Zwiller: Winners and losers of the timing of the NBA offseason
Thomas Zwiller | Monday, November 9, 2020
On Oct. 11, when LeBron James hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy, it concluded a season that had stretched on for over a year because of a lengthy season suspension due to COVID-19. It had been an exhausting, tiring conclusion to a season that had seen the players live in a bubble for three months. However, not 25 days later, on Nov. 5, the NBA Players Association announced that it had voted and approved the 2020-2021 NBA season. This season isn’t slated months from now, in fact, it’s just around the corner — it starts on Dec. 22, or just 43 days from now. The NBA Draft will happen in just nine days on Nov. 18, and following that the NBA free agency period will begin. Today, I plan to look at the big winners and losers of this announcement, and how it will shape the NBA Season.
Golden State Warriors: Golden State was pretty content with punting on last season. Klay Thompson missed the entirety of the season when he sustained an injury in the previous Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Kevin Durant left the team by demanding a trade to the Brooklyn Nets. Steph Curry broke his hand early on in the season and missed almost all of the remaining season. The team went 15-50, placed last in the Pacific Division and was one of eight teams that missed the Orlando Bubble entirely. This really does work to the advantage of the Warriors; they have a squad that will be incredibly rested after injury and will have the dynamic duo of Steph and Klay back. They also boast the number two pick in this year’s draft, meaning while they are well over the NBA Salary Cap, they can still add talent. This is a team that will go from one of the league’s worst to one of the league’s best.
The Brooklyn Nets: The Brooklyn Nets are in a bit of a different situation than the Golden State Warriors. Their team was competitive in the East, going 39-40, and made the NBA playoffs. They were promptly swept right out of the playoffs by a dominant Toronto Raptors team who was simply better than they were. That honestly makes a lot of sense though; superstar Kyrie Irving was absent from the bubble, and he was a key component of that Nets team. Why do I think the Nets are in a great spot, after being swept by one of the teams atop the East? Because of Kevin Durant of course. After Kevin had sustained a season-ending injury on the Golden State Warriors, he demanded a trade and went to Brooklyn but didn’t play for the entirety of the season. I honestly think that the Nets are in a better spot than the Warriors currently are. Without Klay or Steph, the Warriors were terrible and their record of 15-50 shows that. The Nets with an on-again-off-again Kyrie were just under .500, and they will be adding one of the best players in the league, with a proven core of younger players. Should KD be able to play near the level of his old self, we could be looking at a Nets team rivaling any in the East.
Phoenix Suns: The Phoenix Suns went 8-0 in the bubble but missed the playoffs on win-loss percentage. Their young gun, Devin Booker, played out of his mind in the bubble, scoring 31 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists. The team proved it is good and is just a piece away from the playoffs. They could very easily get that piece in the NBA free agency, as they should have the cap space. I think that this season is going to be a lower playoff seed, but a competitor nonetheless.
Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers were the NBA champions, so that softens the blow of the news that they will be suiting up again in December. That being said, this is going to be a team that is exhausted. They will have had about a month off in between seasons, a time period that will be the shortest in the four Major League history. I think that LeBron is going to try and take it easy, ease himself back into the season. Whether you like it or not, he’s going to need time off to rest and may play under load management restrictions. The team is a proven winner though, so I don’t expect the short rest to hamper them too much, they’ll be in the mix for the West.
Miami Heat: The Heat were the runner up to the Lakers in the Finals, meaning they have the same problem the Lakers have. One bonus is that they are a younger team overall than the Lakers, so I think they physically can rebound better. They also have plenty of salary-cap space, something the Lakers don’t have. There have been free agency rumors of the Heat getting a big piece, someone like, say, Giannis, who can leave the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m not too sure that Giannis will leave just yet, but the Heat can definitely add talent that is more rested. The Heat proved that they are competitors to be taken seriously. They took apart the Pacers and the Bucks and outplayed the Celtics, falling short to the Lakers, in part due to injury. I think they have what it takes to be back in the mix in the East.
Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics: These two are both going to be contenders, there’s no question. They’re losers, because they went deep into the postseason, and played long series (the Nuggets in particular, who played 19 games in the playoffs alone). I think they have a similar problem to the Lakers: they’re good, they’re just going to have to deal with a load management problem and try not to let their players wear out. They don’t have a particularly high first-round pick since they both went deep into the postseason, and as they are both over the cap, they won’t be able to add a whole lot of talent. To be fair, they don’t really need too; I think the Celtics can win the East, and the Nuggets will be a major player.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.