THE 2019 NBA free agency season is not even 24 hours old and there has already been roughly $3 billion spent on new contract money. Yes, that’s a B. There’s a reason that free agency is fast becoming the most exciting and important part of the NBA calendar with a flurry of player movement altering the landscape of the league, forcing us to refresh our Twitter feeds every 5-10 seconds to keep up with the proceedings. In a few days, the dust will settle, Woj will be able to get some sleep and we’ll have a better picture of how things are projecting moving forward. For now, here are 10 rapid reactions from the first wave of free agent signings.
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1. James Dolan may have done the right thing
FOOLISHLY, after trading Kristaps Porzingis the New York Knicks gave in to the fairytale idea of landing Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and even Zion Williamson. So, of course, the Knicks will enter next season without any of them on the roster. Missing out on the Durant and Irving sweepstakes might not be the end of the world though, with a lot to like about the young core New York has in place. I’m sure fans would rather have those two offensive maestri in a Knicks uniform, but forking out two max contracts to a guy who just exploded one of his Achilles’ and a guy who just exploded a locker room doesn’t sound like the most sound of business decisions.
2. Al Horford and Joel Embiid are going to be fantastic together
FOR a week or so Al Horford’s future with the Celtics appeared to be shot, with an unknown team rumoured to be in the fray to claim the 5x All-Star. Most people, including me, thought the New Orleans Pelicans were ‘that’ team, and maybe they were. However, one Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade deal later, Philadelphia had the necessary cap space to pair Horford with Joel Embiid to form an imposing starting frontcourt. Horford’s signature may have been expensive, but if he can continue to ball out for at least the first half of his contract the Sixers should be considered as one of the early favourites to win it all in season 2019-20.
Image from thesixersense.com
3. The Charlotte Hornets are going to be BAAAAAD
YEP, five A’s bad. Sorry Charlotte fans, things appear set to get a whole lot worse before they get better with Kemba Walker bolting for greener pastures with the Celtics, figuratively and literally. Swiftly, the Hornets softened the blow of losing the best player in franchise history, by annually paying Terry Rozier more money than Walker ever earnt as a Hornet. At this rate, it won’t be long before Charlotte fans are joining the Knicks fans, clamouring for a change of owner with Michael Jordan facing a steep climb back to relevance.
4. The Miami Heat are a sleeper pick for NBA League Pass team of the year
LOVE him or hate there’s no denying that Jimmy Butler demands your attention. Landing on his third team in less than 12 months, Jimmy G Buckets will look to turn Miami into a future contender every time he steps onto the court, even in practice. While the exact details surrounding his arrival in South Beach are still up in the air, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a lot of eyeballs glued to Miami basketball this upcoming season, maybe garnering more league-wide interest than Dwyane Wade’s final season heroics did. After all, a team with Dion Waiters, Hassan Whiteside and now Butler is capable of literally anything, both good and bad.
5. You can never count out the Golden State Warriors
WE should have known better. Even as they lost (perhaps) the greatest player on the planet, Golden State still found a way to leave day one of free agency as a big winner. I’m still dubious over how the Warriors can play D’Angelo Russell alongside the greatest shooting backcourt in history, but landing the young All-Star in essence for Andre Iguodala is a move that deserves applause. We won’t get to see how this new three-pronged guard attack will function until Klay Thompson has recovered from his recent ACL tear, sidelining him for most of the upcoming NBA season. Once he’s back though, there’s no reason why the Warriors won’t emerge as instant championship threats; again.
Image from mercurynews.com
6. GM’s should be pressing hard to pry Jarrett Allen away from the Nets
NOW that Brooklyn has their new star signings some of the other Nets players will be sweating over their place in the franchise’s future. While I’m not going to declare their haul a ‘Big 3′, DeAndre Jordan joining the team flanked by his two All-Star pals makes it hard to see where/how the 7’ 0″ Jarrett Allen fits into the picture. Jordan isn’t the same player that he once was, however, I still believe he’s a starting calibre center in the NBA. Unfortunately, so is Allen, who is coming off a promising sophomore season with Brooklyn. If I’m running another franchise (I’m looking at you in particular Sacramento and Cleveland), the first call I’d be making this morning is about Jarrett Allen’s availability.
7. David Griffin deserves a max contract
I’VE blown enough smoke up David Griffin’s ass for the Anthony Davis haul, but seriously, this man can do no wrong. Ignoring his previous triumphs as the Pelicans’ new decision maker, Griffin continued to make savvy moves as free agency opened, adding attractive pieces to his new young nucleus in the form of sharpshooter JJ Redick (two years, $26.5mil) and versatile big man Derrick Favours via trade. Placing the right heady veterans on a budding roster can be the difference between reaching great heights or flummoxing awkwardly through the early phases of a new chapter. NOLA messed it up once before with Anthony Davis, but Griff and his new professional additions will be out to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
Image from sportsnet.ca
8. We all need to pray for Bango
IN case you didn’t know, Bango is the beloved mascot for the Milwaukee Bucks who has been entertaining basketball fans since 1977. After the latest batch of signings though, there are genuine concerns for his safety. In the past twin brothers, Robin and Brook Lopez have been known to wreak havoc on the poor mascots in the NBA and now that they are on the same team, security for Bango will need to be kicked up a notch. Signing the two big men makes sense from a basketball perspective, but it may come at the cost of one of our cherished mascots.
9. Indiana and Utah aren’t just making up the numbers
EMERGING as sexy NBA Finals picks in their respective conferences, Indiana and Utah aren’t messing around anymore. The Pacers went out and stole one of their division rivals’ best players in Malcolm Brogdon for the worthwhile cost of $85 million over four years, adding Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren previously too. It was a bummer that they had to lose Bojan Bogdanovic as a result, but he won’t be too upset after the Jazz pounced on him with a four-year, $73 million dollar deal. Having already traded for Mike Conley, Utah haven’t been sitting on their hands this offseason, with a lot of keen basketball enthusiasts eager to see if they and the Pacers can take the next step towards contention.
10. With Kawhi Leonard still unsigned the title race is wide open…
The 1,000 odd words above are all well and good, but let’s be honest, the biggest domino in this year’s free agency pool is yet to fall. Where Kawhi Leonard will play in 2019-20 and beyond can still have a dramatic impact on the NBA and if Boardman has his way, we’ll have to wait patiently for that answer. A short term one-and-one deal to stay in Toronto for the upcoming season and defend their crown is gathering a lot of steam, but Leonard now has his pick of the litter with the Clippers still well and truly in the frame to snare the former Californian native. It’s refreshing to not have Goliath’s shadow hanging over free agency, with a genuine argument now over who deserves to be title favourites for the upcoming campaign. Until Kawhi signs though we will all just have to continue speculating.
…but beware, the Lakers are still in the picture
THE Lakers haven’t made any free agent signings yet this offseason. While I’ve made my case for what they should do if you can get Kawhi Leonard, you get Kawhi Leonard and figure the rest out later.