The Landscape After the Tremors: NBA Free Agency Update

By: Yennaedo Balloo

There’s been plenty written already about how Los Angeles was shaken twice on Friday July 5, first by a 7.1 Earthquake in the early evening then by the late night announcement that Kawhi Leonard was going to sign with the Clippers while having stealthily orchestrated a trade to bring Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder with him.

I’ve enjoyed my little victory lap after my last piece for correctly predicting Durant and Irving going with the Nets, and Kawhi’s decision (though who could have seen the PG trade coming? No one.) Listen, it’s not just an easy authorial flourish to do the whole “earthquake LA equals earthquake in the NBA” etc. The truth is, this free agency saw a large number of the top players in the league change banners. Durant, Irving, Davis, Leonard, George, Walker- and there’s still a probable trade of Russell Westbrook to watch out for.

The Westbrook trade has estimably improved Houston’s chances because returning to known chemistry can only help Westbrook’s chances on a team that already had a solid shot at the title. OKC has settled into a comfortable rebuild mode, doing so rich with draft picks thanks to the trade with the Clippers for Paul George. Aside from OKC, it might be an easy knee jerk reaction for plenty of fans to say their team is now in title contention, but the reality is that when you survey the landscape of the league after the seismic events of this free agency you have to take stock that this free agency had more of a leveling effect. It’s the opposite of the free agency that saw the Warriors inflate to an improbable superlative state 3 years ago: this one put half a dozen or more teams in viable title contention.

The Clippers are the prohibitive favorite, but the Lakers ended up having to follow my advice and are making the right moves for role players to balance their team nicely. Utah didn’t grab a lot of headlines but they’re a very real threat in the West, as is Denver. The Warriors less Kevin Durant and with Klay Thompson out still remain deadly with their two other all stars still in good health, Curry and Green.

If you came here expecting a bold prediction of who’s taking home the chip for 19-20, you’re not going to get it. The tremors of the past week have toppled towers and left a much more even landscape. Just like I advised everyone to unfollow every single person that claimed over a week ago that Leonard was a done deal with the Lakers, I advise you to balk at anyone making strong claims about who has next year’s title locked. There are teams we can count on seeing in the playoffs barring catastrophe- The Jazz, The Clippers, The Lakers, etc.- but each team is so evenly matched and well balanced thanks to these tectonic shifts that we have a lot we need to see in terms of chemistry, playmaking, and growth throughout the regular season.

I’ve previously said that you really have to wait until All Star Weekend to judge a team’s real potential and level, and this year promises to be proof of that theory. What I can’t wait for is to see this coming season as so many teams are in the lab perfecting that gel and growth together. Based on this I’m also going to predict that this coming season’s trade deadline will be one of the most turbulent aftershocks to these big free agency moves we’ve seen in years.

When the season kicks off in October I’ll be contributing NBA takes regularly here at Wondering why you should follow? So far my record is better than most of the “insiders” who were sure about where chips were falling in free agency. We’re three months away from what could be the most competitive and dramatic regular season of the NBA we’ve had in over half a decade. Come in, the water’ll be nice and hot. 

Okay, you know what? Here are some “bets” for the coming season to spice things up. No title predictions, but:

  • The Lakers and Clippers will face off in the Western Conference 1st or 2nd round, I don’t think they’ll end up in seeding to face off in the Conference Finals.
  • Kyrie Irving will have some kind of drama cause him to leave the Brooklyn Nets before Kevin Durant returns from his injury to even play with him.
  • One NBA team will change ownership before the start of the 20-21 season.

Mr. Balloo is the hardest working man in show business. Follow Yannaedo on Twitter to keep up to date with his busy schedule, and bookmark Optional Irony for great content including a very special artist interview series!

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