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The NBA’s 2017 Summer: The Greatest of All Time?

Matisse Nelson '20, Staff Writer

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The landscape of the NBA is changing. The Warriors are in charge and the great “1-2 punches” which were once so dominant, such as Shaq and Kobe or Jordan and Pippen, are simply no longer sufficient. A lack of superstars is a lack of prolonged success, and teams are doing everything they can to stockpile the best of the best. By establishing young talent, there is the hope that a new super-team will sit atop the NBA when the season is over and a champion is crowned.

May 16th, 2017: The lottery for the NBA Draft occurred. Teams anxiously awaited to see what pick each would gain in the talent-heavy draft class as the ping pong balls rattled around the cage to determine the fate of their respective franchises, for better or worse. With the rights to Brooklyn’s draft pick, the Boston Celtics were chosen to receive the #1 overall pick. Despite this momentous occasion, it was accepted with a breath of uncertainty given that the Celtics finished first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 53-29 and did not fit the model profile of a team who was in dire need of this pick in order to save its franchise; it was clear that this pick was to be used for leverage in order to gain the most desired player(s) around the league. On June 19th, only three days before the draft, the iconic ESPN chime scattered across millions of phones around the country: “‘Da nah nuh da nah nuh,’ the Celtics trade the 2017 Number 1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the 2017 Number 3 overall pick and a protected 2018 first round pick.” This move was imperative for the struggling 76ers and proved to be a lucrative deal for Boston as it sought to trade its coveted pick for one of the top talents around the league.

June 22nd, 2017: Approaching draft night, everybody tuned in expected the Celtics to trade its 3rd overall pick to acquire either Paul George or Jimmy Butler, or perhaps even both by the magic and great negotiating skills of general manager, Danny Ainge. This excitement quickly dissipated as the Celtics held onto a player it believes will emerge as a top talent in the league, Jayson Tatum of Duke University. Despite this anticlimactic situation, draft night was far from over. Shortly before the 5th pick was announced, there was another trade: superstar forward Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick of the draft were traded from Chicago to Minnesota in exchange for the 7th pick, Zach Lavine and Kris Dunn. This trade was unexpected, but ultimately reunited Jimmy Butler with former coach Tom Thibodeau and established a new young core of the Timberwolves, destined for a bright future despite the treacherous Western Conference. This was only the beginning of a summer that proved to be defined by blockbuster trades.

June 28th, 2017: The NBA world was officially shocked. The Los Angeles Clippers traded all-star Point Guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, the 2018 protected 1st-round pick, and cash compensation. Top-tier teams of the Western Conference were loading up, and pairing up two superstar point guards James Harden and Chris Paul will prove either a boom or a bust in this upcoming season for the Houston Rockets. Two days later on June 30th, the Oklahoma City Thunder made a polarizing trade: role players Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis were traded for superstar Paul George.  To every fan of the NBA, it was glaringly obvious that the Pacers were robbed of a superstar for seemingly nothing. Teaming up Paul George with defending MVP Russell Westbrook is a duo poised to be disruptive in the Western Conference. The Thunder were successful, but simply not done with their lucrative off-season. On September 23rd, after months of constant rumors progressing nowhere, 33-year-old offensive powerhouse Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Thunder in exchange for Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter, and the Bulls 2nd round pick. In a matter of two months, the Thunder added two superstars without giving up any valuable assets. Now, far and wide, the Thunder were the most successful team of the NBA off-season. Although OKC has been the most successful, it still did not provide the NBA fans with the most shocking moves of the off-season.

After being an integral piece in a NBA Championship at only 23 years of age, and playing alongside the best player in the world, Khyree Irving was expected to remain in the place in Cleveland; however, for Irving, this simply didn’t seem to align with the master plan. After losing last year’s NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, Irving decided that he no longer wanted to be the second option behind Lebron James, and that it was best for him to take his talents elsewhere. As a result, Irving requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in his exit meeting with the front office. For a majority of the summer, this request remained silent; nothing was leaked to the public until the late days of July. One question began to circulate most: Why do something so ludicrous as leave the franchise with the best player in the world and risk getting traded to a less than desirable destination? Despite the immediate disapproval of this seemingly selfish request, the Celtics jumped on the opportunity to land young gunner Irving and further build upon its young core. However, unlike Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving was anything but cheap. August 30th, 2017:  ‘Da nah nuh, da nah nuh,’ Kyrie Irving is traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Boston’s 2018 first round pick and the Miami Heat’s 2020 2nd round pick.” Kyrie Irving was ready to take the reigns of the storied Boston Celtics as the Celtics signed swingman Gordon Hayward to a four-year, 128 million dollar contract. In a struggling Eastern Conference, the Celtics expect to be in the Finals when June comes back around in 2018.

Big off-season moves always seem to align with big paydays. According to ESPN, and thanks to the expanding cap room space, four of the five biggest contracts in NBA history were signed this past off-season. Power Forward Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles clippers signed a five-year, $173 million deal. This deal was particularly striking considering that most expected Griffin to be dealt through a trade to another team; however, the Clippers proved how badly they wanted him to remain a part of its seemingly grim future. On July 1st, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors signed a ‘supermax’ five-year, $201 million deal. On July 17th, James Harden signed a contract extension through 2022 to remain with the Rockets for $169 million. Lastly, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder signed a five-year, $205 million contract extension: the largest deal in NBA history and very well deserved for the record-breaking MVP of the 2017 NBA season.

For every NBA fan, this off-season was something out of a dream. Massive contracts and intriguing storylines ultimately encouraged fans to watch many of their favorite players suit up in their new uniforms. This may very well go down as the greatest off-season in NBA history.

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The NBA’s 2017 Summer: The Greatest of All Time?