Basketball, Basketball, Columnists, Sports

The 2-3 Zone, on the beautiful chaos of the NBA offseason

The “2”

Every time the NBA rumor mill starts churning, the eyes emoji makes its return to NBA Twitter. This offseason, Mikal Bridges brought the infamous emoji back to Twitter, likely in response to the news from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that the Phoenix Suns have had discussions with the Oklahoma City Thunder about Chris Paul.

In the past week, one NBA star has been at the center of more trade rumors than any other. Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook reportedly wants to be traded. And since the news came out that he’s dissatisfied with his team, the All-Star and former MVP has been linked to a wide range of teams across the league.

The rumored destinations for Westbrook range from blatantly hilarious: New York Knicks, to utterly nonsensical: Los Angeles Clippers, to mildly interesting: Orlando Magic, to understandably sad: Charlotte Hornets.

Westbrook has a massive contract, and any of the 29 teams that don’t currently have him would be foolish to take that on. But even as his awful shooting continues to get worse, Westbrook is still an elite talent in the NBA.

He can help a team win games. And contract aside, he can be incredibly fun to watch. That might be enough to make the Knicks, Magic or some other team jump at a trade for him.

The other big name potentially on the move is Westbrook’s superstar teammate James Harden. Harden has a rocky relationship with the Rockets, and if the team moves on from Westbrook, they likely won’t have a strong enough supporting cast for Harden.

With few assets, the Rockets could move on from their top two players, and a rumored destination for Harden is Brooklyn. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving already leading the way, the Brooklyn Nets could assert themselves as the top Eastern Conference contender with a trade for Harden.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem like the Nets have enough assets to replace the value of Harden. But sometimes, stars are moved in less-than-ideal trades for one of the parties involved. The Rockets settling for a package from the Nets for Harden could be thrilling, but it would unfortunately also undermine some of the league’s growing parity.

The “3”

Every year, the New York Knicks are the subject of some of the most wild trade and free agency rumors. It doesn’t make much sense. They last won a championship in 1973. They last made the playoffs in 2013. They have the worst owner in the entire NBA. But because they’re in New York, some people like to assume that stars want to go there.

This year isn’t much different. The Knicks have been linked to Westbrook, Chris Paul and even Gordon Hayward. Some analysts have argued the team should stand pat this offseason to maintain open cap room for the loaded 2021 free agency class.

But the Knicks are in no way real players in the market, and they aren’t actually an interesting team. So all the Knicks-related rumors are simply a symptom of the constant chaos that plagues the NBA offseason.

Unlike the Knicks, the San Antonio Spurs have been a model franchise for the past couple decades. But the Spurs are providing some level of chaos to this offseason too.

They’re at a weird point with their current personnel. They have some budding young talents, such as Derrick White and Dejounte Murray. And they have two aging former All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. 

If the Spurs lean in to the rebuild, one or both of DeRozan and Aldridge could be on the move. In a new setting, one of those two mid-range masters could shake up the contender landscape just enough to be noteworthy.

The recent stream of leaking jersey images has also been a wonderful part of this NBA offseason. We’ve seen new jerseys announced, but also plenty leaked all across the league.

Some of them have been sensational. The Spurs’ new city edition uniforms are vibrant, while those of the Phoenix Suns are sizzling and ridiculously gorgeous. The Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic have also announced some new threads with uncommon colors.

But the newly announced throwback look for the Nets is disappointingly quite ugly. Fortunately, the Nets have given us plenty to laugh at during an offseason filled with much stress-inducing mayhem.

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