NBA Free Agent Signings and Trades

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George - LA Clippers Logo - NBA Logo

Wow. That is all that can really be said at this point as the recent flurry of NBA signings and trades have left me speechless. The NBA has always been known as a player’s league and has a much more active offseason than say the NFL or MLB, but this year, has been absolute pandemonium. In this article, we are going to breakdown all of the major moves, as well as highlight a couple of lower profile moves that could be ones that turn a team from pretender to contender. Let’s get started!

Blockbuster Moves

Most NBA offseason have one, or maybe two, what I would consider blockbuster moves. Last year we saw Lebron head to the Lakers and a major trade between the Spurs and the Raptors where they swapped superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Demar DeRozan. But this season we had several, what should prove to be, franchise-changing moves. We will recap each below.

Anthony Davis to the Lakers

The first major move came when Lebron and the Lakers sent an enormous package of picks and players to New Orleans to pick up Anthony Davis. That move created the best “big two” in the NBA and immediately vaulted the Lakers from a team that missed the playoffs last season to legit title contenders next year.

But after losing out on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes, Lakers fans have to have at least a little bit of a bad taste in their mouths. Securing Leonard would have made this a nearly unbeatable team, especially considering that both of this year’s NBA finals team have lost significant talent. The association is as wide open as I can ever remember, and a three-headed monster featuring Lebron, Kawhi, and AD would have been unstoppable.

But it hasn’t been all bad for LA as they have made several lower-profile moves since missing out on Kawhi. Most notably, snagging Demarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, and Danny Green. They also resigned guys like JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Lakers aren’t locked to win out west, but they are locked to finish with a top-four seed.

Kawhi Creates His Own Super Team

Kawhi Leonard held the entire NBA captive for much of the week as he met with the Clippers, Lakers, and Raptors, before finally deciding to sign with that other team in LA, the Clippers. But he didn’t come alone, as he convinced his new team to go all-in on winning now and they made a second blockbuster move to acquire Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder. While Lebron and AD have slightly higher star power, a lineup featuring PG3 and Kawhi is going to be fierce on the defensive side of the court, and while Lebron is on the backend of his prime, George and Leonard are still getting better.

I am not sure if this makes the Clippers the favorites to win the title this season, but Vegas seems to think so. The Clippers have jumped from +2000 to +300 with the news of the moves, and they are now co-favorites to win it all with the team they share a building with, the Lakers.

Durant and Kyrie Shun the Knicks

Coming into this offseason, all signs pointed to the New York Knicks being able to sign two max players, and finally being able to put a competitive team on the floor in the Big Apple. And there will be a team in NYC that has two max contract guys, but they will be playing in Brooklyn, for the Nets, not the Knicks. Knicks fans must be steaming hot right now as after the most active offseason in NBA history, with loads of cap room, they came up with nothing.

Yeah, they did manage to snatch RJ Barrett in the first round on the draft, and that kid is going to be an elite scorer, but the fact that they struck out in free agency must be disheartening. There are still a couple of names swirling around that could end up moving, and the Knicks are certainly motivated, but it looks like they are going to have another season that ends in heartache yet again.

For the Nets, the move to bring in KD and Kyrie Irving were certainly splashy ones, but I am not sure it is going to matter this year. Irving has proven to be a bit of a cancer in the locker room and can’t stay healthy. And Durant will almost for sure miss the entire season with his torn Achilles. Maybe the Nets find a third guy in the offseason next year and just bide their time this season without Durant while going for it all in 2021? All we really know at this point is that the Knicks are no longer New York’s favorite team.

Jimmy Butler Ends Up In Miami

Jimmy Butler never seemed very happy in his one season with the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite coming within a last-second buzzer beater of beating the eventual NBA champion Raptors, he didn’t want any part of a long-term commitment to Philly. When he came up as a free agent this year, nearly everyone expected him to flee the city of brotherly love. But the Sixers managed to move Butler in a four-way sign and trade deal and ended up getting a player that might end up being a better fit for their team anyway in Josh Richardson.

Butler joins up with Goran Dragic to create what should be a competitive team in South Beach. Long gone are the days of Lebron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh winning titles in Miami. And this team will be competitive, but they don’t have a championship roster, even with Butler on the team.

The Sixers Reload

As I mentioned above, the Philadelphia 76ers were oh so close to possibly winning the NBA title last season. The trust the process Sixers finally had Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons healthy, and with other star players like Butler and Tobias Harris, this roster was packed with talent. And this year’s team might have even more talent than last years!

Yeah, losing Butler is going to hurt, the guy was a superstar, but he wasn’t the best fit. And adding Josh Richardson in the sign and trade deal with Miami was a great move. Philly also re-upped Harris on a max deal, and then made a huge statement by giving Al Horford $109 million. The Horford move was a bit of a head scratcher as his career seems to be winding down, but his addition gives Philly one of the biggest and most physically imposing teams in NBA history. The books still have Milwaukee as slight favorites over Philly to win the Eastern Conference, but if this team gels quickly, I think they are the team to beat.

Kemba Takes Kyrie’s Place In Boston

The Celtics picked up Kemba Walker to run their point as they lost Kyrie Irving to free agency. When you look at their stat lines, they are essentially the same guy, so swapping one out for the other doesn’t make this team marketable better or worse. But losing Al Horford and getting nothing in return has left this Celtics team a bit undermanned at this point.

Boston is hoping that Gordon Heyward can get back to his old ways of being a twenty point a game scorer, now a full year removed from his major knee injury. And I loved their draft as they picked up potential stars Carsen Edwards and Grant Williams. But I wouldn’t expect this Boston team to really compete to win the East Conference. They are a playoff team, and maybe even a top four seed, but I don’t see them hanging with the Bucks and Sixers as real contenders.

DeAngelo Russell Still On The Move?

When the Golden State Warriors sent Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, they did a sign and trade and managed to pick up DeAngelo Russell in the process. It was a shrewd move by the Warriors, and at least they have something to show for losing Durant. Russell blossomed into a star last season with the Nets and has an All-Star level game. He averaged 21 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds a game last year in Brooklyn.

But he doesn’t seem to fit at all in the Warriors system, and there is heavy speculation that he may be traded again soon. The Chicago Bulls seem to be the leading candidate right now to pick up Russell, but with Klay Thompson expected to miss a big chunk of the start of next season maybe the Warriors find a way to hold onto him and play a little different style until Klay is healthy and then ship him off?

Moves You May Have Missed?

All the moves we have talked about were high profile moves that in most years would have been the biggest moves in a typical offseason. But with so much activity, some really solid moves have fallen under the radar. Here we will highlight a couple of moves that aren’t getting as much attention but could have a major impact next season.

New Look Pelicans

We all know about the Pelicans getting a huge package of picks and players for Anthony Davis. On top of the care package from the Lakers, they also had a huge draft as they picked up superstar in the making Zion Williamson with the number one overall pick and Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker later in the first round. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram will be great young pieces, and the Pelicans rounded out their roster with a couple of under the radar veteran moves, grabbing sharpshooter JJ Reddick and former lottery pick Derrick Favors. This team might be a year or two away from truly competing, but I can’t remember the last time a team had so much promising young talent.

Brodie Gets A New Home?

This last move I am going to discuss is one that hasn’t even happened yet. When the Oklahoma City Thunder made the surprise move to trade Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers, Thunder fans were stunned. Now that they are clearly rebuilding, the package from LA was mostly draft picks, you have to wonder if Russell Westbrook will be on the move next?

The current rumors surround the Miami Heat and the Houston Rockets. The Heat make the most sense, but something tells me Houston will give up the world to acquire Westbrook and reunite him with his former teammate, James Harden. It will be interesting to see where Westbrook ends up, and if it is Houston, does that mean Chris Paul is on his way out? The chemistry problems between Harden and Paul have been dominating the news in Houston, and if they can flip troublemaker Paul for Westbrook, that might be best for all parties involved.

Wrap Up

It has been a crazy couple of weeks of moves, and if the rumors are true, it might not be over yet! Be on the lookout for more moves, and my breakdown of updated NBA championship odds after all of these moves, coming later this week. Thanks for reading and good luck betting on the NBA in what is sure to be one of the most exciting seasons yet!

Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL