2019 NBA free agency was expected to be monumental, but never in our wildest dreams did we see it ending this way.
- Kawhi Leonard is a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, with Paul George (!) as a running mate after the Clippers traded pretty much every draft pick they had to Oklahoma City.
- Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are in Brooklyn together, with the Nets beating out the Knicks for their services.
- A lot of other stuff.
- Also: RUSSELL WESTBROOK AND JAMES HARDEN ARE REUNITED IN HOUSTON HOLY CRAP.
Let’s get right to it.
RUSS AND JAMES ARE REUNITED
The NBA has completely outdone itself. Russell Westbrook is now with James Harden in Houston, with Chris Paul, two first-round picks, and two pick swaps going back to the Thunder. For a more complete list of winners and losers from this transaction, click here.
WINNER: Oklahoma City Thunder
Once Paul George asked out and was dealt to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook reportedly wanted to go to the Houston Rockets. In situations like these, given Westbrook’s huge contract and preferred destination, teams don’t usually get a lot in return.
Not Sam Presti. He secured two lightly-protected first-round picks and two pick swaps from Houston as the cost of swapping Westbrook for Chris Paul. Both players are declining, prickly, and with huge contracts. You’d probably take Westbrook given his age, but it’s not an obvious choice. And yet, Presti secured control of four draft picks for the right to swap them.
Combined with the incredible haul he received for George, and Presti turned his two biggest stars asking out into a declining superstar (Chris Paul), a near All-Star (Danilo Gallinari), a top prospect (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), seven first-round picks, and four pick swaps. THAT’S how you create leverage.
WINNERS: Russell Westbrook and James Harden
They get to play with their best buddy again, instead of Chris Paul or a team of kids.
LOSER: Daryl Morey
This didn’t age well.
A thoroughly exasperated Daryl Morey said Chris Paul and his reps have never asked to trade him and he will be on Rockets next season. Said he and Harden do not have issues with one another and that he has spoken to both often this off-season about free agency evaluations, plans.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) June 18, 2019
LOSER: Chris Paul
There’s no way he stays with the Thunder, right? I know he began his career in Oklahoma City when the Hornets were displaced due to Hurricane Katrina, but he wants to win a title, doesn’t he?
LOSER: Moreyball as an analytics philosophy
Are the Rockets winners or losers? I’d lean losers, because I can’t see Westbrook adjusting his game well enough to justify the cost of taking him on. But this could work — Westbrook could be a different player with the Rockets’ spacing, and Harden may be more willing to dial back his usage to help his superstar teammate if it’s one of his old friends instead of a guy he reportedly can’t stand.
But one thing is clear: Moreyball is about something a lot simpler than it may seem.
You couldn’t find a player more antithetical to the Rockets’ analytically driven approach than Westbrook, and yet Daryl Morey just gave up a ton to acquire him. That could mean that Morey has lost his ability to determine the ideal fits for the Rockets’ style of play, one that’s revolutionized the league. Maybe Morey has lost his touch.
Or, perhaps Moreyball was about exactly the argument Charles Barkley famously used to criticize analytics: nothing matters without stars. In Morey’s mind, Russell Westbrook is a star and the job of a general manager is to collect as many as possible, fit be damned. It’s why Morey traded for Paul, after all, despite the potential awkward fit with Harden. It’s why he pursued Jimmy Butler with trade pieces that didn’t exist. It’s why he brought Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady together all those years ago. It’s why he build odd rosters stocked with trade assets for two years to put himself in position to land Harden in 2012.
Moreyball is about acquiring stars and figuring out the rest later. Trading for Westbrook, a star who spits in the face of the utopian threes-and-layups shot chart Morey seemingly craved, only drives that point home.
LOSER: Mike D’Antoni
This will be a ... difficult team to coach.
WINNER: West desperation
Does this trade happen if the Warriors don’t split up? If the Lakers don’t get Anthony Davis? If the Clippers don’t pull off the Leonard-George heist? If the Jazz don’t trade for Mike Conley? If the Warriors don’t react to Kevin Durant’s departure by landing D’Angelo Russell? Hell, if the Blazers don’t shake things up after making the West Finals?
The West arms race snared the Rockets and made them feel like they needed to take this huge gamble simply to keep up. This is what the Win-Now Era leads to.
KAWHI LEONARD TO THE CLIPPERS ... WITH PAUL GEORGE??
After all that, Kawhi chose a Clippers team that has long been linked with him, but with a co-star nobody expected. For a more complete list of winners and losers from this transaction, click here.
WINNER: Los Angeles Clippers
To beat out their big brothers for Kawhi Leonard and steal Paul George, the guy who seemed destined to be a Laker? Los Angeles may never be the same. This is a seismic moment in league history — nay, sports history.
WINNER: Los Angeles Clippers
It must be said again.
WINNER: Los Angeles Clippers
Look at this damn squad:
Guards: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Jerome Robinson
Wings: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Landry Shamet, Rodney McGruder, Mo Harkless, Sindarius Thornwell
Bigs: Ivica Zubac, Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green
What beautiful balance. They can start George, Leonard, Beverley and whoever up front, then come in with Harrell and Williams on the second unit with the shooting of Shamet and the perimeter defense of either Harkless or McGruder. They’re a little short on rim protection (unless Zubac steps up) and a tad short on passing, but that is a vicious, deep team.
They have to be the early West favorites at this point.
LOSER: Los Angeles Lakers
You hate to see it.
Lakers contingent is upset Kawhi Leonard chose the Clippers obviously but more shocked the Thunder paved the way with the Paul George trade. Completely blindsided by that.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 6, 2019
All is not lost, of course, not by a longshot. The Lakers still are overall offseason winners because they landed Anthony Davis. Considering the slim pickings after losing out on Leonard, they did a decent job building the roster up, too. Danny Green is a nice signing, DeMarcus Cousins on a one-year deal is found money, and retaining Rajon Rondo and Kentavios Caldwell-Pope is sensible. They are right up there in the West pecking order.
But the Lakers lost something else when Leonard spurned them: their stranglehold on the city of Los Angeles. Two hometown superstars — one they pursued in free agency in the past, one they pursued in free agency this year — decided they wanted to go to the city’s onetime B team in the L.A. Clippers. That is a testament to what the Clippers have built, but it’s also an indictment on the last several years of Lakers dysfunction.
WINNER: Oklahoma City Thunder
It sucks that Paul George left one season after re-signing, but the Thunder were stuck with no way out. Now, they have more draft picks than they can possibly use, plus a solid young point guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a quality scorer in Danilo Gallinari that could stick around or get flipped for more assets.
NEUTRAL: Toronto Raptors
They are still the defending champions, at least.
Everyone has yearned for an NBA where any collection of teams could win the championship. League haters have constantly held this anvil over our collective heads.
If they don’t pay attention this year, then there’s no hope for them. Between the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, 76ers, Jazz, Nuggets, Rockets, Celtics, Warriors, Blazers, and Nets, this is shaping up to. be the most wide open year in NBA history.
— Mike Prada
KEVIN DURANT AND KYRIE IRVING GO TO BROOKLYN
In the end, there wasn’t much suspense. The long-rumored union of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant with the Nets became official before free agency even began.
WINNER: The Brooklyn effin Nets
Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving. They did it. Regardless of what happens now, what an incredible accomplishment for Brooklyn.
WINNER: The Nets’ long rebuild
Think back to the disastrous 2013 trade in which Brooklyn handed the Celtics their future for aging stars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Could you have imagined that, six years later, TWO top-15 superstars in their prime would voluntarily choose Brooklyn, one of which came from the Celtics?
That’s a testament to the hard, long work general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson did patiently rebuilding the Nets into a team on the rise with a thriving culture.
Now comes the hard part: making it all pay off on the court.
LOSER: New York Knicks
In one sense, this doesn’t have to be a disaster for the Knicks. Take your lumps, build slowly, and let this thing play out. It’s what fans have wanted for years. It’s kind of what they ended up doing with short contracts to (deep breath) Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, Marcus Morris, and Reggie Bullock.
But then again, it kind of is a disaster. The Knicks traded away their most promising young player in years (Kristaps Porzingis) to create enough room for two max contracts, then hinted many times publicly that their grand plans would result in success. Instead, they’re watching their crosstown rivals get the dual prize that seemed destined to head their way.
BIG LOSER: New York Knicks
If this is indeed true, scratch everything I just wrote above.
The Knicks and owner Jim Dolan were not prepared to offer Kevin Durant a full max contract due to concerns over his recovery from the Achilles injury, league sources tell me and @wojespn. Knicks officials are in Los Angeles tonight, meeting with free agents such as Julius Randle.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 30, 2019
BIGGEST LOSER: Steve Mills
Poor guy had to put his name on this.
The Knicks have released a statement from team president Steve Mills in the wake of missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving: pic.twitter.com/z4yKVILSqi— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) July 1, 2019
WINNER: DeAndre Jordan
Technically part of Brooklyn’s new Big 3, and with a four-year, $40 million deal to boot.
LOSER: Golden State Warriors
Even if we kind of knew Durant was a goner, it has to sting knowing the circumstances that led to his departure. It’d be one thing if Durant led the Warriors to another title and then decided he wanted a new challenge. It’s another for him to rush back from one injury, only to suffer the worst ailment a hooper can get, thanks in part to medical guidance that may or may not have endangered him unnecessarily.
(Also, while I appreciate the idea of retiring Durant’s jersey already, this smells like an attempt to generate good PR.)
The end result is the worst of all worlds. Not only do the Warriors lose Durant, but they do so having demonstrated they actually need him to win titles.
The Warriors also did ... something else. More on that below.
JIMMY BUTLER TO ... THE HEAT?
Jimmy Butler apparently always wanted to go to the Heat, and Miami made the move happen with a series of complicated sign-and-trade transactions that cost them Josh Richardson, Hassan Whiteside, and another first-round pick.
WINNER: Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler, for whatever reason, wanted to go to the Miami Heat. He probably wanted to go to the Miami Heat back in November, when he was trying to leave Minnesota. He didn’t get there then, because the Heat didn’t have many trade assets and were protective of Josh Richardson, the one they did have. The book appeared to be closed.
Turns out, it wasn’t. Butler orchestrated a complex sign-and-trade arrangement to get to South Beach, convincing the Heat to give up Richardson and signing a four-year maximum contract in the end. Getting Miami and Philadelphia to play ball on a sign-and-trade is a heck of an accomplishment given the salary-cap difficulties that entailed.
It’s hard to see how the Heat can be a real factor in the East with Butler and a bunch of spare parts, but at least Butler got to the place he wanted.
LOSER: Houston Rockets
The Rockets aimed at another star player this summer, reportedly trying to lure Butler back to his hometown. It didn’t work out either because the Sixers didn’t want what Houston was offering up in the necessary sign and trade, or because Butler wanted to go to the Miami Heat regardless. Butler ended up in South Beach, and the Rockets aren’t left with many other good options on the market as talent gets snapped up.
With the Warriors wounded up and the Lakers still working to build a rotation around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Rockets had a shot to take the Western mantle and fell short. Now what?
TBD: Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons. Josh Richardson. Tobias Harris. Al Horford. Joel Embiid. That’s an ... interesting basketball team. I’m gonna need some time to process this.
HOLD UP D’ANGELO RUSSELL WENT WHERE??
With Kyrie Irving heading to Brooklyn, D’Angelo Russell was free to find another team. The one he chose, though, caught EVERYONE off guard.
LOSER: Golden State Warriors
This might be the most bizarre free-agent transaction in years. Of all the possible ways the Warriors could have rebounded from losing Kevin Durant, who would have ever thought a sign-and-trade to give Russell a four-year, $117 million contract would be their move? This wasn’t in the same universe as even the weirdest possible next transaction. #Lightyears, indeed.
Thing is, there’s a reason nobody saw this coming. Russell, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson will combine to make nearly $100 million per season all by themselves over the next three seasons. Can they play together? Unclear. Can they fill out the roster around them? Also unclear.
To make that happen, they needed to trade an extremely lightly protected 2024 first-rounder to Memphis as collateral for them taking Andre Iguodala’s contract. Curry and Thompson will be in their mid-30s by then, so the Warriors are taking on a ton of downside risk.
Is D’Angelo Russell really worth all that on this team? Hard to see it, unless this is merely an asset play.
WINNER: D’Angelo Russell
He won’t get to stay with the Brooklyn Nets team he helped build into one of the best young groups in the league, but getting a chance to play with Stephen Curry and the Warriors is as good a consolation as he could’ve wanted. Russell won’t be a natural fit next to Curry, but with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson (when he returns from injury), Golden State could still have an electric offense. Golden State could be a better team than Brooklyn next season with KD sidelined.
— Matt Ellentuck
LOSER: Andre Iguodala
Iguodala was collateral damage after Kevin Durant opted to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Desperate to make some sort of free agency splash with Klay Thompson sidelined for most of the year, Golden State and Brooklyn agreed to a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell, leaving Iguodala’s contract needing to be moved salary cap-wise.
The Memphis Grizzlies took on Iguodala’s $17 million contract in exchange for draft compensation, which is wonderful for them, but bad news for a once-key member of a dynasty. The Grizzlies are in for a full rebuild, and 35-year-old Iguodala should want nothing to do with that. Look for Andre to ask for a buyout.
At the very least, Iguodala made fantastic content out of his very bad day:
I need that Magic meme...— andre (@andre) June 30, 2019
LOSER: Minnesota Timberwolves
They seemed like the favorites for Russell all day, despite not having salary-cap room themselves. Karl-Anthony Towns even went ahead and dropped this hint on Instagram.
Karl-Anthony Towns on Instagram as the Wolves pursue D’Angelo Russell. pic.twitter.com/VUp72YRm3e— RealGM (@RealGM) July 1, 2019
KEMBA WALKER HEADS TO BOSTON
With Kyrie Irving gone, Boston rebounded quickly to secure Kemba Walker, whose loyalty to the Hornets was finally broken by a low-ball contract offer.
WINNER: Kemba Walker
Walker won’t be getting the supermax, but for the first time in his eight-year career, he’ll have a chance to compete in the playoffs after committing to a four-year maximum contract with Boston. With the Celtics, Kemba can take control over an offense that doesn’t live and die solely on his efforts. It’s as good of a landing spot as he could’ve hoped for after Charlotte declined to pay him his worth.
LOSER: Charlotte Hornets
Declining to give a supermax or even a regular five-year maximum contract to a 29-year-old small guard coming off a career year is defensible in a vacuum, especially for a non-contender. That’s not why the Hornets are losers for letting Kemba Walker go to Boston.
The issue is the lack of foresight the Hornets showed throughout this process. If they weren’t going to offer Walker everything he wanted, why didn’t they get in front of the situation and trade Walker before losing him for nothing?
They had to know their team was going nowhere. They had to know Walker could potentially make himself eligible for the supermax and put them in this pickle. They had to know he’d want a normal max contract regardless, and that multiple teams would have four-year offers ready for him should he hit the open market. Did the Hornets care more about a doomed playoff push and/or having one of their own in the All-Star Game they hosted? That’d be foolish if so.
And no, a sign-and-trade for Terry Rozier as a replacement isn’t a good backup plan.
THE BUCKS KEEP (MOST) OF THE CORE
The big question for the league’s best regular-season team: how would they navigate a tricky summer in which several key players were free agents? The answer: they retained most of them, but one was too rich to keep.
WINNER: Khris Middleton
When Middleton was last a free agent, he took far less than his market value at five years and $70 million. Nothing to sneeze at, of course, but he could have looked for a larger offer sheet or tried to get a shorter-term deal to hit free agency again sooner. That below-market contract helped Milwaukee build the 60-win juggernaut it built last season.
This time, Middleton secured the absolute best contract he could: five years, $178 million, with a player option. He had the Bucks over a barrel due to his low cap hold and their lack of cap space to replace him, and he used that leverage to secure the bag. Given the way he gave them a break last time, this was well deserved payback.
WINNER: Brook Lopez
Lopez took a chance on the Bucks last year, signing a one-year, $3.3 million contract that could have been seen as an insult given his All-Star pedigree. Instead, he happily played the perfect role for a great team, rebuilt his value, and locked in a four-year, $52 million deal that’ll earn him security through his age-35 season.
LOSER: Milwaukee Bucks
They didn’t keep the full band together, because they lost Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers on a contract they clearly weren’t able to match. They didn’t preserve a ton of long-term flexibility, because they still gave Middleton and Lopez fat four-year contracts while taking the leftover money saved on Brogdon to give 33-year-old George Hill a three-year, $29 million deal to stay. Re-signing Eric Bledsoe during the year doesn’t seem like the best call either, given his postseason struggles. (Wes Matthews was a nice addition at the minimum, and Robin Lopez at least unites the Lopez brothers).
So the only thing they really accomplished appears to be ducking the luxury tax, which is not ideal given Giannis Antetokounmpo’s future. The Bucks had a tricky task this summer, but it’s hard to see how this outcome puts them on any sort of defined path forward.
ALL THE OTHER STUFF
The other winners and losers of free agency.
WINNER: David Griffin
When David Griffin took over as President of Basketball Operations with the Pelicans, he had the remnants of a disjointed, disappointing roster and an unhappy superstar in Anthony Davis. After dealing AD to the Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart, drafting Zion Williamson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and finding a taker for Solomon Hill’s bad deal, Griff could have called this offseason a smashing success.
He took it one step further by nabbing J.J. Redick to a smart two-year deal, acquiring Derrick Favors from Utah, and adding European import Nicolo Melli. The Pels now have shooting and a bit of veteran moxie to provide Zion with a comfortable learning environment. Not bad.
WINNER: Utah Jazz
This is what it looks like for a small-market team to get serious. No longer are the Jazz content with being a nice regular-season team without enough offense to get it done when the going gets tough.
Now, they have a clutch floor general in Mike Conley, and one of the league’s best spot-up shooters in Bojan Bogdanovic on a four-year, $73 million contract. A starting lineup of Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert provides a ton of shooting and playmaking, with the Defensive Player of the Year back there to clean up any messes. Look for Mitchell to have a huge third season now that he actually has some real shooting on the floor. (Ed Davis for two years, $10 million was also nice).
The Jazz are gonna be a damn problem.
WINNER: Phoenix Suns and Ricky Rubio
The Phoenix Suns were mocked at the NBA draft for making several on-brand decisions in the absolute worst possible ways, but they bounced back by kicking off free agency with a three-year, $51 million offer to Ricky Rubio.
The move fills a long-time devastating hole on Phoenix’s roster with a pass-first point guard who will help everyone else fall into their natural place. That applies more to Devin Booker — who will run more action off the ball — than anyone else.
It’s unclear how much of Igor Kokoskov’s offensive system will be scrapped now that Monty Williams is Phoenix’s head coach, but much of it came from Rubio’s former team, the Utah Jazz, where Kokoskov spent three years teaching Quin Snyder’s dribble hand-off, side-to-side, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach. The fit is splendid from that perspective.
For the sake of Deandre Ayton’s development, few attainable ball-handlers make more sense than Rubio, who can help turn last year’s No. 1 pick into a destructive roll man. Neither Phoenix nor Rubio will have to worry about his flawed shooting in the playoffs, either, because Phoenix isn’t getting there anytime soon.
For now, putting young talent in roles where they can learn and thrive should be a priority. Rubio seamlessly helps that happen, and, for his trouble, he’ll somehow make more money next season than he did in 2018-19. It’s a win-win all the way around.
LOSER: Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers made a big move, swapping the expiring contracts of Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless to the Heat for Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside will work as a replacement for Jusuf Nurkic, who could miss most of the season with a broken tibia and fibula, but his fit is a huge question mark. Whiteside saw his playing time steeply decrease last season, as he’s a limited defender in space and provides little on the offensive end aside from dunks and layups.
There’s only one year left on his deal, so this isn’t a huge risk. But it’s tough to see how Portland looks better without Harkless and Seth Curry, who will sign with the Mavs, and with someone whose skillset isn’t made to play defense in the playoffs.
WINNER: Indiana Pacers
The Pacers made the steal of the NBA Draft night when they traded cash considerations to the Suns for T.J. Warren. Then, they pulled a huge curveball on Day 1 of free agency, trading a first-round pick and two second-round picks for Malcolm Brogdon, a sharp defender and 50/40/90 shooter.
With Indy losing Bojan Bogdanovic to a four-year, $73 million deal to Utah, this was an elite backup plan. Brogdon is one of the league’s most underrated guards who’ll compliment Oladipo well when he returns from injury. Brogdon doesn’t need to take possessions away from Oladipo to be successful.
WINNER: Sacramento Kings
The Kings had a totally rational, sane free agency plan: replace restricted free agent Willie Cauley-Stein at center, retain Harrison Barnes, add a couple of veterans who won’t block the young rising stars. Check, check, check.
The Kings added 3-and-D center Dewayne Dedmon, signed Barnes to a 4-year deal around $20 million per season, and used the rest of their cap space to add Trevor Ariza (who should come off the bench behind Barnes and Marvin Bagley III) and Cory Joseph (who should back up De’Aaron Fox). None of these deals should be albatrosses, and none of the veterans should stand in the way of upward growth for the most promising of the kids (Fox, Bagley).
Decisions — like an extension for Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic’s future on the team — still loom. And it’s still weird that the Kings fired Dave Joerger after a strong season. But the Kings just might be on the right track. What a world.
WINNER: Chicago Bulls
Since the 2019 trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls have added Otto Porter, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, and Coby White while giving up Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, and two second-round picks. In doing so, they’ve transformed their team from an archaic relic of the past into a young, dynamic, defensive-minded, and versatile crew.
All four of those acquisitions have positional flexibility, which means they can slot in a lot of different places around the young core of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Wendell Carter Jr. Satoransky could start at point guard next to LaVine, or play off the ball if White develops. Porter is a solid starting small forward, but he can also play the 4. Young can play with either Markkanen or Carter.
If Jim Boylan can actually coach — the jury’s still out — this is a nice young core that’ll grow organically.
LOSER: San Antonio Spurs
Thinking they had a commitment from Marcus Morris on a two-year, $20 million deal, the Spurs traded Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards and agreed to turn their DeMarre Carroll signing into a sign-and-trade, yielding him more money and subjecting San Antonio to the hard cap.
Then, Morris reneged on the deal to sign a one-year, $15 million offer from New York, who suddenly had more money after lowering Reggie Bullock’s contract due to a mysterious ailment. With no Morris, no Bertans, and a slim market, the Spurs had to settle for signing Denver free agent Trey Lyles.
LOSER: Washington Wizards
The Wizards made two questionable trades in pursuit of the No. 8 seed in the East ahead of the trade deadline last season. First, they moved Kelly Oubre Jr., a restricted free agent-to be anyway, for Trevor Ariza in December. Ariza was a desired win-now piece on the market, but the Wizards refused to move him once making the playoffs seemed extremely unlikely. Then, in February, they moved Otto Porter Jr. for Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, and a protected 2023 second-round pick.
Only the pick stands seven months later with Portis going to the Knicks, Ariza going to the Kings and the Wizards reportedly not interested in keeping Parker.
— Matt Ellentuck
LOSER: Orlando Magic
The Magic were clearly caught in the high of their first playoff appearance in six seasons, opting to sign and re-sign contributors rather than take the long rebuilding route. Orlando kept Nikola Vucevic, the team’s All-Star, for four years and $100 million, Terrence Ross for four years and $54 million and signed free agent Al-Farouq Aminu for three years and $29 million.
Though keeping Vucevic on a value deal was a strong move, signing two in-their-prime role players for a steep price is a questionable choice. Orlando is years away from truly competing with Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac and (hopefully) Markelle Fultz. Those guys will only take minutes and spotlight from the franchise’s future.
— Matt Ellentuck
WINNER: Isaiah Thomas
IT might’ve only gotten the veteran minimum, but on the Wizards, he’ll be gifted what he wasn’t before — playing time! John Wall is out for the forseeable future and the team traded Tomas Satoransky on the second day of free agency. Thomas couldn’t have asked for a better chance to revive his career.
— Matt Ellentuck
WINNER: Frank Kaminsky
He really got two years and $10 million? That dude has a great agent.
LOSER: DeMarcus Cousins
The whole point of Cousins signing a one-year deal with the Warriors last year was to rebuild his value, bask in a championship halo, and cash in this summer. None of that went according to plan, and now, Cousins is stuck taking another one-year deal, this time for even less money with the Lakers.
Poor guy. Injuries suck.
At least he gets to play with Anthony Davis again.
LOSER: The NBA’s best friendship - Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic
Tobias is staying in Philly, but Boban is going to Dallas.
I’m gonna need a minute.
— Matt Ellentuck
LOSER: Tampering purists
So much for NBA teams respecting the sanctity of the moratorium. By the time the official free-agent negotiating period opened, two of the top five free agents (Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving) were on their way to new teams, and multiple Al Horford mystery suitors were floated and debunked.
Theoretically, that sort of maneuvering shouldn’t start until after 6:01 p.m. on June 30. In reality, it’s always started earlier, and the only difference now is that nobody cares to pretend otherwise.
This could all be avoided if the NBA moved free agency to immediately after the draft and ended the league year after the Finals, rather than on June 30. Then again, given the interest free-agent rumors generate, perhaps this is a problem that doesn’t need to be solved.