Dissecting the 2018 NBA Free Agency Period – Discussion from Our Experts

By Kory Walker
Published on July 10, 2018
LeBron James Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard NBA Free Agency

It鈥檚 been nonstop movement around the league since the free agency period started on July 1st. Whether it was LeBron bolting to LA or Boogie joining the world champs, we have seen a handful of free agent signings that have shaken up the NBA community.

It鈥檚 time to gather 3 of our top NBA experts and bounce some questions around to find out who won and who lost. They鈥檒l hit on which deals will have the greatest impact during the upcoming season and give you their perspectives on which team has made the biggest leap since the calendar turned to July.

We鈥檒l talk about things like who was the worst signing and who was the best signing, not to mention give you a little insight on any potential deals that are still in the works. Remember, Carmelo Anthony still needs to find a home, and this Kawhi Leonard saga has continued to drag on.

These gentlemen have been going back and forth all week long, and we decided it was the perfect topic for a little round table discussion.

Follow along and enjoy getting caught up with some new faces that will be playing in new places.

How Do You View the LeBron Move?

Noah Davis: I see it from a dual lens. On one hand, it鈥檚 a fine move by James. He accomplished what he set out to in Cleveland and really, in the Eastern Conference.

Moving out west allows him to take on a greater challenge, build out his media presence in La La Land, and potentially add to his legacy by bringing the Lake Show back to high-level relevancy.

It鈥檚 obviously a coup for the Lakers, too. Magic Johnson gets a superstar beacon for this franchise, while James alone probably gets the Lakers back to the playoffs.

Los Angeles is a destination town again, and eventually other stud free agents (Kawhi Leonard, anyone?) will flock here. The problem is that James is going to be 34 in December, and it might be downhill from here.

If this was a move about championships, it鈥檚 a whiff for 2018 and may miss the mark in general. James should have gone to Philly if he wanted another ring. Still, it鈥檚 a great PR move for all sides, and it brings the Lakers back, which is by itself exciting for the NBA.

Jerry Summer: Noah is spot-on here, and there鈥檚 not much to add. Bron certainly found a market that will match his superstar status, and the Lakers got a player that will lift the team.

They should be in playoff territory with this deal, but the question is, can they really compete this year? Up to this point, I don鈥檛 think they have enough, and LeBron is not getting any younger.

On top of that, there are rumors that Kawhi is less than impressed, and the Clippers are now his preferred destination. If we consider the Kyrie situation, does another superstar want to play with LeBron? I guess we will find out soon enough.Also, I have to add that the season ticket holders of the Lakers probably are the biggest losers here, considering the massive increase of the prices.

Michael Wynn: I view the LeBron move as: expected. As Noah alluded to, LeBron did everything he needed to do for the Cleveland franchise. He made it to 8 straight Finals out of the Eastern Conference, so the time to take on a bigger challenge was now.

The problem is, that streak of reaching the NBA Championship each year looks to be in serious jeopardy now that he has joined the powerhouses of the Western Conference, namely the Golden State Warriors.

I think the move makes perfect sense for LeBron from the standpoint of how he wants to live his life, but it wasn鈥檛 the right move if his main priority was winning titles.

The massive media market of Los Angeles aligns with what LeBron plans to do once his playing days are over, but the surrounding cast of talent currently in the purple and gold isn鈥檛 nearly enough to seriously contend.

If it was all about rings, we would have seen Bronny wind up in Philly or Houston. Instead, his talents will be on display in Hollywood.

Are the Warriors Unstoppable Now?

JS: I wouldn鈥檛 say they are unstoppable, as anything happens in sports. And yet, after the Cousins deal, they are as close as it gets.

The Warriors made a huge improvement by getting one of the best centers in the league for peanuts and now have a possible starting lineup of 5 players with All-Star potential.

DeMarcus Cousins Playing for Golden State Warriors 2018
DeMarcus Cousins playing for Golden State Warriors in 2018.

The only way I can see them fail is if Cousins and another important player (Curry, Durant?) are injured for the playoffs. If they are fit and somewhat close to their full potential, they will win the NBA again.

MW: I thought the Warriors were already unstoppable last year. On paper, this move appears to take this team over the top.

Sure, there has been some chatter and outside noise that speaks to the potential of Boogie being a distraction to the Golden State unit, but I鈥檓 not buying it.

This team was already full of superstars. I don鈥檛 see why adding another alpha-male-type personality is going to slow anything down.

Is Boogie going to average 25 and 13 this year? No, he won鈥檛, but I think he鈥檚 okay with that as long as he鈥檚 getting fitted for a ring come June.

ND: I don鈥檛 think anyone is ever 鈥渦nstoppable,鈥?especially since the Dubs were literally one loss away from not even reaching the Finals in two of the last three Western Conference Finals.

That being said, this has been the best team in the league without Boogie, and now they have (potentially) the best big man in the game.

The Dubs don鈥檛 need Cousins to win, though. That鈥檚 probably good, too, considering he won鈥檛 be back from a shredded Achilles until December at the earliest. The Warriors operate small ball better than anyone and have gotten by with average centers in the past, so consider Cousins the proverbial cherry on top.

If Boogie doesn鈥檛 work out, it鈥檚 whatever, and Golden State probably still wins anyways. If he does, then yeah, the Dubs are unstoppable.

What Was the Best Free Agency Signing?

MW: I won鈥檛 take the easy answer and say the Lakers signing LeBron, because that move speaks for itself.

I鈥檒l go a little outside the box and go with the Washington Wizards bringing in Dwight Howard.

The Wizards allowed center Marcin Gortat to walk freely, and they failed to address their frontline during the draft. This team was in dire need of a shot-blocking presence that could clog up the lane, and I think Dwight could be the perfect fit.

This team is already loaded in the backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Otto Porter Jr. has emerged into a legitimate starting small forward.

Howard may not be the superstar he once was in Orlando, but he鈥檚 still a guy who averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 boards per game last season.

I love this move for Washington and think it elevates the Wiz back into the upper echelon of the East.

ND: I don鈥檛 think James is the easy answer or even the right one. If anything, it鈥檚 Boogie by a mile. If you look at star power, overall talent, title-winning impact, and salary, he鈥檚 the best signing this summer, and it鈥檚 not close.

That being said, I love the Dwight Howard move for the Wiz for all of the reasons Michael went over.

If it鈥檚 not Boogie, LeBron, or Dwight, though, it鈥檚 Brook Lopez getting snatched up by Milwaukee.

The Bucks are in a really nice spot in a suddenly weakened Eastern Conference, and they lacked three things going into the summer: bench scoring, outside shooting, and a presence at center.

Signing Ersan Ilyasova and drafting Donte DiVincenzo hopefully knocked two of those out, while Lopez takes care of two on his own. Milwaukee hasn鈥檛 had a true difference-maker at center in forever, and Lopez gives them that.

That鈥檚 a pretty big deal for a rising team on the east. They already looked dangerous. Now they look flat-out stacked.

JS: I think it鈥檚 the Boogie deal by a country mile. There鈥檚 no way he鈥檚 worth only $5 million, despite the health concerns.Also, LeBron has to be mentioned here, as he is the best player in the NBA right now.
We did criticize the Wizards a lot during the last round table, but it seems they had a plan after all, so I agree that Dwight Howard is a solid deal.

I would like to make a pick that is probably bit unusual and will go with Julius Randle here. It seems like Alvin Gentry had some kind of a plan to build his roster around two big men, and with Cousins gone, he decided to get Randle.

The guy has an enormous potential, but what makes me think he will make it is the rapid improvement in the last season. He was back against the wall but improved his efficiency and decision-making.

If he keeps his head down and continues working hard, I think he will be great for the Pelicans.

What Was the Worst Free Agency Signing?

ND: If you want one, it鈥檚 Trevor Ariza going to the Suns. It doesn鈥檛 make sense for a rebuilding Suns team to fork over $15 million to an aging veteran – especially when they have a slew of perimeter guys they need to develop.

I know why Ariza did it. He wanted to get paid, and he wasn鈥檛 going to win in Houston this year. Why not take a break and nab your last big payday?

Ariza is probably the winner here, but how about a nod to the Lakers in their non-LeBron signings? I鈥檓 sure their collection of one-year contracts is all about 2019 and beyond, but my goodness, did they sign a slew of ball-dominant non-shooters.

JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Rajon Rondo are individually fine signings, but they also can鈥檛 space the floor.

As the key component of any successful LeBron James-led offense, not getting shooters is basically chalking 2018 up as an instant loss.

JS: This one is tough for me, and I find it hard to single out a player. Still, I will have to raise a few eyebrows and go for Chris Paul. He signed a max deal worth $160 million for the next 4 years. While I can see the value for the first one or two of them, it鈥檚 a risky move in the long run.

The Rockets basically have a window of 2 years to win the Championship against the stacked Warriors team and will then have about 40% of their cap tied up to a player that will be 35+ and had some injuries during his career.

This is the reason I simply can鈥檛 ignore this deal.

MW: Can I just wait until Carmelo convinces one of the contenders to let him tag along? Seriously, though, these rumors of one of the top teams wanting to bring Carmelo Anthony in are a bit disturbing to me.

The dude literally plays no defense and doesn鈥檛 make any player around him better. I just don鈥檛 think this guy is a viable small forward in this league anymore, not when you take everything into account.

Noah brought up some great points here, as did Jerry. When you look at the market, it seems as if the Suns may have overpaid by shelling out $15 million to a 33-year-old journeyman who is now on with his 7th franchise.

Chris Paul is without a doubt one of the top point guards in this league, but I鈥檓 not sure we鈥檒l be saying that in 3 years鈥?time.

A move that makes me scratch my head is the Charlotte Hornets paying an injury-riddled Tony Parker $10 million over the next two seasons.

Tony Parker Playing for the Charlotte Hornets in 2018
Tony Parker playing for the Charlotte Hornets in 2018.

This dude is beyond past his prime, and I think the Hornets would have been better off surrounding their core with young and up-and-coming players.

Which Team Has Made the Best Signings?

JS: I will pick the easy way out and go for the Golden State Warriors here. Getting Boogie for nothing and resigning Durant is enough to give it to them.

The GM secured yet another superstar without losing any of the best players, and the team is an overwhelming favorite to win the Championship once again.

As for the rest of the bunch, obviously the Wizards addressed their biggest issue, as we already mentioned.I鈥檓 on the fence when it comes to the Lakers, as I feel one more deal could make the difference. As it stands, they currently have too many non-shooters and no reliable second scorer to support LeBron. If they manage to find a good solution, they could end up the big winners.

MW: It鈥檚 tough to compete with Mr. Summer here. Adding Cousins and retaining Durant makes the Warriors鈥?offseason an absolute slam dunk.

But I鈥檒l dig a little deeper and talk about another team in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks.

Dirk Nowitzki continued to work with Mark Cuban and restructured his deal, which accomplished two things. One, they get to bring back the sweet-shooting German on a cheap deal.

Secondly, and more importantly, they were able to latch onto DeAndre Jordan. DeAndre鈥檚 presence in the paint immediately bolsters this team enough to get them back to the postseason.

I know Rick Carlisle was happy about this move, and I think fans in Dallas should be excited as well.

ND: I don鈥檛 think anyone ever thought KD was going anywhere, and as I said, I think the Dubs win it all even if Boogie sits this season out.

I love the Mavs breakdown by Michael, but I鈥檒l roll with a tie between the Pacers and Wizards.

Given how much LeBron James blew the east wide open by relocating to La La Land, anyone improving in the Eastern Conference needs to be paid attention to.

Both Washington and Indiana did a lot to get better.

The Wiz brought in a solid utility man in Troy Brown in the draft, traded for a combo bench guard they sorely needed in Austin Rivers, replaced the departing Mike Scott with Jeff Green, and upgraded over Marcin Gortat by bringing in Dwight Howard.

Considering this team already has a strong four-man core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and Markieff Morris, it鈥檚 fair to say they could be a threat to the ECF this year.

So, too, could the Pacers.

Victor Oladipo already had this team on the right track, but the Pacers drafted a very solid bench guard in Aaron Holiday, replaced the jetting Lance Stephenson鈥檚 non-shooting with a great specialist in Doug McDermott, signed center depth in Kyle O鈥橯uinn, and landed an elite bench scorer in Tyreke Evans.

Are the Pacers now better than the Wiz or a threat to get to the Finals? I鈥檓 not sure, but they were already a solid playoff team last year, and they just got markedly better.

Which Team Has Improved Least?

MW: Should I just steal the Cavs from my two counterparts here? I mean, the team lost the best player in the NBA and has literally done nothing about it, other than sit around and twiddle their thumbs.

The Cavs almost seem like too easy of an answer, so I鈥檒l go with the Brooklyn Nets.

As Mr. Davis has mentioned, the departure of King James leaves the Eastern Conference up for grabs. So why has owner Mikhail Prokhorov done absolutely nothing about this opportunity that is staring him in the face?

They traded for Dwight Howard, only to botch things up and let Dwight land in Washington. Teams around them are getting better each and every day, yet the Nets seem content to roll out a starting unit that includes Jarrett Allen and Allen Crabbe.

A bunch of teams in the East have made strides this offseason. The Brooklyn Nets just aren鈥檛 one of them.

ND: Yeah, I was thinking about going with the Cavs. At least trade some of these awful salaries. Do something.

Truth be told, a lot of teams could be the 鈥渞ight鈥?answer here. My pick is the Raptors, though.

Yes, they were the best team in the East last year, but after (yet again) getting clowned by the Cavs, they fired a very good head coach and brought back a bench guard.

Dwane Casey Fired from Coaching the Raptors

And that鈥檚 it.

To be fair, running it back with the same crew could work, and they have no money or picks to work with, but that also aids the argument that they鈥檝e positioned themselves into an ugly corner.

The point is, Toronto wasn鈥檛 good enough to make it out of the second round last year, and they made no swift changes to their roster to better themselves.

Toronto might think they鈥檙e fine as they stand, but if not, they wasted this summer.

JS: I鈥檒l shock everyone and mention the Cavs once again. The situation there seems hopeless right now.

Still, I鈥檓 probably rushing a bit here, but I will go for the Spurs. They lost Parker and Kyle Anderson so far, and while none of them look that important, the only new player up to this point is the aging Marco Belinelli.

Sure, they re-signed Danny Green and Rudy Gay, but I have concerns about both of them. Green is no longer an elite shooter, which means he鈥檚 only useful in defense. At the same time, Rudy Gay is one of the few players on the roster that can create his own shot, but he seems injury-prone.

And finally, a Kawhi trade looks inevitable. I think the Spurs should鈥檝e done more up to this point. Still, I assume they are waiting to see what they get for Kawhi, but I鈥檓 less than impressed with what they鈥檝e done so far.

Which Signing Surprised You the Most?

ND: The Boogie signing takes the cake. I think part of it is that I was shocked at how little interest he actually had from other teams, and then that the Dubs of all teams could snag him so cheaply.

That鈥檚 a pretty obvious shocker, while James officially landing in L.A. – as expected as it was – was still pretty weird to see.

The one that really stands out, though, is Kyle Anderson. Memphis isn鈥檛 even over their awful gaffe with Chandler Parsons, yet here they are handing out a huge long-term deal to some Spurs spare.

If the Spurs can鈥檛 make Anderson into a star, what is Memphis thinking here? It鈥檚 an odd signing for a team that is near the bottom of the league and foolishly seems to think they can still contend.

JS: It has to be DeMarcus Cousins, so I agree with Noah here. Also, he stole my Anderson pick, as I feel he鈥檚 vastly overpaid. Sure, he can do a lot of stuff and is still 24. However, he is not called SlowMo for nothing and offers zero offense.

Still, there鈥檚 another deal that was unexpected to me. I honestly thought Paul George was going to leave the Thunder. I feel that he was assured that Melo is going, which was the main reason he will play there this season as well.

MW: Man, both Noah and Jerry stole my thunder here! Investing $37 million and 4 years into Kyle Anderson certainly can be debated, as he鈥檚 been nothing more than a rotational piece in San Antonio so far in his career. Some say he looked like a 鈥減oor man鈥檚鈥?Kawhi Leonard, but even I think that鈥檚 being generous.

I thought PG was leaving Oklahoma City as well, but they must have promised him that they wouldn’t bring Carmelo Anthony back into the locker room.

With all that being said, the single move that had me the most surprised was the Lakers adding Lance Stephenson. I thought him and Lebron legit hated each other, and I鈥檓 worried that Lance鈥檚 ego might not gel with the rest of the Lakers roster.

Time will tell, and I could be proven wrong, but I don鈥檛 see this working relationship lasting very long.

What One Move Would You Like to See Next?

JS: I would like to see what happens with Isaiah Thomas next. His story is tough to swallow, as the guy simply can鈥檛 catch a break.

He was brilliant in his last Celtics season, but the injuries have prevented him from getting the contract he deserves. I expect him to sign a deal for 1 year and try to recapture his form. At the end of the day, he鈥檚 29, so there鈥檚 still hope for him.

Also, I鈥檓 curious to see who鈥檚 going to get Melo this summer. Michael already mentioned that, but he has demands and very little to offer.

MW: I was a senior at San Diego State University attending every single home game when I fell in love with one of the freshmen. His name was Kawhi Leonard, and I have been following and rooting for him ever since.

I would love nothing more than to see the Spurs package him to Philadelphia and see Kawhi team up with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Everyone seems to think it is a foregone conclusion that the Warriors will win the title this year, and it won’t even be that competitive.

Well, I can promise you this. Kevin Durant and company wouldn鈥檛 be too eager to face off against a 76ers squad in the Finals if they added a stud like Leonard.

ND: I hear Isaiah Thomas could be joining the Magic, and Melo to Rockets makes sense.

Both will be interesting to see, for sure, while Kawhi鈥檚 landing spot in any trade should dominate NBA headlines when it goes down.

I鈥檓 game for anything, but to be frank, there isn鈥檛 much else to be done in free agency. Maybe someone steals Clint Capela from the Rockets or Jimmer Fredette returns to the league.

I don鈥檛 know, but the next big move is probably coming via trade, and the one guy I hope finds a new home is Kevin Love.

Kevin Love
Where will Kevin Love end up for the 2018 NBA season?

Love deserves better than to waste away on what now amounts to a loser in Cleveland. I think another title-contending team swooping in and taking him would be good for him, the Cavs, and the league.

Maybe I just want some big trades in general. Toronto still needs to do something, there are negative rumblings in Minnesota, and a few teams have been a bit too quiet.

Trades of any kind are welcome, but Love鈥檚 ultimate destination will be one of my favorite non-Kawhi things to monitor in the coming months.

Who Would You Back for the Title Right Now?

MW: You don鈥檛 have to read this article to know that the Golden State Warriors are the easy and logical choice to win the Finals. However, with the number being bloated as high as -160 or more, is there really any value?

I鈥檒l say that right now, the Boston Celtics at +550 to ship the title piques my interest. Can you imagine how good that number would look if they somehow traded for Kawhi Leonard in the next few weeks?

Or better yet, what if Steph Curry or Kevin Durant sustain a season-ending injury and the Warriors鈥?core is sacrificed?

This team was on the verge of reaching the NBA Finals a season ago, and they did so with their top 2 players (Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward) on the sidelines. They no longer have to go through LeBron, so you can almost pencil this team in for at least an appearance in the Finals.

Once they get there, anything can happen. And in the event that something dramatic happens that shakes things up in the Bay area, then suddenly you鈥檒l see lots of folks jumping on the Celtics bandwagon.

ND: Obviously it鈥檚 the Dubs or bust, but as Michael notes, the price is a bit too thick. It鈥檚 the wager to go hard at, but I鈥檇 rather just toss a few flier bets at the Lakers, Rockets, 76ers, Raptors, and Celtics.

Of the lot, I am in full agreement that Boston returns the most value.

Keep in mind that we don鈥檛 even know how good this team is yet. Their playoff run (which ended one game short of the Finals) was done 100% with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on the bench.

With those guys healthy and young guns like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier a year better, Boston has to be the top team in the east. It might make sense to hop on the Celtics before they become too obvious of a bet.

JS: We all know the obvious answer here, so I will try to mention a couple of teams that might upset the odds. You already mentioned most of them, but still.

  • Rockets 鈥?this is the team that pushed the Warriors to the limit, and if Chris Paul wasn鈥檛 injured in the last two games, it might have been a very different story last year.
  • LA Lakers 鈥?if they add another solid scorer to help LeBron, who knows what might happen?
  • 76ers 鈥?as Michael said, they have a good basis, and if they land Kawhi, the roster becomes formidable.
  • Celtics 鈥?they were one game away from reaching the NBA finals last year without Kyrie and Gordon Hayward.
  • Cavaliers 鈥?with LeBron gone, the team will be able to show its true colors and prove to the world they have been carrying James, not the other way around… not!

If I had to pick one, though, it would鈥檝e been Boston, for sure.

Summary

Well, I don鈥檛 about all of you reading this post, but I certainly feel more informed than I did before. It鈥檚 been another illuminating discussion with these splendid gentlemen, and I鈥檝e enjoyed every single minute of it.

If you want to read more from Noah, Michael, and Jerry, make sure you keep checking in. They鈥檒l be sharing plenty more of their thoughts between now and the start of the season, and they can help you to formulate some strategies for your NBA betting.

I鈥檒l definitely be tapping into their expertise as I try to figure out my preseason wagers.

Just one piece of advice from me before we finish up here. If you plan to do your betting online, please ensure that you鈥檙e only using reputable and trustworthy sites.

You can check out our list of recommended NBA betting sites if you don鈥檛 know where you should be betting. We ONLY recommend the very best and safest places to bet, so you鈥檒l be in good hands.

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Dissecting the 2018 NBA Free Agency Period - Discussion from Our Experts
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Dissecting the 2018 NBA Free Agency Period - Discussion from Our Experts
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Here, our NBA experts discuss what鈥檚 been happening in the world of professional basketball. This week, they look at the talking points from the free agency period.
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