The NBA offseason is in full swing … except it also isn’t.
When the 2019-20 campaign officially came to an end on October 11th, it was finally time to confront a slew of complicated questions. For example, league executives still don’t know (1) where the salary cap will end up, (2) when free agency will begin, (3) when player/team options must be addressed, and (4) when next season will start. The only thing teams do know is that the 2020 NBA Draft will take place on November 18th. At least it’s something!
However, it’s difficult for a team to approach draft night without knowing its spending power. Among the questions the league must answer, this is easily the most pressing. And the absence of even an estimated cap is making people around the league wonder what the next couple of months will have in store.
The Athletic recently surveyed 20 NBA agents around the league a wide range of issues, including offseason expectations. In the survey, these representatives demonstrated just how little we can assume about this winter’s free agency and player movement.
To better illustrate the wide range of opinions, let me direct your attention to the below quotes:
⇒ “I think there’s going to be significantly less player movement than a normal year.”
⇒ “I can definitely see a sizeable amount of player movement. But not a lot of dollars spent.”
⇒ “Ultimately, as we saw with Denver, there’s a lot of teams within striking distance of contention and they’re not going to be cheap. The Clippers fired a coach with two years on his deal. We’re going to be fine.”
⇒ “As for movement, we’ll see. Teams might go with rookies or minimum contracts to keep their books low while dealing with cap uncertainty.”
⇒ “It’s going to help the league weed out younger players. I don’t think there is going to be as much of an emphasis on the draft or two-way guys to play a role. They’re going to bank on veteran players that they know they can get contributions with because they are not going to have a great deal of preparation time.”
So let me get this straight: There will be less player movement, but also there could “definitely” be a sizable amount of player moment. There will not be a lot of dollars spent, but other contending teams are not going to be cheap. At the same time, teams might go with rookies to keep their books low, but they’ll also weed out younger players to focus on more sure-thing veterans. Got it. Very straight forward.
In summary, some expect a normally hectic and busy free agency, while others expect a quiet and perhaps even frustrating one. The difference in opinion makes sense considering the circumstances, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time before people are, generally, back on the same page. When the league agrees on a salary cap, which expected to be at least the same as it was this past season, teams will probably spend money all the same. A little uncertainty isn’t going to stop those teams close to a championship from going after the talent they desire – at least not in my opinion.
Funny enough, for the Bulls, I think their plan stays the same regardless of the salary cap situation. As a team still trying to work its way out of a rebuild with limited immediate flexibility, the plan is already to keep quiet over the next several months.
With that said, the offseason uncertain could certainly indirectly impact them when it comes to making potential moves. We’re still learning exactly what makes Arturas Karnisovas tick, and we can’t shut down the idea of him sniffing around the trade market this offseason, especially on draft night. If teams end up more conservative as some agents suggest, though, the chance of the Bulls shaking up this roster before the start of the season probably takes a pretty big hit. That’s not the end of the world, but it does kind of make things less fun.