So you hear it said almost every year… it’s going to be a big year in free agency. And more often than not it ends up being a bit of a letdown. Not 2018 my friends, this is one for the ages!
When you’re not sure where to start, may as well go with the biggest of them all…
LeBron James – Agrees to a 4 year, $153 million deal with the LA Lakers
I’d been telling those who follow the NBA for a while now that LeBron would end up at the Lakers, always nice to be right now and then! He’s delivered Cleveland their long-awaited title and after 4 consecutive NBA Finals it’s time to put his family first and think long term. Having a movie production company and multiple properties in California does make things a little easier as well.
So what does this mean for the chances the Lakers have for the upcoming season? As I’ll bring up later it probably won’t matter who else they get but they’ll certainly be a better team. Having won only 35 games means they can really only go up but even only adding LeBron would give that team a 50 win season. That would’ve been good enough for the 3 seed in last season’s playoffs but when you still have Houston and Golden State in your way it’s hard to think of championships.
As it stands this would be the line up the Lakers would roll out on opening night (subject to future signings and trades)…
PG – Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo
SG – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson
SF – Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma
PF – LeBron James, Travis Wear
C – Brook Lopez, JaVale McGee
The Lakers have plenty of assets for a potential trade to match another superstar alongside LeBron. If Kawhi Leonard happens to be that player, even at the expense of several young talented players, it would place the Lakers as the clear #3 in the West. And come playoff time with a 4 time MVP and a 2 time Defensive POY… stranger things have happened.
Chris Paul – Agrees to a 4 year, $160 million deal to stay with the Houston Rockets
This one doesn’t change the look of the West but it sure does solidify them as a title threat for the coming years. James Harden is locked in for the next 4 seasons so that gives the Rockets the best chance at dethroning the Warriors atop the NBA.
We all know James Harden was the 2017-18 MVP but Paul may be their most important. Houston were 50-8 with Paul in the lineup, that pace has you winning 70 games over the course of an entire season. Since only 2 teams have ever done that it’s safe to say he’s pretty important to Houston’s future. The loss of Trevor Ariza to the Suns does hurt their outside shooting and perimeter defence but as long as Paul is at the wheel and Mike D’Antoni is setting the course they are always a threat.
Paul George – Agrees to a 4 year, $137 million deal to stay with Oklahoma City
The other half of the Lakers wish list decided to stay where the season ended in disappointment at the hands of Utah. George (along with Russell Westbrook) have the controls of the Thunder and the next few seasons to show the NBA world that he is in fact worth every penny of his new contract.
There aren’t many more talented players in the NBA than Paul George, but apart from a couple of playoff runs with Indiana he has been mostly underwhelming throughout his 7 season career. His ability to shoot the ball along with his tenacious defence makes him a rare player who can impact the game on both ends of the floor, something Westbrook and the Thunder will desperately need if they are going to complete in the West.
DeMarcus Cousins – Agrees to a 1 year, $5.3 million deal with the Golden State Warriors
Here’s a trivia question for you… how many teams have sent 5 players to the All Start Game? The correct answer would be none, a few have had 4 (including these Warriors) but 5 would be a first. I know he’s currently getting over his injury but if he’s back around mid-December that still gives him the best part of 2 months to prove to the coaches that he deserves a spot on the bench at the All Star Game. And depending on what happens after next season with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green we might find that Cousins stays a Warrior, otherwise he’ll find his monster contract elsewhere… Steve Kerr must wonder what he did in a previous life to have won 5 NBA titles as a player and to have the run he’s had as a coach!
As far as the Warriors are concerned, I’m not sure there would be a bigger betting favourite in the history of professional sports to win their league’s championship than this season. Yes, the Rockets are still there and the Lakers haven’t finished moving people around, but there’s no way you can keep a straight face and say another team apart from Golden State will win the 2018-19 NBA title.
We’re only 3 days into free agency but the moves have been huge and they haven’t stopped yet. Bring on the trades!