Free agency “officially” began Sunday night at 6 p.m. We heard the rumblings of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker making their decisions on where to sign before that time, but once 6 p.m. came around the flood gates opened up wide.
The powers have shifted in the NBA. That shift began with the Anthony Davis trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, but it continued when Irving, Durant (who’s injured and likely won’t play until 2020) and DeAndre Jordan all signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Kemba Walker signed in Boston to replace Irving. Tobias Harris re-signed with the 76ers, and Al Horford left Boston to join Harris in Philly. Jimmy Butler chose Miami over Houston. And there are still moves to be made.
Golden State re-signed Klay Thompson, although his torn ACL has his 2019 season in doubt somewhat, but they also brought in D’Angelo Russell from Brooklyn, bringing in an all-star to at least keep some pace with the rest of the NBA.
The Warriors have been the NBA power team over the past five years, but they no longer stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Injuries helped that along, but don’t think for a second that Golden State isn’t a title contender in 2019.
They aren’t the only one this season, though. There’s actual debate this offseason. Who’s the favorite? There is no clear-cut favorite, and that’s a good thing.
That could all change if NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard chooses the Lakers over the Clippers, but let me be happy for the time being. If Leonard chooses the Lakers, they become the undoubted, clear-cut title favorite with him, LeBron James, and Davis. If Leonard chooses the Clippers, that adds another contender to the list, which is great for the NBA.
Look out west right now. You’ve got the Warriors, Lakers, Rockets, Nuggets (who just signed point guard Jamal Murray to a long-term extension), Blazers (who just traded for Hassan Whiteside and signed Damian Lillard to a long-term extension), Jazz (signed Bojan Bogdanovic), and even the Mavericks with Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic. And you still can’t forget about Greg Popovic and the Spurs. Throw the Pelicans in there, too. They made out pretty well trading Davis. They may not be title contenders, but that’s another fun team out west worth watching, as is Sacramento. And if the Clippers get Kawhi, they move up the list as well. When was the last time you were able to list that many teams as contenders, or even that many teams with good rosters in the Western Conference?
How about the East? Assuming Leonard is out of Toronto, they take a step back, but still stay relevant. The Celtics hope to return to being true contenders with the addition of Walker and Enes Kanter. The Bucks re-signed Khris Middleton to keep him with 2019 NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, so they aren’t going anywhere. They did lose Malcolm Brodgon to Indiana, a team that hopes Victor Oladipo returns and makes them a contender in the East. Even without Durant, the Nets are contenders just with the additions of Irving and Jordan. The Heat move up the ranks with Butler choosing South Beach. Philadelphia has been on the rise for a few years. They lose Butler, but keep Harris and add Horford, who could be a great add for his leadership and guidance of Joel Embiid. This is as deep as the conference has been in a long while.
And my favorite part of all of these deals is that they were all for more than a year and a player option, so these players are staying put and we won’t spend this whole season asking where they’re going next, like we did all last season with Durant and Irving.
Could it be that the regular season actually matters this season? This has a chance to be one of the the best NBA seasons in a long time. Go through all of the moves, look at all these rosters and tell me how you can pick one favorite? How refreshing will it be to come up towards opening night and actually have NBA Finals predictions that aren’t all the same? I’ve been on record criticizing the NBA regular season, but 2019 may be the season that wins me back. This has the chance to be one of the best NBA seasons, start-to-finish, in as long as I can remember.
No matter who you root for, NBA free agency has been a win for the league and its fans.
Chris Doherty is a Sports Reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him 276-638-8801 ext. 215. Follow on Twitter @BulletinSport