The Biggest Decision Every NBA Team Will Have to Make This Offseason
With game action in the Orlando bubble set to begin in a matter of days, it's easy to forget that this normally would be the time of year to find NBA organizations agonizing over key offseason decisions.
Those tough calls are still coming; they're just a few months delayed.
We'll leave the draft out of this exercise. We don't know the exact order yet, and "whom should Team X pick?" is a cop-out question that applies across the board. Instead, we'll delve into more specific issues.
Whether it be a single free-agent target, a contract extension, a head coach hire or a broader "what's the plan here, anyway?" recalibration, every NBA team has a reckoning on the not-so-distant horizon.
Atlanta Hawks: How Do We Maximize Trae Young?
We start with a question instead of a decision, and the Atlanta Hawks should frame all of their moves around the answer.
Does Trae Young need an offense-first power forward, or would the Hawks' resources be better spent on a different type of player at that position? There's your rubric for deciding on a John Collins extension.
Does Young need a veteran scorer at his side, or would he benefit more from more supporting depth and a defensive-minded backcourt partner? That'll inform whether Atlanta's significant cap space should go to someone like the costly Danilo Gallinari or be spread around a bit more, with Kris Dunn being a key target.
The implication underlying this reductive problem-solving process is that Young is good enough to be a player around whom all other roster decisions are made. That should be encouraging for Hawks fans.
Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum's Max Extension
Just because a decision is big doesn't mean it's difficult.
Jayson Tatum developed into a superstar this season, making his first All-Star team and rounding out his game with improved ball-handling and pull-up three-point shooting. Boston could technically wait until 2021 to max Tatum out, but the best reason to do that would be because it intends to add a big-name free agent on the 2021 market before exceeding the cap with Tatum's deal.
The problem is, the Celtics don't appear likely to have meaningful cap space in the 2021 offseason. That means there's less reason to wait on a Tatum extension. Add in the possibility of upsetting Tatum by hesitating, and the smart move looks like handing over the max ASAP.
At 22, Tatum is already a fringe top-10 player at the league's premium position. Why wait on paying him what he's worth?
Brooklyn Nets: Chase a 3rd Star Via Trade, or Nah?
Put me down for "nah."
Title-winners need superstars and a handful of guys drastically outperforming their salaries. On a perfect championship-chasing team, the superstars would be playing above their pay rates as well.
Think of the dynastic Golden State Warriors, who won their first ring with Stephen Curry making $10.6 million, Klay Thompson collecting $3.1 million and Draymond Green earning under $1 million. Thompson and Green got new deals in the 2015 offseason, but even then, they were grossly underpaid at $15.5 million and $14.3 million, respectively.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are making salaries commensurate with their values in the league; they aren't bargains. Acquiring a third star via trade would likely add another player making market rate at the cost of many of Brooklyn's crucially important underpaid talents.
If the Nets add, say, Bradley Beal, it'll almost certainly cost some combination of Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen—three guys who fit perfectly into the "outplaying their salaries" group. So while the flashy move for an organization committed to winning in the short term would be to chase a huge name via trade, that strategy might ironically create a roster less likely to contend.
Charlotte Hornets: How to Spend All That Cap Space
This decision applies to all six teams with the potential to clear significant cap room this offseason, but it's especially critical for the Charlotte Hornets. The last time they had the flexibility to spend, in 2016, they handed Nicolas Batum a five-year, $120 million deal.
They're still hamstrung by that move.
Charlotte figures to have at least $28 million in space if the cap lands at $115 million. It could chase Christian Wood or Montrezl Harrell to address a scoring void at center. It could take on bad money with draft assets attached. It could go "2019 New York Knicks" and sign a bunch of veterans to short deals with team options and non-guarantees, theoretically competing for a playoff spot in 2021 while leaving open the possibility of getting right back into the market next year.
It's good to have options, but the Hornets have to select the right one this time.
Chicago Bulls: In or Out on Jim Boylen?
New Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and newly minted general manager Marc Eversley have yet to move on from head coach Jim Boylen.
That's puzzling to many, considering Boylen's rocky tenure, dubious (at best) tactical track record and 39-84 mark as head coach. New front offices typically replace holdovers from previous regimes, and Boylen hasn't exactly wowed anyone so far.
So, what gives?
The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry believes Boylen's continued employment "reeks of a mandate from the only men with authority to deliver such an edict: Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his son Michael, the team’s president and COO."
If Boylen stays and wins, all will be forgotten. But the cascade of "I told you so's" from frustrated Bulls fans will be overwhelming if Karnisovas and Co. stick with a coach who hasn't endeared himself to, well, anyone but the Reinsdorfs, apparently.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Drummond's Future with the Franchise
With apologies to Brandon Knight, John Henson and that 2023 second-round pick, it didn't cost the Cavaliers anything of consequence to acquire Andre Drummond. However, that doesn't mean they should view a conventional center headed into his age-27 season as a long-term fit on a roster that is in the earliest stages of its rebuild.
The Cavaliers can't get down to serious roster-construction business until they're out from under Kevin Love's deal, which won't happen without a trade until 2023. Committing big dollars to Drummond on a multiyear contract could push that timeline even farther out.
According to Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor, both Drummond and the Cavs are interested in extending the relationship. Drummond has a $28.8 million player option for 2020-21, which he plans to pick up, as the market for old-school, stretch-less centers is nowhere close to that figure.
Cleveland could justify an extension paying Drummond an annual value of roughly a third of what he'll make next year, but anything beyond that would be folly. The Cavs aren't pot-committed here, so they can afford to set a reasonable extension number and walk away if Drummond wants more.
Dallas Mavericks: Tim Hardaway Jr.'s Contract
The Dallas Mavericks don't technically control whether Tim Hardaway Jr. will be on the roster next season. His $19 million player option gives him the power to decide that.
Dallas could discuss an extension with Hardaway, who's proved this season that he's a stellar fit alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. In an offseason featuring a few teams with cap space, he could justifiably opt out and expect to get upward of $20 million per season on a multiyear deal. Dallas has to be careful about how much it's willing to invest in its third-best player, though.
The 2021 offseason should be the Mavericks' first concern. That's the last shot they'll get to add a third star before Doncic's rookie extension eliminates their cap space for the foreseeable future. If Hardaway opts out and Dallas is careful not to spend big this offseason, it could have max-level room next year. Signing THJ to an extension wouldn't close the possibility of carving out that much space, but it would make it harder.
The Mavs should want to keep Hardaway, but they have to play this right to preserve their 2021 flexibility.
Denver Nuggets: Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap, Both?
The Denver Nuggets have their fair share of rotation-caliber free agents in 2020. Paul Millsap, Torrey Craig (restricted), Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant (assuming he declines his $9.3 million player option) will all hit the market.
The 2020 playoffs will likely influence whether the Nuggets decide to keep the whole band together, but even a strong postseason run might not be enough to justify the cost of running it back.
Grant is likely to opt out, and it will take a raise on the $9.3 million he would have collected to keep him. Denver surrendered a first-rounder to snag the five-position defender from the Oklahoma City Thunder, which means it's unlikely to lose him for penny-pinching reasons.
Millsap, an important veteran voice and still an effective player in a low-minute role, may not command even half of the $30.4 million he earned this year. Still, assuming even a modest raise for Grant, the Nuggets will already be over the $115 million cap.
Denver may have to choose one or the other if it wants to preserve spending options.
Detroit Pistons: Choosing a Direction
When the Detroit Pistons gladly dumped Andre Drummond on the Cavs to avoid any chance of paying the $28.8 million they would have owed him in 2020-21, it seemed like a signal that a rebuild was imminent.
At the same time, getting off Drummond's money would have been a smart move under any circumstances. So maybe it was just a shrewd call with no broader implications.
Detroit is now flush with cap space ($30 million, give or take), which it could spend on a difference-maker or two before bringing back Christian Wood on a fat new deal. Fred VanVleet is the most obvious option for a team in need of a point guard, but Detroit could also target Danilo Gallinari, opt-out possibilities Evan Fournier and Tim Hardaway Jr., or even Marcus Morris Sr.
Option No. 27 (at least it feels like Detroit has that many) would be sucking up somebody else's bad contracts with picks attached in preparation for a rebuild around Wood, Luke Kennard, Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya once Blake Griffin's deal expires in 2022.
The Pistons have to decide whether they want to get back in the mix for a playoff spot, begin the early phases of a restart or land somewhere in the middle.
Golden State Warriors: What to Do with That TPE
You could get miles into the weeds discussing mostly unrealistic options for the Golden State Warriors' offseason, the deepest excursion including a possible trade for Giannis Antetokounmpo—in the far-fetched scenario where his Milwaukee Bucks fall short of expectations and he makes it clear that he won't sign an extension.
There's also Golden State's 2020 first-rounder to consider, both as a trade asset and as a possible addition to the rotation. Throw in the 2021 first-rounder they'll get from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Warriors have plenty of draft capital and fat contracts (hi, Andrew Wiggins!) to put together offers for superstars.
But this is about decisions, and for a win-right-now organization with an aging core, there's no question about whether the Warriors would pull off a blockbuster if presented the opportunity. Of course they would. That decision is already made.
That leaves the $17.2 million trade exception from last offseason's Andre Iguodala trade. The Warriors will use that to acquire a rotation player, sending picks along with it.
Marcus Smart, Myles Turner and Aaron Gordon are all players Golden State should consider. Because the TPE might be their last chance to add a meaningful piece to their core for a while, the Warriors have to choose wisely.
Houston Rockets: Mike D'Antoni's Future...and Centers
This is a two-for-one decision, as Mike D'Antoni's status with the Houston Rockets is linked to the likelihood of the centerless experiment continuing.
D'Antoni, who's in the last year of his contract, has a long history as an innovator. If he doesn't get a new deal to remain the Rockets' head coach, would his successor have the clout, stomach and facility with unconventional tactics to continue one of the league's most unusual strategic approaches?
However, a D'Antoni return still might not guarantee the Rockets stick to their centerless guns. If this gambit fails in the playoffs and he comes back on a new deal, management may seek out a conventional big or two.
Basically, the success or failure of Houston's approach in this year's playoffs could determine whether the Rockets run it back with D'Antoni and his bold lineups...or make significant changes.
Indiana Pacers: Whether to Extend or Trade Victor Oladipo
If the Indiana Pacers don't extend Victor Oladipo this offseason, a move they'd understandably be hesitant to make given the two-time All-Star's recent injury history, they may have to consider trading him.
Otherwise, there's a chance he performs well in 2020-21 and, possibly upset at his team's lack of faith in him, leaves in free agency.
This isn't an unusual situation. Teams run into some version of it any time a player with question marks hits a walk year.
If Indiana knew the future version of Oladipo would look more like the All-NBA third-teamer (and All-Defensive first-teamer) from 2017-18 than the injury-ravaged version of the past two seasons, a four-year extension topping out at $113 million would be the simple choice. But for a franchise that has legitimate reasons to be concerned about Oladipo's health and a history of luxury-tax avoidance, this offseason decision will be anything but easy.
Los Angeles Clippers: Montrezl Harrell's Free-Agent Value
Unrestricted free agent Montrezl Harrell figures to be a target for several of the teams with cap space this offseason, and the Los Angeles Clippers will have to decide how comfortable they are paying market rate to keep a player who's performed well for them, but who may not be worth the investment it'll take to keep him.
Title contenders should generally avoid scrimping, but Harrell is a reserve who has yet to prove he's capable of finishing games against top-flight competition. A high-usage scorer has value, but less so on a team with two superstar wings and an even more potent second-unit threat in Lou Williams. Harrell is a putrid defensive rebounder, and the Clips have defended better with him off the floor in each of his three seasons with the team.
That a key issue facing Los Angeles ahead of the playoffs is who'll close games at center says a lot about Harrell's dispensability.
If another team comes in with an offer of more than $15 million per season, the Clippers will have to think long and hard about whether a backup 5—even one as effective as Harrell—is worth that level of investment.
Los Angeles Lakers: Is Kyle Kuzma a Part of the Core?
The Los Angeles Lakers and Kyle Kuzma could agree on a rookie extension this offseason, but the odds of them hammering out a deal aren't great.
L.A. has to preserve its cap space for 2021, and Kuzma's performance this year, which included 29.7 percent shooting from deep and some of the worst defense on the team, didn't impress. Still, the 6'8" forward is the only notable prospect left on the roster. Even a team as focused on the present as the Lakers might balk at marginalizing a player who could provide value if he signs a reasonable deal and improves.
Anthony Davis is extension-eligible as well, but there's no decision to be made there. The Lakers will offer the max for as many years as AD is willing to accept.
Other than the ongoing need for backcourt help (which will be highlighted by a bubble roster missing Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo for now), Kuzma's contract situation is the Lakers' only action item on the docket.
Memphis Grizzlies: How Much to Match for De'Anthony Melton
Josh Jackson is an intriguing post-hype sleeper prospect. During his 18-game cameo with the Memphis Grizzlies, the unrestricted free agent flashed some of the potential that made him the No. 4 pick in 2017.
However, he isn't Memphis' most pressing concern. That distinction goes to restricted free agent De'Anthony Melton, a fearsome backcourt defender and just the type of dirty-work complement you'd want alongside a flashy, offensive-minded wunderkind like Ja Morant.
The 6'2" combo guard's length, anticipation and nose for the ball really pop on film, so teams doing their homework know the impact he makes on a defense. Sky-high block and steal rates, the league's fifth-highest deflection rate per 36 minutes and elite rebounding for his position make Melton a fit anywhere.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see several teams offering up their mini mid-level exceptions (or maybe even the full MLE) for his highly portable game. The Grizzlies had better prepare themselves to match some impressive offer sheets for their difference-making disruptor.
Miami Heat: Is It Finally Gallo Time?
The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't quite get over the goal line on a Danilo Gallinari deal at the trade deadline, as the Heat were reportedly reluctant to add the veteran forward without an agreement on a contract extension in place.
Gallinari, ahead of his age-32 season, has good reason to want multiple guaranteed years. His next deal might be the last big one he gets.
Perhaps now, though, the parties can come together on a hefty one-year pact that features a team option or partial guarantee beyond the 2020-21 season. If Gallinari wants to make upwards of $20 million per season and play for a winner, his only realistic options are signing with the Heat or returning to the Thunder. OKC could just as easily run it back with its veteran core as blow the whole thing up, so Miami's more stable focus on short-term success could give it an edge.
The Gallo-Heat pairing just makes sense. Miami needs a spacing 4 who can get his own looks and almost match Jimmy Butler as a foul-baiting savant, and Gallinari might not be able to land the multiyear deal he wants anywhere else.
Milwaukee Bucks: What to Do If Giannis Won't Sign
Maybe you've heard: Giannis Antetokounmpo, coming off what'll almost certainly be his second straight MVP award, will be eligible for a supermax extension this offseason.
The Milwaukee Bucks will officially offer it at their first opportunity, though they've assuredly made winky faces toward Antetokounmpo's camp that it'll be on the table. Without alleging any impropriety, it's impossible to imagine Giannis and Co. don't know the offer will be there. Everyone knows.
If Antetokounmpo won't accept it, trade chatter will increase in volume. No team wants to lose a generational superstar for nothing. With that said, the Bucks' best move would be to keep Giannis through the final year of his contract, pray they win a title and push the same offer across the table in 2021 with a bejeweled championship ring as a paperweight.
If Milwaukee wins the whole thing this year, the chances of Giannis leaving evaporate. But nothing is guaranteed, and the Bucks have to at least consider the possibility that they'll be offering the supermax to a less-than-pleased Antetokounmpo in a few months.
Minnesota Timberwolves: What's Malik Beasley Worth?
Restricted free agency gives teams the advantage of matching outside offer sheets. In the Minnesota Timberwolves' case, it might actually make things harder.
Other teams know the Wolves didn't swing a trade for Malik Beasley because they needed his lights-out shooting for the final few games of a lost 2019-20 season. Minnesota snagged him from the Denver Nuggets in a three-way deal because it intended to keep him. That means the Wolves can't easily decide that another team's offer is too rich to match. Scream sunk-cost fallacy all you want; they're kind of stuck paying whatever the market (however irrational) says Beasley is worth.
Fortunately, there's a dearth of teams with money to spend. Chances are, Beasley won't get an offer for more than $70 million over four years. The Wolves could set their own terms by offering larger annual values on a shorter deal (like $45 million for two years), which would give them a larger opportunity to gauge Beasley's fit without committing for quite as long. But you'd think the uncertainty surrounding the NBA's future finances and cap figures would prompt Beasley and others to secure deals lasting as many years as possible.
The Timberwolves need to find a defender, preferably at the 4, and address the smaller-scale issue of Juancho Hernangomez's restricted free agency. But landing on the right number for Beasley, who shot a blistering 42.6 percent on 8.2 attempts per game down the stretch, is priority No. 1.
New Orleans Pelicans: Is It Already Time to Big-Game Hunt?
Flush with draft assets and young talent secured in the Anthony Davis trade and in possession of several productive veterans, the New Orleans Pelicans can chart several courses forward.
Few teams have more capital with which to bargain for a superstar, and the Pels should absolutely poke around to see what it'd take to get Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards. New Orleans could also focus inward, maxing out Brandon Ingram (a foregone conclusion) while earmarking money for Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart's rookie extensions down the road.
It might be tempting to play the long game with Zion Williamson, Ingram and Ball looking like a formidable trio down the line. But can the Pels really be sure Williamson is built to last? He tore the meniscus in his right knee in October after suffering a bruised left knee in summer league. Go further back, and he had the shoe-splitting right knee strain at Duke and another deep knee bruise in high school that cost him months of AAU play in 2017.
It's possible that Zion's best years will come in his early 20s, which might make win-now moves more sensible for the Pelicans.
This offseason will go a long way toward defining the franchise's next half-decade.
New York Knicks: The Point Guard Question
If the New York Knicks decide to hire Tom Thibodeau as their next head coach, it'll probably happen prior to the offseason so he'll have input on the organization's draft and free-agency operations. We learned long ago that no coach, Thibs in particular, should also have control over personnel decisions. But surely the Knicks would give him a little say.
That technicality removes New York's coaching decision from consideration, which is fine since there's another major choice ahead.
The Knicks need a starting point guard, but which one should they choose?
Fred VanVleet is the top free agent at the position, and the Knicks are one of only a handful of teams with the cap space to pay him $20 million per season. But Chris Paul's former agent, Leon Rose, is now the Knicks president. So commence trade speculation for the 35-year-old future Hall of Famer with $85.6 million coming to him over the final two years of his deal.
Paul still has plenty of game, but giving up future assets for a costly post-prime vet would be so reminiscent of moves made by past Knicks management that it should give the current power structure pause.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Run It Back or Blow It Up?
The Thunder have an incomprehensible 10 incoming first-round draft picks (either outright owed or via swap rights) coming their way between now and 2026. That isn't a war chest; it's a walk-in war closet.
If OKC wants to ride out CP3's prime, it can bring back Danilo Gallinari, box up Steven Adams and/or Dennis Schroder (both expiring after 2020-21) along with a few of their picks and take on an ungodly amount of superstar salary. Virtually any big name with a dubious deal should be fair game, with the added bonus that the Thunder would still have enough picks to use as sweeteners if things go sideways and they pivot to being sellers in a year or two.
That's a ridiculous amount of leverage an optionality—the kind that, somehow, could make adding Kevin Love a low-risk move.
The alternative would be to further bloat their asset stores by moving on from Paul, declining to keep Gallinari and getting primed for free agency in 2021, all while hanging onto that trove of picks.
The Thunder could become a more potent contender or strip the roster down to the studs within a year. They have decisions to make, but it almost feels like there's no wrong one.
Orlando Magic: What to Do with Aaron Gordon
It seems like Aaron Gordon is the subject of trade talk every year. This offseason, it might be time for the Orlando Magic to turn that talk into action.
Gordon, who turns 25 in December, is an athletic, switchable defender who can rebound, thrive in transition and has improved his playmaking in each season of his career. The Magic have a glut of frontcourt options—some highly paid vets like Nikola Vucevic and some developing draft picks like Jonathan Isaac, Chuma Okeke and Mo Bamba—which is just one reason a jam-clearing trade would make sense.
Another: Gordon could return real value.
The Warriors could offer first-round picks and their trade exception. The Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers could also put forward intriguing packages.
There's no mandate that Orlando has to make a deal at all. But with so much Gordon smoke over the years, it's fair to eventually expect a fire.
Philadelphia 76ers: Whether to Adjust the Core
The proof will be in the playoffs for the current Philadelphia 76ers core. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons probably aren't going anywhere regardless of what happens in Orlando, but the Sixers will have no choice but to consider retooling around those two in the event of a disappointing postseason stint.
Al Horford looked alarmingly close to washed in his first year with the Sixers. His struggles went beyond being an imperfect fit with the first unit and can't come as a surprise for a 34-year-old playing his 13th season. The non-guarantee on his 2022-23 salary should help facilitate a move, but any buyer would still be on the hook for an unpalatable $54.5 million over the next two seasons.
Tobias Harris could be another shake-up candidate, and his megadeal runs through 2023-24 at an average annual rate of $36.8 million. The duration and size of that contract might make him more difficult to trade than Horford even though he's six years younger.
If the Sixers opt to make changes, the focus has to be on backcourt playmaking and shooting. Any team built around Simmons and Embiid should ideally have three floor-stretchers on the floor at all times.
Phoenix Suns: Whether to Renounce Their Own Free Agents
The Phoenix Suns could clear enough cap space to address their needs—supporting scorer for Devin Booker and more defense at the 4—but they'll have to cut ties with a handful of their own free agents to do it.
By renouncing rights to Aron Baynes, Dario Saric, Cheick Diallo and Frank Kaminsky, Phoenix could open up around $25 million in spending power. That would be enough to make competitive offers for Evan Fournier or Tim Hardaway Jr., assuming either opts out. If the Suns wanted to split up that cash on multiple free agents, Paul Millsap, Bryn Forbes and Glenn Robinson III could all squeeze into that opening.
Phoenix could just as easily retain its incumbents and trust organic growth from Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges to push it into playoff position.
The best bet would probably be to approach Booker and ask which course would make him less likely to demand a trade in a year or two.
Portland Trail Blazers: Is Change Even Necessary?
When you go from making the 2019 Western Conference Finals to finishing the pre-hiatus portion of the 2019-20 season at 29-37, the urge to make major changes has to be strong.
The Portland Trail Blazers will surely feel it, but it would be best to resist the temptation.
The Blazers got nothing from Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood's torn Achilles in early December further stripped them of rotation depth. The main reason this year's Blazers performed so differently from last year's was that they were, in fact, a very different team. Chances are—and Portland's bubble performance may prove this—returns to health from Nurkic and Collins will result in a team that looks much more familiar.
We may never escape suggestions that the Blazers should break up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt. But unless some team overextends itself in an offer for McCollum, Portland should rest up, fight the inclination to make major changes and trust that Dame will get things back on course with the help he has on hand.
Sacramento Kings: How High to Go on Bogdan Bogdanovic
De'Aaron Fox will be eligible for an extension in October, and the Sacramento Kings are already committed to Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes on pricey long-term deals.
Savings-focused moves at the 2020 trade deadline telegraphed the Kings' intentions to match any offer on restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanvic, which is understandable. The combo guard is a reliable three-point shooter and secondary playmaker who can start alongside Fox or run the second unit. It's just that the Kings' commitment to yet another expensive multiyear contract would effectively lock them into a core that, so far, hasn't proved much.
The good news is that the market will tell the Kings what Bogdanovic is worth. Even if an offer sheet comes in that looks too bloated to match, Sacramento can pony up to keep its man, secure in the knowledge that such a high level of outside interest means Bogdanovic, at worst, will remain a viable trade chip. If the Kings don't get the results they want next year, they'll be able to make changes by swinging a deal.
Still, Sacramento has to impose some kind of upper limit on what it'll match. Some desperate team with cap space could grossly overbid, and it'd be a mistake to match anything exceeding $18 million per year over four years.
San Antonio Spurs: Are We Ready for This to End?
In light of this season's failure to make the playoffs, the first time that's happened since 1997, it might not even be right to frame this as a question of whether the San Antonio Spurs are ready for the run to end.
It kind of already has.
But the Spurs will still have DeMar DeRozan (if he doesn't decline his player option) and LaMarcus Aldridge, so there's a scenario in which they focus on adding a veteran or two to make one more run. If Gregg Popovich continues as head coach, it'd be even easier to justify that course of action. He's earned the right to postpone the teardown.
In the alternative, the Spurs could nudge DeRozan out by communicating he won't get an extension from them, and then look to trade Aldridge. With Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, San Antonio has a handful of intriguing young players. This wouldn't be a from-scratch rebuild.
Toronto Raptors: 1 More Year?
Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet all played significant roles in the Toronto Raptors' 2019 championship, and all three will have plenty to say about how close this year's team comes to repeating.
All three are also headed for unrestricted free agency.
With Kyle Lowry entering the final year of his contract, the Raptors could retain all three on short-term deals (or at least two: Ibaka and Gasol), make one more run and smash the reset button in 2021-22. If the Raptors' run-it-back plan requires them to offer Ibaka and Gasol multiple years, they can probably kiss that precious 2021 cap space goodbye. And with it, their chance to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Giannis gambit may only be a pipe dream, but the Raptors still have to acknowledge that Lowry, Gasol and Ibaka aren't young enough to be key figures on a next-era squad led by Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and FVV. Even if it has to set its free-agency sights a bit lower, Toronto should still prioritize hitting the 2021 offseason with flexibility and cash to spend. But sentiment and the real possibility that the current core is good enough to contend next season complicate the Raptors' path forward.
Utah Jazz: Whether to Extend or Trade Rudy Gobert
The Utah Jazz are closer to a crossroads than you think.
Rudy Gobert's contract is set to expire after the 2020-21 season, and he'll be eligible for a supermax extension in a few months. As great as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year is, the Jazz shouldn't invest in him at that level. If Gobert's camp disagrees, Utah could quickly find itself looking at trade options to help avoid losing the star for nothing.
Donovan Mitchell also becomes eligible for an extension this offseason, and tension between him and Gobert (though recently downplayed...unconvincingly) could give the Jazz further justification to move the big man. Mitchell is a first-option wing heading into his prime, while Gobert is a defense-first conventional center. The modern NBA puts a higher value on the former player type, and so should the Jazz.
Utah went all-in with the Mike Conley trade and the Bojan Bogdanovic signing last summer. This offseason, it may have to decide whether it's in or out on Gobert's future with the team.
Washington Wizards: Whether to Reconsider a Bradley Beal Trade
For $72 million, the Washington Wizards bought themselves a year without speculation about a Bradley Beal trade. The two-year extension between the team and its two-time All-Star made Beal ineligible to be traded until after the 2019-20 season.
The Wizards could wait to see how the team performs with a healthy John Wall and a (probably) re-signed Davis Bertans. Considering how much the franchise has invested in Wall, it might not be the worst idea to surround him with as much talent as possible, hopefully rehabilitating his value, before trying to move off that albatross contract at the 2021 trade deadline.
Then again, it may never be possible to trigger a rebuild by trading Wall. His Achilles injury puts his future as a quality starter in doubt, and moving him is more likely to require Washington to send out assets rather than get them back.
To replenish the outgoing store of young talent and draft assets in any Wall deal, the Wizards would have to consider trading Beal.