Now that the NBA Finals have come to a close, itís time for us to turn our attention to an offseason of NBA intrigue.
After putting on one of the most dominating postseason performances in league history, the San Antonio Spurs have cemented a special place for themselves in the hierarchy of NBA champions. Still, San Antonioís win does not shield them from the looming unknowns of their future. With five titles in 15 years, it remains to be seen whether Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich will each retire or return next season to defend their championship and add to their ever-growing legacies.
Waiting for the answer on the statuses of both Spurs legends is just the beginning of a jam-packed list of offseason storylines around the league. As we turn the page on a memorable 2013-14 season, letís take a look at how the Spursí Finals win could shape what may be one of the most eventful NBA offseasons in recent memory.
Did the Spurs Break Up the Heat Dynasty?
Fewer teams enter the offseason now with more uncertainty than the Miami Heat. At the moment, Norris Cole is the only Heat player on the roster officially under contract with the team heading into next season. Franchise cornerstones LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all hold the ability to opt out of the two years remaining on their deals.
The three players also all have the same player option at the end of next season if they elect to opt-in for next year. A decision is due from the trio by June 30.
Itís hard to imagine James leaving Miami if he opts out, but the decline of Wadeís play against the Spurs has to raise questions about the teamís ability to remain competitive for the long-term.
Several of Miamiís supporting pieces will be moving on this summer, and the Heat will lack the salary flexibility to replace many of them. Shane Battier is retiring, Ray Allen could call it a career as well, and role players like Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen will be looking for raises as unrestricted free agents.
The Heat will need to retool to stay among the top teams of the league, and they will have to spend deep into the luxury repeater tax to make that happen unless their Big Three take serious paycuts. Will James be willing to sacrifice significant cash to improve his chances of getting back on top? Will Bosh and Wade be willing to give up a big payday as they approach the back nine of their careers?
San Antonioís domination of Miami might make these players think twice about their decisions, including putting off any long-term commitment until next summer. Miami exploring trade options with Bosh and/or Wade canít be ruled out either.
Where Will Carmelo Anthony Land?
The Spurs showed the power of a dominant offense against Miami, and there will be no better offensive player on the free agent market than Carmelo Anthony if the veteran forward opts out of the final year of his Knicks contract by the June 23 deadline. Reports indicate that Anthony is leaning toward moving on, which makes sense given the lack of talent and salary cap flexibility the Knicks have on their roster as they enter this offseason.
Anthonyís potential suitors will present a vast array of winning possibilities. Does he join up with either Houston or Chicago to give either team a bona fide third star? Does the lure of winning alongside LeBron in Miami actually appear alluring to him despite the potential sacrifices in salary? Or will a long shot team like the Lakers catch Anthonyís eye with a couple other corresponding big moves?
Anthonyís decision will be one of the biggest dominoes to fall of the offseason, as his addition could shift the balance of power in either conference.
Will Kevin Loveís Fate Be Decided on Draft Night?
If the Celtics hope to bring aboard the big man this summer, draft night may be the teamís best and only shot at acquiring Love or another star. Rookies are rarely traded after draft night, and the Celtics donít have the assets to land Love unless they include their sixth overall pick this year (along with some future picks) since they might not pick that high again anytime soon.
It remains to be seen whether Minnesota will like what Boston has to offer with that selection, but thatís the night that should be circled on the calendars of all Celtics fans, since Boston will put their best offer forward then. Love may also find the Eastern Conference as a more appealing destination now after the Spursí domination of the Heat, and that may help push his camp to make a move now to escape the loaded Western Conference.
If the Celticsí pursuit of Love falls short, the Wolves could go in a couple of other directions. Moving the big man for a package of young players is one option (Chicago and Phoenix could offer enticing packages). Otherwise, they could play the waiting game and hold onto Love until the trade deadline, but in order to maximize value for their star, they would be wise to make a move this summer.
As free agency approaches on July 1, every team around the league, including the Celtics, will be waiting anxiously for the answers to these questions. As we saw in the summer of 2010, these decisions could very well reshape the league for years to come.