The Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder won their first round series, but fell short of reaching the NBA's Final Four.
The Big Questions:
- Can Jimmy Butler become a good starter or even better next season?
- Is ownership willing to amnesty Carlos Boozer in 2014?
- Will they get a few nice bench values like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli this summer?
- Do they cut Rip Hamilton to save money?
Notable Free Agents: Nate Robinson (Unrestricted), Marco Belinelli (Unrestricted), Rip Hamilton (Partially Guaranteed) and Nazr Mohammed (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder, Own 2nd Rounder
The Lay of the Land: Even after Chicago shed so much of the bench depth that played a huge role in their 2011-2012 season, players like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli ended up doing a solid enough job in Derrick Rose’s absence for a full season. Having Tom Thibodeau and his system helps a ton, of course.
I cannot wait to see if Jimmy Butler can become a huge piece of the Bulls’ future because he has shown some incredible flashes this season. Since Luol Deng only has one more season under contract, Chicago does not have a ton of time to figure out whether Butler fits in better as a Deng complement, Deng replacement, or neither since 2014 would be their only chance in the near future to even have a possibility of cap space (if they amnesty Boozer). Considering we have not seen Rose play in such a long time, it would be surprising to see the Bulls make any big moves before seeing how everything fits together in the 2013-14 regular season. That said, some smart moves with their mid-level could make the team even more dangerous for a full season with a healthy Rose.
New York Knicks
The Big Questions:
- Will J.R. Smith re-sign with the Knicks?
- Seriously, will they be able to keep JR Smith?
- Can New York get a young guy or two in the frontcourt?
Notable Free Agents: J.R. Smith (Player Option), Chris Copeland (Restricted), Pablo Prigioni (Restricted) and Kenyon Martin (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder (own 2nd Rounder held by Washington)
The Lay of the Land: Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams over the luxury tax line have an incredibly hard time improving. That change makes J.R. Smith’s decision so much more important since the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference would not be able to replace him easily if at all. Smith seems happy with the Knicks but would presumably be giving up a ton of money to stay and he has never gotten that big contract despite his immense potential.
Beyond Smith, the Knickerbockers have nine players under contract for next season not including Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland. Since they cannot receive players via sign-and-trade this summer, New York has to hope both will opt to return to the team for at least next season either by signing reasonable deals with the Knicks or by securing matchable deals with other squads. Considering all the money the Knicks already have committed for 2014 outside of him, even the looming opt-out for Carmelo Anthony next summer cannot dictate too many moves at the present time.
Golden State Warriors
The Big Questions:
- Can they retain both Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry without ruining their long-term flexibility? Should they?
- Would they be willing to trade any of their big expiring contracts for a talent upgrade and more money for 2014 and beyond?
- Can they buy a pick in the late first or early second round?
- If either Jack or Landry head elsewhere, can the team effectively replace them given their limitations as a luxury tax payer?
Notable Free Agents: Jarrett Jack (Unrestricted), Carl Landry (Player Option) and Brandon Rush (Player Option)
2013 Draft Picks Held: None (1st Rounder held by Utah, 2nd Rounder held by Orlando)
The Lay of the Land: After a successful season largely driven by strong years from their stars and quality depth, the Warriors will have to figure out if they can keep two pivotal rotation players. The team acquired Jarrett Jack heading into the last year of his contract and he had a fabulous year, garnering serious Sixth Man of the Year consideration. Carl Landry had a productive season and has a $4 million player option for next summer. Considering their ages (both turn 30 before the start of next season), this could be a chance for them to take a longer contract for the last time. That desire could take them away from the Bay.
The Warriors have cornerstone Stephen Curry locked up now, but will eventually need to pay Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes while enigmatic big man Andrew Bogut has one more year left before unrestricted free agency. Golden State should be less aggressive in retaining Jack and Landry if the players want the Warriors to commit to them for longer than the team is comfortable with considering those factors. Finally, the team could make the decision to give up possible space in 2014 by trading expiring deals belonging to Andris Biedrins and/or Richard Jefferson for quality players signed for more years. Considering the desirability of next year’s free agent crop and the oppressive nature of the luxury tax, they might be able to improve the team that way though it would limit their flexibility in future offseasons.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Big Questions:
- Do they re-sign Kevin Martin?
- Can they turn the Toronto lottery pick into an immediate contributor?
- Will they use the amnesty on Kendrick Perkins?
Notable Free Agents: Kevin Martin (Unrestricted) and Ronnie Brewer (Unrestricted)
2013 Draft Picks Held: Own 1st Rounder, Toronto’s 1st Rounder, Charlotte’s 2nd Rounder (own 2nd Rounder held by Minnesota)
The Lay of the Land: The same financial reality that led to the James Harden trade persists for Oklahoma City. While we cannot expect Kevin Martin to get paid an amount similar to his current $12.5 million, the Thunder do not have a ton of room to retain him with what could be a respectable market for an efficient scorer who can start or come off the bench. Fortunately, the Thunder have young guys on the roster who can try and take the role as well as a lottery pick from Toronto. These players could either take the role themselves or be used as assets in a deal to bring the right piece to OKC.
Sam Presti also has to make a decision on Kendrick Perkins because shedding the final two years of his contract would allow the team to be more creative in filling their more important holes in the rotation. That could be kicked down the road to Perkins’ final season (when Thabo Sefolosha becomes a free agent) but now is the right time to pull the trigger if they want a strong No. 4 after Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka.