The upcoming season of the National Basketball Association has become an event to look forward to as a wave of NBA superstars found new homes, by reason of free agency, trades or the rookie draft, and changed the landscape of the competition in the NBA.
There will be no clear cut NBA championship favorite next season. Both the East and the West will be wide open races as a plethora of teams have valid claims of being a legitimate championship contender. Clippers, Lakers, Sixers, Bucks, Rockets, Jazz, Nuggets and Warriors. Add the healthy surplus of legit darkhorses: Blazers, Celtics, Nets, Heat, Raptors, and Mavericks.
Sounds something a basketball fan should really look for.
Meanwhile, the wheelin’ and dealin’ in the offseason made several teams and players happy as they probably got what they wanted. Here are those who I taught the best offseason by getting what they wanted:
This man of mystery properly commanded the conduct of his free agency to how real free agency should be conducted. His selection of a team is just like how he is, quiet, without fanfare, and him doing due diligence as he meets with his preferred teams and teammates.
Why he bolted the Spurs last year, only he knew the exact reason why. As he was in the process of winning the championship in Toronto, he refuses to talk about his chances of resigning with the team.
When the time to talk about it came, no information leaks out as he meets with the teams in Los Angeles, his supposed preferred destination. Then he gives the Raptors the last crack to try to convince him to stay, at least a good gesture to a team that took a chance on him, even if he could just be a one-year rental.
As it turned out, he wants to play alongside Paul George and did informed the LA Clippers and the Raptors about it as it was reported that both teams tried to make a trade with the Thunder to please the guy.
Almost everything was kept under the wraps until the Leonard camp made the final announcement.
What an offseason ride! I have a feeling Leonard will be a satisfied man in LA as he tries to give the Clippers their first franchise championship along with George. That’s just days after winning a championship for Toronto.
Another entity during free agency that played by the rules and got them what they exactly wanted.
They made it obvious that they won’t be playing second fiddle anymore to the Lakers as cleared cap space to enable them to bring in one max player and set their sights on Leonard when it became clear he wants to be in Los Angeles.
As news broke out that the Kawhi Leonard Camp want to make his free agency process as quiet as possible on details of his choices, the silence of the Clippers camp had me growing doubtful, in a nice way for them, because of the way rumors were floated day after day during the delay of the announcement of his choice.
Information leaked out in the media that it was the Lakers who got the upperhand in signing him with Toronto having an outside chance and the Clippers being out of it.
Toronto, while generally silent on the matter, had an extensive coverage of Leonard’s supposed arrival for a meeting with the team and a horde of fans lined up in a hotel’s entrance where he’s supposedly staying.
Simply bad look for teams who had been earlier warned about leaking information about Kawhi.
The Clippers silence on the matter, on the other hand, was deafening. For me, it’s something suspicious, that something’s happening in their favor and had me thinking they’ve got the upperhand instead.
Their silence was indeed for something as they were willing to mortgage their immediate future to acquire George and secure a long-term contract for Leonard.
They may have given up their future point guard and lot of draft picks in the next five years, but it’s something they can afford with both men staying with them in the foreseeable future.
LA Lakers and Anthony Davis
Early last year, Davis made it clear he wanted to be a Laker and the team showed enormous interest of making it happen, even at the expense of gutting their young core.
Well, after all the drama during the trade deadline last February and the Pelicans grabbing the first pick in the rookie draft to land Zion Williamson, the trade was finally consummated.
Davis, although scheduled to become a free agent himself next offseason, is expected to sign a hefty extension with the Lakers, who got their man, the one they want to become face of the franchise for the next decade.
The Lakers have always establish a face of the franchise every decade and they again did it with the Davis acquisition. They also cleared enough cap space to sign a third superstar, although they have to settle for Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins, and Rajon Rondo after missing out on Leonard.
Still, their roster is playoff contending line-up making them again relevant in the NBA after six years in the dumps.
New Orleans Pelicans
This one may not be what the franchise originally wanted, but under the circumstances, they probably got back more than what they wanted for their former franchise player and stayed on course where the ownership wants this franchise to be.
The dilemma of small markets in the NBA is how to cope up with the expected turnover of talents once their rookie contracts are up and the big payroll sets in. The general refusal of owners of these teams to shell out money to retain their superstars makes them unsuitable landing spots for bigtime free agents.
This fact was confirmed in the Davis case when made it clear early that he wants out in a year’s time, damaging whatever championship aspirations the Pelicans have. It doesn’t help that they got to the playoffs only twice and made it to the second round only once during Davis’ seven years tenure with the team.
With that considered, the haul that the Pelicans got in trading him: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round draft picks, including the Lakers’ No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA draft, was a welcome sight in keeping the team a legitimate playoff contender rather than a cellar-dweller.
They are not expected to win the championship, but hey, this current Pelican group is not overly obsessive if the target is two playoff appearances in the next seven years as a baseline because they legitimately can surpass this.
This playoff appearance ability is something the Pelicans may have wanted all the time when they had Davis.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
These two were rumored to have been talking about playing together this year while the 2018-19 season was on-going. Irving also confirmed he want to play home in New York. Well, they got their wishes granted.
A lot of pundits have questions how these two ball-needy players would mesh up in the same team. Both need the ball to be effective, both want to be the alpha of the team, and yet there is only one ball to play with they say. I understand these are valid arguments.
We all saw how Irving had difficulty adjusting in sharing the ball to his young but deserving teammates in Boston when his shot is not falling as they crashed out in the second round of the playoffs.
We all saw how Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had to take a backseat to let Durant take the lead that resulted to two championships in a row.
While I, too, have doubts how these two will make beautiful music together in Brooklyn, I had since stopped trying dissect moves made by these two enigmatic personalities of the NBA. I just learned to enjoy watching them demand the ball and make clutch shots after clutch shots to carry their respective teams to greater heights.
If these two say they want to play together, then I have no doubts they are willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.
They already have shown steps on how: have abundant possessions.
By selecting the Nets over the Knicks, Irving and Durant will inherit have a young rebounding/shot blocking big in Jarrett Allen. Make it double as they tagged along another rebounding demon, DeAndre Jordan, with them.
These two giants should ensure there will always be enough ball for Irving and Durant to play with by having no shortage of possessions.
By Armando M. Bolislis
Banner photo by Don Ray Ramos