With all of the hardware for the 2018-19 season now handed out, it's officially wheeling-and-dealing season in the NBA.
There has already been a flurry of activity from Thursday night's draft to the blockbuster exchanges involving Anthony Davis and Mike Conley. But trade smoke continues billowing out from all corners of the hoops world, as the calendar creeps closer toward the start of free agency.
Date Set for Davis Deal?
It's hard to characterize the Los Angeles Lakers as being in anything but a great spot, after acquiring Davis and pairing him with last year's prized addition, LeBron James.
That said, their path to a third star seems to be getting more difficult to navigate.
The timing of when L.A. finalizes the Davis deal is critical in terms of how much cap space the organization will have at its disposal. If it didn't go down until the end of July, the franchise could open another max slot. But The Athletic's Sam Amick reports that's probably not happening:
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported if a third team entered the trade, it would take place on July 6. Once the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans agreed on a deal involving the No. 4 pick (one of the assets exchanged in the Davis deal) that seemingly sealed L.A.'s fate, per Wojnarowski.
If the Lakers don't have max room, convincing a third star like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker to come aboard might be out of the question. Their dilemma, then, is deciding whether to invest that money in a second-tier target or perhaps spread it across several complementary players.
James and Davis is quite the foundation to start with, arguably the Association's best duo. But how the Lakers fill out the rest of their roster could determine whether they're in the 2019-20 title race or at the front of it.
Kings Undecided on Willie Cauley-Stein?
Since being selected sixth overall in 2015, bouncy big man Willie Cauley-Stein has spent his first four NBA seasons with the Sacramento Kings.
He apparently thinks that's more than enough.
"I really think Willie needs a fresh start," his agent, Roger Montgomery, told Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. "Based on how things have gone for him there in Sacramento, I just think it's time for Willie to move on and we'd really like him to move on."
The Kings, of course, retain control of this situation, since they could make him a restricted free agent by issuing a qualifying offer between now and June 30. That would give them the option to match any offer he receives.
For now, though, they're "still mulling their options," a league source told NBC Sports Bay Area's James Ham.
While Cauley-Stein probably doesn't want to hear this, it's probably prudent for Sacramento to issue the qualifying offer. If someone wants to throw a big offer his way, the Kings shouldn't have trouble letting him walk. His size-athleticism combination is intriguing, but there are too many holes in his game—including rebounding and rim protection—to feel comfortable about a major investment in him.
That said, if his offer sheet is reasonable, maybe Sacramento keeps him around for current depth and a possible future trade chip. He's still just 25 years old, so it's possible his skills mature during his next deal.
OKC Eyeing Cost-Cutting Moves?
After paying an exorbitant price in salary and luxury tax in recent years, the Oklahoma City Thunder seem eager to trim their financial commitments.
And that might be an understatement.
According to Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer, the team has made several key players—including starting center Steven Adams, "very available" in trade talks:
The 25-year-old Adams is a throwback interior force who's become a handful around the rim on both ends of the floor. That earned him a four-year, $100 million extension in 2016 that runs through 2020-21. Considering he'll only be the club's third-highest-paid player over that stretch—behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George—it makes some sense for the squad to explore getting out of this deal.
According to NBC Sports Boston's A. Sherrod Blakely, the Boston Celtics have interest, and any other team with a vacancy at the 5 spot likely does, too. While Adams could be a plug-and-play contributor for any club with win-now aspirations, he's young enough where he'd also fit with an up-and-comer.
If OKC approaches this from a cost-cutting perspective, though, it's fair to wonder what it could realistically expect in return. Given that Westbrook is already 30 and George will be in May, the Thunder can't exactly afford to push their contending window back.