The NBA has evolved into the greatest soap opera on television. With social media, most notably NBA Twitter and r/nba, becoming the main source of league news and discussion, basketball has become a year-round sport. The player empowerment era has evolved over the last few years and it seems as if stars are always on the move, especially during this year's free agency period. It's only been two days since players and teams have been able to meet and agree to contracts, but we've already seen an exorbitant amount of player movement with more on the horizon. Matty Ice and I have been talking hoops since our junior year of high school as we tried to get through first period Spanish with an absolute tyrant of a teacher, so it only felt right for us to finally collaborate on something.
Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat
Matt: One of the biggest shocks of free agency came when the Miami Heat executed a sign-and-trade to acquire four-time All-Star, and former Chicago Bull hero, Jimmy Butler. When we heard Butler's name being discussed ahead of free agency, it was the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers that were the main teams in contention. Miami was a huge outsider, mainly because they needed to get rid of a lot of salary to make the deal possible, but rumblings of J-But to the Heat got stronger when he set up a meeting with them. Then, about an hour before free agency, Adrian Wojnarowski hit everyone with a vintage Woj bomb, saying that Butler told the Heat he wanted to play for them. Miami ultimately got their guy, executing a four team trade that also included the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers. Jimmy now joins a core that includes Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, and Bam Adebayo. Are the Heat a playoff team in the Eastern Conference? They'll definitely be a team to watch out for next season.
Jack: This move surprised me. Up until the rumors started swirling that Jimmy was interested in going to Miami, the pairing never really entered my mind. With all the turmoil surrounding Jimmy and his last three (!) teams, it seemed that a lot of the frustration stemmed from his teammates' lack of will to win. The Sixers were a few bounces away from an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and if they were to make it past the Bucks, I thought they matched up great against the Warriors. That can't be changed, though, and Jimmy is officially on his fourth team in three years. The East is still relatively weak compared to the West (which has what looks to be 12-13 potentially competitive teams) so there's always a chance, but I'm still a bit confused by it. Jimmy G. is a total Pat Riley-Eric Spoelstra player and will likely be an All-Star this season, but I don't see a Finals appearance happening anytime soon.
D'Angelo Russell S&T to Golden State
Matt: It looked like the Minnesota Timberwolves were going to add D'Angelo Russell in order to pair him with fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. That would've made the Timberwolves one of the dark horses in the West. On the other hand, many expected Golden State to take a few steps back, as they were likely to lose both Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, and also Klay Thompson for all of next season due to a torn ACL. However, that's just not in the Warriors DNA. Instead of just losing Durant to Brooklyn and not getting anything, they were able to execute a sign-and-trade and acquire a package that included Russell, who made his first All-Star team this year, and was runner-up to Pascal Siakam for Most Improved Player. He now joins Steph Curry to make an insanely productive offensive backcourt. In addition, Russell should help take off some of the ball handling pressures from Curry, giving Steph an opportunity to play off the ball. Unfortunately for Russell, this is likely to be a one year rental, as it was reported by ESPN's Marc Stein. That would be D'Angelo's fourth team in his five year career. Here's some advice kids, don't record your teammates when they're talking about personal stuff.
Jack: I don't know why, I'm just not a huge fan of this fit. Maybe it's because I don't want to see D'Angelo in a Warriors uniform, but something about it feels off to me. The Warriors don't have a great lineup in terms of depth but have three All-Star level players, so they're going to stay competitive. I can see them falling anywhere from a four to an eight seed but, at least to me, I don't see them making it out of the first or second round, depending on matchup. DLo and Steph can easily combine for 50 points a night and somewhere around 13 assists; is it enough to keep the dynasty going? I'm intrigued at the idea of Minnesota hopping in and making this a three-team deal with D'Angelo going to the T-Wolves and Andrew Wiggins heading to the Bay. Maybe a change of scenery will reboot Wiggins and turn him into the generational talent he was promised to be back in 2014. Anything is possible.
Matt: The Philadelphia 76ers needed to make a change after two straight seasons of disappointing losses in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Philadelphia was able to re-sign Tobias Harris, who had the best year of his career last season. They lost Jimmy Butler and J.J. Reddick, two important pieces, but added two pieces in Al Horford and Josh Richardson. Horford has been the primary Joel Embiid defender over the past two seasons and did an excellent job slowing down the All-Star center. Richardson, on the other hand, has been one of the most coveted 3-and-D guys in the league. In fact, last year, when the Timberwolves tried to trade Jimmy Butler, the Miami Heat were interested and had Richardson leading the package. Although they're not the potent shooters that Reddick and Butler were, they're able to knock down the triple at a decent rate. At this point, that's the only question that you have about Philly. Can they hit threes? We know they'll be able to defend like crazy, but shot making is going to be the issue. Overall, I think Philly improved big time, and should be able to get over the Eastern Conference Semifinal hump this upcoming season and potentially represent the East in the NBA Finals.
Jack: If Kawhi leaves Toronto, are the Sixers the favorite in the East? Milwaukee is largely running back the same team with the exception of former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. While he's had some foot problems and came with a somewhat-hefty price tag (four years, $85 million), he was a 50/40/90 guy last year and the Bucks were clearly better with him on the floor. Philly is arguably a stronger team, especially with another year of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. As Matt mentioned above, Josh Richardson can fill the two-way role left by Jimmy Butler and won't need the ball in his hands as much to do so. We'll probably see a jump in his already-solid three-point percentage (35.7% in 2018-19) because he'll settle into more of a spot-up shooter role, but Richardson still has the ability to snap off for a 30-point night. Al Horford has been great for years now and will be able to slide in at power forward and let Embiid keep dominating down low. Since Embiid's health is always a question mark, Horford can provide some insurance if, Xenu forbid, Embiid has to miss a stretch of games or even time in the playoffs like we saw in the Brooklyn series. Tobias Harris got locked up on a big ol' max deal and could definitely be an All-Star this year as he was a fringe addition last year in a stacked Western Conference. He averaged 18.2 points per game for the Sixers last year in 27 games and by moving up to the second or third-option on any given night for a full season in Philly, he could even hit that 21-23 PPG threshold. JJ Reddick's departure to New Orleans will hurt a bit, but Philly is stronger defensively and could see themselves emerging from the East. If Ben Simmons can just slightly improve and stretch out his range by a few feet, Philly is that much more dangerous.
Matt: Utah was another team who had great regular season success, but struggled when it mattered the most in the playoffs. They have had back-to-back series losses against the Houston Rockets, where the Rockets absolutely dismantled them. Changes needed to be made, and boy did changes get made. First, before the free agency madness began, the Utah Jazz sent a package that included 2018 first round pick Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, and Jae Crowder to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Mike Conley. Conley had been one of the pieces on the grit and grind Grizzlies that dominated on the defensive side of the ball. He's one of the more underrated guards in the game, yet doesn't get the recognition he deserves because of how stacked the guards are in the Western Conference. Conley gives the Jazz a great defender at the one, and someone who can help mentor Donovan Mitchell. In addition to Conley, the Jazz also signed former Indiana Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic, a versatile scoring forward who fits very nicely next to Rudy Gobert. He gives the Jazz much needed scoring and shooting, as well as a solid defender who fits perfectly with Utah's defensive identity. They did lose Derrick Favors to the New Orleans Pelicans, but the additions of Conley and Bogdanovic make the Jazz one of the best teams in the West.
Jack: I'm a big Donovan Mitchell fan and was fully onboard the "He should win Rookie of the Year train" in 2018, but the Jazz just weren't that fun to watch last year. That's all about to change. Mitchell averaged 23.8 PPG on 43.2% shooting last year, which is solid, but could be much more efficient. The additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic will allow Mitchell to play a lot more off-ball which could lead to an uptick in scoring average at a higher clip. There's no doubt that he's going to be an All-Star, it's just a matter of when. This could be the year. They also picked up Uncle Jeff Green and Ed Davis to bolster their bench, and honestly, I'm hoping they take a flyer on Jabari Parker. He put up 15 and 7 on 53% shooting after getting traded to the Wizards last season and shouldn't come at too high a price. This is a deep team and could be this season's Nuggets and take the two-seed.
Jack: This may be a bit of a hometown bias coming through, but I absolutely love what the Bulls have done this season. GarPax have obviously made a lot of questionable choices that myself and other fans have called them out for but I think it's only right to praise them when they pull off a savvy move. Coby White has the potential to be our point guard of the future. If he gets the starting spot, he'll perfectly slot in alongside a young roster featuring Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and veteran Otto Porter. Kris Dunn will get the chance to compete for minutes at guard but it's looking more likely that he'll be moved. Daniel Gafford appears to have been a steal in the second round so hopefully he'll get a chance at some minutes.
In addition to the draft, the Bulls went out and signed Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky to three-year deals. Young has been a reliable force for years now and his energy and leadership ability will be perfect for Jim Boylen's system and the development of younger guys. Satoransky is 6'7" and is primarily a guard but can be slotted in at small forward if need be. He gives the Bulls some depth at guard and with the amount of injuries over the last few seasons, he provides reliable insurance. With (hopefully) a full season of our young guys and new veteran additions, I'm hoping that the playoff drought will end. If everyone can stay healthy and click right away, I don't see why we can't compete for the seventh or eighth seed. I'm also going to predict right now that either Zach LaVine or Lauri is going to be an All-Star. One can hope. See Red, everybody.
Matt: I like what the Bulls did, but I wouldn't call them winners. They were able to add two veteran pieces to their roster, and two guys who will have an immediate impact on the team. Thaddeus Young has been a great role player for his entire career, most of it as an impactful energy guy coming off the bench. His athleticism and defensive versatility, along with his leadership and experience, will do wonders for guys like Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Next, they added a guard, former Washington Wizard Tomas Satoransky. Satoransky is a big, versatile guard, standing at 6'7". He can play both the one and the two, giving the Bulls the opportunity to play three guard lineups. A big strength for Satoransky is his ability to knock down the three point shot. He's a career 40% three point shooter, and gives the Bulls a nice spacer who can play alongside Kris Dunn, Coby White, and Zach Lavine. The Bulls also added Luke Kornet, who could end up being a good under the radar signing. Kornet gives the Bulls a solid back up center option, who can stretch the floor and knock down the triple. I expected this to be the sort of offseason the Bulls had. Get a couple of veterans who can try to help lead this young core. Who knows, if the Bulls can stay healthy, they could fight for a seventh or eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Wouldn't that be something?
New York Knicks
Matt: Let me preface this by saying that I actually kind of liked what the New York Knicks did so far. They added multiple veterans to a young roster that desperately needed leadership. Guys like Taj Gibson and Wayne Ellington will be beneficial in teaching the Knicks young roster work ethic, as well as competing every single night. In addition, they also added some young talent in Bobby Portis and Julius Randle, who give New York a formidable front court that can get buckets. However, the Knicks talked so much smack going into free agency. People thought that they were getting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, two of the top players in our game. Knicks fans also thought they were going to land Zion Williamson and have this unstoppable trio that would win multiple championships and become one of the greatest dynasties of all time. That just wasn't the case. Many Knicks fans were outraged after their neighbors, the Brooklyn Nets, ended up getting both Durant and Irving, and instead ended up with Julius Randle and a bunch of veterans. Poor Knicks fans, maybe one year things will go your way. Probably not though. By the way, did anybody see how upset Stephen A. Smith was? Him almost crying on live TV will go down as one of the funniest moments of all time. Never change Stephen A. (Jack: Maybe Stephen A. needs to get on the weed.)
Jack: Yeah, there isn't much for me to say that Matt didn't already. I never bought the Knicks as serious players in free agency. They've been a prime example of how to not run an organization and as long as James Dolan is owner, I don't see them landing any big names. While I don't think they're going to be as much of a dumpster fire as last year, they still aren't competing for a championship. I'm a big Bobby Portis fan and Julius Randle brings a hell of a lot of energy to the floor every night, and with RJ Barrett taking the reigns with little-to-no expectations, they might be a fun team to watch at times. David Fizdale is the ultimate player's coach; these guys are going to want to play hard for him. Maybe, just maybe, they can eclipse 30 wins but we'll just have to wait and see.
Los Angeles Clippers
Matt: Again, I must preface my comments. I really like the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have a great mix of young talent, along with gritty veterans. They were able to re-sign guard Patrick Beverley, who many considered the heart and soul of the team. They also acquired Maurice Harkless from the Portland Trail Blazers. Harkless is a three-and-D wing who should fit in perfectly with the Clippers. Yet, the Clippers had the potential to get two max players, and were rumored to get Kawhi Leonard with either Kevin Durant or Jimmy Butler. As we all know now, that just isn't going to happen. Durant is on his way to Brooklyn, Jimmy goes to chill in South Beach, and Leonard is allegedly down to the Lakers or Raptors (although Kawhi did meet with the Clippers over dinner today). The Clippers played free agency way too passively and banked on getting Kawhi instead of being aggressive and going after guys like Al Horford or Julius Randle. The Clippers will still be a good team and should make the playoffs, but they had the potential to make their team a title contender and simply didn't get the job done.
Jack: The Clippers played themselves. My guess is that they probably came into free agency way too confident and watched as all the big names were picked up within a few hours. By no means are they a bad team without max guys, they just might not be a legitimate contender. I felt as if Kawhi was going to go there because he wouldn't want to deal with the firestorm that is Lakers media, but once again I was wrong. They still have a really solid core in SGA, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, Pat Bev, and Lou Williams, but a guy like Kawhi, KD, Jimmy Butler, or a combination of two would push them over the hump. It appears as if they're going to be the second-best team in the Staples Center this year but if they can continue to establish themselves as an uptempo, gritty team, they can give teams some problems in the playoffs.
Kawhi Leonard Ruins the NBA
Matt: I hate to say this. I really hate what I'm about to say. I can't believe what I'm about to say. Kawhi Leonard is going to be a Los Angeles Laker. With the Toronto Raptors core aging, and with the Los Angeles Clippers unable to land Leonard a co-star, that opens the door for the Lakers to sign Kawhi and make a three-headed monster that the NBA has never seen before. Leonard, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis will be incredibly difficult to contain on most nights. Teams will have to pray that one or two of them take the night off because of "load management". They will already be in discussion as one of the greatest teams in NBA history. The Lakers would be the clear cut favorite to win the title, and would be everyone's least favorite team just like how the Golden State Warriors have been for the past few seasons.
Jack: I really hope this happens. Kawhi has been super quiet about his free agency and the three teams fighting for his services, the Lakers, Clippers, and Raptors, have been great at limiting any leaks about his decision. I know it's hypocritical to have shit on KD for joining a dynasty in Golden State but this is different. Is it? I don't care. Kawhi, AD, and LeBron would be unreal. Who is stopping them? Nobody, that's who. If Kawhi decides to come to the Lakers, I think a lot of other players will follow. Danny Green? Quinn Cook? Boogie? The Lakers with Kawhi are easily the Finals favorite and I'm giddy at the thought of watching LA basketball this season. People can say that this is going to ruin the league all they want but they're still going to watch. We all are. It's going to be the greatest show on TV.
Boogie Joins Butler in Miami
Matt: The disrespect DeMarcus Cousins is getting right now is unreal. Man was arguably the best center in the game just a few short seasons ago. Now, he's fighting to get a mid-level exception. Cousins is still a very quality option and showed flashes of his old self in the NBA Finals. While he probably isn't a second or third option anymore, he still provides valuable scoring and playmaking from the center spot. I have him going to Miami, because after Miami sent away Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers, they have a weakness in the front court. Boogie could fill that hole while helping take the pressure off of Jimmy Butler. These two would make a pretty intriguing duo, and could help Miami make the playoffs in the upcoming season.
Jack: Man, I feel for Boogie. If you don't already know, Matt and I have been Boogie guys for years. For two years straight in high school, we had Spanish together first period and in order to get through the pain, we'd talk hoops. Boogie was at his peak with the Kings and we were always talking about his monstrous performances from the night before. Hell, we had to make a Valentine one time and mine was for Boogie. It sucks seeing your favorite players get hurt and it sucks even more that it happened to Boogie when he was about to get maxed out. I still think he can provide a lot for a team if he stays healthy and it's kind of shocking to hear Woj say there's no market for him. If I'm a contender, I'm offering Boogie the MLE. Why not? In 30 games for Golden State last year, Boogie put up 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists on 48% shooting with a 21.4 PER in just 26 minutes per night. I get that he's had trouble with his emotions in the past, I do, but I think a lot of that stemmed from how bad the Kings were run during his tenure. There was never any consistency, I'd be mad too. I like the idea of him on the Heat. He can start or back up Bam, depending on what their plan is for his development, and if Boog's coming on a cheap deal, why not take the chance?