As the NBA moves closer toward the end of its seeding period and the beginning of the playoffs, teams on the outside are looking ahead to the offseason. Free agency, which is slated to kick off October 18, will be a big part of that.
The prize of free agency is Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis, should he opt-out of his contract. While this probably won't happen if the Lakers get close to winning a title in Orlando, Florida, Davis could seek greener pastures if they struggle.
Los Angeles has struggled offensively in the bubble and has lost three of its past four games. This will be an interesting development to watch, though the duo of Davis and LeBron James me be able to turn it on once the postseason arrives.
Financially, Davis has a lot to gain by staying in Los Angeles. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported in July that the Lakers will likely have no issue giving Davis a max contract extension if he's willing to sign one.
This, along with the added revenue potential of playing in one of the league's biggest markets, could entice Davis to stay—especially if he believes that he can win a title before James' window closes.
Prediction: Davis opts-in for 2020, considers a long-term extension.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the eight teams that didn't qualify for the Florida restart bubble. They are hoping to put together a roster in the offseason that can compete for a playoff spot for the first time since losing LeBron James in free agency in 2018.
Reportedly, Philadelphia 76ers standout Ben Simmons or another young player could be part of that offseason game plan.
"The Cavs believe they have enough to assemble an enticing package, especially with recent first-rounders littering the roster, a top-six pick coming in October and a future first from the Milwaukee Bucks," Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com recently wrote. "Those picks, combined with one of the young guys and some salary filler, is a good start. It's also why the Cavs have spent the first few years of the post-LeBron era stockpiling assets."
Fedor also mentions that out of Cleveland's youngsters, Kevin Porter Jr. is the one the team would most like to retain.
While Fedor doesn't state that Simmons is a definite target for Cleveland, he does suggest that the 24-year-old could be on the move.
"One executive who spoke with Cleveland.com believes the Sixers will need to choose between Simmons and Joel Embiid—if Philly has an earlier-than-expected playoff exit," he wrote.
Seeing as how Philadelphia has won three of its first four restart games, the 76ers might just fare well enough in the playoffs to consider building on what it has instead of rebuilding. Expect a trade for Simmons to be off the table and for the Cavaliers to attack free agency for help instead.
Prediction: Cleveland makes a headliner trade in the offseason but doesn't land Simmons.
Golden State Warriors
Like the Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors are watching the restart bubble form the outside. Unlike the Cavaliers, however, the Warriors have a roster that can compete for a championship once it's healthy. While Kevin Durant is gone, the core group of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green—if he re-signs in free agency—and Andrew Wiggins is strong.
Orlando Magic power forward Aaron Gordon could join them if his team is willing to trade or release him.
"There's been a little smoke on the Warriors and Gordon front," The Athletic's Anthony Slater wrote. "He's about to finish his sixth season in Orlando, and it's starting to feel as if that partnership has become stale."
The problem, as Slater points out, is that fellow Magic forward Jonathan Isaac suffered a torn ACL in early August and could miss the entire 2020-21 season. This makes Gordon far less expendable than he otherwise might have been.
Another issue for the Warriors is that adding Gordon could create a logjam on the roster if they bring back Green and Eric Paschall. Given Gordon's suddenly increased value to Orlando, paying the price of acquiring him simply might not be worth it.
Prediction: Warriors re-sign Green; Gordon stays with the Magic.
Unlike the Cavaliers and Warriors, the Toronto Raptors are part of the restart bubble and could be title contenders. They have played well, and pending free agent Fred VanVleet has been particularly impressive.
VanVleey dropped 36 points on the Miami Heat recently and could become one of the hottest available players in free agency. Naturally, the Raptors, who have won three of their past four, would love to retain his services. However, he isn't the only notable Toronto player headed to market.
Toronto is also set to potentially lose Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam.
Retaining all of these free agents will prove difficult, if not impossible. However, Toronto should still view itself as a legitimate title contender and will likely try to retain as much of its core as possible. Keeping VanVleet should be the top priority and the first significant move the Raptors make.
Prediction: VanVleet stays in Toronto.