Now that the 2019-20 NBA season, the longest in league history, has come to an end, it is time to start looking ahead to next year. While it remains unknown exactly when the 2020-21 campaign will begin, with January appearing to be the earliest possible starting point, the NBA Draft is less than month away (November 18) and free agency will come shortly thereafter. Of course that all depends on the collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the league and the NBPA, as those talks will set both the salary cap and luxury tax numbers for next season.
Uncertainty remains but that doesn’t prohibit us from taking a look at each team and an area that they’ll need to address during the offseason. Over the next three weeks each division has been discussed, with the Pacific being the focus of the final installment. The division is headlined by the reigning champion Lakers, who now begin the task of assembling a roster capable of holding onto the trophy. Their Staples Center co-habitants have a new head coach, as Tyronn Lue slides over one seat to replace Doc Rivers. And the Clippers are up against the clock, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can both opt out of their respective deals next offseason.
Playing without its three stars for much, if not all, of last season, Golden State will be right back in the mix next season. While the focus of many has been on the trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — and rightfully so — how Bob Myers fills out the roster will determine the Warriors’ ceiling. Few teams left the bubble feeling better about their futures than Phoenix, which went undefeated in the seeding games and just missed out on the play-in games. As for Sacramento, sadly it feels like a remake of “Groundhog Day,” albeit with a new general manager in Monte McNair.
Without further ado let’s dive into the Pacific, beginning with the Warriors.
Golden State Warriors
2019-20 Record: 15-50 (5th, Pacific)
2020 NBA Draft Picks: 2, 48 (from Dallas via Philadelphia), 51 (from Utah via Dallas, Detroit and Cleveland)
Area to address: More floor-spacers
As noted above the Warriors will welcome back the “Splash Brothers” and Green, joining up with Andrew Wiggins to form a quartet that should have Steve Kerr’s back among the West’s elite. But with Green and Wiggins not being particularly prolific perimeter shooters, as the former shot 27.9 percent from three last season and the latter slightly better at 33.9 percent, that could be an issue given the attention that Curry and Thompson will receive from opposing defenses. For that reason adding more players capable of helping to space the floor is something that Golden State should look to do this offseason.
And that doesn’t mean the player(s) in question has to be a wing. The Warriors can also look to find a big capable of both defending the paint and being an effective pick-and-pop threat out beyond the 3-point line. If course this is a need that many teams will look to address this offseason, so signing a free agent with limited cap space won’t be easy. But Golden State does have that second overall pick, which could serve an a “carrot” to dangle if the front office isn’t completely sold on any of the available draft prospects. James Wiseman represents a solid fit should the Warriors hang onto the pick given the need for interior depth, but he isn’t much of a perimeter shooter at this stage in his basketball career.
Regardless of what Bob Myers and company decide to do this much is certain: Golden State is in a much better position than any other team that has held a top-3 draft pick in quite some time.
Los Angeles Clippers
2019-20 Record: 49-23 (2nd)
2020 NBA Draft Picks: 57
Area to address: Post defense
More than a few pundits opined that the Clippers would leave the bubble with the title before the games began. But Doc Rivers’ team never seemed to establish the chemistry needed to navigate the unusual situation, with players missing time due to personal reasons early on. Add to that the fact that the Clippers only had their full rotation for a handful of the team’s pre-bubble games, and maybe we should have seen what was coming. L.A. blew a 3-1 series lead to Denver, and Game 7 wasn’t even over before the jokes began to fly in. Now Rivers is gone, having taken the 76ers job shortly after parting ways with the Clippers, and in his place is the aforementioned Lue.
The Clippers have two of the game’s best players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but is there enough talent around them to get this team to the conference finals? There wasn’t in this year’s playoffs, and now the front office has to figure out which free agents should be re-signed and which should be allowed to move on. Harrell, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year winner, and Morris should be the most popular of the Clippers’ pending free agents on the open market, with Green likely being third on that list if he decides to opt out. Morris may be the most important of the three when it comes to which the Clippers should be most invested in bringing back, not only because of his skill set but also the fact that they gave the Knicks a first-round pick for him at the trade deadline.
Given the frontcourt players that the Clippers could potentially lose, and their struggles defending Nikola Jokic, getting better defensively in the post is a must this offseason. That will be tough to do in the draft as the Clippers have just a late-second at their disposal, so free agency it is.
Los Angeles Lakers
2019-20 Record: 52-19 (1st)
2020 NBA Draft Picks: 28
Free Agents: Rajon Rondo, Jared Dudley, Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris, Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith (unrestricted); Kostas Antetokounmpo (restricted); Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, JaVale McGee (player option)
Area to address: 3-point shooting
The Lakers will hang their 17th championship banner when next season begins, and they’ve got some big decisions to make before reaching that point. The most important situation to address is that of Anthony Davis, who will opt out but he’s expected to remain a Laker. But what will the deal that he and the front office agree to look like? The answer to this question will impact what Rob Pelinka will be able to do in free agency, with Rondo, Howard and Morris being the most important of the players that we know for a fact will be free agents. Should Caldwell-Pope opt out, as many expect him to do, he vaults to the top of that list.
Not only was KCP an effective defender on the wing, but he also shot 38.5 percent from three during the regular season. Having wings that can both defend and take advantage of the perimeter shooting opportunities that arise when sharing the court with Davis and LeBron James is a must. The Lakers led the NBA in overall field goal percentage but ranked 23rd in 3-point percentage. That’s the most glaring area in which the champions can stand to improve ahead of next season, by way of the draft, free agency and holdovers such as Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green and Alex Caruso becoming more proficient shooters.
It's possible that the back end of the Lakers roster looks noticeably different than what Frank Vogel had at his disposal this season, but the main characters won't change. And for that reason they'll once again be on the short list of surefire title contenders heading into next season.
Editor’s Note: Whether you want to win a 50/50 or take down a GPP, use our DFS Optimizer, customizable projections and more to create the smartest lineups. Subscribe to all four major sports for as low as $7.99/month!
2019-20 Record: 34-39 (3rd)
2020 NBA Draft Picks: 10
Area to address: Backup point guard
The Suns appeared to be well on their way to another disappointing season when the NBA season ground to a halt in mid-March. Afforded the opportunity to play in the bubble after the restart, Phoenix made the most of its opportunity and got its young players valuable experience as it attempted to close in on a play-in game spot. Monty Williams’ team fell short of that goal but managed to go 8-0 in its seeding games, and there is reason for optimism in the Valley of the Sun. Devin Booker continues to progress into one of the game’s top shooting guards, and the forward tandem of Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson proved to be quite effective with the latter making strides as a defender.
Ricky Rubio’s work at the point shouldn’t be ignored either, and it’s worth noting that Phoenix played as well as it did with Kelly Oubre out and Aron Baynes missing an extended stretch due to injury. So what will Phoenix do for an encore? A lot of that may hinge on the development of Deandre Ayton, whose talent is undeniable at the center position. A league suspension sidelined Ayton for 25 games, and there were moments of inconsistency while in Orlando. If he can take another step forward in his development, that would go a long way towards ensuring that Phoenix can build on the work done while in Orlando.
As for the area that the Suns will need to address this offseason, backup point guard appears to be the spot given the makeup of the roster. Cameron Payne and Jevon Carter, who both played well after the restart, are contract question marks with the Suns holding a team option on the former and the latter being a restricted free agent. Phoenix also has one of last year’s first-round picks, Ty Jerome, to continue to evaluate but if they can find a cost-effective veteran to back up Rubio that may be a better path to take. The depth at the four and five spots is another area to key in on, as Baynes (unrestricted) and Dario Saric (restricted) will both be free agents.
2019-20 Record: 31-41 (4th)
2020 NBA Draft Picks: 12, 35 (from Detroit via Phoenix), 43, 52 (from Houston)
Area to address: The Bogdanovic/Hield dynamic
Sacramento entered the bubble a long shot to reach the postseason, and that’s exactly how things played out. So the streak of seasons without a playoff appearance lives on, and new general manager Monte McNair has been entrusted with the task of putting together a roster capable of turning things around. And he has some big decisions to make, beginning with the team's options that the Kings hold on Fox and Bagley for the 2021-22 season. Fox’s situation appears to be straightforward, as he has proven to be an effective point guard and clear-cut building block for the franchise moving forward. It’s been reported in the past that he wants a max deal, which would be worth anywhere from $150-$180 million, and based upon McNair’s comments during his introductory press conference Fox will likely get that money.
As for Bagley the Kings have a little more time before having to decide his long-term future, which is good news given the injury issues that he's run into during his first two seasons. One would have to assume that, at the very least, his option for the 2021-22 season will be picked up. The biggest question for McNair and the Kings to answer will be what to do with the shooting guard position, as Buddy Hield enters the first season of his new deal and Bogdan Bogdanovic will be a restricted free agent.
Hield made it known that he was not a fan of coming off the bench after Luke Walton moved Bogdanovic into the starting lineup, and nothing has changed on that front. He’ll make nearly $25 million next season, which is a hefty price tag for a sixth man no matter how well he can shoot the ball. As for Bogdanovic he’s coming off of the best season of his NBA career to date, and won’t lack for suitors on the open market.
Does Sacramento hold onto both in hopes that Walton will be able to figure out that dynamic? Or will this be a case of one or the other, with the Kings looking to recoup some value on whichever guard (moving Bogdanovic via sign-and-trade in this scenario if possible) that they decide to part ways with? There are other glaring issues to address within this roster, including the overall depth, but the Bogdanovic/Hield question is the most important.