5 Bold Predictions for the Rest of the NBA Offseason

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2021

5 Bold Predictions for the Rest of the NBA Offseason

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    Bold predictions made for the sake of being bold aren't my game.

    They shouldn't be yours, either.

    There's a difference between going out on a limb and saying 100 outlandish things on the off-chance one actually comes true. It's OK to get imaginative, but let's stay within the realm of reality, yeah?

    That's the aim of the five following predictions, which could provide plenty more fireworks to this already electric NBA offseason.

Spurs Will Part with a Backcourt Building Block

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    The San Antonio Spurs finally seem focused on the future. The mindset shifted three years late—how the Spurs settled on DeMar DeRozan as the right return for Kawhi Leonard will forever baffle hoops historians—but at least it happened.

    San Antonio signed-and-traded away DeRozan for a package largely built around picks: one future first and two future seconds. Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu arrived, too, but they made the money work and now presumably await their own trades out of the Alamo City.

    It's an atrociously low return for a player who once anchored an exchange for a future Hall of Famer, but at least it points to an organizational aim at something other than perpetually pushing for a back-end playoff spot.

    Now, the Spurs need to continue their makeover by positioning themselves to chase the star power they've lacked since Leonard left. They have a slew of solid-to-above role players, but they're missing a lead actor.

    Maybe that's what pushed them to invest the No. 12 in Josh Primo, the youngest player in the draft. Their collective ceiling won't rise without adding some high-upside individuals to the equation.

    But this roster is screaming for some level of consolidation, whether it's a mega-move for an established star—tasking this staff with Ben Simmons' development would be fascinating—or a semi tear-down in chase of more picks and better draft lottery odds.

    Either way, San Antonio could easily exit this offseason without one (or both) of Dejounte Murray and Derrick White. Each should have significant appeal around the Association, but neither can become the centerpiece this club needs.

Lauri Markkanen Will Land 2nd-Highest Remaining Salary...With OKC

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    The spending frenzy at the start of free agency considerably dried the player pool. Other than Kawhi Leonard, who forever marches to the beat of his own drum, all of the stars and even most of the second-tier targets are off the board.

    The leftover hoopers-for-hire all have eye-of-the-beholder appeal. There might be a front office that falls in love with Dennis Schroder, Reggie Jackson or Josh Hart, but the most money might be attached to a marriage between Lauri Markkanen and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    He needs someone to buy into his flashes of significant scoring potential. The Thunder might be the only team left to do it.

    The San Antonio Spurs had interest, but Markkanen wanted more money than they would pay, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst (via RealGM). The Charlotte Hornets showed "strong interest," per The Athletic's Shams Charania, but Charlotte spent on Kelly Oubre Jr. instead. A return to the Chicago Bulls on the qualifying offer is possible, but Markkanen reportedly seeks "long-term security," per NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson.

    The 7-footer is a career supplier of 19 points per 36 minutes, and he just splashed 119 triples at a 40.2 percent clip. Consistency has been a struggle—ditto for staying healthy—but there are times he looks spectacular. Bulls fans still wonder what happened to the player who rampaged through an 11-game stretch midway through his sophomore season with nightly contributions of 26.5 points and 12.6 rebounds.

    The Bulls have seemingly decided they're done waiting on Markkanen, but the Thunder have more patience than anyone. They're going to need a co-star for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sooner than later, and the offensive upside of a Markkanen-Aleksej Pokusevski frontcourt would give opposing coaches nightmares.

    OKC has Markkanen on the radar, per HoopsHype's Michael Scotto, and cap room to burn. The Thunder can afford a substantial investment now for a potentially enormous payoff down the road.

Kevin Love Gets Bought Out

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    Kevin Love has been a fish out of water ever since LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers behind in 2018. In an instant, Love went from co-starring on a contender to being overpaid and out of place on a long-term rebuilder.

    This situation won't resolve itself.

    The Cavs can't build a winner fast enough to utilize what the 32-year-old, oft-injured Love has left. They just wrapped their most successful season since James' exit by tying for 26th in winning percentage (.306) and landing 28th in net efficiency rating (minus-8.3 points per 100 possessions).

    Things are bleak in Northeast Ohio and could be for the foreseeable future. Making matters extra awkward for Love, the Cavs' greatest hopes are largely tied to young players at his position: Evan Mobley, this year's No. 3 pick, and Jarrett Allen, who just scored a $100 million deal. With these investments in mind, the franchise has already talked to Love "about minutes and his role moving forward," per The Athletic's Jason Lloyd.

    The Cavs and Love should already know his best role for them is no role at all. He clogs up the cap sheet and any minutes he receives would be better spent on the youngsters' development.

    The Cavs may have hoped Love could re-establish some trade value with Team USA, but he was off the roster before the team left the country while managing director Jerry Colangelo told reporters, "He wasn't in shape. And he was way behind as it turned out."

    A rescue trade isn't coming. Neither is a resurgence that carries Cleveland to a respectable place in the standings. Both sides need a split. Love and the Cavs haven't held buyout talks yet, per Lloyd, but there's still time to iron out an agreement for the offseason and give each a clean slate entering 2021-22.

Trade Winds Swirl Around Brandon Ingram and Tyler Herro

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    The offseasons of the New Orleans Pelicans and Miami Heat could expose their young players to the trade rumor mill, although for dramatically different reasons.

    New Orleans, which badly needed some major summer wins to alleviate some of the growing tension around franchise centerpiece Zion Williamson, has arguably backtracked. They couldn't lure Kyle Lowry to town, opted against matching the offer sheet for Lonzo Ball (whom Williamson wanted to stay) and failed to improve the defense or create an identity.

    The coaching change from Stan Van Gundy to Willie Green might be a good one. They added a few interesting pieces (Jonas Valanciunas, Devonte' Graham and Tomas Satoransky) but none as good as Ball.

    Where are the Pelicans trying to go? And how do they get there fast enough to keep Williamson happy? It might take a major swing to turn this around, and that's how Brandon Ingram could get caught up in the rumblings. If New Orleans aims for the stars in a swap for Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal, then Ingram is the most obvious trade chip to put in play.

    Miami, meanwhile, shrugged off its first-round exit and pumped all available resources into the 2021-22 season. More specifically, the Heat threw $90 million at 35-year-old Kyle Lowry, gave a max extension to Jimmy Butler a month before his 32nd birthday and lured in fellow 30-somethings P.J. Tucker and Markieff Morris.

    It's been one win-now move after the next, which makes it fair to wonder how patient the franchise will be with 21-year-old Tyler Herro. The shooting guard followed his bubble breakout as a rookie with a disappointing sophomore season. If the Heat aren't convinced he'll get back on track, they could flip him for even more win-now talent.

    Predicting a trade of Ingram or Herro is bolder than I can reasonably go. But it isn't hard connecting the dots to get either one to the rumor mill.

Pascal Siakam Will Be Biggest Name Traded

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    The trade market already cooked up a few stunners this summer, first delivering Al Horford back to the Boston Celtics and then bringing Russell Westbrook to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.

    Based on some of the buzz floating around, though, things might just be getting started.

    Trade rumblings have surfaced around Damian Lillard (per TrueHoop's Henry Abbott) and Ben Simmons (per The Athletic's Shams Charania). Everyone is waiting for the Bradley Beal domino to drop, even though all has been quiet on the Washington Wizards front.

    But my crystal ball is betting against any of the three getting traded before the 2021-22 season tips.

    The Wizards have never given any indication Beal will become available, and the Blazers figure to try reshuffling everything around Lillard before resigning themselves to trade their centerpiece. Simmons' situation might be awkward enough to force the Philadelphia 76ers into action, but what's the proper price for someone with his unique skills? And who's willing to pay that?

    That's why I'll go with Pascal Siakam, whom B/R's Jake Fischer reported was "considered available" ahead of the draft, as the most significant player moved over the remainder of this offseason.

    The Toronto Raptors should be ready to reset (if not outright rebuild) now that Kyle Lowry is out of the picture. And they turned their draft lottery fortune into Siakam's potential replacement in No. 4 pick Scottie Barnes.

    While Simmons is a tricky fit for most teams given his severe limitations on offense, Siakam should work just about anywhere. He defends multiple positions, scores from all over the court and doesn't dominate the basketball. He might be a bit over his skis as a No. 1 option, but he could be (and has been) the second- or third-best player on a champion.


    Stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.