The Los Angeles Lakers were already favored to win the 2020 NBA championship before the NBA free agency season opened on Sunday, and their odds are going to drop to Golden State levels if they are able to end up with Kawhi Leonard.
“We went from 2-1 to 8-5 on the Lakers because of the possibility of getting Kawhi or D’Angelo Russell, and if it turns out they get Kawhi, their odds will resemble those of the Warriors the past two years,” Jeff Sherman of the Westgate Superbook told TheLines.com Sunday evening.
Winners from Day 1
The Brooklyn Nets were clearly the biggest winners of the first night of free agency, getting commitments from Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan, much to the dismay of frustrated Knicks fans whose hopes of landing Zion Williamson or signing Durant, Kemba Walker or someone more significant than Julius Randle were dashed.
“We moved the Knicks from 50-1 to 200-1 … the biggest move in the opposite direction,” said Sherman, whose sportsbook is considered the gold standard of oddsmakers. “With the Nets, we left them at 30-1 for a while, but we started to see a lot of action come in and moved them to 25-1.”
The Philadelphia 76ers also emerged as winners on the night, re-signing Tobias Harris, signing Al Horford, and acquiring Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade with Miami to help make up for the loss of J.J. Redick (who signed with New Orleans) while ridding themselves of Jimmy Butler, whose acquisition did not lead to the level of success in the Eastern Conference that general manager Elton Brand was hoping for. Discussions with the Miami HEat on a Butler trade were ongoing, but Josh Richardson was one of the players heading to Philadelphia. A three-team trade that would have moved Goran Dragic to Dallas fell through, but the Mavs have said they will try to deal the Slovenian point guard by Saturday.
Also having a successful first night of free agency were the Utah Jazz, who after acquiring Mike Conley in a trade with Memphis were able to sign Pacers free agent Bojan Bogdanovic to join a nucleus that includes Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and sharpshooter Joe Ingles.
“We moved them from 25-1 to 18-1 because I wasn’t comfortable leaving them anywhere near 20,” Sherman said. “The other team that we moved significantly was Indiana, from 80-1 to 60-1 after they signed Malcolm Brogdon from Milwaukee.”
One team whose odds surprisingly remained the same were the New Orleans Pelicans, whose general manager, David Griffin, has turned over almost the entire roster since taking over the team earlier this month. Keep this in mind in looking ahead to next season: Redick would not have joined up with that franchise if he did not believe they had true championship potential. Jrue Holiday is a top-tier point guard, and Griffin also signed Italian forward Nicolo Melli.
In addition to those players, Griffin has now brought in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram in the Anthony Davis trade, along with No. 7 pick Jaxson Hayes and No. 17 pick Nickeil Alexander-Walker in June’s draft. Also, Griffin still has $18 million in cap room to work with … and there are still a few free agent centers out there who could fill out a starting five that will be built around Zion Williamson, Holiday and Ingram as the centerpieces.
Major questions remain
The first four hours of free agency were extraordinarily active, but the biggest prize out there remains Kawhi Leonard, who is coming off an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors but is being courted by the Lakers, Clippers and Mavericks.
Dallas and Houston remain mystery teams, but the Rockets coveted Butler and did not get him, and the Mavericks are still searching for the proper pieces to put around franchise cornerstones Kristaps Porzingis (who got his max extension) and reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic. The Mavs have about $54 million in cap space, so their options remain open … unlike the Knicks, who could not even get a meeting with two New York-area point guards (Irving and Walker) and went out and signed Julius Randle and Bobby Portis while also going into extreme damage control mode (while undoubtedly adding additional security personnel to team owner James Dolan, who is beloved in New York by everyone in New York who draws a paycheck from him and absolutely nobody else).
As always in NBA free agency, everything remained fluid … especially with the Leonard situation unresolved.
One contending team whose odds remained static were the Boston Celtics, who lost Irving to the Nets and Terry Rozier to the Charlotte Hornets and signed Walker as their new floor general. They have a donut problem (a hole in the middle) with Horford gone, but Ainge has $38 million in cap room to play with as he sifts through the remainder of what’s out there on the market.
So Boston, Dallas, both Los Angeles teams and Toronto will have to endure sleepless nights, but at least they have hope.
This was only Night One of free agency, and we have a whole summer ahead of us to see how things shake out in the secondary market. Of course, a secondary market that includes Kawhi Leonard should probably not be called “secondary,” but what the heck. Semantics, right?
More tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.