Head to Head: Five NBA Teams to Watch this Offseason
October 1, 2020
The NBA finals are finally upon us. Within the next few weeks, one of the most unique and incredibly strange seasons will finally have a champion. While the Heat and Lakers await to battle it out on the final stage, the rest of the league awaits the NBA offseason in order to make improvements and adjustments with the hopes of seeing their team raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy in the near future. The following is a list of teams we believe have the most work to do in order to get their teams back on track and seeing success rather than struggles.
Bagley’s Top 5
5. Sacramento Kings
This is an organization that hasn’t made the postseason in 14 years. Not only have they struggled to make the playoffs, but the front office has made a lot of questionable decisions in recent years, including when they traded All-Star Center Demarcus Cousins for a couple of draft picks, Omri Casspi, Tyreke Evans and Buddy Hield. What they do have going for them is a lot of young talent in De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Marvin Bagley, but that’s not enough talent to win a championship now or anywhere in the future. The Kings should look to move some of their young guards for some better and more experienced wing support. Players like Khris Middleton, Caris Levert, or even Victor Oladipo could be some potential trade targets for the Kings in order to get the team back into the playoffs before the next decade goes by.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs this year for the first time in 22 years. That is without a doubt a remarkable achievement and just goes to show how incredibly dominant and consistent this organization has been for over two decades. However, it may be time for this organization to pull the plug on a few of the assets it’s had for some time. Lamarcus Aldridge is not getting any younger, the 35-year-old will be entering his 15th season and while he still contributed 18.9 PPG and 7.4 REB, the Spurs should look to move him as soon as possible. The Spurs could look to trade for a younger big man such as Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic who has been in the midst of trade rumors for what seems like forever. Additionally, it may be time to part ways with their hall of fame coach Greg Popovich who was been with the team since 1996. Not that he is doing anything necessarily wrong, but the game is ever-changing and a new face calling the shots might benefit the team.
3. Houston Rockets
Houston made one of the most boneheaded moves in the last offseason as they traded point guard Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook. This experiment was an absolute failure as the Rockets were nearly defeated by Paul and the Thunder in the first round, and were eventually bounced 4-1 by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. Westbrook and James Harden do not mix well as they are both ball hogs and clearly didn’t learn how to make each other better in their first season together. Additionally, the Houston Rockets committed to a “small ball” roster, which ended up being their demise as they had nobody to guard Lebron James or Anthony Davis. The Rockets should recommit to Harden as the face of the franchise and trade Russell Westbrook for a strong and aggressive big man. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge could be potential trade targets as those two are on teams who aren’t quite sure what to do with them and could bring back some size to the Houston roster.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
With a roster made up of Joel Embid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson, you’d think the Seventy-Sixers would be able to make a serious run at the title. A lack of chemistry has plagued this team for the last few seasons as they have two All-Stars who can’t seem to complement each other out on the floor. Joel Embid seems to be more of a franchise-type player, and so the Sixers may want to consider moving Ben Simmons as many teams would be interested in trading for the young All-Star guard. If they want to keep those two together, Philadelphia could look to move Harris and/or Horford for another scoring option such as Buddy Hield or Victor Oladipo who are rumored to want out of their current situations.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
The clock is ticking on the Milwaukee Bucks and their ability to resign Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2020-21 offseason. Giannis is coming off of back-to-back MVP seasons and yet has been unable to reach the NBA finals despite dominant regular season performances as the team has finished No. 1 in the East the last 2 seasons. The playoffs have been a different beast for the Greek Freak and crew as this year they are unable to even advance to the Eastern Conference finals as they were upset by the No.5 see Miami Heat 4-1. The Bucks have got to make some offseason moves and acquire a better supporting cast. Players like Eric Bledsoe who averaged an abysmal 11.6 PPG, 5.9 AST, 38.8 FG% and 25% beyond the arc in the postseason are just not what the Bucks need in order to support their franchise star. While Khris Middleton was an All-Star in the regular season, he is not enough of a secondary star to propel the team to a finals appearance. Milwaukee should look to potentially trade these two players to acquire someone like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo or look to sign one of the notable free agents such as Gordon Hayward or Fred Vanvleet. Whatever they do, the Bucks have to act quickly or else it’s almost a guarantee that Giannis will walk after next season.
Pearce’s Top 5
5. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have been stuck in the middle for a long time now. Having not made the playoffs in 14 years, they desperately need to make some moves. GM Vlade Divac stepped down in August and they hired a completely new front office. With some notable draft whiffs in the recent past and not a whole lot on the roster, they need to find a way to improve and fast. Their main piece is 22-year-old point guard De’Aaron Fox, but everyone else on the roster is up for trade. They have a weird mix of veterans on expensive deals and young pieces who didn’t quite live up to expectation, and all of that together makes a roster not quite good enough to make the postseason, but not bad enough to get a top draft pick. If Fox and Marvin Bagley become the players they were supposed to be, the Kings are in okay shape, but it would be wise for them to trade off some veterans for more draft capital and free up some cap space. With a new front office, changes are coming, and I think they should be drastic.
4. San Antonio Spurs
On the opposite end of the playoff success spectrum, the Spurs’ 22-year long postseason streak ended this year after they missed a chance at the O’Brien trophy for the first time in my life. The Spurs finally find themselves without a true superstar, no clear “build-around” piece, and aging veterans on large contracts. Head coach Gregg Popovich is inching closer to retirement, and a Spurs blow up feels inevitable. DeMar DeRozan has a player option on his contract he’s likely to take, and LaMarcus Aldridge has one year left on his deal as well. They could potentially get some value for those players on the trade market, and I expect them to explore their options. The Spurs have always had a savvy front office, and they can find a way to get the most out of their assets. Players like Dejounte Murray and Derrick White can step up and lead the team, and gaining draft picks for veterans when possible would be wise for San Antonio. This era of Spurs basketball is over, and it’s time to look towards the future. Big trades coming to Texas.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers are in such a weird spot. They flamed out of the playoffs in the first round after an offseason where many had them tabbed as the likely Eastern Conference champions. The questions about the fit between Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have never been louder. Al Horford and Tobias Harris are on huge contracts and the team is now totally capped out for the foreseeable future. Harris and Horford are now players the team will have to attach assets to in order to trade, their stars might be unhappy, and they’re looking for a new coach after moving on from Brett Brown. Whether it’s a Simmons or Embiid trade or something less drastic, the Sixers need to weigh all their options, because time is running out to maximize this roster, and after letting Jimmy Butler (who just led his team to the Finals) and JJ Redick walk out the door, they may have missed their chance. Elton Brand is desperate to keep his job as GM, so there will be aggressive moves coming out of Philly in the near future.
2. Houston Rockets
After being the only team to challenge the mighty KD-Steph Warriors during their run to three straight Finals, the Rockets now find themselves at a crossroads. They traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook and fully committed to their small-ball philosophy by trading Clint Capela for Robert Covington. Houston struggled in the first round against Paul’s new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and lost convincingly to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. The Harden-Westbrook pairing had questions to begin with, and they’re only louder now. Both are on huge contracts for the next few seasons, and Westbrook’s value as an asset has never been lower. Do the Rockets try to flip Westbrook for something else? What do they do with role players like Covington, PJ Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Danuel House? They’re pretty much out of draft picks to use to upgrade the roster, so outside of a huge blow-up sending Harden and Westbrook out of town, they might be stuck with what they have. They’re also looking for a new coach, and questions have arisen about GM Daryl Morey’s job security and team governor Tilman Fertitta’s willingness to pay the luxury tax for a competitive team. For a team that got so close to a title in 2018, they may now face a complete teardown.
1. Milwaukee Bucks
This all revolves around the two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is entering the final year of his contract, and everyone is questioning if he will leave the team in free agency, or even request a trade. After an extremely disappointing second-round exit, changes are needed and fast. If they want to keep Antetokounmpo happy and in town, everyone else on the roster is up for trade. Brook Lopez, Eric Bledsoe, and George Hill are all likely candidates, and the Bucks will be hunting for any way to upgrade this roster in order to appease Antetokounmpo and continue to compete for titles. The clock is ticking, because he can sign a supermax extension this offseason. If he doesn’t, it’s open season for the Bucks and everything is on the table. Teams will be courting the two-time MVP, so they will pull out all the stops in order to get their hands on upgrades to really get this team over the hump.