The veteran forward Trevor Ariza was traded three times last week — from Portland to Houston to Detroit and ultimately to Oklahoma City. It was perhaps the best illustration that an expected transactional frenzy, after nine mostly dormant months for N.B.A. roster moves, had lived up to billing.
One player agent at the heart of the chaos described it to me as three months’ worth of business crammed into 10 days leading into next week’s scheduled start of training camps. From the many trades and free-agent signings that also had the N.B.A. draft wedged in between them, these are the five most important takeaways:
We didn’t get Lakers vs. Clippers in the Western Conference finals, but their free-agent face-off was a compelling consolation.
If Rob Pelinka finishes anywhere close to seventh in next season’s executive of the year balloting, as he did in 2019-20, it would represent peak pettiness from the voters (who, remember, are fellow executives rather than members of the media).
Pelinka’s Lakers are the early leaders in the race for best off-season honors. They:
Proactively traded for Oklahoma City’s Dennis Schröder in anticipation of Rajon Rondo’s exit;
Signed Wesley Matthews Jr. to replace Danny Green after Green was dealt for Schröder;
Unexpectedly signed Montrezl Harrell away from the Clippers to replace the Philadelphia-bound Dwight Howard;
And traded JaVale McGee to Cleveland to create the needed financial flexibility to sign Marc Gasol.
The Lakers also beat out their Staples Center co-tenants in a head-to-head showdown for Markieff Morris, preventing the Clippers from signing both Morris, who spent last season with the Lakers, and his twin brother, Marcus. Throw in a re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and it’s a lock that the Lakers, with a more dynamic supporting cast to surround LeBron James and Anthony Davis, will start the new season as clear-cut title favorites for the first time in James’s time in Hollywood.
The Clippers, though, haven’t folded. They went into the off-season determined to make dramatic chemistry changes after a humbling second-round playoff exit to Denver. They upgraded from Harrell — who team officials quietly decided had to go — by luring Serge Ibaka away from Toronto. The additions of Ibaka and Luke Kennard (via trade with Detroit) are just the beginning; many rival teams also expect the Clippers to trade Lou Williams in their quest to create a fresh-start environment after they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets.
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Q: The media narrative of “giving up too much” in a trade is so much different when it’s not the Lakers. — @ikeonic_ from Twitter
Stein: The inference here is that the Bucks have been celebrated for swinging a trade for Jrue Holiday whereas the Lakers were roundly criticized for surrendering too much by sending an array of draft picks and young talent to New Orleans for Anthony Davis. I would submit that the truth is firmly in the proverbial middle.
The Lakers had to hear it constantly from naysayers — until they won the championship. The Bucks are probably in for the same sort of second-guessing until Giannis Antetokounmpo signs a contract extension. Milwaukee’s package for Holiday: Eric Bledsoe and George Hill combined with three future first-round picks and two pick swaps.