There are a handful of NBA front offices that couldn’t sleep after Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night. Not only because that was some of the highest quality of play we’ve seen this decade, but because of the injury to Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson that was later made official as a torn ACL.
If Kevin Durant’s ruptured Achilles knocked on the door of the NBA’s title scene being “wide open,” Thompson’s injury ran over that door and the house that door accompanied for good measure. Regardless of the Warriors bringing back one, both or none of those potential unrestricted free agents (Durant has a player option), they’ve got some work to do in free agency before they can even be considered a lock for the playoffs.
And that’s just the Western Conference. With Kawhi Leonard’s impending unrestricted free agency, the NBA champion Toronto Raptors losing Leonard could do the same for the Eastern Conference.
Teams like the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and so on are now looking at the offseason through a different lens. If those teams can convince themselves they are one or two moves away from not only a potential Finals berth but winning the championship, they are going to be far more aggressive on the free agent and trade market. And the thing is, they’re probably not wrong in thinking so.
So, in an offseason that potentially already has the likes of Durant, Leonard, Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris switching teams, Anthony Davis maintaining the desire for a trade from New Orleans and a plethora of teams that planned ahead with loads of cap space, now the next year or three of the title picture could be seized with the right move(s). And more importantly, the type of players available that can help with the seismic shift.
Vegas has NO idea what is going to happen.
That’s nothing but bad news for teams at the bottom of the league looking to get out of that spot in a hurry, which is where the Phoenix Suns have currently been placed in timeout for the past two years.
Now, if Phoenix was in a position where they were patiently rebuilding, none of this would really matter. And while they are in that spot to a certain extent, they already have the majority of their young core filled out and now it’s time to add the right veterans around that group.
Those veterans are now going to be snatched up by those aforementioned teams, and what about the others that insert themselves into the discussion like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Clippers with a Davis acquisition or signing of a top-tier free agent?
Teams are going to care a whole lot less about Mike Conley making over $30 million the next two seasons if they need the right point guard to complete their squad, and that goes for just about any other useful player that becomes available on the trade market. Those front offices are going to hunt for players on lottery teams that could be acquired. As one example, there’s a chance David Griffin gets blown away by an offer for Jrue Holiday and that overrides his desire to keep Holiday so the Pelicans stay competitive.
That worsens the odds of the Suns being “the right team at the right time” to get the point guard or power forward they are missing, and that extends to free agency. Even logical targets like Patrick Beverley, Julius Randle and Thaddeus Young will likely be pursued by that scrappy No. 7 seed that has already added one more big name and needs a role player to fill out their rotation to aspire for the conference finals and beyond.
Also, is there a team out there that believes Suns restricted free agent Kelly Oubre Jr. could be one of the pieces they are missing from joining the title discussion? At the very least, there will be multiple teams that whiff on getting top-level names with their max cap space and will begin chasing lesser players. That adds on to the importance of the Suns getting an Oubre deal done ASAP before free agency really gets going a week or two into July.
There’s no way for Phoenix to offer a chance at competing for a championship, and up until a week ago, that was the case for nearly every other team in the league as well. But now that group of teams is multiplying at a scary rate, which will further the disparity and gap between the best of the best and the worst of the worst in the league.
The Suns want to land somewhere in the middle of those two regions, but a difficult offseason of trying to do that just got even more challenging.