The stars of free agency have all chosen which teams they will be playing for next season. But, this year’s free agency period was slightly different than previous ones. This year was more about trades or sign and trades. Three major free agents switched teams this year via trades. Chris Paul got traded to the Rockets, Paul George got traded to the Thunder, and Jimmy Butler got traded to the Timberwolves. It’s time to breakdown each trade, and debate which one was the best.
Let’s start with the trade that occurred first. The Jimmy Butler trade happened a week before free agency started, and it happened on draft night. GM Tom Thibodeau did a great job with this deal and stole Butler for less than what he is worth. The Wolves got rid of Zach Lavine, who is coming off an ACL injury, and the team doesn’t know if he will be the same player when he returns. And Kris Dunn, who had high potential coming out of college,but didn’t live up to that potential with a unsuccessful rookie season. The Wolves also traded their 7th pick in the draft, but they later regained a first round pick back from the Bulls in the deal. Butler puts the Wolves over the top and they will finally make the playoffs this upcoming season. It gives them a big three of Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns, with all players in their primes. All three players can score the ball well and also can defend, which is a staple of coach Thibodeau’s teams.
The Houston Rockets are always aggressive in free agency and want to bring stars to their team. Their best player is James Harden and they even got him on the roster via trade a few years back. Houston has now traded for another all star guard in Chris Paul. Houston gave up seven players and a 2018 first round pick to make the trade happen. Both of these players, Harden and Paul, are ball dominant, so the difficult part about this trade is whether these players will mesh on the court. With Paul opting back into his contract to be traded, he clearly is willing to split the ball handling duties in the backcourt. This could be dangerous for the rest of the league because it can make Paul a first option scorer, opposed to a primary ball distributor the entire game. The Rockets gave up a lot to get Paul so, they do need to round out this roster so this team can flourish.
Maybe the trade that was the most shocking was the trade of Paul George to the OKC Thunder. Though it was the biggest surprise this was the best trade of the three. Opposed to the Rockets trade for Chris Paul, the Thunder didn’t give away half their players to get one. Also, the Thunder were already a playoff team last year unlike the Timberwolves who are looking to get there. The only downside to this trade is that George may only be there for this year and then leave. But let’s focus on the here and now. The problem that OKC had was that the MVP Russell Westbrook did everything for them and he had no help following Kevin Durant’s departure. Durant’s absence hurt most in three point shooting, Russell himself isn’t the greatest shooter and the wing players for OKC aren’t either. Adding an all star talent, twenty three points per game scorer and great defender in George to go alongside Westbrook is a great deal for the Thunder. Also, with George and Westbrook in their primes, if the Thunder can convince them to stay long term, that’s a tandem for the future.
The Western Conference was already the stronger of the two conferences but by stealing two more all stars away from the East it’s gotten even better. The West will be more competitive next season. Don’t expect the Warriors to just sweep through to the finals again like they did this year. Don’t forget about the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are made a major move by signing all star Gordon Hayward this week. The Celtics could really challenge the Cavs now that they have more offensive firepower. Also, the Cavs don’t look as powerful with all their front office issues they have currently. These exciting moves during the offseason make us as fans very anxious for the new season. It will be very interesting to see these new players on their new teams during the 2017-2018 season.