The upcoming NBA offseason isn't scheduled to begin until October, which means that there's plenty of uncertainty about how it will unfold. A lot can change in three months, and situations that appear clear-cut now might not down the road.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum, for example, appears ready to sign a max contract in order to stay in Boston for the foreseeable future.
"From what I'm being told, Jayson at this point is leaning toward signing [a] max deal when he's eligible and going from there." NBC Sports Boston's A. Sherrod Blakely said on the Celtics Talk podcast.
However, Tatum might not be as eager to lock himself into that deal once October rolls around. Given the potential financial impact of the coronavirus, 2020 might not be the most ideal year to sign a max deal. Because of this, Tatum may want to wait a year to renegotiate and play while collecting 9.9 million for the 2020-21 season.
"Tatum's got to make some decisions," Blakely said. "Do I sign for your four- or five-year extension? Or do I play it out and just become a restricted free agent and hope that the cap goes up afterward, so then I can sign a max still for more money?"
However, there's a chance that the cap doesn't dip as expected and that signing a max deal now is still the sensible option. According to John Hollinger and David Aldridge of The Athletic, the league has a plan in place to "smooth" out the cap over the next couple of seasons:
"As far as the actual cap projections, though, teams are not as worried. The expectation is that the NBA will set the cap at roughly the same level as this year – $109 million, with a tax line of $123 million – and separate it from Basketball Related Income, the mechanism by which the split of money between players and teams is achieved, like the league did coming out of the 2011 lockout, and make up any potential difference that arises by increasing the escrow withholding from players."
If the cap is going to remain fairly static over the next few seasons, then there's little reason for Tatum to not ink a max contract as soon as possible.
LaMelo Ball Has Impressed Scouts with His Maturity
When Lonzo Ball first came into the NBA, he was widely regarded as a player with potential, a big personality and the ever-present distraction of his father LaVar Ball. Now that brother LaMelo is about to enter the league, the younger Ball is carrying a different reputation.
Yes, LaMelo Ball is still a high-profile personality and arguably the most well-known prospect in this draft class. However, scouts have been raving about his maturity as a player, according to The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski:
"Scouts I talk to have been encouraged by LaMelo's maturity. He still has a lot of developing to do as a player, but I haven't heard teams express the kind of concern about inviting the circus to town with him that many did when Lonzo was coming in. I was in Vegas at Lonzo's first summer league game, and let me tell you it was absurd. LaVar was preening for the cameras and stealing the show, and you just had the feeling that it was going to be hard to sustain."
If these scouts are to be believed, then teams shouldn't be concerned about LaMelo being an early distraction. This could be significant for a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have had LaVar chime in negatively about the potential pairing.
"He already lived in Cleveland," LaVar Ball said on FS1's Undisputed. "He don't like that cold weather like that, especially if you're not going to be inside with a lot of bright lights."
While LaMelo may not be able to control what his father does or says, teams should feel comfortable evaluating him for his on-court presence only.
Ball Isn't the Consensus Top Prospect, Though
As previously stated, a lot can change between now and October 16 as it relates to the draft. While Ball is being heralded as a mature prospect, he isn't viewed as a consensus No. 1 pick.
In fact, there isn't a consensus top pick in the draft at this point. The Cavaliers, for example, as split within their building about which player belongs at the top of their draft board.
"At least one member of the front office views Ball as the top player in the class. But others view Georgia's [Anthony] Edwards as the better prospect. Another remains intrigued by James Wiseman's upside and measurables," Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com wrote.
This lack of a consensus top prospect could cause there to be some movement at the top of Round 1 on draft night.
"With no consensus regarding who the best prospects are, dropping out of the top three appears less costly this year," ESPN's Jonathan Givony wrote. "Several NBA executives have told me they would welcome it because of the question marks surrounding the top talents and the cost savings the rookie scale would provide."
This is, of course, as things currently stand. A clear top prospect could emerge in the coming months—though, there isn't likely to be a slam-dunk first pick in the mold of last year's No. 1, Zion Williamson.