As crazy as 2020 has been, it makes sense that the wildest part of the NBA’s season – free agency – had a milder tone this year.
And while Woj and Shams were in their annual news breaking battle, there weren’t any real jaw-droppers this past week. However, three teams did come away with major additions to their squads: Atlanta, Philly, and L.A.
During Media Day last season, this is what the future of the Hawks looked like:
Head coach Lloyd Pierce stood there smiling with his franchise player Trae Young, alongside up-and-coming versatile big man John Collins, sharpshooter Kevin Huerter, and their two prized lottery picks in Cam Reddish and DeAndre Hunter.
At the time, I believe Pierce was the only one that could order a drink at the bar. And if he wasn’t, only one or two of them could join him for a taste. The Hawks finished dead last in their division for the third straight season and went 20-47. Collins missed 25 games due to testing positive for a growth hormone, while Young became a bona fide star, starting in his first All-Star game in a season where he averaged 29.6 points and 9.3 assists per game.
It became clear that Young and the baby Hawks needed some help and maturity. And that’s exactly what they got. Atlanta was able to sign Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn for some guard depth off the bench, Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic who will likely start, and drafted big man Onyeka Okongwu with the sixth pick in the draft. The Hawks will also add Clint Capela to the lineup, someone they got last season at the trade deadline. However, due to injury, Capela wasn’t able to suit up for this new team.
The Hawks are now a lock for the playoffs this season.
Los Angeles Lakers
When the bubble concluded in Orlando, the Lakers had made two things clear: LeBron James is still the best basketball player on Earth and Anthony Davis is the only person who can stop…Anthony Davis.
However, we knew changes to the roster were coming, especially if the Lakers wanted to repeat. A year ago, people were wondering if Rob Pelinka was the right man for the job in L.A. A year later, he looks like one of the best GMs in sports.
The Lakers flipped their frontcourt by trading away JaVale McGee and letting Dwight Howard go to sign Montrez Harrell away from the Clippers and adding Marc Gasol. And with the departures of Danny Green, Quinn Cook, JR Smith, and Rondo, the Lakers added Wesley Matthews and Dennis Schroder and were able to re-sign Markieff Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Now all the champs have to do is re-sign Anthony Davis, who technically isn’t on the roster. He’s not going anywhere, he just has to figure out what kind of deal he wants to sign.
As soon as Daryl Morey showed up in Philly he was going to make it known that a new sheriff was in town. With Doc Rivers now on the bench and the team already publicly stating that Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid weren’t going anywhere, it was up to Morey to upgrade a roster that never made sense to anybody.
Morey sent Josh Richardson and Al Horford away so that he could add some much-needed shooting to the lineup with Seth Curry and Danny Green. The addition of Dwight Howard gives Philly a defensive-minded center who’s willing to do the dirty work to be Embiid’s backup. Philly also added Tyrese Maxey out of Kentucky through the draft with the 21st overall pick to strengthen their backcourt.
Last season, Doc Rivers was in charge of a title-contending team in the Western Conference with the Clippers. And this season, Rivers will be in charge of a title-contending team in the Eastern Conference with the Sixers.
That’s the definition of “landing on your feet.”
However, the biggest winner in free agency without question was Gordon Hayward. The Hornets signed him to a four-year $120 million deal. Somehow, Hayward has turned one All-Star appearance into two max deals in his career.
That’s how you master the free agency game.