The Most Overlooked Storylines in NBA Free Agency
Now that NBA free agency has come and gone, The Crossover has some time to reflect on the all of the July storylines, including the moves that didn't receive the proper attention at the time. With that in mind, we take a look at the most overlooked happenings of the summer.
The death of the offer sheet
Maybe this is just a function of how quickly the market is moving, but no interested team wasted time by actually signing a restricted free agent to an offer sheet. Instead, we saw at least three cases of restricted free agency resolved via sign-and-trade. Milwaukee helped Malcolm Brogdon to Indiana in exchange for a first-round pick and two second-round picks; in sending Tomas Satoransky to Chicago, Washington acquired a future second-round pick, swap rights on another future second rounder, and modified the protection of a previously traded pick; and most recently, Portland signed-and-traded Jake Layman to Minnesota as an apparent favor, creating a $1.8 million trade exception in the process. It's hard to read the market without any more contentious test cases, but maybe this is the way of restricted free agency's future. — Rob Mahoney
Tomas Satoransky to the Bulls
This is, admittedly, an extreme hipster pick. But I'm sorry, it's the end of the offseason and I can't fight what's in my heart: I've loved Satoransky's game for the past two or three years in Washington, and he never quite got the chances he deserved with the Wizards. Now he joins a Bulls nucleus that's plenty intriguing—Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter—and Satoransky has skills that should be a perfect complement to what everyone else does well. He can play either guard position, he's solid defensively, and he's a low-usage guard who can provide exactly the kind of steadying influence that will allow this team to compete.
After an offseason focused on a dozen massive stories at the top of the league, this is one of the most interesting teams in the middle. Is Markkanen good enough to anchor a playoff run? Can LaVine's numbers translate to winning? What will Carter look like if he's healthy for a full season? How much can Coby White contribute? Chicago has a number of building blocks in place, and over the past six months the front office has poached three veterans (Satoransky, Thad Young and Porter) who can raise the floor. If nothing else, as far the young guys are concerned, it means the Bulls should leave next season with a better idea of the ceiling. — Andrew Sharp
The Knicks embracing position-less basketball
With pace-and-space reaching its zenith in the NBA, it was only a matter of time until one franchise decided to zig while everyone else zags. Enter, the New York Knickerbockers, who signed not one, not two, not three, but FOUR veteran power forwards this summer. In fact, the Knicks’ four highest-paid players are now all power forwards. Some might wonder, how will the Knicks deploy these four vaguely-similar players? But I ask you: how will the rest of the NBA deal with these four vaguely-similar players? Throw in Lance Thomas (or Melo!) at the point, and all of sudden the Knicks are the ones who are light years ahead of the rest of the league. — Matt Dollinger
Where do the Raptors go from here?
To me, the most overlooked storyline from this summer is the future of the Raptors. Toronto took a risk in acquiring Kawhi Leonard, and it experienced both the thrill of a championship and the disappointment of him leaving. What’s the next step for the Raptors? The veterans leftover are still very capable, but likely not contender worthy. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are both solid pieces to build around, but they aren’t on the same timeline as guys like Marc Gasol or Kyle Lowry. I haven’t seen much discussion or reporting about where Toronto goes from here. Will Masai Ujiri finally start a rebuild and see if he can build a more sustainable championship window? Does that mean guys like Lowry, Gasol, and Serge Ibaka could become available in trades? How does that affect contenders around the league?
Wherever the Raptors decide to go from here should have wide-ranging consequences, both in terms of who becomes available to acquire, and the path that could open up for other teams in the East. It sounds callous to already talk about the dissolution of Toronto’s title team—perhaps that’s why there hasn’t been too much speculation yet. But knowing Ujiri’s willingness to be bold, I would be surprised if major changes don’t happen sooner rather than later in Toronto, and those changes could have a far-reaching impact.
The other side of the Kevin Durant trade
The D’Angelo Russell-Steph Curry backcourt is absolutely fascinating entering 2019-20. The duo will be perhaps the league’s most diminutive backcourt next year, but, oh boy, will the threes be flying. Russell is an adept playmaker and should spell Curry from a share of point guard duties. Expect a career high in attempts from three, and his percentage could increase given the defensive attention paid to Curry. The offseason broke perfectly for Russell. He got paid and remained in a marquee market, and he's now eyeing the opportunity to be Curry’s Splash (step) Brother. — Michael Shapiro