When the NBA regular season came to a screeching halt in March, questions immediately arose about how and when players could get back onto the court. The solution was the Orlando bubble, in which not a single person tested positive for COVID-19. Though a success, many fans are excited for the league's return to normalcy. The eight teams that weren't invited haven't played in over seven months. With that being said, it is yet to be seen just how "normal" the next go-around will be. Let's review some potential questions heading into the next regular season.
When will the season start?
Somewhere between Christmas and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A few months ago, league commissioner Adam Silver proposed a starting date of December 1. However, with the Finals wrapping up on October 11 and the NBA Draft being pushed to mid-November, that plan has swiftly been scrapped. Following a Board of Governors meeting last week, it appeared that training camp would begin December 1. Of course, that all depends on the players' feelings. Lakers shooting guard Danny Green predicted some major absences from such an early restart.
"If we start in December, I think most guys [are like] 'I'm not going to be there... to have that quick of a restart, I wouldn't expect [LeBron] to be there for the 1st month of the season."
According to Yahoo Sports, a "substantial faction" of NBA players are pushing for a MLK Day start on January 18. We most likely won't see the league back until 2021.
How much action can we expect from free agency?
The 2019 offseason saw several marquee names switching jerseys, but don't expect the same this year. Not only is the league's salary cap undecided, but this offseason's free agent class simply has less starpower than years prior. Even the 2021 class will be chock-full of talent, headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard.
Top names this year include Fred VanVleet, Brandon Ingram, and DeMar DeRozan. I won't count Anthony Davis, the biggest name in the market, as he's already opted out of his $28.7 million option to sign a long-term extension with the Lakers. There will be more supply than demand this offseason; as a result, lots of players will sign for more than they're truly worth.
Are the Warriors title contenders this season?
Yes, but they have a few question marks to resolve. With Klay Thompson sidelined by a torn ACL and Steph Curry only playing five games because of a broken hand, the Warriors finished with the worst record in the league last season. This year's outlook is sunnier, as Curry and Thompson are good to go and itching to get back on the court. However, the Splash Brothers' supporting cast will not be as championship-caliber this time around. They do have Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green, but the latter had a disappointing 2019-20 season.
Golden State owns the 2nd overall pick in the draft, which they could potentially trade down from. No matter what they do with it, center is a much-needed position. Kevon Looney is perpetually injured and Marquese Chriss will likely come back down to earth after last season's surprising performance. It is possible that they look to address wing depth instead and sign a veteran center with their mid-level exception. The Dubs don't have much cap space, so it will be interesting to see who they believe can make the difference between a playoff team and a Finals contender.
How about the Nets?
Similar to Golden State, the Nets have two superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving coming off season-ending injuries (torn Achilles and arthroscopic shoulder surgery, respectively). Durant and Irving are friends off the court, but their on-court dynamic is yet to be seen. Neither have been viewed as outstanding leaders, which is where new head coach Steve Nash factors into the Brooklyn equation. Nash, a former point guard and Hall of Famer, always prioritized winning over individual statistics. He should bring the same selfless approach to the Nets and hopefully impart his repose to the two stars.
The biggest question for Brooklyn is whether they need a third star to contend. Behind Durant and Irving are guards Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. LeVert's offensive ability was on full display in the Orlando seeding games. Dinwiddie has also proven capable of scoring and playmaking, but what Brooklyn needs is defense. They need a ball-hawk from the guard position that can challenge the most lethal opponents in the most crucial situations. An offseason trade could potentially bring someone like Bradley Beal or Jrue Holiday to the Big Apple. Obtaining a third weapon would likely fleece them of draft picks in the near future, but Nash said that "we are playing for a championship and we're going to build accordingly."
How will Daryl Morey change the 76ers' system?
As general manager of the Rockets for 13 years, Daryl Morey was the driving force behind the NBA's infatuation with analytics and efficiency. It's been fascinating -- and oftentimes maddening -- to follow Houston in their quest for a championship in recent years. Despite Morey's attempts to piece together different rosters around James Harden, the Rockets never made the Finals. Now, he will be the president of basketball operations for an interesting Sixers team for the next five years.
Morey will be tasked with polishing an idiosyncratic offense built around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, a duo that has lacked shooting and hurt the team's spacing as a result. While Simmons can't shoot 3-pointers, he is elite at assisting on them. If Morey can bring in more shooters to maximize the Aussie's playmaking ability, the floor should feel far bigger for the Sixers. He isn't the kind of executive that will immediately trade one of the two; he'll do everything in his creative power to experiment with the pieces he currently has. But if Philadelphia wants to take the next step as a contender, the new president will need to work some of that "Moreyball" magic.