When exactly the NBA Draft will take place in 2020 is up in the air after multiple reports from ESPN.com this week that indicates the start of the next season could be pushed back to 2021. The possibility for added revenue with fans being allowed back in the stands at some point later in 2021 holds appeal for both players and owners.
“Our No. 1 goal is to get fans back into arenas,” Adam Silver said Thursday during ESPN’s draft lottery show. “If it’s pushed back and it increases the likelihood of fans in arenas that’s what we’d be targeting.”
The other issue at play besides the possibility of having fans in attendance is the status of the salary cap for next season. The NBA collective bargaining agreement was not written to handle the loss of revenue during a pandemic, so it’s going to need to be reworked in the coming months once the league’s financial picture becomes clear. Modified salary cap rules will have a direct impact on team plans at the draft and free agency so it’s expected both of those planned dates (mid-October) will be pushed back until salary rules are clarified for 2020-21 for teams.
The odds are increasing that everyone may need to wait a little bit longer for the draft itself to be held due to these concerns, but we do have a draft order now set after the NBA Draft Lottery was held on Thursday night.
The Celtics will enter the offseason with three first-round picks at their disposal in 2020. Boston will pick at No. 14 (via Memphis), No. 26, and No. 30 (via Milwaukee). We covered some of their options with those picks earlier this week.
What about ramifications around the league stemming from the lottery? Let’s take a closer look at the full results and how they could impact the trade market and possible contenders heading into next season. The parentheses indicate how far up or down a team moved from their original draft lottery slot
14. Celtics (via Grizzlies)
8. Knicks (-2)
7. Pistons (-2)
6. Hawks (-2)
5. Cavs (-3)
4. Bulls (+3)
3. Hornets (+5)
2. Warriors (-1)
1. Wolves (+2)
Minnesota: The Wolves will be making their third No. 1 pick of the past decade after moving up a couple of slots from their original position. With new general manager Gersson Rosas, they are at a bit of a crossroads as a franchise while the team is on the open market for a new owner. The Wolves already mortgaged a huge part of their future for D’Angelo Russell at the trade deadline, giving up a top-3 protected pick in 2021 to the Warriors in order to land a running mate to appease Karl Anthony-Towns. With no consensus No. 1 pick at the top of the 2020 draft class, the Wolves have a bit of a conundrum on their hands though. Will they pick another young player for a team already full of youth that might not be able to contribute to a high level right away? Or do they move the pick as part of a trade to land a veteran player who can be a complimentary piece or Russell and Towns? James Johnson ($16 million) is an expiring deal that should work well for salary matching purposes and the Wolves won’t have much cap space otherwise, so making a draft night trade is probably their best path towards making a splash in the short-term with improved results. The truth is Russell and Towns probably isn’t even enough to get this group to the postseason on their own, so opting away from youth is an understandable strategy. On the other hand, Towns is also under contract until 2024 so he doesn’t have the ability to force his way out anytime soon, especially since the team overpaid to get Russell for him. Knowing that, a patient path might be the wiser play.
With their 2021 first round pick in Golden State’s hands after the Russell deal (top-3 protected), there is added incentive for the Wolves to start winning more right away. I’d expect them to trade down in the lottery to acquire more veteran help for a team that has their eyes on an elite prospect.
Golden State: The team that should be watched most closely by the Celtics and any other contender out of this lottery bunch. After securing the league’s worst record pre-pandemic, Golden State fared pretty well to nab the No. 2 pick considering they had nearly a 50 percent chance to fall to No. 5 overall. The bigger question now of course is how they plan to re-establish themselves as an elite franchise out West.
The healthy returns of Steph Curry (who played a few games in February/March after returning from a broken hand) and Klay Thompson (torn ACL) will be a big step in that direction. Draymond Green took a huge step back on the floor in 2019-20 but it’s hard to decipher whether it was simply a lack of effort while playing for a bad team (probable) or a decline due to age. We are going to guess the former for the 30-year-old.
Beyond that? There’s little else to work with here for a winning core beyond an overpaid Andrew Wiggins, a contract the Warriors agreed to take on to help them land a 2021 Wolves first-round pick.
Between that likely Wolves lottery pick and this No. 2 overall pick in 2020, the Warriors are positioned to make a big splash and add a bigger name on the trade market. The problem? Golden State already has over $140 million committed in salary for next season, which will produce a huge luxury tax bill. There is also limited movable salary here with Wiggins (average of $31 million per year until 2023) remaining a toxic asset that will probably take a top lottery pick just to move on his own. With teams likely looking to avoid bad long-term deals in the wake of the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors finding any takers for him without giving up their elite draft capital.
This scenario is going to have to force general manager Bob Myers to get creative as he tries to maximize the remaining primes of Curry/Thompson/Green. Adding a No. 2 pick will be helpful from a cost control standpoint but probably isn’t going to boost this team back towards contention. Look for Myers to make a move that increases his odds of winning in the present over the future.
Other East squads: Incredibly, all picks in the 3-9 range for the 2020 NBA Draft are Eastern Conference franchises, a sign that the bottom of the East remains a long way away from the Bucks/Raptors/Heat/Celtics contingent at the top of the conference. The Hornets and Bulls benefitted from a little bit of lottery luck to move into the top-4 but both teams, even with the addition of a young star, are still just a fringe playoff team in the East with their current rosters.
The big thing that matters for the Celtics when it comes to these teams is projected open cap space. The