What do you think has been the most surprising move of the offseason, so far?
Mark Barrington: I think for me, besides the Spurs suddenly changing course and adopting the P.R.O.C.E.S.S. (Plenary Roster Obliteration Creating Exigency Sixers Style), is the fact that there are still quite a few shoes to drop. I thought that Ayton was going to get a max offer as soon as it was possible for it to be extended (which the Suns would not be likely to match), and for a team to make a play for Durant. I think that the Spurs embracing the tank removed one of the major bidders from the Ayton arena, and the rest of the teams that might be able to use him don’t have enough clear cap space to make a play. It’s possible that Ayton could come into play with a Durant trade, but that would require quite a few more moving pieces to make it work.
Marilyn Dubinski: It’s hard to say since there haven’t been many “surprising” moves (ignoring the obvious in the move the Spurs made). Jalen Brunson to the Knicks was a done deal before the “negotiating” period even began, and while it’s not surprising to see John Wall move on to a team that should be a contender if they can stay healthy, I was a little surprised the Rockets just bought him out, although his contract was basically untradable. I guess the one true shock I felt was seeing Lonnie Walker quickly accept a 1-year, $6.5 mil deal with the Lakers when he likely could have gotten much more had he done some negotiating around the league — maybe even from the Spurs. Either he really wants to be a Laker, or something else is going on behind the scenes.
Bruno Passos: Because I don’t have Brian Windhorst’s sources (or knack for good theater), the Timberwolves’ gamble on Gobert surprised me in the moment and still baffles me now. The boatload of draft capital they sent to Utah is one thing, but they’re betting on two bigs to coexist harmoniously on the floor, and through the playoffs, in a way I’m not sure can work, while tethering the timeline to that of a 30-year-old. That’s a commitment to not only a certain style of play but a roster makeup that will pay the pair roughly $100 million in the 2025-26 season and leave little room for the kind of complementary pieces you’d likely need to make that work. I’m also not sure if Gobert and Towns, who seem like dissimilar but equally volatile personalities, will mesh all that well.
That said, I’m sincerely excited to see the product on the floor and somewhat hopeful it’ll work out. The league’s better when teams take big, weird swings!
Noah Magaro-George: T.J. Warren signing a one-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets is one of the more shocking moves of the offseason for me. While it isn’t unusual for a player who spent the better part of two seasons on injured reserve to ink a short “prove it” contract to maximize their free agency earnings the following summer, choosing a franchise in the middle of an existential crisis feels like a risky move. Kevin Durant requested a trade less than a week ago, and the Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in reuniting LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. But general manager Sean Marks could string out this process and wait for the best possible return for his disgruntled superstars, leaving Warren in an awkward grey area until the Nets pull the trigger on a blockbuster. Watching a 28-year-old who averaged nearly 20 points per game the last time he was fully healthy settle for a tenuous situation is strange.
Jesus Gomez: The Spurs trading Murray was arguably the most surprising decision, since few saw it coming going into the offseason, but we’ve already talked about it enough. Other than that, there have not been any mind-blowing moves, but there have been a lot of small unexpected ones. The Kings picking Keegan Murray over Jaden Ivey in the draft, Jalen Brunson leaving the Mavericks and PJ Tucker getting an insanely high contract for a 37-year-old with unreliable three-point range all fall under that umbrella.
Are the Nets doing the right thing by moving on from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving despite having both under contract?
Barrington: No modern team can hold onto a player that wants to leave, even if they still have years left on their contract. It became clear during the Kawhi debacle, and it’s just the standard now. If I were managing or coaching an NBA team, I would want to steer clear of Kyrie, who was probably the most overpaid player in the league last year. I think the Nets are stuck with him, but good luck with actually getting him to play. Durant is still great, and I could see the Suns trying to obtain him to get them a championship, because they are still missing a superstar that can provide scoring when the other team is double-teaming Booker. He could put them over the top like he did for the Warriors a few years ago.
Dubinski: I get why they’re done dealing with Kyrie Irving and the headaches he causes any franchise, although it’s unclear at this point if he’s actually the one running off Durant since rumors have been floating around that the two would be willing to play together elsewhere. So if the Nets trying to trade Kyrie is the reason Durant wants out, maybe they should reconsider and try one season of those two plus Ben Simmons, see how it goes, and see if they can up their trade values. If Durant truly wants out and there’s no way around it anymore, then yes, they might as well trade him while his value is as high as possible, because at 33-years-old and somewhat injury prone, he might not age into the final four years of his max contract as well as well as they would hope.
Passos: I imagine the word ‘right’ here refers less to prudence and more to the precedent this would contribute to by allowing player demands to completely upend a roster? I’m not sure they have a choice either way. The Nets more than any team have had their fortunes tied to the whims and decisions of their stars, and likely know the limitations of a staring contest with either KD or Irving. That said, they do have some time on their side and, given their lack of draft picks, will probably exercise at least some patience in maximizing a return. You’d hope after Gobert’s market-setting trade that they would at least be able to get something on par for Durant, but there are only so many teams with the combination of salaries and assets that may be able to make it work.
Magaro-George: Brooklyn probably has no choice but to bend to the demands of their two superstars, and while they could hold out for as long as possible in a last-ditch effort to convince them to run it back with Ben Simmons and one of the better supporting casts in the NBA, a divorce feels imminent. Marilyn and Bruno both mentioned how determining if the Nets are doing the right thing isn’t a simple yes or no answer. Though there are undoubtedly many layers to this question, moving on from discontented players is probably the best move for an organization as long as they can get significant draft compensation in return.
Gomez: Moving on now makes some sense, logistically. Kyrie will be a free agent next summer and Durant is aging. The best way for Brooklyn to stay relevant and replenish the draft coffers they emptied while putting their superteam together would be to add some talent around Ben Simmons, try to clear future cap space, and focus on getting picks for the two disgruntled stars.
It’s still a little surprising they were so willing to let them go without even trying to convince them to stay, even after the debacle that was last season. A Kyrie-Durant-Simmons core with a solid supporting cast has a legitimate shot at a title. Irving would be gone next offseason no matter what, but a deep postseason run might convince Durant to stay. It’s possible Durant simply threatened to sit out next season, forcing the Nets’ hand, but if he hasn’t, owner Joe Tsai should be ready to sit down with him in the next few weeks and try to make a case for staying together at least one more year.
Which team has had the best offseason so far?
Barrington: I mean, it’s obviously the Hawks, isn’t it? The backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray is the perfectly complementary match of offensive and defensive skillsets and they are going to tear up the Eastern Conference this year, with only Milwaukee, Boston, and Miami really out there to challenge them. The Jazz is interesting, because they finally moved on from Rudy Gobert, who doesn’t fit the modern NBA game, and hired former Spurs assistant Will Hardy to replace Quin Snyder. I don’t think that means that they’ll be competitive this year, but it shows that they’re committed to long term improvement and it’s going to be great for them in a year or two. If the Lakers can somehow dump Westbrook’s contract, I will add them to the list of off-season winners, because they got Lonnie Walker on a very nice contract.
Dubinski: Unfortunately, I’d probably have to say the Hawks after getting Dejounte Murray from the Spurs. It’s a big upgrade in the backcourt and will allow them to hide Trae Young on defense, saving his energy for offense. It’s tough to say if this pairing will actually boost them to title contention, but if it works out (and if he re-signs in two years), they won’t miss those draft picks they gave to the Spurs, and if nothing else they have one of, if not the, most fired up fanbases heading into the new season, which equals money in their pockets. Runners up would be the Knicks and Clippers, with the x-factors being if Brunson lives up to his contract for the Knicks, and if the Clippers’ new Big Three of Wall, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can actually stay healthy.
Passos: It feels obvious, but the teams that’ll likely see the biggest positive impact are likely the ones getting healthier, like the Clippers, Nuggets, Lakers and Pelicans, as well as whoever comes out of this summer with Kevin Durant. The Wolves will feel demonstrably better in the regular season with Gobert, as well, although the bar for success on that kind of investment is now the postseason. In terms of the moves I’ve liked the most between the draft and the start of free agency, I’ll punt on the ones that made savvy long-term plays (Pistons on draft night, Spurs with the Murray trade) because the seas are rising and nothing is a given, but mostly because the present is more fun, and I’ll go with the Celtics’ relatively sneaky play for Malcolm Brogdon, who could help them avoid the post-Finals loss hangover and at a very reasonable price.
Magaro-George: The Celtics and Timberwolves are at the top of my shortlist of teams that have dominated the offseason. Boston added Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers for what virtually amounts to spare parts and a 2023 first-rounder that is almost guaranteed to land somewhere in the mid-to-late twenties. Brad Stevens will further bolster his roster with Danilo Gallinari once the Spurs officially waive him in the next couple of days. Minnesota is also in the discussion here as they signed Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes while trading for Rudy Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. While the deal cost them a bunch of future draft compensation, the Wolves got the best rim protector in the world without giving up one of their stars or Jaden McDaniels, their best young asset outside of Anthony Edwards. On paper, both of these squads should be capable of making a deep playoff run within their respective conferences, so keep an eye out for how well their new acquisitions mesh with their incumbent makeup.
Gomez: The team with the best offseason will be the one that trades for Kevin Durant, assuming he’s moved, but for now I’d say the Nuggets and Celtics are the contenders that improved the most, despite not making any huge deals. Adding Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gives Denver the type of versatile wing defender they needed while Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari should provide the Celtics with the depth and lineup flexibility they’ll need in the playoffs. On the second tier, both the Timberwolves and the Hawks should be much better than they were last year, at least during the regular season, but the awkward positional fit between their newcomers and their stars could prove to be hard to navigate. No teams seems to have put themselves head and shoulders over the competition this summer, which should make next season a fun one for casual fans.