The unprecedented, literally year-long NBA season ended with a boom in the form of the Los Angeles Lakers capturing their first championship since 2010. Even with the 19-20 season finally over, there will be very little rest for the weary because the NBA offseason is rapidly approaching, albeit a bit more slowly than in a typical year. Though we don’t know when the regular season will officially start, there’s still a lot of excitement to see what moves teams will make in the draft and free agency and through trades. The coaching carousel is in full swing as well. Five coaching jobs remain available in the Rockets, Pelicans, Pacers, Clippers and Thunder.
The 2021 offseason has way more obvious firepower with a deep pool of superstar free agents, but the 2020 edition will be intriguing in its own right due to the nuances of how teams maneuver ahead of that more momentous class.
The right move could win it all. Just ask the Lakers who swung the NBA championship pendulum in their favor after acquiring Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Decision Will Have Ripple Effects Across the League
As the reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s looming free agency status will be the premier story this offseason. Though he won’t be a free agent until 2021, Antetokounmpo’s decision to either agree to a super-max contract extension or decline could signal the early stages of his exit from the Milwaukee Bucks. Antetokounmpo’s name has been connected to numerous teams including the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and most recently the Dallas Mavericks.
For his part, Antetokounmpo has said he won't request a trade and sees himself with the Bucks "as long as everybody's fighting for the same thing." The Bucks, meanwhile, have been adamant that they won't consider trading Antetokounmpo if he declines the supermax.
When superstars potentially change teams, the tectonic plates of the NBA shift drastically. A change of scenery for Antetokounmpo would be an epic story for the future of the league and will surely bring on the amateur photoshops. If Antetokounmpo surprises the masses, it will be on to the less than stellar free agency class highlighted by Fred VanVleet, Danilo Gallinari and Montrezl Harrell.
2. Will the Clippers Stand Pat or Make a Move?
After the most disappointing playoff exit for any team this season, the Los Angeles Clippers are back to the drawing board. First, they are in the process of bringing in a new coach after letting go of Doc Rivers. Montrezl Harrell tops the Clippers' short list of free agents. A bad run in the playoffs leaves some doubt as to whether Harrell will receive premium contract offers, and a solid showing from Ivica Zubac this season might have made Harrell redundant for the Clippers. Starter Marcus Morris is also a free agent that will likely have a few suitors. Reserve JaMychal Green holds a player option for just over $5 million next season.
After their second round loss to the Denver Nuggets, the vibes were not good. We know Kawhi Leonard and (likely) Paul George will be back, but all bets are off for a Clippers' front office that is not afraid to pivot as they did in the summer of 2017 with the Chris Paul sign-and-trade, the January 2018 Blake Griffin trade, and the 2019 trade of Tobias Harris.
3. The Heat Will Be Looming As a Potential Free Agent Destination
Before the Bubble, Miami was a nice story. They were a good team seen as likely to make a playoff series competitive with conference favorites the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
Then the Bubble happened. The fifth-seed Heat stunned the league with playoff series wins against the Bucks and Boston Celtics. After a valiant NBA Finals loss against the Lakers, the Heat’s free agent profile is at an all-time high. With a two-way superstar in Jimmy Butler, an adaptable ace in Bam Adebayo, and defense-bending shooters in Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, the Heat have a nice nucleus.
Miami has two significant free agents this offseason in starters Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder. Expect the Heat to negotiate sizable one-year deals or one and one deals with a team option in the second year. The next domino will be Adebayo. He’s eligible for a rookie contract extension this offseason. Adebayo and the Heat can share two winks and hold off on an extension and re-sign in summer of 2021 (or whenever the next offseason will take place). If Adebayo waits, the Heat will have the max salary cap space to pursue a third superstar.
4. Where Will Victor Oladipo Be by the Start of Next Season?
One of the more intriguing, but also challenging to read situations is Victor Oladipo. The two-time All-Star seems to want a trade from the Indiana Pacers, but so many questions still remain. Is he fully healthy? Can he reclaim his place as one of the best two-way players in the NBA? Is he looking for a max contract?
If the Pacers can’t satisfy Oladipo, it only makes sense to trade him before his contract expires after the 20-21 season. Oladipo’s name will always be tied to the Heat due to the fact that he lives in Miami during the offseason and holds a close friendship with “Heat Lifer” Dwyane Wade. Oladipo’s name has been linked to the New York Knicks as well.
In Oladipo’s return to the Pacers from surgery on his quad, his performance was inconsistent. He struggled shooting throughout his return in the middle of the regular season. Those errant shots continued in the Bubble. Indiana’s offense was generally better when Oladipo was off the floor throughout the course of the season. Teams will only want to commit to Oladipo if they know he can return somewhere close to what he was pre-injury.
5. What the Golden State Warriors Do in the Draft Will Dictate Their Offseason
The Warriors have the number two overall pick in the draft in the NBA Draft on November 18. Will they take center James Wiseman from Memphis? Or will they go for a wing and draft Anthony Edwards if Minnesota passes on him? Will they eschew the draft and deal the pick for some veteran help?
No matter what decision is made, as long as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are healthy, Golden State should return to title contention. The difference in the team being very good and contending for a championship will be in what they do with the rest of the roster. Golden State’s supporting cast is super thin.
Armed with the taxpayer mid-level exception and a $17.2 million trade exception, the Warriors will need to make shrewd moves to find the complementary players that can live up to previous players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, and return themselves to the upper crust of the Association.