With the Lakers putting the finishing touches on their 17th title win (tying the Celtics for the most franchise titles) on Sunday night against the Heat, the longest season in NBA history has come to an end. Whether or not the bubble returns in some form for the 2021 season remains to be seen but there are plenty of big questions for contenders around the league in the wake of an unprecedented season. To prepare for what lies ahead in a crucial offseason for the Celtics, let's take a closer look at where they stack up against projected contenders (according to BETUS title odds) as the offseason begins and the biggest questions each of those contenders will face this offseason as the fight towards the top begins again.
LA Lakers (3.5-to-1): How long will Anthony Davis re-sign for? Who returns with him?
For a title winner, the Lakers have about as clean of a cap sheet as you could hope for the front office to run it back with this roster in 2021. Anthony Davis is obviously the best free agent hitting the market this summer and his decision on the structure of his next contract will be fascinating. After one more season, he will be eligible for a 35 percent max contract, so he could simply opt for a one-year deal with a player option if he wants to maximize his earnings. The Lakers will have the ability right now to offer him the longest deal (five years) compared to any suitors and there are no contenders out there that look like big competitors to land him. With such few teams with cap room this summer and an NBA title to defend, the Lakers won’t really have to sweat his exit barring a huge surprise, but may only be able to count on a short-term extension.
“For the first part, I had a great time in L.A. this first year,” Davis said Sunday night. “This has been nothing but joy, nothing but amazement. Over the next couple of months, we'll figure (free agency) out. I mean, I'm not 100 percent sure, but that's why my agent is who he is and we'll discuss it and figure it out.”
Elsewhere, the only other prominent free agents are Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who bought have player options. The Lakers have Bird Rights on both players (early Bird Rights on Rondo) so they will be able to hand out competitive offers while going well over the cap to retain both. Secondary pieces like Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris will be free agents as well looking to cash in.
Incredibly, every player on the roster outside of LeBron James (player option) that is already signed will be on an expiring contract next season. That should allow for plenty of flexibility for how the Lakers want to build going forward with a mid-level exception to add another solid role player or two. They are headed to luxury tax territory but the only drop-off we should see talent-wise is if some of their older players (James, Green, McGee, Rondo are all in their mid-30s) begin to decline.
LA Clippers (4-to-1): Which players get sent packing with Doc Rivers?
The Lakers’ crosstown rivals still are without a coach but are close to co-title favorites at the moment following the firing of Doc Rivers. However, unless owner Steve Ballmer elects to break the bank, the Clippers have some tough free-agent choices to make this fall with their secondary pieces. Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell are both set to become unrestricted free agents and each will be looking for long paydays, especially after Morris just settled for a one-year deal last offseason. Key reserve forward JaMychal Green (player option) is also likely to opt-out as well for a deserved raise. The Clippers will need to hand out somewhere in the $35-40 million range to retain all three, which would set the team shooting into luxury-tax territory.
Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are also set to enter contract years in 2020-21, so the pressure will be sky-high for the front office to make the right hire at head coach and retain the necessary pieces on a team that lacked chemistry in the postseason. Will moving on from Rivers be the right call? Or is the player mix around George and Leonard the bigger problem? The Clippers brass must figure that out in a hurry or otherwise, they will have given up a half-decade worth of draft picks for a couple of guys who could walk out the door in 2021.
Milwaukee Bucks (7.5-to-1): Does Giannis pass on supermax?