The NBA season is over – Here are the big storylines to watch in another hectic offseason

Chris Paul puts his hands on his knees during an NBA Finals game.
Chris Paul could be a big-name free agent this offseason. Paul Sancya/AP Images
  • The 2020-21 NBA season just ended, but the offseason is ready to begin.
  • Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons are star players purported to be on the trading block.
  • Free agents like Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Conley will also be targeted by contenders.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Milwaukee Bucks may have won the NBA championship on Tuesday, but there is little time for everyone to breathe.

As several NBA players prepare to play in the Tokyo Olympics, the rest of the league will prepare for another offseason sprint – the draft is July 29, free agency begins August 6, and training camps will likely open in late September to prepare for an October tip-off for the 2021-22 season.

With last season in the rearview mirror, here’s what to watch for in the coming weeks and months.

Is Kawhi Leonard really available?

Kawhi leonard
Kawhi Leonard. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images

Kawhi Leonard is undoubtedly the best free agent of this offseason.But is he available?

Leonard is opting out of his contract, but it may just be to re-sign for more money with the LA Clippers. Leonard could sign a four-year, $US175 ($AU238) million contract with the Clippers this summer. He could also sign another short-term deal, get another year under his belt with the Clippers, then sign a massive 5-year max contract worth over $US240 ($AU326) million in 2022.

Leonard also moved to LA to be closer to his family in southern California. His two seasons in LA have been disrupted by the bubble, then a knee injury that kept him out of the Western Conference Finals. All of this is to say that Leonard has plenty of reasons to give it another go with the Clippers.

But Leonard is also hard for many people to read, and his intentions haven’t been made clear yet. If he takes a meeting with another team in free agency – look out.

Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, and superstars on the trade market

Lillard and Simmons are not quite in the same boat this offseason. Lillard is an MVP candidate who may request out of Portland after disappointing playoff runs. Simmons is an All-NBA talent who might be kicked out of town after a disappointing playoff run.

Damian lillard
Damian Lillard. Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo/AP Images

Are either available in a trade? Lillard has shot down rumors that he planned to ask out of Portland, but he also hasn’t necessarily committed to the team in the long term.Simmons, meanwhile, is reportedly on the trading block, but the 76ers don’t sound quite ready to dump him for nothing – reports indicate that they want an All-Star level player back in return.

Outside of those two, the star market looks a bit bare – there aren’t many disgruntled stars or franchise stars near the end of their contracts, looking for a new home.

Situations can change quickly, but the lack of apparent stars on the block could impact the futures of Lillard and Simmons since their teams might not have much incentive to deal them

A point guard carousel?

There are a lot of quality point guards available this offseason. Just a few:

  • Chris Paul
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Mike Conley
  • Goran Dragic
  • Lonzo Ball
  • Devonte Graham
  • Derrick Rose
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Patty Mills

While the above players range in value – Paul, Lowry, and Conley are All-Stars, while Rose, Jackson, and Mills are likely quality backups – they can all be difference-makers.

Expect many of them to be linked to playoff teams and contenders looking to make a leap. Lowry, in particular, figures to be coveted by teams from the 76ers to the Lakers to the Knicks.

Paul seems likely to re-sign in Phoenix, but he hasn’t committed yet, either.

Conley made his first All-Star team in Utah and might be convinced to stay, but he also hasn’t dipped his toes into free agency much in his career – he might want to test the waters elsewhere.

Ball could command a sizable contract from teams trying to lure him away from New Orleans.

The high-quality, role-player tier of free agents is deep

Duncan Robinson holds up his hands.
Duncan Robinson is going to get paid this offseason. Mike Stobe/Pool Photo/AP Images

Duncan Robinson is not a household name, yet he could sign a $US70 ($AU95) million contract this offseason.

Indeed, that’s the going rate for elite shooters – just look at the $US80 ($AU109) million and $US75 ($AU102) million contracts Davis Bertans and Joe Harris signed, respectively, last offseason.

There are other players in The Duncan Robinson Tier – that is, difference-making free agents who aren’t All-Stars but can make an impact as third or fourth options.

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.
  • Norman Powell
  • Spencer Dinwiddie
  • Kelly Oubre Jr.
  • Will Barton

And there are plenty more. This is the hardest tier of free agents to predict. Some will take less to sign with contenders; others will sign with less competitive teams for a big payday.

How will the Lakers re-stock LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ supporting cast?

The Lakers have just five players with guaranteed contracts on their roster for 2021-22. They don’t have a ton of wiggle room, however, because James, Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope make a combined $US102 ($AU139) million next season.

Lebron james anthony davis
Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Tyler Kaufman/AP

Expect the Lakers to be aggressive in trying to get James and Davis some help – James will turn 37 this year, and Davis continues to be injury-prone. The Lakers were a sub-.500 team without both last season.Players like DeMar DeRozan, Lowry, and Paul have been mentioned as targets for the Lakers. The Lakers will have to be creative in landing any of those players, but the power of chasing championships in Los Angeles has a way of allowing big moves to happen.

The Lakers looked like the runaway title favorites early in the season before injuries added up. Their title window is still open, and that could lead to big moves this offseason.

Drama in Dallas?

For a while this offseason, the Mavericks were the buzziest team, and not for good reasons. Reports of infighting and power plays made headlines, and it resulted in their longtime general manager and head coach leaving the team.

The Mavs replaced head coach Rick Carlisle with Jason Kidd. It was an eyebrow-raising hire – Kidd, of course, won a title with Dallas in 2011 and was recommended by Carlisle. But Kidd also hasn’t been hugely successful as a head coach and tumult has followed him in his various stops (besides for Los Angeles, where he helped the Lakers win a title as an assistant coach).

Looming over all of this is the future of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. Doncic has said he plans to sign a $US200 ($AU272) million extension in Dallas this offseason, but The Athletic reported that some within the organization are already worried about his future with the club.

Meanwhile, Porzingis has not proven to be a great fit with Doncic in two seasons and was unhappy with his role in Carlisle’s offense. Will that change with Kidd at the helm? The Mavs may have to hope so, because the trade value for the oft-injured big man with $US101 ($AU137) million remaining on his contract has never been lower.