by Rob Joyce
The NBA regular season kicks off next Tuesday, as the defending champion Cavaliers will raise their first championship banner in front of the Knicks in Cleveland. As always, the list of free agent moves throughout the offseason was significant, with many familiar faces leaving their former teams for new pastures. And in one case, a record-setting team got even better.
After all the moving and shifting that has taken place, here are the five biggest names to swap jerseys for this season:
1) Kevin Durant:
Did you hear Durant left the Thunder to go to the Warriors? No? Well, in case you’ve been living under a rock, the former MVP is joining the current MVP and company in the Bay Area. Signing a two-year, $54-million contract, KD becomes teammates with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green for what is among the scariest 1-4 combinations of all-time. Instantly, though, they become the league’s most disliked team. Just like Miami when LeBron James joined, if they don’t experience instant success and end it with a title, this season will be considered a failure.
2) Dwyane Wade:
Feeling underappreciated for his contributions to the Heat, Wade bolted from Miami to join his hometown Bulls on a two-year, $47.5 million deal. The veteran turns 35 in January and is entering his 14th season in the league. Though he’s not nearly the electrifying presence he once was, he will sell a lot of jerseys and score 18-20 points a night in the Windy City.
3) Joakim Noah:
However, Wade won’t be teammates with the former Defensive Player of the Year. Noah is now in New York after signing a four-year deal to join the Knicks. The 31-year-old is coming off an injury-riddled campaign that limited him to just 29 games a season ago. However, playing for his hometown team should provide a resurgence for him, as the Knicks instantly become a better defensive team with him there.
4) Dwight Howard:
Speaking of former Defensive Players of the Year, Howard’s recent journeyman career path continued as he signed with the Hawks. This will be the fourth different team he’s played for since 2012, and like Wade and Noah before him, the native of Atlanta is returning home. Howard will replace a departed All-Star who went to an Eastern Conference foe (we’ll get to that), and he will almost certainly provide a spark for a team that is looking for someone to control the paint.
5) Al Horford:
Howard will take the spot of Horford, who is one of the more underappreciated stars in the league. A four-time All-Star, Horford is a career 14-point, nine-rebound a night guy who can make free throws, is a good passer and stretch defenses. He’s already beloved in Boston (if you’re friends with David Ortiz, that tends to happen). For a team looking to take the next step, Horford and the C’s should be a perfect match.