- What is Cleveland doing? Making a mess, and that's why Adam Silver needs to take action on Dan Gilbert. Here are the five biggest questions that have yet to be answered this summer.
Summer League is over, and now the NBA can finally wind down after a whirlwind month following the Finals. This has been a memorable off-season so far, marked by blockbuster trades, an exciting draft class and a Lakers’ revival being led by a Lifetime-movie version of Rob Lowe. Even with all that’s happened so far, the dust hasn’t exactly settled across the association. Here are the biggest questions remaining as we head into a quieter segment of the summer.
What the f@#! Is Cleveland doing?
Adam Silver should be allowed to put owners in timeout, and the first owner who needs sit the next couple plays is Dan Gilbert. The Cavaliers are a mess, and Gilbert is on the verge of driving away LeBron for a second time thanks to his mercurial managerial style. What the hell is this team doing trying to catch the Warriors without a general manager? At this current point in time, I just don’t see how LeBron signs on to stay with this franchise for the end of his career.
Cleveland was certainly hamstrung by its massive payroll this summer, but adding guys like a creaky Jose Calderon and the never-quite-fulfilled-his-potential Jeff Green aren’t going to help the Cavs achieve their ultimate goal, which is winning the Finals. And frankly, James deserves a tiny bit of the blame for what’s happened to the team this summer. He publicly pressured Cleveland to bring back guys like Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, but it’s deals like those that have put the Cavs in a poor position to improve the roster. Still, the Cavs lack imagination or ingenuity. The Golden States and Houstons of the world can manage to add talent to their teams seemingly out of nowhere. Meanwhile, the Cavs keep piling on to LeBron’s burden as if they are blissfully unaware he is a free agent next summer. There’s been a lack of strategy in Cleveland this off-season, and as presently constructed, there is no shot the Cavs could beat the Warriors in a seven-game series.
Cleveland’s turbulent regular seasons the last three years have been overshadowed by a pitiful conference that can be dominated in the playoffs and the most improbable Finals comeback of all time. Basically, there is a very fine line between James’s homecoming being the heartwarming success it is or an abject failure. We’ll see if the Cavs have any big moves up their sleeves as the season approaches. But for now, they are a rudderless ship that can’t pretend to be surprised in the slightest if James wants out in 2018.
Are the Lakers back?
Actually, no! The Lakers are riding high after Lonzo Ball’s summer league performance, but this team is still going to be mostly bad next year. Los Angeles is counting on signing marquee free agents next summer, when Paul George and James could theoretically team up in Hollywood. But isn’t there an alternate scenario in which George enjoys his partnership with Russell Westbrook and James doesn’t want to play in Kobe’s shadow?
I’m just saying, people should maybe turn the volume down on the Lakers one click. I fully believe Ball is going to be a star, but this team is still very far away from the heights Magic Johnson has promised. And L.A. still has to go out and get free agents, something they’ve struggled with in recent years. It doesn’t feel great to be the wet blanket here, but the Lakers need to make sure they don’t get ahead of themselves.
Will Russell Westbrook and John Wall sign their extensions?
Russ and John Wall are eligible for massive, supermax contract extensions, both have been offered those extensions, and neither has signed it. Westbrook’s decision is almost a little more surprising, considering his fierce loyalty and the Thunder’s willingness to make big moves this summer. Wall is smart to be skeptical, as he has to be wondering to himself if a three-max core of himself, Brad Beal and Otto Porter is enough to contend for a championship.
As long as these two drag out their decision to sign, they are welcoming speculation that they may not be in their current cities for the long haul. Could Russ be considering his own move to L.A.? Is Wall trying to team up with other Kentucky alums elsewhere in the league? I hope neither signs any time soon, because the conspiracy potential is very high here.
Are the Spurs punting?
San Antonio has had a quiet off-season after briefly entering the Chris Paul sweepstakes. Patty Mills is back, which good. Jonathon Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon are gone, which is weird. It almost feels like the Spurs are happy to tread water next season, and maybe jump back into the arms race in 2018. Kawhi is spectacular, but San Antonio needs another star to pair with him. Counting on guys like Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol is getting riskier by the day, Meanwhile, threats are emerging in Houston and Oklahoma City that could bump the Spurs down a few spots in the uber-competitive West. San Antonio will likely win a lot in the regular season, but the Spurs have fallen behind a little bit this summer, and they seem weirdly fine with it.
Which stars are still available?
Some big-name players could still be on the move between now and the trade deadline. Is OKC committed to Paul George? Is there any truth to the Anthony Davis rumors?
Will Boogie Cousins want out of New Orleans? Do you still think Carmelo Anthony is a star?
Most of the moves made the rest of the summer will occur in the margins, but if any of the aforementioned players are moved (or moved again) the league could be in store for one more shift.