The Toughest Offseason Decision for Every NBA Team

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 5, 2022

The Toughest Offseason Decision for Every NBA Team

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    Tough decisions are an unavoidable part of every NBA offseason.

    It's the whole business of basketball.

    Given the copious amounts of cash involved and the sky-high stakes of the draft, trades and free agency, clubs will put countless hours into getting these decisions right. And guess what? Some of them will still get them wrong, because that's how tough decisions work.

    From contract negotiations to trade talks, coaching searches to talent grabs, let's dissect the trickiest item on each team's summer docket.

Atlanta Hawks: Extending De'Andre Hunter

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    The Atlanta Hawks remain on the hunt for a co-star to pair with Trae Young. De'Andre Hunter, the No. 4 pick of the 2019 draft, was presumably intended to be that player, but three years into his career, it looks like he could top out between good and very good—not great.

    He's a long, lanky defender who holds his own in most matchups, but he's not the type of shutdown stopper who can engulf the flames of the Association's most fiery scorers. He's a solid support scorer and outside shooter, but again, not a needle-mover in either role (career 13.2 points per game and 35.9 percent three-point shooting). Shot-creation is not a part of his arsenal, and there's no reason to believe it ever will be.

    He is helpful to have but not a cornerstone talent. That style of player is never easy to price in contract negotiations, and when Atlanta sits down to discuss an extension this summer, it won't have a complete picture of his game since injuries robbed him of 78 games over this season and last.

    Keeping him at the right cost would be theoretically fine, but only if that figure was more obvious. Delaying his new deal until next summer could prove pricey if the light switch flips in his fourth go-round. The Hawks—as prime a candidate as any to broker a consolidation blockbuster—could also include Hunter in a trade package for a star.

Boston Celtics: Keep, Waive or Trade Al Horford?

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    In June, Al Horford served as the means to an end for the Boston Celtics, making the money work in their salary dump of Kemba Walker onto the Oklahoma City Thunder. As recently as January, Horford was a trade candidate for the Shamrocks, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

    Since then, Horford has become an integral puzzle piece. He is an efficient, versatile contributor on offense, a smart and skilled stopper on defense and a calming presence all over.

    Those roles have value—but is that value $26.5 million? That's what Horford's contract could be worth next season if the Celtics keep him through Jan. 7, when his salary fully guarantees. For now, though, only $14.5 million is guaranteed, though that will climb to $19.5 million if Boston makes the NBA Finals and will fully guarantee if the Celtics win it all.

    Assuming Horford's guarantee doesn't increase, though, then president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will have a tough decision to make. Horford is objectively overpaid, but his impact on the team is obvious and sometimes substantial.

    Still, the Celtics might view Daniel Theis as a younger, cheaper alternative, and if they do, that could free the front office to waive Horford (and perhaps try to lure him back on a cheaper deal) or include him in a significant trade.

Brooklyn Nets: Kyrie Irving's Future

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    Kyrie Irving might have the best handles in NBA history, sports a pure shooting stroke that has almost delivered a career 50/40/90 slash (47.0/39.3/88.2) and ranks favorably among this generation's top isolation scorers. He just turned 30 years old. If the story stopped there, the Brooklyn Nets would already have a fleet of Brink's trucks awaiting word on when and where to link up with Irving this summer.

    And yet his strongest argument for getting major money this offseason might be that he was Kevin Durant's handpicked co-star.

    Irving, who holds a $36.5 million player option for next season, has missed more games (123) than he has played (103) over three seasons with Brooklyn because of injuries, his vaccine refusal and last season's sabbatical. The Nets, who could sign him to a five-year, $245.6 million deal this summer, don't have a lot of data that they can trust him.

    But what's the alternative? Brooklyn listened for trade offers in October and heard "crickets," per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. Why would that be any different after Irving willingly missed much of this season? Letting Irving walk might torpedo this team and miff Durant. As often seems to be the case, Irving's employer is walking on eggshells.

Charlotte Hornets: The Coaching Search

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    While the Charlotte Hornets were knocked out of the play-in tournament for the second consecutive season, Buzz City is undeniably buzzing again. LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges, a restricted free agent, are stars on the rise, and the roster boasts a good amount of talent and depth at almost every position (center being the big exception).

    Now, it's all about finding the right person to lead this group.

    After failing to offer much resistance in either play-in tilt—27-point defeat last year, 29-point loss this time—the Hornets rather surprisingly decided James Borrego was no longer their leader. Mike D'Antoni has emerged as "a serious candidate early in the process," per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, who added Charlotte has also requested permission to speak to several assistants, including the Golden State Warriors' Kenny Atkinson, Milwaukee Bucks' Darvin Ham and Dallas Mavericks' Sean Sweeney.

    While the Hornets will have a few things to juggle this summer—Bridges' free agency, Gordon Hayward's future, a possible extension for P.J. Washington, the annual center search—they really need to nail this hire. They could be on the cusp of something special, but only the right skipper can help them get over the hump.

Chicago Bulls: Continuity or Change?

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    The Chicago Bulls made strides this season, but in its entirety, the campaign may best be remembered as a mixed bag.

    Yes, the Bulls recorded their most wins since 2014-15 with 46, but they went an anemic 8-15 after the All-Star break and were bounced from the playoffs in just five games. The offense was good but not good enough (13th in efficiency), the defense was a disaster (23rd), and the team struggled to rise up against elite competition, going 1-14 against the Eastern Conference's top four seeds.

    Optimists, though, will note this group was grooving before injuries pulled plucky defenders Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso out of the lineup. This roster also had a bunch of new faces, so there must be a temptation to find out what it can do after a full offseason together. Plus, believers in sophomore swingman Patrick Williams can still let their imaginations run wild about his potential.

    Still, it's fair to question whether Chicago has enough two-way talent to make the leap from good to great. If the front office has those concerns, it could lead to fascinating discussions around free agent Zach LaVine and trade candidate Nikola Vucevic. There are certainly arguments to be made for running it back, but the Bulls would be foolish to not at least consider the alternative.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Collin Sexton's Restricted Free Agency

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers just completed their best season without LeBron James in decades. Collin Sexton played almost none of it after suffering a season-ending torn left meniscus in the 11th outing.

    That's not to say he can't or couldn't contribute to winning, but he didn't. Cleveland, which posted a plus-174 point differential, lost the 316 minutes he played by 30 points. During his three previous, more productive seasons, the Cavs were around or well below a .300 winning percentage.

    To be fair, Sexton hasn't had a ton of opportunities to run with this roster, and there were moments when the offense sputtered and could have used his scoring punch. Just last season, his age-22 campaign, he netted 24.3 points per night on 47.5 percent shooting.

    Still, he might be a 6'1" scoring specialist, so the Cavs need to be careful about not overspending on his restricted free agency. If his future is that of an instant-offense sixth man—Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen have all zipped by him in the franchise pecking order—Cleveland must ensure his salary reflects that.

Dallas Mavericks: Paying for Jalen Brunson's Playoff Breakout

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    With unrestricted free agency awaiting him, Jalen Brunson spent the season ringing the register. By taking this breakout a step further on the postseason stage, the 6'1" scoring guard keeps putting zeroes on his next paycheck.

    The Dallas Mavericks might appreciate the buckets now—his 72 points and 11 assists helped them win Games 2 and 3 in the first round without Luka Doncic—but will it still appreciate them when the bill comes due?

    "We've got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words," his father, former NBA point guard Rick Brunson, told ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "Ain't no discount. So don't put it on us. Don't tell me you love me. Show me."

    Several teams will want to show Brunson the love after this playoff run, during which he's netted 24-plus points on better than 50 percent shooting three times in seven outings. The Mavs have long needed a second star alongside Doncic. This offseason, they'll show whether they believe Brunson can fit that role by paying him like a star or letting someone else sign those checks.

Denver Nuggets: How High Can the Payroll Climb?

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    The Denver Nuggets are barreling toward their first luxury-tax bill since 2009-10. Provided ownership gives the green light, that's fine if the roster is ready to contend.

    If it needs an upgrade or two, though, that's where things could get tricky.

    Give this group healthy versions of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. around Nikola Jokic, and the offense should be a bulldozer. However, the defense might be closer to a liability than an elite strength, and you can quibble about Denver's depth at small forward and center.

    The Nuggets have the $6.3 million mid-level exception to attack at least one of those areas, but will they deem it worth the subsequent tax hit? Might this make them more reluctant to spend on their own free agents, such as Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes and DeMarcus Cousins? Is there any motivation to explore a cost-cutting trade, perhaps dangling Will Barton to a wing-needy shopper? These questions and more must be answered before the front office can proceed with the offseason plan.

Detroit Pistons: Extend or Trade Jerami Grant?

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    The Detroit Pistons are one of the few teams with significant money to spend, so you could argue the investment of those funds belongs in this spot.

    However, the handling of Jerami Grant will likelier have a bigger impact on the immediate outlook of the team.

    Do they want to play the long game and patiently build something of substance around the 20-year-old Cade Cunningham? If that's the preferred direction, there's no reason to keep the 28-year-old Grant around. Given his experience, game and malleability, Detroit could ask for a small fortune in return. The going rate at the trade deadline was reportedly a pair of first-round picks, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    If the aim is to accelerate the rebuild, though, then Grant would be a no-brainer keeper. Extending his contract, which is set to expire next year, would probably become the offseason's top priority, and the front office can then get busy building its supporting cast around Cunningham and Grant.

Golden State Warriors: Who, If Anyone, Gets the MLE?

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    The price tag on the most expensive team in NBA history is going up.

    Whenever the Golden State Warriors' playoff run ends, they will soon have to cover the costs of this success. Breakout star Jordan Poole is up for an extension, and he's likely looking at nine figures. Last year's free-agent bargains, Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., could be in line for big raises. Frontcourt staple Kevon Looney needs a new deal, too.

    Under this regime, Golden State has rarely balked at paying top dollar, but even it may have its limits. The Warriors left their nearly $6 million mid-level exception untouched last year, as they never found a player worth that money plus the punitive tax hit.

    "It's not wise, and I would almost protect [CEO] Joe [Lacob] from himself if he said go spend it on anyone," Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers told 95.7 The Game in August, via Alex Didion of NBC Sports Bay Area. "It does cost us about $25 million to spend the $5 million, which ... I know listeners or fans don't care about that part, but we have to."

    Even if Golden State returned its roster intact, it could still use more size (depending on James Wiseman), shooting and perimeter defense. The Dubs would then have to decide if those were wants or near-$30 million necessities.

Houston Rockets: The Top-5 Pick

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    One full season into the post-James Harden rebuild, the Houston Rockets are right where they want to be: buried at the bottom of the standings and in possession of the league's most favorable draft lottery odds.

    No matter how the balls bounce, Houston will get a top-five pick. Acing the selection and finding a building block to pair with Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun could position the club for success for years to come.

    But Houston needs to nail this pick.

    Beyond Green and Sengun, there aren't many other clear-cut keepers on the roster. Elder statesman Eric Gordon looms as one of the Association's most logical trade candidates. Same goes for Christian Wood, and that title would also apply to John Wall if anyone were willing to stomach his $47.4 million player option. Even Kevin Porter Jr. could be on the chopping block if Houston is less than enthusiastic about giving him a new deal between now and 2023.

Indiana Pacers: Spend or Subtract?

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    In December, The Athletic's Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz reported the Indiana Pacers were "moving toward a substantial rebuild." Eight days later, Pacers governor Herb Simon dumped buckets of frigid water on the idea.

    "I don't want to see [a rebuild]," Simon said, per Kravitz. "If I don't want to see it, the fans don't want to see it. Why would we want to go through a rebuild when we can build on the go?"

    The Pacers, of course, traded Domantas Sabonis, but it wasn't the demolition deal of a tanking rebuilder. In fact, the only draft pick exchanged actually went out of the Circle City and to the Sacramento Kings, while the Pacers picked up Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield.

    So, what's next? The Pacers could carve out about $18 million in salary-cap space, which should be more than enough to chase a premier target in this market. Or they could maintain their flexibility for future spending, trade a veteran such as Hield, Malcolm Brogdon or Myles Turner for long-term assets and use the 2022-23 campaign as a bridge year that prioritizes player development.

Los Angeles Clippers: Is Robert Covington a Keeper?

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    Grant Kawhi Leonard and Paul George a clean bill of health, and the Los Angeles Clippers should be right back in the championship race.

    Can Robert Covington help with that pursuit? No question. He is an ignitable shot-maker and disruptive defender who can play anywhere in the frontcourt. He is a role player, but he fills multiple roles.

    What L.A. needs to figure out is what those roles are worth. The Clippers are already in the luxury tax, and a new deal with Covington would only push them further into it.

    Maybe that doesn't matter to the deep-pocketed Steve Ballmer, but perhaps it should. Covington averaged just 22.1 minutes in 23 games with the Clippers, and Leonard's return could shrink that role even further. L.A. doesn't have the cap space to replace Covington if he walks, so he's likely to stay, but the Clippers could have something to think about if an external suitor is ready to offer him a huge chunk of change.

Los Angeles Lakers: The Right Way to Split from Russ

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    There is a universe in which Russell Westbrook and the Los Angeles Lakers stick together this offseason. Let's just hope it's not the one we're living in.

    While the Lakers' disastrous season can't all be pinned on The Brodie, his first (and quite possibly last) go-round with the Purple and Gold was exhausting. Essentially, he was a bad fit on paper and maybe even worse in practice. Despite sharing the floor with LeBron James (and, every once in a blue moon, Anthony Davis), Westbrook posted the worst player efficiency rating of his career (15.0).

    Complicating matters, he's owed an impossibly colossal $47.1 million next season—or he will be whenever he picks up his player option. Even as an expiring salary, it's the kind of contract that tests the theory that there are no untradeable pacts in this league.

    The Lakers will have trade options, but they could come at steep costs. That means not only moving a future first-round pick (if not two) but also taking some other unruly contract off another team's hands. If that's too much for L.A., waiving Westbrook and stretching his contract might be worth exploring, though that would put an eight-figure hit on the books for the next three seasons.

Memphis Grizzlies: Swing Big or Run It Back?

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    It's possible the Memphis Grizzlies already have what they need to contend for the crown, but they are in position to get greedy if they want.

    Their rotation is littered with 25-and-under talent, creating major cap flexibility with top-shelf performers such as Ja Morant and Desmond Bane making rookie-scale money. That also means they have prospects to dangle in a blockbuster trade, not to mention all their own first-round picks and two or three incoming firsts, too (they'll only get the Lakers' 2022 first in the unlikely scenario it lands outside the top 10).

    So, should the Grizzlies swing big and hope this front office hits another home run? Or is it best to keep what they have going, reinvest their cap space (roughly $20 million, per The Athletic's Danny Leroux) in their own free agents and hope their continuity and chemistry can take them over the top?

    With massive extensions looming in the near future for Morant and Bane, Memphis must decide on a plan of action now.

Miami Heat: Pricing Tyler Herro's Extension

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    When Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro has it rolling, his scoring packs a punch that could rival those of the boxing world's best knockout artists. He netted 20.7 points in 32.6 minutes per game this season while splashing 39.9 percent of his threes and 86.8 percent of his free throws.

    Considering he turned 22 in January, his ceiling might be on par with the high-rises around FTX Arena.

    Still, there's no consensus on his future. It's one thing to supercharge a second unit; it's quite another to be the primary offensive option—and primary focus of opposing defense—from the opening tip.

    Herro will become extension-eligible this offseason, so the Miami Heat must try to forecast his future. Could he one day carry an offense, or are his skills best suited for the instant-offense role he currently fills? Rival executives can't seem to decide. As B/R's Jake Fischer reported, estimates on Herro's next contract range from a five-year, $184 million max deal to something in the four-year, $106 million range.

Milwaukee Bucks: How Much Tax Is Too Much Tax?

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    Credit the Milwaukee Bucks—who can't exactly print money in their market—for stomaching a significant tax hit in pursuit of a second consecutive title.

    How far are they willing to take this, though?

    This roster won't get any cheaper next season and could prove substantially more pricey depending on the free-agency ventures of Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton. While both technically hold team options for 2022-23, each has positioned himself for a raise even in this cash-strapped market.

    Portis has proved invaluable either off the bench or in the starting lineup to cover the absences of Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton. Connaughton authored a career campaign, and the Bucks don't have the wing depth to replace him in-house. The Bucks would be objectively better keeping both, but only ownership knows whether that is financially feasible.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Deal D'Angelo?

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    The future is bright for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who just made only their second playoff appearance since 2004. The question, though, is whether D'Angelo Russell should be a part of it.

    That seems silly to say about a team's starting point guard, top distributor and third scorer, but he may not be as long for Minnesota as you might think.

    He is approaching the final season of his contract and didn't exactly inspire a ton of confidence down the stretch. He shot below 40 percent from the field (sub-30 from three) over his last 14 outings of the regular season, flatlined in the playoffs (33.3 percent shooting) and was benched for the closing minutes of Game 6.

    "Numerous rival teams" expect the Wolves to shop Russell this summer, per NBA insider Marc Stein. Pairing Russell's expiring pact with additional assets could yield a healthy return for Minnesota, but if the idea is getting back value for Russell alone, that might be wishful thinking.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson's Extension

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    The New Orleans Pelicans have played 226 games since taking Zion Williamson with the top pick of the 2019 draft—234 if you count this year's play-in tournament and first-round series. Williamson has appeared in all of 85 of them.

    That alone makes his upcoming extension talks tricky as can be. Even eschewing the outside noise about his long-term future with the franchise, the Pels need to have long, serious discussions about whether his 6'6", 284-pound frame could hold up over the life of a max deal. So, even though he's ready to sign such an agreement, New Orleans may not put that on the table.

    "Obviously, that conversation is going to be one that will be a challenge," executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said, per Christian Clark of "When it's time to have that, we'll have it."

    The Pelicans are in a precarious position. There is a scenario in which they grossly over-commit to a player who simply can't stay healthy. There's another where they risk ruining their relationship with a 21-year-old who has the tools and talent to go down as one of the best players in franchise history.

New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson's Free Agency

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    Mitchell Robinson is a toolsy 24-year-old who just delivered the strongest season of his career. Clearly, the lottery-bound New York Knicks have to bring him back from unrestricted free agency, right?


    It is—as many things seem to be with this organization—complicated. While he is bouncy around the basket, efficient at the rim and a shot-blocking machine, he offers almost nothing at the perimeter (literally nothing there on offense). In the modern NBA, teams typically don't invest much in this archetype, especially when Robinson can't yet qualify as a dominant interior force.

    Could New York actually let him walk? If someone else wants to pay him a premium, the Knicks may have no other choice. If his price is right, though, they're probably better off keeping him around and seeing where his development goes.

Oklahoma City Thunder: The Latest Lottery Pick

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder have the cap room to be players in free agency, but do these pick-hoarding tankers have any incentive to buy yet? Probably not.

    "We're running our own race," general manager Sam Presti told reporters at his exit interview. "We're not watching the clock. We know our time is going to come. We can't predict when that's going to be, but we're up for the challenge here."

    That's vague enough to not really get a sense of Presti's thought process, but at the very least, he doesn't seem to feel any pressure to floor the pedal on this years-long rebuilding effort.

    No matter what moves OKC makes in free agency—investing in up-and-comers or absorbing unwanted salaries for even more draft capital—the biggest offseason decision will be made at the talent grab. The Thunder are fully committed to this draft-and-develop strategy, and considering what they've already found in players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, it's hard to blame them.

    However, the talent base must continue to expand, and adding another blue-chipper to the pile could up the brightness of this franchise's future.

Orlando Magic: Is Mo Bamba a Keeper?

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    The Orlando Magic just saw Mo Bamba at his best—or the closest he's been to it across four NBA seasons.

    A full-time starter for the first time, his numbers spiked nearly across the board. Most intriguingly, he became one of just four players to average at least 1.5 blocks and 1.5 threes, and he easily paced that exclusive club with a 38.1 three-point percentage.

    Having a big who can protect the paint and space the floor is hugely helpful in the modern game, but does Orlando have too many bigs to justify bringing Bamba back? Having previously extended both Wendell Carter Jr. and Jonathan Isaac, the Magic's starting frontcourt could be set. Bamba might command too much interest on the open market for Orlando to warrant the cost of what could be a backup center.

    Maybe the Magic think they'll find enough minutes for all three, but it's worth noting they were outscored by 5.5 points per 100 possessions over the 1,013 minutes Bamba and Carter played together this season. Losing an ascending young talent is rarely good business for a rebuilder, but their roster construction could make this an exception.

Philadelphia 76ers: James Harden's Future

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    James Harden isn't James Harden anymore. At least, he hasn't been all season.

    Sure, the signature facial hair remains, the step-back threes sporadically surface and even the box scores sometimes resemble his stat-sheet-stuffers from seasons past, but any Philadelphia 76ers fans hopeful of seeing the old MVP or three-time scoring champ just haven't watched what he has become this season.

    He doesn't have the same blow-by burst, and it's limiting what he can do off the dribble. For just the second time of his career (and first since his rookie year), he shot worse than 60 percent inside of three feet. His 33.0 three-point percentage is the worst of his career, his 58.3 true shooting percentage is his second-lowest and his 8.2 free-throw attempts are his second-fewest in the last decade.

    With his 32nd birthday behind him, there are reasons to wonder (if not believe) whether this foreshadows a future of goodness but not greatness. If it is, the Sixers could really put themselves in a bind if they fork over a $223 million max extension this summer.

    Perhaps they feel pot-committed given all they gave up to get him—Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round picks—but they can't use past decisions as rationale for making more questionable ones going forward. They need to keep him, since they have no way of replacing his production, but they must be cautious with the seasons and salaries on his next contract.

Phoenix Suns: Has Deandre Ayton Earned the Max?

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    The Phoenix Suns had a chance to extend Deandre Ayton before the season, and considering the critical role he played in last year's run to the Finals, it felt like a no-brainer. But the deadline came and went without a deal, because Phoenix felt he wasn't deserving of the full, five-year max.

    Has he done enough to change their minds?

    His production doesn't always scream max talent! (17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds this season), but his impact is often immense. He can create offense in the low post, keep the middle unclogged with a smooth mid-range jumper and stay on the court when opponents go small.

    Saying all of that, Phoenix has already maxed out Devin Booker, gave Mikal Bridges a $90.9 million extension, owes Chris Paul $30.8 million next season and needs to pay Cameron Johnson between now and next summer. Funds could be tight, but that's the cost of championship contention. If the Suns want to remain in the NBA's top tier, they have to keep Ayton around.

Portland Trail Blazers: How to Turn This Team Around

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    The Portland Trail Blazers might have spent this season's second half racing to the bottom (going a tank-tastic 2-21 after the All-Star break), but they don't plan on staying there.

    "This, theoretically, is a really quick step backward," interim general manager Joe Cronin said at his exit interview. "We're not looking at two, three, four years of this."

    That sounds good in theory—and makes a ton of sense when 31-year-old Damian Lillard remains the franchise face—but reversing fortunes in a single offseason isn't easy. Obviously, a clean bill of health will help close the talent gap, but the Blazers need more than that and new deals with Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic.

    They have resources to pursue upgrades, including draft picks, prospects, trade exceptions and financial flexibility. But they need to pick the right places to splurge. Misfiring on those decisions now could mean setting this franchise back for years to come and probably chasing Lillard out of town at some point.

Sacramento Kings: The Coaching Search

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    In 2006, the Sacramento Kings parted ways with Hall of Fame coach Rick Adelman after his eight seasons at the helm. Whomever the Kings hire as their next coach will be the 12th different person to hold that position since Adelman's exit.

    While the Kings are stuck in a record-setting, decade-plus playoff drought, what they truly need to find is stability. Hopefully, their next skipper can provide that, ideally while also giving ample attention to their 27th-ranked defense.

    Sacramento initially cast a wide net but is down to three finalists: former Warriors coach Mark Jackson, former Magic coach Steve Clifford and Warriors assistant Mike Brown, per The Athletic's Shams Charania and Sam Amick. All three reported finalists have strong defensive backgrounds.

    The Kings have plenty to figure out with this roster—including the long-term potential of the new Domantas Sabonis-De'Aaron Fox pairing—but the first order of business is choosing the right person to lead it.

San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV's Restricted Free Agency

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    Lonnie Walker IV shows flashes that make you want to believe there is more—maybe much more—coming down the line.

    He also just capped his fourth NBA season and holds career averages of 9.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists with a 41.4/34.3/77.9 shooting slash, so it's hard to hold a ton of confidence in the idea he is a future star-in-the-making.

    He is undoubtedly interesting, but interesting players are typically the toughest to price. His next contract will include some reflection of his upside, but it also needs to account for the player he has been so far. He boasts explosive athleticism, and his three-ball can be fiery, but his efficiency has yet to measure up.

    The San Antonio Spurs should probably pay him and keep chipping away at his development, but if a big offer comes across the table, they have enough young guards to let him go.

Toronto Raptors: Lock In This Core or Upgrade It?

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    The Toronto Raptors' need for depth is obvious. Just 17 players across the Association averaged 35-plus minutes this season (min. 48 games), and five of them were Raptors.

    What's less clear, though, is whether this club has enough top-shelf talent to chase a world title. The Raptors had a tremendous second half, but they were bounced out of the first round and suffered three of those four defeats by at least 15 points.

    If the front office thinks this core has enough, then this offseason offers an opportunity for a further buy-in. Both Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are eligible for contract extensions. While each is arguably deserving of an extension, handing them out could lock this organization into this nucleus for the foreseeable future.

    If Toronto decides an upgrade is needed, it could have the trade ammo to pursue something major. The Raptors, who want to improve their interior defense, are a logical landing spot for Rudy Gobert if (when?) the Utah Jazz shop him around.

Utah Jazz: The Degree of Change

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    Had the Utah Jazz won just one more game in the regular season, they would have posted their fourth consecutive campaign with a .600-plus winning percentage. However, they have just a single playoff series win to show for that stretch.

    Entering the postseason, this felt like Salt Lake City's last stand, and the Jazz were subsequently knocked down by a Dallas Mavericks team that played half of the series without Luka Doncic. It seems less a matter of whether change is coming to the Jazz and more about just how dramatic this makeover might be.

    Has Rudy Gobert played his last game for the Jazz? Does Donovan Mitchell demand a trade? Could both All-Stars be gone from next season's roster? Will Quin Snyder coach that team?

    Everything feels like it's up in the air at this point. So, it's not hyperbolic to suggest that no team will have a bigger influence on the league's balance of power this summer than the Jazz.

Washington Wizards: The Right Deal for Beal

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Bradley Beal can sign a five-year, $246 million deal with the Washington Wizards this summer and told reporters "it's fair" to assume he is leaning that direction. Washington sounds ready and willing to make that happen.

    Easy peasy, right? Of course not. The fact that this is what we're spotlighting kind of tipped that off, didn't it?

    Beal turns 29 this summer. Do the Wizards, who have missed the playoffs (five times) more than they've won a postseason series (three) during his 10-year tenure, want to pay him top dollar well into his 30s? He has posted some wild scoring numbers for them, but they have to yet to see him lead a great team and, frankly, haven't even been a good team since he was co-piloting the club with an in-prime John Wall.

    Speaking of that lack of team success, what evidence has Beal seen that it would change in the future? Does he really want to pin his championship hopes on Kristaps Porzingis finally staying healthy and players like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and Corey Kispert suddenly taking massive leaps?

    Obviously, the money is great, and Beal seems comfortable, so maybe that's enough for him. And he is a top-tier talent, so Washington could be correct in not wanting to rush him away. A max agreement is very much a possibility here, if not a probability. Still, there are reasons for each side to second-guess the arrangement between now and July.


    Statistics courtesy of and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Salary information via Spotrac.

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