The 2019-20 NBA season has come to an end, with the Los Angeles Lakers claiming their 17th championship. Though the coronavirus cut the campaign short in March, the league eventually resumed play inside their bubble complex near Orlando, Florida.
So what’s next for NBA fans? In this piece, we’ll take a look at six of the top storylines heading into the 2020 offseason.
6. The draft
For aspiring young prospects around the globe, the NBA Draft is one of the biggest moments of their lives. Teams around the league will be looking for talent that might bolster their respective rosters, and these players will be waiting to hear their names called.
The 2020 NBA draft is set for November 18, 2020. The event was originally scheduled to be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but it will now take place at ESPN’s facilities in Bristol, Connecticut — a decision that was made with respect to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Three prospects, in particular, have seen their stock rise in recent months. As of now, the general consensus is that Georgia’s Anthony Edwards will be taken with the No. 1 overall pick, which belongs to the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, there is also an argument to be made for LaMelo Ball, who spent last season playing with the Illawarra Hawks in Australia. Dayton’s Obi Toppin is another top prospect who’s seen his name in several shining headlines. And let’s not forget Memphis big man James Wiseman.
This will be an interesting draft, to be sure. The Golden State Warriors finished with a 15-50 overall record in 2019-20, which was the worst mark in the league. As a result, they hold the No. 2 pick. Will The Dubs stand pat with Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson returning from injuries?
The Charlotte Hornets have the No. 3 pick, while the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers round out the top five selections. Most of these teams could use a franchise-changing sort of player. Let’s see how the proverbial cards fall.
5. Anthony Davis
The Brow is coming off of his first NBA championship — a 4-2 victory over the Miami Heat in the bubble. Most experts think Davis will return to the Lakers for another go, but there has been some speculation. Will he prefer a short-term deal, or will he be looking to stay with the Lake Show for the long haul?
Davis declined a reported four-year, $146 million contract extension from the Lakers back in January. This decline did not come as a surprise, as the former Kentucky Wildcat previously noted that he wanted to become a free agent.
The overwhelming majority of experts believe Davis will re-sign with Los Angeles this offseason, but what might his contract offer look like?
The Lakers can offer him a five-year, $202 million contract this summer—an increase of $56 million. Davis could also sign a two-year contract with an option for a third season and then become a free agent in 2022 after he’s accrued 10 years of NBA service. He would then be eligible to sign a contract for 35 percent of the salary cap.
With averages of 27.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in the playoffs, Davis was a key player in the Lakers’ 17th championship. Let’s see what sort of offer he receives.
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Greek Freak is another hot topic for this offseason. Without a doubt, he’s the spark that drives the Milwaukee Bucks. Will he hold off on signing a supermax contract extension, or will he take it when it’s offered?
At 56-17, the Bucks posted the best record in the NBA for a second consecutive regular season. Despite this strong showing, Milwaukee once again fell short in the playoffs, losing to the Miami Heat in a second round series that went five games.
Antetokounmpo has said that he wants to build a culture in Milwaukee for years to come, but he hasn’t shed much light on a potential five-year, $220 million extension:
“Hopefully, we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years [and] come out here and compete every single year for a championship,” Antetokounmpo said, via ESPN.
Like Anthony Davis, most experts are expecting Giannis to stay with his current team. The four-time All-Star becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021, so he does have another year to make a decision.
3. Shifting stars
Will we see key players changing uniforms this offseason? Perhaps, but who might it be? Guys like Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Chris Paul and Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo are being viewed as top trade targets for this offseason.
Paul joined the Thunder prior to the start of this season as part of a trade with the Rockets — the same deal that sent Russell Westbrook to Houston. Though he enjoyed a fine season, Oklahoma City never seemed like a final destination for CP3.
He’ll be a hot commodity on the market, as he turned in averages of 17.6 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.0 rebounds per game, earning All-Star honors for the first time since 2015-16. Furthermore, he led OKC to the postseason with a 44-28 record. However, he is owed more than $41 million in 2020-21 and more than $44 million in 2021-22, which makes him one of the most difficult-to-trade players in the league.
“To the team, to Sam Presti, Billy Donovan, the training staff, everybody man, and coming there obviously a lot of people tried to count us out, counted me out, and all I can say is, I’ll never forget it, Paul said at the end of this season, via hoopshabit.com. “Never forget it. … I don’t know what the future holds, but what I can say is that this team, I think I made some connections and bonds with these guys that’ll last a lifetime.”
Was that a thank you or a goodbye from CP3? Either way, we’ll have to wait and see where he’ll be playing in the coming season.
Oladipo is another player whose heard his name tossed about in trade rumors as of late. The former No. 2 overall pick played just 13 games for the Pacers in 2019-20 after missing much of the season rehabbing a ruptured quadriceps tendon. All in all, though, he’s been a star for Indiana. There will likely be several teams interested in his services — if he becomes available.
Some, including Jared Weiss of The Athletic, have reported that Dipo might be interested in moving on from the Pacers this offseason. He’s under contract next season at $21 million, but his unrestricted status in 2021 looms large for the organization.
2. Free agency
The 2020 free agent market is not loaded with stars, but there are a few notable names in the mix. Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has proven to be an efficient scorer and floor general. He becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and most experts feel that he will command a decent contract. VanVleet could stay with the Raptors, but there are a few interesting teams that he could jump to.
Two other players must be noted in the 2020 free agency discussion: Miami Heat point guard Goran Dragic and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari. Dragic is expected to re-sign with the Heat, who fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals. Gallinari, on the other hand, could be a player that signs with a new team.
According to a report from Quenton Albertie of SLAM, Gallo might be looking to play for a contender. Will Oklahoma City move both CP3 and Gallinari in a rebuilding effort?
1. Luxury tax and a new season
Teams around the NBA are still awaiting a final word with regards to the luxury tax threshold for the coming season. The outbreak of COVID-19 and the bubble campaign that ensued in this season will likely have an impact on the total number for the 2020-21 campaign. More information should come between now and the Nov. 18 draft.
The most likely outcome right now is an agreement that keeps the salary cap artificially inflated, most likely at the same level it was during the 2019-20 season ($109 million per team). This would mitigate a bear market in free agency and prevent teams from facing huge unexpected luxury tax payments that would come with a steep cap drop.
As of right now, it’s not clear when the 2020-21 season will begin, as no official date has been set by the NBA. An initial date of Dec. 1 was set when teams resumed play in the bubble, but that proposal went out the window fairly quickly.
Dec. 25 was the next date that was set, but it’s seeming more and more unlikely as well. NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently told CNN that his “best guess” was that the season wouldn’t start until 2021. Even still, it could be pushed back to a later date.
Just keep in mind that the 2019-20 season was the longest in league history, and the players will need a bit of downtime.