Who made the steps towards a championship, and who fell back into the National Basketball Association (NBA) shuffle?
The NBA free agency period started with a bang on Aug. 2, seeing big stars finding new homes, while other players such as the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant and Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid got paid big time. In addition, former Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan headlined the biggest movement of stars this summer, with teams like the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls and hard-nosed Miami Heat also gaining some much-needed improvement.
Chicago first snagged former Pelican Lonzo Ball, a great defender with a tremendous upside to his game. They then continued to make moves as they traded for veteran DeMar DeRozan, giving up very little in return. Critics say he is overpaid, but he has time and time again proven to be one of the most efficient shooters in the NBA. Miami also made a big splash this season, taking things to South Beach, having had lots of money to spend. They are keeping their star player at home by locking up Jimmy Butler to a 4-year contract extension. The Heat then brought in some more veteran presence by signing PJ Tucker, an absolute defensive dog and reigning NBA champion. The only question remains whether or not these moves help them make an impact in the playoffs, or will more established teams like the Milwauke Bucks or Brooklyn Nets come out of the East once again?
Moving West, while they were some obvious winners this summer, there were also some losers. The Los Angeles Clippers always make some big moves during the off-season, and more often than not, those moves are the wrong ones. The Clippers have put their entire fate of the franchise into the hands of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, masters of what NBA aficionados like to refer to as “load management.” They have no future assets in draft picks nor the money available to bring in a third proven star by overpaying them. Defensive captain Patrick Beverly was sent packing to Minnesota in a move that will surely haunt the Clippers come playoff time.
Another franchise that could not quite capitalize on the free-agency moment was the Boston Celtics—never truly recovered from the departure of polarizing guard Kyrie Irving. They continue to make lackluster moves. They traded away All-Star Kemba Walker for an aging center in Al Horford—a puzzling move. Both of these franchises have the spotlight on them, but with their championship or bust mentality, it is hard to imagine them making it past the second round of the playoffs any time soon.
With all that being said, the biggest story of this offseason has to be the Los Angeles Lakers. “LeMickey James,” as they call him, used his influence in the front office to give the Lakers a complete makeover, bringing in veteran guard Russell Westbrook to add to their big three alongside Anthony Davis. The biggest question the Lakers have this year is their roster’s old age. With LeBron and Davis coming off a season injury-plagued injury, Laker fans have no idea if they will be able to return to their MVP level. With the team’s average age being almost 32 years old, it is safe to assume that it will not be in one piece come playoff time.
In short, with the upcoming NBA season approaching on October 19, there is still plenty of time for teams to pull out a last-minute blockbuster trade. Yet, no matter what happens, this off-season has already given basketball fans so much to look forward to, leaving spectators to ponder the age-old question: who will come out on top once it is all said and done?