It’s where teams begin to formulate their aspiring successes, whether it be in the short term or with an eye to the long term, perhaps both.
This year’s off-season seems even more important though given the frantic nature of what’s about to transpire. The draft will take place next week on the 18th whilst free agency will likely begin just a couple of days later.
It’s a crammed process given training camps are likely to begin at the start of next month, and the beginning of the 2020-21 season slated for December 22 which is not confirmed but looking very likely.
With so much to come over the next month and beyond, let’s take a look at five of the most intriguing franchises ahead of this period.
New Orleans Pelicans – With no genuine stars seemingly in legitimate trade discussions, Jrue Holiday may be the best player currently under contract who may be available to a team in contention.
Boston Celtics – Do they keep Gordon Hayward and his massive contract assuming he opts in? Don’t rule out Hayward himself opting out to secure a longer-term deal elsewhere.
Utah Jazz – Center Rudy Gobert is eligible for a monumental pay day next off-season, something the Jazz front office may not be so keen to take on. Could they trade him, or veteran point guard Mike Conley to help upgrade the roster around Donovan Mitchell?
Dallas Mavericks – Could they acquire a third star to join Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis?
Washington Wizards – Although it seems unlikely at this point, do the Wizards pull the trigger on a Bradley Beal trade? Such a move could shake up championship favouritism depending on his landing spot.
5. Indiana Pacers
Although the Pacers themselves aren’t overly intriguing given their lack of superstar power, they do have a couple of very good players who could become available to contending teams. Although the jury is still out on whether Victor Oladipo can return to career best form, he and his expiring contract could be a great third option for a contender, namely both the LA teams and the Milwaukee Bucks.
It also seems like an eternity since question marks first rose on the ability for big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner to co-exist in the same line-up. Is this the time they finally pull the trigger on Turner and send him to a team requiring greater interior defence and outside shooting at the center position?
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Speaking of the Bucks, it may be their biggest off-season in many a year. After falling short again in the playoffs, they simply need to find more success in order to convince their back to back MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, to stay long term, assuming he doesn’t sign the supermax contract before the beginning of the season.
Although it’s hard to envisage them acquiring another superstar, they need to at least find an upgrade in the backcourt. Wesley Matthews is now an aging veteran whilst their decision to prioritise Eric Bledsoe over Malcolm Brogdon last off-season will continue to haunt them. Oladipo or Chris Paul should be major targets with a Finals appearance simply a must next season.
3. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets seem to be right in the sweet spot with two young stars, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, beginning to enter their prime. Although they made the Western Conference Finals last season, let’s not forget they were required to make an historic 3-1 comeback twice in order to get there.
This team needs a third star and although many in the Nuggets organization believe Michael Porter Junior can become that, he’s still a few years away. Holiday, Oladipo or Beal seem perfect fits for the Nuggets to partner with Murray in the backcourt.
Is there a way they could pry Holiday or Oladipo out of their respective teams without giving up Porter Jnr? This would be their ideal result, whilst any proposed trade for Beal would have to include Porter Jnr and other significant assets.
2. Brooklyn Nets
On paper this looks like a roster more than capable of winning at least one, if not multiple championships. In reality, it could be an unmitigated disastrous train wreck. It will be interesting to see whether Brooklyn’s off-season moves are more focused on what new coach Steve Nash wants, or what superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving want. If you don’t believe the latter have significant influence, just look at the fact that the organization signed DeAndre Jordan for four years and that despite the clear upside of Jarratt Allen over him, there’s still question marks surrounding who should be starting.
If Irving and Durant were to get their way, look for Allan and rising star Caris LaVert to perhaps be on the move in order to acquire more experienced talent. A trade involving LaVert and Holiday seems to make sense given both franchises respective timelines. The Nets are clearly in championship mode and could do with Holiday’s experience, whilst the Pelicans may see LaVert as another young piece alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.
1. Golden State Warriors
It’s very rare to see a team hold such a high draft pick whilst also being in championship consideration heading into next season. The Warriors currently hold the second overall pick after a dismal 19-20 season without the greatest shooting backcourt of all time – Klay Thompson (no games) and Stephen Curry (five games). With those two set to return fit and healthy, the Dubs will be looking to add their fourth championship over the past seven seasons.
It leaves them in an intriguing position as to what they do with the pick - take a young player whom they hope can help sustain this success for the next decade, or trade it for someone who can better help them win another championship in the short-term. The remainder of their roster also needs an overhaul to increase their depth coming off the bench. Can they convince veterans, who may otherwise be worth greater money, to take the mid-level exception or the minimum to chase a championship ring?
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