Halfway through the NBA’s first round, we’ve officially passed that tipping point where more fan bases are now thinking about the off-season than about the next game. (Although, if you’re a Clippers fan, you may be doing both.)
After all, this is going to be a defining summer for the future of a few franchises. Will we finally see Lob City tossed in the trash? Will the Celtics take that big swing Danny Ainge has been saving up for? Are the Pacers headed for a rebuild? Can the Knicks possibly get any worse?
It’s a difficult time for GMs as salaries keep ballooning and players keep opting out of deals. The question everyone will be asking themselves this summer is: will this move help our future, or help us beat the Warriors or Cavaliers right now?
Luckily for the rest of the league, Golden State should be getting slightly weaker. Even if they re-sign impending free agent Steph Curry and Kevin Durant (who will likely opt out of his current deal), the burden of doing so will seriously impact their depth. But the Warriors will still remain a daunting powerhouse in the West, one that can’t simply be toppled by adding a Paul George or a Carmelo Anthony to either L.A. team.
The seemingly foregone conclusion that is the NBA Finals may make a team like Boston hesitant to make a move. It certainly did at this year’s trade deadline. Of course, we’ve yet to see how this year will play out. If the Celts give Cleveland a run in the East, perhaps they’ll enter the offseason thinking that one more piece will put them over the top. If they don’t mount a serious challenge for the conference title, they’ll have to strive for more major changes.
These are the things to keep in mind as we take our first look ahead to what the NBA offseason will hold: the next two months can greatly change how a team views itself. But as it stands today, here’s what we see the biggest names in the NBA doing this summer.
NBA 2017 Offseason Odds
Odds Steph Curry signs with …
- Golden State Warriors: 1/99
- Field: 99/1
Curry will almost certainly become the highest-paid player in the game this offseason. He can maximize his value by re-signing with Golden State, who can ink to to a five-year deal. Oh, the Warriors are also going to remain an awesome team that perennially contends for the title, so why leave that?
Odds Kevin Durant signs with …
- Golden State Warriors: 1/20
- Field: 20/1
Durant’s long-term future in Golden State is still murky, but it sounds like he will be re-upping with the Warriors at least for next year after opting out of this contract.
Odds Gordon Hayward signs with …
- Utah Jazz: 2/3
- Miami Heat: 6/1
- Boston Celtics: 8/1
- Indiana Pacers: 16/1
- Field: 9/1
Both the Pacers and Jazz are waiting intently to see the All-NBA Teams. If their respective stars make the list, it will put them in an even better bargaining position vis-a-vis other teams, as they’ll be able to offer Hayward and George “super max” contracts. For Utah, the extra money that comes from the Designated Player Exception (DPE) would put them over the top, but even without that boost, it’ll be hard for Hayward to walk away from the emerging Jazz.
Keep in mind though, Hayward is going to be the best forward on the open market (you heard me, Blake Griffin), so he’ll be wined and dined by the masses. Anything can happen when Pat Riley gets you in a room alone. (I didn’t mean for that to sound so gross.)
Odds Kyle Lowry signs with …
- Toronto Raptors: 1/4
- Philadelphia 76ers: 11/1
- Los Angeles Lakers: 20/1
- Field: 13/1
Toronto got a glimpse of life without Lowry late in the season, and it wasn’t bad: the team went 15-7 without the All-Star guard. But the Raptors have had such a difficult time attracting stars throughout their history that letting one go for no reason is probably not the best strategy, even if they find themselves falling short in the playoffs once again and itching for a change. The only hesitation the Raptors could have is on contract length, with the 31-year-old Lowry after a five-year max deal.
If Lowry does entertain other offers, going home to help a budding 76ers team could be an enticing one.
Odds Paul George is traded before the start of next season: 4/7
George wants to win a championship. If he doesn’t get the DPE, the middling Pacers won’t be able to set themselves apart from other bidders. The rumors began swirling this year that he would head for the Lakers come next offseason. That doesn’t really offer better title odds at the moment, but LA does have a brighter future than the Pacers, especially with George on the roster.
As we saw at this year’s trade deadline, getting a deal of this magnitude done during the season is a tall order. The second the draft order is decided, Larry Bird may start working the phones trying to reach a deal with the Celtics or Lakers.
Odds Carmelo Anthony is traded before the start of next season: 8/1
The Phil Jackson-Melo standoff is going to carry over into the offseason with neither side showing signs of backing down. Jackson was re-upped for two more years, while Anthony is off dealing with other personal issues, but seemed intent on staying in New York and outlasting Phil.
Things are so terrible with the Knicks right now, tell me this scenario doesn’t sound plausible: Jackson will reach some terrible Melo-for-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist deal with the Hornets; Melo will use his no-move clause to nix it; then, to spite Anthony for not being cooperative, Jackson will send Kristaps Porzingis out of town in the exact same deal.
Odds Blake Griffin re-signs with the Clippers: 4/3
The Clippers get their own section because they embody the definition of insanity: doing the exact same thing, year after year, and expecting different results. Something has to change with this team and the easiest way to shake things up is letting Griffin walk. He’s still an excellent player, but he’s spent far too much time on the sidelines over the past two seasons for a team that needs to win now.
Odds Chris Paul re-signs with the Clippers: 1/3
Poor CP3. He appears destined to join Dominique Wilkins as the best players to never even play for a conference championship, especially if his reported “verbal agreement” to return to the Clippers comes to fruition. C’mon man! Get out while you can. San Antonio is calling.
Odds the Clippers trade a major piece this offseason (Paul, Griffin, or DeAndre Jordan): 21/4
Los Angeles could retain all of its stars, but it could also re-up one for the purpose of a sign-and-trade. For a smaller market team like the Thunder, the Clippers’ ability to add an extra year to Griffin’s deal would be worth giving up an asset.
Odds Doc Rivers returns next season: 2/11
Doc’s already appealing to keep the core togher, but what good does the group staying together do if he’s not around? There were rumors of Rivers returning to Orlando, where he started his coaching career; but they’ve recently been poo-pooed. However, even if no other changes to the team are made, Steve Ballmer could go for a shake up in the coaching department. And if the Clippers do blow it up, would Doc want to come back?