“I think this summer is going to be the most pivotal time in N.B.A. history,” said Charles Barkley, Turner Sports’ Hall of Fame analyst. “It’s going to dictate the next five years.”
Marc Stein points out how the 2019 playoffs could have a major impact on player movements later on.
“Only 80 days away, remember, is the July 1 start of a free-agent frenzy that is bound to be strongly influenced by playoff results. The principals: Golden State’s Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins; Boston’s Kyrie Irving; Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard; Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris and [Jimmy] Butler; Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton; Charlotte’s Kemba Walker; and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic.”
The Zion Williamson effect
Whoever snags the consensus top pick Zion Williamson will tap a publicity goldmine for next season, regardless of how he actually performs on the court.
Any of the top five teams with greater than 10% odds, i.e. New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Chicago Bulls, or Atlanta Hawks, will instantly enjoy a merchandising nirvana due to the hype surrounding Zion’s charismatic appeal.
Since four out those five teams reside in the Eastern Conference, chances favor a shift of media attention from the west to the east coast teams.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo and Williamson as headliners in Miami’s conference, the Heat might struggle to recapture the hype of the “Big 3” era.
NBA teams with tough choices
The Anthony Davis situation remains in limbo as the New Orleans Pelicans trade demands await quality offers after July 1st . Whatever happens personnel changes will lead to ripple effects for the teams involved.
LeBron James wants action now. The departure of Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Luke Walton portend major moves in the City of Angels. The bidding for elite players to surround the King will be a high-stakes contest without a clear outcome at this time .
On California’s northern front the Golden State Warriors have to deal with keeping unrestricted free agents Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins. Rumors about Kevin Durant signing somewhere else continue to percolate, with even the Brooklyn Nets in the mix per the Stein article cited above.
“Ceaseless speculation about Durant’s potential free-agent defection to the Knicks or the Nets — yes, I’m indeed warning you now not to sleep on Brooklyn — has only added to Coach Steve Kerr’s daily challenge to keep his team focused.”
”According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, if the Sixers re-sign Butler and Harris to max contracts, then extend Ben Simmons next fall (not to mention impending free agent J.J. Redick), the Sixers’ total bill, with taxes, could be $500 million. Suffice to say, if the Sixers come up short of the Finals, it will be tough to justify keeping both Butler and Harris at top-dollar.”
Kyrie Irving’s future for the Boston Celtics remains in doubt, but another factor complicates matters: Boston has 3 first-round draft picks. How will the Celtics make room for them with Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart already on the roster?
The season’s end allows the Heat to enter the trade market and/or create cap space in order to possibly grab a disgruntled player, although some restrictions apply. The primary gotcha lies with the expiring contracts of players such as Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic.
“Players who have team or player options for 2018/19 [2019-20] can’t be traded before those option decisions are made.”
MAIN THING: first get the hardware, then reap the rewards
The Heat have won only one playoff series in the the last five years, so following the same path leads to the same results. Head coach Erik Spoelstra received zero votes as Coach of the Year for the past season despite his valiant efforts. Will he continue to accept subpar performances by his players as they fantasize about forming another Banana Boat crew, without the accolades to think about play instead of work (boys want to have fun)?
After their fourth season the original boater’s achievements included: Dwyane Wade 2X All-NBA, Chris Paul 2X All-NBA, LeBron James 3X All-NBA, Carmelo Anthony 2X All-NBA. Talk about reaching All-Star status is cheap.
The Heat’s lone draft pick (some possibilities for 13th choice) may not be enough to overcome the influx of talent as other teams have more turns at getting young talent this June: the Hawks have two top-10 picks, the Celtics three first-round picks, and the Nets two of them.
“With roughly a third of the league scheduled to be free agents, this has been a situation that has been developing for some time. There’s a lot of choppy waters between now and resolution.”
At first the summer of 2020 seemed like the best option for the Heat, though circumstances may have changed dramatically enough to steer the ship in a different direction.