Palawan, the National Basketball Association (NBA) free agency period is on! As of this writing we have seen some surprise moves from the top free agents of 2019. Let’s summarise them and assess the movements and transactions and how they impact the next season.
- The Kawhi puzzle: the top free agent of this class is taking his sweet time to decide on his future. It seems everyone is left trying to guess where he is going but the choices, based on multiple sources and reports, seem to have narrowed down between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and the defending champion Toronto Raptors (who owns the right to give him the super max). We can’t blame Leonard for taking his time. 4 or 5 year locks with millions of dollars at stake is a tough decision to make. Whatever direction he takes, the team who gets to lock him down will definitely be solid playoff contenders next season. Everyone is drooling over a new big 3 in Kawhi, Lebron James and Anthony Davis in Lakerland but the Clippers have been a solid option with a good coaching staff and a bunch of blue collar players who fit the style of The Klaw. Do not discount a Toronto re-up though. He may as well decide to defend the crown in Canada. Everything is in a shroud of mystery and everyone is keen on hearing from Leonard’s camp in the next few days.
- Fleecing of the Warriors: in just a few days within free agency negotiations, the Golden State Warriors saw Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and (possibly) Demarcus Cousins (still an unrestricted free agent as of this writing) take their talents elsewhere. That’s 3 of the core players they had on their finals run last season. With splash brother Klay Thompson likely out for at least the majority of the 2019-2020 season, the promise doesn’t look very bright for the Warriors as they move into their new arena in down town San Francisco. Can they still make the playoffs next year with a depleted core? I believe so with the addition of all star D’Angelo Russell, fresh signees Willie Caulie Stein and Glenn Robinson III backstopping veteran Dreymond Green. They would still be a tough cookie to crack with playmaker and a highly skilled shooter in Steph Curry along with a veteran championship tested coaching staff led by Steve Kerr. All is not lost for the Dubs …
- Big haul in Brooklyn: the Nets have pulled two rabbits out of the hat with the surprise commitments (or signings) coming from superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They did lose DLo in the process but Kyrie is definitely an upgrade to the starting point guard spot for Brooklyn. KD is expected to miss majority of the next season but may still potentially make the playoff roster depending on how his achilles injury heals up. Most spectators expected a New York Knicks movement for the two but I guess Madison Square Garden has lost its touch of attracting marquee players in the Mecca of basketball. The future looks very bright for the Brooklyn.
- New York Knicks going bully ball?: Julius Randle and Taj Gibson are two (almost identical) power players that the Knicks signed after bombing out on the KD- Kyrie sweepstakes. They also loaded up to fill the center spot with Bobby Portis. They may not have won big in free agency but one thing is definite, they put more beef down low for the Knicks reminiscent of the time they had bruisers Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson and Kurt Thomas patrolling the lane. These bigs will definitely help the young wingmen in Kevin Knox and RJ Barrett by keeping things busy down low thereby freeing up the perimeter for these two to operate. Will the Knicks be a playoff contender in the East? It’s possible for them to fight for the 8th spot. If not, they will benefit from getting another asset as a building block via the lottery next year.
- New face of the Celtics: with Kyrie walking out and Al Horford packing his bags for the Philadelphia 76ers, General Manager Danny Ainge is bringing a new face of the franchise in all star Kemba Walker. He will definitely bring a new, speedy, dynamic in the Celtics as he runs plays and fast breaks with a solid trio of wings in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward. All the Celtics need to do is fill the big void that Horford leaves in the middle. Will the Celtics go after Demarcus Cousins? Let’s see how the next few days unfold for this storied franchise.
- Youth drive in New Orleans: while everyone is celebrating the move of Anthony Davis to the LA Lakers, the team who received Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart have been very busy. They got top draft pick Zion Williamson as the new face of the franchise taking over AD’s role and just recently added veteran sharp shooter JJ Redick, a career 40+% 3 point shooter, to help guide the young team as they aim to make it to the playoffs next season. In this new revamped roster, I expect Lonzo Ball to compete for 6th man of the year award. I anticipate Jrue Holiday and Jj Redick starting the backcourt, Derrick Favors (another pick up from the Utah Jazz) at Center, with Williamson and Ingram at the forward spots. Ball can come off the bench to replace any of the starters and still log 30+ minutes a game. I see this team rocking next season.
By the time this writing comes out, there may be news on Kawhi and Cousins’ next stops but one thing is for sure… the next season will be as exciting as ever, Palawan!
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)