Fans in the Philippines waited anxiously for the clock to strike 12, which meant that NBA Free Agency had already officially begun. But all of a sudden, news started to come out as early as 6 am, when the Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly traded Ricky Rubio for a first round pick from the Utah Jazz. From there on out, the madness would continue.
At the end of the day, the key deals which mattered the most for NBA fans was Paul George being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a half a bag of saltine crackers (Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis), Jeff Teague signing with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Blake Griffin inking a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors retaining their two point guards in Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston and the New Orleans Pelicans retaining the services of point guard Jrue Holiday.
On paper, these deals sound incredibly exciting for any basketball fan. But what do they truly mean not just for the teams involved, but for the rest of the league as well? Let’s try to dig deeper into those deals.
Paul George gets traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis
Before digging deep into just how Russell Westbrook and George will co-exist, it’s important that we talk about what Indiana received in return for their franchise star. Quite frankly, it’s pretty close to half a bag of saltine crackers. Really close.
There were surely better deals than this. Boston had a bunch of assets that they could have offered for George (or did they really want to offer them?). Cleveland had Kevin Love as an offer. Receiving Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler and Gary Harris in a three-team trade with Cleveland and Denver is a lot more appetizing than this. Oladipo and Sabonis are solid pieces, sure, but for the sake of a franchise player like Paul George? Indiana fans have a reason to be frustrated at this deal. It seemed like they were too focused on being petty by sending PG to a Western Conference deal instead of getting a good return.
For the case of the Thunder, Royce Young describes this perfectly. It was a high-risk, high-reward move. There is no guarantee that George decides to sign a mega deal with the Thunder. He’s been reported to have his sights on the Lakers, and he could very well convince Westbrook to join him in Hollywood. But for the time being, this Westbrook-George pairing looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
The type of player that the MVP needs to be paired with is someone with adequate playmaking skills, but the most important criterion with that is that player is willing to play off the ball. Kevin Durant is the player best suited for that role. but George could very well be the second best thing to the Slim Reaper.
One type of action which the Thunder loved to run with Durant is a simple pin down which would lead to an open three pointer on either wing. Here’s an example of that very play:
Oklahoma City loved to play stagnant basketball, so setting these shots up were pretty difficult. Didn’t matter though, as Durant was too good for defenders to defend. Now look at this action which Indiana ran:
It’s not just George’s ability to move off the ball in the perimeter which will make the pairing between him and Westbrook work well. He can also cut for easy baskets down low, and he can also serve as another playmaker when Westbrook is on the bench. Brodie will likely not get his triple doubles this year (okay maybe he might if he reads this) because of PG13 helping, but that’s fine. At least Westbrook will be fresh come crunch time to save the day for OKC.
At the same time, George is also a capable defender on the perimeter, someone who can lock players down one on one for multiple possessions. Durant back then was more of a help defender from the weakside, while George is someone who you can ask to lock down the best perimeter threat on the other team. That allows Andre Roberson (if he resigns for the Thunder) to act as the help for Oklahoma City this time around, something that he is very adept at.
OKC won’t be enough of a threat to take down the Warriors. The GSW juggernaut has too many pieces. OKC has Westbrook, George, Steven Adams and an Enes Kanter who can play sparingly. But no matter. This pairing is one that will be incredibly fun to watch.
Jeff Teague signs a 57 million dollar deal for 3 years to play for the Minnesota TImberwolves
Once the Wolves traded away Rubio, there was fear that move was quite the gamble for them. Rubio was a solid PG on a relatively cheap deal, and trading him away created the risk of not being able to get any high-level PG on the market. A couple of hours later, the Wolves signed Jeff Teague, someone who is certainly a high-level point guard.
He’s not, say, on the level of a Kyle Lowry. He isn’t even as good as Jrue Holiday. But Jeff Teague is a solid quarterback who is not only an adept playmaker but also a capable scorer. He has a solid shot from the outside, he can create for himself, and he can also play off the ball at times. He’s not someone who just stands around looking for his shot when he passes the ball. He actually opts to move around. Take a look at this great give and go between him and Myles Turner:
It’s not too hard to imagine Teague giving it to Karl-Anthony Towns in the post for a give and go. KAT is someone who has shown that he can pass off to cutters when coming from the perimeter. Just look at this beauty of a pass he gives to Andrew Wiggins:
At the same time, Teague’s ability to play off the ball gives Jimmy Butler the freedom to handle the rock as the primary playmaker as he pleases. Having two capable playmakers in Butler and Teague is a huge blessing for the Timberwolves. This will make life so much easier for the developing Andrew Wiggins, and their franchise star in Karl-Anthony Towns. This doesn’t necessarily put the Wolves on top, but it’sa step in the right direction for them.
Blake Griffin signs a 173 million dollar deal for 5 years with the Los Angeles Clippers
Fans of the Clippers were scared that the front office of the Clippers would offer Blake the supermax despite his injury issues. Thankfully, LA opted not to. Instead, Blake will be earning roughly 34 million dollars per year because of this deal. Fans could still argue that this is a risky move for the Clippers, but they had to do this.
Griffin has injury issues, but he’s still a player who is capable of leading a team given his ability to create plays for others and his versatility. You could even say that Chris Paul was somehow holding him back, so having an unleashed Blake along with the pieces which LA managed to get in their deal with Houston is going to be a joy to watch.
The risk of injury will always be there. That’s something that we have to realize. It’s something which players like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have as well. But LA decided to bite the bullet and ride with Griffin for a decent deal. If this pays off for LA, don’t be surprised. Blake is an elite prospect by all means.
Stephen Curry signs a 201 million dollar supermax for 5 years deal with the Golden State Warriors
Very surprising. Yes. The internet broke because of this deal.
Of course Golden State gives this deal to Steph. He’s not only changed Golden State, but he’s also revolutionized how basketball is played today. He deserves this deal after only earning 44 million with the Warriors for the past four seasons. If you’re wondering how that deal went down for Golden State, check this out:
how the Curry negotiations went:
Steph: we'd like all the money
Bob Myers: we'd like to give you all the money
Bob Myers: great
— jacob c. palmer (@jacobc_palmer) July 1, 2017
Shaun Livingston signs a 24 million dollar deal for 3 years with the Golden State Warriors
If you said that this was the steal of free agency thus far, I wouldn’t be mad. This was an absolutely great deal by the Golden State Warriors, as they managed to lock in arguably the best backup point guard in the league.
If worse comes to worse and Andre Igoudala decides not to resign with the Warriors, Livingston is an able replacement in the Death Line-up. Seeing Shaun as the man in the low post surrounded by the four star Warriors is something which could create a ton of chaos for the Warriors.
Jrue Holiday signs a 126 million deal for 5 years with the New Orleans Pelicans
Holiday is a high-level point guard, but most Pelicans fans feel that the deal is too much for someone like Jrue. It’s hard to blame fans of New Orleans for that.
Jrue is a good point guard, for sure, but he’s not exactly someone who you can categorize as a 126 million type of guard. If he’s able to elevate his game, then sure, this is a good deal for them. They still have the flexibility to sign some other pieces to surround with Anthony Davis and potentially, DeMarcus Cousins for the long run.