Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Every NBA Team's Biggest Fear This Offseason

Zach Buckley

Two emotions typically drive the NBA offseason: optimism and fear.

It's easy to get caught up in the clean slate of a new summer and dream about how good life could be if everything breaks right. For most teams, though, the harsh reality of the real world inevitably sets in, and things don't go how they wanted.

The fact that everyone knows this is a distinct possibility is where the fear comes from.

To get a better understanding of what could happen if things go awry, let's spotlight the biggest fear facing every team heading into the summer.

Atlanta Hawks: No Major Trades Materialize

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Last summer, the Atlanta Hawks paid a premium to acquire Dejounte Murray and pair him with Trae Young. Clearly, that wasn't enough to get this team on a championship track, as it landed in the play-in tournament and was later knocked out of the first round.

Atlanta should keep searching for opportunities to shake things up. Letting go of Young feels a step too far, but finally flipping John Collins could make a ton of sense, particularly if the Hawks snag a defense-first forward in the deal.

They could also explore moving Clint Capela, both to get his contract off the books and to clear the runway for Onyeka Okongwu to take off.

This offense sits among the Association's most potent, but the defense continues to drag this team down. Atlanta should be laser-focused on finding a better balance and correcting the flaws that have prevented it from reaching the NBA's top tier.

Boston Celtics: Losing Grant Williams for Nothing

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For reasons known only to them—or maybe known only to skipper Joe Mazzulla—the Boston Celtics have decided Grant Williams can't fill a regular role.

A frontcourt staple in seasons past, Williams has seen his floor time evaporate to the point he's been outright benched in five of the club's first 14 playoff games.

That doesn't change the fact that he's still a valuable asset. When word leaked in February that Williams was "said to be seeking" an annual salary of $20 million, per Marc Stein, it's not like the report was met by a string of crying-laughing emojis. It may have been a touch steep, sure, but multipositional defenders with a career 37.9 percent splash rate from three are typically treated very well in this league.

As hard as it is to picture the Celtics paying that price for Williams, he is too good of a player for Boston to lose for nothing when it has the right of first refusal on the restricted free agent.

If the Celtics can't keep him at a reasonable right, they should try to at least broker a sign-and-trade on his way out.

Brooklyn Nets: Cameron Johnson Gets a Massive Offer

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

When the Brooklyn Nets dealt Kevin Durant at the deadline, they brought in more than a bounty of first-round picks (though they did snag four of those, plus a future pick swap). They also added both Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, suggesting they either have plans to keep them or at least view them as assets to fuel future trades.

While Bridges drew the most attention for his post-deadline play, Johnson quietly climbed to previously unseen production levels. He shined brightest on the biggest stage, too, pumping in 18.5 points per night on 50.9/42.9/85.7 shooting in Brooklyn's four playoff outings.

The Nets surely noticed those numbers, but forward-needy teams did, too. That could take his restricted free-agency venture to an uncomfortable place for Brooklyn.

He is a solid starter and one probably worth keeping, but he isn't a star. If someone throws him an offer sheet that would pay him like one, the Nets could be in a bad spot of not wanting to match but also not wanting to lose him for nothing.

Charlotte Hornets: Guessing Wrong with the No. 2 Pick

Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2023 NBA draft class has a three-player tier at the top. Well, it's actually two separate tiers—Victor Wembanyama has a tier to himself, then there's a gap, then you'll find Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller—but those who didn't get the No. 1 pick at least wanted to leave the lottery with a top-three selection.

The Charlotte Hornets did just that, snagging the No. 2 pick. That is, objectively speaking, a big win for Buzz City. But it's also one that will pressure this organization to absolutely nail the pick.

Henderson was previously regarded as the clear-cut second-best prospect in this class, but Miller trimmed the gap to the point where there's now a spirited debate between the two.

In some ways, this feels like a can't-miss chance for Charlotte. The Hornets will leave this draft with a high-end prospect. Time will eventually reveal whether they made the right call, though.

Henderson isn't the cleanest on-court fit with LaMelo Ball, as both are guards who work best with the ball in their hands, but if Charlotte views him as the better prospect, it could take Henderson and worry about the fit later.

The injection of ascending talent will clearly help this forlorn franchise, but the Hornets have to select the right building block.

Chicago Bulls: Overcommitting to a Non-Contending Core

Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls were ousted from last year's opening round and regressed this season while failing to escape the play-in tournament. They have no clue when floor general Lonzo Ball will be ready to return from what's, so far, a year-and-a-half absence. Two of their three best players are in their 30s; one is heading into free agency this summer (Nikola Vučević) and the other will get there next summer (DeMar DeRozan).

This is not a contender as constructed, and it's unclear how (or if) the Bulls can ever enter the championship chase. This feels like the right time to give up on this group and start over, but the franchise disagrees with that take.

"That's been thrown around all season: 'Blow up, rebuild.' It's not on our minds," executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas told reporters. "[We're focusing] on winning and trying to build a sustainable program here."

It's fine if the Bulls want to chase competitiveness—even if it's not the route I'd take with this roster—but they need to be realistic with their expectations and judicious with their spending.

Overspending on Vučević could be a catastrophic miscalculation that makes it both tough to build up the rest of this roster and tricky to tear it down, should Chicago ever accept this inevitability.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Failing to Find Their Missing Small Forward

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Theoretically, the Cleveland Cavaliers could be in danger of overreacting to their postseason disappointment and panic-trading themselves off of their ascending track.

As messy as their first-round exit was, it doesn't erase all of the positives put forth during Donovan Mitchell's debut season in Northeast Ohio. A core with him, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen still has tremendous upside.

The Cavs seemingly recognize that, though, so that takes one worry off the table. Now, Cleveland needs to make sure its glaring problem at small forward gets corrected.

As simple as this sounds, the Cavaliers desperately need a wing who can defend and shoot consistently. Their position group just doesn't have that.

They tried getting Royce O'Neale in February before the Nets opted to keep him, per's Chris Fedor. They might want to try re-engaging Brooklyn or looking to free agency for someone like Max Strus, Gary Trent Jr. or Harrison Barnes.

Dallas Mavericks: Giving Luka Dončić Reasons to Look Elsewhere

Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Everything the Dallas Mavericks do must be viewed through the prism of how it impacts Luka Dončić. That's basically been the case since he arrived during the 2018 draft, and it rings truer now than ever.

As soon as their colossally disappointing season ended, ESPN's Tim MacMahon brought word that "fear exists" within the organization that Dončić could want out if "significant progress" isn't made over the next year.

Dončić downplayed the report, but Dallas shouldn't put much stock in that. It's the public relations spin he had to give. Even if it was genuine, there's no way for the Mavericks to know for sure.

All they can do is work this offseason to ensure that disappointment is never repeated. That means correctly gauging the free-agency value of Kyrie Irving—an elite talent with major availability concerns—turning the No. 10 pick into something useful and finding other ways to improve this roster.

If they can't sell a vision that Dončić buys, it would be a failure that could set this franchise back for years to come.

Denver Nuggets: Bruce Brown Leaves and Isn't Replaced

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Denver Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth must have the Midas touch. He did a masterful job putting the finishing touches on this roster last summer—acquiring Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, signing Bruce Brown, drafting Christian Braun—and could soon be rewarded for his efforts with a championship ring.

The Nuggets roster fits together like a fully assembled puzzle, which is why they have to be worried about what could happen if they lose a critical piece this summer.

Brown, a walking Swiss Army knife, has outperformed the $6.8 million player option he holds for next season and could be seeking a major payday. Denver could have trouble finding the funds to keep him.

The Nuggets wouldn't crumble without him, of course, but filling all the roles he handles would be a daunting task to say the least.

Detroit Pistons: The No. 5 Pick Doesn't Move the Rebuild Forward

Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images

The draft lottery went the same way the regular season did: The Detroit Pistons were the biggest losers.

Despite having the league's worst record and being in a three-team tie for having the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick, the Pistons suffered the biggest lottery slide and tumbled to the No. 5 spot.

Detroit can still pluck a good prospect out of this draft slot, but a fanbase that just spent a 65-loss season dreaming about Victor Wembanyama could struggle to find excitement for Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks or one of the Thompson twins.

The Pistons aren't far enough into their rebuild to put much weight into team needs, but that could mean adding a player who either gets lost in the shuffle or does nothing to fix a weakness. Walker and Hendricks would add to Detroit's glut of bigs; Amen and Ausar Thompson's shooting woes and need for touches could make them poor fits with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.

Oh, and reaching for a prospect just to find a cleaner fit wouldn't move the needle, since the Pistons need talent more than anything.

Golden State: Draymond Green Opts Out and Exits

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Draymond Green has a $27.6 million player option for next season. He could easily decline it for a new deal, as he might value long-term security enough to live with a (slightly) lower salary. If he inks a lengthy deal, it's possible the contract won't age great, since he's already 33 years old and has some severe limitations on the offensive end.

That shouldn't matter to the Golden State Warriors, though. If they want to remain anywhere near the championship hunt—where they need to be as long as Stephen Curry is in his prime—they have to keep Green around.

"If Draymond's not back, we're not a championship contender," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We know that. He's that important to winning, to who we are."

The Dubs have plenty to sort through this summer—the future of lead executive Bob Myers, a potential trade of one (or both) of Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga—but getting Green back is clearly the top priority.

This defensive system doesn't work without his versatility and communication, and this offense could even collapse without his screen-setting and distributing.

Houston Rockets: They Launch Themselves onto Treadmill of Mediocrity

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets are ready for take-off. Or, their ownership and/or front office is eager to elicit a rapid rise, rather.

Never mind that the roster remains painfully young or that it contributed to three consecutive seasons with a sub-.300 winning percentage. Someone in Space City wants to win, and they are running out of patience.

Established stars like James Harden, Khris Middleton and Jaylen Brown are all on Houston's wish list, per Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer. The Rockets have reportedly bandied about the idea of trading away Jalen Green, the No. 2 pick in 2021, for an instant upgrade. One wonders if their attempted acceleration might also include shopping this summer's No. 4 pick.

What's the end game for Houston, though? Obviously, expanding the talent base is an aim, but to what end? Will the Rockets snag a star and call it quits? If they get one, will they plow through their asset collection to trade for one or two more? Is it even possible that one star or two could push this team into championship contention? Because if not, Houston might just be sacrificing prime assets to land in the NBA's middle class, where championship wins and lottery jackpots are both pipe dreams at best.

Indiana Pacers: Paying Too Much for a Buddy Hield Extension

Elsa/Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers aren't in a full-on youth movement, but no one means more to this franchise than 23-year-old Tyrese Haliburton. Look past him, and you'll probably spot 20-year-old Bennedict Mathurin up next on the pecking order.

Indiana is positioned to prioritize the future over the present, which makes it at least curious to find 30-year-old Buddy Hield in the Circle City. His shooting stroke would have ample value on the trade market, but the Pacers have held onto him to this point and kicked around the idea of extending his contract this summer.

"If we can get a role where he's comfortable and we're comfortable, then I'm not opposed to it," Pacers president Kevin Pritchard told reporters. "I'm not saying we're going to do it for sure, but I'm not opposed to it."

If the extension wasn't super team-friendly, it's hard to tell why Indiana would want it. Paying a premium for Hield makes no sense for the Pacers. He is a shooting specialist who will turn 31 years old before the calendar flips to 2024.

Win-now teams might get decent mileage out of him, but a win-down-the-road team like Indiana has no real use for a pricey, aging role player.

Los Angeles Clippers: Losing Tyronn Lue

Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers don't have tons to do this summer—unless they wind up needing a new head coach. That feels unlikely since Tyronn Lue has two years left on his contract, but it's apparently not off the table.

The Phoenix Suns, who need a replacement for Monty Williams, "are expected to explore the feasibility" of plucking Lue out of L.A., per Marc Stein. B/R's Chris Haynes reported Lue's representatives met with the team to discuss his future and perhaps a contract, though Haynes still called the situation "one to monitor."

It feels like a long shot Lue would leave—the Clippers would need to grant the Suns permission to even meet with him, then the sides would likely have to iron out a trade (Jason Kidd was the last coach traded in 2014)—but with an otherwise quiet-ish offseason on the docket, that still looms as the largest worry in L.A.

Los Angeles Lakers: Austin Reaves Landing an Enormous Offer Sheet

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Someone is about to make Austin Reaves awfully rich this summer. The worry for the Los Angeles Lakers, though, is that an external suitor will get carried away and put some colossal offer sheet in front of him.

League rules dictate what anyone can offer Reaves, but only to a certain extent. As B/R's Eric Pincus detailed, another team can't start his next salary above about $11.4 million, but a cap room team could offer him a four-year deal with maximum salaries on the final two seasons. That would put the value of a four-year deal at $98.7 million.

No matter how much the Lakers like Reaves, that's a huge chunk of change. He has turned plenty of heads this season—and in this postseason, where he's averaging 16 points, 4.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds—but it's not like he's a guaranteed star. If L.A. was forced to either pay him like one or let him walk, that's the kind of endless debate that may never yield a correct answer.

Memphis Grizzlies: Not Cashing In Their Trade Chips

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

As good as the Memphis Grizzlies are already, they still might be one player short of competing for a title. Plop a difference-making wing onto this roster, and that could be the puzzle piece that brings the first championship parade to Beale Street.

But how do they get that wing? They have a healthy collection of picks and prospects, but four first-round picks weren't enough to pry Mikal Bridges out of Brooklyn. Three firsts couldn't get O.G. Anunoby away from the Toronto Raptors.

How can Memphis seal one of these deals?

Dangling Tyus Jones seemed like an option, but that's suddenly a massive gamble with Ja Morant again under league investigation for appearing to brandish a handgun on an Instagram Live video. Brandon Clarke could've been a sweetener, but he's facing a lengthy recovery after tearing his Achilles in March. Ziaire Williams is theoretically appealing, but 2021's No. 10 pick underwhelmed as a rookie and looked worse in an injury-riddled sophomore season.

Memphis should aggressively pursue high-end talent this offseason, but there are no guarantees anyone will bite.

Miami Heat: Losing Key Depth Pieces in Free Agency

Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The Miami Heat were an afterthought in the Eastern Conference until the postseason tipped, activating both "Playoff Jimmy" Butler and the mastermind that is head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Tack on their shooters simultaneously going supernova, and voila: The Heat are not only in the conference finals, they're a game up on the higher-seeded Boston Celtics.

This doesn't really make sense—Miami lost a play-in game by double-digits—but it doesn't have to. This story has played out often enough to just expect the Heat to rise whenever the playoffs get rolling. There are a number of reasons why it's happening, but the play of the supporting cast is a big one.

Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, who have logged more playoff minutes in Miami than anyone not named Butler or Bam Adebayo, have played massive roles in this success. That could be more than enough for these unrestricted-free-agents-to-be to drum up significant interest from external suitors. The Heat can't afford to break the bank on either one, so they can only hope that one or both would take reasonable money to stay or that this front office and coaching staff can keep uncovering these hidden gems.

Milwaukee Bucks: Losing One (or Both) of Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks are the most recent evidence of NBA life moving at the speed of light.

When the regular season ended, their championship chances looked as good as any after they tallied a league-best 58 wins. Then, they were ousted by the eighth-seeded Heat in only five games, which cost former coach Mike Budenholzer his job and complicated what were already tricky decisions for this summer.

Rim-protecting, floor-spacing center Brook Lopez is a free agent. All-Star swingman Khris Middleton can become one by declining his $40.4 million player option. Both are well into their 30s but could still cost a fortune in free agency. They are critical components of this club and wouldn't be easily replaced, since Milwaukee could be over the cap even without them.

Keeping both could complicate things down the line, though. The Bucks would be locked into an aging core that was just exposed in the postseason. If they're regressing, they won't have an easy time of reversing that trend. In fact, they could have even fewer resources available than ever as the new collective bargaining agreement is most punitive toward the league's biggest spenders.

And yet, that's worth the risk, since letting them walk would be akin to abandoning the championship race—and maybe forcing Giannis Antetokounmpo to consider taking his talents elsewhere.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Mistiming a Karl-Anthony Towns Trade

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Minnesota Timberwolves totally botched last summer's Rudy Gobert trade. They wildly overpaid to get him and really didn't need him in the first place. Shedding him now would do nothing to fix that, since his trade value might be totally tanked.

If the Wolves want to shake things up after an uninspiring 42-win season, they'd have to look at moving Karl-Anthony Towns. Gobert might be untradeable at his pay rate, and Anthony Edwards is the obvious centerpiece of this organization. Towns is the one player who could facilitate a shake-up.

But moving him now would be a mistake. He just had maybe the least productive season of his career, averaging his fewest rebounds ever and least amount of points since his rookie year. He also lost nearly four months to a calf injury, making this the third time in four seasons he's played 50 games or fewer. His trade value won't measure up to his talent, especially if suitors hold out their top assets in hopes that a megastar like Joel Embiid or Luka Dončić suddenly wants out.

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson Suffering A(nother) Setback

Cole Burston/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans have a few decisions to make in free agency—are Josh Richardson and Jaxson Hayes keepers?—but they all take a footnote to the ongoing story of Zion Williamson's latest recovery.

The oft-injured star hurt his hamstring in early January and never hit the hardwood again. By April, he said he was physically "fine" but wouldn't play until "I feel like Zion." That never happened before New Orleans' season ended, meaning Williamson has played just 114 games since arriving as the top pick in 2019.

The Pelicans are basically stuck in neutral until they get him back. They can't tear down the team because he might be good enough at full strength to lead a championship run. But they also have to be cautious about throwing a ton of assets toward win-now additions, since it's unclear when he'll be leading them again.

And this shouldn't need to be said, but the idea of trading Williamson is nonsense. The Pels might not see another player of his caliber for decades. They have to hold onto him and hope for the best.

New York Knicks: Cashing in Their Trade Chips Too Early

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The New York Knicks loomed as stealth contenders, until they turned back into a pumpkin in the conference semis. Their offense couldn't get out of its own way, and they made too many mistakes to get past the Heat.

There will be temptations among the faithful for New York to dramatically shake things up. Between talks of mutual interest with Karl-Anthony Towns and the public lobbying from one prominent fan for a Damian Lillard deal, the Knicks have options if they want to chase a quick fix.

They need to exercise some caution, though. Towns is a solid player, but he is unlikely to lift the Knicks into contention. Lillard is a great player, but he'd be an awful fit with Jalen Brunson. These aren't the players worth cashing in the trade chips New York has patiently stacked in recent years.

The Knicks should continue to let this core grow organically and wait for the right superstar to hit the trade market before going all-in.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Getting Impatient

Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder might finally have an interest in finding the fast-forward button.

This roster made a big jump this season, reeling off 40 wins and playing a pair of play-in games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander took a superstar turn, while Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams cemented themselves as long-term building blocks.

With Chet Holmgren waiting in the wings (his would-be rookie season was wiped out by a foot injury) and another lottery pick landing soon, OKC could take another big step in 2023-24. Spending on a top-shelf free agent or packaging some picks and prospects to trade for an established star could help them climb the ladder even quicker.

But what's the rush? Patience has proved quite virtuous for the Sooner State so far, and the Thunder should continue following this draft-and-develop model. The free-agent market is light on difference-makers and has none that fit this franchise's timeline. The trade pool appears similarly shallow with players either too old or not quite good enough for OKC to part with its top assets.

Orlando Magic: Rushing to Find a Quick Fix

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic had a successful 2023-24 season. Or, a more successful one than their 34-48 record would indicate. After stumbling out to a 5-20 start, they went on to post a winning record over the final four months (29-28).

It's possible this could fool the front office into thinking this roster is more ready than it actually is. The Magic need scoring and shooting, and maybe the decision-makers see someone like Zach LaVine filling that void.

It's premature to make a move like that, though. Their two most important players, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, just finished their first and second seasons, respectively. Time is absolutely on Orlando's side.

At some point, this club will need more shot-makers on the perimeter, but breaking open the piggy bank to fill that void now wouldn't brighten the present enough to offset the long-term cost of a blockbuster trade.

Philadelphia 76ers: Mishandling James Harden's Free Agency

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers have one of the league's top two-man tandems in MVP Joel Embiid and former MVP James Harden—for now.

Harden could bring about a breakup if he wants, though, as he "intends to decline his $35.6 million player option to become an unrestricted free agent," per B/R's Chris Haynes.

Now, this doesn't automatically mean Harden is out in Philly, but he has other options and seems at least curious to explore them. He could head back to Houston. He also might have interest in reuniting with Kevin Durant on the Phoenix Suns, per SiriusXM NBA Radio host Brian Geltzeiler.

If Harden bolts, the Sixers need to do whatever they can to safeguard themselves against Embiid potentially asking out.

Even if Harden wants to return, though, Philly needs to find a contract amount that makes sense for both parties. Paying top dollar for a 33-year-old with a spotty playoff track record wouldn't be the soundest business decision ever made.

Phoenix Suns: Trading Deandre Ayton for Pennies on the Dollar

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Deandre Ayton's relationship with the Phoenix Suns, the franchise that selected him first overall in 2018, may be broken beyond repair. As Marc Stein recently reported, there is a "leaguewide consensus forming" that he "has likely played his last game for the franchise."

While a fresh start seems best for both sides, the Suns can't make an Ayton trade just to do a deal. It has to be something that benefits them, whether that's delivering multiple contributors to help their depth issues or bringing in assets that help Phoenix fill the cracks in separate swaps.

Ayton can be maddeningly inconsistent—both in his execution and perceived effort—but he's still an asset. Even setting aside his draft pedigree, you're talking about a 24-year-old averaging a double-double for his career (16.7 points and 10.4 rebounds). He'll have suitors, the Suns just need to make sure they pick the right one with the best trade package to propel them forward.

Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard Looking for the Exits

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers didn't strike lottery gold, but they did well for themselves by moving up into the No. 3 spot.

That could deliver a top prospect like Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller, but neither would be a big help to 32-year-old face of the franchise, Damian Lillard. Supporting him would mean shopping the back for an instant upgrade, and it sounds like that's the route Portland plans to take.

"We're a team that's trying to win and trying to maximize Damian's timeline," Blazers general manager told Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer at the lottery. "This was an important night for us."

If the Blazers really want to chase championships with Lillard, then the worst thing that could happen to them this summer is the prolific point guard developing a wandering eye. This roster is nowhere near championship level and trading the No. 3 pick can only do so much.

If Lillard can't see a title-worthy core assembling around him, he could still want out even with Portland's apparent willingness to move the pick.

Sacramento Kings: Losing Harrison Barnes for Nothing

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings made massive strides this season, snapping out of a 16-year playoff drought and snagging the West's No. 3 seed. To help maintain this momentum, they need to bring back unrestricted free agent Harrison Barnes.

He isn't the most productive player on the roster, but he is a rock-solid, two-way wing with championship experience. How else are the Kings luring that type of player to Northern California? They've never been a free-agent destination, and they can't really trade a top prospect when players like Keegan Murray and Davion Mitchell are already filling key roles in the rotation.

Barnes' archetype is always coveted in the modern NBA, so if the Kings don't come correct at the negotiating table, he won't have trouble finding suitors elsewhere.

Losing him would really sour what should be a fun summer given this team's (finally) upward trajectory.

San Antonio Spurs: No Fears Detected for the Wemby Sweepstakes Winner

Kamil Krzaczynski/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2023 NBA offseason hasn't officially started yet, and the San Antonio Spurs are already crowned as its biggest winner.

That honor landed in their laps at the lottery when they snagged the top pick and earned the right to select once-in-a-lifetime prospect Victor Wembanyama, a 7'5" teenager with an 8'0" wingspan, handles, a step-back three-ball and, hyperbolic as this sounds, greatest-of-all-time potential.

"It's going to be unbelievable," chairman of Spurs Sports & Entertainment Peter Holt told reporters after the jackpot win. "Our future was already bright. Now it's going to be through the moon."

This is San Antonio's golden ticket back to the top, much the same way previous No. 1 picks David Robinson and Tim Duncan turned out to be.

As soon as the Spurs' pick of Wembanyama is announced, this franchise could be celebrating for years—if not decades—to come.

Toronto Raptors: Botching the Coaching Search

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

During Nick Nurse's five seasons at the helm of the Toronto Raptors, he won both an NBA championship and a Coach of the Year award. Moving on from him is their prerogative, but it's still a decision steeped in risk.

Toronto's concerns with Nurse, per Sportsnet's Michael Grange, stemmed from "lack of bench development, a play style that [yielded] intended results but was overly taxing given minutes for starters and created problems in other areas." Toronto also sought "more structure and accountability."

All of that is fine—though the bench issues may have been on the front office as much as anyone—but only if the Raptors find the right replacement.

Nurse is a championship coach. Bringing in a lesser skipper could be catastrophic, and that's true regardless of whether the Raptors commit to this core this summer or use the offseason to reset around Scottie Barnes.

Utah Jazz: Not Adding a Building Block

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz are in a good spot. They have cap space, draft picks, prospects and a budding star in Lauri Markkanen.

Things are absolutely looking up in Salt Lake City—rather miraculously so given the Jazz spent last offseason trading away All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Moving forward, they have myriad avenues to add talent.

"The optionality that we've created with the roster, the possibilities are endless," Jazz general manager Justin Zanik told reporters. "There's just multiple ways for us continue to move forward with this team and continue to try to open that championship window."

Having options is great. Using those options to find difference-making talent is the real challenge, though.

The Jazz have no excuses. No matter if they're playing for next season or farther out into the future, they need more building blocks. They have all the resources needed to make that happen, so exiting this offseason with little more than they already have would be a bummer.

Washington Wizards: Overspending on a Play-In Roster

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Washington Wizards have spent the past decade trapped in the limbo that is the middle of the NBA standings. They've never been good enough to make a prolonged postseason run, but they've always been too good to bottom out and gain access to a blue-chip prospect.

One could argue it's (beyond) time for this franchise to choose a new route, trading away Bradley Beal and focusing fully on the future. The Wizards, however, may not see it that way.

When explaining the decision to dismiss former general manager Tommy Sheppard, Wizards governor Ted Leonsis cited the "failure to make the playoffs the last two seasons" as "very disappointing."

If the Wizards want to stay around the playoff picture, they can probably do that by re-signing both Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porziņģis. But what would that get them? A play-in berth? Maybe a first-round cameo? That's not good enough to justify the likely costs of their next contracts.

If Washington brings both back, it better have something else up its sleeve, because no one wants to pay a fortune for a non-contender.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and Salary information via Spotrac.

Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.


Read 0 Comments

Download the app for comments Get the B/R app to join the conversation

Install the App
Bleacher Report