Basketball, Basketball, Sports

The 2-3 Zone, my NBA offseason watchlist

The “2”

I’ve spent the last two weeks taking a closer look at five particular trade ideas and at a few draft prospects, so this week I’m looking at the offseason as a whole. There are five things I’ll be watching closely all the way through the next few weeks. 

All eyes are on the Milwaukee Bucks right now. Will Giannis Antetokounmpo sign the supermax? Apparently many within the Bucks’ organization believe he will. But I hope the reigning MVP waits before extending his contract with Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo is guaranteed to be offered a massive maximum contract from his own team or from another during the 2021 offseason. If he holds off on signing the supermax with the Bucks, he can control his future and possibly play winning basketball elsewhere. 

That idea of winning basketball is also why everyone is watching the Bucks. Will they be able to build a championship-winning team around Antetokounmpo and convince him to stay? There have been tons of rumors swirling around on who they might bring in, from Chris Paul to Victor Oladipo to Harrison Barnes.

But one thing is clear: everyone knows the Bucks need to do something to cement their title odds.

The Brooklyn Nets are also the subject of absurd and incredibly varied trade ideas. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are aging, and we still don’t know what that pairing will look like on the court. But the Nets are definitely in win-now mode.

Because of that, a lot of people are throwing ideas around for the Nets to trade for a third star to play with Durant and Irving. Whether the Nets can or will make a move for someone like Bradley Beal or Jrue Holiday is still a massive question mark, but with their current roster, the Nets are not clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference.

That could also change if Caris LeVert can turn flashes of greatness into consistent greatness and emerge as a true third star for the Nets.

The “3”

In the free agent market, I am focused on two skilled point guards: Fred VanVleet and Goran Dragić.

Over the past two seasons, VanVleet has earned himself a hefty contract. He does everything you could want from a point guard, and he could fit on just about any roster in the NBA. There’s a clear path for him to resign with the Toronto Raptors, and for the Raptors to run it back with another talented squad.

But VanVleet could leave Toronto if the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks or even the Atlanta Hawks offer him a bigger contract and greater role. The Knicks seem unlikely, as they’ll want to have open cap space for 2021 free agency. But, the Pistons and Hawks could be serious options for VanVleet.

At 34 years old, Dragić isn’t quite as enticing. But, he can bring winning basketball to just about any team. And with his combination of age and skill, he could be due for a big one-year deal.

If Dragić is willing to take a pay cut, he’ll immediately become one of the most intriguing players on the market this offseason.

Finally, I might care more about where Jerami Grant lands than almost anyone else this offseason. Grant is long, athletic and versatile. He can defend multiple positions and hit threes. Plus, he plays thrilling, high-energy basketball.

He’s also expected to opt out of his player option this offseason. And even though his best option might be to return to the Denver Nuggets, who just made the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets will have to perform some cap space gymnastics because of their impending combination of free agents.

If Grant hits the open market, a team with the full mid-level exception could pull him away from Denver with a long-term contract. There will be interest in Grant across the league because of the type of basketball he offers. And he could slot into a bunch of different playoff teams very easily.

Grant could end up with the Miami Heat, Portland Trail Blazers or potentially even the Minnesota Timberwolves. And for each of those teams, he would be the perfect complement to their current set of players.

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