So it’s the Toronto Raptors rising above and toppling the Golden State Warriors for this year’s National Basketball Association (NBA) championship, Palawan. Behind the playoff long brilliance of all-star Kawhi Leonard, the blue-collar and upset-minded Raptors rose to the occasion to become the first non-US based basketball team to win at this level.
A great win for the Raptors, bigger win for Canada on the basketball map.
After the rigorous playoffs, who says there’s rest for commissioner Adam Silver? There’s still the rookie draft happening this week and free agency in the first week of July. The NBA time clock is all year round.
By the time this column comes out, consensus no. 1 pick Zion Williamson would have been picked by the New Orleans (NOLA) Pelicans as their new “face of the franchise”. His name hasn’t been announced in the podium yet but the wheeling and dealing for draft spots and free agency have already started with NOLA trading franchise player Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and 3 first round picks!
Is “AD” willing to sign a new contract with the Lakers after his one season in gold and purple? Having the same player agent as Lebron James, it is likely that AD will sign long term in Hollywood. All the Lakers need to do is create and prepare for a third star to make it another version of a big three in Los Angeles.
It’s not just the Lakers who started offseason movement to prepare for free agency. The Memphis Grizzlies also shipped out Mike Conley to Utah for Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and Jae Crowder (and the No. 23 pick this year). An All-Star for role players. On first look, this seems like a one-sided deal favoring the Jazz but Memphis won’t be short-changed as they are expected to pick Ja Morant, an NBA ready starting point guard at no. 2 on this year’s rookie draft.
Whew! July hasn’t even started but you can already feel the team’s jockeying for free agent prospects that would include Kyrie Irving (he may not re-sign with the Celtics), Al Horford (opted out of the last year of his contract), Julius Randle (opt out, entering free agency), Kawhi Leonard (quiet on whether he will re-sign with the Raptors or not), Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, Malcolm Brogdon, Ricky Rubio and DeMarcus Cousins.
The Warriors’ Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are also entering free agency this summer but the former may be in question because of a recent surgery which may force him to sit out the next season and opt-in on the final year of his contract with Golden State.
If the Celtics do lose two all-stars in Irving and Horford, general manager Danny Ainge will get his work cut out for him, although I believe Ricky Rubio could be a fit with the Celtics. He would have a hay day dishing out dimes to an athletic wing combination of Jalen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Gordon Hayward… however, they have to fill the big void that Horford will leave at the middle.
The offseason is a General Manager’s game in the NBA. With injuries to two major players in the Golden State Warriors and the uncertainty of Kawhi Leonard staying in Toronto means the East and West can be a wide-open race next season. The Lakers could be championship material if they are able to build a good roster that can mesh with AD and LBJ. It is going to be a very exciting next season that even New Orleans could be playoff bound should the young players mix well with each other.
That’s the beauty of the draft and free agency. Cellar-dwelling teams, with a stroke of luck, can become contenders with a big free agent pick up or a blue-chip rookie haul. Winners are built in the offseason that’s what pundits say. Let’s see how things shape up in this level of the game we all love.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operation)