On Friday, November 20th NBA Free Agency finally kicked off. Almost 2 weeks later and we finally have a good idea of what teams got better and which teams didn’t. While this isn’t the most glamorous free agent market, there were a lot of great players that were moved in the last week. One superstar that has made it clear he wants to be traded is James Harden. The belief is that Harden will at least start the season with the Houston Rockets. At some point it seems like the Rockets won’t have a choice and will have to find a suitor for him. Obviously every team wants James Harden, but trading a superstar caliber player like that can be difficult. So far it seems that no team has been able to offer enough for the Rockets to seriously consider letting him go. There were reports that the Nets might be able to land him, but without Kyrie or KD involved in the offer, it just simply wouldn’t be worth it for the Rockets. With the NBA season set to start on December 22nd, we are officially less than a month away from watching NBA basketball. It will be interesting to see where Harden lands, and how all the new look teams will perform. With that being said, I thought it’d be interesting to recap what has happened so far, and give my opinion on which teams were the biggest winners and losers from this offseason.
This one is about as obvious as it gets. After acquiring Anthony Davis last offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to win the NBA Finals, and bring another championship to the Lakers. With a need at the point guard position, the Lakers agreed to a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder a few days before official free agency began, that sent Danny Green and a first round pick to the Thunder for Dennis Schroder. As the Thunder continue to pile up draft picks and assets, the Lakers were able to pick up a smart experienced point guard who can come in and immediately be a better version of what Rajon Rondo was for this team. In fact, Schroder is coming off one of his better seasons, averaging 18 points and 4 assists. Schroder finished the year as the runner up for 6th Man of the Year, and interestingly enough, the Lakers were also able to acquire the winner of the award. After becoming a free agent, Clippers center Montrezl Harrell decided to switch sides and join the Lakers this upcoming season. Harrell will provide some depth at the center position, after Dwight Howard and Javale McGee both decided to move on from the team. Like those 2 guys weren’t enough for the defending champs, the Lakers were also able to acquire veteran Marc Gasol, who is a versatile defender and a former champion. While getting deeper and younger at key positions, the Lakers also held on to KCP and signed Wes Matthews to account for the three point shooting that Danny Green provided. All signs point to the Lakers being back in the Finals this year, but the NBA is never that simple.
After another near last place finish for the team in the 2019-2020 season, the Hawks realized they needed to acquire some veteran leadership to help their young talent develop and get better. The Hawks entered this offseason with the most cap space, and they made sure to use it. After an ugly failed sign and trade with the Bucks, Bogdan Bogdanovic decided to sign with the Atlanta Hawks on a four year 72 million dollar deal. Bogdanovic is a 6’6 athletic wing who can shoot at a high percentage and create for others. The Hawks were also able to add another experienced sharpshooter in Danilo Gallinari from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Other key additions include Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, and Onyeka Okongwu who the Hawks drafted with the 6th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Hawks add these guys into their core of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, Cam Reddish, and DeAndre Hunter. With all of that talent, there’s still no promise that they will be able to make the playoffs, even in the East. But there’s no doubt this will be one of the most exciting teams to watch this year, and they are one of the clear winners from this offseason so far.
The addition of Daryl Morey appears to have already paid off for the Philadelphia 76ers. After a disappointing finish last season, the Sixers seemed to have no clear direction or plan. Well, after firing Brett Brown, and hiring Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey, the 76ers finally have a sense of urgency and motivation. Firstly, getting off of Al Horford’s abysmal contract, and getting back Danny Green AND Terrance Ferguson is about as good of a move as you can make. Another really smart move that Morey made was flipping Josh Richardson and the 36th pick for sharpshooter Seth Curry. Getting shooters around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is what fans have been begging for since the departure of J.J Reddick and Jimmy Butler. It’s not rocket science: Surround Ben Simmons with great shooters and he will make the rest happen. On top of that, the addition of Tyrese Maxey and Isiah Joe in this year’s draft provides even more shooting and potential. Overall the 76ers have quickly turned the tide, with a few smart additions that will make it almost impossible for this team to be worse than they were last year.
It’s understandable that the Detroit Pistons were looking to make a splash this offseason. But letting Luke Kennard and Christian Wood go to different teams, and paying Jerami Grant 20 million a year probably isn’t the splash most Pistons fans had in mind. After signing Nuggets forward Jerami Grant to a 3 year 60 million dollar contract, the Pistons then went out and gave Miles Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor contracts to secure their frontcourt. Or so we thought. The Pistons then went on to sign Josh Jackson, and draft Isiah Stewart with the 16th pick, to crowd their frontcourt even more. Not to mention the fact that they are paying Blake Griffin 36 million dollars this season. In some good news, Detroit decided to draft French point guard Killian Hayes with their first selection in the first round. Hayes is a promising playmaker that could have a bright NBA future. Other than that, the Pistons’ series of offseason moves have contradicted themselves, and confused all NBA fans up until this point.
The Rockets have a big problem. After Russell Westbrook requested a trade, a few days later James Harden also made it clear that he wanted to be dealt. Up until this point, neither have been traded, but the fact that your 2 star players both want to change teams says a lot about the personnel and management in Houston. The Rockets also lost their GM in Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’ Antoni also decided he had enough of Houston and stepped down at the end of this year. It doesn’t seem like the Rockets have a clear idea of where they’re going after being swept by a much superior Lakers team in this year’s playoffs. Houston attempted the small ball lineup last year with a combination of Robert Covington and PJ Tucker as the 2 big men. Well, Robert Covington was traded to the Trail Blazers for Trevor Ariza and a first round pick. The Rockets did sign Christian Wood to a 3 year 41 million dollar deal, which was a good move. While it seems like Rockets management wants to run it back, the 2 most important players seem unmotivated in Houston, and it’s clear that both of these guys will be traded at some point.
With the resigning of Giannis looming over their heads, the Bucks felt like they needed to make some moves to make him feel more inclined to sign a super max. In the playoffs this year, they were outclassed by the Miami Heat and lost in 5 quick games. After another historical regular season for Giannis and the team as a whole, their playoff woes continue . It doesn’t seem like the Bucks have enough firepower to support Giannis and Khris Middleton. The Bucks did trade for defensive specialist Jrue Holiday, who is definitely an upgrade over Eric Bledsoe who was involved in that deal. But even with that signing, that was pretty much the only move the team made. Like I mentioned earlier, they were in agreement with the Kings to receive Bogdan Bogdanovic but that fell through because he had never agreed to going to Milwaukee. The Bucks will still win a ton of regular season games, but I’m not so sure Jrue Holiday is the answer to playoff success, and he will need to be an elite third option if this team has a chance of making it out of the East.
Those were my 3 biggest winners and losers from the offseason so far, but there are a lot of other teams that made some interesting moves. I thought the Knicks offseason so far has been extremely underwhelming considering the cap space they have. Drafting Obi Toppin still is a little perplexing considering they’re loaded with forwards and are dying for a point guard; and selected Toppin at 8 over Tyrese Haliburton and others. Signing Nerlens Noel, Austin Rivers, and Elfrid Payton isn’t exactly a haul and there’s a chance they could somehow be worse than they were last year. Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets have also made some questionable moves in the last week or so. Drafting Lamelo Ball 3rd overall is a home run, they just have to hope he can develop into the best version of himself. But, signing Gordon Hayward to a 4 year 120 million dollar deal is the exact opposite of a home run. I understand the fact that Charlotte doesn’t attract many free agents, but I feel like there were a bunch of quality guys still left, especially if you were willing to spend that much on a player who hasn’t been able to stay healthy in the past 3 years.
On the other hand, I thought the Trail Blazers made some smart moves and got better overall. Getting off of Trevor Ariza, and receiving a 2 way wing in Robert Covington is a great addition to put with Dame and C.J. The team also kept Carmelo, Rodney Hood, and Enes Kanter while adding Derrick Jones Jr and Harry Giles. And finally, I thought the Phoenix Suns did a great job of building off of their 8-0 bubble run a few months ago. The team added Chris Paul and Jae Crowder to add into the nucleus of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. The Suns will definitely be competing for a playoff spot this year, and if all their young guys continue to develop, the addition of those two veterans could make this a special team. All in all, the frenzy of free agency has finally slowed down and it’s pretty clear what teams will look like when training camp starts this week. Will the Lakers cruise to the Finals and go back to back? Will the new look 76ers make a deep playoff run? Can the Bucks finally get to the Finals? Are the Pistons the worst team in the league? This unprecedented 2020-2021 NBA season will give us all those answers and more, so we will just have to wait and see.