The NBA has a long history of superstars, but the league is also home to many players who are not household names. With training camps set to open in just over a month, here are some of the most important questions that remain unanswered about this year’s crop of NBA stars.
The where is ben simmons from is a question that has been lingering around since the Philadelphia 76ers selected Ben Simmons with the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
The pinnacle of NBA free agency has passed us by. The schedule for the 2021-22 season has been published in its entirety. On September 28, training camps may begin. There are a couple possible movements that have yet to be decided.
Will Ben Simmons be traded by the Philadelphia 76ers? Damian Lillard’s time with the Portland Trail Blazers is coming to an end. Which of the remaining free agents might help a competitive team?
As the offseason draws to a close, our experts break down the most pressing issues and make bold predictions.
MORE: NBA Power Rankings: The Post-Free Agency Era
1. What are the chances that Ben Simmons will open the season with the Sixers?
Royce Young (Royce Young): Because media day and training camp establish an unofficial deadline in these circumstances, conventional NBA thinking suggests it’s improbable. The potential embarrassment of starting camp with a player you plan to trade creates a sense of urgency for both the Sixers and the rival clubs who have been low-balling offers up to this point. If Simmons isn’t in their plans, moving on sooner rather than later has its own merits.
Friedell, Nick: It’s becoming more probable by the day, but it’s still difficult to imagine the Sixers would want to start the season with Simmons given the way things finished in the playoffs. Imagine how loud the “boos” will be the first time he makes a mistake or seems unsure at the line. I appreciate not wanting to make a poor trade, but can his confidence be restored when a significant part of the fan base has already lost faith in him?
The NBA season 2021-22 begins in October with two star-studded doubleheaders on ESPN.
Wednesday, October 20th, 7:30 p.m. ET, Celtics at. Knicks 10 p.m. ET, Nuggets vs. Suns
Friday, October 22nd, 7:30 p.m. ET, Nets at. 76ers 10 p.m. ET, Suns vs. Lakers
Lopez, Andrew: It seems to be quite probable at this point, which comes as a bit of a shock (to me, at least). There’s still a possibility Daryl Morey may attempt to work out a deal once training camp begins, but he’ll also want to collect the most money for Simmons. That might imply a scenario similar to James Harden’s, where he plays a few games before a contract is struck. Nonetheless, it seems to be an uncomfortable scenario all around.
Kevin Pelton (Kevin): As training camp approaches, I believe the Sixers will be under greater pressure to move Simmons. The issue is if that pressure will overcome the team’s desire to keep their most tradeable player until the Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard situations are addressed. I’m thinking Simmons’ inclusion on the roster to begin the season is more probable than not because of his potential.
Kirk Goldsberry (Kirk): It’s most probable at this point. The Sixers have been selling him around for months and have failed to find a team ready to pay them what they want for him. Philly’s reported trade packages are enormous, so it’s understandable that they haven’t been able to find a trade partner ready to part with multiple choices and young assets in return for a guy who has a lot of concerns right now. Simmons still has a potential to be a great two-way player in this league, but moving him now would be a mistake.
The implications of Embiid’s new contract for the 76ers and Simmons
Damian Lillard denies requesting a trade, but claims he’s made it plain to the Trail Blazers that he wants to win a championship.
2. How long will Damian Lillard remain committed to the Blazers?
Dame Goldsberry: Portland may be running out of time. Lillard wants to win, but there’s a sense that Portland hasn’t done enough to stay up with the many talented Western Conference clubs. The Trail Blazers don’t seem to be a genuine contender, owing in part to their defense, which has been a disaster for years. Any team with Lillard and CJ McCollum will score well; it’s up to the front office to put together a good defensive unit around them, which they haven’t done. Lillard just wants to win a championship, and defense wins championships, as McCollum said. Lillard may be satisfied if Portland plays excellent defense this season. He won’t be if it doesn’t.
Lopez: This summer, Lillard had many opportunities to ask out, but instead chose to focus on urging Portland to improve its squad in the hopes of bringing the club closer to a championship. And, as McCollum pointed out, Lillard seems to be all-in on this season. But it’s unclear if he’ll go all-in beyond this year. If Lillard believes his championship window is closing and that it will not open in Portland, he could make a demand.
Friedell: Lillard has only ever spoken about how important it would be for him to remain in Portland, but he doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who will be patient if he loses. Why would he want to remain if the Blazers lose early and frequently this season? He has to wonder what it’s like to be on a team that fights for a championship every year as a competitor.
Young: Until the end of next season, at the very least. Once the season begins, Lillard’s whole attention is on the squad, the staff, and the organization. But, unless the season concludes with a title or a run to the Finals, the summer compels contemplation and assessment, as it did this past offseason following a first-round departure. Throughout the season, there will undoubtedly be some commotion, but Lillard will not be among them. He’s dedicated to his team when the season begins.
Pelton: Only Lillard knows for sure, but I don’t believe Portland’s coaching change and minor roster acquisitions (signing Ben McLemore, Tony Snell, and Cody Zeller to veterans minimum deals) will get the Blazers any closer to Lillard’s championship aspirations. As a consequence, I anticipate Lillard to continue to voice his dissatisfaction with Portland’s direction following the next season.
3. Which of the remaining free agents might be the most valuable asset to a contender?
Lopez: If the Dallas Mavericks can get Lauri Markkanen, it will bolster their bench and provide some Kristaps Porzingis insurance in case the big man wants to rest. Markkanen had a career-high shooting season, hitting 58.2 percent from two (up from 51.8 percent the previous season) and 40.2 percent from three (his previous best was 36.2 percent ). Increasing the amount of shots around Luka Doncic can only be beneficial.
The majority of the NBA’s big-name free agents have already signed contracts, but the offseason is still in full swing, and we’ve got all the details right here.
• Pelton: Analyzing every offseason move • Lowe: Offseason winners and losers • Pelton: Analyzing every offseason move What league insiders have to say about the upcoming offseason Looking forward to free agency in 2022
Goldsberry: With the potential exception of Paul Millsap, I don’t believe any of them really shift the needle. He may be able to slip into a backup position and provide a club like the Golden State Warriors a little more versatility or depth, which might help them in the playoffs.
Young: Because of his stature and shooting skill, Markkanen is an intriguing potential component for someone. It’s surprising he’s been available for so long, but his market seems to have stagnated due to defensive issues and a lack of fit. Markkanen is obviously the best player available, having shot 40.2 percent from three last season on almost six attempts with the Chicago Bulls. He’s just 24, so he has plenty of time ahead of him.
Friedell: Markkanen intrigues me the most, but I’m not sure how much he could assist right immediately. The Bulls had hoped he would become a future cornerstone, but he now simply seems to be a young player who has lost a lot of confidence. He still has a lot of skill, but he’s never been able to bring it all together in the manner that many others in the league expected him to.
Millsap, Pelton. I’m shocked Millsap didn’t command a higher price than the veterans minimum this summer. Millsap remained an above-average contributor at age 36, despite his minutes and 3-point shooting declining last season. I’d compare him to David West, who joined the Golden State Warriors at the same age and helped them win back-to-back titles.
Team-by-team listings of NBA free agents for 2022 and 2023
Andrew Lopez delves into what the Mavericks have done to build a team around their star guard, as well as providing an update on the NBA’s investigation into potential tampering.
4. Which new coach has the most difficulties during the preseason?
Jason Kidd is a young man. Kidd seems to be Rick Carlisle’s hand-picked replacement, but he doesn’t have quite the same runway as he had previously when he begins his third head-coaching position. Kidd’s hire was divisive and unpopular among fans, and with the Mavericks already under pressure to field a competent squad around Luka Doncic, he’ll find himself in the crosshairs if the team struggles to get out to a good start.
Lopez: Willie Green, the coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, will have to find out how to put three new starters around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, as well as what backcourt combinations will work. Jonas Valanciunas will take over at center for Steven Adams, but who will take over for Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe? Devonte’ Graham, Tomas Satoransky, and Garrett Temple were added to the Pels’ backcourt, which already includes Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr. Oh, and they selected Trey Murphy III, a three-guard who will remove certain three-guard lineup combinations.
Chauncey Billups, according to Goldsberry. He takes over a club on the verge of significant changes in a stacked Western Conference. If Lillard doesn’t like the team’s path, things in Portland may quickly get tense.
Willie Green, Friedell. He must improve the Pelicans while while attempting to keep Zion pleased in the new scheme. Every coach in the league is under pressure, but Green is joining a team that has to win right away while also keeping its young star happy. That’s a difficult job for any coach, but it’s particularly difficult for a first-year coach who is still trying to strike the proper balance with his new squad.
Pelton: I’d guess Chauncey Billups in Portland, based on my Lillard response. Last year’s first-round defeat was not due to the roster, according to new head coach Neil Olshey. Despite more modest external assessments of Portland’s potential, great expectations are placed on Billups to lead the Blazers further into the playoffs. The Blazers’ opening over/under victory total (43.5) ranks seventh in the Western Conference at Caesars Sports Book by William Hill.
The Pelicans’ destiny is influenced by Willie Green and Zion’s relationship.
5. Are you making any bold predictions?
Friedell: I still think Lillard will end up with Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks at some point. It may not happen for a long, but Thibs and Lillard’s marriage would be fascinating to witness. The opportunity to watch Lillard play alongside Derrick Rose, a point guard he idolized when he first entered the league, at Madison Square Garden would also be appealing.
Young: It doesn’t seem to be a daring prediction, but let’s go with a surprise location. Someone like the Blazers could be enticed to make a big splash, throwing assets and young talent at the 76ers in an attempt to improve the squad around Lillard. It’s the kind of boom-or-bust approach that might either lift the Blazers and reduce stress, or it may backfire and increase it.
Millsap will not be on an NBA roster on opening night, but that is not due to a lack of desire. Millsap, who is 36 years old and has played in over 1,000 games, may choose to take his time selecting a club and let it play out the season, allowing his legs to rest a little longer.
JJ Redick will wind up with the Brooklyn Nets, according to Goldsberry. It’s just a hunch, but he loves New York, and the prospect of reuniting with some of his former LA Clippers teammates and competing for a championship in a city he adores will drive him to join a team already stacked with talented shooters.
Pelton: For the rest of 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder will not trade for another first-round selection.
We’d want to see five Ben Simmons deals.