A Frenetic Free Agency: Shifting NBA Power Structures

The 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) offseason saw 14 all-stars switch teams, ten of whom have made the all-star game at least three times in their respective careers, and three of whom are former MVPs.

The 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA) offseason saw 14 all-stars switch teams, ten of whom have made the all-star game at least three times in their respective careers, and three of whom are former MVPs. Needless to say, the offseason was anything but uneventful.

Eastern Conference

One team clearly won the offseason in the eastern conference, and that was none other than the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets were the 6th seed in the conference last season, led by D’Angelo Russell, who was shipped to Golden State to make room for a new star point guard, Kyrie Irving. Irving’s tenure with the Boston Celtics ended in a rather disappointing fashion, as his leadership skills were questioned when the team was ousted rather easily in the second round of the playoffs against Milwaukee. Questionable intangibles didn’t stop the Nets from signing him, and that didn’t deter Kevin Durant from signing with them either. Durant has proved to be one of the greatest scorers of all time, and although he will miss the entire 2020 season, upon his return, the star-studded combination of Durant and Irving will surely prevail atop the Eastern Conference. Although the Celtics lost Kyrie Irving, they were able to compensate effectively by signing All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who jumped from a sinking ship in Charlotte. Although Kyrie is one of the most skilled players in the league, Kemba’s ball-handling and shooting compensate for that loss. In addition, Walker is widely regarded to be a better teammate and leader than Kyrie is. Although the loss of big man Al Horford will hurt, the Celtics’ bringing back their young core while adding a top point guard into the mix solidifies Boston as a front-runner in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.

Western Conference

Two weeks before free agency even began, one of the biggest moves of the entire offseason took place after months of buildup and speculation. The Lakers finally completed a trade for six-time All-Star Anthony Davis in mid-June, giving LeBron James the superstar partner he needs to make a Finals run in Los Angeles. Although the Lakers had to sacrifice the impressive young core that consisted of former First Round Picks Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart to New Orleans, they signed veteran role players such as Danny Green and Dwight Howard to strengthen their bench. The Lakers made their fair share of headlines in the offseason, however, it was their Los Angeles counterparts, the Clippers, that came away with the biggest haul in the conference. Not only did Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard choose to sign with the Clippers over the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Clippers also managed to trade for MVP finalist Paul George, surrendering a record-breaking five first-round draft picks to Oklahoma City in addition to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari just for the six-time All-Star. The Clippers and Lakers will both showcase show-stopping duos and battle for the Western Conference crown. The formation of the Clippers’ star-studded duo had ramifications across the league. Almost immediately after Paul George got traded to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook contacted the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) and requested a trade, which foreshadowed the end of an unforgettable 11-year run with OKC in which he was an eight-time All-Star, averaged a triple-double for three consecutive seasons and won NBA MVP. It wasn’t too long until Westbrook was granted his wish, as he was traded to the Houston Rockets in exchange for veteran point guard Chris Paul and a collection of two future first-round picks and two pick swaps. Westbrook will also be teaming up with a former MVP James Harden. However, there are questions surrounding this newly formed dynamic duo: how will the two highest usage players in the league be able to share the ball? Leave it to Head Coach Mike D’Antoni to craft the perfect plan, and expect Houston to finish in the top four in the West and contend for the Larry O’Brien trophy next season.

This NBA offseason did not disappoint after all the build-up and hype surrounding it. The transactions involving NBA superstars marked a new age in the NBA where players hold more power over transactions than ever before. In addition, it appears as if parity has been restored to the league, ending a superteam era where two teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, dominated the NBA in terms of Finals appearances. By beginning a new age of team-building fueled by dynamic duos, this offseason has left all NBA fans thinking the same thing: October 22 can’t come soon enough.

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