I held off on this winners and losers list as I (im)patiently waited for Kawhi Leonard to make his decision.
While I was refreshing Woj’s twitter waiting for an announcement, Kawhi was sneaking around the Lakers’s backs to meet with Paul George like one of those Scooby Doo chase scenes where they’re always in those long hallways with all those doors and the villain runs in and out of doors from them.
I love the NBA.
Here are the 7 biggest winners and losers of 2019 NBA free agency:
1. Los Angeles Clippers
No need for me to be clever about this. What the Los Angeles Clippers pulled off in the middle of the night was the biggest trade in NBA history. Let’s break this down real quick:
The Thunder Get:
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
- Danilo Gallinari
- Three unprotected first-round picks (2022, 2024, and 2026)
- Pick swaps in 2023 and 2025
- Two first-round picks they’d acquired from the Heat (unprotected in 2021 and lottery-protected in 2023)
The Clippers Get:
- Kawhi Leonard
- Paul George
Yup. To quote a man who isn’t on this list but is most certainly a loser after that Terry Rozier contract: ‘Fuck them kids’
You give up a decade worth of draft picks to acquire the reigning Finals MVP and a Top 3 MVP finalist. You just do. Every time.
This might be the greatest pairing of perimeter players since Scottie Pippen and Terry Rozier’s boss.
Not only are both men perennial MVP candidates but their also Defensive Player of the Year candidates. They’re about to beat the Phoenix Suns 118-54 (Devin Booker scoring all 54 points, of course).
2. Pat Riley
The Miami Heat had zero cap space and a roster of mediocre players making far too much money. There was nothing they could’ve done this summer as they couldn’t afford to pay for a top free agent,
And then Pat Riley rolled up his sleeves, slicked back his old man whispy hair and traded for Jimmy Butler. What a finesse. Never forget this man got LeBron to Miami. They could’ve signed in New York or Chicago. Nope, Pat Riley did what Pat Riley does.
3. Russell Westbrook
There is nothing scarier on this Earth than Russell Westbrook with a chip on his shoulder. He put all of his eggs in the Paul George basket and Paul George took that basket to Los Angeles just a year after he said he wanted to stay in OKC.
Kevin Durant left. Paul George left. James Harden was traded. Russell Westbrook is the last man standing and he doesn’t need help anymore. Hell hath no fury like a Westbrook scorn.
4. Utah Jazz
Mike Conley is the perfect point guard that can talk the ball out of Donovan Mitchell’s hands. Mitchell had to step into the Gordon Hayward scoring role and far exceed expectations.
That being said, he chucks up awful shots and often kills possessions so adding an old school point guard that can control the game will save this team from itself.
Also, do not sleep on the addition of Bojan Bogdonavic who averaged 20 a game when Victor Oladipo went out last season. He and Joe Ingles are going to throw so many elbows.
5. Zion Williamson
Every time a transcendent enters the NBA, the front office attempts to accelerate the team’s window and they end up dooming their superstar. Ironically, it literally just happened in New Orleans as the team surrounded Anthony Davis with Omer Asik and Solomon Hill.
Enter David Griffin who is giving Zion both young stars that he can develop with like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo and also smart veterans on short term deals like Derrick Favors and JJ Redick.
6. Unfunny people on Twitter
“ahahah the Knicks, amirite?!?!’ -loser on twitter who just got 10 Likes on his tweet for the first time ever.
7. Jamal Murray
My god. In 2024, Jamal Murray will make $38 MILLION. He averaged 18 points a game last season and now he’s one of the highest paid players in the league. Bag, secured.
And now onto the Losers…
1. Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving
Still not totally convinced that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are truly as great of friends as they think and we’re probably about to see that as Durant sits out for a year and Kyrie burns Brooklyn to the ground like a kid playing with matches when his parents leave them home alone.
Also worth noting that these two are weirdos who 1000% expected their free agency signing in Brooklyn would dominate headlines and no one gives a shit anymore. Everyone is still talking about the Knicks Summer League games more than these two who decided not to sign there.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be the new faces of the NBA while Durant and Kyrie race to see who can demand a trade to a more relevant franchise sooner.
2. Steve Mills
I can’t not shit on the Knicks are their unearned arrogance to believe that simply clearing cap space is enough to sign superstars. The more you read the more it seems like the Knicks didn’t even contact these guys.
Steve Mills has been in the organization almost as long as James Dolan has. How the fuck does he not only maintain a job but continue to fail upwards when he proves time and time again he has no idea how basketball works.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
Wait until the Timberwolves find out that free agency started.
4. Sam Presti
Sam Presti is the new Danny Ainge so let me get ahead of the Presti praise before everyone else does. He now has a hoard of draft picks and can trick other GMs into trading him a superstar for the mystery box of a first round draft pick.
You can argue that he in no way needed to instantly cave into Paul George’s demands but two things were made very clear in that Clippers trade:
I. The Thunder did not want to pay the luxury tax for an expensive team that wasn’t winning the title.
II. Sam Presti wanted to blow this team up anyway and the trade demand gave him the perfect escape rout out of that roster.
Now all of a sudden he can throw Russell Westbrook on the trade block and instead of it being looked at as disrespectful, Presti is perceived as a good guy for not making Westbrook play through a rebuild.
What a hero.
5. DeMarcus Cousins
Man, it’s tough not to feel bad for the former All-NBA center who was moments away from receiving the supermax contract from Sacramento to being traded to New Orleans and tearing his achilles to essentially being the last free agent signed as plan Z for the Los Angeles Lakers Meme Team 2.0.
Rembemer when Boogie was the best big man in the NBA? Now he’s taking Michael Beasley’s old minutes.
6. Boston Celtics
The addition of Kemba Walker was an absolute heist by the Celtics that no one predicted. He fits perfectly with the way Brad Stevens likes to run pick n rolls for the primary ballhandlers. He’s also not nearly as ball dominant as Kyrie Irving so guys like Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum can bounce back from weird (awful) seasons.
But nah, you cannot replace Al Horford with Enes Kanter and just run it back like you didn’t lose one of the best defensive big men in the league and swapped him out with quite literally the worst.
7. Blake Griffin
Derrick Rose is going to brick every shot. Kyle Kuzma is banging his ex. For whatever reason, he STILL lives in Detroit. Blake Griffin is in NBA purgatory.