The NBA Draft was supposed to be the marquee event of the week in the Association but the free agency period has quickly took over the spotlight and it is bringing the chaos right along with it. The madness actually started two days before the draft last Monday when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded the future Hall of Famer to the Phoenix Suns for four players including Ricky Rubio and a future 2022 first-round pick.
First Domino: Chris Paul traded to the Phoenix Suns
When the Thunder traded Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets last year for Paul, it felt like the club was in complete rebuilding mode. They also traded Paul George for even more first-round picks all while picking up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari (more on him later). But the Thunder surprised everyone by even making the playoffs let alone coming within moments of beating the Rockets in the first round. Now the Thunder are still making moves and it is hard to tell if this team will be a lottery team or be a competitor in the West once again. (Again, more on that later).
First off, for the Suns Paul is obviously a tremendous pickup. Devin Booker now has a teammate that can give him the proper support who almost single-handedly led Phoenix to 8-0 record when play resumed in the bubble. Also Paul's ability to create plays and dole out assist after assist will help the development of Deandre Ayton. The 2018 first overall pick hasn't been the immediate sensation everyone thought he could be but he is by no means a bust. Paul's leadership will be heaven sent for this very young team.
For Paul on the other hand it was a very surprising move. After the season was over, there were many rumors that he might unite with his great friend LeBron James and finally play for the Lakers after that move was nixed by then NBA commissioner David Stern in 2011 from the New Orleans Hornets. He of course went to the LA Clippers instead and there were even rumors that he could reunite with his former team and make a run with Kawhi Leonard and George. Instead, the 35-year-old guard will play with an unproven Suns team that will probably make it to the playoffs but may have a similar run to the Thunder this year with a first round exit. The clock is ticking on his chances to win his first NBA Championship. Something that he has long been deserving of.
Los Angeles Clippers: Free Agency Loser?
Now, let's talk about those Clippers. They seem to have lost free agency so far by losing out on many players. They squandered a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the Conference Semifinals after many thought it was destined for them to at least face off in the Western Conference Finals with the Lakers. Instead, they lost the 2020 Sixth-Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell to the Lakers noless. They were rumored to sign Rajon Rondo away from the Lakers but he signed a two-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks.
There was some light though as they picked up Serge Ibaka from the Toronto Raptors. He signed a two-year deal in LA but he has a player option after the 2020-21 season. The same goes for Leonard and George. If the Clippers don't meet their enormous expectations of winning the Finals, all three could be out after next season and the Clippers franchise would be back to their old ways of being the basement dwellers of the NBA.
Rich Get Richer: Lakers Make Moves to Repeat
As for the defending NBA champion Lakers, well the rich just keep getting richer. After they picked up Harrell, they got Center Marc Gasol after he earned an NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors last year. He follows in his older brother Pau Gasol's footsteps of playing in Memphis and then moving to the Lakers where he had many iconic years winning two championships. Losing Dwight Howard to the Philadelphia 76ers was a blow but Lakers immediately retooled and should still be considered the front runners to win it all again next season.
Okay now to the part that was promised for later. First stop is in Atlanta where the Hawks are starting to put pieces around their generational shooting talent Trae Young. Adding Gallinari and Rondo, two tremendous veteran presence, will help Young develop into a more consistent player. The Hawks may not make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 but they are starting to show that they are making a legitimate effort to become a contender in the East. They are only a star player away.
Things are Buzzing in Charlotte
The Charlotte Hornets are becoming a very interesting team after a lost season last year when their star player Kemba Walker walk in free agency to Boston. First they added LaMelo Ball in the draft at the number three overall pick. He will be a great play maker and be an assist machine even as a rookie. Also, unlike his father, LaMelo knows that the Hornets GM Michael Jordan would obviously beat Lavar Ball one-on-one. He's already affable and meshing well with his new team.
Ball will be getting help from a veteran presence after Jordan then signed Gordon Hayward to an astonishing four-year deal worth $120 million. Not that Hayward doesn't deserve that kind of money when he's on the court. He had a rebound season last year averaging 17.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists for a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals.
But he had an injury riddled tenure with the Celtics missing the entire season 2017-18 season. He missed more time in his three years in Boston than he did in his first seven years in Utah. If he can stay healthy and elevate this young roster, he'll be worth every penny. Hopefully for the Hornets, they can add another star to compliment Hayward when he reaches the later half of this contract. This seems like just the beginning in Charlotte.
What Team Does Trevor Ariza Play For?
It's time for the truly head spinning trade that went down this week. Stay with us here as there are lot of moving parts that included Trevor Ariza getting traded three times this week. He is now the most traded player in the history of the NBA being traded 10 times. Ariza is now on the Thunder and along with Rubio and Al Horford who was traded for Danny Green to 76ers maybe this isn't a rebuild in OKC after all. They'll have even more picks in the midst of all of this free agency frenzy.
The Thunder sent their last remaining player from the Westbrook days in Steven Adams who now will play in New Orleans. The Thunder got picks back and as part of three team deal, the Pelicans sent Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and somehow the Nuggets are involved. Got all that? No? That's more than okay because honestly it's very difficult to keep this all together. If you are interested in more specifics of all of these moves, continue reading here.
Breaking it Down
But we know were the big players landed so let's break down how these big moves will impact each team. It's amazing that the Thunder could acquire even more picks while getting rid of their two best players in Paul and Adams and absolutely no one would be surprised if the Thunder made the playoffs again with Horford, Ariza and Rubio. Coach Billy Donovan left OKC because the writing was on the wall that the Thunder were going to commit to a complete rebuild and he accepted the job to become the Chicago Bulls new coach.
While this lineup won't win the Thunder any championships, it's not hard to fathom that they can be flipped for even more picks down the road. Who knows, the Thunder are probably not even done flipping players in this free agency period. Stay tuned to see the final Thunder roster.
For the Milwaukee Bucks, this will be a very helpful trade. Holiday was a mainstay in New Orleans and will provide the Bucks much needed help on the defensive end of the court. The Bucks may need to add one more piece to get them over the hump into the NBA Finals but this is a step in the right direction to get more support for Giannis Antetokounmpo and keep him in Milwaukee.
Strangely enough, with Holiday leaving after seven season and Anthony Davis now a Laker, Zion Williamson is now the longest tenured Pelican. Williamson was drafted just last year. It's a whole new era in the Big Easy and the key's are clearly Zion's. Adams and Bledsoe will be great veteran additions to help him steer the wheel.
Now this is by no means the end of free agency. Klay Thompson is out for the season tearing his achilles and is out for the season. You know the Warriors will want to add some more insurance beyond just Kelly Oubre Jr. to get back to the NBA Finals. Westbrook said he wants to be traded from the Rockets and John Wall is saying the same thing about the Washington Wizards. More turmoil in Houston may happen soon as rumors that the Nets are interested in bringing James Harden join Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in Brooklyn.
After all that though, the best move has to be Carmelo Anthony re-signing with the Portland Trail Blazers. After being out of the league for a year and everyone saying he was washed up, the NBA legend started in 58 games and averaged more than 15 points per game. So much for washed up. We can't wait to see what free agency brings next. Click here for the most up to date NBA free agency updates.