Through Yaron Weitzman
FOX Sports NBA Writer
So those were interesting first days of the NBA off-season.
We’ve seen multiple All-Star team changes, mega expansions – oh, and Kevin Durant seems to be on the move.
More big strides are sure to come, but this seems like a good time to pause and reevaluate where things stand in the NBA. With that in mind, let’s look at five winners and one loser from the offseason so far.
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Winner: Rafael Stone and the Houston missiles
Have you ever looked at a team’s situation and wished there was a market where you could place some sort of short bet? Well, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone basically did exactly that when he aired James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for a package of draft picks, as opposed to a young star in the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons.
Two years later, the Nets are on the brink of collapse and the Rockets own all of their future picks. Combine that with the addition of Jabari Smith via third pick in the draft and suddenly the Rockets seem to be on the cusp of something interesting.
Winner: The Boston Celtics’ title chances
Remember how during the NBA Finals it became increasingly clear that the Celtics could really use another attack generating man? Well, apparently the team’s brain trust agreed.
Enter Malcolm Brogdon, who the Celtics acquired for a mix of reserves and a 2023 first-round pick. They also added Danilo Gallinari. Neither is a perfect player and both need to prove they can stay on the pitch, but they will bring some much-needed juice to a Celtics team just two wins away from a title.
Winner: Fans of Chaos
Kyrie Irving is incredibly unlikely to end up in Philly. All signs point to him landing alongside LeBron James again, this time in the Los Angeles Lakers purple and gold. No other team is in a position where Irving is worth attacking. So yeah, we’re going to be hearing a lot about him over the next 12 months or so.
Winner: Fans of “WOW” trades
The two of us had a free hand in the first 48 hours.
The first was the Atlanta Hawks’ decision to send the San Antonio Spurs a few picks in exchange for 25-year-old All-Star Dejounte Murray. This was a fun deal and one that will make the Hawks better. Murray’s defense and versatility make him a good match for Trae Young.
However, the trade of the week belonged to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz, who sent three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to Minnesota in exchange for what appeared to be 22 draft picks.
This was as intriguing a deal as we’ve seen in recent years. From Minnesota, the addition of Gobert means they will now play Karl-Anthony Towns on the 4. You don’t see many teams these days rolling on the court with two 7ft players.
The T-Wolves and new boss honcho Tim Connelly clearly think Gobert – his defense in particular – is what the current Towns-Anthony Edwards core needs to make the next leap. I’m not sure I agree with that, at least not to the extent that I would give up any unprotected picks. But also: Who cares! This deal makes the T-Wolves better and the basketball fan in me loves it.
Loser: Donovan Mitchell (for now)
Meanwhile, this seems to be the beginning of the end of the Mitchell era for Utah. Firing Gobert is one thing, but doing so for a package focused on draft equity is a clear message from new CEO Danny Ainge. There’s also:
Loser: net culture
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To be fair, the Nets’ decision to sell their soul three years ago in exchange for the services of Durant and Irving would have made any team. And they certainly knew that Irving would be coming with luggage. That said, I don’t think anyone saw it This Come.
Or Durant, who is requesting a trade just a year after signing a four-year contract extension.
The good news for nets is that they should have some solid options. You’ll never get fair value for Durant, but general manager Sean Marks could win back a nice crop of young players and/or collect picks in a deal that, combined with Simmons (remember him?), gave the Nets a nice, young could give core to rebuild.
But Irving and Durant should bring titles to Brooklyn, not just headaches. This “super team” will go down in the history of professional sports as one of the biggest flops.
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and author of Fueling up to the top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the boldest trial in professional sports history. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.
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