NBA Free Agency: Lakers And Nets Improve While Pelicans Take Step Back

Lonzo Ball

The NBA has the best offseason out of all the major sports. The draft and free agency are full of trades, surprises, and WTF moments. It’s the only sport where a simple emoji could spark free agency and trade rumors. The offseason is a reality show that belongs on Bravo.

We’re a few days into free agency and some teams have totally reshaped their roster in both good and bad ways. Here are my biggest takeaways.

Lakers And Nets Somehow Get Better

The rich truly get richer. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets have the two highest odds to win the championship, and rightfully so. The Lakers have LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Nets have Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. Superstars can win you championships. This ain’t rocket science. That being said, the Lakers and Nets both improved their roster over the past week.

Let’s start in Los Angeles, where the Lakers traded Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and a first-round pick for the most polarizing player in the game, Russell Westbrook. With LeBron and AD choosing to load manage throughout the regular season, Westbrook and his insane motor will be able to carry the load on nights where the top stars sit out. LeBron might need to talk with Russ about how he needs to perform in the playoffs, but Westbrook’s talent will be necessary if the Lakers want to reach the NBA Finals.

Being a championship contender means attracting ring chasers or guys who want short-term “prove it” deals to cash in next offseason somewhere else. The Lakers added Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, and Kent Bazemore. How they were able to sign Monk to a minimum is beyond me.

Across the country, the Nets added crucial pieces of their own. First, they drafted Cam Thomas from LSU, a walking bucket to serve as “Kyrie Insurance.” Despite losing Jeff Green and Spencer Dinwiddie, the Nets re-signed Blake Griffin and Bruce Brown to one-year deals. Brooklyn also signed Paddy Mills, who can still light it up in big moments. Expect the Nets to add more pieces through trades and the buyout market this season.

The Pelicans Failed Zion Williamson Once Again

The Pelicans front office is in the middle of writing a novel titled “How to Lose Your Franchise Superstar.” Seriously, what in the world is going on in New Orleans? I applauded the David Griffin hire. Truth be told, I wanted the New York Knicks to hire Griffin to run the team. I’m glad that never came to fruition.

The Pelicans entered this offseason with two major decisions looming: finding a new coach and re-signing Lonzo Ball. Firing Stan Van Gundy was the right decision, but Griffin should have never hired him in the first place. I like Stan as a commentator, but hiring him to coach was basketball malpractice.

Then, the Pelicans completed a sign-and-trade with Ball that sent the 23-year-old to the Bulls in exchange for Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, and a second-round pick. This comes a week after trading Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, and two firsts (one top-10 protected pick via the Lakers in 2022) for Jonas Valanciunas and the 17th and 51st pick in last week’s draft. To top it all off, the Pelicans acquired Devonte Graham in a sign-and-trade for a 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick. Graham signed a four-year, $47 million contract. Was any other team willing to pay $47 million for Graham?

How do any of these moves help Zion? Spoiler alert – they don’t. It’s not an overreaction to say that Zion could pass on signing the rookie extension with the Pelicans and leave in free agency. That’s how badly the Pelicans have botched his first two years in the NBA.

Knicks Offseason Starting To Make Sense

It wouldn’t be an NBA article if I didn’t talk about my team, the Knicks. As usual, the Knicks offseason has been a roller coaster of emotions. Let’s start with Day 1, where many fans including myself were puzzled with their first four moves. On Day 1, the Knicks signed:

  • Nerlens Noel – 3 years, $32 million
  • Alec Burks – 3 years, $30 million
  • Derrick Rose – 3 years, $43 million
  • Evan Fournier – 4 years, $78 million

Without knowing any of the guarantees and options, all of these moves left me confused.

This was not about the players. I love Noel, Rose, and Burks. I can defend overpaying for Fournier in today’s NBA. However, who were the Knicks bidding against for these players? Who was going to pay Noel over $30 million? The same goes for Burks and Rose. It reminded me of the time the Knicks outbid themselves by almost $20 million for Tim Hardaway Jr. Why not sign these guys to 1-and-1 deals or even 2-year deals to keep flexibility for the future? I like Noel and Burks, but it’s fairly easy to find defensive-minded big men and microwave scorers off the bench.

After a day, details started to come out about the contracts. The Knicks were only on the hook for 2 or 3 years because the last years of each deal are a team option. I still wasn’t thrilled with the contracts, but my outlook started to become more positive.

Then, the Knicks signed Kemba Walker, who was bought out by the Thunder. The number is 2 years, $8-9 million. This is a great flyer for a point guard that’s averaged over 19 ppg since 2015. Is he an injury risk? Sure. But Kemba and Rose are the two best point guards the Knicks have had in over 15 years. Kemba is a low-risk, high-reward point guard. It’s a huge upgrade, and that can’t be overstated.

Finally, Julius Randle signed a team-friendly 4 year, $117 million extension. Randle could have bet on himself, played out his option, and signed a max extension worth more than $200 million next year. However, Randle wanted to give the Knicks flexibility to bring in another star.

The Knicks weren’t going to get the franchise-altering superstar this offseason. However, the culture continues to improve. The team now has young assets, draft picks, and tradeable contracts that could bring in a superstar within the next two years. That’s a win. I feel much better about the Knicks offseason this morning than I did on Monday night.

Quick Hitters

  • The Chicago Bulls are trying to become a playoff team. So far, they’ve added Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar Derozan in addition to Nikola Vucevic, who they aquired at last season’s trade dealine. With Zach Lavine as the centerpiece, the Bulls should make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
  • The Miami Heat might have soldified themselves as the third best team in the East. The Heat traded for Kyle Lowry, re-signed Duncan Robinson and Victor Oladipo, and signed PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris. The Heat are going to be insufferable with the refs, but they’ll also fight the other team on any given night.
  • Do the Celtics know free agency started this past Monday night?

What is your biggest takeaway from the start of NBA free agency? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Free Agency: Five Major Questions Heading Into The Season

Montrezl Harrell nba free agency

NBA Free Agency is like the wild west. Teams sign and trade players with reckless abandon. For teams like the Lakers, the rich get richer. For struggling teams like the Pistons, it’s a field day for NBA Twitter. After the dust has settled on the first week, here are the five biggest questions heading into the season.

To Win The NBA Championship, Would You Take The Lakers Or The Field?

Heading into the 2020-2021 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were the favorite to repeat as champions because they still had LeBron James and Anthony Davis. (Anthony Davis is a free agent, but will resign with the Lakers. It’s only a matter of time.) After one week of free agency, the Lakers are now the heavy favorite to repeat as NBA champions.

The Lakers not only restocked players, but upgraded at certain positions. Here’s how the Lakers improved in free agency.

  • Traded for Dennis Schröder, who led the league in points off the bench with 18.9 points per game.
  • Signed Montrezl Harrell, the Sixth Man of the Year last season and second in points off the bench behind Schröder with 18.6 points per game.
  • Signed Wesley Matthews, who shot 36% from behind the arc a season ago.
  • Signed Marc Gasol, a former Defensive Player of the Year and one of the best defensive players in the league.
  • Resigned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris.

The Lakers did lose Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, and JaVale McGee through free agency and trades. However, Schröder, Harrell, Matthews, and Gasol is a stronger foursome.

https://twitter.com/LegionHoops/status/1330593277846818818?s=20

A lot of contenders in the West like the Nuggets and Clippers lost key players from their lineups. The Lakers significantly upgraded, which means barring injuries, the Lakers will be the clear-cut favorite to win the title. Right now, counting on the Lakers to repeat is a better bet than the field.

Did The Bucks Do Enough To Convince Giannis To Stay?

The biggest question of free agency has still yet to be answered. The landscape of the entire NBA rests in the hands of the Greek Freak. Will Giannis Antetokounmpo sign the supermax with the Bucks? Milwaukee knew they had to bring in new players to try and entice Giannis to stay. Enter Jrue Holiday, one of the best two-way guards in the NBA.

The Bucks traded a lot for Jrue Holiday, but if Giannis resigns, it’s all worth it. Had the Bucks completed the sign and trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic, I would have said the Bucks did their part to sway Giannis. However, the Milwaukee front office royally screwed up, leading to Bogdan singing with the Hawks.

If I had to put a percentage on Giannis resigning, I’d go with 80%. The longer Giannis waits, the less confident I will become.

Are The Pistons Drunk Or Wasted?

Respectfully, can anyone explain to me what the Pistons are doing? New GM Troy Weaver has a plan, but I’m confused as to what that plan is. Here are the notable moves from Weaver.

  • Signed Jerami Grant for three years, $60 million
  • Signed Mason Plumlee for three years, $25 million
  • Signed Jahlil Okafor for two years, $3.85 million
  • Signed Josh Jackson
  • Traded Luke Kennard and Christian Wood
  • Drafted Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee.

I’m at a loss for words. Are they creating a stable of big men? The Plumlee signing and Wood trade are baffling. It’s important to remember that Blake Griffin is still on the team. If the Pistons can’t flip Griffin for a guard like John Wall, then who brings the ball up? Good luck, Detroit.

Who Is The Second Best Team In The West?

The aforementioned Lakers are the best team in the West. Who is the second best team?

A few weeks ago, the Warriors would have been my selection as the second-best team in the West. Unfortunately, Klay tragically tore his Achilles and will miss the entire season once again. James Wiseman will help in the frontcourt and Steph will do his thing, but the biggest question mark is Andrew Wiggins. Can he become a 20 point scorer again?

Conventional wisdom would say the Clippers will look to challenge the Lakers. After a disappointing exit, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be on a mission to prove that their pairing can lead to a title. Losing Harrell was a huge loss, but the addition of Serge Ibaka may have been an upgrade down low.

The Nuggets will only take the next step if and only if Michael Porter Jr. becomes a true third option. The Blazers have a loaded bench, but their stars must remain healthy in order to advance in the playoffs.

Gun to my head, I’ll pick the Clippers to challenge the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

Can Chris Paul Lead The Suns To The Playoffs?

Time to take an “L.” I did not think Chris Paul had this much left in the tank. Not only did he prove me wrong, but he proved the entire league wrong when he led the rebuilding Thunder to the playoffs.

Now, Paul will have another chance to expedite a rebuild in Phoenix. The Suns will look to build off the momentum gained inside the bubble, where they went a perfect 8-0. Devon Booker will be a popular pick to make an All-NBA and Deandre Ayton is finally showing his true potential. Add Paul and Jae Crowder to the lineup and Phoenix will try to make the playoffs in over a decade.

The Suns are not a contender, but they should take a huge step in the right direction.

What is your biggest NBA free agency storyline? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

New York Knicks: Solid Draft Night Leads To Unpredictable Offseason

Obi Toppin of Dayton / New York Knicks

As a fan of the New York Knicks, there are a few things that I’ve grown accustomed to when it comes to this organization. First and foremost, the Knicks will always make the wrong move, and it will surprise no one. Hiring Isaiah Thomas, trading for Eddy Curry, hiring Derek Fisher, drafting Jordan Hill, and empowering Phil Jackson only represent a small percentage of a laundry list of poor offseason moves in the last 20 years.

Since the 21st century, the Knicks are Murphy’s Law. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Besides a brief stint from 2010-2013 that included Melo, Amare, and Linsanity, it’s been a dark time as a Knicks fan, which is why what I’m about to say is foreign territory for most of us.

The Knicks had a solid draft night.

In other words, they didn’t mess up, which is the next best thing.

With the 8th pick, the Knicks selected Obi Toppin, the National Player of the Year out of Dayton. Toppin had a stellar season for the Flyers, averaging 20 PPG and 7.5 RPG. Toppin is a 6’9″, 220 pound highlight reel with a great motor and spectacular ability to finish at the rim.

The Knicks are desperate for a playmaker at guard, which is why many believed the team would select Tyrese Haliburton with the 8th pick. I would’ve picked either guy, but it appears Tom Thibodeau and Leon Rose wanted Toppin all the way.

I understand fans who wanted a guard, but I’m at a loss for words with the Toppin slander. His defense and footwork must improve or he will become a liability on the defensive side. However, Toppin is a high-character, hardworking player that went from a 6’1″ high school prospect to a 6’9″ lottery pick. Work ethic will not be a problem. I’m tired of seeing players shy away from the bright lights of MSG. Toppin is a New York native who WANTS to be a Knick. You can’t put a price on that passion. This kid is going to shine as soon as he steps foot into the building.

After the Toppin selection, the Knicks then made a few head-scratching decisions. They traded up to pick 23 but then traded back to get pick 25 and pick 33. At 25, the Knicks selected Immanuel Quickley. The sharpshooter won SEC Player of the Year and will look to light it up behind the arc. However, the Knicks need a distributor, and Quickley only averaged 1.9 APG last season. Quickley does support the theory that the Knicks are becoming the “Kentucky Pipeline.”

I would’ve loved to take a chance on RJ Hampton at pick 23 and I’m disappointed it didn’t happen. I can defend the Quickley pick, but I’m speechless with the Daniel Oturu trade. I thought Oturu, a walking double-double in college, was a good value pick, which is why trading him for a 2023 second round pick makes no sense.

Overall, the Knicks drafted two guys that should play right away. Now, the attention turns to free agency. Cue up the theme song from Jaws because Leon Rose is set to make a move.

First, he cleaned house. Rose created $40 million in cap space by waiving and declining a number of guys like Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis.

Rose was not done.

The Knicks have roughly $35 million in cap space. “Leon, the Launderer” is accumulating ammo for his next move. How big will it be? It appears he has his eyes on a few targets.

If I’m being honest, I’m not crazy about trading for Westbrook. The 40m+ cap hit over the next 3 years is unappetizing. I wouldn’t overpay for Hayward, who’s been a shell of himself since the major injury. I’m not convinced Fred VanVleet can be “the guy.” I like Malik Beasley and would try to make that trade work.

Despite all of my doubts, am I really in a place where I can be picky? Have you watched the Knicks since 2013? Maybe it’s time to say, “Fuck it,” throw it all on red, and let it ride.

Trading for Westbrook and signing Hayward to a long deal may be foolish, but what is the alternative? Every Knicks fan is quick to say what the team shouldn’t do but slow to offer a viable solution. They won’t accumulate picks like Sam Presti. They don’t draft well like Bob Myers. Masai Ujiri is not walking through the door.

I’m tired of watching the Knicks tank and strike out in the offseason. Is a starting lineup of Russ, RJ, Hayward, Obi, and Mitch a bad thing? That could be a potential playoff team. I’d kill to watch basketball that matters. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I’m just tired of the same old shit. Perhaps I should embrace the idea of taking chances on expensive players.

There’s no right answer, but for the first time since 2016, the Knicks have my full and undivided attention.

What should the Knicks do in the offseason? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

NBA Free Agency Contracts Show How Broken the Current NBA CBA is

NBA Free Agency Kawhi Leonard Kevin Durant Khris Middleton

NBA Free Agency is finally upon us. Everyone, myself included, desperately wanted to know where all the top players would land. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, D’Angelo Russell, and Kemba Walker are getting new massive contracts. And they’re all getting $140+ million. They’ll be able to buy nearly whatever they want and have generational wealth. However, NBA players (much like NFL players) are still getting swindled out of big-time contracts. I get that it’s tough to feel empathy for millionaires. But listen to this. In 2020, the new salary cap is only 109 million dollars, with a 132 million dollar tax line. And the NBA collective bargaining agreement severely limits elite pay. It doesn’t make sense that some of these talents are earning similar contracts as good, not great, players. Take this in. Kawhi Leonard, two-time NBA Finals MVP, will make the same amount as… wait for it…

Khris Middleton. 

Are you kidding me? Most sports fans have to Google Khris Middleton to even know what team he plays for. And that’s the crux of the NBA CBA. Max-contracts and the salary cap deflate contract values of world-class players. Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, and Jimmy Butler will all make the same as Klay Thompson next season $32.7 million. It’s baffling.

Yes, the CBA is good for the fringe, bench, and solid starter players. But it truly hurts the best of the best. This is America. For goodness sake, we are bred in capitalism here. It’s why Shark Tank is such an incredible show. People want to know that the best can earn the most. Talent and hard work equate to financial success. But, speaking of Shark Tank, owners like Mark Cuban are still, somehow, avoiding paying players what they are worth.

Max Salaries Prevent Superstars Never Receive Their True Value in NBA Free Agency

For comparison, take Mike Trout. If he doesn’t even earn another contract, his career salary is 521 million dollars. Obviously, the best baseball player, possibly of all time, earned that contract. But, it’s much different in the NBA and NFL. Look at Tom Brady (the GOAT quarterback with 6 rings) and LeBron James (Top-Five NBA player of all time). Their career salaries combine for 614 million dollars. Trout is earning 85-percent of what Brady and James combine for. Which is absolutely ridiculous considering the revenue the NFL generates

But that’s how it is. It’s why top players in the NBA hold out for contracts and why an NBA lockout is looming. Because players like Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard should not get the same pay. Some of these things are not like the other. Thompson and Leonard set themselves apart season after season with elite play, both offensively and defensively. They’ve come through in the clutch and showed that they are difference makers. Great players drive ticket sales, team merchandise, and ratings. For those reasons, they deserve to get theirs.

With how much money owners make and elite players don’t, it’s certainly a broken system. When the next CBA is up, get ready for an NBA lockout. 

Brooklyn’s Finest: Kevin Durant And Kyrie Irving Sign With The Nets

Kyrie Irving Kevin Durant Brooklyn Nets NBA

Brooklyn, stand up. You just pulled off the heist of the summer. Kevin Durant was expected to take meetings throughout the next couple of days and then make a decision on his next NBA team. That didn’t happen. On his sports business network, The Boardroom, Durant announced that he would be signing with the Brooklyn Nets on the first day of NBA Free Agency.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BzWZV18lRxx/

For Nets fans, it gets better. Kyrie Irving is also signing with the Nets.

Brooklyn did the damn thing. Knicks, who? Six years ago, the Nets made arguably the worst trade in NBA history when they traded an abundance of players and 1st round picks for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In six years, the Nets were able to erase their mistake and build a franchise that is set to make a run at a championship in the next few years. Sean Marks, the GM of the Nets, should have a statue of himself outside the Barclays Center.

Although many teams and fans (myself included) prefer their teams to tank, Brooklyn did the complete opposite. The Nets hired a coach, Kenny Atkinson, who was capable of building young talent and inspiring players to reach their full potential. The Nets took a chance on D’Angelo Russell, who after being run out of LA, showed his true potential by making the All-star game last season. With a young and inexperienced roster, the Nets won over 40 games and made the playoffs.

Now, the Nets signed two superstars that will allow them to take the next step towards a championship. If Kawhi Leonard leaves for Los Angeles, the East will once again be wide open. Milwaukee and Philly would be the favorites, but the Nets and Raptors would not be far off. The Nets should compete for a playoff spot this year with Kyrie and then when KD comes back in 2020, the Nets should be the favorite to make the NBA Finals.

Where Brooklyn at? Well, they’re going to be at the top of the Eastern Conference and maybe the entire NBA in a few seasons. Better days are ahead for the Brooklyn Nets.

To Durant Or Not To Durant: What’s Next For The New York Knicks?

Kevin Durant Knicks

The New York Knicks looked poised for a big offseason. One Kevin Durant injury and Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers leaves the Knicks with more questions than answers. How will the Knicks handle free agency?

There’s a common phrase to describe the current status of the New York Knicks. “Things get worse before they get better.” All signs were pointing up for the Knicks as recent as two months ago. New York positioned themselves for a draft position no less than five in the lottery. Kevin Durant was the best player in the world and rumored to be leaving Golden State for New York in the offseason. Plus, the Knicks would have enough money to sign two players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to max contracts this summer.

However, plans change in the blink of an eye. First, the Knicks lost the chance of drafting Zion when they were awarded the third pick. Then, Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles and is expected to miss the entire 2019-2020 season. Plus, their crosstown rival, the Brooklyn Nets, are the favorite to land Kyrie Irving. Once again, things get worse before they get better.

Despite a horrific 17-65 campaign, which is tied for the worst franchise record in team history, fans remained optimistic because of the high draft pick and cap space. Now, optimism is dwindling because of the injury to Durant. Steve Mills and Scott Perry now have a tough decision to make. What is the plan going forward? Does the Durant injury change how the Knicks approach free agency?

To put it frankly, no. Durant’s injury should not change anything.

The Knicks have a rare opportunity to get better via free agency instead of through a trade. Carmelo Anthony was a top seven basketball player in the NBA when the Knicks made the trade for the star in 2011. However, the Knicks were forced to give up four players and a first-round pick. As good as Melo was, and he was a good player, he is not Durant. Before the injury, KD was arguably the best player in the NBA. Durant averaged 32 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists this postseason.

The Achilles injury is tough to recover from for a player on the wrong side of 30. (Durant will be 31 in September.) However, it’s not impossible to return to all-star form. Dominique Wilkins ruptured his Achilles at age 32 in the 1991-1992 NBA season. Defying the odds, Wilkins averaged 29.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. He went on to make two more All-Star teams and two more All-NBA Teams. It’s possible that Durant may never be the best player in the game again, but it’s not out of the question that he will return to all-star form and be one of the 10 best players in the game.

Here’s the question that Mills and Perry need to ask themselves. If they pass on Durant or he returns to Golden State, then what? Is there a better option than signing Durant despite the fact that he will miss next season? There are definitely options, but the likelihood of them happening are slim. The Knicks are going to progressively pursue Kawhi Leonard, but most reports have him either resigning with the Raptors or signing with the Clippers. Klay Thompson has given no indication that he’s leaving Golden State. Kemba Walker is a free agent and said he would consider taking less money, but that would be to return to Charlotte. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will have plenty of suitors, but all signs point to them resigning with Philly or ending up elsewhere. Could the Knicks snag D’Angelo Russell from the Nets if Brooklyn signs Kyrie Irving?

If all else fails, the Knicks could simply draft RJ Barrett and continue to acquire more talent and hope David Fizdale can help their young core take the next step. However, the Knicks young core hasn’t looked promising as a unit. The best player out of this group is Mitchell Robinson, who was NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Allozo Trier made nice strides this past season along with Kevin Knox (at times). However, Frank Ntilikina is a lost cause Emmanuel Mudiay is most likely leaving. This core, although young, doesn’t inspire a promising future.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the Knicks sign two players to max contracts. Pair any of the free agents not named Durant, Leonard, or Irving together. Does a Klay Thompson/Tobias Harris combination take the Knicks to the next level? Can a D’Angelo Russell/Jimmy Butler push the Knicks to the top of the Eastern Conference? The more you pair players up, the worse it sounds. The risk of signing Kevin Durant becomes not only more promising but flat-out better for the future of the franchise.

The Knicks can still have a successful offseason that brings the team in the right direction. Mills and Perry have their work cut out for them. The Knicks are a puzzle, but the puzzle can be solved.

NBA: Durant and Thompson Injuries Have Impacted the Entire NBA

NBA Free Agency goes crazy after Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson injuries

Aside from the NBA-ABA merger, there has not been a more significant seismic shift in the landscape of the league than the fallout from the 2019 NBA Finals. The pending free agency destinations of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have been discussed all season. Now, both are heading into free agency injured. Both will miss either all or most of next season with an Achilles and ACL respectively. Over half the league has to tear up their offseason plans for the NBA Draft and free agency and formulate new ones. Not even the breakup of the Michael Jordan led 1998 Bulls created this much drama.

2019 NBA Free Agency Questions Center Around Durant and Thompson Injuries

The Knicks, Nets, Lakers, Clippers, Celtics, 76ers, and Pelicans. all planned on at least making a pitch to Durant and Thompson. Now, Any team attempts to sign them knows it cost close to $40M in salary for a guy who won’t play (much) in 2019-20. All superstar free agents want to be paired with another superstar. How many teams and other superstars will be willing to put any championship aspirations or salary cap space on hold for another year?

Every decision by every front office from the Knicks to the Lakers, and on up to Warriors will be based upon where Durant and Thompson sign. And, every decision by all the top free agents not named Kawhi Leonard will be contingent upon the KD and Klay.

  • What do the Houston Rockets and GM Daryl Morey do? Do they keep the team together now that the Warriors are seemingly out of the way?
  • The Lakers seemingly can no longer be in the market for Thompson and Durant. LeBron is getting old and they must capitalize on the window this season with the Warriors crippled.
  • Can the Knicks or Nets land Kyrie Irving with KD despite his injury?
  • Did the Raptors convince Kawhi Leonard to stay?
  • Have Kyrie Irving’s viable options decreased because Durant is not healthy?
  • Can the Warriors convince KD and Klay to stay?

Delayed, Not Dead: How The Warriors Dynasty Can Return To Prominence

Golden State Warriors dynasty

Injuries and the free agency status of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson put the future of the Golden State Warriors up in the air. However, with healthy recoveries and a solid core, the dynasty may not be over just yet.

The worst case scenario happened again for the Golden State Warriors. With a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, Klay Thompson went up for a dunk and landed awkwardly on his left knee. At this moment, Klay was the best player on the floor with 28 points. It was typical “Game 6 Klay.” However, once Thompson slammed the floor and agonized in pain, something was terribly wrong. The dynasty was in trouble.

Despite stretching, jumping around, and making two emotional free throws, all hope was lost when Thompson went to the back and could not return to the game. 72 hours after Durant’s season ended due to a ruptured Achilles, Thompson was done for the year as well with a torn ACL. Despite leading the game when Klay exited, the ending was inevitable. Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors prevailed in Game 6, 114-110, to win the NBA Championship.

What seemed like an inevitability at the beginning of the season became an impossibility once KD and Klay suffered horrific injuries. Injuries happen so credit the Raptors for taking advantage of the depleted Warriors. They flexed their dominance and earned this title. Now, the future remains uncertain for Golden State. Durant can opt out and become a free agent and will most likely miss the entirety of next season. Thompson is a free agent and won’t be able to return until next winter or spring. Without those two stars, can Steph Curry and Draymond Green handle the scoring load? Although it was a small sample size, Curry and Green both struggled at times especially late in games when both KD and Klay were out. The question on everyone’s mind revolves around the Warriors’ dynasty. Is it dead?

Dynasties tend to end abruptly. After winning two straight championships, the “Bad Boys” Pistons lost to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals and did not win a playoff series until 2002. Speaking of Jordan, the 90s Bulls won six titles. After defeating the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan retired, Phil Jackson resigned, Scottie Pippen was traded, and the Bulls didn’t win a playoff series for almost a decade. Does this loss to the Raptors signify the end of the Warriors’ dynasty?

Let’s state the obvious. Steph Curry is a three-time NBA Champion and two-time MVP. Draymond Green is a three-time NBA Champion and a former Defensive Player of the Year. They are not falling off a cliff. Despite long recoveries in their future, Brian Windhorst said that the Warriors plan to offer both Klay and KD max contracts this offseason.

Bob Myers cried his eyes out while announcing Durant’s Achilles injury. I appreciate the passion and love for a player, but let’s not act as though Durant died. KD is going to come back in two seasons. Whether or not he’ll be the best player in the world again is up in the air, but I’m confident that Durant will become a prolific scorer again when he returns. The same goes for Klay. Thompson showed that he’s a freak athlete and competitor when he returned to shoot the free throws on a torn ACL. Expect Thompson to undergo a full recovery and return sometime next March.

The elephant in the room revolves around their free agency. Will Klay or KD leave the Warriors this offseason? I’m inclined to believe that Klay will resign with the Warriors for a max contract. It’s hard to believe that Klay won’t want to continue playing with his fellow Splash Brother. Durant’s status is up-in-the-air. Durant has been rumored to sign with the Knicks for months now. The Knicks and a few other teams will most likely still offer Durant a max contract, but the injury makes a return to the Warriors more possible than ever. Durant can either sign a max contract with the Warriors or opt into the final year of his current deal and become a free agent after next season.

The long-term dynasty might still have a chance, but next season is going to be a struggle. The Warriors glaring weakness this year was their lack of depth on the bench. However, when you have most of your money tied up in four players, creating a bench full of depth can be tough. Even if both Klay and DK both resign with the Warriors, they are not going to play for most of, if not all of next season. For as great as Steph Curry is, without any offensive help, it will be difficult to win games if he’s the singular piece for opposing defenses to guard. For as versatile as Draymond is, 7.4 points per game average is not a viable number two option. Who can the Warriors sign to make up the difference? Steph, Draymond, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston are all under contract next season. Demarcus Cousins is open to returning, but without a lot of cap flexibility, it may be difficult especially if Cousins has a high asking price.

The Warriors dynasty may also be in trouble due to the potential shift in the competitive balance. If Kawhi Leonard signs with the Clippers, he automatically elevates them to a playoff contender. A healthy LeBron James will return to the Lakers and if they trade for Anthony Davis, the Lakers will be the favorite to come out of the West. The Rockets are still a force. Plus, the Thunder, Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz, and Spurs should all be in the mix for the playoffs. Simply put, the Western Conference is a juggernaut. Unlike the previous five seasons, Golden State will have to fight hard for a playoff spot next year.

The five straight appearances in the finals might come to an end next season, but don’t be so quick to declare the dynasty, “dead.” The Warriors will need to develop a stronger bench, but thankfully, they still have one of the best President of Basketball Operations in the league, Bob Myers, to build a roster. The Warriors still have Steve Kerr, who is in the upper echelon of NBA coaches. If Golden State can at least resign Klay, the core of Steph, Draymond, and Klay will continue to be one of the best combinations in the game. Plus, you never know if Durant will change his mind about leaving and come back to the Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors will take their lumps next season, but don’t expect them to die. Push the pause button and wait a season. The dynasty is delayed, not dead.

The Kawhi Leonard Effect: Will More Teams Go All In For One Year?

Whether he stays or leaves Toronto, the Kawhi Leonard trade has been a massive success. Will more teams take an aggressive approach for player rentals this offseason?

Following a third straight playoff exit to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Masai Ujiri knew something had to change for the Toronto Raptors. Ujiri realized that the Raptors had maxed out their potential with their current core. Even with LeBron taking his talents to the Lakers, Ujiri still believed that DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and coach Dwane Casey could never get over the hump as a unit. Something drastic had to change.

Enter Kawhi Leonard. Yes, the same Kawhi Leonard who won the NBA Finals MVP in 2014. It’s also the same Kawhi Leonard who played nine games in 2017-2018 after a long battle with the San Antonio Spurs and their medical staff over a lingering quadriceps injury.

Masai Ujiri threw all of his chips into the middle like Teddy KGB and bet it all on Kawhi Leonard. To reiterate, Leonard’s mysterious injury was still up-in-the-air. Plus, Leonard never said he would resign with Toronto. However, Ujiri took the risk because it bought him one year to put a potential rebuild on pause and go for it all.

The Raptors traded franchise legend DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019 for Kawhi Leonard and an aging Danny Green. A few weeks prior, Ujiri fired reigning Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, and promoted his assistant, Nick Nurse. It was safe to say Ujiri was not a fan favorite for not only trading away DeRozan, but for making a bold move for a superstar that by every indication would sign with a team in Los Angeles in the summer of 2019. Ujiri not only traded a fan favorite in DeRozan, but he traded Kyle Lowry’s best friend. In fact, Lowry felt betrayed and didn’t speak to Ujiri until midseason. Speaking of midseason, Ujiri gambled again by trading Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a 2024 second-round draft pick to the Grizzlies for Marc Gasol this past February.

Fast forward to now and the Raptors are one game away from winning an NBA Championship against one of the best teams ever assembled, the Warriors. Just a season ago, Leonard’s medical battle with San Antonio overshadowed just how good Leonard is and could be. Leonard has carried the Raptors and the entire city of Toronto on his back this postseason. During this historic postseason run, Leonard is averaging 31.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg. Leonard has scored a remarkable 30 points or more in 14 of 22 playoff games this postseason.

What’s even more remarkable is that win or lose, Leonard could be a one-and-done in Toronto. Ujiri knew the risks of trading for a rental in Leonard who has given zero indication on where he will end up in the offseason. However, in this instance, a high risk led to a high reward as the Raptors made the NBA Finals and could win their first championship in franchise history.

Players change their minds all the time. The Thunder traded for Paul George knowing that in a year, he may leave for the Lakers. However, the gamble paid off as George resigned with the Thunder. The same may happen with Leonard and the Raptors. Leonard and his success could be an exception, but there’s no doubt that the Raptors have inspired front offices especially in smaller markets to consider gambling on rental or one-and-done players. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, Kawhi Leonard’s success in Toronto seemed to embolden factions of Anthony Davis’ nonpreferred and smaller-market destinations to probe New Orleans on trades.

Take Daryl Morey’s “5 Percent Theory,” which states if you have at least a 5 percent chance to win the title, you should be focused on doing whatever it takes to win a title. If Kevin Durant leaves Golden State for New York and Kawhi Leonard for Los Angeles, the balance of power will once again shift. If you’re the Knicks and Durant signs with you, why wouldn’t you mortgage your future to acquire Davis, who will be a free agent next offseason? A duo of Durant and Davis (even if it’s for one year) skyrockets the Knicks into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

Take another team like the Portland Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum proved why they’re one of the best backcourts in the league as they brought the Blazers to the Western Conference Finals. Even with a healthy Jusuf Nurkic, can the Blazers reach the NBA Finals with their current roster? What’s to say the Blazers package McCollum, Nurkic, and draft picks for Anthony Davis. Would you make that move if you’re Portland and get no promise from Davis that he’ll sign long term? That deal may not be on the table, but being aggressive to capitalize on Lillard’s prime is the right idea.

The worst place to be in the NBA is mediocrity. Either compete for a title or rebuild. Fighting for the last playoff spot every year and then losing in the first round will get you nowhere. The Kawhi gamble may end up sticking this offseason if more teams take a similar, aggressive approach to upgrading a roster. That may not happen, but for the Raptors, the gamble worked.