The Busiest Week In NBA Offseason History Begins

by Casey Holdahl
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After months of transactional inactivity, the NBA sprang to life Monday morning in what is sure to be one of the busiest weeks in league history. In a typical offseason, there would be roughly a month in between the draft and the start of free agency. This year, they’re two days a part, meaning front office staffers for all 30 teams are furiously trying to prepare for the draft and target/negotiate with potential free agent signees all at the once. That’s nobody’s concept of a good idea, but with training camps to open on December 1 and the regular season beginning three weeks after that, there’s no time to waste.

So here’s what to expect this week on what constitutes the start of a severely truncated NBA offseason...

• As you have probably noticed, as of 9 am Pacific time Monday morning, the NBA has lifted the moratorium on trades, which has been in place since the 2019-20 trade deadline back in February. Some teams reportedly came to agreements on trades prior to Monday morning, but the NBA only seems to care about those issues on a case-by-case basis, so no reason to believe their will be any repercussions. Teams are now free to trade players, rights and draft picks as per the collective bargaining agreement, which has been modified due to issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, many of the trades that have been reported might not actually become official until after the draft and/or the end of the free agency moratorium. That’s actually not all that different than in a “regular” offseason. 

• With free agency starting at the end of the week (more on that in a minute), you might have also noticed that players and teams can now start accepting and/or declining options, which are provisions in contracts that allow for either party, depending on the type of option, to continue on as the season before or cut ties.

Player options, as the name implies, gives the decision to either remain with a team under the current contract terms or choose to become a free agent to the individual player. If the player “exercises” his option, he remains with the team and receives the agreed upon salary, and if he “declines,” he becomes a free agent. Important to remember here that just because a player declines an option doesn’t mean he won’t remain with that team, it just means a new contract would have to be agreed upon for that to happen. The Trail Blazers have two players -- Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja -- who have player options for the 2020-21 season. Hezonja reportedly plans to pick up his option, while there’s been no word regarding Hood.

As for team options, it’s basically the same situation as player options, just with the roles reversed. The Trail Blazers don’t have any team options this year per se, though they do have to decide if they want to full guarantee the entirety of Trevor Ariza’s $12.8 million salary for the 2020-21 season.

Decisions on options have to be made prior to the start of free agency, which begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, November 20. 

• While dates for the end of the trade moratorium and the start of free agency were only recently finalized, we’ve known for over a month that the 2020 NBA Draft will be held on November 18 (that would be this Wednesday). Between a pre-draft process that has been severely limited by the COVID-19 pandemic and the general belief that this class is short on talent, the 2020 Draft might very well end up being one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. 

The Trail Blazers currently own the 16th and 46th picks in Wednesday’s draft, which starts at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN. 

• Finally, the week ends with free agency, which officially begins Friday, November 20 at 3 p.m. At that point, teams can officially enter into negotiations with free agents, though deals can’t be signed until 9:01 a.m. Sunday morning (which is 12:01 p.m. Sunday afternoon on the east coast).

The Trail Blazers currently have no cap space to speak of, though they do have the non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, slated to be worth roughly $9.3 million, and the Bi-Annual Exception, which comes in this season around $3.6 million, with which to sign free agents. 

As for the players from last year’s roster, Rodney Hood and Mario Hezonja have player options, and thus, can decide whether to stay with the Trail Blazers for the 2020-21 season or become free agents. Hassan Whiteside, Carmelo Anthony and Caleb Swanigan are all unrestricted free agents, while Wenyen Gabriel is a restricted free agent, meaning the Trail Blazers have the right to match any contract offered to him.

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