The 2023 draft is over. Almost all of this year’s notable free agents are off the board. And now the Summer League is also behind us.
Previously, the next two months would have been quiet for the NBA as players, coaches and managers enjoyed some vacation and prepared for training camps in late September.
However, the modern NBA has become a 12-month event, so while the news cycle will be slower in the coming weeks than it was in late June and early July, there are still several big stories worth keeping an eye on. Here are some that we want to see:
Lillard and Harden asked their respective teams to move them right around the start of free agency, but nearly three weeks later, it doesn’t look like there’s been a whole lot of movement on either front.
Lillard is focused on finishing Heatbut Miami lacks the kind of emerging young player who would appeal to Portland as the centerpiece of a package and can currently only offer two unencumbered first-round picks.
That Trail BlazersThe ideal scenario is that another team makes an aggressive play for Lillard, betting he won’t refuse to report to camp with four years left on his contract and a ton of money on the line. With a compelling alternative available, Portland could return to Miami with more leverage to convince the Heat to put their very best offer on the table.
Harden, meanwhile, seems focused on finishing Cutting machines. But like the Heat, the Clips don’t necessarily have the kind of assets that would appeal to their future trade partner. And even if they did, it’s harder to find a matchup between two teams with title aspirations than a contender making a deal with a rebuilding franchise.
That Sixes looking for win-now pieces in any Harden deal, but struggling to extract a ton of value for a player on an expensive expiring contract (which can’t be extended) entering his age-34 season.
It’s still more likely than not that at least one — and maybe both — of Lillard and Harden will play elsewhere this fall, but it could take some time for a deal to materialize. For what it’s worth, last year Donovan Mitchell blockbuster was not agreed until the first day of September.
The other subject candidates
Lillard and Harden are the two big names, but plenty of other talented players continue to pop up in trade rumors deep into the offseason. Birds of prey forth Pascal, I’m sorry has been linked to Hawks, Pacersand Magic. That Mavericks reportedly looked at players like Hawks center Clint Capela and Stamps forth Bojan Bogdanovic.
Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnasand Heat sharpie Tyler Hero are a few of the other players who could end up on new teams when the season begins.
Jaylen Brown‘s super-max negotiations
When superstars like to suffer Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid has become eligible in recent years for super-max contract extensions that start at 35% of the salary cap, negotiations have been quick and painless. After all, for perennial MVP candidates, even super-max deals can turn out to be relative bargains.
But when a player like Brown achieves super-max eligibility, as he did this spring by earning a spot on the All-NBA Second Team, those extension negotiations are more challenging. Brown is the No. 2 option on Celtics‘ list behind Jayson Tatum. Is Boston really eager to give him what would be – at least for now – the biggest contract in NBA history, worth upwards of $300MM over five years?
The Celtics are reportedly engaged in discussions with Brown about a super-max deal, but it sounds like it’s not as simple as giving him what he wants. While details on the rift between the two sides have been scarce, it’s possible that Brown is seeking a fifth-year player option or a trade kicker and Boston is resisting. It’s also possible the Celtics aren’t willing to offer the full super-max amount in guaranteed money, preferring to include incentives that would allow Brown to maximize his earnings if he or the team achieves certain benchmarks.
Reports out of Boston have repeatedly expressed optimism that a deal will be done, and this early in the offseason, there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case — the deadline isn’t until the day before the regular season begins. But the longer the negotiations drag on, the more interesting it will be to see what the final deal looks like, assuming they agree on one.
The other extension candidates
Like Lillard and Harden on the trade market, Brown is the main name to watch on the contract extension. But he’s far from the only extension candidate to monitor in the coming weeks and months.
Some teams, like the two in Los Angeles, will face decisions about whether to recommit to their injury-prone veteran superstars on lucrative new extensions — Cutting machines forward Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and Lakers big man Anthony Davis are among the players who are either already extension eligible or will be able to sign extensions before the season begins.
Other teams must decide whether to invest long-term in players entering the final year of their rookie contracts. Hawks forth Sadiq Bey, Mavericks wing Josh Green, Timberwolves forth Jaden McDaniels, Knicks guard Immanuel Quickleyand Spurs swing man Devin Vassell are among the most exciting candidates for rookie-scale expansions, although there are many more.
Filling out – and cutting down on – shift schedules
We should get some occasional inflows of big news over the next few months, including resolution of the remaining free agents such as Christian Wood and Hornets RFA forward PJ Washington.
However, the day-to-day headlines will be more about under-the-radar moves, like minimum-salary signings, two-way deals and Annex 10 deals, as teams work to fill out their 21-man rosters ahead of training camp.
Certain clubs may actually have to trim their rosters in the coming weeks to prepare for camp. That Thunderfor example, currently has 20 players on standard contracts (18 guaranteed) and one on a two-way deal.
Technically, the Thunder don’t have to make any cuts until right before the regular season begins. But they want to start clearing that congestion ahead of training camp so they can replace some veterans who won’t be on their regular-season roster with younger players they expect to remain in the organization at the G League level. Victor Oladipo, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans, Usman Garubaand TyTy Washington is among the players recently acquired by Oklahoma City in salary-dumping trades whose spots on the regular season roster are far from assured.
That Hawks, Cutting machines, Grizzlies, Spursand Wizards also each have more than 15 players on standard contracts.