With a month to go before the opening of the 2017-2018 NBA season, it’s perhaps time to revisit and reflect on the movements that have happened since the Golden State Warriors claimed their second NBA championship in the space of three years. From Jimmy Butler’s trade to the recent deal between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, this has been one of the busiest – and best – offseasons the league has ever witnessed.
New faces, new era
The Celtics-Bulls first-round series in last season’s playoffs didn’t start according to script. The eighth-seeded Bulls almost stunned the Celtics with a 2-0 start on the top seed’s home court. The trio of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo impressed a lot of NBA fans, especially with the renewed energy that led them to take an early advantage in the series. However, Boston found a way to maneuver their way out of trouble and finish the series after six games to advance to the semi-finals.
The significance of this series? Both teams have undergone significant upheaval in the offseason, and are hardly recognizable from just a few months ago. The Bulls will display a new brand of basketball after they traded franchise player Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Draft pick Lauri Markkanen is another new face in the Windy City, as Chicago prepare to utilize much younger blood on the court in the upcoming campaign. Boston have also undergone significant changes, but more on that below.
Preparing to dethrone the champs
Talks of an “NBA arms race” started early in the offseason when the Houston Rockets made their intentions of dethroning the Golden State Warriors clear by trading for Chris Paul. The James Harden-led Rockets surprised many fans with their fast-paced, hyper-aggressive brand of basketball last term, and by throwing Paul into that mix they genuinely lay claim to the league’s most lethal backcourt. Generally, when a player of Paul’s stature swaps teams, it will be the biggest trade story of the offseason. But this was only the beginning of the trade super storm we were about to witness.
Oklahoma City Thunder soon got into the act, adding Paul George without essentially losing much. This trade led to some head scratching from NBA fans given that the Indiana Pacers let George go for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, yet that mattered little to Thunder fans. Aside from George, the Thunder were also able to sign Patrick Patterson on a three-year, $16.4 million contract. With these two new acquisitions teaming up with MVP Russell Westbrook, the Warriors will have more than just the Rockets to worry about in the west.
Another team to watch as they enter a new era is the Timberwolves. Trading for Butler and pairing him with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins has made them legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. They also signed Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson. This mixture of youth and veteran presence could be the formula the Wolves need to finally rise among the league’s elite.
Drama, and more drama
As if that pair of trades wasn’t enough drama, this span officially staked its claim for being the craziest period in between NBA seasons in history when Kyrie Irving’s trade bombshell became public. It wasn’t that Irving wanted out of Cleveland, he wanted to step out of LeBron James’ shadow. And the only way to do that was to leave Ohio.
Out of nowhere, along came Boston, who had the pieces the Cavs wanted in order to let the 25-year-old go. The Celtics offered Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick for Irving. It seemed agreed until the Cavs raised the issue of Thomas’ hip injury and seemingly vetoed the trade until another piece was added. A seesaw scenario ensued before the Celtics finally added their 2020 second round pick to seal the deal. And all of this, of course, came after the Celtics had acquired All-Star Gordon Hayward earlier in the offseason, which was quickly overshadowed by the resulting drama.
Before we all start looking ahead to the season tip off, it’s important to remember that the offseason drama is, quite remarkably, not over yet. Thomas has publicly revealed his hurt at being traded after showing loyalty to the Celtics while there’s also the small issue of Carmelo Anthony’s protracted departure from New York. The craziest NBA offseason in living memory may get a bit crazier yet.
What do you think is the most interesting thing that happened this offseason?
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