After a whirlwind start to the summer, free agency is mostly wrapped up and winding down. Training camp is just around the corner and if I couldn’t come soon enough, the NBA will start back up again in less than 60 days. The summer shakeup was magnificent: Kyle Lowry finally landed in Miami, and Russell Westbrook was sent to Los Angeles in a blockbuster transaction.
Each team stands a bit differently after free agency. Several teams’ depth got deeper for the regular 82-game season that’s upon us, while others like the reigning champions kept their rosters intact
1. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets’ priority going into the new season is health. Last year, the team’s Big 3 was held under 10 games playing together and faced a difficult end to the year. The bright light is glistening in Brooklyn and should be followed by a smooth path to the title game with chemistry boosts. Brooklyn brought in household name Patty Mills during the dawn of free agency. The 33-year-old is coming off an exceptional run with the Australian Olympics squad and is eager to play for the Nets. Mills fits well into Brooklyn’s offense scheme: he attempts smart shots through one-on-one scoring and opens up the floor for teammates. Mills agreed to a two-year $12 million deal with Brooklyn and is poised to replace an injured backcourt as quality depth can be valuable at times.
Without a doubt, the Nets are clear favorites heading into the new year and are just inches away from reaching the NBA Finals. Kevin Durant’s extension likely runs up until he retires and signing veterans complements team experience and the developmental supporting cast. Brooklyn certainly made moves around the edges.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
After flipping their roster almost completely, the Lakers are slightly above the defending champs. Los Angeles is fresh off a trade for Russell Westbrook who adds another triple-double threat and primary ball-handler to take the pressure off LeBron. Los Angeles has the most experience after their free-agency additions– They reunited with Dwight Howard, added shooters around their stars, and re-signed their most important free-agent other than lost Alex Caruso, Talen Horton Tucker. LA’s top-tier level of experience for the game plays a significant role for the postseason– It just falls down to health.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
The loss of PJ Tucker was significant, but the Bucks kept their roster comfortable. Grayson Allen, George Hill, and Rodney Hood commend offensive and versatility depth out in the perimeter under Giannis Antetokounmpo. Despite offseason tragedies, Milwaukee re-signed Bobby Portis who played a crucial role in the championship run. The franchise should stand tall in the East with the utmost confidence after rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the NBA Finals.
4. Phoenix Suns
Even with the progressing old age and injury history of Chris Paul, priority number 1 was to lock up the 9-time All-Star, and the Suns did just that, agreeing with Paul to a four-year, partially guaranteed $120 million deal. Paul was paramount to the Suns’ trip to the Finals and has until he’s 40 to return again with the valley. Phoenix also retained vital assets in Cam Payne, Abdel Nader, and Frank Kaminsky. Payne upped his scoring production in both the regular season and playoffs while Nader and Kaminsky positioned themselves for a depth role. Phoenix additionally addressed partial needs by exchanging Jevon Carter for sharpshooter Landry Shamet and signing backup veteran center JaVale McGee. The Suns should once again be a quality contender with a hungry aggresion.
5. Utah Jazz
For the most part, the Utah Jazz kept their roster intact. There should be no reason why the Jazz don’t perform identically to last season. Utah was quick to retain Mike Conley, an imperative negotiation, after an abrupt ending to their postseason push in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. George Niang and Derrick Favors were replaced by a second unit rotation of Rudy Gay, Hassan Whiteside and Eric Paschall. Utah’s offseason approach was to keep the depth chart lengthy to stack up well against the crowded western conference. The Jazz have an overlooked roster and are campaigning for one of the top 3 spots once more and have high hopes of a healthy team for their bounce-back playoffs.