It’s a reflection of the vibrancy of the National Basketball Association that the offseason next year is already being discussed at length even though the 2018-19 campaign has yet to begin. In part, it’s because players enjoy extreme mobility; all other things being equal, they’re able to choose where they want to strut their stuff in. And in particular, the upcoming crop of free agents boasts of considerable talent and star power. Outside of any scenario involving undisputed top dog LeBron James, those of other would-be difference makers figure to hog headlines.
To be sure, prevailing sets of circumstances have served to fuel what-if discussions this early. For instance, eyes are on whether the Raptors can disabuse new king Kawhi Leonard of his intent to take his talents to south Los Angeles in the year that they have him — on the assumption, of course, that he’s finally able to show his Top Five form after 18 months’ worth of injuries. Meanwhile, speculation is rife that the Warriors will have to cut ties with Core Four stalwart Klay Thompson in light of their tightening belt and prioritization of two-time Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant.
Parenthetically, the Celtics are already fretting over the futures of their one-two tandem of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, especially with the Knicks possessing the salary cap space and the gravitas to lure either or both next year. The apprehension exists even though they’re well positioned to take advantage of James’ transfer to the Lakers and claim the Eastern Conference.
At this point, all the ruminating that is best justified involves Jimmy Butler and his tenure with the Timberwolves. Despite having just led the latter to their first playoff appearance in 13 seasons, he continues to angle for a situation that can place him closer to a title. Which is why he asked for, and got, a meeting with head coach Tom Thibodeau yesterday. He has a relationship with the concurrent president of hoops operations grounded on a mutually productive stint with the Bulls, but the goodwill doesn’t seem to extend to fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. And with his supporting cast led by 2014 first overall pick Andrew Wiggins not quite living up to expectations, he could well bolt for finer digs as soon as practicable, putting a trade to a contender on the table.
In other words, the fluidity of the NBA’s employment structure ensures that there is no end to the percolating. It hardly ever pans out, but when it does, all the back and forth is proven worthwhile.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.