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Who have shaken-up the off-season NBA transfers so far

A flurry of player moves in the off-season has changed the NBA’s landscape

About a month ago, the Toronto Raptors captured a historic maiden NBA championship title and were given a heroes’ welcome.

Even as the champagne bottles were being emptied out, and the open-bus parade made its way to downtown Toronto, the focus shifted to more pressing matters. Would Kawhi Leonard — the new poster-boy of Canadians — leave the Raptors for greener pastures? Would Kevin Durant trade his Golden State Warriors jersey for another? Would the struggling Los Angeles Lakers be able to add an All-Star calibre player to lighten the heavy burden placed on LeBron James?

The frenzied NBA player-trade and free-agency phase began on July 1 and the flurry of moves has ensured that many NBA teams will be unrecognisable next season. Within a span of two weeks, a number of key free agents and players have already moved teams. Here is a look at some of the biggest transactions so far

Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors to Los Angeles Clippers) The Clippers have won the jackpot, having secured the services of the reigning NBA Finals MVP. Leonard’s arrival has instantly transformed a middling side into title contenders. Many believed that Leonard would link up with LeBron and form a ‘Super Team’ at the Lakers, or even stay put at Toronto where he is so adored. But it was not to be. Leonard had hinted before his trade to the Raptors from the San Antonio Spurs last season that he wanted to return to his roots in Southern California. Perhaps the reason for Leonard choosing the Clippers over the Lakers is that he is keen to carve out a legacy all on his own, rather than ride on the coattails of another star. He achieved the impossible as a one-man army at Toronto, so there is no reason to believe that he cannot do it again with the Clippers. The addition of six-time All-Star Paul George, another two-way wing from Oklahoma Thunder, a fantastic supporting cast of role-players and a stable coaching environment under Doc Rivers will help Leonard’s quest for another championship ring.
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors to Brooklyn Nets) Durant, who won two titles and dominated the scoring charts in his three-year stint with Golden State, sprung a huge surprise by signing with the unheralded Nets. Although an Achilles injury is likely to keep Durant out of action for the bulk of the 2019-20 season, Nets fans have welcomed the offensive machine with open arms. Two other All-Stars — Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan — have also been brought in, giving the team a fearsome look. Cross-town rival New York Knicks — rumoured to have been the frontrunner in the fight to get Durant’s signature — is now no longer the prime basketball destination in the Big Apple.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans to Los Angeles Lakers) The Lakers endured a tough 2018-19, failing to make the Playoffs despite having LeBron — arguably the world’s best player — in their ranks. The lack of depth in the squad hurt their record, with LeBron left with too much to do on his own. It was clear that he needed another top-draw partner to share the load, and in Davis, he has got just that. Davis, who demanded a trade to the Lakers last season, finally got his way with the Pelicans’ new management. A first-rate scorer, shot-blocker and all-round player, Davis should thrive in the company of LeBron, an elite playmaker who is happy to share the ball. The LeBron-Davis show will inject life into the ailing franchise.
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma Thunder to Houston Rockets) Westbrook joins his old teammate James Harden, seven years after the two last played together at Oklahoma. Westbrook’s trade to the Rockets was a consequence of Paul George’s departure to the Clippers — it left the Thunder in no position to contend, forcing them into a rebuilding phase. So Westbrook was allowed to leave, part of an exchange deal which involved point guard Chris Paul going the other way. Westbrook, the only player apart from Harden and LeBron to have averaged at least 25 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in the last five years, may not, however, be a perfect fit at the Rockets. It remains to be seen whether Westbrook and Harden — both used to dominating the ball — can keep their egos aside and work together for the good of the team.
Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets to Boston Celtics) The Hornets blundered by low-balling three-time All-Star Walker in free agency negotiations, leaving Walker with no choice but to walk away. Walker expected a contract close to the ‘supermax’, worth $221 million, but the Hornets had little salary space to work with. The Hornets not only lost Walker, but also found a weak replacement in Terry Rozier. While Rozier — signed for a reported $56.7 million three-year deal — is a quality player, he doesn’t offer as much as Walker. Hornets team chairman Michael Jordan was known as a shrewd operator on the court, but in the boardroom with suit and tie, he has not been up to scratch.
D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets to Golden State Warriors) Golden State may have lost a big asset in Durant, but it has managed to replace him with one of the best young talents going around. Russell fits the free-flowing attacking style of the Warriors well. He will shoulder the scoring load with Stephen Curry while Klay Thompson recovers from an ACL tear. Golden State, which lost key defender Andre Iguodala in its bid to sign Russell, is significantly weaker following Durant’s loss and Thompson’s injury. Russell is, therefore, set to play a key role in the side’s quest to contend again.
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