The 10 Biggest Winners and Losers of 2019 NBA Free Agency (#1-5)
The 2019 NBA Free Agency has probably been the craziest offseason in history. We heard all season long that teams were scrambling to free up cap space in hopes of competing for free agent signatures. In fact, a staggering 40% of the league was available heading into this summer. More importantly, the decisions of marquee free agents would reshape the league for the years to come. From offering super-max contracts to lifetime supplies of products, teams and fans alike did all they could to attract big-name players. The sleepless nights waiting for the next “Woj bomb” have finally paid off. After all the trades and signings, the league has more parity with the 2020 NBA title there for the taking. Check out our grades for the biggest winners and losers of 2019 NBA Free Agency!
The following list consists of teams that have made significant moves in the NBA offseason. These teams are ranked based on the least to most relevant free agency moves.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
After trading away their future to acquire washed up stars in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2013, the Brooklyn Nets built their way back to relevancy under the management of General Manager Sean Marks. His most notable moves to build up the Nets include hiring Head Coach Kenny Atkinson, trading for Caris LeVert and D’Angelo Russell, drafting Jarrett Allen, and signing Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. With a core of exciting young talent, the Nets finished with a promising 42-40 record last season, making it an appealing free agent destination. The organization’s efforts paid off when they secured perennial all-stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — letting go of D’lo in the process — and decent role players in DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince. Sean Marks certainly took a risk with these big moves due to Durant’s ruptured achilles tendon and Kyrie’s concerning ball dominance, not to mention their off court volatility in the media. Nonetheless, Durant and Kyrie are two clutch superstars that can explode offensively on any given night. To complement Durant and Kyrie’s game, the Nets also have Harris as a knockdown shooter, Allen as a rim protector, Dinwiddie and LeVert as dynamic guards, and DJ as a seasoned vet. You’re a winner any time you sign big names like Durant and Kyrie while still retaining your core of role players. However, the Brooklyn Nets will have to wait until the ’20-’21 season until they’re fully healthy to contend for a championship. In the mean time, it’ll be Kyrie’s show for the upcoming season.
Offseason Grade: A-
Loser: Golden State Warriors
Golden State rose to glory under the “Strength in Numbers” Warriors to win the 2015 NBA Championship. After choking a 3-1 lead to LeBron’s Cavaliers in 2016, the Warriors signed Kevin Durant and became unstoppable. They trampled their way to two straight titles before finally losing to the Toronto Raptors. In the process, Durant would rupture his achilles tendon and ultimately join the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors acquired D’Angelo Russell in return while Klay rehabs his torn ACL. The upcoming season will be the first time that the Warriors are no longer the title favorites after 5 years of dominance. The Warriors defense will take a serious hit this season with Durant and Iguodala gone, Klay injured, and an aging Draymond. Their starting backcourt will be filled by Steph and D’Lo, two defensive liabilities. Fortunately, the Warriors were able to retain Kevon Looney and sign Willie Cauley-Stein as both will be featured in larger roles this year. More will be also expected from Steph this season as the definitive focal point of the offense. Despite their weak bench, the Warriors are still a playoff team in the Wild Wild West.The Warriors hope Klay is ready to return in time to make some noise in the playoffs. The Warriors did the best they could with their situation by getting D’Lo from Durant’s departure. However, there’s no sugarcoating it that the Warriors lost one of the best players in the world. Despite making moves to try and recover, you’re an offseason loser any time you lose Kevin Durant.
Offseason Grade: C+
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers
While they dominated the 2000’s with 5 championships, the Lakers haven’t exactly lived up to their dynastic brand in recent years. From loyally overpaying an aged Kobe Bryant to notoriously burning cash on Mozgov and Deng, Laker diehards have endured some tough years. That all changed when LeBron James, the best player in the world, signed with the Lakers last year. The ’18-’19 season turned out to be a disaster for LA as LeBron endured the most serious injury of his career while a core of Lonzo, Kuzma, and Ingram were too young and inexperienced to win on their own. The Lakers also learned from their failed experiment to surround LeBron with playmakers instead of shooters. This offseason, the Lakers went all-in to trade for a top 5 player in the world in Anthony Davis. Fortunately, the Lakers kept Kyle Kuzma as a complementary third scoring option to LeBron and AD. The Lakers missed out on Kawhi Leonard, but Rob Pelinka filled out the roster competently considering it was a dry market. Danny Green, Avery Bradley, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be quality 3-and-D role players that seamlessly fit with LeBron and AD’s game. DeMarcus Cousins is a low risk, high reward center who will dominate back up bigs after losing a lot of weight in hopes of a bounce back season. JaVale McGee as a rim-running shot blocker and Rajon Rondo as a playmaking floor general also re-signed with the team. In addition, the organization hired Head Coach Frank Vogel as a defensive specialist and the brains behind the ECF Pacers teams. Former Bucks coach Jason Kidd and former “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins were also hired as experienced assistant coaches. The Lakers’ areas of concern include figuring out roles and rotations with many new players and keeping LeBron, AD, and Boogie healthy. But with two superstars, quality depth, and an experienced coaching staff, the Lakers are currently the second favorite to win the 2020 NBA Championship.
Offseason Grade: A-
Loser: New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have been the laughing stock of the NBA for years now under James Dolan, the worst owner in sports by consensus. Surprisingly, Dolan made a good decision to hire President Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry, which led to the appointment of Head Coach David Fizdale. The management of the Knicks was heading in the right direction until they decided to trade away franchise player Kristaps Porzingis, an NBA unicorn who can do everything on the basketball court at 7’3”. Under the belief that they would successfully sign Durant and Kyrie as an all-star duo, the Knicks traded away Kristaps to open up cap space. The Knicks’ plan ultimately failed when they weren’t able to sign any marquee free agents. To make matters worse, Durant and Kyrie chose to sign with a team 20 minutes away from the New York Knicks: The Brooklyn Nets. The Knicks brand isn’t what it used to be as they’ve been the epitome of dysfunction and have not won a title in over 45 years. The Nets are coming for the Knicks to steal the title of “The Team of New York.” After missing out on top names in free agency, the Knicks settled for serviceable players including Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris, and Elfrid Payton. In a vacuum, each of these signings would have been fine to fill out a roster. However, in classic Knicks fashion, they inexplicably signed 4 power forwards while retaining Noah Vonleh and Mitchell Robinson. The silver lining for the mess that is the Knicks is the potential development of RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, and Dennis Smith Jr into all-star caliber players. Until then, when you trade away your superstar only to fail in free agency, you’re always going to be the biggest loser of the offseason. Why are we not surprised that it’s the New York Knicks?
Offseason Grade: D
Winner: Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers blew up “Lob City” to rebuild their team after falling short in the playoffs. Under a passionate and rich owner in Steve Ballmer, a competent president in Lawrence Frank, a genius consultant in Jerry West, and a championship coach in Doc Rivers, the Clippers were in good hands for their rebuild. Last year, a starless Clippers team finished with the 8th seed in the stacked west, eventually falling the Warriors in a hard-fought 6 game series. The Clippers proved they were an attractive destination with a balance of exciting youth in Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and Montrezl Harrell and seasoned vets in Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams. Their rebuilding efforts paid off as they signed Kawhi Leonard and traded for Paul George, shocking the NBA world. The Clippers are currently the favorites for the 2020 NBA Championship as Kawhi and PG make up the best two-way duo and Lou and Montrezl make up the best 1-2 punch bench duo in the NBA. Beverley, Shamet, J. Green, Harkless, and Zubac will all serve as quality, complementary role players. While health and rim protection are two significant question marks for this stacked roster, the Clippers won the summer by securing the current best player in the world in Kawhi Leonard and an MVP candidate in Paul George. It’s only right that defensive juggernaut of a team with serious firepower is the current favorite to win it all in 2020.