The Golden State Warriors won the 2022 NBA championship, their fourth title in eight years. It would seem like a good time to take a breather, but the NBA isn’t stopping these days. Draft – Thursday, June 23rd, andat 18:00 June 30.
To be honest, it feels like the Warriors title is outdated. Now it’s about looking ahead as the rosters in the league are about to change. So let’s get started. Here are 10 big storylines to keep an eye on as we enter NBA summer.
1. Will the Lakers Trade Westbrook?
The Lakers have a new coach in Darwin Ham, but they still have an old problem in Russell Westbrook, whohis $47.1 million contract. In Los Angeles, and anywhere else, for that matter, Westbrook’s problems can’t be avoided. Some people who are smarter than you will always try to convince Westbrook that this is just a role-playing issue that can still thrive with an offense focused on his strengths. This is extremely false.
Can Westbrook still put up big numbers if some team dumb enough just passes him the ball and says do what you want? Of course. But this team will stink. Next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, you can’t reasonably get the ball into Westbrook’s hands, and he can’t take the floor as one of the worst positional shooters in history. Save your “he can cut!” It won’t happen and you won’t be able to survive on a transition diet.
So the Lakers need to get rid of him, plain and simple. Whether they will is another story. In theory, Westbrook with an expiring contract should have some value for a team that isn’t trying to win next season and could use an additional draft pick, but the Lakers certainly say they won’t give up the first. round choice as Westbrook tax. Let’s see if they stick to it.
2. Nets finished with Kyrie Irving?
On Monday,that contract negotiations between Irving and the Nets “have stalled”, which “clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open market”.
Irving has a player option for $36.9 million. If he doesn’t pick it up by June 29, he will become a free agent. And here we go… The Lakers are among the three teams listed by Charania as potential suitors for Irving to become available. The other two are the Knicks and the Clippers.
The Lakers and Clippers will require Irving to agree and then trade him for a matching salary as they are unable to clear the ceiling space needed to sign Irving outright. The Knicks could clear the space if they wanted to go that route.
The Lakers may bring in a third team for Russell Westbrook to facilitate a deal with Irving. The Clippers have players the Nets might need (Robert Covington, Norman Powell). I think the Heat are a team to watch. Will Miami be willing to deal with all of Irving’s drama and uncertainty? And where is the Heath behind closed doors, eventually trading for Bradley Beal?
Dallas and New Orleans also seem to me to be teams that are interested in a trade for Irving.
Obviously, keep a close eye on this story.
3. Who gets the maximum rookie expansion?
Ja Morant is the castle to get the most out of Memphis. Darius Garland needs to be around to get the most out of Cleveland; he was an All-Star in his third season. After that, there are four players from the 2019 draft class with a chance at maximum expansion: Zion Williamson (New Orleans), R.J. Barrett (Knix), Tyler Herro (Miami) and Jordan Poole (Golden State). From the class of 2018, Anferny Simons, DeAndre Ayton (who we’ll talk more about later in this article), Miles Bridges, and Jalen Brunson may be in line for the maximum expansion, or something close to it.
Seemingly close to the castle is the fact that the Pelicans would offer a maximum extension to Williamson, who said he would sign such an offer in the blink of an eye…because why not? The catch could be that New Orleans might not want to guarantee this entire contract as a precaution against Williamson’s already long and troubling injury history.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst had this to say at the end of May:
“From what I’ve been told, the Pelicans are currently unwilling to offer a full five-year guaranteed deal. And a lot of this stems from ownership. Gail Benson, owner, is also a New Orleans Saints. And I was told that they were going to use the football style, the Saints style mentality when signing the contract. They will offer him a huge contract, but they won’t guarantee it all.”
Williamson is eligible to sign up to $195 million, which could top $200 million if he makes the All-NBA team next season, but Windhorst has mentioned $100 million as a figure New Orleans can guarantee. The 76ers did it with Joel Embiid, who was also considered a major injury risk early in his career. Embiid was supposed to meet certain requirements for the number of minutes played to get all his money.
As for Barrett, he played very well throughout the season, but he was terrible in his only playoff series and was a prolific scorer for the most part. The Knicks could wait and see how the Suns did with Ayton. If they don’t sign Barrett to an extension by October, they could still match any offer he gets as a restricted free agent next summer.
As for Poole, Erro and Simons, it’s a matter of defense. Pat Riley,and his spokesman, said the following at his end-of-season press conference: “The next step for [Herro] – and I think we’re seeing that in the league – if you want to win a championship and be in the starting lineup, you really need to be a two-way player today.”
In other words, Riley won’t even agree to Herro being a Heat starter, let alone giving him a maximum contract extension worth nearly $190 million, because Herro only plays one end of the court at the moment. That could very well be tripled for Poole, the Warriors, Simons and the Blazers.
Poole, Herro and Simons can be great offensive scorers/creators, but according to Riley, we’re increasingly seeing in the playoffs how damaging bad defensemen can be. Gary Payton II jumped out of the Pool rotation from time to time purely for defensive reasons. It would be interesting if Eric Spoelstra closed out with Herro in a tight conference final game if he was healthy.
For all of Kyle Lowry’s offensive losses, he remains a defender who can carry his weight, meaning he won’t be a target, and that could be worth more than a guy who can shoot in a league that isn’t playing. There’s definitely not enough one-sided getters, especially if that getter cost you nearly $200 million and spent much of last season coming off the bench, as Herro and Pool did, and Simons before McCollum. Trade/Lillard injury. We’ll see.
4. Are Mitchell and Gobert getting a divorce?
It feels like the end of the Jazz Age is near. When Quin Snyder retired, Donovan Mitchell wason what it “means for the future of the franchise”. There have been several reports regarding growing speculation, whatever that means, around the league that Mitchell may prefer a bigger market than Utah.
Mitchell signed a contract for the next three years worth over $97 million. But we know that contracts are of minimal importance these days. If a star wants to leave, he usually leaves. If the Jazz didn’t feel like they were at the top with this list, my guess is that Mitchell’s push for a bigger market, though perhaps still true, wouldn’t be such a factor. But it seems that jazz has surpassed all expectations.
Gobert seems like the more likely guy to get traded, but Mitchell would probably make a bigger profit. I’m not sure what must be the case. Gobert is often criticized for his alleged inability to defend smaller lineups, but this is overstated. Defense under the basket and rebounds are still big parts of the championship equation, and he’s doing well on the perimeter.
Where Gobert is a problem is in offense where he can’t penalize teams that play small and therefore has to defend him with the small guys. He is an excellent roller and an elite screener, both of which contribute greatly to an elite offense. It’s just an individual crime. It’s not there. But everything else about Gobert is elite. Arm him with a decent group of perimeter defenders who can at least get the job done by keeping the drivers ahead and not making them constantly roll over, and Gobert will provide you with championship protection.
But Utah isn’t built that way, and again, it looks like the beginning of the end. Will the trade take place during the draft, closer to the season or at the deadline? Jazz CEO Danny Ainge, the infamous one-way dealer, and general manager Justin Zanik aren’t in any rush to take any action. But to say that this is something worth seeing would be an understatement. Utah is among the top teams that could change drastically in a few months.
5. Will the Blazers trade the seventh spade?
The Trail Blazers lost their second lottery pick as the Pelicans made it to the playoffs, with their own tank work earning them only the seventh pick. They hoped for better than that. But that’s what they have, and most people would be very surprised if they didn’t wrap this gift and send it in exchange for a player that might push them closer to the Challenger conversation.
John Collins from Atlanta was mentioned. Jerami Grant. Signing and trading with Phoenix for Ayton seems unlikely. Portland needs protection on…