5 Offseason Storylines That Will Shape The 2016 NBA Season
The Golden State Warriors have been crowned NBA champions.
One of the many ramifications of this occurring is the NBA has now moved into its offseason state.
This time period always brings many storylines. Here are five of the most important ones to follow this offseason:
What will Kevin Love do?
Kevin Love has vehemently denied any report that has suggested he will leave Cleveland during the coming free agency period.
That being said, I still have trouble believing his denials. If he decides not to return to Cleveland, Love could be the biggest name on the open market. He would also be paid a max deal for that placement.
Love was unspectacular this season for the first year in five years. He played third fiddle to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James this season, and it showed on the stat sheet.
Love averaged about 10 less points this year (16.4) than he did last year (26.1).
Also, he didn't average a double-double for the first time in five years, which was quite odd, considering how we got used to watching Kevin Love hit the double-double mark on a game-to-game basis.
Kevin Love could head elsewhere and instantly become an elite player once again. Additionally, depending on the team he joins, he could also still contend for a championship.
The Warriors winning the championship showed the world that building a "superteam" isn't the only way to win a championship, and you don't need three stars to win.
Heck, LeBron showed us, sometimes, it takes one strong-willed player and some decent complimentary players to make a deep playoff run.
So, if Love could get a max deal, be a league-leading player and contend for a title if he were to leave, he's probably at least considering it.
Will the Lakers return to prominence?
The Los Angeles Lakers uncharacteristically struggled through another low win season this past year.
With that occurring, devoted Laker fans are pleading with Mitch Kupchak and the rest of the front office to give Kobe Bryant a team worthy of a deep playoff run. The prospect of Bryant retiring after this year has only intensified and emotionalized this plea.
After an unsuccessful 2014 offseason, in which Pau Gasol left for Chicago and the Lakers whiffed on big-name free agents (LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony), Kupchak will look to reverse these negative trends.
With potentially a large part of the Lakers roster coming off the books (except Kobe Bryant, Nick Young and a few players with minor deals), the Lakers will have the cap space to make a major move.
And Lakers fans will push for that big move to be made.
Julius Randle will be back, and the Lakers have the second pick in the draft. So, the Lakers have the luxury of being able to mix young talent with savvy veterans in lineups.
The moral of the story is this: Lakers fans won't simply accept an attempt to sign free agents; they will demand the front office make a clear statement on the future of this team by their actions on the free agent market.
Will Dwyane Wade stay loyal to Miami?
Remember when Miami-Dade County was renamed Miami-Wade County in an effort to keep Wade with the Heat?
Dwyane Wade has sat enthroned above Miami sports for much of the past decade.
With some terrible years for the Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers, the Heat have been the one team that has given fans in South Florida hope.
And while Wade may not have been the man who led the Heat to their two most recent championships on the court, he certainly was a leader off the court and in the minds of fans.
LeBron was the leader on the court. However, LeBron has been removed from his king's throne in Miami by putting pen to paper and returning to his hometown.
Wade is still at the apex of the Miami sports hierarchy and will forever be known as the Heat-lifer who brought Miami three championships.
That is, if he decides to stay in Miami to finish out his career.
If Wade were to leave Miami, it'd be difficult for Heat fans to deal with. LeBron left a gash in the hands Heat fans formerly raised in triumph when the Heat won two titles. That wound is just now healing.
If Wade left, he'd re-stab and reopen that wound. To put it plainly, Wade leaving at such a sensitive time would hurt Heat fans and could leave his now-spotless legacy in Miami with a blemish.
Who will give Jimmy Butler a max deal?
In recent years, there seems to be a player who raises his play by vast proportions during a contract year.
Last season, Gordon Hayward did so and was rewarded with max deal from the Charlotte Hornets, which was then matched by his original team, the Utah Jazz.
Jimmy Butler is the player who, this year, could get a max deal from a team who will take a chance on him.
Butler excelled this year, posting numbers of 20 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game as a wing player.
He is also a phenomenal defender, and those skills were put on display in Tom Thibodeau's defensive system.
Simply put, Butler was one of the main reasons the Bulls were so successful this season, even in spite of some adversity such as Derrick Rose's continued injury troubles, a distance between the front office and coach Thibodeau, as well as the lackluster play of center Joakim Noah.
The team that signs Butler will hope that after they sign him, he will continue to improve year after year. They will hope he will be worth the max deal at the end of his contract, rather than at the beginning.
Most teams take the risk in reverse style. The front office knows a player is worth a max contract now, but run the risk of the player not being worth it toward the end of the contract.
Once we find out what team decides to sign Butler, the next part of the storyline will automatically be brought forward.
That storyline will consist of the Bulls' decision to match the contract or not.
Will Phil Jackson turn the Knicks around?
New York Knicks fans struggled through the 2014-2015 season.
Phil Jackson must have struggled as well, as he's not familiar with a team he controls playing so terribly. Supposedly, Jackson's plan revolved around this offseason and the next.
He cleared a ton of cap space by performing a variety of moves, including trading Iman Shumpert and JR Smith to the Cavaliers early this season.
Phil did this, hoping he'll be able to use the cap room to sign priority free agents. Because of this, nearly every major free agent will probably be linked to the Knicks in some way.
With a high draft pick and a ton of spending money at his disposal, Phil has the tools to turn the Knicks around.
Phil has failed during his first tenure as a front office executive thus far, but we've also judged him heavily and expected him to do a long project (fixing the Knicks) in just a short period of time.
This is the time when he will have the opportunity to turn the Knicks' fate around. And, if he does not, onlookers will be finally able to truly and fairly judge his efforts.