Every NBA Team's Toughest Decision This Offseason
Nothing about working in an NBA front office is easy, although some decisions are more difficult than others.
Whether it be the draft, free agency, trade opportunities, a disgruntled player on the roster or possible extensions, general managers (and those who work above and below them) have to navigate through rough waters every offseason.
With the 2021 NBA second season nearly in full swing, these are the toughest choices every team will need to make.
Atlanta Hawks: Go All-in or Continue to Grow Young Core?
Atlanta jumped from 20 wins to a spot in the conference finals in just a year, making it fair to question whether this team should continue to be patient with the young talent on the roster or capitalize on the recent success with more veterans.
Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari proved to be perfect complementary pieces to Trae Young and John Collins, the two most valuable core pieces for Atlanta's rebuild.
We've yet to see the full potential of this roster, however, as De'Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish combined to play in just 49 games this season due to injury. No. 6 overall pick Onyeka Okongwu played just 12.0 minutes per game primarily off the bench, and Kevin Huerter bounced between starter and reserve.
The Hawks could stay patient and let players like Hunter, Reddish and Okongwu try to develop or package some together in hopes of trading for a more established star (Bradley Beal?), should one become available.
Boston Celtics: Keep, Trade or Extend Marcus Smart?
On a Celtics roster that's suddenly getting expensive with Jayson Tatum's max contract extension kicking in, Smart could be the odd man out next summer.
The 27-year-old guard is entering the final year of his contract and will hit unrestricted free agency in 2022. The Celtics can offer him up to a four-year, $77.2 million extension this summer, one that would keep Smart in Boston for the next five years.
The Celtics already have over $100 million worth of salary on the books for 2022-23, however, and that's before factoring in a new deal for Evan Fournier or any other free-agent signings this year.
Smart would be a highly coveted trade piece should the Celtics look to move him, as he's one of the best defenders in basketball and has improved his playmaking and three-point shot.
Brooklyn Nets: Who Plays Center Next Year?
With Aldridge retiring and both Griffin and Green going into free agency, the Nets may have to choose between Jordan and Claxton, unless they can get a bargain-bin find on the market. Brooklyn is limited to a $5.9 million taxpayer mid-level exception.
Nerlens Noel, who played for $5 million with the New York Knicks this season, would be a dream target. JaVale McGee, Gorgui Dieng and Hassan Whiteside could all be low-cost options as well.
Charlotte Hornets: How to Use Last Remaining Cap Space
The Hornets can clear up to $26.8 million in cap space this summer in what will likely be their last chance to spend for a while.
Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges are both extension-eligible, P.J. Washington follows them in 2022 and LaMelo Ball can agree to a new deal in 2023. For a team that has Gordon Hayward making $30 million in each of the next three years (and still has to pay Nicolas Batum $9 million for two), money is about to get tight.
Charlotte needs to address its biggest need (center) now in free agency while it still has the funds to do so.
Options include Jarrett Allen, Richaun Holmes, Andre Drummond, Montrezl Harrell and Nerlens Noel, all young(ish) players who could grow with the core.
Chicago Bulls: How to Get a Franchise Point Guard
With Coby White looking more like a scoring combo guard than true floor general, the Bulls should be on the hunt for a franchise point guard this offseason.
Finding one with limited cap space and no first-round pick won't be easy, however.
The Athletic's Shams Charania noted that the Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers were "expected to be among the teams interested" in New Orleans Pelicans restricted free agent Lonzo Ball. He also wrote that the Pelicans are "unlikely to match a significant offer sheet" for Ball.
Chicago can get to $31 million in cap space but would have to waive veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young while renouncing Lauri Markkanen.
Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley Jr. and Chris Paul could all be on the market, but joining a Bulls team that missed the playoffs probably won't be their first choice. The Bulls may have to settle for someone like Spencer Dinwiddie, Dennis Schroder or Goran Dragic instead.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Future of Collin Sexton
With the first piece of the Cavaliers rebuild now eligible for an extension, Collin Sexton's future in Cleveland is far from certain.
As Jason Lloyd of The Athletic writes, Sexton is "very available" in trade talks, even after averaging 24.3 points and 4.4 assists as a 22-year-old starting shooting guard. Sexton is eligible to sign a five-year, $168 million max extension this offseason, a massive payday for a player who hasn't carried Cleveland to many wins yet.
Even if he doesn't get a max, Sexton is due for a big raise. According to contract projections from ProFitX.com, Sexton's value is at $29.7 million for the upcoming season. A four-year extension would be valued at approximately $118.2 million, or about $4 million less than the max per season.
The draft could have an impact on Sexton's future as well, especially if the Cavs covet Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs with the No. 3 overall pick.
Cleveland needs to decide how much it's willing to pay Sexton on his next contract and whether it would be better off trading him.
Dallas Mavericks: Trade or Keep Kristaps Porzingis
Following a rough playoff showing against the Los Angeles Clippers (13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 29.6 percent from three), Porzingis looks like a prime trade candidate this offseason as the Mavericks have already made changes to the coaching staff and front office.
Supposed to be a co-star with Luka Doncic, Porzingis just hasn't shown the ability to be a healthy No. 2 option in his two years in Dallas. If the Mavericks are shopping him, however, they've done a good job of hiding it to this point.
"I think he's excited, he's ready to work, and I think you're going to see a different KP," new Mavs head coach Jason Kidd said, via ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "This is a positive summer for him. He's healthy. I think he's really excited about this opportunity. I think he's a perfect fit for Luka. He has a skill set that a lot of people don't have in this league. As a coach, I'm very excited to be able to work with him."
Of course, trading Porzingis now would mean getting pennies on the dollar. He's owed $101.5 million over the next three years, is coming off a season in which he played just 43 games and looked like an everyday role player in the playoffs.
What happens to Porzingis is probably key to Doncic's future with the franchise as well, as the team doesn't have much other young talent to build around.
Denver Nuggets: How to Replace Jamal Murray's Production
Jamal Murray's ACL injury could have him sidelined until April 2022, effectively taking away almost his entire regular season. Even an optimistic return date of January or February means the Nuggets will be without their second-leading scorer for months.
Denver could be looking at $127 million in team salary if Will Barton and JaMychal Green both opt in to their contracts, leaving just a $5.9 million mid-level exception if the Nuggets want to avoid being hard-capped.
With so little to spend, there won't be any franchise-saving options in free agency. Derrick Rose is probably a best-case scenario, with Austin Rivers, Cameron Payne and Alec Burks looking more likely.
The Nuggets should hope Barton opts in to his $14.7 million player option, as he was Denver's third-leading scorer during the postseason (16.3 points in his three games).
Detroit Pistons: Keep Jerami Grant or Capitalize on Trade Value?
The Pistons will likely have a mini debate over whether to trade the No. 1 overall pick for a hefty return, but staying put and taking Cade Cunningham seems like the more rational choice.
With Detroit adding an elite young talent to the three 2020 first-round picks (Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart), should the Pistons go all-in on the rebuild and look to move Grant as well?
The 27-year-old forward averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks on 35.0 percent shooting from three last season. With so few stars on the trade market, Detroit could almost certainly pick up another lottery pick in this draft from teams looking to win next season. The Golden State Warriors (who pick at Nos. 7 and 14) and New Orleans Pelicans (10th overall) immediately come to mind.
Keeping veterans who actually want to be there is key for a rebuild as well, however, and Grant chose Detroit over the Denver Nuggets last offseason. His leadership in such a young locker room would be tough to part with.
Golden State Warriors: Develop or Trade James Wiseman and the Rookies?
Rarely can a franchise blend its past and future into a championship team, with the Tim Duncan-Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs of 2013-14 serving as one of the few recent examples.
Golden State could make this attempt, keeping and developing Wiseman and the two lottery picks this year to form a new core to complement its existing stars.
Wiseman, 20, will be coming off knee surgery, however, and the Warriors were far better with him on the bench last season (minus-14.6 net-rating swing). His potential as a two-way force is apparent, although he's still just 42 games removed from playing in high school.
His trade value may not even be all that high following a disappointing rookie season, meaning Golden State could at least make one run with a healthy Klay Thompson and Wiseman together, potentially upping the second-year center's stock.
Houston Rockets: Who to Draft with No. 2 Pick
The Rockets were lucky enough to land at No. 2 in the draft, as they kept their first-round pick (top-four protected) and are now guaranteed to get one of the elite prospects in the 2021 class.
While Cade Cunningham is widely expected to go No. 1 overall to the Detroit Pistons, shooting guard Jalen Green and center Evan Mobley would look great in Houston as well.
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Rockets aren't giving up on landing Cunningham, however, and have been "aggressive in their pursuit of Detroit’s No. 1 pick."
The Rockets own extra first-round picks from the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers over the next few drafts, meaning they can package the No. 2 overall pick with some sweeteners to Detroit in an attempt to move up.
Indiana Pacers: Is a Coaching Change Enough?
The Pacers fired former head coach Nate Bjorkgren after just one season in which he went 34-38, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15.
Bringing back former coach Rick Carlisle on a four-year, $29 million deal was a huge boost to the sideline and perhaps the biggest move the Pacers will make all offseason.
Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren are all under contract for next year. The Pacers will be limited to a $5.9 million mid-level exception to use in free agency to avoid being hard-capped.
"[General manager Kevin Pritchard] and I have talked extensively about the roster. I like their roster. It's a team of skilled, unselfish guys that play hard. It's always possible that moves could be made before the season, but I think Kevin and I are both very excited about getting the roster healthy and seeing what this team can be," Carlisle said, via ESPN's Tim MacMahon.
While Sabonis is an All-Star and LeVert averaged 20.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.5 steals following his trade to Indiana, the Pacers lack a superstar to build around.
Indiana has to decide if simply hiring Carlisle is enough to make this one of the top teams in the East or if a roster shake-up is in order.
Los Angeles Clippers: Kawhi Leonard's Next Contract
After undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn ACL, Kawhi Leonard's return date is unknown at this point. The two-time Finals MVP has a $36 million player option for next season, although both Leonard and the Clippers have a few different contract scenarios to consider.
While an ACL injury would have a major impact on the majority of free-agent contracts in the NBA, Leonard is likely one of the few who can still get a max deal even if he has to miss an entire season. Kevin Durant agreed to a four-year max with the Brooklyn Nets in 2019 with the team knowing he'd be out in 2019-20 with an Achilles injury.
Leonard can decline his player option and sign a four-year, $176.2 million max deal with the Clippers. Since Los Angeles only has his early Bird rights, a fifth year isn't possible, per ESPN's Bobby Marks.
The only way for Leonard to get guaranteed money for the next five seasons is to pick up his $36 million player option and then sign a four-year, $181.5 million extension. This would give him an extra year and $41.3 million more in guaranteed money overall.
Would the Clippers front office have any pause on giving a 30-year-old Leonard with a history of injuries a four-year deal? What about an opt-in with an extension?
With teams like the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks likely interested in Leonard as well, Los Angeles may not have much of a choice.
Los Angeles Lakers: Which Free Agents Should Come Back?
With four players (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) combining to make over $100 million next season, the Lakers are going to have to be picky on who they bring back in free agency.
Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso, Montrezl Harrell, Markieff Morris, Wesley Matthews and Ben McLemore can all become free agents, and there certainly won't be enough money to go around to pay everyone.
Schroder already turned down a four-year, $84 million deal, so Los Angeles should already be prepared to pay up or lose its starting point guard for nothing. The Lakers can match any deal Horton-Tucker receives as a restricted free agent, but they don't have Bird rights on Drummond. If L.A. wants to avoid being hard-capped, it can only spend the $5.9 million mid-level exception in free agency.
Simply bringing back the same roster may not even be enough, of course. The Lakers may have to get creative with some sign-and-trades to bring in additional talent.
Memphis Grizzlies: How to Get a Third Star
Ja Morant and a healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. should be primed for a huge 2021-22 season. Which young teammate will join them in the star rankings remains a mystery, however.
Dillon Brooks certainly looked the part in the playoffs by averaging 25.8 points on 51.5 percent shooting, but he's shot just 41.2 percent over the past three seasons.
Brandon Clarke, Desmond Bane, Xavier Tillman and De'Anthony Melton are all good, young role players, but none look like third-star material yet.
The Grizzlies have to decide if they want to package some of the young talent and future picks together to go star hunting or let this roster marinate at least another year. With Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Anderson hitting free agency next summer, Memphis may not want to wait too long.
Miami Heat: How Much Are Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn Worth?
Miami's roster could go in a number of directions this summer, from bringing everyone back to gutting the existing team to create more cap room.
Robinson and Nunn are both restricted free agents, and the Heat can clear up to $21 million in cap space and later go over the cap to sign both. That could mean a huge luxury tax bill, however, depending on their next deals.
Joe Harris (four years, $75 million) and Davis Bertans (five years, $80 million) are both elite three-point shooters like Robinson who signed big deals last year. Nunn's projected value for next season is $13.2 million, according to ProFitX.com, meaning the two could combine for over $30 million in total salary.
With Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo already on max deals, Miami needs to decide just how much Robinson and Nunn are worth.
Milwaukee Bucks: Cost of Keeping Frontcourt Together
The Bucks have their core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday under contract through 2022-23, although the frontcourt could lose some key pieces this offseason.
P.J. Tucker, a starter throughout the playoffs, will be an unrestricted free agent, and key reserve Bobby Portis will almost certainly not exercise his $3.8 million player option after averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds and shooting 47.1 percent from three.
The Bucks are already well into the luxury tax even without new contracts for each, however, and both Portis and Tucker could seek a raise from their 2020-21 salaries.
Would Milwaukee's ownership group really be willing to pay over $200 million in salary and luxury tax? New deals for Portis and Tucker could push the Bucks there.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Is the Backcourt Too Crowded?
The Timberwolves looked like they had built their backcourt of the future at the trade deadline in 2020, acquiring both D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley in separate deals.
Winning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft was an unexpected bonus, however, and gave the Wolves a future superstar with shooting guard Anthony Edwards. Minnesota also took Jarrett Culver with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019 and has veteran Ricky Rubio serving as a playmaker and mentor to Edwards.
If all are healthy, are there really enough minutes to go around?
Even if Minnesota plays three-guard lineups, it could use some additional frontcourt talent next to Karl-Anthony Towns. Swapping one or more of the guards (ideally Beasley and Culver) for an All-Star-level power forward would seemingly be a better fit overall for everyone and give Edwards, Russell and Rubio all the minutes they could handle.
New Orleans Pelicans: How Much Is Lonzo Ball Worth?
A restricted free agent, Ball is probably the best young point guard in free agency.
Still, he's no guarantee to return to the Pelicans, who selected point guard Kira Lewis Jr. with the 13th overall pick just a year ago. Brandon Ingram is already on a max extension and Zion Williamson will almost certainly sign his own next offseason. High-priced vets Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe each have two years left on their deals.
If the Pelicans don't want to bring Ball back, other teams may be lining up, as Shams Charania of The Athletic noted.
"New Orleans is unlikely to match a significant offer sheet on Ball, sources said. Ball, 23, is among the top point guards on the free-agent market. The Bulls and Clippers are expected to be among the teams interested in him, according to sources."
The New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder have max cap space and could use a guard with his skill set, meaning bringing Ball back to New Orleans could get pricey.
New York Knicks: Stay Patient or Chase Second-Tier Stars?
The Knicks wisely avoided the temptation to trade for overpaid former All-Stars last season (Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love), making some smart free-agency decisions instead.
Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks turned out to be steals as high-level role players who complemented Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett, ultimately pushing the Knicks to the No. 4 seed in the East.
New York should have $50 million in cap space this summer, giving it the option to chase higher-priced stars if it wants.
Assuming Kawhi Leonard re-signs with the Los Angeles Clippers, most of the top free agents are either restricted (John Collins, Lonzo Ball, Jarrett Allen), past their prime (Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley Jr.) or in danger of being overpaid (DeMar DeRozan, Dennis Schroder).
The Knicks could also look to the trade market for a superstar (Damian Lillard?), but there's no guarantee one will be available.
Is giving a player like DeRozan $30 million a year really worth it? The Knicks will have to decide how best to use their cap space with no superstars on the free-agent market.
Oklahoma City Thunder: When to Flip the Switch to Contender
While the Thunder finally dove head-first into the rebuild pool this summer, how long will their swim actually last?
There's already one bona fide star on the roster in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a 2020 All-Star starter in Kemba Walker (at least for now) and some intriguing young talent. OKC also possesses six selections in the 2021 NBA draft (three firsts and three seconds), including the No. 6 overall pick.
Of course, no team has more future picks waiting to be flipped for stars.
The Thunder own 36 total picks over the next seven years, including 18 first-rounders. If a star player comes on the trade market at any time, Sam Presti could start with an offer of firsts that no other team could come close to matching.
There's no way OKC will want to bring this many rookies on board over the next seven years, so deciding the right time to start cashing in future picks for proven talent will be key.
Orlando Magic: How to Use the Nos. 5 and 8 Overall Picks
Orlando is the only team with two top-10 picks in the 2021 draft, a terrific year to own multiple selections given the amount of talent at the top.
The Magic can afford to draft the best player available at both spots, as there's no surefire All-Star on the roster yet. Players like Jonathan Kuminga, Scottie Barnes, James Bouknight, Davion Mitchell and Kai Jones are all projected to go in this range, per Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman.
Of course, Orlando can always try to package the pair of picks to try to move up. While Nos. 5 and 8 won't be enough to get the No. 1 overall pick from the Detroit Pistons, the Magic could try to entice the Houston Rockets (No. 2) and Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 3) to move down.
Swapping the picks for veteran talent is an option, but with Orlando seemingly so far away from contention, keeping the selections is probably for the best.
Philadelphia 76ers: Keep or Trade Ben Simmons?
It's become clear that the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid combo isn't going to work long-term in Philly. Finding the right time to trade Simmons, however, is tricky.
Before the playoffs started, Simmons' value was sky-high as he chased a Defensive Player of the Year award while showing off his high-level passing, rebounding and overall versatility.
A disastrous playoff showing has the 24-year-old's stock at a low, however, and Simmons could still turn into one of the best players in basketball if he develops a reliable jumper/three-point shot.
Finding the right value for him won't be easy.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Sixers are already exploring deals and want an All-Star-caliber player in return.
If the Sixers don't get a good haul in return for Simmons now, waiting until the season starts and letting him rebuild his value may be best.
Phoenix Suns: Chris Paul's Contract Options
While it once looked like a guarantee that Paul would complete his four-year, $159.7 million contract, his value has only increased by leading the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals.
This means potentially turning down his massive player option for 2021-22 with the idea of signing a longer, more lucrative deal overall. As Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus wrote:
"Paul has a $44.4 million player option, which according to several sources, he intends to decline with hopes of inking a new multiyear deal (perhaps in the $100 million range over three seasons)."
The Suns have to decide what contract is best for them and Paul to return on, assuming he wants to be back in Phoenix. With teams like the New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs possessing max cap space, the Suns will likely have to offer whatever Paul wants in the end.
At the end of the day, getting him back in Phoenix is the priority, no matter the cost.
Portland Trail Blazers: How to Keep Damian Lillard Happy
With a new head coach in Chauncey Billups and Damian Lillard just starting a four-year contract extension, the Blazers shouldn't feel any need to blow things up unless their star point guard officially requests out.
From his comments on Friday, that day could be approaching.
"I just think we've reached that point where it's like, OK, it's not enough. Do we actually want to win it all? Is that what we're shooting for? We've got to do things to show that. We've got to put action behind that. That desire to win at that level—that's been my only thing this entire time," Lillard told reporters.
Minor tweaks here and there probably aren't going to satisfy Lillard, either. The Blazers need to look at bringing in additional stars, even if it means moving McCollum and the young talent (Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little) on the roster.
A McCollum-Ben Simmons swap would make a lot of sense, improving a terrible Blazers defense while adding some playmaking and off-ball opportunities for Lillard. If Portland can re-sign Norman Powell—or have him exercise his player option—to become the team's new starting shooting guard, using Simmons as a 6'10" wing defender next to Covington would give the Blazers a pair of defensive stoppers.
Portland needs to think big or risk losing Lillard forever.
Sacramento Kings: Marvin Bagley III's Future
Bagley and his family have been dropping hints about his displeasure in Sacramento for quite some time, and the team made the 22-year-old "available" before the trade deadline, per The Athletic's Jason Jones.
Bagley wasn't even with the Kings while rehabbing a broken bone in his hand during the season, going home to Phoenix instead.
Now with just one year left on his rookie deal, it's fair to wonder if the two sides should even give each other another chance.
Bagley averaged 14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists on 50.4 percent shooting this season, flashing good scoring potential. But Sacramento can't ignore how often he's been injured.
An extension is almost certainly out of the question, and Bagley's trade value should be considered quite low. The Kings have to decide if now (or next offseason) is the best time to move on.
San Antonio Spurs: Re-Sign, Sign-and-Trade or Let Go of DeMar DeRozan
Does anyone know what the Spurs are doing?
With nearly every veteran hitting free agency (DeRozan, Patty Mills, Rudy Gay), the Spurs could be one of the youngest teams in the NBA next season, a franchise that ironically employs the oldest head coach in league history.
Letting DeRozan walk in free agency for nothing would be poor roster management, and it would look especially bad after they bought out LaMarcus Aldridge in March, essentially losing him for nothing as well.
It's tough to pinpoint DeRozan's next contract, as he's likely past the prime of his career but is still productive (21.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 49.5 percent shooting). According to ProFitX.com, DeRozan's next contract is projected to be $30.5 million per year, or $91.2 million over three years.
If that's a price the Spurs aren't willing to pay, finding a sign-and-trade partner would at least net them something in return.
Toronto Raptors: Does Kyle Lowry Still Fit the Roster?
Not trading Kyle Lowry before the deadline kept the door open for the 35-year-old to return to Toronto, especially for a team that still has a playoff-worthy roster.
Trading Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. at the deadline made the Raptors younger, however, and set up the potential for a Fred VanVleet-Trent starting backcourt moving forward. Getting the No. 4 overall pick in the draft has Toronto in prime position to draft Gonzaga star point guard Jalen Suggs as well.
With VanVleet, Suggs and Trent all in the backcourt together, does bringing Lowry back (on a deal that could reach $25 million a year or more) still make sense?
While the Raptors could re-sign Lowry and explore a trade later, an offseason sign-and-trade may be best for everyone involved.
The Philadelphia 76ers could use Lowry and don't have the cap space to sign him outright, with the same holding true for the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Getting the No. 4 pick in the draft could have a dramatic impact on Toronto's present and future.
Utah Jazz: Keep the Core Together or Explore Trades?
A league-best 52-20 record should have meant a run to the Finals for the Jazz, but instead they lost in the second round to the Los Angeles Clippers, who were without Kawhi Leonard for the last two games of the series.
This means a long offseason for a Jazz team that's in danger of settling for playoff mediocrity, especially with a roster that's quickly becoming one of the most expensive in basketball.
Utah has $133.3 million worth of contracts even before figuring in a new deal for Mike Conley Jr., one of the top free agents on the market. It's not unreasonable to think Conley could get north of $20 million per year, pushing the Jazz way above the luxury tax line of $136.6 million.
That's the price an ownership group can expect to pay for a championship team, but not one that continually bows out in the first or second round.
With no cap space or high draft picks to use, Utah may have to look to the trade market.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are probably off limits, leaving players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, Royce O'Neale and Derrick Favors to dangle as bait to try to improve the team.
The problem? All are good, productive pieces to the Jazz's success. Utah can choose to run things back with the core as is and hope for the best, but anything less than a title at this roster price is unacceptable.
Washington Wizards: Keep or Trade Bradley Beal Going into Free Agency
Bradley Beal's name first came up in trade discussions in 1946 when the NBA (previously the Basketball Association of America) was founded and has remained in them ever since.
OK, so maybe it just feels this way, but the Wizards do have to evaluate a Beal trade now before it's too late.
The 28-year-old star shooting guard is coming up on the last guaranteed year of his contract, with a $37.3 million player option for 2022-23 almost certainly getting turned down even if he does end up re-signing with Washington.
While his value probably isn't as high as it was last year with multiple seasons left on his deal, Beal would automatically be the top player on the trade market if the Wizards made him available. Teams like the Golden State Warriors, New Orleans Pelicans and Philadelphia 76ers have a wealth of young prospects and draft picks to offer and could create a bidding war for Beal's services.
Washington can offer Beal a four-year, $181.5 million extension before the 2021-22 season begins and keep him out of free agency, but the three-time All-Star would be better off becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2022 and signing a five-year, $235 million with the Wizards.
With an extension extremely unlikely, the Wizards will have to get a good feel for Beal's offseason plans before the trade deadline. Losing him for nothing (especially considering what they could get in return now) would be devastating.