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HomeBasketballNBA2024 NBA Free Agency: Paul George to Philly, big moves by Denver,...

2024 NBA Free Agency: Paul George to Philly, big moves by Denver, OKC

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We’re a little more than 24 hours into the 2024 NBA free agency period and some pretty big moves have been made.

Paul George is leaving the LA Clippers for the Philadelphia 76ers in large part because LA wouldn’t guarantee George a fourth year on a new deal. The Sixers and George have agreed on a four-year, $212 contract.

Klay Thompson ended an all-time tenure with the Golden State Warriors, agreeing to a three-year, $50 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. Thompson left the Warriors after 13 years and four championships.

Center Isaiah Hartenstein is leaving the New York Knicks, agreeing to a three-year, $87 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s a move that helps a Thunder team that desperately needed to get bigger, but at the same time makes the Knicks smaller and takes away some of New York’s depth.

Several other deals have been made, as teams across the NBA moved quickly once the signing window opened on Sunday night. A number of the deals will generate a lot of conversation. I have questions, though.

How good is Philly?
The Clippers during the Leonard/George era were annually around the fourth- or fifth-best team in the West. With George making the move to Philadelphia, the Sixers are now the fourth- or-fifth-best team in the East. I saw one talking head say Philly has the best Big Three in the League. What does having a Big Three get you? Ask Phoenix. George at 34 is still a very good player. He had the best shooting splits of his career last season, and played more games than he has since 2019. Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid and George make a formidable trio, and George can essentially slide into a 3-and-D, third option role. Maxey before the George signing agreed to a five-year, $204 million extension. But Philly’s success will always come down to Embiid. The former MVP is set to enter his 11th year in the league. He turned 30 in March. Embiid is one of the most productive centers of all time…during the regular season. Last season was the first in four years that Embiid postseason production matched the regular season numbers. Embiid continues to come up small in big moments. He’s been in the playoffs seven years in a row and doesn’t have a memorable postseason moment. Even with the George signing, with the drafting of guard Jared McCain, the Sixers are still behind Boston, New York and Milwaukee in the East pecking order. Depending on the development of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, Philly could fall behind Cleveland too. The George signing is a big swing for the Sixers. It keeps Embiid happy and puts Philly in the conversation with the other East contenders. But it doesn’t put the Sixers in the group of real title challengers.

Are the Denver Nuggets the 2020s version of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks
Now-former Denver Nuggets starting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope agreed to a three-year, $66 million deal with Orlando. The move breaks up a starting five that had been one of the best in the League. It’s the second straight year Denver has let an important piece walk. The Nuggets already lacked depth, now they have to replace a starter. Caldwell-Pope’s playoff numbers left a lot to be desired, but there has to be something said for continuity. Denver, in my opinion, was a bad second half away from repeating, now the team is looking to fill a hole in its starting lineup and holes on its bench. Sure, the Nuggets still have the best player in the NBA in Nikola Jokic, but we’re seeing each year that isn’t enough to even guarantee a team a spot in the conference finals. Denver letting Caldwell-Pope makes some sense when the team next summer will have to pay Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon, but it makes me think about another team that won one title and broke up the core instead of running it back. The Dallas Mavericks after winning the 2011 NBA championship let starting center Tyson Chandler walk and lost several other key players. Dallas didn’t win a playoff series for more than a decade after that. I don’t see Denver suffering the same fate, but I’m interested to see how the Nuggets re-work their roster and rotation.

Are the Thunder the title favorites?
On the surface, OKC agreeing to a deal with Isaiah Hartenstein may look like a bad deal if you only look at his Basketball Reference page. The center is going to be a major piece for the Thunder. Oklahoma City last season, even as the No. 1 seed, were a little light in the ass. The Thunder were made to look small in their West semifinals loss to Dallas. OKC is very talented, but the team needed a bruiser. That’s exactly what they’ll get with Hartenstein. Hartenstein last season played more minutes than he’d played previously in his six-year career. He started 49 games while New York was without Mitchell Robinson. Hartenstein had started a total of 12 games before the 2023-24 campaign. His numbers don’t jump out at you, but Hartenstein is one of three centers to finish last season with 85 blocks and 85 steals. The other two are Anthony Davis and Victor Wembanyama. Adding Hartenstein will give OKC a lot of flexibility in terms of lineups. The Thunder like to play a lot of 5 out, with Chet Holmgren playing stretch 5. Hartenstein will allow Holmgren to play more 4 without making a logjam in the paint. It’ll also allow Holmgren to go against the opposition’s less beefier players most nights. Hartenstein is the second big move OKC has made this offseason. The Thunder before the start of free agency traded starting guard Josh Giddey to Chicago for defensive standout Alex Caruso. That’s another move that puts OKC on the short list of title contenders. The Thunder took the top seed in the West in a year where many believed the team was a year away. It might be OKC’s time.

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