The NBA was the first league to suspend its season due to the coronavirus pandemic. At first, it was announced that the suspension would be for at least 30 days. Then the next estimate was said to be before July 1st. Now, there are rumors that the NBA could be canceling its 2019-20 season if the situation doesn’t get better.
Canceling the season means there will be no playoffs, no championship series, and that the league will proceed to the 2020-21 season and who will win the NBA Awards?. If the season indeed came to its abrupt start, there are interesting storylines surrounding teams that linger in our minds. Here are the most prominent ones:
The Los Angeles Lakers gave up most of their young core plus draft picks so that the New Orleans Pelicans would agree to trade Anthony Davis. Los Angeles traded Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart along with the 4th pick in the 2019 NBA draft in De’Andre Hunter plus two future first-round picks just to get the Brow to play alongside LeBron James this season.
The issue with Anthony Davis is that his contract allows him to decline a max extension that will allow him to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
While rumors are saying that Davis has no plans of leaving Los Angeles, this opens the door for teams like the Chicago Bulls who also want Davis on their side. However, with the possibility that the NBA’s salary cap could take a hit due to the coronavirus suspension, he might want to take the extension instead. An extension would mean a starting $32.5M salary for Davis which he might not be able to get in the post- COVID19 NBA scenario. Locking Davis would mean security for the Lakers who already have signed LeBron James for the next two seasons. This would assure the team that they will be championship contenders at least for the next two seasons.
If the NBA season is going to be canceled, the Los Angeles Clippers championship window going to take a hit. That’s because both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can opt-out of their respective contracts after the 2020-21 season. Financially, there is no reason for the two superstars to opt-out, especially with the possible effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA’s salary cap. But the Clippers need to win next season if they want to keep these two stars happy and committed. Remember that they (especially George) came here for the trophy, not the cash.
Then the Clippers will also have to deal with Montrezl Harrell who will be a free agent after the current season. Harrell has been a terrific contributor off the bench but it would have been better if he played in the playoffs so the Clippers can truly gauge how much he is worth in free agency.
If JaMychal Green picks up his $5M option and the Clippers re-sign Marcus Morris Sr. then L.A. could go over the luxury tax line. That’s not even counting Patrick Patterson, Reggie Jackson and Joakim Noah who will be free agents. You see, if we don’t see the playoffs this season, it would be an opportunity lost for the Clippers. Sure, Steve Ballmer has the dough to pay the luxury taxes for as long as his team wins, but if the season is over, it’s a wasted season for this win-now team.
Perhaps more lingering than the Anthony Davis max extension and the Clippers possibly wasted season is the situation surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 2019 NBA MVP is eligible to sign a super-max extension this offseason. Based on what he’s said in the past, he wants to stay in Milwaukee and build a winner. But after last season’s bitter loss to the Raptors, people are questioning if the current Bucks team can help Giannis take the Bucks to the next level.
If the season is canceled, then it’s another frustrating season for Antetokounmpo. Giannis was having another MVP season and the Bucks had the best record in the league when play was suspended. Sure, they were struggling in the last week or so before the pause but the Bucks would have been solid title contenders if the season resumes. If not, it could mean uncertainty.
If Antetokounmpo doesn’t sign the super-max extension, the Bucks will have plenty of competition to keep the Greek Freak, including large market teams like the Lakers.
The Warriors are also gathering enough trade assets to prepare for a possible Giannis sweepstakes and if Milwaukee doesn’t play this well, we could be seeing another Anthony Davis or Kawhi Leonard situation. Everything in Milwaukee starts and ends with Antetokounmpo. Should they lose him in free agency, it’s going to be a long rebuild for them.
The Philly faithful trusted the Process and they have built a fantastic team anchored on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers have also invested in building a winner around them by signing the likes of Tobias Harris, Al Horford, and Josh Richardson. But the Sixers had a very inconsistent 2019-20 season where they were almost unbeatable at home but were worse than the New York Knicks on the road. The Sixers’ woes forced them to tumble in the team standings and there are rumors that if they don’t have a good payoff run, head coach Brett Brown would be given the pink slip and the team roster would be evaluated. If there will be a cancelation of the season, what happens to these plans or rumors?
Embiid and Simmons are two of the best young players in the league and the two of them get along pretty well for an NBA duo. However, the NBA game is evolving and teams whose star players can shoot well from the outside usually have success. We saw this with the Warriors. The Raptors had pretty good shooters when they won the title last season.
But Philly? Embiid has improved his three-point shooting over the years but his main job is to secure the pain and dominate the middle. As for Simmons, the Aussie guard continues to refuse three-point shots at this stage of his career. Some quarters are arguing that this 1-2 punch won’t work because Simmons’ lack of shooting doesn’t compliment Embiid’s game. What do you think? I think that Philly’s future hangs in the balance if the season is indeed over. Like the Clippers, they need the 2019-20 playoffs to keep the band together.
The Portland Trail Blazers had a disappointing 2019-20 NBA season. The Blazers were 29-37 when the season was halted and they were 3.5 games behind the 8th seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference. If the season continues, Portland would have likely missed the playoff bus and it would lead to an uncertain offseason. Hassan Whiteside would be a free agent and only $1.8M of Trevor Ariza’s $12.8 M salary for the 2020-21 season is guaranteed.
The injuries to Jusuf Nurkic, Rodney Hood, and Zach Collins took its toll in the Blazers. Those three were key back-ups to Portland’s dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
This backcourt has been responsible for Portland’s success in the recent seasons and both have indicated their preference to stay in Portland and build a winner there. But with a handicapped supporting cast, will they return next season? There are rumors that it might be time to break up the duo because while they have brought the Blazers to the playoffs, they have not been able to bring the team to championship-level status.