Say what you want about the NBA — that its regular season is too long, that there isn’t nearly enough parity, that tanking is ruining the league, or that there’s too much flopping — but there’s one thing even the fiercest of NBA critics can’t deny: the league’s offseason is, by far, the most eventful and interesting of any sport.
So far in the 2014 offseason, we’ve seen two head coaches (Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher) hired with zero previous coaching experience; a trade between the Knicks and Mavericks that sent Tyson Chandler back to Dallas; one of the most compelling NBA Drafts ever; four of the sport’s biggest stars (Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh) opting out of their contracts for next year; and Nets head coach Jason Kidd (Ed. Note: disgracefully) forcing a trade to the Bucks when the Bucks already had a coach.
All of that and free agency has only just begun.
This year’s free agent class — which includes not only Miami’s Big Three and Carmelo, but also Kyle Lowry, Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons, and Lance Stephenson — is the most hyped free agent class since the summer of 2010.
Four years ago, we saw that 2010 class flip the NBA upside down: LeBron, Wade, and Bosh teamed up in Miami to create a Heat team that would make four straight NBA Finals, while Amar’e Stoudemire landed a max contract with the Knicks that eventually helped lure ‘Melo to New York.
This summer’s class, with the same type of star power, has the potential to alter the league in a similar manner.
Only one thing is for certain: the next few weeks are going to be really, really fun. The rest is unknown, with so many possibilities that await. But what exactly should we be focusing on this month? Well, that’s why I’m here.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 questions that will be answered during free agency:
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10. Can the Lakers do anything significant?
Can you believe we’re asking this question? About the Lakers?! The LOS ANGELES LAKERS?! Even with $30 million in cap space, the Lakers might not be a real player in free agency. Say what?! Yep, that’s the state the Lakers are in. They have enough room to sign LeBron or Melo, or even both, but neither are expected to seriously consider the Lakers — even with Kobe involved.
The team’s Plan B, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, will consist of pursuing
Lowry, Monroe, Trevor Ariza and Channing Frye. That’s not a bad backup plan at all, but what are the chances that those four — especially Monroe and Lowry — would be interested in playing for the Lakers? Really, what’s so attractive? Playing with a breaking-down Kobe and a broken-down Steve Nash? Playing for a team that has taken a back seat to the Clippers in Los Angeles and will likely miss the playoffs again next season?
I don’t doubt that the Lakers will make a run at each and every one of this summer’s marquee free agents. I just don’t think the Lakers are still the LAKERS.
9. What’s next for Lance Stephenson?
Five weeks ago, the NBA world was fixated on Lance Stephenson and his crazy antics during the Eastern Conference Finals, when he went to any and all lengths to get under the skin of LeBron James, including blowing in his ear.
Lance Stephenson is now out of the spotlight, but his actions in the Conference Finals could still linger. I won’t be surprised if those actions ultimately reduce his options in free agency to one: re-signing with the Pacers.
It breaks down like this: Stephenson wants to get paid. But his behavior during the Heat series likely scared a lot of teams away from offering him big-time money. Everyone watched as he sucked the life out of his team early in Game 6, allowing Miami to run away with that game, and thus, the series.
Still, the Pacers and Larry Bird have made it clear that they want to keep their core intact. That means re-signing Stephenson and giving him enough money to keep him away from the few teams who still might be willing to pay him big bucks. One way or another, I see Stephenson in a Pacers jersey next season and beyond.