. Notice the West is much, much deeper than the West and really the gap between the 1 seed in the West and 8 seed is not that big. In the East however, unless the Pacers or Celtics make some moves the Bucks and 76ers are on a collision course for the ECF. The West is wide the fuck open although the Lakers and Clippers are the obvious favorites because of the top two players each team has.
- Milwaukee Bucks (+450)
- Philadelphia 76ers (+800)
- Indiana Pacers (+4000)
- Boston Celtics (+2500)
- Brooklyn Nets (+4000)
- Miami Heat (+5000)
- Toronto Raptors (+8000)
- Orlando Magic (+10000)
- Detroit Pistons (+10000)
- Los Angeles Clippers (+300)
- Los Angeles Lakers (+500)
- Houston Rockets (+1200)
- Utah Jazz (+1400)
- Golden State Warriors (+1400)*
- Denver Nuggets (+1600)
- Portland Trail Blazers (+3000)
- Dallas Mavericks (+5000)
- San Antonio Spurs (+5000)
- Sacramento Kings (+8000)
- New Orleans Pelicans (+10000)
- Oklahoma City Thunder (+10000)**
*Golden State is the #3 team in the West with a healthy Klay Thompson. Until he’s back 100% though, I’ll put them as my 5th team in the West.
**OKC can compete for a playoff spot with Westbrook. Without Westbrook this team is not sniffing the playoffs. Most likely, the latter is happening.