The NBA has been flipped upside down since the 2018-19 season wrapped up with the Toronto Raptors' NBA Finals victory just one month ago.
Trades and free agency moves by the league's superstars have reshaped the competitive balance, raised the specter of rule-breaking and raised questions about how basketball ought to work — all without a single dribble.
Among the big developments: Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard dumped the Toronto Raptors for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul George joined him. Golden State's Kevin Durant and Boston's Kyrie Irving fled for Brooklyn. Russell Westbrook landed in Houston with James Harden. Anthony Davis joined LeBron's Lakers, and rookie Zion Williamson filled the gap left in New Orleans.
Many of the league's best players have landed in new destinations, and oftentimes accompanied by another star or two. Given the league's salary cap, teams are limited in who they can sign. Thus, players are strategically thinking ahead to link up with others and win while they're still in their primes. In other words, the players are the ones shaping team rosters and redrawing power rankings.
Another takeaway? The head-spinning offseason has also led the league to initiate an investigation "centered on the timing of some of the earliest reported free-agency deals on June 30," ESPN reports. The probe was opened after a meeting of the NBA's board of governors in early July. The concern? That teams are illegally negotiating with players and their agents ahead of the proper free agency period.
Per ESPN, the investigation will also touch on other issues, including teams' "methods of circumventing the salary cap to provide stars extra benefits."
With all of the excitement and controversy, where do things stand in the NBA, and who's in charge?
On Point sought to answer that question with three authoritative voices on the matter: Bob Ryan, sports columnist emeritus for the Boston Globe, Sopan Deb, NBA reporter for The New York Times, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
As someone with a large stake in the league's success, Cuban, known as one of the more outspoken owners, says the NBA's realignment is good for business.
"I love it, and I think it's much better," he told On Point guest host John Harwood on the show. "If you look at the games that are easy to sell for a team, they're typically whatever team LeBron is on, in this case the Lakers, and, last year, the Warriors, and then maybe a local rivalry. ... Now, we're going to have multiple teams that are what we call bundle-able games. You can package them with slower-moving games, knowing you're going to sell both tickets."
In other words, with more talent spread out around the league, more teams will be exciting to watch. With a greater number of exciting teams, more games will appeal to fans, and more tickets will sell for those games. Teams will take advantage of this.
Cuban says it's rare that an individual player carries enough star power to sell out games on a nightly basis. But when you've got two stars on a team, selling out games gets that much easier.
"That makes for a more exciting team, that makes it easier to sell, that's good for the NBA," he said.
As for the league's investigation into tampering, Cuban says he has no knowledge of how big of an issue it'll turn out to be.
"I don't know. That's why they'll investigate," he told Deb. "I'll defer to [league commissioner] Adam [Silver] on that. Other teams don't come to me and say, 'Hey, guess what we offered this guy?' "
Adam Waller produced this hour for broadcast.