The 2017-18 NBA season is over, but if last off-season was any indication, the fun is only just beginning.
From Daryl Morey engaging in a ‘weapons race‘ and trading for Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward announcing, renouncing, and then announcing his decision again, and Nerlens Noel somehow rejecting a four-year, $70-million offer to sign a one-year, $4.2-million deal later, there was plenty to keep fans entertained after the Golden State Warriors were crowned champions.
Expect more of the same this time around, with LeBron James leading the pack to figure out how best to take down the Oakland dynasty.
Free agency is just under three weeks away, but chatter has already begun. Here’s the best of what’s come about thus far:
LeBron and Paul George in the same uniform
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to get this ball rolling, discussing Paul George on his network’s NBA Draft: On the Clock show.
“That’s gonna be a conversation or conversations (George and James) are gonna have once we get toward July,” Wojnarowski said when asked about the possibility of two of the best players at the small forward position teaming up. “This is his chance, and I think for Paul George at this point in his career, he has to pick winning, and I think that’s his focus.”
It has long been rumoured that George is enamoured by the possibility of playing for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, and with James already owning two mansions there and possibly thinking about his legacy after basketball with his off-court ventures, you can be rest assured Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson will do everything in his power to make this dream a reality.
LeBron and Gregg Popovich, two of basketball’s greatest minds, joining forces
What better way to take down the Warriors than to unite two of the best minds in the game. Sure, the San Antonio Spurs weren’t really in the mix this season, but that was because they were without Kawhi Leonard for all but nine games.
Rightly or wrongly, the Spurs believed they had what it took to take out the Warriors in the 2017 playoffs till Zaza Pachulia stepped under Leonard, and they haven’t been the same since.
James’s post-game press conferences after the Finals have been telling too. He expressed on more than one occasion his desire to play with players who are not only talented, but cerebral as well and can think a play or two ahead, and no franchise has been better and no coach has been better at doing so over the past two decades than the Spurs.
I’ve also been advised that the ever-persuasive San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is bound to try to force his way into the conversation to sell James on the merits of South Texas. – Marc Stein, New York Times.
Of course, they have to convince Leonard to stay first, whose time away from the team this past season can be termed as nothing short of bizarre.
Is Chris Paul worth the money?
Chris Paul joined the Houston Rockets and helped them win 65 games, finish with the best record in the league, and took the Warriors to seven games in the Western Conference Finals.
He is also a 33-year-old point guard looking for a max-contract having gotten injured over and over again in the post-season, a hamstring injury in Game 5 against the Warriors arguably costing them a trip to the NBA Finals.
When speaking with Bobby Marks on The Woj Pod, Wojnarowski stated that Paul didn’t opt in to his player option last off-season and helped facilitate a deal to the Rockets in order to take a discount this off-season.
This makes sense, of course, since Paul is the president of the National Basketball Players Association and played an instrumental role in changing the “Over 36” rule to “Over 38.” The initial rule prevented players from signing four or five-year deals that extended into their age-36 season. Changing it to 38 keeps Paul eligible for a full-max which puts him in line for a whopping $205-million dollars over five seasons.
If the Rockets feel swayed enough by this past season to keep the core together, then Paul is in for a big pay-day. Houston will have a problem with their payroll though, since Clint Capela will be a restricted free agent as well.
Will Dwyane Wade hang ’em up?
Dwyane Wade is approaching the end and the only question that remains is whether it has already arrived or whether Flash will push on for one more season.
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports reported that Wade is still uncertain of his status, and so it may not just be a question of getting the right offer.
After 46 so-so games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade made an inspiring return to the Miami Heat. He even mustered together one more magical playoff performance in Game 2 of the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers, pouring in 28 points on just 16 shots to help even the series 1-1.
He’s made it clear that if he does come back it’ll likely be for the Heat, but does he believe he has anything left?
The dynasty core shall remain
In case you had any hope the Warriors’ all-stars may break up to pursue more lucrative offers, owner Joe Lacob put out that fire in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne.
“All good things cost a lot,” Lacob said. “We’re going to try to sign Klay (Thompson) and Draymond (Green) to extensions this summer. They’ve earned the right to do whatever they want; maybe they want to wait until free agency. I can’t control that. But we’ll do whatever we can to keep them.”
LeBron may have been the one to talk the talk during his days with The Heatles and say, “not one, not two, not three, not four…” but now he’s the key to stopping the Warriors from walking the walk.