De'Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Bold NBA Offseason Predictions We Actually Believe In

Dan Favale

We interrupt your regularly scheduled 2023 NBA Finals programming with this important message, from the future, about the Association's upcoming offseason: It's going to be bonkers.

Every shred of common sense points toward a wild, wacky, largely unpredictable summer. So many teams seem positioned to chase, if not outright complete, big-time moves.

Burgeoning parity is to thank. This past regular season and these current playoffs will easily convince a massive pool of teams they're so very close to something special. And that feeling invariably lends itself to bold action.

This says nothing of the ramifications from the new collective bargaining agreement. More punitive trade rules aimed at extravagant spenders will kick in ahead of the 2024-25 campaign. This will be the last offseason a handful of organizations can comfortably make aggressive upgrades.

And then there's the fallout from the draft lottery. A number of teams selecting near the top are approaching a crisis of timeline. That adds yet another layer of unknowability to the summertime festivities.

Staring down an offseason steeped in such dynamic ambiguity, we must, as responsible hoops heads, peer into a crystal ball that's actually shaped like a ghost pepper and indulge the impending spice.

Like always, this is different from performative outlandishness. We're trying to be neither incorrect nor boring. Instead, this batch of stabs-in-the-dark will strive to balance plausibility with ambition. Not all of these guesstimates are surface-of-the-sun hot, but they do rage against typical consensus, even if only lightly.

Let's ride.

At Least 1 Top 5 Draft Pick Will Be Traded

The 2023 NBA draft lottery Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Let's run through the candidates, in reverse selection order.

No. 5 Pick: Detroit Pistons

General manager Troy Weaver may be "confident" the Pistons "continue to be on the right path to success." But he's entering Year 4 atop the organization's decision-making pyramid. Progress needs to start revealing itself in the standings.

This pressure to materially improve has already culminated in the search for a new head coach. Dealing out of No. 5, where there's no consensus selection, in favor of a high-impact veteran should be on the table.

No. 4 Pick: Houston Rockets

Something, something, James Harden-to-Houston rumors, something, something.

If the Rockets do indeed bring back Harden, he's not rejoining the fold to mentor a gaggle of kids. They will be obligated to shop everyone and everything under the sun in exchange for win-now talent.

This might be the mandate even if Harden stays put. Oklahoma City controls Houston's 2024 and 2026 first-rounders (top-four protection) and has the right to swap selections in 2025 (top-10 protection). Anything and everything feels in play for the Rockets.

No. 3 Pick: Portland Trail Blazers

If the Blazers are serious about both retaining Damian Lillard and building a core around him that will play in games past mid-April, they need to shop the hell out of this pick. And that's exactly what most expect them to do, per ESPN's Zach Lowe.

Whether Portland makes good on this obligation or continues to act like Wizards West remains to be seen.

No. 2 Pick: Charlotte Hornets

"This draft starts at No. 2 with the Hornets!" is being reiterated ad nauseam. Because it's true. The Scoot Henderson-or-Brandon Miller debate looms large.

Let's remember these are the Hornets, though. LaMelo Ball is extension-eligible. They're also about to reinvest in P.J. Washington (restricted) and, probably, Miles Bridges (who must serve the balance of a 30-game suspension for pleading no contest to felony domestic violence charges).

Maybe Charlotte convinces the team drafting at No. 3 (Portland? Not Portland?) to give up assets for a one-spot jump. Or perhaps it looks to accelerate its own timeline amid roster reinvestments.

No. 1 Pick: San Antonio Spurs

LOL, just kidding.

The Sacramento Kings Make a Big-Time Signing or Trade

De'Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Major shakeups needn't be on the menu for the Sacramento Kings after finishing third in the Western Conference and pushing the (still really dangerous) Golden State Warriors to seven games.

And yet, they might be.

Because they're possible.

Sacramento can enter the summer with a hair over $20 million in cap space by renouncing all of its own free agents, including Harrison Barnes. That's not enough to go bigger-name hunting. But they can surge to over $30 million in spending power if they find a taker for the final two years and $24.9 million left on Richaun Holmes' deal. That puts them in play for difference-makers like Jerami Grant, Kyle Kuzma (player option) and Khris Middleton (player option).

Blockbuster trades aren't outside the realm of possibility, either. The Kings owe next year's first to Atlanta (lottery protection), but they have No. 24 in this June's draft and can attach future picks to easily digestible salaries. The ceiling on their returns will increase significantly if First Team All-Rookie member Keegan Murray isn't off limits.

This isn't to say Sacramento will go on the superstar prowl. Its asset chest falls shy of that territory. But they're sleeper(?) candidates to party crash the potential sweepstakes for OG Anunoby and Mikal Bridges, specifically, in addition to anyone of consequence who rivals that archetype.

1 or More of These NBA Teams will Do Something So Shocking We Can't Predict What

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Oklahoma City Thunder

This is admittedly wishful thinking. The Thunder aren't one to rush things under executive vice president Sam Presti.

Still, they have $30-plus million in cap space and the looming return (read: debut) of Chet Holmgren and are coming off a rollicking season that feels like an arrival rather than run-of-the-mill step forward. This team has the incentive to swing for the fences.

Toronto Raptors

Jakob Poeltl, Gary Trent Jr. (player option) and Fred VanVleet (player option) are all free agents this summer. OG Anunoby (player option) and Pascal Siakam are extension eligible and follow suit in 2024.

Increased expenses beget big moves. Will part of the Raptors core dissolve? Or will Toronto quadruple down, pay everyone and actually go depth hunting on the trade market?

Utah Jazz

Sure, the Jazz are wrapping up Year 1 of their rebuild. But they were so good this year the front office needed to not-so-subtly nudge them out of the play-in race.

Armed with anywhere between $20- and $50-plus million in cap space, as well as three first-rounders in this year's draft and future picks galore, don't rule out Utah exploring more nuclear scenarios.

Washington Wizards

Yes, yes, yes we all know how team governor Ted Leonsis is addicted to failed middle-builds. But Michael Winger presumably didn't leave a comfy post with the L.A. Clippers to become president of Monumental Basketball without the promise of autonomy.

And given his background—specifically with the Clippers and the Thunder—this isn't someone who's willingly going to perpetuate a sub-40-win culture.

Rival teams already expect the Wizards to be "aggressive," according to NBA insider Marc Stein. And "aggressive" could mean anything: a teardown, blockbuster-trade pursuits, gnarly draft strategies and decisions, etc.

The Orlando Magic Swing an Aggressive Win-Now Trade

Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Paolo Banchero and Markelle Fultz Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Risk-averse fans will consider this sacrosanct, if not stupidly bold. Diverging opinions are fine!

The Orlando Magic remain ridiculously young. Paolo Banchero (21) and Franz Wagner (22), their two most important players, will both be under the age of 22 when next season tips off. Jalen Suggs turns 22 in June. (Related: I hope you didn't sell any Jalen Suggs stock.) Wendell Carter Jr. is only 24. Cole Anthony is 23. Markelle Fultz just celebrated his 25th birthday. Orlando will add two more lottery picks (No. 6 and No. 11) to this core.

Slow-playing it is reasonable. So is speeding things up.

This team is closer to arrival than the age and experience of its nucleus suggests. The Magic played over .500 basketball for more than half of the season, going 29-24 after starting the year 5-20 before closing out the schedule on a four-game losing streak. Their defense also ranked 11th in points allowed per possession.

Infusing the rotation with a proven offensive organizer, scorer, floor-spacer, whatever will go a looong way. Cap space can help. Orlando is slated for over $22 million in spending power. That's not enough to bid on everyone, and inflating this number will require tough calls. But the Magic do have the assets to scope out the trade—or sign-and-trade—market.

Fred VanVleet will keep popping up. Chris Paul could be an option if Phoenix tries offloading his salary. The Magic may even have the assets to create a trade market. Think: Lillard, Damian. Or...Ball, LaMelo.

Two New Players Will Join the Atlanta Hawks Starting 5

John Collins, De'Andre Hunter and Clint Capela Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

No, this is not a Trae Young trade prediction masquerading as something else. It's an acknowledgement that the Atlanta Hawks have some serious work to do.

And, perhaps, some serious money to save.

Atlanta is scheduled to be more than $10 million into the tax next season. Relevant: Team governor Tony Ressler has yet to pay the tax, and he's never sounded particularly enthusiastic about digging deeper into his pockets when asked whether that'll change.

Ducking the tax pretty much guarantees one of the Hawks' starters will be given the ol' heave-ho. John Collins and the three years and $78.5 million left on his contract will be the most popular vote. That's fair.

But don't rule out potential alternatives.

And no, I'm still not talking about trading Trae. (Though, that would certainly help actualize this prediction).

Clint Capela is past his athletic heyday and owed $42.9 million over the next two years. With Onyeka Okongwu behind him, as well as extension-eligible, the Hawks could look to totally revamp their frontline. De'Andre Hunter has also proven himself far from mission critical. He could be part of any consolidation trade Atlanta considers.

Jot down the names of "Trae Young" and "Dejounte Murray" using...semi-washable markers. Every other Hawks starter belongs in pencil.

Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes.


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