NBA offseason and predictions

ON THE BLOCK: Could Chris Paul be dealt this offseason? What team will pull off the trade? Photo courtesy of Clutch Points

By Ben Cooper | Writer

November 1, 2020

Following the most unique NBA season ever, the offseason has finally arrived. Teams will look to improve their lineup through the draft, free agency, and trades. Each team will have to decide what players they want to bring back and which they hope to acquire. 

Atlanta Hawks: Led by budding stars Trae Young and John Collins, Atlanta has been building their young core for the last few years. They are looking to trade the 6th pick in this draft for a player that could help them improve to a playoff-quality team. A versatile, scoring wing like Demar Derozan, who is great at attacking the basket and scoring, is what the Hawks need to surround lights-out shooters like Trae Young.

Boston Celtics: Two games away from making the finals last season, the Celtics may make a title run next season with a few moves. The Celtics’ weakness throughout the season was at the center position. The starting lineup consisted of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Daniel Theis. The team does not have the cap space to sign or trade for an elite center, so they need to find a center of starting caliber that can fit into their system. Derrick Favors, a solid rebounder, scorer, and defender, could be a potential option. Favors spent last season with the Pelicans, but is unlikely to re-sign there, as he doesn’t fit the same timeline as the rest of his youthful team.

Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant will finally make his debut after a gruesome injury to play his first season with Kyrie Irving. The Nets are perhaps the most intriguing team heading into the 2020-2021 season, as nobody knows how the fully-healthy squad will perform. The Nets new head coach is former NBA star Steve Nash in his first gig as a coach. Oozing with talent, the smaller scale New York team could lead the pack in the Eastern Conference as a title contender. Though they don’t have much to do this offseason, they should prioritize re-signing Joe Harris, one of the league’s best three point shooters. Harris will help off the bench and will be a key spark plug for a championship run next season.

Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets have struggled for many seasons as they consistently signed undeserving players to max contracts. In 2016, Nicholas Batum signed a five year, 120 million dollar contract. In 2020, while earning over 25 million dollars, Batum averaged 3.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists this past season. The Hornets possess a great young player in Devonte Graham, but he is one of the only bright spots on the team. They need to hit the reset button and rebuild this team from the ground up. The Hornets can start this process by drafting center James Wiseman, an athletic player who would pair well with Graham, with the third pick in the draft. 

TOP DRAFT PROSPECTS: (left to right) James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, and LaMelo Ball. Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls haven’t been to the NBA Finals since the Michael Jordan era. For the past few years, they have been stuck in the early stages of a rebuild, possessing numerous young athletes filled with potential. Many wonder if the players the Bulls have drafted will amount to anything. Zach Lavine has been the only consistent Bulls player, averaging 25 points per game last season. The Bulls have the fourth pick in the draft, and should select Killian Hayes, a play-making guard who could run the offense and allow Lavine to play off the ball. 

Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers have struggled since LeBron James left them in 2018 to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Having doubled up on guards Colin Sexton and Darius Garland in back-to-back drafts, they need to build the frontcourt and wing positions. The Cavs should look to trade away Kevin Love to a contending team for draft picks to continue strengthening the young core, though his massive contract does not make him desirable. However, their trade for Andre Drummond, an elite rebounder, was made in good judgement. Possessing the fifth pick, Cleveland should select forward Obi Toppin, who can score all around. With his 6’9″ frame, he is a lob threat at the rim on pick and rolls, and he was a 39 percent three point shooter in college last season.

Dallas Mavericks: Led by Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks could be the future of the NBA. They should prioritize surrounding Doncic and Porzingis with three and d wings on one-year deals to leave cap space for next offseason, where they could sign a big-name free agent. Jerami Grant would be a nice choice. A great defender throughout his career, Grant broke out as a talented shooter for the Nuggets this season.

Denver Nuggets: Eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by the NBA champion Lakers, the Nuggets have a lot to be happy about heading into next season. The Nuggets are led by the duo of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. Michael Porter Jr., an emerging star, came alive in the playoffs and helped the Nuggets defeat the Clippers. If the Nuggets are able to complement Murray, Jokic, and Porter with great defenders, they could make another finals appearance next season. 

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons have much to do this offseason. After trading center Andre Drummond earlier in the season, they essentially rolled belly up and died. They need to prioritize finding a team that wants to trade for Blake Griffin. Griffin, an all star in the 2018-19 season, has dealt with injuries throughout his career and simply does not fit into the rebuild the Pistons are hoping to undertake. With the Pistons needing a new star, they should trade up with the Warriors for the second overall selection. The Pistons would send the seventh pick and a future first-round pick to the Warriors for the second pick in the draft. The Pistons would then select guard LaMelo Ball to lead the team. Ball has the potential and pedigree to be a top guard in the NBA and would help the Pistons make a successful return. With the Pistons drafting a guard, they should also sell Derrick Rose away to a contender looking for a guard, such as the Lakers or Clippers.

Golden State Warriors: The Warriors missed the finals for the first time in five years this season due to injuries from Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors hold the second pick in the draft, but I have them trading down to the seventh pick from the Pistons to receive more draft capital. Though they have a championship roster, it could be improved by selecting Deni Avdija with the seventh pick. Avdija is a versatile forward who can provide another scoring option for the Warriors alongside Curry, Thompson, and Wiggins. The Warriors’ biggest hole is at center, which is why they should target athletic big-man Dwight Howard, in free agency, to fill that void and complement the rest of the team. They will be a dangerous opponent to anyone that faces them in the playoffs.

Houston Rockets: The Rockets, led by James Harden and Russell Westbrook, tested a small-ball lineup this past season, but it ultimately failed as they lost to the bigger, stronger Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Rockets don’t need to hit the rebuild button just yet, but rather retool the team to better work with Harden and Westbrook. The lack of an athletic big-man showed in the series against the Lakers as Anthony Davis dominated in the paint. The Rockets could fill this void by trading for center Myles Turner for Eric Gordon as well as a second-round pick. Turner is a center that could defend the court and still provide the Rockets with three point shooting, as he is a 35 percent career three point shooter.

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers were swept in the first round of the playoffs this year to the Miami Heat. They need to reform the team by trading away Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo. Trading Turner to the Rockets for Gordon allows the Pacers to continue competing in the playoffs, while trading Oladipo to a team looking to contend next season could offer valuable draft positioning.

Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers, who were favored to win the championship at the start of the season, turned out to be one of its biggest disappointments. Led by Kawhi Leonard, it was obvious throughout the playoffs that the Clippers lacked a playmaking guard to run the offense. The Clippers will have to move on from 6th man of the year Montrez Harrell to acquire this piece, but it will be well worth it. Raptors guard Fred Vanvleet would be the perfect fit for the Clippers, and replacing Harrell with a center like Marc Gasol wouldn’t make them much worse.

Los Angeles Lakers: The NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers will look to make moves to repeat their victory run. Led by NBA Superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers should first prioritize re-signing Anthony Davis. “The Lakers need to change up the line up a little bit, as they rely far too much on LeBron,” junior Justus Timmerman said. “Whenever he’s out, the offense is pretty much only left to AD. The Lakers should look to strengthen the scoring on the team to help take the load off of the stars.” Derrick Rose of the Pistons would be a good fit, as he is an elite scorer and veteran that could be the solid third option for the Lakers offense. The Lakers also need to re-sign guards Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope along with center Dwight Howard.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies were a few wins away from making the playoffs. Led by Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, the Grizzlies should look to continue building around the flashy point guard as well as young star Jaren Jackson Jr. Surrounding them with sharpshooters could make the Grizzlies a playoff qualifier next season.

Miami Heat: Led by Jimmy Butler, the Heat earned their first finals appearance since 2014 this season. They don’t need to do much this offseason, as they are already a contender and want to save a max free agency slot for next season, when MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will be available. The Heat should look to draft a point guard to develop and eventually replace Goran Dragic. 

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks, favored to win the Eastern Conference, were shockingly upset by the Miami Heat. It was evident throughout the series that the Bucks struggled to score when Giannis Antetokounmpo was dared to pass, with not many significant threats around him. The Bucks need to acquire a playmaking and shot-creating guard in the offseason. A trade for Chris Paul or signing of Fred Vanvleet could help the Bucks finally achieve the championship run that has remained out of reach.

Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves hold the first pick in the NBA Draft, and are looking to build around stars and good friends Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. With their pick, the Timberwolves should select guard Anthony Edwards, who will provide scoring and defense for the team. His potential is undoubtedly high, and he could be a future star in the league. A trio of Towns, Russell, and Edwards could be deadly for years to come.

New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans have one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. With the young core of Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans have a scary squad, especially as they continue their development. The Pelicans need to re-sign Brandon Ingram and bring in shooters to surround the young core.

New York Knicks: The laughing stock of the NBA for years, the Knicks haven’t been able to make the playoffs since getting rid of Carmelo Anthony. It is essential that the Knicks draft well and do not waste cap space on aging veterans who will not benefit the team, as they did last year with Julius Randle and Bobby Portis. With the eighth pick in the draft, the Knicks should select Devin Vassell, a forward that would interact well with R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson. 

Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder served as a Cinderella story after trading away Paul George and Russell Westbrook last offseason, qualifying for the playoffs behind magical play by Chris Paul. They should look to trade the veteran star this offseason for some young talent and picks. “I  believe Chris Paul should be traded. The Lakers would be a perfect fit, as he already has chemistry with LeBron and it would be his best chance to win a championship,” junior Trevor Pham said. It would be tough for the Lakers to trade for Chris Paul, due to cap space, so a more likely destination would be the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Orlando Magic: The Magic made the playoffs this season but had no chance of beating the Bucks. The team should try to build around Markelle Fultz and Nikola Vucevic, and get rid of players like Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. While solid, the organization should move on to acquire young assets and draft picks. The Magic do not want to remain in the purgatory of a perennial one-and-done team. They need to hit the reset button.

Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers, with stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, are looking to make a title run next season. They brought in former Clippers coach Doc Rivers and new president of basketball operations Darryl Morey. Morey will look to acquire three point shooters to complement Simmons and Embiid. 

Phoenix Suns: The Suns went undefeated in the bubble and barely missed the playoffs. Led by a hot Devin Booker, the Suns should attempt to build on their bubble success. They should prioritize re-signing breakout small forward Kelly Oubre and bringing in three and d wings.

Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a strong effort from Damian Lillard, his incredible play was not enough to carry them closer to the chip. The Trail Blazers need to retool with a scoring and defending wing. Bringing in Jerami Grant and re-signing Carmelo Anthony could help them make a deeper playoff push next season.

Sacramento Kings: The Kings are in a difficult position at the moment. They have a franchise in point guard De’Aaron Fox and a power forward with a high ceiling in Marvin Bagley, but they have uncertainty at other positions. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic are both good shooting guards, but which one should they keep? They can’t fit together, so the Kings should explore trades for those guards in the offseason. The Kings should look to draft a wing player in the draft that can play good defense. They also need to get off of the Harrison Barnes’ stinker of a contract, as he is one of the most overpaid players in the NBA.  

San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs missed the playoffs for the first time in 23 seasons. They should look to resign Demar Derozan and trade him away to a team looking to make a playoff push such as the Hawks. They should forget about their 20-plus year playoff streak and start the rebuild by developing young players like Derrick White and Dejounte Murray. 

Toronto Raptors: The Raptors made it farther in the playoffs than people expected, losing to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Their loss of Kawhi Leonard last year did not seem to hamper their success. They should focus on re-signing Fred Vanvleet and planning for the future around Pascal Siakam.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz were eliminated in the first round by the Denver Nuggets. They need to re-sign star Donovan Mitchell, as he is the best player on the team. Their number one priority, the Jazz need to retain his services and build momentum around him. Mike Conley’s massive contract seems like a mistake, as he underperformed last season, so if they have a chance to move on, the Jazz should jump on it.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards missed the playoffs this season, but had a great season from Bradley Beal. John Wall will finally be returning next season, and the best thing for the Wizards to do is to wait and see what this duo can do after reuniting. At the trade deadline, they can re-evaluate the performance of the two offensive guards and make their decisions based off of that. 

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