Imagine that you’re an executive working in the front office of an NBA team.
You’ve been bobbing and weaving and navigating through the weirdest year of your career. You were already planning for the offseason months before the pandemic upended the 2019-20 campaign, and even though there are still some details being ironed out, you’ve had an inordinate amount of time to analyze, strategize and plan for the time between draft night and the start of the next season.
Some could say you’ve had too much time. Maybe you’ve overanalyzed, gone down some weird rabbit holes and started planning 10 steps ahead, rather than five. I don’t blame you, this could be a pivotal moment for your team.
I have a theory about how this NBA offseason is going to shake out. For years now, pundits, analysts and reporters have been talking about how the weak free agent class of 2020 and lack of money to be spent will make for a quiet offseason. I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think this offseason is going to be one of the most interesting and wild that we’ve ever seen.
Once the NBA comes out with its salary cap and amended collective bargaining agreement plans for next season, it’s absolutely going to shape the league for the next few years.
Teams have been bracing for the financial hit caused by COVID-19 that’s going to bring the cap down, at least for a couple seasons before it rebounds, and that probably means maneuvering a little differently when planning for the future of a team. And make no mistake, every single team is planning for every possibility.
While it’s true that this year’s free agent class isn’t the most exciting (Fred VanVleet and Danilo Gallinari are headliners) and that there is likely going to be even less cap space than originally predicted, that doesn’t mean there won’t be movement, and it sounds like it’s all going to come at an incredibly accelerated pace.
We’ve already seen front office turnover on multiple teams (Daryl Morey just took over in Philadelphia), nine coaching changes (the Oklahoma City Thunder still haven’t replaced Billy Donovan, who is now the head coach of the Chicago Bulls), and plenty of trade rumors (most of them ridiculous). Meanwhile, teams that are planning for this offseason are also planning for future offseasons when bigger fish (I’m looking at you, Giannis Antetokounmpo) could be up for grabs.
The Nov. 18 NBA draft is less than three weeks away, and if the league gets its way, the 2020-21 season will begin before Christmas Day. That means that we could be approaching a free agency window that opens up before draft picks even have a chance to settle in, and trades could be happening while training camp is going on.
As some teams might be looking to dump contracts and save money, others will take on luxury tax burdens to stockpile for the financial rebound. Meanwhile, restricted and unrestricted free agents could be pressured to make quicker decisions and deals than they would have during the course of a normal offseason. And, of course, there will be trades.
It happens every single offseason. An unexpected deal is made and the ripple effect is far-reaching.
Again, if this all happens on the timeline that the league is proposing, teams, players, families and fan bases will barely have time to breathe or blink before settling in for opening night, which, by the way, could be fanless, adding a whole other wrinkle to the decision-making process.
Sure, there are teams that are willing to shell out big and spend money for a legitimate contender, but owners faced with losing nearly half of their revenue from having no fans in attendance could give penny-pinching a new definition.
Imagine being faced with making these decisions. Maybe you freeze up and worry that moving too quickly or making too many moves could jeopardize things. Maybe you just throw caution to the wind and dominate the offseason news cycle. Either way, this offseason is going to be crazy.