The dust has largely settled on the NBA’s free agency period, especially after the blockbuster trade sending Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors. The biggest dominoes have fallen, movement is really only occurring on the margins, and the league appears ready to head for its typical August lull (unless Kyrie starts acting up again.) With all that said, there are still some loose threads that could require some attention over the coming weeks. It’s time for a concept we just came up with this morning: LINGERING questions!
What is Clint Capela’s future?
Poor Clint Capela. The Rockets big was playing some of the best basketball of his life in the playoffs, and appeared ready to hit a big payday this summer. Instead, thanks to a bad market for big men and restricted free agents, Capela is stuck in limbo in Houston. The team doesn’t appear willing to offer him a max deal, and he may have to end up taking a qualifying offer and re-enter free agency next year. The calculus for the Rockets is fascinating. Capela was an integral part of their success, but how replicable is his skill set? Can you pay a center 20% of the salary Capela wants and get 80% of the production? Is that 80% good enough to remain a title contender?
Houston has had to make some tough decisions this month, and so far it looks like things haven’t exactly worked in its favor. Losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute hurts, and the years on the end of Chris Paul’s contract could get dicey. Not paying Capela may be a smart long-term play, but for a team with title aspirations maybe the short-term moves are more important. I do not envy Daryl Morey. Whatever ends up happening with Capela, it’s fair to wonder if after this offseason he has more than a year left in Houston.
Will Melo come off the bench?
Speaking of the Rockets, they are the favorites to land Carmelo Anthony, who will be bought out by the Hawks after his trade from OKC. A title contender signing Melo and starting him could be making a subtraction by addition at that point. Anthony’s refusal to come off the bench could end up tarnishing what’s almost becoming an underrated career. Melo should simply ask his buddy Dwyane Wade for advice on leading second units. Wade was successful in that role in Cleveland, and he even had good minutes off the bench for Miami in the playoffs.
Former stars often don’t age gracefully. Anthony could still provide value to a good team. But he desperately needs to excise pull-up jumpers from his game and dramatically re-think his role. If he does that, he could still write a new chapter for his career. Maybe Anthony doesn’t prioritize winning at all costs—and there’s nothing wrong with that! But if his only goal is to contribute to a contender, he shouldn’t cling to how he’s played in the past.
Can bad contracts be moved?
The money crunch hasn’t only hurt free agents, it’s hurt teams who are stuck with long-term money. The Heat, Hornets and Blazers are just a few teams who came into this summer probably hoping on some level to get rid of a couple deals. It just hasn’t happened. On one hand, teams in the middle class aren’t desperate to make moves with the Warriors gap looming large. At the same time, I can’t imagine any of the teams mentioned are happy running it back next season with their rosters as presently constructed. Portland, especially, was a little exposed during the postseason. The Blazers’ run to the third seed was commendable, but their playoff exit was equally dispiriting. I’m a little surprised they are largely bringing back the same squad. Sooner rather than later, it may be time for something drastic in PDX.
Will the Wolves consider moving Jimmy Butler?
Jimmy Butler reportedly turned down an extension from Minnesota, though it made no financial sense for him to make the move. Still, Butler has seemingly been rumored to be a little miffed with his Minny teammates from Day 1, and now there are rumors that he and Kyrie Irving want to team up next summer. It would be a little shocking for the Wolves to pull the plug on the Butler experiment so early, and losing him while keeping Andrew Wiggins on his huge contract would be bleak for the future. However, listening to offers may not be the worst idea. Maybe the Wolves themselves can get rid of a bad contract in a potential Butler trade.
The Kawhi situation has probably hurt teams trying to trade stars, though the Wolves would appear to have way more leverage than the Spurs. It’s just something to keep an eye on. Minny has never been a hotbed free-agent destination. If the front office catches wind that Butler wants to bounce next summer, they would be wise to try to recoup some assets for him. Would that affect Karl Towns’s willingness to stay long term? It’s possible. Ultimately, the Wolves were just barely a playoff team last year. (Butler’s injury didn’t help.) Their situation may be a little more precarious than the team is willing to admit.
Who will hate each other first—Russ and Schroder or Wall and Dwight?
This is admittedly more of a training camp question, but some of these new teammate pairings are hilarious. The famously surly Russell Westbrook playing with a headstrong Dennis Schroder has incredible potential for mutual death glares. Meanwhile, the Wizards are less of a team and more of a petri dish for players predisposed to be annoyed with those around them. Whose side will Austin Rivers take? Will Bradley Beal ever escape? And let’s not forget the Warriors! Boogie Cousins is all smiles and joking about potential fights with Draymond for now. But wait until Boogie blows that first defensive rotation in a light scrimmage and Green starts clapping in his face. I hope the Showtime cameras are around for that.