Predicting Future NBA Superteams Born in Orlando Bubble
The NBA bubble boasts far more than just basketball.
As teams share hotels, there's been plenty of time for players to fish, golf and possibly talk about future plans.
"The next superteam will come out of this," one NBA coach told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. "I believe it’s inevitable."
While players can contact each other at any time (in a bubble or not), never before have this many teams been so close together with so much down time.
The Olympics have served as an opportunity for players on opposing teams to develop bonds and plan future team-ups. But while an Olympic team features only 12 players, there are well over 300 currently packed together at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
That kind of proximity could lead to some newly formed superteams in the next few years, either via free agency or trade requests.
Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan and CJ McCollum in 2020
New Superteam Lineup: PG Damian Lillard, SG CJ McCollum, SF DeMar DeRozan, PF Paul Millsap, C Jusuf Nurkic
The Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs happen to be sharing the Yacht Club Resort at Walt Disney World, but they're headed in separate directions while fighting for the eighth seed in the West.
While Portland is getting Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injuries, the Spurs will be without LaMarcus Aldridge as he recovers from shoulder surgery. That makes DeRozan the primary option for a sinking San Antonio team, a role he shouldn't have to be playing.
Even though the Blazers are getting two starters back, they're still thin on the wing. Presumptive starting small forward Carmelo Anthony is 36 and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. To compete in the West, Portland may need some more star power.
It shouldn't be hard for the Blazers to convince DeRozan to come to Portland. The four-time All-Star controls his future with a $27.7 million player option for the 2020-21 season, and he may prefer to join a win-now squad like Portland with a gaping hole at small forward.
DeRozan could give the Spurs an ultimatum: Work out a trade with the Blazers, or I'm walking away for nothing in free agency.
A package of Collins, Trevor Ariza, Rodney Hood (player option) and Nassir Little would be a nice mix of veteran and young talent for the Spurs to take back, giving them some building blocks if they enter a rebuild or potential starters for another playoff run.
If DeRozan finds his way to Portland, the Blazers will still need a starting power forward with Collins gone. Shooting is a must around DeRozan and Nurkic, and the Blazers would be limited to their mid-level exception in free agency.
An ideal target? Paul Millsap, who is shooting a career-high 44.0 percent from three this season and could be willing to take a discount coming off a three-year, $90 million deal.
The Blazers would go from a potential eighth seed to one of the West's best teams next season.
New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, Devin Booker and Brandon Ingram in 2020
New Superteam Lineup: PG Jrue Holiday, SG Devin Booker, SF Brandon Ingram, PF Zion Williamson, C Derrick Favors
Lost in the buzz surrounding Zion Williamson in New Orleans this season is how many draft picks and how much other young talent the Pelicans have saved for future trades.
Among the Pelicans' neighbors at Disney's Yacht Club Resort? The Phoenix Suns.
The Suns and Pelicans are both battling for the final playoff spot in the West, although with very different odds. New Orleans' starters have registered the best net rating of any bubble team (plus-26.3 in 230 minutes), while the 26-39 Suns trail the Memphis Grizzlies by six games with only eight games to play.
If Phoenix misses the playoffs, it will mark a decade straight of lottery trips. Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the rest of the Pelicans should kindly remind Booker about that. While Booker is under contract until 2024, he wouldn't be the first star in recent years to force a trade.
If Phoenix gives in to a trade request, New Orleans would make a great partner. A package of Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, JJ Redick and multiple first-round picks works financially, and the Pelicans can include their own draft selections or ones owed from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021 and 2024.
Leaving the only franchise he's ever known could be a tough sell for Booker, but the opportunity to play with someone like Williamson may be too hard to pass up.
Ingram and Booker were both first-time All-Stars this season, and Holiday could pledge to defend the best opposing guard each game. If New Orleans can convince Favors to re-sign, this could become one of the best teams in the NBA in short order.
Dallas Mavericks: Luka Doncic, Victor Oladipo and Kristaps Porzingis in 2021
New Superteam Lineup: PG Luka Doncic, SG Seth Curry, SF Victor Oladipo, PF Kristaps Porzingis, C Dwight Powell
The Mavericks have the foundation of a perennial playoff team with Luka Doncic (21) and Kristaps Porzingis (24), but they might be one star short of becoming a Finals contender.
Luckily, they should have enough cap space for a max free agent in 2021.
Dallas and Indiana are sharing Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and Victor Oladipo happens to be a free agent next year.
Doncic is already one of the NBA's best guards—an All-Star starter who looks like a future MVP. The 7'3" Porzingis can play either power forward or center, meaning Dallas just needs a premier wing to round out its Big Three.
Having recovered from a ruptured quadriceps tendon that sidelined him for a year, Oladipo should soon return to his previous All-Star form. Before the injury, the 2013 No. 2 overall pick averaged 21.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.1 steals in 111 games with the Pacers.
A premier defender when healthy, Oladipo could guard the opposing team's best offensive player each night, letting Doncic save his energy for offense. Oladipo is also a good on- and off-ball player, having nailed 40.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes in 2018-19 before his injury.
The Mavs can pitch Oladipo on their top-ranked offense (115.8 rating) and how many easy looks he'll get off passes from Doncic while Porzingis' spacing keeps driving lanes open.
Miami Heat: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in 2021
New Superteam Lineup: PG Kendrick Nunn, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Duncan Robinson, PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Bam Adebayo
The Heat and Bucks are sharing the Gran Destino Tower at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, and Miami has kept its books wide-open for the summer of 2021.
Jimmy Butler also has a history of getting what he wants.
Be it requesting a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2018 or finding his way to a Miami Heat team with no cap space (and still getting a max contract) in 2019, Butler has lucked out over the past few years.
In the star-studded 2021 free-agent class, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the most sought-after player. He'll be far younger than players like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and others who can also become free agents, and he might be looking for a new home if Milwaukee fails to win a title either this season or next.
Butler can pitch Antetokounmpo on a number of luxuries, starting with spending his winters in South Florida instead of Wisconsin. After all, Butler spent eight years playing in cold-weather cities (Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia) and could rave about the Heat culture as well.
Bam Adebayo is already an All-Star at age 23, and he and Antetokounmpo would become two of the best-passing bigs in the league together.
Miami's young core of Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson would keep the floor wide-open for Antetokounmpo, and Butler should happily share scoring and playmaking duties.
The Heat are the only team in the bubble poised to have max cap space in 2021 and two All-Stars, which Butler should be sure to bring up should he and Antetokounmpo bump into each other.
L.A. Lakers: LeBron James, Paul George, Anthony Davis and Chris Paul in 2022
New Superteam Lineup: PG Chris Paul, SG Paul George, SF LeBron James, PF Kyle Kuzma, C Anthony Davis
Assuming Davis re-signs with the Lakers this offseason, LeBron James should stay on the recruiting trail for a third star.
The Gran Destino Tower at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort should be a hotbed for tampering, as potential 2021 free agents James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George all share the same lodging.
While James will likely try to convince Antetokounmpo to come to L.A. first, so will every other team with cap space in 2021.
Should James fail to bring in a third star in 2021, the 2022 offseason looks promising as well. James, Leonard and George all carry player options for the 2021-22 season, which means they could return to their respective teams or sign a new one-and-one deal to maximize earnings and keep their options open.
George has recently praised the outspokenness and leadership of James as a voice for the NBA.
"You have tremendous leaders in our league in LeBron, Dwyane Wade, [Chris Paul], Carmelo [Anthony]," he said, via Garrett Chorpenning of Sports Illustrated. "We got unbelievable leaders that notice they have a platform. They're educated in politics, and they're using their platform to get points across."
If George has the opportunity to join James and Chris Paul (a free agent in 2022), could he pass it up? Especially if he wouldn't have to leave L.A.?
The Lakers might have max cap space for George in 2022, and Paul should be willing to take a mid-level exception fresh off his nearly $160 million contract.
While this would be an older core, James isn't showing any signs of slowing down, and Davis would still be in his 20s.