Biggest NBA trades, signings since Kevin Durant joined Warriors
When Kevin Durant chose to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in the summer of 2016 and join the 73-win Warriors, it shifted the balance of power in the NBA heavily toward Golden State. Over the course of three seasons, the Warriors won back-to-back titles and could have secured the first three-peat since the Kobe-Shaq Lakers if it weren't for injuries to key players and a terrific performance by the Toronto Raptors this past June.
Durant choosing the Warriors was the biggest move since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. Now that Durant has moved on, which move will define the next era of NBA basketball? Let's take a look.
USA Today Sports Images
10. Russell Westbrook reunites with James Harden
Whether you still think Russell Westbrook is still capable of being a key player on a contender, the Rockets trading Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two pick swaps for him gives them the potential to win a championship. Westbrook and Harden played together in OKC and went to the NBA Finals in 2013, but they became ball-dominant MVP's when playing apart.
This move could either make the Rockets one of the best teams in the league for the next few years or send them further into the NBA's no man's land if Westbrook can't mesh well with Harden. It was a necessary risk for the Rockets, but until we know more, it remains in the 10th spot.
9. Philly clears the way for Al Horford
Losing Al Horford will hurt tremendously for at least the next three seasons for the Celtics. After opting out of the final year of his contract with Boston, Horford signed a four-year, $109 million contract with the Sixers. In order to clear the way for him, Philly sent Jimmy Butler to the Heat in a sign-and-trade that brought back Josh Richardson.
In a matter of minutes, the Sixers became a major power in the East while taking away the one man proven to be Joel Embiid's kryptonite from its main rival in the Celtics. Quite the move by Elton Brand.
8. Celtics swing big for Kyrie Irving
It didn't work out how anyone in Boston hoped, but when the Celtics traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and what turned out to be the No. 8 pick in the 2018 draft, it shifted power in the East from Cleveland to Boston.
Of course, injuries got in the way of the Celtics snapping LeBron's streak of Finals appearances, but Kyrie's exit weakened the Cavs substantially against the eventual champion Warriors.
7. Chris Paul works his way to Houston
Not only did this trade set the Rockets up for a 65-win regular season and as good a chance as any to knock off the Warriors in a Game 7, but it gave the Clippers a foundation that ultimately led to the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams are still on the Clippers roster.
Paul is now in OKC after being traded for Russell Westbrook, but Houston was a legitimate contender the last two years thanks to Paul's presence next to Harden.
6. Kyrie leaves Boston for Brooklyn
Despite committing to re-signing with the Celtics in October of 2018, Kyrie Irving decided to leave the Celtics for Brooklyn after a tumultuous second season in Boston. With Irving on the roster this season, the Celtics were unable to trade for Anthony Davis and his departure ultimately led to Al Horford's exit as well.
Once expected to rule the East for years to come, the Celtics' grand plan came undone with Irving's change of heart. Oh, and Irving helped lure another star to Brooklyn, but more on that later.
5. LeBron becomes a Laker
Whenever the best player in the world changes teams it shifts the balance of power in the league. With LeBron James out of the East, it opened things up for the Celtics, Raptors, Bucks and Sixers to make a run to the Finals. It also made the Lakers a viable destination for star players for the first time since the days of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Toronto, who was perhaps tortured most by James when he was in Cleveland, capitalized by trading for Kawhi Leonard. They then beat the Warriors to capture their first title in franchise history.
4. Kawhi Leonard changes countries
The Raptors took a massive risk trading DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl for a player in Leonard that was expected to leave the following summer for Los Angeles. Even though he did end up leaving, Leonard made the most out of his time in Toronto, winning a championship and Finals MVP to dethrone the Warriors dynasty.
Leonard's value was uncertain after sitting out basically an entire season the year before with the Spurs, but after his performance in the playoffs this spring, he earned the power to re-shape the league's landscape.
3. Anthony Davis gets his wish
Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans with a pretty specific goal in mind, and he got exactly what he wanted in the Lakers. Davis and LeBron should prove to be one of the best duos the league has seen in recent years and will contend for championships as long as they're both healthy.
It took a bounty of draft picks and young players for the Lakers to get Davis, depleting their options to build a formidable supporting cast around their two stars, but any team will have a tough time slowing down a LeBron-Davis pick-and-roll come playoff time.
2. Kevin Durant joins Kyrie on the Nets
Durant signing with the Nets impacts the league twofold. For one, the Nets have a good chance to be the favorite in the East as long as Durant can come back from his Achilles injury at full strength and Kyrie doesn't upend the locker room by the time he returns. It also breaks up the most dominant team the NBA has seen in over a decade, bringing a championship within reach for more than one franchise next season.
Durant's up there with LeBron in that when he changes teams, it shifts the league's power structure. We'll have to wait a year to see if he can lead a squad to a title that isn't a super team.
1. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George team up in LA
Of all the moves made since Durant chose Golden State, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teaming up on the Clippers has the best chance to define the future of the NBA. Leonard leveraged the Clippers to not only give him a max contract for just two years plus a player option, but he also got them to give up a record-setting number of first-round picks to acquire George.
In a league driven by power-duos instead of super teams, the Clippers now have two MVP-caliber talents with a much more competent supporting cast than other contenders. They're only guaranteed the Kawhi-George duo for two years, but that seems to be the extent of championship windows in the era of player empowerment.