With plenty of free space, dozens of free agents of great quality, a change of champion and many uncertainties, the next three weeks could reshape the face of the NBA.
With the upcoming bill and the free agency just behind, here are some of the issues that are debated in the league counters:
How much will the Bucks, the 76ers and the Hornets spend?
The Milwaukee Bucks have gone into the luxury tax once in their history and not since the 2002-03 season.
Behind the scenes, the current property group has said that it was ready to pay for the tax for the first time since the team's purchase. Honestly, it was clear when the Bucks signed an extension with Eric Bledsoe this spring that guaranteed him $ 54 million for the next three years.
After a season of 60 wins and one year of Giannis Antetokounmpo's chance to sign an overtime, the Bucks must pretty much enter the tax. But how much can they afford? The team must manage four important free agents: Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic.
With so much free space in the league, Middleton will likely get a maximum bid of four years elsewhere and will put pressure on the Bucks to match or even beat them with a five-year offer. Knowing the position of the Bucks, rival teams could put them to the test with an offer sheet on restricted free agent Brodgon, who has turned out to be a valuable player for them.
They have limited rights over Lopez, who has just finished a brilliant season. They may lose it anyway.
This summer, they will face three newcomers to free agencies: Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick. With a handful of teams with maximum space and Redick's experience and strong demand in filming, keeping the three teams could cost more than $ 400 million in payroll commitments to the 76ers. And, by the way, Ben Simmons is in a position to ask for a nine-digit extension this summer.
It's massive money, and while the group is promising, there is no guarantee that the combination will work in the long run.
"We've said it many times and we will continue to say it," said team owner Josh Harris last month. "We are determined to do what is necessary to win a championship in Philly, including spending the luxury tax. … It's a system in which, if you make the wrong decisions financially, you hurt your team, so there is a lot to consider. "
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Many indeed. The teams have been watching Harris and Butler for months. It was recently felt that the 76ers were committed to keeping both, even on the best deals, but the leaders of hopeful poachers prepare the arguments to make sure this is the case.
The Charlotte Hornets are one of two teams that have never paid the tax. The owner, Michael Jordan, is given priority to avoid this problem during his tenure.
But with the remains of a 2016 spending spree still unresolved, a new Kemba Walker signature would almost certainly push the Hornets at least for the 2019-2020 season.
For weeks, the question was not just to know if they would offer Walker a maximum of five years – but would they conclude a supermax deal and pay $ 221 million after his appointment in the US? NBA team? If Walker had to sign for a maximum elsewhere, that would mean leaving $ 80 million against the supermax.
Everyone says good things. Walker said the Hornets were his priority and hinted that it would take him less than the supermax to stay if it helped to strengthen the team. The Hornets general manager, Mitch Kupchak, left open the possibility of paying the luxury tax in comments last week and even hinted that he wanted to move from 12th place.
But the teams do not just watch if the Hornets pay Walker, they also watch that choice. This asset is perhaps the last and most valuable option to attach to a player to discharge his salary before Walker reaches the free agency. If avoiding the tax is truly a mandate and Walker must remain a priority, the choice can be made before or on the night of the repechage.
What will happen to the Celtics if / when Kyrie will leave?
Externally, the The Boston Celtics keep the upper lip stiff, but for a long time, they predict that Kyrie Irving signs with the Brooklyn Nets, as is usually expected now or elsewhere. The reality is that the Celtics are likely to lose their best player and may have no functional way to replace it immediately.
The most important thing at the door of the Celtics could well be Al Horford, who chose to withdraw from his contract. Keeping it, perhaps for a new long-term deal, is essential, and that's the scenario that league leaders are keeping a close eye on, actually, for Irving.
When Horford arrives on the market, he is considered an extremely desirable player for a competitor. Teams could even be willing to cut pieces to make a place for themselves. But if Irving goes away and Horford is selected – perhaps on a contract that lowers his $ 30 million pay for next season – Boston would have a ceiling to go out and add even more talent.
Then, they could go over the ceiling to sign free agents Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris again if agreements could be made (neither of the two would seem to want to come back, but Rozier is limited and Irving's decision could change all over again). # 39; environment).
You may have seen this figure float this season: the Celtics were 12-3 while Irving was not playing. In raw data, it is true that the Celtics have won more in the last two seasons without Irving than with him. They were 26-11 when he did not play, a winning percentage of .704, and 78-49 with him, a .614 percentage. And, of course, they went to game 7 of the Eastern Conference final without him in 2018 and were eliminated in five games with four straight defeats against Milwaukee Bucks in the second round this year with him.
When Irving does not play, the Celtics are better at defense and Rozier's production flourishes. Some of the best games we've seen from Jayson Tatum are also without Irving. So Irving bolts and everything should be fine, right?
Eh. Despite all these numbers, the value of Irving is indisputable. In attack with Irving, they were much better and their net score, which is for some the mother of all team stats, was reduced by more than half, from over-5.9 points per 100 possessions at just over 2.7 points when it's not in the game. .
Kevin Pelton of ESPN estimates that if the Celtics brought back all their crew less than Irving, they would have five fewer wins next season. That would mean a record of 44-38, which would have earned them the 6th seed last season. Not exciting.
But you can say this: they would probably be happier as a team without Irving's off-road drama and balloon domination on the field. This reality does not always appear in the analyzes, but in their file. If you were watching the Celtics when Irving was out, we sometimes felt like they were kids at recess.
Many scouts think that Tatum and Jaylen Brown have a lot more to show. In addition, President Danny Ainge has three first-round picks and other assets to use to help. It would be an interesting scenario to watch.
Will Kawhi accept a short-term contract and send it back?
The location is the most important, clearly. But the length of the contract that Kawhi Leonard could sign is an issue that is being discussed throughout the league.
We'll review the numbers in a few moments, but Leonard has not lost sight of the fact that Leonard could share the difference between his priorities by taking a one-year contract with a player option with the Toronto Raptors and trying to dismiss him while not committing the rest of his bonus. This scenario also presents a financial incentive.
The outline is as follows: If Leonard stays with the Raptors, he could sign for a maximum of five years and $ 190 million. S & # 39; he goes elsewhere – for example, at the LA Clippers – it could receive $ 140 million over four years. However, the capitalization rules would mean that he could potentially earn tens of millions more if he signed a long-term deal in 2021, while he was 10 years old. experience, compared to 2019.
So why not consider a one-year contract for $ 33 million plus a player option for $ 36 million? Especially with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam under contract for next season. Marc Gasol will also be part of this group if he chooses his player option as planned.
The answer to why not? Kawhi has just seen two future free players suffer serious injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and Leonard has already had a serious injury that has cost him one season. But it's something that's on the board.