By Charlie Krumsiek ’20
It was another crazy summer for the league whose offseason rivals its regular season for excitement, with six current All-Star selections changing teams, both in free agency and in trades. That does not include elite talents such as Anthony Davis and Chris Paul who also changed teams this summer but were kept off last year’s All-Star roster due to injuries. Let’s look at the best moves made in this year’s NBA offseason:
5. The 76ers, Reloading
The Philadelphia 76ers had something of an underrated summer, as they lost two of their top performers in JJ Reddick and Jimmy Butler, but resigned Tobias Harris and picked up Al Horford. The loss of Reddick reduces the Sixers’ ability to space the floor, but Horford’s three-point shooting helps to mitigate that loss. Jimmy Butler’s sign-and-trade to the Heat was a loss but it appears that the Sixers decided between keeping him or re-signing Harris and signing Al Horford. Their surplus of starting talent allowed this decision and their GM Elton Brand managed to pick up Josh Richardson in the trade. Butler’s difficulties getting along with teammates did not appear to impact the Sixers’ season as they came within an unlucky bounce of taking the eventual champs, the Toronto Raptors, to overtime in Game Seven. Brand’s decision to keep as much of the core together as he could looks like a wise one, as the Sixers now have one of the most talented defensive units in the league and are loaded with offensive talent. Their bench remains a concern, but the talent they have on their starting unit more than makes up for that. The Sixers will likely be contending for the East’s top spot with the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
4. The Rockets’ Trade for Russell Westbrook
The Rockets’ decision to move on from Chris Paul and pick up Russell Westbrook was a stunner for most of the league. The two contracts were touted as “untradeable” as these two appeared to not be living up to the max deals that they signed, but this trade looks like a win for both teams. OKC picks up a haul of draft picks from their trades this summer, now owning up to 15 first round picks in the next seven years. James Harden and Westbrook, both MVPs as well as former teammates, makes for an incredibly explosive offense and a nightmare for opposing defenses. Westbrook’s past three years have shown absolutely unmatched individual numbers, while Harden has had one of the most dominant offensive stretches in NBA history. This pair should make some noise in the Western Conference and will likely be competing for home court in the competitive conference.
3. Brooklyn Nets’ Acquisitions
It seems crazy that the Nets signing two top 15 players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the same summer ranks third on this list, but injury concerns made the rankings easier. Kevin Durant’s past three seasons have shown him to be one of the best players in the league, if not the best, but his torn Achilles tendon poses a tremendous concern for the Nets moving forward. In brighter news, their team for this season remains much the same as the sixth-seeded Nets of last season, only swapping out D’Angelo Russell for Kyrie Irving. While the Nets will likely improve on their record from last season, the impact of their huge acquisitions made in free agency will show in the 2020-2021 season.
2. Clippers’ Heist of PG and Kawhi
The Clippers made a major splash in both the free agency and trade markets in signing reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George. These are two of the league’s top forwards and bring a well-rounded game, as they are both well recognized for their defense and offense. The Clippers lost a slew of first round picks and some very promising rookies to make this deal happen, but the opportunity to see how two of the best defenders at their position will fare together is worth it. They miss out on the top slot due to the slightly redundant nature of their games. They play both offense and defense similarly as stretch forwards who can handle the ball incredibly well. This could prove helpful for the team, as it means that one of these two top defenders will be able to take an easier opponent and conserve energy there. They will also have to carry a smaller offensive load, hopefully keeping both of them more fresh for the offseason. Their defense will likely be among the best in the league as Doc Rivers is well known for his focus on the defensive side of the ball, as well as defensive-minded players like Pat Beverley and Montrezl Harrel. The Clippers will likely claim the top spot in the West as they are flush with plus players on offense and defense, and will be led by former Coach of the Year and champion Doc Rivers.
1. Showtime in LA Once Again?
This trade may have been an overpay by the Lakers, as they gave up two of their top recent top three picks in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, but Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the league when healthy and a GM cannot pass up the opportunity to pair him with one of basketball’s greatest players in Lebron James. Their position in the top slot is mostly due to the compatibility of James’ and Davis’ games. James is a historically great distributor and draws loads of defensive attention while Davis is an unstoppable inside threat. This combination should make for a potent offense, with Kyle Kuzma and 3-point specialist Danny Green. One of the biggest improvements, however, will be their defense as they ranked 20th in the league and Davis is one of the league’s best. This team will certainly improve from their standing last year and likely will command a home court advantage in the postseason.
Honorable Mention: Celtics Sign and Trade for Kemba Walker
The Celtics had yet another major shift in their team this summer, as they lost both Al Horford and Kyrie Irving to free agency but orchestrated an impressive sign and trade for Kemba Walker. Walker made 2nd Team All-NBA last year and has been a consummate pro his entire career in Charlotte, but he has not had the same success that Irving has had throughout his career. A promising crop of draft picks and this signing have dulled the pain slightly for Celtics fans, but losing fan favorite Al Horford and replacing him with one of the league’s worst defenders in Enes Kanter made for a bittersweet summer. A weaker East, however, will allow for the Celtics to have a shot at home court advantage in the playoffs.