After a few days of free agency signings, trades and sign-and-trades, most offseason questions have been answered. There are still potential contract extensions, reported trade requests and some unsigned free agents to sort out, though, with just six days before this abbreviated offseason ends and training camp begins.
Here’s a look at what remains unresolved:
1. The potential Giannis extension
Hey, did you know Giannis Antetokounmpo is eligible for a contract extension? If he wants the supermax, he has until Dec. 21, the day before the regular season begins, to decide. If he doesn’t commit to the Milwaukee Bucks, then he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
That possibility directly affected how free agency played out for at least a few teams besides the Bucks. The Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks have kept their books as clean as possible, and the Miami Heat got creative with their contracts so they could extend Bam Adebayo without taking themselves out of the running.
Before any moves had been made, Antetokounmpo said that the Bucks can essentially dictate his plans by making the right decisions with the roster. He has always maintained that his first option is to stay in Milwaukee and compete for championships. The Bucks are confident that he’ll sign an extension, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported.
When they gave up three first-round picks and two pick swaps to turn Eric Bledsoe and George Hill into Jrue Holiday, they signaled that they were confident. Maybe they wouldn’t have done that without being almost certain that Antetokounmpo would sign. But he hasn’t done it yet, and, according to Jake Fischer’s story at Bleacher Report, they’re no longer as sure as they were when they thought Bogdan Bogdanovic was on the way.
2. Houston’s Harden dilemma
The Rockets haven’t rushed into a James Harden trade. Houston hasn’t moved Russell Westbrook, either, and if not for their reported trade requests the big story around the team would be how Christian Wood fits so well with both of them.
A thought experiment: What would it look like for the next few months to go well for the Rockets? Is there a scenario in which they get Harden back on board and improve? Would anything short of a stunning DeMarcus Cousins revival and a miraculous Westbrook trade make that happen?
It is easy to say that Houston is in such a rough spot that it should just try to extract as much as it can from Brooklyn for Harden, dump Westbrook wherever it can, trade PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr. for picks and move on. But I’m not sure that it’s true. Harden and Wood could be a devastating combination, and Westbrook could increase his trade value by playing the way he did pre-bubble, before he got COVID-19 and strained his quad. If the Rockets start the season well and their stars take to new coach Stephen Silas, maybe they’ll reevaluate the situation.
But standing pat is risky and potentially messy. It’s one thing to say you’re willing to get uncomfortable, and it’s another thing to go into a season with all of this hanging over the team.
The last time Harden was traded, by the way, the deal went down three days before opening night.
3. Is Collins part of Atlanta’s playoff plan?
The Hawks have built a fun team that can score in a variety of ways and would make a bit more sense without John Collins on it. The newly signed Danilo Gallinari can play small forward, but it’s not the best place for him anymore.
Even if Atlanta hadn’t shifted so aggressively to win-now mode, Collins would’ve been a trade candidate. The Hawks traded for Clint Capela in February, a move that is sure to deemphasize Collins’ pick-and-roll game with Trae Young, and then they drafted non-stretch big Onyeka Okongwu with the sixth pick. Collins is eligible for an extension on his rookie contract, and Atlanta isn’t acting like a he is a cornerstone.
None of this means that the front office must move Collins, let alone that it must do so now. It isn’t all that common, though, for a 23-year-old with his talent to be available. Typically it’s tough to trade a big for a wing, but this could be an exception.
4. Extensions, extensions, extensions
Rudy Gobert hasn’t gotten an extension yet, either, and the same is true of some other guys in Collins’ class, most notably OG Anunoby, Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Derrick White, Jarrett Allen, Lonzo Ball, Luke Kennard and Lauri Markkanen.
The most interesting name, though, is Monte Morris. The Denver Nuggets could extend him for up to four years and $54 million, but they just added Facundo Campazzo, another small point guard. A trade might make more sense, but then there is the matter of timing. The Nuggets could trade him now and avoid issues with the rotation, or they could wait until closer to the trade deadline, when they (and potential trade partners) will have a clearer idea of where they stand.
5. The last bit of free agency
Our tracker is mostly filled out, but Hassan Whiteside remains unsigned and so do a surprising amount of rotation-caliber guards: Shabazz Napier, Jordan McLaughlin, Shaquille Harrison, Reggie Jackson, Chris Chiozza and Yogi Ferrell.
Who’s your favorite player left on the market? Do you still fondly think about Noah Vonleh’s 2018-19 season? Are you mad that nobody’s nabbed Cheick Diallo yet? Are you hoping your favorite team will give Isaiah Thomas the opportunity he’s looking for?
6. What about the Clippers?
The Clippers are an interesting destination for all of the point guards mentioned above, but, going into the offseason, I figured they’d aim higher. George Hill is an ideal trade target because of his shooting and perimeter defense.
Los Angeles doesn’t have all that much to trade, though. I did not take the Serge Ibaka signing as an indication that the Clippers are even thinking about moving Ivica Zubac. If they haven’t found a Lou Williams trade they like by now, what are the chances they do it before the season starts?
7. Golden State has another move to make
Thinking about the Warriors is a bummer right now, but anyway: Golden State has applied for a $9.3 million disabled player exception because of Klay Thompson’s torn Achilles. Once it is granted, it will be able to follow up the Kelly Oubre trade with another addition. If they can’t find an opportunity like the Oubre one, I could see them holding out to see who becomes available midseason.
8. The wonderful Wizards!
John Wall no-commented his way through a media session on Tuesday, and this is where I must remind you that a public trade request is a fineable offense. According to The Athletic’s David Aldridge, Wall and Bradley Beal simply don’t want to play together anymore. (Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard denied that there is any issue.)
Washington has been steadfast about building around Beal rather than trading him, at least until Beal decides he’d rather be elsewhere. If they’re going to stick to that, perhaps they need to revisit those reported Wall-for-Westbrook talks.
9. Keep an eye on the Hornets
What is Charlotte’s plan with LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier? Start three of them and bring one off the bench? Turn last year’s starting backcourt into sixth and seventh men?
Graham is up for the same extension that Morris can get, but, based on his production last season, he’d be better off waiting for free agency. Both he and Rozier are intriguing trade candidates. .
10. Anyone else getting traded?
Well, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose are still Pistons. Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic are still in Orlando. DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are still Spurs. Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner are still in Indiana. Boring!
Also: Is anyone going to make a play for Nemanja Bjelica? Can the Knicks find a new home for Julius Randle? Are the Pelicans going to clear out some of their guards so Kira Lewis and Nickeil Alexander-Walker can actually play? If nothing happens soon, these questions will linger until the trade deadline.