NBA Free Agency Surprises and ‘Not-So’ Surprises

(Pittsburgh,PA) The much-anticipated National Basketball League Free Agent season is finally here. When the clock hit 6:00pm on Sunday, many players signed contracts with their own teams, or with others and there were also more Sign and Trade deals than I could ever remember in one offseason.

There was a total of over $2 billion (you read that right) dollars’ worth of contracts that were doled out on Sunday alone! And they’re just getting started.

Here are my ‘Not-So’ Surprises and ‘Surprises’ from Day 1 of NBA Free Agency:

1. Not-So Surprises
*Disclaimer: I begin with this category, because ‘no-so’ represents the deals we obviously knew were going to happen.

Kevin Durant to Brooklyn- I truly believed that Durant wasn’t going to stay at Golden State and head to New York, but to the Knicks. Apparently, he had other plans as he signed a 4-year deal worth $164 million with the Nets. Multiple news reports state that the Knicks were not prepared to give Durant a full max contract due to concerns of his recovery from his Achille’s hill injury that he suffered in the NBA Finals. But the Nets know that this will be a ‘redshirt’ season for Durant as he will miss the entire 2019-20 season to recover from that injury.

Klay Thompson remains in Golden State-It was expected that Thompson would remain with the Western Conference Champion Warriors, in fact his father (Former LA Laker) Mychal Thompson was one of the first to predict it. Despite tearing his ACL in the NBA Finals, The Warriors inked Thompson to a 4-year $190 million deal. He’s expected to need 9- 10 months to recover from his injury.

Damien Lillard remains in Portland-Nope, the current ‘face’ of the Portland Trail Blazers wasn’t going anywhere, and it was confirmed when the team signed Lillard to a supermax deal worth $196 million over four seasons. But, there’s just one thing…Lillard wasn’t a free agent. He is currently under contract through the 2020-21 season after he signed a five-year contract extension in 2015. Players like Lillard don’t come often, especially with the Blazers who haven’t had one like this since HOF Clyde Drexler, and I’m not exaggerating.

Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn-I’m not surprised that Irving moved on from Boston, because he proved that he wasn’t a fit there, despite getting what he wanted and moving on from Cleveland because he didn’t want to play with LeBron James. Well, since he and King James reportedly made up, I figured he would join him in LA, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Irving will join Durant in Brooklyn after signing a 4-year worth $141 million. In my opinion, Irving isn’t a team leader, but he may need to be one since Durant will be out this upcoming season.

2. The Surprises

Kemba Walker to Boston-I didn’t think that Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets would be ready to sign Walker to a Supermax deal worth over $200 million, but I thought he was en-route to LA, not Boston, which is where he agreed to a 4 year-$141 deal. But I admit that Walker may be what the Celtics need: A proven leader that’s drama-free and puts the team first. Plus, he’s getting his shot at playing for a legitimate contender.

Jimmy Butler to Miami-Miami? This is where Butler decided to ‘take his talents?’ I am surprised. I didn’t expect him to remain in Philadelphia, where I didn’t think he was a fit. In fact, I wasn’t sure where he would end up, but not with the Heat. But alas, he was part of a 4- team-sign-and-trade deal that sent him to the Heat after agreeing to a 4-year $142 million deal. The Heat aren’t contenders, but maybe Butler’s playoff experience will make a difference to this team.

Al Horford to Philadelphia-I’m shocked, because I just knew Milwaukee would retain Horford, especially after their 60-win season that landed them a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Bucks are what I thought they were: An NBA version of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who willingly lets their top free agents walk out the door. They did the same with Malcolm Brogdon, who signed with Indiana for $85 million over 4 years. Horford signed for $190 million over 4 years with the 76ers and could provide strong defensive support to Joel Embiid.

D’Angelo Russell to Golden State-Again, I’m surprised (and I bet you were too) because I also thought Russell was headed to the Lakers, especially after they freed up more cap-space, but the Warriors did a shrewd move, by completing a sign-and-trade deal with Brooklyn to get Russell and sign him to a 4-year, $117 million deal. Obviously, he’s there to temporarily fill the gaping void left by Thompson as he recovers from his injury.

Andre Iguodala traded to Memphis-Didn’t expect this move, as I expected Iguodala to finish his career with the Warriors, but he was dealt to the Grizzles, probably to free up cap space so they could acquire Russell. But hold the phone! NBC Sports reports rumors that Iguodala may seek a buyout with the Grizzles and sign with-you guessed it-the Lakers. Stay tuned on that one.

3. What about Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins?

I’m asking those questions too. Let’s start with Leonard, the 2019 NBA Finals MVP who brought a championship to the Toronto Raptors. He declined his $21.3 million option to become a free agent. He met with the Lakers (no surprise there), LA Clippers and gave the Raptors one more chance at a sales pitch. But let’s be real: Leonard will be in LA, but it remains to be seen if it will be the Lakers or the Clippers.

I’m a little shocked that no team has offered Cousins a contract yet, especially after his brief performance in the NBA Finals when he was a strong bench presence. But it was also clear

that Cousins wasn’t the same All-Star that dominated before his injury 2 years ago and teams may be hesitant for that reason. But he won’t be unsigned long.

So, there you have it. And remember, that these deals won’t become official until July 6, but you think that’s stopping NBA teams and players from making moves? Of course not. In today’s social-media-related world, there’s never any secrets anyway.

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