NBA offseason awards: Best free agent signing, biggest surprise, best Twitter moment and much more
July has become arguably the most exciting month of the NBA season, even though the “season” is technically over. The excitement that accompanies the free agent frenzy that begins on July 1 always provides us with entertainment, surprises and, depending on which team you root for, utter disgust.
This offseason has been no different, with LeBron James’ decision to head to L.A. the most captivating storyline. But plenty of other signings, trades, Twitter rants and head-scratchers have taken place that truly deserve our attention.
With that, we decided to hand out a few offseason awards to help recognize some of the summer’s best moments.
LeBron James signing with the Lakers: It sounds like LeBron picked the Lakers as much as the Lakers wooed LeBron, but Magic Johnson and Co. still get credit for the unquestioned prize of the NBA offseason. In order to keep balance in the universe, however, the Lakers then signed JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley. It’s going to be an interesting year in Los Angeles.
The Spurs-Rockets deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio: No surprise here. Whenever a top-five NBA player changes teams, that’s almost certainly your biggest trade of the offseason. Add in all the mystique and anticipation around the Kawhi Leonard situation in San Antonio, and that makes the deal between the Spurs and Raptors that much more satisfying. Not only was Leonard traded to a potential Finals contender, but the Spurs also received an All-NBA player in return (DeMar DeRozan). The trade has the potential to shake up the power dynamic in the Eastern Conference, and only made the aftermath that much more intense.
Most surprising signing
Paul George re-signing with the Thunder: Paul George going to the Lakers was almost as sure of a bet as Dirk Nowitzki re-signing with the Mavericks … until it wasn’t. The week before free agency kicked off, we began to hear rumblings of George’s genuine interest in remaining in Oklahoma City. Cut to midnight on July 1, and and George is smoking a stogie on stage with Russell Westbrook with Nas performing at a party celebrating George’s long-term deal to stay in OKC.
In an offseason full of predictable moves, this one clearly stands out as a jaw-dropper.
Most devastating loss (besides LeBron)
Trevor Ariza leaves the Rockets to sign with the Suns: Obviously the Cavs took the biggest hit this summer (though some would argue Cleveland Trevor Ariza. Houston lost a smart, two-way, reliable wing due to an unwillingness or inability to match the Suns‘ one-year, $15 million deal, and they’ve replaced him with James Ennis and (reportedly) Carmelo Anthony. Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s stated goal is to dethrone the Warriors, and it’s going to be much harder to do that without Ariza.), but outside of that, most big-name free agents stayed put. So the most devastating loss of the offseason wasn’t a superstar at all, but rather an integral part to a team that was one game away from the NBA Finals last season:
The OMG Award
DeMarcus Cousins signs with the Warriors: LeBron had just agreed to join the Lakers. Paul George had just thrown his party in OKC. It looked like the Warriors would have more competition than ever in the West … and then this happened.
Not only did the Warriors gain arguably the best offensive center in the NBA by bringing in DeMarcus Cousins, but they also injected new energy into a team that almost fell asleep long enough to let the Rockets take them out in the Western Conference finals. It was a great moment for Golden State, but devastating for any fans hoping for someone to dethrone the Warriors.
Most depressing signing
Isaiah Thomas signs with the Nuggets: Look, any time someone is set to make millions of dollars you can’t feel too sorry for them, but basketball fans everywhere cringed when Isaiah Thomas signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Denver Nuggets. Just two seasons ago, Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game, led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals after the tragic death of his sister and was named to the All-NBA second team. Thomas could have been in contention for a max contract this summer were it not for a devastating hip injury, followed by unimpressive stints with the Cavaliers and Lakers.
Now Thomas’ big payday has turned into a minimum contract on which he, once again, has to prove his worth to NBA teams.
Annual Sacramento Kings WTF Award
And the winner is … the Sacramento Kings! Again! First the Kings selected Marvin Bagley over Luka Doncic with the No. 2 pick in the draft– unpopular, sure, but perhaps excusable. Then they turned their attention to a peculiar practice: Romancing free agents who had already backed out of their existing contract agreements with other teams. Nemanja Bjelica told the 76ers he wasn’t going to honor their agreement because he wanted to return to Europe to be closer to his family … can’t really fault him for that. But then a couple days later he signed a three-year, $20.5 million deal with Sacramento.
As if that weren’t enough, the Kings then signed guard Yogi Ferrell, who had just reneged on a two-year deal with the Mavericks. Sacramento has been floundering for years and is in desperate need of a superstar, so perhaps they’ve found a market inefficiency in picking up disgruntled players who’ve recently backed out of deals. Light. Years. Ahead.
Best Twitter moment
John Wall’s photo at Team USA minicamp: It was the end of July. The bullet train of the early NBA free agency season had slowed to a plodding, old-timey locomotive, and NBA fans were thirsty for the smallest semblance of drama. Enter John Wall‘s USA Basketball photo, in all of its glory.
Needless to say, this Wall’s mom got in on the action.for the next couple of days. Even
Best five-day stretch
Carmelo Anthony’s tenure with the Hawks: Say what you will about Carmelo Anthony, but you can’t say he hasn’t maximized his earning potential. Anthony didn’t give up a single cent in his buyout, so over the course of his five-day tenure with the Atlanta Hawks, he pocketed a cool $25.5 million. That’s more than All-Stars Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving will make all of next season.
The rest of the $27.9 million salary he was due to earn next season will be made up by the $2.4 million contract he’s expected to sign with the Rockets. #StayMe7o, indeed.
Best new beef
Kevin Durant vs. CJ McCollum: Kevin Durant says he’s being his true self as a member of the Warriors, and his true self sure loves to talk trash. The two-time Finals MVP made headlines by going on CJ McCollum‘s podcast and proceeding to rip the host and his Trail Blazers, flat-out telling McCollum that . Once that clip made the rounds, McCollum likened Durant joining the Warriors to a gang member joining a rival gang on Twitter, and KD wasn’t about to let that slide.
Durant and McCollum might have already made up, but Durant now has one more NBA arena where he’s persona non grata.
Best NBA Draft moment
Lonnie Walker wears a hat: Lonnie Walker IV was selected No. 18 overall by the San Antonio Spurs, and then the real fun began.
Walker couldn’t fit the hat onto his head because of his spectacular hairdo, so he opted to let the hat rest atop his coif, creating one of the most iconic NBA Draft photos of all time.