Amin Elhassan, ESPN.com: An immense balance-of-power shift back to the West. Life looks a lot harder for any Western Conference playoff hopeful, with the addition of another wrecking ball in a James-led Lakers team, even assuming no further improvements to the roster. Furthermore, by agreeing to a long-term deal, he gives Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka enough leeway to be able to make decisions over time to further enhance the supporting cast.
Jackie MacMullan, ESPN.com: It means the NBA’s orange ball is LeBron’s orbit, and the rest of the league is floating aimlessly about, hoping to be sucked into his world. He is the Kevin Bacon of the NBA — everyone is six degrees of separation from LeBron. Kawhi Leonard (His future hinges on LeBron.) Kevin Durant. (Sign for one year with an option … so he can see what LeBron is up to?) Chris Paul. (He was with James in a Hollywood nightclub when he OK’d the trade to the Rockets last summer.) Lonzo Ball. (Is he staying or going? Perhaps only LeBron knows!) JR Smith. (Seriously.) Lance Stephenson. (Stunningly, on his way to team up with LeBron.)
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: It shifts the epicenter of the league’s power even farther West. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports pointed out on Twitter, just one player certain to be in the East this season has ever made the All-NBA first team: Joakim Noah. (Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade are candidates for that list.) Yes, the Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are on the rise. For now, however, the league’s best and most interesting teams remain in the West.
Drew Doughty and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, two prized 2019 unrestricted free-agent defensemen, opted for stability and signed long-term extensions with their current clubs. Tyler Seguin will likely do the same with the Dallas Stars, and so will Marc-Andre Fleury, who revived his career with the Golden Knights, and possibly Wayne Simmonds with the Flyers, Joe Pavelski with the Sharks, Blake Wheeler with the Winnipeg Jets and … OK, we could keep going, but we’ll stop there.
There will still be some big names available. Erik Karlsson theoretically headlines the list, followed by Sergei Bobrovsky (and a half a dozen serviceable goalies), Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle and Jeff Skinner.
But we know the way these things usually go. Let’s see how many of these guys are still available next July 1.OKC ‘checked the boxes’ during its yearlong recruitment of Paul George