Biggest offseason questions for all 30 teams

Biggest offseason questions for all 30 teams

The 2021-22 season is officially complete and there is plenty of intrigue for each NBA team looking to make a big impact this offseason. Last week’s Draft offered a glimpse of the excitement ahead, with big surprises including the Magic unexpectedly selecting Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick. Plus, several bold Draft-night trades immediately sparked predictions for teams looking to make a splash in free agency. So what’s next? With the NBA free agency period set to open Thursday at 6 p.m. ET, all eyes are turned to some of the biggest names on the market from Suns big man Deandre Ayton (restricted) to Nets superstar guard Kyrie Irving (player option).

Our NBA.com writers preview the biggest decisions for all 30 teams.


Atlanta Hawks

Will the Hawks get a defensive-minded swingman to satisfy their biggest weakness?

Keeping the opposing team from getting easy buckets became a nightly adventure for the Hawks, who ranked 26th in defensive rating. This was a hurtful revelation to a team that advanced to the Eastern Conference finals two seasons ago and then had to fight through the Play-In Tournament. It didn’t help that De’Andre Hunter, the designated swingman stopper, missed 29 games, and wasn’t especially terrific when on the floor. With Trae Young being victimized because of his lack of size and strength, the Hawks are desperate to find a backcourt mate to cover for him. Atlanta will be active on that front and dangle a surplus of young talent, starting with John Collins, to entice a willing trade partner. In a perfect world, they’d get someone like the Spurs’ Dejounte Murray, an elite two-way player. But his kind costs a lot.

— Shaun Powell


Boston Celtics Logo

Boston Celtics

Can they fill their need for another playmaker?

Memories of the Celtics sabotaging themselves with turnover after turnover are still fresh from the 2022 Finals. Marcus Smart outlasted a bunch of predecessors and is a tough, two-way player, but he’s not a point guard in the classic sense who makes teammates better. He’s often off the ball as well, particularly on tough shooting nights, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown initiating the offense with sporadic success. GM Brad Stevens would like somebody more capable of running the pick and roll and attacking off the dribble, but the mid-level exception might limit his options. The Celtics could use more scoring punch off the bench as well.

— Steve Aschburner


Brooklyn Nets Logo

Brooklyn Nets

Will the trio of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons ever materialize on the court?

It’s unclear with Irving pondering whether to exercise a $36.9 million player option by the June 29 deadline. We’ve heard the rumors of talks slowing between Irving and the Nets brass on a potential max extension, and if the point guard departs, it could lead to other moves that likely won’t improve a team coming off a disappointing first-round sweep by the Boston Celtics. Brooklyn will already have one of the league’s most expensive rosters, which means it will be looking this offseason to add bench players instead of potential upgrades. Bruce Brown will be an unrestricted free agent, Nic Claxton is restricted and Patty Mills has a player option for 2022-23.

Michael C. Wright


Charlotte HornetsHornets logo

Is the rim protector savior already on the roster?

The last player in a Charlotte uniform who frightened anyone at the rim was Alonzo Mourning, who — and this is a half-joke — is probably still better right now in retirement than anyone on the Hornets’ roster. That says plenty about the Hornets and their inability to protect the paint. They used first-rounders in the last two drafts to find candidates (Kai Jones, Mark Williams) but those raw youngsters might be years away. If the Hornets are serious about making a jump in the standings next season, they’ll need to spend assets to get more immediate help through a trade or free agency. Otherwise, one of those recent draft picks, most likely Williams, must grow up in a hurry and handle the immense responsibility for a squad that suffered too much defensively last season. That’s why the Hornets, despite being one of the league’s most exciting teams, couldn’t survive the Play-In Tournament.

— Shaun Powell


Chicago Bulls Logo

Chicago Bulls

Will Zach LaVine be with the Bulls when the smoke clears?

LaVine hasn’t been a max player for Chicago as far as impact, but he’s been awfully close in production since arriving from Minnesota in 2017 (24.4 ppg, 38.9% 3PT). Given the market, he has a decent claim on a max deal of five years, $212 million. The Bulls may have legit concerns about the long-term health of his left knee and haven’t been shy previously about trying to seek hometown discounts from incumbent players. Kind of inconceivable that a team that made such strides last season would mess up now, but Chicago doesn’t control the situation, either.

Steve Aschburner


Cleveland Cavaliers Logo

Cleveland Cavaliers

Does Collin Sexton get re-signed and find his fit?

For three post-LeBron 2.0 seasons, Sexton was the best Cleveland had about whom fans could get excited. But his warts were showing, too – his passing and his defense paled next to his scoring – and he didn’t get an extension last offseason. Then bad got worse with the 6-foot-1 shooting guard tearing his meniscus to miss all but 11 games. Lo and behold, the Cavs had a revival season without him, coalescing around Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. Could Sexton be satisfied with a lesser salary than the four-year, $100 million he allegedly had in mind last year, and would he deign to come off the bench? At what price would Cleveland just let the restricted free agent walk?

Steve Aschburner


Dallas Mavericks

Was the addition of big man Christian Wood enough?

Winning its first playoff series since 2011, Dallas looked to upgrade at center and acquired Wood for the 26th pick along with Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, and Marquese Chriss – all players on expiring contracts. Wood averaged 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in two seasons with the Houston Rockets and provides some punch for a Mavericks squad that might be a little too reliant on superstar Luka Doncic (37.4% usage rate last season). Wood represents a solid first step, but it’s not enough if Dallas fails to lure back 25-year-old guard Jalen Brunson, an unrestricted free agent. Brunson was critical in the Mavs’ postseason run and will generate significant interest in free agency.

Michael C. Wright


Denver Nuggets

Will better health propel the Nuggets back into contention?

It should, but Kroenke Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Josh Kroenke mentioned in early June the Nuggets are headed into a “championship or bust” phase, which means the club needs Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to return to form alongside two-time Kia MVP Nikola Jokic to reach such lofty goals. Murray (knee) missed the entire season and Porter (back) played ineffectively for nine games before undergoing season-ending back surgery. Without its second- and third-leading scorers, Denver still managed a 48-win season and a first-round exit with Jokic carrying the team on his back. The franchise clearly wants more, and adding more depth (you know, in case of injury) should help in that endeavor.

Michael C. Wright


Detroit Pistons Logo

Detroit Pistons

Can Detroit’s young talent finally begin winning?

Trading veteran forward Jerami Grant helped the Pistons reap Jalen Duren (13th overall) in addition to Jaden Ivey (5th) on Draft night. This came on the heels of adding building blocks Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley III, Hamidou Diallo and more in the past couple of years. There was barely a blip last season as Detroit improved merely one place in the East standings, from 15th to 14th. Chatter about Phoenix free agent Deandre Ayton has hushed, so some medium-priced help for the kids with the cap room the Pistons have might be as splashy as it gets this summer.

— Steve Aschburner


Golden State WarriorsWarriors logo

Are the Warriors willing to spend big to keep their championship team intact?

This is unofficial, but the Warriors probably set a professional sports team record for payroll last season, when you also take into account being a luxury tax repeater and the financial penalty that comes with that. Obviously, it was money well-spent by the 2022 NBA champs. And now, guess what? They need to open their wallets a bit wider. Such is the cost of being great, and the Warriors’ ownership has always said money is no object if the team is positioned to stockpile championships. That’s good news for Andrew Wiggins, who has one more year left on his contract and is open to an extension, and Jordan Poole, who’s still on his rookie deal but is extension-eligible. One player the Warriors must act on immediately is Kevon Looney, an unrestricted free agent. Looney was solid during the playoffs and the big man would find suitors on the open market if he went looking. Now it’s up to the Warriors to pay him — and swallow the luxury tax hike by doing so.

— Shaun Powell


Houston Rockets

Where is Houston in its rebuild?

It’s still early with the Rockets capturing 37 victories over the last two seasons, but you’ve got to be optimistic about the future after a productive Draft featuring the acquisitions of Jabari Smith, Tari Eason and TyTy Washington to compete alongside promising first-rounders such as Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun. Trading Christian Wood to Dallas netted the Washington pick, and the salary cap situation in Houston doesn’t really open up until summer of 2023. There’s a good chance the Rockets view this process as moving along faster than anticipated. We won’t know for sure until we see how the latest Draft picks fit alongside the young talent already on the roster.

Michael C. Wright


Indiana Pacers Logo

Indiana Pacers

Where will Malcolm Brogdon wind up, and will Myles Turner be moved, too?

The Pacers didn’t grab headlines with their maneuvers on Draft night, but they still are on the rebuild track with a roster heavy on guards. So Brogdon is almost certain to be traded to free up reps for Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Buddy Hield (unless he’s traded, too) and others, including rookie Bennedict Mathurin, the 6th pick. No Indiana assessment can be complete, either, without speculating on Turner’s whereabouts. Sending off Domantas Sabonis in February hasn’t squelched rumors of Turner’s availability, though the Pacers might be wise to see how Turner fares with the logjam cleared.

— Steve Aschburner


LA ClippersClippers logo

Can the Clippers ensure roster continuity?

When asked about how the Clippers plan to approach the offseason, vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank went straight to the point: “Retain our free agents.[That’s] our No. 1 goal.”

The Clippers enter free agency with plans to retain Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac, Isaiah Hartenstein and Amir Coffey. They also shut down any notion that they would deal away sharpshooter Luke Kennard.

The second goal? Maintain a healthy roster. Frank hinted that superstar Kawhi Leonard remains “on pace” to return for the 2022-23 season after missing all of 2021-22 rehabbing his surgically repaired ACL tear in his right knee. The Clippers believe they can achieve both.

— Mark Medina


Los Angeles LakersLakers logo

Will the Lakers trade Russell Westbrook?

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka admitted some uncertainty but remained somewhat optimistic regarding Westbrook’s future in Los Angeles. “If he comes back, he will be embraced here with open arms,” Pelinka said. That does not mean the Lakers won’t still try to trade the veteran guard presuming he exercises his $47 million player option. But on what terms? Would the Lakers entertain a sign-and-trade to Brooklyn for Kyrie Irving? Will they accept a handful of role players?

The Lakers have expressed optimism about Westbrook changing his role under new head coach Darvin Ham and more on-court time with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But that attitude partly reflects the Lakers’ awareness of Westbrook’s depleted market interest.

— Mark Medina


Memphis Grizzlies Logo

Memphis Grizzlies

Will Tyus Jones seek a bigger stage?

Being known as the NBA’s best backup point guard is damning with faint praise, especially if the extremely valuable Jones looks around the league and sees starting jobs held down by lesser players. If he wants to continue playing behind and occasionally in tandem with Ja Morant, the Grizzlies have the dough to make that happen. If he has an itch to start, he’ll be elsewhere and Memphis will need a ready replacement. (They already traded reserve De’Anthony Melton on Draft night.) Memphis has a deep roster but it needs sharpening, and Jones as Morant’s backup has been essential. (Remember, the Grizz were 20-5 in the games Morant missed last season.)

Steve Aschburner


Miami HeatHeat logo

Should Pat Riley go star-hunting this summer or just do some minor tweaking?

The Heat were just a Jimmy Butler 3-point shot away from reaching the NBA Finals for the second time in three years and, who knows, maybe winning the title. They’re a solid team, built smartly by Riley, and with the exception of Kyle Lowry, the major pieces are either in their prime or rising. In order to take the next step, the Heat might need to find someone as good as Butler or better. That’ll require them to sacrifice at least one of the rotational players, maybe a re-signed Tyler Herro, in a package for a distressed star (think Kyrie Irving, someone on that level). Barring that, the Heat should start looking for the eventual replacement for Lowry, who at 36 seems on the decline, missed 19 games and proved injury-prone last season for the stretch run. And also see if there are any takers for Duncan Robinson, who fell out of favor late last season.

— Shaun Powell


Milwaukee Bucks Logo

Milwaukee Bucks

Will ‘running it back’ get it done?

The way Milwaukee’s season ended – a seven-game loss to Boston in the East semifinals, with Khris Middleton (knee) completely unavailable – a case could be made that the core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Middleton will be enough, with the role players largely unchanged. Then again, this league doesn’t stand pat; if a team isn’t getting better, it likely is getting worse. Brook Lopez, Grayson Allen and George Hill are locked in, Pat Connaughton triggered his $5.7 million player option and Bobby Portis might be back on his option or an affordable deal. Adding rookie MarJon Beauchamp is for down the road, so a lot will be riding on the Bucks’ use of their $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception.

— Steve Aschburner


Minnesota Timberwolves

How does new president of basketball operations Tim Connelly build off the success from last season?

He’s certainly putting in the effort. After nine years with the Denver Nuggets, Connelly appeared to fare well in his first draft in Minnesota. He worked the phones extensively to address one of the team’s major offseason priorities (rebounding) by landing 7-foot-1 Auburn center Walker Kessler in a deal that also resulted in an additional first-round pick that became Duke forward Wendell Moore Jr.  But Connelly has a pair of major decisions to make for a team coming off its first playoff appearance since 2018 with regards to D’Angelo Russell (entering the final year of his contract) and Karl-Anthony Towns, who is eligible this summer for a max extension.

Michael C. Wright


New Orleans Pelicans

What’s the team’s next move with Zion Williamson?

He’s played a total of 85 games over the last three years and missed all last season due to a foot injury. But New Orleans is now pondering whether to offer Williamson a max extension. The No. 1 overall pick of 2019 has expressed a desire to remain with the Pelicans, a young, up-and-coming squad looking to grow after a promising trip to the postseason. Bottom line: pay him. You’ll hear some haggling about whether New Orleans will fully guarantee Williamson’s deal considering his injury history. But picture the power forward playing alongside the talent the Pels acquired last season, and the decision becomes much easier for a team that really doesn’t have much roster flexibility.

Michael C. Wright


New York Knicks

Did the Draft-day maneuvering guarantee the Knicks will find their next star?

There was a collective groan among fans in Gotham on draft day when the Knicks passed twice on the chance to grab a first-round pick, in favor of clearing salary cap space and grabbing multiple future first-rounders (protected). Basically, the Knicks weren’t in love with anyone who fell their way in the first round and prepared to load up on assets for a summertime trade and/or free-agent signing. All hints point to the Knicks making an offer to Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, but Dallas can still offer him an extra year — along with no state tax — and the chance for a continued partnership with Luka Doncic. This team needs a point guard in the worst way and Brunson would satisfy that. Still: What’s the Plan B? Well, nobody knows, and perhaps not the Knicks, either. Anyway, by positioning themselves for a star or borderline star, the Knicks are flexible and somewhat desperate. They’ll be on the phones … and on the clock.

— Shaun Powell


Oklahoma City Thunder

Is OKC finally turning the corner on its massive rebuild?

Sam Presti keeps asking for patience in building a roster positioned for long-term success. It appears the Thunder are on the precipice after selecting three lottery picks in Chet Holmgren (No. 2), Ousmane Dieng (11) and Jalen Williams (12) to go with a young core led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Lu Dort. OKC collected several assets in recent years to arrive here and has missed the playoffs two consecutive years, finishing 24-58 in 2021-22 after putting together 10 postseason berths in 11 seasons. The big money in Gilgeous-Alexander’s deal kicks in this season, and he’s finally got a talented supporting cast to make a serious run at the playoffs. Now is the time.

Michael C. Wright


Orlando MagicMagic logo

Can the Magic excel with young talent?

To some surprise, the Magic used their No. 1 pick on Duke forward Paulo Banchero instead of projected top pick Jabari Smith. But Banchero appears to have all the physical tools and on-court skills to make an immediate impact. Banchero could complement the Magic’s young core with their backcourt (Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz) and frontline (Wendell Carter Jr., Franz Wagner, Jonathan Isaac). Will this formula work? The Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies are proven success stories, while the Sacramento Kings are not. So even if Banchero looks ready to excel in the NBA, it remains to be seen if the Magic collectively will.

— Mark Medina


Philadelphia 76ers76ers logo

Can the Sixers provide Joel Embiid with more talent?

That question partly depends on James Harden. Can he improve his consistency after struggling in the playoffs? How will he handle his $47.4 million player option? Harden said he will “do whatever it takes to help this team continue to grow,” so perhaps that means will he opt-out for a less expensive deal. The Sixers could use the help considering the difference between their current payroll ($152 million) and the projected apron ($155.7 million). They would need to stay below the apron in order to have a non-taxpayer, mid-level exception worth $10.3 million. Philadelphia hit the ground running to start the offseason by dealing its No. 23 pick and veteran guard Danny Green to Memphis in exchange for 3-and-D talent De’Anthony Melton.

— Mark Medina


Phoenix Suns

Is it too late to salvage the relationship with Deandre Ayton?

The talented big man got his feelings hurt at the beginning — and the end of last season. First when the Suns refused to offer a rookie max extension, and then again when he was benched in the playoffs by coach Monty Williams as punishment for uninspired play. Ayton left in a huff without saying much publicly, but everyone knows there’s damage between the seven-footer and the franchise. If the hurt is beyond repair, then the Suns at least have the chance to produce a major trade that can fetch rotational players and perhaps some draft capital. Ayton would be in demand, even in a game that’s diminishing the role of the traditional center, because he’s young and athletic and solid near the rim. Phoenix should look for a functional center, a young point guard with upside to eventually replace Chris Paul, and a first-rounder (or two) in any discussion for Ayton. That would keep the Suns in the title hunt.

— Shaun Powell


Portland Trail BlazersTrail Blazers logo

Can the Blazers do anything more to maximize the remaining good years of Damian Lillard?

Over the last five months, the Blazers actively sought to pacify one of the greatest players in franchise history, and the results seem mixed. They did land Josh Hart at midseason, and he played well upon arrival. As did Justise Winslow. Then recently, they reportedly added Jerami Grant just before drafting Kentucky product Shaedon Sharpe. Was that enough? That could put Portland on the backend of the playoff hunt — the West will be super-competitive next season — but not in the mix for any title contention since none of those additions are proven stars. At this point, Portland has spent all of its best assets already, and the only other option is to trade Lillard. But that’s not in the cards, at least management has said as much, even though Lillard turns 32 in July and is up for a super-max extension. Portland is in a pickle, trapped between rebuilding and reloading. As long as Lillard is on the roster, the Blazers are forced to at least talk like a contender, even though they don’t fit the description as of yet.

— Shaun Powell


Sacramento KingsKings logo

Can the Kings make the playoffs for the first time since 2006?

General manager Monte McNair doesn’t seem too concerned. “There’s no mandate,” said McNair regarding Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought. But the Kings still might feel the urgency, and McNair is in the final year of his contract. The Kings hired Mike Brown as coach last month after spending the past six years as the Warriors’ lead assistant coach. Not only is Brown tasked with turning things around in Sacramento, but also addressing questions on how the organization has handled its young talent.

Last season, the Kings shook things up at the 2022 NBA trade deadline as they dealt a promising young prospect (Tyrese Haliburton) for an established All-Star caliber player (Domantas Sabonis). And recently, the Kings surprised again when they drafted forward Keegan Murray at No. 4 instead of opting for Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, who was projected to land at that spot in most mock drafts because of his dynamic game.

—Mark Medina


San Antonio Spurs

Is Gregg Popovich returning in 2022-23?

That question looms every summer in San Antonio. If you’re looking for an indication one way or another, take note that the 73-year-old Popovich called each of the team’s draft picks to welcome them to the Spurs. The NBA’s winningest head coach, Popovich ponders his return to the bench on a year-by-year basis. But keep in mind he’s been energized by the challenge of building up the influx of young talent on the roster, which only increased during the draft with three first-round picks in Jeremy Sochan (ninth overall), Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley. The Spurs have cap space to make moves in free agency, but it’s more likely they’ll wait until next summer to strike.

Michael C. Wright


Toronto RaptorsRaptors logo

How will the Raptors handle looming extensions?

It seems like a formality that the Raptors will agree on extensions this summer to Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, two pillars that have made the franchise a legit competitor even following Kawhi Leonard’s departure three years ago. But Toronto will have to be mindful of its attempt to retain two pending free agents (Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher) because of how it could affect future flexibility. Why? That’s because OG Anunoby will become eligible for an extension in 2023 and Kia Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes will be up next for one in 2024.  President of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has a proven track record of knowing how to address the team’s short-term and long-term needs.

— Mark Medina


Utah JazzJazz logo

Is the Donovan Mitchell-Rudy Gobert partnership over?

Once they finalize their coaching search to replace the recently departed Quin Snyder, the Jazz will have to address a potentially more difficult challenge. With Utah failing to reach the championship stage as it hoped it would by now, should Utah break up the Mitchell-and-Gobert duo? Perhaps that prompts the Jazz to deal their three-time Defensive Player of the Year for needed wings to defend the perimeter and offer additional outside shooting. That route appears more likely than dealing Mitchell, though he may have a wandering eye if the Jazz’s playoff shortcomings continue.

— Mark Medina


Washington WizardsWizards logo

Will Bradley Beal and the Wizards maintain a long-term partnership?

Despite the persistent losing, Beal and the Wizards never wavered about their commitment to each other. Beal said in March he is still leaning toward signing a long-term deal to stay in Washington. President and general manager Tommy Sheppard echoed the organization’s loyalty to their veteran guard. But if the Wizards continue wading in mediocrity next season, would Beal regret his anticipated long-term deal to stay? The Wizards hope they can avoid such concerns by drafting Wisconsin product Johnny Davis, a small forward whom the Wizards believe can complement Beal both in the backcourt as well as bolster the team’s defensive needs at multiple positions.

— Mark Medina

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.