NBA Free Agency is a Hot Mess of a System in Need of an Overhaul
I'm guessing I'm in the minority here who think the NBA has the most messed up Free Agency system in all of Professional Sports.
What other Sports waits until 6pm on July 1st---after a bunch of trades/agreements have been made but can't become official before allowing said agreements to---become official?? By the way, I should also add the obscene amount of money thrown around is crazy too---I'll get to that in a minute.
For what it is worth, this year saw a crazy amount of players on the market with teams big and small juggling and trying to find creative ways to get themselves a piece of the action. And for a few, it worked.
The biggest takeaway for me---before I get into the details is this: The balance of power shifted, slightly. The big market teams got big players, the smaller market teams. Well, they have draft picks to get excited about.
That's really the thing I hate about the NBA. It's a league where the most popular players now try to team up with each other to chase a title. They cherry pick the teams/markets where they want to play and a handful of franchises are automatically unable to compete because they aren't a "Big Market".
Without a single game being played, I can already tell you the following teams won't compete for the 2019-20 NBA Title: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, New York Knicks, Orlando and Phoenix. Yeah, congrats--you'll be in the draft lottery. And yes, I know Chicago and New York should be considered "Big Markets" but they are two of the worst run franchises in the sport.
Sure, there are plenty of smaller market teams who make the playoffs---but does that really count? And I"m assuming in my list the Lakers with a healthy LeBron and Anthony Davis manage to scrounge together enough players to fill out a roster and compete. (I could be wrong here)
The defending champs may---or may not be able to defend. The Toronto Raptors were a great story this past season but as I write this---they don't know if they'll have Kawhi Leonard on the roster or not. His presence will be enough for them to challenge for a repeat, without him, forget about it.
Yes, the Brooklyn Nets now have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant on the roster, they may slip into the playoffs if Irving decides to behave and play nice with everyone but Durant won't be around for this coming season. The Nets have surprisingly made some great player personnel decisions over the past couple seasons and have a solid, deep roster made even better with their superstars.
Philadelphia will be really interesting with the ultimate team player, Al Horford on the roster and Milwaukee kept Khris Middleton around to compliment the Greek Freak which should make them a threat too.
The team I'm really curious about though is The Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have been that team building through the draft and have a scary amount of young talent. No, they may not make the playoffs but they'll scare the bejesus out of anyone they play with Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter and a some really strong rookies including DeAndre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernandez.
In the West, well, things will be different. The Warriors will not be the Warriors of the past decade. Period. No Durant, Klay Thompson possible unable to play and no super sub Andre Iguodala. Draymond Green and Demarcus Cousins remain---for now.
The Rockets have threatened an overhaul but haven't actually done it. They have enough talent to win it all as long as James Harden is healthy. Their issues are internal. Everyone else in the West has stayed largely status quo.
The wild card in, well, all of this is Leonard. If he stays in Toronto, they become the immediate favorites to win the East and likely the title with an incredibly well balanced lineup. But more and more, it sounds like he may take his talents to Hollywood. It's just a question of the Clippers or the Lakers. Personally, I hope it is the Clippers just because it would be an F.U. to the overhyped Lakers and further proof of their incompetence. But if he lands with LeBron and Davis, well, it would be interesting. Leonard's game largely mirrors LeBron and I can't imagine him deferring to an aging James with a game on the line.
With the Clippers, he'd be the guy and it's a much better roster fit.
Which at the end of the day is what NBA Free Agency seems to be about. Pairing Superstars and watching everyone else try to build quietly. There's a reason we haven't heard about the ascension of teams like Denver, Utah, Milwaukee and why Toronto was a surpsrise to so many.
Until the NBA is marketed as a 30-team league and each team is treated like an equal (at least the ones who are run correctly), the inequality will always exist. You won't see a team like Orlando or Utah make a run at the title because TV has trained us to not care or pay attention.
And at the end of the day, that's the fault in the system. It's a fault I suspect not many are interested in fixing but at least if you've read this, someone has brought it up.....