NBA Offseason Preview: The Summer of Durant

More than any other professional sport, the NBA has become a year-round league. Its champion will be decided by June 19 at the latest and its draft is a mere three days later than that. It’s a week until July 1, when free agency officially begins. Summer League in late July and August may not be as exciting, but the league has been wildly successful at making sure there is action and conversation to be had 365 days a year.

This will be the first in a series of posts outlining the offseason for all 30 NBA teams. They will go in order of the NBA draft, working those teams without a first round pick around where they finished. They will feature a look at each team’s potential draft needs (though stay tuned for a full mock draft) and analyze their roster as well as their cap sheets.

It should be mentioned at the top that the offseason will be headlined by the free agency of Kevin Durant. Given that he was about two minutes from reaching the Finals and that there’s another top-5 player already on the Thunder, it is unlikely that he will leave Oklahoma City. But until he signs a new contract, whether it is the long-rumored 1+1 or a longer deal, the entire offseason will revolve around him. Every team with max space, and there are probably 20 of them, will want to sign him. Teams that don’t will still think about creative ways to get him, even if doing so is a pipe dream.  

There are a few more overarching themes of this offseason that are worth mentioning here rather than repeating in every post. The first is obviously the incredible cap spike that will happen this summer. Currently, the league projects the cap to jump 92$ million. That is a nearly unprecedented leap and it will create close to one billion dollars in cap space league wide.

What does that mean? This year’s free agents are going to get overpaid. Guys who wouldn’t receive maximum contracts under normal circumstances are going to get them this summer and each team may have to outbid the other 29 to get the guy it wants. That news is best for two kinds players- rim protectors and wing shooters. Kent Bazemore and Bismack Biyombo could easily make a combined $30 million or more next season. Steph Curry, the league’s two-time MVP, will make just over 12$ million in 2016-17.

The teams who succeed this offseason will be the ones who avoid overpaying anyone with a long-term contract and instead use their cap space in creative ways. Portland is a great example. They were widely mocked for signing Al-Farouq Aminu to a four-year deal last summer, but that contract is the model every team is going to aim for in 2016. The Blazers also smartly acquired a draft pick at the deadline to absorb Anderson Varejao’s contract from Cleveland. Down the line, the upcoming cap spikes will dramatically increase the average NBA starter’s salary. The best teams will be the ones who don’t reach too far and end up paying below-average players above-average dollars two or three years from now.

Finally, these probably wouldn’t be possible without the incredibly helpful Real GM Future Drafts Detailed page, as well as the team sheets pages at Hoops Hype and Basketball Insiders. Those are invaluable resources and they deserve the thanks of every basketball fan.

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