On the heels of the fourth title in eight years, the Golden State Warriors will do what they can to remain atop the NBA. However, there are 29 other teams are plotting to knock them off their perch.
Some are spending big during the NBA offseason, while others are trading cannily to steal an edge. Others, meanwhile, are aiming to build organically, through the NBA Draft.
As Commissioner Adam Silver noted, the latter route has worked incredibly well for the current champs:
“That core was built through the draft,” he said. “Steph (Curry) picked No. 7, Klay (Thompson) No. 11, Draymond (Green) selected No. 35 – which undermines the importance of (the Draft) for teams as they look to assemble their own championship rosters.”
With the draft done and free agency underway, who has emerged from Midsummer Madness on a high – and who’s feeling a bit down?
Another Duke product goes #1 overall in the NBA Draft during the offseason. The Orlando Magic fooled everyone, who’d presumed they were tabbing Jabari Smith with their top pick. In the end, though, the pick was Banchero, who, just a week before the draft, was priced at +250 to be the top pick.
The decision seems to have come down to the fact that the forward was the most NBA-ready of the Class of 2022’s top prospects. The early returns suggest the Magic made the right call, as Banchero has impressed in his early Summer League performances.
At the time of writing, Banchero is the bookmakers’ joint favorite for Rookie of The Year, at +350 at Caesars, alongside the guy who was chosen second overall behind him, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Chet Holmgren.
When the Thunder decided to go big at #2 with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, it meant that Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Jr. would slip to the Houston Rockets at #3. Not only does the slide cost him money on his rookie deal, but Smith now also must take part in a painful rebuild in Houston.
Also, an honorable mention here for #4 overall pick Keegan Murray, who may not see the playoffs until the latter stages of his career after being drafted by the Sacramento Kings.
A year ago, the idea of Jalen Brunson – now, as then, not an NBA All-Star – signing a $104 million contract would have seemed as far-fetched as, say, the New York Knicks contending for a title. However, after a solid regular season (16.3 points and 4.8 assists) and an excellent playoff run with the Mavericks, the Knicks did everything in their power to ink the young point guard to a four-year, mega-money deal as a great NBA offseason trade.
With all of the Knicks’ draft night wheeling and dealing – which provided all the clarity of an episode of The Flight Attendant – and Brunson may come to wonder if he sacrificed success for dollars.
A shoutout too for Deandre Ayton whose game of chess against Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was rewarded with a four-year, $133 million deal. Ayton forced the Suns’ hand by signing an offer sheet with Indiana. On the bright side, this ensures continuity for a Suns franchise that's among the odds-on favorites (+430 with FanDuel) to win the West next season.
Any team spending a cool $48 million OVER the salary cap should expect to be in the title mix. At the very least, that team should not be finishing eleventh in its own conference. In most cases, the solution would be to blow the whole thing up and start over.
Alas, for the “poor” Lakers, even wiggle room is hard to find. To no one’s surprise, Russell Westbrook opted into the final year of a contract that will pay him $47 million and put the team on the hook for $129 million in salary commitment for just three players – Russ, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis.
Unless the Nets are willing to push the button on a swap for Kyrie Irving, rookie head coach Darvin Ham is left only with an injury-prone, mismatched roster. While the Lakers’ offseason acquisitions of Thomas Bryant and Lonnie Walker IV are interesting value bets, they’re not the types of deals that move the needle – as evidenced by the Lakers’ rather long +800 odds with PointsBet just to win the Pacific Division.
Given how impressively 2021 top pick Cade Cunningham’s rookie campaign played out, the Pistons could smell long-term ascendancy. Then, on draft night, Jaden Ivey – a perfect complement to Cunningham – fell into their laps at #5 overall.
Courtesy of a trade with the Knicks, they subsequently acquired Jalen Duren at #12, giving them the kind of athletic big that every contender requires. With latitude under the salary cap to add yet more pieces, things are revving up in the Motor City.
RIP (for now) to the concept of the Super Team. Kevin Durant barely waited for the free agency’s opening bell to stop ringing before asking out. That on its own is bad enough. Add to Kyrie Irving’s decision to opt into the last year of his deal (at $36.5 million), and the entire offseason thus far has been like a kick to the shins.
Oh, and the Nets still have to deal with the whole Ben Simmons situation. Rarely has so much hype resulted in so substance - no surprise that their championship odds have drifted out to +800 at PointsBet. That could be an absolute steal though if Durant is forced to stick around.
Ahead of the 2022-2023 season, teams are scrambling for the best picks, who do you think has had the best NBA offseason trades so far? The Minnesota Twins certainly have a long way to go to take the World Series. Interested in more Baseball content? Be sure to read our guide: How To Bet on Basketball and visit our odds comparison tool to compare the latest odds.