Top storylines heading into NBA offseason

By Vincent Frank
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Now that a hard fought 2019 NBA Finals is over with the Toronto Raptors being crowned as first ever champions, the Association moves on to what promises to be an active offseason.

How will the situation play out with injured Warriors stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson? Will Kawhi Leonard actually bolt Toronto after leading the Raptors to a title?

Meanwhile, a whole host of teams are in on New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. That includes a Los Angeles Lakers squad coming off a disastrous 2018-19 season.

These are among the top-10 storylines heading into one of the most-important NBA offseasons in recent history.

The Boston Celtics’ future

How exactly is Celtics general manager Danny Ainge going to navigate through what promises to be a franchise-altering offseason? The future of impending free agent Kyrie Irving is obviously the largest question here. Though, Boston won’t know anything about his ultimate decision until July.

That’s where the quandary starts for these Celtics. Will Boston offer up the farm for Anthony Davis while not knowing Irving’s decision? Would it make sense to use all of those assets should Irving depart in free agency? So many questions. Yet, so few answers.

The Memphis Grizzlies

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Memphis will draft Murray State guard Ja Morant at No. 2 overall. That’s changed a bit in recent days. Memphis attempted to seek a workout with R.J. Barrett. He declined. Morant then decided to take a visit with the Knicks, selecting at No. 3 overall. Does this mean Memphis has something else in the cards with the second pick?

A larger NBA-wide question is the imminent trade of Mike Conley. Coming off a career-best performance, the point guard is clearly on the block. Among the teams interested, the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics have been bandied about the most. Boston would be an intriguing potential destination should it lose Irving in free agency.

Will the Lakers swing and miss?

LeBron James has reportedly been concerned that the drama in Los Angeles could impact these Lakers and their ability to land top-end free agents. It’s a pretty big concern, especially with Kawhi Leonard potentially set to return to Toronto and Kyrie Irving leaning more towards Brooklyn.

On the other hand, Los Angeles has been active on the trade block. Adding Anthony Davis in a blockbuster move would change everything. That move alone could be enough for Los Angeles to compete out west given the Warriors’ massive injury concerns.

Improvement in Philadelphia

Fresh off a disappointing end to the playoffs in the second round, the process in Philadelphia now has to mean title contention moving forward. At issue here is free agency. The Sixers boast two of the top-10 impending free agents in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. It’s in no way a guarantee that either returns next season. Given the assets general manager Elton Brand gave up for both last season, that’s an issue.

Even if the Sixers were to retain both, they still have to find improvements up and down the roster to be considered top-end contenders. That includes finding a backup point guard, a solid backup center and someone who can shoot off the bench. Short of this, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid just aren’t enough back east.

Kevin Durant and the Warriors

The NBA Finals were devastating on one front for the five-time defending Western Conference champs. Losing the series is one thing. Losing two star players to injuries that could cost each the 2019-20 season is another thing. Kevin Durant (ruptured Achilles) and Klay Thompson (torn ACL) face long roads back. For a Warriors team that’s not in a great cap situation, this limits off-season options. It could also lead to next season being one of big time struggles in San Francisco.

The micro is now lost on us either. Both Durant and Thompson are slated to hit free agency in a couple weeks. How will their injuries impact said free agency? Will the Warriors still offer each player a max? There’s so many questions all-around after a devastating final two games of the Finals.

The Toronto Raptors, with or without Kawhi Leonard

There’s a train of thought out there that includes the Raptors still being able to contend without Leonard in the mix. After seeing how he performed in the NBA Finals, that really does seem far-fetched. Leonard’s presence in the roster opens everything up for other players. There’s a reason why he’s now the most highly-sought free agent this summer. He’s a true difference-maker.

For Leonard, it’s simple. He’s captivated a fan base and a nation. Will one of the game’s best players give that up for the bright lights of New York City or Los Angeles? We’re not too sure. What we do know is that Toronto would still be in good hands down the road with rising star Pacal Siakam and the other pieces it has on board.

A shake up in Houston

Once news broke that the Rockets were looking to blow things up, we thought it would be fun to look at potential James Harden trades. While that’s highly unlikely to happen, pretty much everyone else on Houston’s underperforming roster seems to be fair game. The team’s owner is not happy after its most recent-playoff failure. Heck, head coach Mike D’Antoni has not been given long-term security.

From a roster standpoint, we’re expecting both Chris Paul and Clint Capela to be moved. Given his bloated contract, age and regression, Paul might be a difficult sell. We’re also openly wondering whether the injuries in Golden State now changes what Houston plans to do this offseason. It could potentially keep the band together for one final run.

The Brooklyn Nets summer to shine

Kyrie Irving to the Nets already seems to be a done deal. They are seen as the odds-on favorites to land the NBA champion. Irving’s recent decision to move on from his agent for Roc Nation only adds to that. Led by Jay-Z and others, this agency is linked more to Brooklyn than any other team. In fact, he’s a former part owner of the organization.

Whether Irving actually lands in Brooklyn will play a large role in what the Nets do with the remainder of their cap space. They apparently like the idea of teaming Irving up with first-time All-Star and restricted free agent D’Angelo Russlell in the backcourt. If not, Brooklyn could add a second max-contract player. It has been linked heavily to Jimmy Butler. Expect big things from this up-and-coming franchise over the next several weeks.

The New York Knicks

New York was seemingly odds on favorites to land both Durant and Irving in free agency. Once Durant went down to injury and Irving found himself linked more to Brooklyn, that was all thrown for a loop. We do know that the Knicks are going all in this summer. If not Durant and Irving, they plan to make a full-court press for Kawhi Leonard.

Heading into the 2019 NBA Draft, New York is also selecting third overall. What the team does with that pick could tell us a lot about how it plans to move forward. Heck, Anthony Davis still isn’t off the table. It’s going to get real interesting real soon in the Big Apple.

Anthony Davis

This Pelicans big man could very well be moved ahead of the NBA Draft on June 20. New Orleans would like to add draft assets this year in a blockbuster trade. First-year general manager David Griffin is already actively pursuing a trade and is in talks with multiple teams, the Lakers included.

Something will happen on this front at some point soon. And it’s going to shake up the foundation of the NBA. Davis, 26, is the single most skilled big man in the league. He’s just now hitting his prime. Any trade would represent a blockbuster that we’ve rarely seen in the modern history of the game. It will also likely define the Association’s offseason.