The wildest offseason in recent NBA history is almost in the books.
Unprecedented star player movement, unfathomable trades and plenty of shake-ups to the top teams have all taken place. All that is left is the waiting before the first tipoff on October 22.
With that in mind, here is a look at who “won” this insane offseason before we see who ends up lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy next summer.
Oklahoma City Thunder
How does a team losing its two best players equate to a good offseason? By making unprecedented moves to secure a, frankly, shocking number of draft picks.
Losing Paul George seems like a back-breaker. But the Clippers shipped five draft picks to OKC to get the deal done, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Alexander’s real worth is yet to be determined, but the draft picks speak for themselves. They also acquired Danillo Gallinari, a solid wingman in his own right.
The real shocker, and clear embracement of a full rebuild, was the Russell Westbrook trade. Houston has been known to do whatever it takes to take the next step toward a title. It was clear that Chris Paul and Harden worked, but lacked an explosiveness factor.
Russell Westbrook is the dictionary definition of basketball explosiveness.
Sending even more draft picks to OKC, along with Paul, the Thunder can rest easy knowing they are not in some sort of middle ground that will secure them only the ninth or tenth spot at best in their conference. Oklahoma City, owning one of the best GMs in the game in Sam Presti, is poised to use all of these assets to make what could be the quickest rebuild turnaround in history.
All of this without even mentioning that playoff teams will be sending offer sheets in for Chris Paul sooner rather than later, giving them even more options to work with on 2020’s draft day.
Thunder fans are in for some years of disappointment, but they need not last long. Embracing the rebuild is the only way to go about bottoming out. Presti knows that, and so should the fans. The Thunder will be back on their feet before the NBA knows what hit them.
New Orleans Pelicans
Not many teams in NBA history have gone through a bigger overhaul in a single offseason as the Pelicans have in 2019.
Defying odds and landing the number one overall pick in the draft with only a 3 percent chance is just the beginning. This allowed the Pelicans to draft a potentially generational talent in Zion Williamson. Just as importantly, though, it gave them the chance to feel comfortable letting their biggest star go.
Zion Williamson ended up with the Pelicans after New Orleans won the NBA Draft Lottery. (Image by Steve Marcus/AP)
Disregarding the midseason trade talks and all of the drama they wrought, the Pelicans and Lakers both got what they wanted. The Lakers got their star to pair with LeBron James, and the Pelicans got a bevy of young players to pair with Zion.
It was clear Anthony Davis was going to leave New Orleans when his contract was up, so the Pelicans needed to get something out of him. What they got was Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Pair that with three first-round picks, and it seemed like playing the waiting game paid off.
Their lineup will look completely different in the 2019-2020 season, and, while they will be fun to watch, it will probably just amount to trial and error. The Pelicans will have to see where the pieces of their new core fit, with whom they fit and the amount of time those lineups are sustainable.
Coach Alvin Gentry will have his work cut out for him. With young players to mold, a young superstar to rein in and veterans to help hold it all together, there are not many teams with as many different kinds of potential as New Orleans.
The Brooklyn Nets lost their best player and still end up on this list. How many teams could say that?
Yes, the Nets lost D’Angelo Russell. But in the trade package, won one of the best players in the NBA. Russell was sent to Golden State in a 3-team deal that allowed a sign-and-trade with Kevin Durant.
Durant seems committed to Brooklyn, as he will try to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to New York for the first time since 1973. He most likely will not play at all during the 2019-2020 season, as he is rehabbing an Achilles injury, but that will only fuel his fire going forward.
The Nets also signed one of the best ball-handlers, finishers and assist men in the game, in Kyrie Irving. Irving, disillusioned in his time with the Celtics, wanted a new challenge. An up and coming Brooklyn team seems like his place to secure another title.
The full potential of this particular duo will not be felt in the east until 2020-2021. But rest assured the entire league is dreading the return of Durant (in the best possible way).
Los Angeles Clippers
This was an obvious choice.
With “Lob City” a thing of the past, the new-look Clippers have their eyes set on a brand new era in Los Angeles. They managed to pull off a massive trade and free agency signing, while keeping a solid core in place. The Clips also maintained their coach last year, when they had every reason to let him go and embrace a rebuild.
Clearly, Steve Ballmer and the rest of the brass were looking ahead to the 2019 season with wide-eyed optimism. It definitely paid off.
With what essentially amounts to one fell swoop, the Los Angeles Clippers got the superstar Finals MVP they needed in Kawhi Leonard, while also acquiring Paul George and forcing a Western Conference rival to embrace a rebuild.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George facing off before they moved to LA. (Image by Associated Press)
The draft picks traded for a two-way player as good as George do not add up to be as steep as could immediately be assumed. And by trading away five draft picks, the Clippers are sending a message that it is time to win now.
Retaining Patrick Beverley on a 3-year, $40 million deal was the perfect move for the new direction of the team. Beverley is a versatile guard whose defense will make it hard for many teams to score while he, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are on the floor.
Add in sixth man extraordinaire, Lou Williams, and two extremely solid power forwards in Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green, and this roster amounts to one with few holes to be filled. Where those holes lie will become more apparent when the season starts. But rest assured the team has enough young pieces and initiative trade to fill them.
The 2019 offseason moved the Clips from an afterthought to a legitimate title contender. Now all that’s left is to see if L.A. embraces the blue and red over the purple and gold.
Featured Image courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Check out Eli and Ben’s Podcast “Courtside Ramblings” on SoundCloud or iTunes — TGH Podcast Feed
“From Our Haus to Yours“