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Greg Oliver: NBA free-agent frenzy one of most exciting in recent memory

Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline is fast approaching, but baseball is going to have to work extra hard this year to top the excitement brought about by the most recent NBA free-agent frenzy.

Greg Oliver has been a staff writer at The Journal since 1994 and has written a weekly sports column since 2004. Write to him at [email protected]

When the NBA’s June 30 date came around for free agents to begin signing, it didn’t take long for players and teams to spring into action. The highlight of the first day involved the signings of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant with the Brooklyn Nets, despite the fact that Durant won’t be on the court during the 2019-20 season as he recovers from an Achilles injury.

The Boston Celtics also nabbed free agent guard Kemba Walker from the Charlotte Hornets, while former Celtic and Atlanta Hawk Al Horford inked a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Other teams chose to go the sign-and-trade route, such as the Miami Heat landing former Sixer Jimmy Butler. But the biggest shocker had to come from new Los Angeles Clipper Kawhi Leonard.

All week long, it appeared the Los Angeles Lakers were on the verge of adding a third max salary to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis and, in the process, would form a superpower out west. But the other L.A. team, fearful of the fallout that would come with their inability to land Leonard and seeing him instead select the Lakers, pulled off a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder to land Paul George, enabling them to nab Leonard.

Now, Los Angeles will feature James and Davis versus Leonard and George, and games in the Staples Center next year should be fun to watch.

While MLB has seen its share of superstar players dealt at the trading deadline, the number of NBA stars that switched teams in nearly two weeks has been astonishing to say the least. When you see future Hall of Famers like Irving, Durant, George and Leonard switching jerseys in the span of less than a week, there is plenty of excitement across the league.

The NBA has long been credited with being a superstar-driven league, but today’s players are more concerned about playing with their friends as much as they are about winning championships. Winning is still important to players like Irving, Durant, Leonard, George, Davis and company, but it is equally about creating alliances.

NBA free agency is also exciting because not only do the big superstars get their max contract deals, but the lower-end players get paid as well.

This free-agent period will result in a dramatic shift of the league’s playoff contenders.

Though there’s disappointment the Lakers didn’t get Leonard, their ability to acquire Davis and to sign free agents Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins and Avery Bradley, among others, will make them a much deeper team than last year.

The 2019-20 NBA season is still more than three-and-a-half months away, but the excitement over the recent free agent signings has and will continue to be the talk of NBA fans throughout the remainder of the summer. For the first time in several years, the NBA title chase is wide open, and it promises to be a wild and exciting ride.

Baseball, now it’s your turn.