The NBA season wrapped up the Finals with the Golden State Warriors winning their second NBA championship in three years. They won it convincingly, but will they be able to repeat next season?
With the NBA Draft wrapped up, the free agency period has now taken over the talks of all the sports media outlets across the country. But what’s the biggest news?
Warriors landed the biggest free agent last year when Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder high and dry. This year the big name free agents include Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Gordan Hayward, and Paul Millsap. What we didn’t see last year was the trades that took place and how they could shift the whole free agency period.
Superstars Moving West:
We have seen superstar players who aren’t even free agents get moved. The two biggest forwards that have been in trade talks all season long are Jimmy Butler and Paul George.
Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves just minutes before the NBA Draft kicked off. The Timberwolves would receive Butler and the 16th overall pick (Justin Patton) for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the 7th overall pick (Lauri Markkanen).
George was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder just hours before the free agency period opened up. The Thunder traded away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after one season to acquire George’s expiring contract.
This leaves the Eastern Conference with only two of the top 15 players in the league, and they are both on the same team. Without much resistance, Lebron James and Kyrie Irving look to continue to keep their names on the list as well as their team on top in the East.
East is for the weak:
After those two trades, there is no clear superstar for James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to have epic playoff battles against. With Boston, Washington, and Atlanta failing to make any noise thus far in free agency, we could expect Cleveland to sweep their way back to the Finals as the number one seed. We do expect to see Boston, Washington, and Atlanta in the hunt for the playoffs along with Toronto and Milwaukee, but where will Indiana and Chicago finish without their superstars?
Led by Isaiah Thomas, the Boston Celtics and their young team could make a push for the top spot in the East.
The Washington Wizards haven’t done much to change to their primary core besides possibly matching a max contract offer to Otto Porter. Whether he returns or not should not hold back John Wall and Bradley Beal from taking a playoff spot.
The Toronto Raptors look to maintain their presence in the East after resigning Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to long-term deals, and they hope that Demar Derozan will do the same after next year.
The Milwaukee Bucks impressed a lot of people with how they were able to make a playoff run. With the Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogden supporting the dynamic duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, the Bucks could be a tough playoff matchup as well.
However, the competition in the East will not stand a chance with that from the West this upcoming season.
With the Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all returning to the Warriors, they will once again be the heavy favorite to win it all. Though their road back to the Finals may not be so easy.
Butler to Minnesota:
Not only did Butler get traded to the Timberwolves, but he reunited with former coach Tom Thibodeau and friend Taj Gibson, who recently signed a two-year deal with the Wolves. Teaming up with young stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins could finally give Butler the necessary firepower surrounding him to become the leader that the Bulls wanted him to be. Of course, this still may not be enough to knock the Warriors off their throne. Nevertheless, it will give the Western Conference a massive shake-up since Minnesota hasn’t been in the playoffs since Kevin Garnett left in 2007.
George to Oklahoma City:
After Durant left the Thunder for Golden State last summer, it would have been some bittersweet revenge if Russell Westbrook could have knocked them out of the playoffs. However, Westbrook didn’t have any help and they failed to make it past the first round. That could all change this year as Paul George joins forces with the reigning MVP to take over the Western Conference. With George’s free agency looming next summer, this superstar duo may only get once crack at unseating the Warriors.
Other Interesting Moves Made Out West:
Though Butler and George were two of the biggest names traded prior to free agency, there have been a handful of moves made over the last two weeks that could significantly shake up the West.
The Los Angeles Lakers traded Timofey Mozgov and D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez’s expiring contract and the 27th pick (Kyle Kuzma). Though this trade will not put the Lakers in playoff contention, it does make room for them to possibly sign two or three superstars next off-season. Paul George? Russell Westbrook? Lebron James?
The Los Angeles Clippers were in danger of losing both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but instead, they were able to retain Griffin and trade Paul for a handful of players who could help them remain in playoff contention.
Chris Paul was traded to the Houston Rockets, who look to continue to run the D’Antoni system through James Harden and make it back to the Conference Finals. P.J. Tucker and Nene also signed with the Rockets and there are reports that Carmelo Anthony would waive his no-trade clause with the Knicks if it would mean he’d end up in Houston.
The Denver Nuggets stole an Eastern All-Star when they agreed to a three-year deal with former Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap. The terms of this deal are still being determined, but it could involve sending Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers in the process.
With the 2017-18 NBA season nearly three months away, we can expect to see plenty more moves and deals get done. However, it might be more important for the league to keep on eye on the records of all thirty teams. Given that some great teams from the Western Conference are going to miss out on the playoffs, the league office may consider a change in the playoff system to take the best sixteen teams in the league instead of eight from each conference.
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