The Eastern Conference as a whole is a winner with LeBron James gone, but the Philadelphia 76ers saw their competitors improve while they remained in place.
With the Kawhi Leonard saga finally resolved, it feels like the craziness of the NBA offseason has reached its end.
There’s still plenty of time for moves to come out of nowhere, like the Kyrie Irving–Isaiah Thomas trade did last August, but at least for the time being, it seems like the dust has mostly settled this summer.
Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers of the offseason so far, with the two-time defending champions once again snatching victory.
Heading into the summer, they were already in the conversation for most talented team ever. So of course they had to get even better by adding a four-time All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins.
But really, the way the Warriors truly won this summer was through their competition not improving. If anything, the Houston Rockets got worse (more on that later), while the much-fantasised Big Three of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George never came to fruition in Los Angeles.
Speaking of the Lakers, they didn’t land another star to go alongside LeBron (yet), but they still got the best player in the world – and that too without having to trade any of their young guys – to once again be incredibly relevant.
As currently constructed, they don’t have nearly enough firepower to dethrone the Warriors, but James’ signing revives Lakers exceptionalism and gives them the cache to lure other big names down the road.
They bet on their culture to win over Paul George over the course of this past season and their faith paid off.
It’s not just that they retained George, but the fact that he committed to at least three years and didn’t even take a meeting with his hometown Lakers.
It also inadvertently helps to hush the narrative that other stars don’t want to play with Russell Westbrook for whatever reason.
LeBron left the conference, so they, along with every other team in the East besides Cleveland, won in that regard. But other than that, this summer has been a dud for them.
Even though they weren’t able to coax LeBron to Philly, the 76ers also lost out on every other star player that was available, namely Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. They had a legitimate chance to close the gap between them and Boston by adding another big gun to their core of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but they couldn’t wield their salary cap space like they hoped.
And in a cruel twist of fate, Leonard ended up on one of their competitors, which likely pushes Philadelphia down to third in the East’s pecking order.
Similar to the 76ers, the Rockets can be considered losers because they didn’t get better while others in their conference did.
While the Warriors got Cousins and the Lakers brought in LeBron, the Rockets lost Luc Mbah a Moute and, more importantly, Trevor Ariza, who was vital to their identity.
They still have James Harden and Chris Paul, but the latter will be another year older. Their window for beating Golden State hasn’t shut by any means, but it’s definitely less ajar than it was a couple months ago.