As expected, a lot of free agents made their decisions after LeBron James announced his decision to sign with the Lakers. A lot of bombshell moves were made. Here are a few of the biggest moves…
Demarcus Cousins -> Warriors (1 year, $5.3 million)
Just when you thought the Warriors were as good as it gets with 4 all-stars on their team, they shocked the world and signed Demarcus Cousins. How were the Warriors able to do this? Well, every team gets a $5 million mid-level exception, which allows teams to use that money even if they’re over the salary cap. Boogie had a tremendous season last year with the Pelicans before going down with a torn achilles, averaging 25 PPG and 13 RPG. He even had several games where he had over 40 points and 20 rebounds. The guy was a monster. With his torn achilles, however, teams were skeptical about signing the 27-year-old dominant center. Frankly, teams weren’t willing to take the risk of signing him to a long-term contract and pay him a lot of money because of the nature of the torn achilles injury. Cousins will most likely not be able to return to the court until late December, but if he’s able to stay healthy, he can make the Warriors even more dominant than before by filling the one position the Warriors didn’t have an all-star in. Boogie Cousins probably figured, “hey, I’m not going to get much in this market, why don’t I take less money and go win a championship with the Warriors and then go sign a big contract next summer?” The Warriors, however, do not have his bird rights, so it is unlikely that they’d be able to retain Cousins for another season. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out with Cousins as a Warrior. When will he play? How much of an impact will he make? With a lineup featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Demarcus Cousins, the Warriors will be unstoppable. Good luck, rest of the NBA.
Rajon Rondo -> Lakers (1 year, $9 million)
Rajon Rondo agreed to a 1 year, $9 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers not long after LeBron James made his decision. Rondo had a tremendous first-round playoff series as the Pelicans swept the Blazers. While averaging around 8 PPG and 8 APG during the season, Rondo stepped up when it mattered most before being held back by an injury in their second-round series against the Warriors. He was a big part of the reason that the Pelicans made a major leap in terms of their progression. As he heads to his 5th team in 5 years, Rondo looks to help a LeBron-led Lakers team make a playoff run this year. For the Lakers, this makes a lot of sense. Not only can Rondo be a great veteran presence to the younger players, but he can also push Lonzo Ball. The Lakers stated that Rondo and Ball could compete for the starting point guard spot, which could help motivate Lonzo to step up and accelerate his progression. With a basketball mind like Rondo, the Lakers can use him similar to how the Pelicans did. If he can come off the bench and make a major impact on both sides of the ball during the playoffs like he usually does, the Lakers will be grateful they signed him.
Julius Randle -> Pelicans (2 years, $18 million)
The Lakers renounced the rights to Julius Randle, allowing him to go out and sign a 2 year, $18 million contract with the Pelicans. The deal reportedly has a player option on the second year. With Demarcus Cousins likely out of New Orleans, Julius Randle could be huge for them going forward. Luke Walton, his former coach, said that Randle was a “monster” down the stretch of the season. He averaged around 16 PPG and 8 RPG and only seems to be improving. Pairing Randle with Anthony Davis could be a frontcourt to be reckoned with for years to come.
Aaron Gordon stays with Magic (4 years, $84 million)
The Orlando Magic retained Aaron Gordon by signing him to a 4 year, $84 million contract. The former dunk contest star had an incredible showing last season and was due for a payday. Personally, I wouldn’t have paid that amount of money to Gordon if my team mattered, but the Magic are so bad that they could not afford to lose the best player on their team that had some upside. The 22-year-old improved greatly, averaging 18 PPG and 8 RPG last season. The Magic are hoping that he can continue to build on that improvement, and hopefully turn the corner with Jonathan Isaac heading into his second year and the addition of Mo Bamba.
Red text indicates a new player added. Black text indicates a retained player.