To say it has been a crazy off-season in the NBA is an understatement. We've seen superstars change teams, we've seen potential superstars drafted into the NBA, and we've seen superstars make VERY questionable decisions this summer(looking at you, Kawhi). Last summer was ridiculous, with players like Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Jimmy Butler on the move, but this summer just tops it. Let's take a look at some of the off-season's biggest winners so far.
Note: this list is mainly based off of players switching teams, I didn't factor contract extensions in the mix for most teams.
Los Angeles Lakers
If all they did was sign LeBron James, they would still be on this list. But, they did more.
Other than signing the greatest player in today's game, they also brought in some interesting role players like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley. Their draft wasn't bad either, as they selected Moritz Wagner from Michigan in the first round and Svi Mykhailiuk in the second, with the latter performing very well in the Summer League. Mix all of these role players to surround LeBron, along with young talent like Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart (who also played extremely well in Vegas), Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, and the Lakers are going to be a really fun team to watch next year. The most impressive feat, however, is how they got all the role players. Most of the players the Lakers signed are signed to one-year deals. This is going to leave them with a ton of cap space for next year's free agency class, headlined by a certain someone named Kawhi Leonard. The Lakers know Kawhi wants to come to LA, so instead of packaging young talent for him, they figured to wait a year, then sign him in 2019 (probably). If not Kawhi, they could definitely convince another star to play for LeBron. Kudos to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, as this summer has made the Lakers a force in the NBA once again.
The Washington Wizards slowly and quietly had a good off-season, but all of these moves they made all depend on one thing. They started the summer by trading Marcin Gortat to the Clippers for Austin Rivers, and signed Jeff Green, Ramon Sessions, and most importantly, Dwight Howard in free agency, while drafting Troy Brown Jr. This team's success will take them as far as their ego will, as a lot of personalities will be clashing in this locker room. Let's take a look at a potential rotation:
PG: John Wall, Tomas Satoransky, Ramon Sessions
SG: Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, Troy Brown Jr.
SF: Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Robinson
PF: Markieff Morris, Jeff Green, Jason Smith
C: Dwight Howard, Ian Mahinmi, Thomas Bryant
On paper, this looks like a good team, a sure-fire playoff contender in the East. After coming off of an 8th seed and first round exit last year, the Wizards look ready to improve and bounce back better this year.
While the Suns will likely not be a playoff contender next year (and it kills me to say that), they had a very good off-season for a rebuilding team. They nabbed consensus #1 pick DeAndre Ayton in the draft, who played very well in the Summer League and will make an impact right away in Phoenix. They traded Zhaire Smith and a 2021 Miami 1st round pick to the 76ers for Mikal Bridges, in which I think is a great move for the Suns, as they desparately need three-point shooting and defense, and Bridges is a great 3-and-D player. They also drafted Elie Okobo and George King, with Okobo possibly staying on the roster and King going to the D-League. In the opening minutes of free agency, the Suns signed Trevor Ariza to a one-year deal, and he will be a great mentor to guys like Bridges and Josh Jackson while also seeing time at power forward and maybe small forward. Ariza could be traded at the deadline, but his one-year deal will help out Phoenix in the long run. They also traded away Jared Dudley for Darrell Arthur and Richaun Holmes, which is going to give Phoenix tons of cap space for next year's loaded free agency class. All of these moves Phoenix has made are not win-now moves, but win-in-3-or-4-years type moves. This is a team with loads of potential and should improve off of their horrendous 21-61 record last year.
Oklahoma City Thunder
I firmly believe the Thunder are going to be a lot more scary this year than last year with Carmelo Anthony, and might even be in play for the Western Conference Finals. The obvious and biggest move was re-signing Paul George, and that alone will make OKC a threat next year. Throughout free agency, Oklahoma City also signed veteran Nerlens Noel and traded for prospects like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Abdel Nader. After all of their re-signings and other moves, the Thunder were sitting at an enormous tax bill- they amassed over $300 million in payroll and luxury tax, something never done before. So, they chopped that bill apart and traded Carmelo Anthony to the Hawks, receiving Dennis Schroder in return. This one move saved OKC over $120 million, and made their payroll much more reasonable. Here's a projected rotation for the Thunder next year:
PG: Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Raymond Felton
SG: Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Deonte Burton
SF: Paul George, Terrance Ferguson,
PF: Jerami Grant, Patrick Patterson
C: Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel
Other than the return of PG and the arrival of Noel and Schroder, having defensive stalwart Andre Roberson back from injury will also help this team in a major way, along with the development of uber-athletic wing Terrance Ferguson. Keep an eye out on Deonte Burton as well, as he opened eyes during the Summer League and has big-play ability. With Melo gone, look for the Thunder to make a playoff run in the 2018-2019 season.
Golden State Warriors
I really hate that I have to put this team on this article. It's not fair.
Drafting Jacob Evans seems like a steal, and he'll probably develop into a rotation player in the same fashion that Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell did last year. Losing JaVale McGee and hitman Zaza Pachulia might sting, but signing Jonas Jerebko gives the Warriors more firepower off the bench.
And then there's DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins, who is currently rehabbing from a torn Achilles, shocked the NBA world when he signed a one-year, $5.3 million contract with Golden State on the second day of free agency. This now means that by the all-star break the Dubs will have a starting 5 of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Remember, because of his injury, Cousins won't likely be able to play until January or February. Cousins basically pulled a KD move; only Cousins took a massive pay cut in order to do so. Cousins also spurned the Pelicans' offer of a 2-year contract worth $40 million, and superstar Anthony Davis, who formed such a bond with Cousins that when he went down with his injury, Davis wore Cousins' all-star jersey instead of his own. This move almost guarantees another dominant Warriors playoff run, ending in a championship. That is likely Cousins' plan: prove himself on the Warriors, finally play in a postseason game and win a championship, and then get paid somewhere else the next season. And while it's annoying to see superstars gang up with each other and form superteams, it is a business and that's the luxury of free agency. While nobody other than Golden State fans really approve of this move, you have to admit that this is going to be a fun and great team next year, even if you think that the NBA is "unwatchable" because of Cousins' decision. The Warriors really pulled out all the cards now, extending their dynasty by at least another year.