Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
The past few days in the NBA have been nothing short of crazy. We’ve seen some predictable moves like LeBron taking his talents to L.A, but we’ve also seen some very surprising moves like DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors and Paul George staying with the Thunder. Now, as a Toronto sports fan, the majority of my attention has been on John Tavares signing with the Maple Leafs, but I’ve also been extremely intrigued with some of these NBA moves. There’s definitely plenty to discuss, and that’s what I’ll do in this article.
The first big piece of news surrounding NBA free agency dropped on Saturday night, when it was announced that Paul George was re-signing in Oklahoma City 4 years and $137 million. This news came to the surprise of many people, as it seemed like George to the Lakers was inevitable. The rumours of him signing there have been floating around for a few years, and with the Lakers seeming like the favourites to land LeBron at the time, it looked like a good fit for him in L.A. (George signed in OKC before LeBron actually signed in L.A.). It seems like the Thunder are hoping to contend for a while, and they’ve made that clear by locking up this core group of Westbrook and George. But when you consider that they couldn’t even beat the Jazz this year, I don’t think a deep playoff run should be expected from this team.
The biggest news of the off-season came on July 1st (Canada Day) when LeBron James announced that he is signing a 4-year deal with the Lakers worth $154 million. In case you were wondering, LeBron will make $38.5 million per season, $469,512 per game, $117,378 per quarter, $9,781 per minute, and $163 per second in his new contract, not to mention any endorsements that I’m sure he’ll get.
LeBron signing in L.A. was rumoured to be happening for a while, and it didn’t exactly shock me when it happened. What was surprising to me was what the Lakers have done in the following days to try and surround LeBron with a championship roster. Los Angeles has made 4 signings since they landed LeBron, and they go as follows: Lance Stephenson for $4.5 million, Javale McGee for the minimum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope re-signing for $12 million, and Rajon Rondo for $9 million (All on 1-year deals). Not only that, but the Lakers renounced Julius Randle’s rights, in order to get more cap space to sign those guys. It’s not that any of the guys they signed are bad players; in fact I think all of them will fit in well. The issue I see is that the Lakers used their cap space to sign these players, instead of going after a star player to play alongside LeBron. If their goal is to beat Golden State, and that’s what they’ve said it is, then they’re going to need much more star power on their team. That could come in a Kawhi Leonard deal, but even then, I think they’re still a big piece away from being a real threat to the Warriors.
Speaking of the Warriors, they made a huge move Monday signing DeMarcus Cousins for 1 year at $5.3 million. As if the Warriors needed any more stars on their roster, they now have a starting lineup featuring 5, yes, 5 All-Stars. The only thing that the Warriors have lacked recently is an impact big man, and even then, they’ve been alright. Their lineup over the past few years has been focussed on going small late in games, with Draymond Green normally playing at the 5. But now, with DeMarcus Cousins, they can completely forget that and put out a lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Cousins.
Now, Cousins is recovering from a torn achilles injury, so he may be out until January/February. But that isn’t even an issue for Golden State because they’re not going to be playing in meaningful games until May and June. My first reaction to this signing was just pure laughter, because it’s already pretty unfair that a team can have 4 all-stars and 2 former MVPs on a team. But now that they’ve added Boogie Cousins, it’s even more ridiculous. Now, I’ve seen a lot of people criticize the Warriors themselves for this move, and that doesn’t make any sense to me. I completely agree with the slander of Cousins himself, and the NBA, but if you’re the Warriors and an all-star calls you to say he wants to join your team, you’re not going to turn that down, are you? I seriously doubt the Warriors front office cares at all about making the league unfair. They’re going to do whatever they can to make themselves the best team they can be, and if comes at the expense at parody in the league, then so be it. That’s not something any team should be concerned with when it comes to making personnel decisions.
Since I’m a Raptors fan, I’ve got to touch on their off-season to this point. They’ve been pretty quiet, and the only move that they’ve made to this point is re-signing Fred VanVleet to a 2-year $18 million contract (VanVleet was an RFA). There isn’t much to dissect from that, but you can’t help but feel happy for VanVleet, who went from being a D-League player, to a good rotation piece, to a 6th man of the year candidate, and now getting a decent amount of money from the team. It’s also very interesting to me that VanVleet’s deal is for 2 more years, because that’s how long the Raptors have DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka under contract as well. This signals to me that Toronto will try to contend for 2 more years, and then maybe start rebuilding after that. They’ll have a ton of cap space freed up from getting DeRozan, Lowry and Ibaka off of the books, as well as VanVleet now.
There are some moves that I didn’t get to here, like Chris Paul’s extension with the Rockets, and other minor deals like J.J. Redick returning to Philly and Nerlens Noel to OKC. But I covered the big moves already. After what has happened over the past few days, I think it’s safe to say that the Warriors will be champions again next year. There are obviously some teams that got better from free agency, but there is still no one that I can see beating Golden State, especially with their newest addition. I’ll still watch the NBA next year - unlike some other people who are boycotting the league - but I think next year I’ll definitely be more hesitant to label teams as “contenders,” since I pretty much know for a fact who's going to come out on top when it’s all said and done.
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