NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps a month away, many clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.
We’re in the midst of looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on a key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2019/20 regular season begins.
After focusing on the Atlantic, Southeast, and Central last week, we’re moving onto the Northwest today. Let’s dive in…
Will Bol Bol sign a two-way contract?
A year ago, Bol was considered a potential 2019 lottery pick. This spring, he fell all the way to No. 44 in the draft due to health concerns. Now it’s not even clear if he’ll sign a standard NBA contract for his rookie season. No player drafted as high as 44th overall has signed a two-way deal as his first NBA contract, but that’s said to be the Nuggets‘ preference for the young center.
From the Nuggets’ perspective, slotting Bol into their two-way opening makes sense. As cap expert Albert Nahmad recently explained, keeping Bol on a two-way contract would allow the club to avoid moving precariously close to the tax line (certain players’ unlikely incentives could subsequently push Denver’s team salary beyond that threshold). It would also allow the organization to bring him along slowly, developing him and making sure he’s healthy in the G League before he’s eventually promoted to the NBA roster.
Of course, it makes sense that Bol would be reluctant to embrace such an arrangement, and he has some leverage if he wants to force the issue. In order to retain his rights, the Nuggets must offer a one-year rookie contract, and Bol could accept it, putting him on track for restricted free agency next summer.
Still, it might be in his best interest to accept Denver’s proposal and trust that the team will do right by him. Monte Morris and Torrey Craig started on two-way deals before they were promoted to the Nuggets’ 15-man roster and became key parts of the club’s rotation. Bol could be next to follow that path.
Does Gersson Rosas have any major moves in the works?
When Rosas took over as the Timberwolves‘ new head of basketball operations this spring, there was plenty of chatter about how his Rockets roots and his apprenticeship under Daryl Morey would make him inclined to swing for the fences more than most first-time general managers.
We haven’t seen much of that so far in Rosas’ first offseason in Minnesota, though it wasn’t for lack of trying — the Wolves reportedly made a serious push for D’Angelo Russell before the All-Star point guard opted to join the Warriors.
Not many blockbuster trades are completed during the preseason, but given Rosas’ reputation, he won’t be averse to exploring the market. Even though moving Andrew Wiggins‘ contract would be tough, the Wolves could theoretically make a big splash – like acquiring veteran point guard Chris Paul – without including Wiggins in the package.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Will the Thunder be able to find a taker for Chris Paul?
Speaking of Paul, the Thunder have been adamant that they’re willing to take a patient approach on the trade market and even start the season with the nine-time All-Star on their roster. Still, I imagine the rebuilding club would jump at the opportunity to send him to a contending team for the right offer.
Paul’s salary ($38.5MM) makes him the NBA’s second-highest-paid player for the 2019/20 season and will make it difficult for Oklahoma City to move him. Even if a suitor could comfortably match salaries, Paul’s two extra guaranteed years hurt his trade value, and the Thunder will be reluctant to attach any draft picks from their treasure trove to help grease the skids on a deal.
Various CBA restrictions for teams around the NBA will limit the market for Paul too. The Lakers would be a logical trade partner, but most of their roster can’t be traded until at least December 15. The Heat might typically have interest in an impact player like Paul, but they’re hard-capped and want their draft picks back from the Thunder.
The Thunder will revisit the CP3 trade market this fall, but finding a favorable deal won’t be easy.
Portland Trail Blazers
What is Jusuf Nurkic‘s recovery timetable?
A broken leg ended Nurkic’s 2018/19 season in March, and he’s not expected to be healthy to start the 2019/20 season. Beyond that, the Trail Blazers haven’t offered up many details on Nurkic’s recovery timetable.
In May, Blazers beat writer Jason Quick speculated that the veteran center might be ready to return to action just before the 2020 All-Star break, which would sideline him for more than half the season. Nurkic will certainly look to beat that timeline, but the Blazers should get a better idea this fall of whether or not that will be possible.
Portland traded for Hassan Whiteside and signed Pau Gasol this offseason, adding the pair of veterans to a center rotation that also figures to include up-and-coming youngster Zach Collins. Assuming decent health, that trio can comfortably hold the fort at the five until February, but Nurkic is still the most talented player of the bunch (for now, at least) and he’ll help solidify the club’s frontcourt when he returns.
How will the Jazz’s top players perform in the 2019 World Cup?
Several of Utah’s impact players are participating in the 2019 World Cup in China over the next couple weeks. However, unlike the Celtics – who have four players on Team USA – the Jazz have their players spread across several national teams. Donovan Mitchell is the only one on Team USA’s roster, with Rudy Gobert representing France and Joe Ingles playing for Australia.
While they may not have the same chemistry-building potential that the Celtics’ quartet does, Utah’s World Cup participants have a great opportunity to make an impression on an international stage and boost their stock heading into the 2019/20 season.
We’ve seen plenty of players over the last couple decades follow up strong World Cup or Olympic performances with breakout years for their NBA teams, and Mitchell in particular could be a prime candidate to follow that template. It’ll be worth keeping a close eye on him and the rest of Utah’s international representatives as they look to make deep runs in the FIBA tournament.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.