Martian Predicts the NBA Offseason

The NBA finished a historic season under unprecedented circumstances — masterfully navigating a pandemic that threatened to prematurely end the season. The uncertainty didn’t end after the Los Angeles Lakers were crowned the champions of the bubble, however, as questions still linger about the start of free agency and next season. 

The NBA Draft is scheduled for November 18 with free agency set tentatively some time in December. Nobody knows what the salary cap will be set at. Many teams don’t have the financial flexibility to make big signings — this free agent class doesn’t have as many stars as next offseason, when players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Rudy Gobert can test the market (depending on player options and potential extensions this offseason). 

The headliner of the 2020 free agent class is Anthony Davis, but it’s damn-near certain that he’ll re-up with the Lakers on a five-year max deal. Truth be told, there may not be many Woj bombs regarding signings this coming season. The NBA is the best soap opera on television — drama is a given, and there will be plenty of it to serve our basketball itch over the next few months. As a certified lover of some good tea spillage, I, Martian, am here to predict how the offseason theatrics will play out. Join me, will you?

Chris Paul is traded to the Milwaukee Bucks

Noah K. Murray - USA Today Sports

The Oklahoma City Thunder are set to enter a rebuild — even after a season in which they defied all predictions and made the playoffs as the five-seed in the West behind an MVP-caliber season from point god Chris Paul. Despite being 35 and set to make $85 million over the next two seasons, Paul is a player that can help a team take the next step to the promised land: the Finals. At this point, it’s not speculation that he’s going to be traded; it’s a given. But where, you ask? Look no further than the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks finished the season with the league’s best record (56-17) as Giannis Antetokounmpo won his second consecutive MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Pegged as the favorites to win the championship, they were eliminated in the second round at the hands of Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. The Bucks may have been the best regular season team the last two years, but it’s clear they need another piece that can open up the floor and take some weight off of Giannis — who teams have figured out will slow down a bit in a slow, suffocating playoff environment.

The Bucks can offer Eric Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo, and two first-round picks in exchange for Paul. The Bucks get another All-Star that will surely make them the favorites once again and OKC nets an All-Defensive guard, a solid young wing, and more first-round picks —which they already have a plethora of. It’s a win-win for a team looking to win now (and convince Giannis to stay) and a team looking ahead to the future. 

Bradley Beal stays put… for now

Todd Kirkland - Associated Press

Bradley Beal was disrespected this year — being snubbed from selections to the All-Star Game and All-NBA teams. He averaged 30.5 points (45.5/35.3/84.2), 4.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists for the 25-47 Washington Wizards. Beal’s name has been floated in trade rumors for years now, and there’s been rumors of him teaming up with Kyrie and KD in Brooklyn or even LeBron and AD in LA. The Denver Nuggets present an intriguing destination, too. There are plenty of teams who would be willing to give up assets in return for one of the top scorers in the league, and they may get the chance to — but the Wizards will hold onto him until (probably) the trade deadline, whenever that may be. 

John Wall is returning from an Achilles injury, and while nobody’s sure how he’ll come back considering it’ll be over two years since his last in-game action, the Wizards have to at least try and run it back with this caliber backcourt. Wall is going to make a little over $40 million this season — and with the deal not expiring until 2023 — the Wizards have to see if they can make their once-perennial playoff contenders conjure up some magic this year. 

If shit hits the fan, then look for Beal to be shipped out, likely at his own request. Wall’s contract is immovable, but Beal is only 27 and coming off the best year of his career; his value would surely net a stockpile of draft picks and strong assets. 

Houston makes a run at a big man

Ezra Shaw - Getty Images

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks and acquired Robert Covington in a four-team deal, it was clear they were all-in on the small-ball philosophy. With 6’5” PJ Tucker playing “center”, the Rockets met their seasons demise at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second-round. They couldn’t slow down Anthony Davis, who Ralph calls “a point guard on stilts.” The Lakers championship victory proved that the big man isn’t dead, and with former head coach Mike D’Antoni no longer on the sidelines, general manager Daryl Morey is set to go full The Social Network and start writing algorithms on his office windows — which I have a sneaking suspicion is filled with those Funko dolls. Maybe an hour after I finished this Morey stepped down from his role. I like this joke so I’m not removing it. This is now the new GM’s problem to solve!

Unless one of them is traded (which seems unlikely), Houston has locked up their certified stars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. It’s been proven that a “big three” isn’t necessarily the only path to a championship, so the Rockets need another complimentary piece that can provide size and depth in the paint. Andre Drummond is the best center available heading into free agency, but it would make sense that he’d accept his $28.7 million player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That presents a couple options for Houston to fill the hole in their lineup — a hole they didn’t think they had just a few months ago.

The first name that comes to mind is DeMarcus Cousins (even though I would love for him to go back to the Lakers). Boogie unfortunately didn’t see the hardwood this year because of a preseason ACL injury, but he can still be an impact player. Sure — he’s had unfortunate injuries that often change the trajectory of a player’s career — but the last time we saw him, Boogie could still hoop. During his time with the Golden State Warriors in the 2018-19 season, Boogie averaged 22.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, five assists, 1.9 steals, and 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. Pretty damn good if you ask me. The Rockets don’t have much cap space, but Boogie will likely be in the hunt for a one-year, “prove yourself” type of deal. 

Another option is Tristan Thompson, who I thought the Rockets should’ve gone after if he hit the buyout market last season. Thompson doesn’t have the scoring prowess of Boogie, but he’s a board machine when he’s not cheating on Khloé Kardashian. Over the last two seasons, TT has averaged a double-double and would provide the Rockets with a looming presence in the paint that they so desperately need. He’s coming off an $82 million dollar contract — but with LeBron not there to bully Dan Gilbert into backing up the Brinks truck — the Rockets could likely snag him on a cap-friendly, shorter-term deal. 

If Houston wants to go for a team-friendly deal, they could target role players like Willie Cauley-Stein, Jahlil Okafor, John Henson, or Nerlens Noel. There are plenty of viable big man options available — but this is contingent on the Rockets willingness to ditch the small-ball attack.

The Lakers make a run at Victor Oladipo

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There have been multiple reports that Victor Oladipo is looking to leave the Indiana Pacers. Since he’s not a free agent until next offseason, interested teams will have to trade for the two-time All-Star. Oladipo has a history of injury — but when healthy — he’s a premier player in the league.

Many teams are going to make a run at Oladipo if the Pacers decide to trade him, with many of those squads being championship hopefuls (think Brooklyn, Boston, Miami). The most compelling destination being floated in the rumor mill is the Lakers. After coming off a championship — LeBron, AD, and company are hungry for more. While they may not have as many assets to offer as other teams, Rob Pelinka has proven to be a formidable showrunner; I wouldn’t put it past him to figure out how to make this transaction a reality.

By adding Oladipo, the Lakers gain another player who grinds on both ends of the floor — taking some of the scoring load off LeBron and adding to their staunch defensive identity. I know I just said that a “big three” isn’t a deciding factor in who wins the Finals, but adding a third All-Star certainly wouldn’t hurt their chances at a back-to-back campaign. With the Warriors back in the mix, the Nuggets continued improvement, another year of Luka Doncic in Dallas, and the Clippers (lmao), the Lakers will have to retool a bit in order to stay on top. 

There is nothing conventional about how this last season unfolded and how the next will shape up. Things are going to look different over the coming months — but it’s the NBA — the same drama-filled, personality-driven roller coaster that we’ve come to love (and some to loathe). While I can’t guarantee that anything I predicted is going to happen (although I will say I’ve been pretty spot-on with my predictions in the past), I will say with full certainty that this offseason will keep us thoroughly entertained until the first whistle of the new season blows.