Klay Thompson is done for a year. Kevin Durant might be out until March. Masai Ujiri (the top choice to take over the Wizards) may very well be long gone from Toronto — assuming he gets out of trouble in Oakland — after building a championship team by taking an enormous offseason risk on Kawhi Leonard and hitting the jackpot.
The NBA offseason is now officially upon us, and one of the wildest NBA free agency free-for-alls just got turned on its head as Durant and Thompson went down in Games 5 and 6 of the NBA Finals.
Sports gambling sites are now posting odds on who will win the 2020 NBA Finals, and for the first time in a half-decade the Golden State Warriors are not the favorites. That distinction now belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks, who are listed as +500 favorites at DraftKings SportsBook and +480 at FanDuelSportsBook.
Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Raptors are all +700 at DraftKings, while FanDuel has the Warriors and Raptors at +600 and the Lakers at +800.
Given the amount of upheaval that will take place over the next three weeks — with trades at the NBA draft followed by the start of free agency on June 30 — it is a crapshoot trying to figure out which team is most worthy of a long-term wager that cannot be cashed for a whole year.
But there are a few things we can count on that will impact what the league looks like a year from now, and there are some teams on the board with incredibly long odds that might be worth a flyer for those willing to stash a ticket in their desk drawer for a year (or keep that ticket pending in their sportsbook account).
So let’s look at some possibilities for teams that nobody has been talking about for quite some time.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
We can be fairly certain that Anthony Davis is going to be traded by new general manager David Griffin, with the Knicks and Lakers the two most likely destinations. Yes, Boston’s Danny Ainge will try to get in the mix and may even be willing to keep Davis as a one-year “rental.”
But what matters is that Griffin is going to reap an enormous bounty for one of the top five players in the NBA, and he’ll probably be able to ditch Solomon Hill and his $13.29 million contract in the process. We know this much: Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson are going to be the anchors of this team, and Griffin will extract a potential All-Star from whichever team ends up with Davis. With Golden State decimated, the Lakers a huge question mark and a hundred other offseason factors, there are worse bets than this one.
Assuming Mark Cuban does not make a third-party run for president, he is going to have the reigning Rookie of the Year in Luka Doncic, a fully healed Unicorn in Kristaps Porzingis, and somewhere north of $50 million to spend in free agency — enough to get one max player and a few fill-in pieces to round out his roster. For free agents thinking about viable long-term winning situations, the Mavs have only $34 million in committed salary for 2020-21. Three of the Mavs’ next five first-round picks are owed to other teams, so Cuban will do what he needs to do through free agency.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
The Spurs own the 19th and 29th picks in the first round (the latter coming from Toronto as part of the Kawhi Leonard trade), and pick No. 49 in the second round. Yes, you should expect them to pluck at least one Eurostud that no one else is aware of, and they are coming off one of the biggest overachieving seasons we have seen in recent years despite losing their starting point guard during the preseason. Free agency will not be part of their rebuild, as they are already capped out. But here’s the thing: When you can get a Popovich team at 100-1, you kinda sorta got to think about it.
The Kings were a heck of a lot of fun to watch during the regular season before fading to finish ninth, and the young core of D’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley Jr., Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, along with veteran Harrison Barnes, can be enhanced if the Kings can find someone in free agency (they have $35 million in cap room) who fills a gap. They do not have a first-round pick, which means Vlade Divac cannot make another epic mistake. Heck, with the Warriors apparently on the decline, someone in NoCal needs to be relevant.
Lest we forget, Detroit made the playoffs … yet the Pistons are on the board at the same price as lottery locks Atlanta and Chicago. They are capped out for next season unless they can find a taker for Reggie Jackson (they have been trying to find one for three years), but they do have the NBA’s best rebounder in Andre Drummond, they got more than they expected out of Blake Griffin this past season, and they own the 15th pick in the draft: Not a great spot, but not a terrible one, either. Ed Stefanski was a busy man last June, and history tends to repeat itself. They are not championship worthy as currently constituted, but Stefanski rarely makes bad trades.