With the NBA season kicking off this week, it’s finally time to see how the big moves of this past off-season will shake out. While many important players will be wearing new jerseys this week, a few teams in particular certainly had the most interesting trades, signings, and losses over the summer. The moves that raise the most questions for this upcoming season in my mind are the New Orleans Pelicans loss of Demarcus Cousins, the trade of Demar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, and of course, the LA Lakers signing of Lebron James. Two of these teams have already played their season openers this week, with the Lakers scheduled to play the Portland Trailblazers late Thursday night.
Last season, the Pelicans had a tandem of two of the most dominant big-men in the league with Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. However, Cousins signed with the Golden State Warriors in the offseason after allegedly receiving no other offers. Despite the loss of Cousins, the Pelicans picked up where they left off last year in an impressive 131-112 win over the Houston Rockets. Arguably one of the best players in the NBA, Davis had 32 points along with 16 rebounds and 8 assists. The Pelicans’ big-men all dominated in the opener, with Nikola Mirotic contributing 30 points and 10 rebounds and newly acquired Julius Randle having 25 points and 8 boards off the bench. If New Orleans’ front court can continue this production with support of their guards, expect New Orleans to be a major threat in the West.
The biggest trade of the offseason involved the Toronto Raptors trading longtime fan-favorite, Demar DeRozan, for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green of the San Antonio Spurs. While DeRozan is an all-star guard, Leonard is arguably a top five player in the league when healthy. Disputes between Leonard and the Spurs front office forced this trade, while the move came as a shock to many Raptors fans. This move gives the Spurs a potent offense, pairing DeRozan with forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Toronto also benefitted greatly, acquiring two lock down defenders to accompany a roster that is extremely deep. In the Spurs opener, DeRozan had 28 points in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kawhi had a double-double in the Raptors first game, scoring 24 points and piling up 12 rebounds in a 116-104 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
By far the biggest move of the offseason came in the form of LeBron James signing a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. After being defeated in the finals by the Golden State Warriors for the third time in four years, it was obvious that things in Cleveland weren’t working out as they should. However, instead of joining another team of superstars, James joins a team with multiple young players with the potential to be future stars. LeBron looks to team up with the Lakers young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. The Lakers also signed multiple other veterans over the offseason in Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee, and Michael Beasley. The Lakers look to have a combination of youth, athleticism, and playmaking that a LeBron James team has not seen in a while. While this team may not contend this year, this roster is certainly building towards a run at knocking off the Warriors in the Western Conference.