After a turbulent and confusing season, dominated by complications ranging from the Covid-19 pandemic to player strikes in the wake of resurgent racial tensions across the country, the NBA finals are finally done, and basketball fans are looking to the offseason.
One of the most eagerly anticipated parts of the offseason is of course the drama of the free agency class. Whilst this can often turn out to resemble a disappointing carrousel, with the same faces returning to their old teams, there is every reason to believe that the 2021 class could represent an exciting roster of players switching loyalties.
Here are some of the marquee moves we think could happen this offseason.
Point guard Paul arrived without much enthusiasm to Oklahoma City Thunder, in the twilight of his career and traded by the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook. It’s fair to say therefore that most predicted a quiet season for Paul, before he could engineer a move elsewhere.
Paul however had other ideas. In a stellar season Paul made the All-Star team for the first time since 2016, and registered a season-high 31 points in a loss against the San Antonio Spurs. Thunder coach Billy Donovan put Paul into a wildcard trio alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder creating a deadly mix which saw the Thunder finish higher than expected.
Whilst it might be romantic to see Paul and Oklahoma enjoy each other’s company next season, it’s not likely. The Thunder are undergoing something of a rebuild, which an aging point guard, regardless of their prestige, is unlikely to be a part of. Paul himself realistically has other plans.
Still though, the story made for one of the more heart-warming surprises of the season.
The lofty Frenchman arrived at The Utah Jazz via the 2013 Draft, and initially endured a rather torrid time. As a fringe reserve player, Gobert mainly watched from the wings as the Jazz stumbled through a 57 loss season.
However, the cream always rises as they say, and Gobert has gone on to assert himself as the best anchor in the association. In 2019, Gobert set a season record for slam dunks with 306, and led the NBA in screen assists, with 482 and true shooting percentage, at 68.2%.
Of course, Gobert’s positive Covid-19 test led to the suspension of play, and his antics which helped spread the virus to his team mates led to a breakdown in his relationship with teammate Donovan Mitchell.
This doesn’t bode well for Gobert, with the Jazz reportedly not overly keen to retain the services of 29 year old Gobert, and a switch to sure up the defense of another squad is likely.
The two-time MVP and NBA Defensive Player of the Year 2020 is in good company, with Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon the only other players to take such accolades simultaneously.
The Greek Freak is therefore first in line for most teams with the means to bring him on board, although Antetokounmpo’s current employers The Milwaukee Bucks are reportedly preparing their own supermax offer to keep him on board, and the power this would give the Bucks next season is reflected in their odds of making the playoff finals next season at Bet365 New Jersey.
The ball is therefore in Antetokounmpo’s court, and he can count on nearly every team in the association in hot pursuit.