By: Chris Choe
Oct. 18th is usually the day where the NBA free agency period starts but like everything else in the world, it’s being pushed back to a date that is still left to be determined. But that gives us fans more time to look at this year’s offseason and realize how much these contending teams can change heading into next season, for better or for worse. This article is here to discuss the top three playoff teams in each conference who have the most to gain or to lose before the 2020-2021 NBA season.
The Miami Heat have been one of the better surprises that we got this year as they exceeded all expectations and showed the world that they are a legitimate title contender. The team has a nice balance between young stars that could help carry the team one day and productive veterans that can still help win big games, plus they are under lock for at least the next season. So this offseason isn’t significant for Miami as they won’t gain or lose much from it, besides possibly losing Goran Dragic to free agency. But there is one thing that they need to think about during this period. The Heat has been mentioned recently as one of the teams that are favourites to get Giannis Antetokounmpo very soon and they are reportedly going “all-in” for the two-time MVP in 2021. The only thing Miami can do right now is to wait with the core that they have right now and pray that Giannis doesn’t re-sign with the Bucks next year.
It was a very disappointing season for the 76ers as the injury curse still lingers on in Philadelphia and in this offseason, it should be time for them to discuss whether or not the process is working anymore. Doc Rivers becoming the new head coach hasn’t reinvigorated fans’ enthusiasm for the team and rumours of the team’s dysfunctionality continue to surface, so it’s becoming more and more unreasonable for the 76ers to keep the same squad together if they want to win a championship. Now more rumours are occurring that involve Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid in trade talks. If the 76ers are really looking to trade their best duo away, should they look to get rid of either Simmons or Embiid?
Yet another team from the east fails to reach their potential this year as Milwaukee fell to Miami in five games in the second round. The 2020 season looked like it was the Bucks’ best chance to reach the finals so far but things just didn’t go right for them and now the league is questioning Giannis Antetokounmpo’s loyalty to Milwaukee. With Giannis’ contract expiring in 2021, the Bucks need to load up for next season and go for the title immediately. Signing good players in free agency is gonna be tough for them with their limited cap space so trading players is their only option, but who can they trade? Should they really trade Khris Middleton or Brook Lopez? Can they really get something better in return? And if so, is it gonna be enough to make Giannis stay?
Denver has shown the world that they are a problem that can be even harder to solve in the next few years. This is still a relatively young squad with enough talent on the team that can be used as an attraction or as trading pieces for another superstar. The foundation for a championship team is there and Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are a great duo, as we’ve seen in this post-season, but what can they do now? The Nuggets could run it back with the same squad and hope for the best, they could look into free agency to improve their bench, or they can look to trade some of their players for possible superstars who are supposedly unhappy in their current situation, like Giannis Antetokounmpo. The possibilities are endless when it comes to this young and rising Denver team and one right move this offseason can make them NBA Champions next season.
In a confusing but interesting season for the Houston Rockets, they have fallen short yet again in the playoffs. The “small-ball lineup” experiment failed and now with the absence of head coach Mike D’Antoni and general manager Daryl Morey, this Rockets team can now look to make some new changes yet again. Houston doesn’t have a lot of flexibility to make any major roster changes that can get them over the hump. With the expensive contracts that they have, the most they can do right now is to trade away everybody besides James Harden, including Russell Westbrook. Although this duo was only assembled a year ago, the two have shown signs that their playstyles are incompatible when it comes to winning a title. If Houston still wants to win a championship with Harden in his prime, they might have split this duo up sooner than later.
Los Angeles Lakers
Ending it off, the new world champions of the NBA have a lot to think about this offseason. They can have a sigh of relief as it is confident to say at this point that Anthony Davis will re-sign with the team soon, but the same can’t be said about the rest of the team’s supporting cast. Many players from the Lakers’ bench are on the market like Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope just to name a few. These players were valuable members of the Lakers’ run to the championship but now these players have interests from other teams and if they choose to leave, it will make their chances at a repeat very slim. Now the question for the Lakers is are you gonna give all your money for your backups, most of whom are over the age of 30, or are you gonna let them walk and hope to find new and adequate replacements in free agency?