10 pressing questions facing NBA this offseason
With the NBA regular season and postseason now in the books, attention can turn to the offseason.
From the draft and free agency this month to trades and Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, here are questions that will dominate the summer — and possibly beyond, depending on how long they take to get answered:
The Trail Blazers star has denied reports that he’s demanded to be dealt. General manager Neil Olshey said the existing roster isn’t the problem — sounding as if he will settle for tweaking the edges. But will that be enough to keep Lillard happy? Everybody from the Knicks to the Warriors to the Lakers is watching, with the Rockets reportedly the most active in pursuing Lillard.
What will happen with Bradley Beal?
Another potential star on the move, Beal is heading into the final guaranteed year on his deal with the Wizards and can opt out after this upcoming season. Can Washington GM Tommy Sheppard extend Beal, who The Athletic reports is at the top of the wish list for the draft capital-rich Warriors?
What will Chris Paul decide?
We just saw the surefire Hall of Famer score 26 points for the Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the closest he has come to a title. At 36 years old, he said: “I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s out. So, back to work.” But where? He has a $44.2 million player option for next year, and tons of suitors if he decides to leave Phoenix.
What will the Lakers do?
And what will the Lakers (one of the suitors for Paul) look like in Year 4 of King James’ reign? In Year 2, Anthony Davis arrived, and the Lakers won a title. In Year 3, injuries led to a first-round playoff exit. With up to 11 free agents — including Dennis Schroder — the Lakers will be looking for a high-end point guard. Will it be Paul or Russell Westbrook? Or someone more like Patty Mills, Goran Dragic or the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie, a Los Angeles native?
Will Kawhi Leonard stay with the Clippers?
He had surgery on a partially torn ACL and it’s unclear how much of next season he’ll miss, or even where he’ll play. Leonard has a player option and could become an unrestricted free agent, something he said back in December would be the best decision “if I’m healthy.” That wouldn’t guarantee he’s leaving L.A., but if he does it would be seismic.
Will the Warriors make a big trade?
They couldn’t make the playoffs even with Stephen Curry playing like an MVP. With Klay Thompson back, will they use their Nos. 7 and 14 picks — along with Andrew Wiggins and/or James Wiseman — to pursue Beal or Lillard? The Athletic doubts Lillard, an Oakland, Calif., native, wants to go back to the Bay.
Will the 76ers break up the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons combo?
Philadelphia could deal Simmons and his nonexistent jumper. If they do, what kind of package could team president Daryl Morey get? If you thought the Chinese were mad at Morey after his Hong Kong tweet, wait until you see 76ers fans if he gets fleeced in a trade.
Who will try to turbocharge their rebuilding?
After years of the usual suspects playing for an NBA title, Milwaukee and Phoenix crashed the Finals party. Teams like the Suns and Hawks jumped from the lottery into the NBA Finals and conference finals, respectively, by adding vets to rising young cores. Can another team do the same in 2022? Would adding a veteran to Ja Morant in Memphis, Zion Williamson in New Orleans, LaMelo Ball in Charlotte, De’Aaron Fox in Sacramento or even Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell in Minnesota do the trick?
What will Team USA’s month look like?
COVID-19 cases spiked in Japan to the point that as recently as this week, the head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee wouldn’t rule out canceling the Games. Team USA is shorthanded and lost not one, but two, tune-up games in Las Vegas, with Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker not arriving until after the NBA Finals. There’s a chance this could be an unusually bumpy ride, even if nobody else gets hurt or catches the coronavirus.
Who will make a draft-day deal?
Even if there’s no can’t-miss No. 1 like Williamson or Tim Duncan, there will be plenty of intrigue next week at Barclays Center. Sure, all eyes will be on whether the Warriors package their picks for a star. But the Rockets — who have been actively pursuing Beal — also have three first-rounders and have reportedly fielded dozens of calls over the past couple of weeks for Nos. 23 and 24.