With Russell Westbrook headed to Houston, this summer just keeps getting crazier and crazier. Here are the top 5 trades made during free agency according to shock value and popularity.
Paul George to the L.A. Clippers
Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies
Anthony Davis to the L.A. Lakers
Al Horford to the Philadelphia 76ers
5. D’Angelo Russell to the Golden State Warriors
Having been drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2015, Russell was then traded to the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2017. After showing glimpses of greatness early on in his career (making the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in his first season), his move to Brooklyn was great for his career. Although his first season was nothing too special, he bettered himself for the 2018-2019 season. For him, it was a bit of a break out season, and subsequently, he helped the Nets finish the regular season as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, enough to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
A certain Kevin Durant made the move to Brooklyn in his free agency, but more on that later. This caused the Golden State Warriors and the Brooklyn Nets to negotiate a deal, which at the time included a possible trade of Russell for Durant. However, after KD left (as a free agent), and Andre Iguodola left as well, Golden State was missing a star for their team. To “compensate” for losing one of their biggest assets for free, D’Angelo Russell was signed to a 4-year, $117M max contract. Whether or not his style of play will blend with the dynasty’s main core of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson remains to be seen. Golden State may have made a panic buy, but Russell is a talented point guard. If anything, Russell can be traded again down the road; he is only just 23 after all.
4. Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler has been all over the place. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 2011. Since 2016, he’s played for the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, and now, the Miami Heat. He’s made his way from the Midwest to the East Coast. Throughout his years as a professional basketball player, Jimmy Butler was no stranger to drama.
After leaving the Bulls in 2017, Butler commented on his former teammates, “Probably some of them can’t stand or don’t like me. That’s fine.” One of his teammates from the Bulls, Dwyane Wade, hinted at a bit of a feud between the two. Flash forward to late 2018, Wade confronted Butler on social media for a comment he made on his wife’s Instagram photo. Butler wrote a compliment, that may or may not be respectful (especially to a former teammate’s wife), and Wade replied on one of Butler’s Instagram photos with the message, “[comment] on my wife photo again, and you’re gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like.” It’s probably all banter anyway, as they are good friends now.
In this past free agency, Jimmy Butler willingly signed a 4-year, $141M contract with the Miami Heat. Of course, DWade supports this move. The most ironic part of this move is what Jimmy Butler said in a 2013 interview with the Chicago Splash. When this fashion magazine asked what is the one thing he’d never wear, Jimmy Butler responded, “a Miami Heat jersey.”
3. Kawhi Leonard to the L.A. Clippers
Last summer, Kawhi Leonard seemingly forced a move out of the San Antonio Spurs with hopes of playing with the Los Angeles Lakers, reportedly. He played a handful of games due to injury, but he dragged the situation further than it needed to be, weakening the respected relationship he had with the Spurs. After everyone thought he would move over to the West Coast, the organization traded him to Toronto instead with a shock exchange that displaced DeMar DeRozan to Texas.
In the contract offered to him in Toronto, Kawhi made sure he would be a free agent in the summer of 2019. Toronto would have the option to sign him for a 5-year, $190M contract. Although Kawhi was on the Raptors for merely one season, it was a fantastic season for him. After spending a year in Toronto, Kawhi led his team to their first ever NBA Championship. With free agency coming up after their historic victory, Kawhi was given the green-light to choose his own destination.
Due to the previous summer’s antics, all signs pointed to Los Angeles. With LeBron James on the Lakers, it was almost a no-brainer who Kawhi would choose. However, after it was revealed that both the Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers were after him, it became a competition between the city rivals. A couple days following free agency, Paul George made the move from Oklahoma City to the L.A. Clippers; Kawhi was finally convinced to move as well. He ended up signing for a 3-Year, $103M max contract with the Clippers. They even aligned their contracts so that both players have the ability to enter 2021 free agency via player option. It should be an interesting showdown this season in L.A.
2. Kevin Durant & Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets
Two of the biggest names in the NBA are set to join forces in New York City. Kevin Durant leaves the dynasty that is the Golden State Warriors, winning back-to-back championships with them. In this free agency, he signed to the Brooklyn Nets for a 4-year, $164M contract. From way across the country in Boston, Massachusetts, Kyrie Irving is also joining the Brooklyn Nets on a 4-year contract, but for $141M. Two of this decade’s greatest NBA athletes joining forces is not a bad thing for the organization.
There is a bit of controversy and surprise with these two signings. Throughout all of this season, it was well aware that Kevin Durant’s contract would end this summer. There were multiple reports that he would be moving to New York City after his stint with the Warriors. Kyrie Irving was also looking to move away from the Boston Celtics and also preferred NYC. The big twist is that the media constantly reported these two were going to become the latest additions for the New York Knicks, along with drafting Duke’s Zion Williamson. However, plans fell through, and well, now these two are going to be part of the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks’ city rival.
One thing to look out for is how much of a gamble Kevin Durant can be. Sure, he has multiple NBA Finals appearances and rings under his belt, but in the 2018-2019 series against inevitable champions Toronto Raptors, Durant suffered an Achilles injury. Early on in the series, he had a minor injury. His medical team knew, but decided to rush him back for the series, and it inevitably cost him. With an Achilles injury, time is your best friend. But for a team that signed an elite athlete at a high price, time may not be on their side. In order to fully heal, KD might have to miss the whole season. Even then, his return might be hindered by his inability to play at the extreme levels he has been used to playing in his career. He is also getting older, and age does not help athletes either. If his injury doesn’t affect him as much as it could potentially, the Nets got a great deal out of this.
1. Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets
Number One in this list of crazy trades has to be Russ to H-Town. With a reported $171.1M contract over 4 years, Russell Westbrook is set to reunite with his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammate James Harden. Interestingly enough, after Harden left to join the Rockets, he elevated his game significantly. While Russell Westbrook made the leap down south, Chris Paul, unfortunately, was forced to go the other way. (Thank you Chris Paul for almost giving us a Finals appearance. Golden State players injured you in that series and we would’ve won Game 7 if you were there, they couldn’t handle you.)
Regardless, no one expected this trade to happen, as Westbrook was flirting with the idea of going to the Miami Heat and join the forces of Jimmy Butler and co. However, with Paul George making the move to the Clippers, Westbrook did not want to be part of a team that was setting up for the future. He wants a championship, and he wants it now.
On paper, this means two former MVPs are on the same roster. In reality, the Rockets just signed another heavily ball-dominant player who fulfills a similar role to their superstar. Fear the Beard and Westbrook season? It’ll be a tough test for Mike D’Antoni, Rockets head coach, but if he can manage to make the two players as compatible as they were back in their OKC days (with Kevin Durant), the Houston Rockets might be championship caliber. If the reports are true, the Rockets are seeking the services of Andre Iguodala. With the very latest addition of Tyson Chandler, things might be shaping up better than expected.
This NBA free agency has been insane. This season is definitely shaping up to be one to watch.