Colin McGee ’22
The first major event of the offseason was the 2021 NBA draft. The first pick in the draft belonged to the Detroit Pistons who selected Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham. The Pistons are hopeful that Cunningham will blossom into their franchise player. With the second overall pick, the Houston Rockets selected Jalen Green who Houston fans are sure to hope can be able to fill the big superstar shoes left by the departure of James Harden. The top 5 in this draft was rounded out by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ selection of Evan Mobley, the Toronto Raptors’ selection of Scottie Barnes, and the Orlando Magic’s selection of Jalen Suggs.
On the night of July 20, 2021, the NBA season concluded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was on this night that the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals. This victory earned the Milwaukee Bucks their second championship in franchise history, with their first coming 50 years prior in 1971. This Bucks victory also began the start of the 2021 NBA offseason.
The biggest story of the 2021 NBA Draft turned out to be not the draft itself, rather a blockbuster trade which occurred that night. On draft night, the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and the Lakers 2021 first round pick. Westbrook, a nine time all star and 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player, forms a Big 3 in the City of Angels with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers had a disappointing season last year, coming off their 2020 championship. They hope that Westbrook will be able to mesh well with James and Davis so that they can make another Finals run. The Lakers also acquired in the offseason a large number of veterans such as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, among others.
Shortly following the draft, NBA free agency kicked off. The top player on the 2021 market, Kawhi Leonard, resigned with the Los Angeles Clippers to a monster extension. The Miami Heat started off free agency with a splash getting the longtime Toronto Raptor Kyle Lowry via sign-and-trade. Lowry will be joining Jimmy Butler, who Miami handed out a huge contract extension to in the offseason.
One team that was very active in free agency was the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have missed the playoffs since 2017. However, the team got 2 huge additions by way of the sign-and-trade. The Bulls got Lonzo Ball from the Pelicans and DeMar DeRozan from the Spurs. Ball is a young player who has been put under a microscope ever since he came into the league. Chicago may turn out to be a great environment for him as he will not be expected to be the best, second best, or even third-best player on the team. DeMar DeRozan is a four-time all-star who brings star power along with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
The New York Knicks bolstered their roster in free agency as well after making a surprise playoff appearance. They locked up 2021 All-Star Julius Randle to a long-term deal. They also added Evan Fournier and Bronx native Kemba Walker. Walker and Fournier seem to be locks to start alongside Randle, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson. The New York Knicks hope to prove this upcoming season that they are here to stay.
One offseason story which is still developing at the time of writing is the Ben Simmons situation in Philadelphia. Simmons had a rough postseason and requested to be traded. The 76ers have been fielding calls for the former number one overall pick, but a deal has not been done as many teams feel Philadelphia’s asking price is too high. Despite attempts by his 76ers teammates to convince him to do so, Simmons has already expressed he will not report to training camp. Only time will tell what jersey Ben Simmons will be suiting up in next season.
Overall, the 2021 NBA offseason was a very interesting one to observe. Many teams made a bunch of big moves in an attempt to benefit their team. There always are teams that fans say won the offseason. However, you can never truly tell until all 30 NBA teams step onto the hardwood for the first time.