Last week, we looked back on some of the high profile off season trades in the NBA. Today, we look at the free agency additions.
We're not even one season in, and Kawhi Leonard might be the best player ever to pull on the uniform of the LA Clippers.
His choice to join the Clips was fascinating in a few ways. Deep down, I think we always knew that Kawhi was heading back to Los Angeles once he hit free agency. The intrigue was to where. Would he join LeBron James and Anthony Davis to form the biggest and best three headed monster of the modern era – and arguably any era?
The fact that Leonard chose to join LA's ugly stepchild told us a lot about how he computes things. He clearly enjoyed being the best player on a championship team, last season. With LeBron and AD on board, Kawhi was a sidekick at best.
Also, winning a championship in purple and gold means you get to stand with the greats of the game, but it means that you are one of a crowd: you're A Lakers champion, not THE Lakers champion.
Wrangling a title for the Raptors made Leonard a legend in Toronto, even though he played a solitary season there. Should he do the same with his hometown Clippers, he'll be deity: THE champion of that franchise.
That singularity; the want to stand alone at the mountaintop perhaps shows that he was never a true Spur. It certainly explains a lot of the decisions made in his final months in San Antonio.
On the court thus far, Kawhi has produced as expected: 26.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.1 makes from distance at 36.6%. He's been rested in 13 of the teams 63 games, which seems about par for the course for someone of Kawhi's importance and injury history. He's shown some signs of becoming the soul destroying defender of his Spurs days, as well.
The playoffs are where the merits of this move will ultimately be judged but so far it has worked out well.
This is so sad. Boogie Cousins was signed to a key piece if the Lakers championship puzzle, but a preseason ACL blow out put pay to him playing any part of this season. He has since been waived by the Lakers to allow them to sign Markeiff Morris off the buyout market. I sincerely hope that Cousins and his brittle legs can make an NBA comeback and that said comeback is better than Isaiah Thomas's last few seasons.
With every setback comes opportunity and Dwight Howard has grabbed his with both hands. Howard was presumed to be out of the NBA after his Washington tenure ended without fanfare, but Cousins' knee injury put the Lakers back in the market for a veteran back up centre: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's the artist formerly known as Superman.
The signing of the then-33 year old was certainly a risk for Los Angeles. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year had quite clearly declined after experiencing an Indian Summer in Charlotte. And let's not even touch the busted personal relationships from his previous stint with the Lakers back in 2013.
Howard, however, has been an unqualified success as the Lakers' primary backup big man. He has appeared in each and every one of his teams 61 games so far this season and has produced a solid 7.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 20 minutes.
Howard has also been a model citizen in LA, putting pay to his problematic reputation. It's certainly debatable how much the influence of LeBron James is keeping Howard's less professional elements in check, but Howard has also made strides personally including committing to a new diet, slimming down from his previous Adonis physique in an effort to become quicker on the perimeter.
Maybe Dwight has finally grown up.