Blogtable: Which East team, West team is set for a roster shake-up in 2017-18?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Give me two teams (one in the East, one in the West) whose rosters could look drastically different next season.
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Steve Aschburner: The New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks have long confused activity with achievement, violating one of the Wooden Rules, because churning is a way of sports life in that attention-deficit city. The Lakers, with new sheriff Magic Johnson in charge, surely will revamp the not-cutting-it core they’ve used for tanking.
Fran Blinebury: If the key word is “could” then we’ve got to start in the West and go right to the Clippers. If Year 6 of Lob City ends as unfulfilled as the first five, there could be drastic changes with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Reddick all as free agents in the summer. Would Clippers owner Steve Ballmer for the big bang and even make a change with Doc Rivers? Lots of candidates over in the East. From Toronto to Chicago to Indiana to Detroit to Charlotte to New York to Orlando. I’ll take a flyer on the Bulls for biggest changes, starting with their best player Jimmy Butler. But if Phil Jackson finally gets Carmelo Anthony to finally agree to waive his no-trade clause, then Knicks could be unrecognizable next season. Except, of course, for the horrid basketball.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Probably a better question for after the season, when playoff outcomes could change the answer, but for now: Chicago and the Grizzlies. The nomination for the West could change to the Clippers once we see how their April/May turns out. The Bulls feel like more of a certainty, though. How could they not be looking at drastic changes?
Shaun Powell: This question is largely based on cap flexibility and contracts, which restricts what the Bulls can do and partly what the Knicks can do (I say Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have the guts to waive his no-trade, for family reasons). So my choice in the East is Indiana, which has only three rotation players under contract, not counting two keepers, Paul George and Myles Turner. If they want to keep George, then GM Larry Bird must make changes to make him happy. If they trade George, then the incoming pieces will alter the franchise. Either way, Indy’s primed for a facelift. In the West: Sacramento. Most of the other lottery teams will keep their young players and let them grow. Sac, as always, needs changes.
John Schuhmann: The Pacers are going to be a fascinating team to watch. Jeff Teague is one of two unrestricted free agents, C.J. Miles has a player option that he’ll certainly decline, and five guys are on non or partially-guaranteed contracts. Most importantly, they may have no choice but to trade Paul George if he doesn’t qualify for the designated veteran exception and indicates that he won’t be staying long-term. In the West, it has to be the Clippers. Three of their four best players are among their six free agents (assuming Chris Paul and Blake Griffin exercise the early termination options in their contracts) and two other key rotation guys — Luc Mbah a Moute and Marreese Speights — have player options they’ll surely decline. Assuming they don’t get past the Jazz in the first round or the Warriors in the conference semifinals, it will be time for the Clips to shake things up.
Sekou Smith: This is tough, mostly because we never know which teams will decide to hit the reset button between the end of the regular season and the start of free agency. But in the spirit of the question and the way it was intended, I’m going with the LA Clippers in the Western Conference due to all of the free agent uncertainty they’ll have to deal with this summer. Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, J.J. Redick … they’re all on that list. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks appear to be a prime candidate for extreme franchise makeover. Someone needs to free Carmelo Anthony from that prison and it’s time for Derrick Rose (injury and all) to move on as well. Toss in the uncertainty surrounding Phil Jackson and I think the basketball world agrees that it’s time for a reset in the big city.
Ian Thomsen: Stan Van Gundy is not going to sit on his hands this summer in Detroit. The Pistons are going to make major trades because he put together the roster, it’s his job to make it right, and he isn’t the surrendering type. In the West, pay attention to the lottery: If the Lakers win it, they’ll pick Markelle Fultz and launch a new era around their franchise point guard — which starts with trading D’Angelo Russell.
Lang Whitaker: I think Memphis will look pretty different next season. Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Vince Carter can all hit free agency this summer, and the Grizz are reaching a point where they might be ready to shake up their core and try something different. Atlanta comes to mind in the East. Paul Millsap can hit the open market and command a lot of money, and the Hawks are going to have to decide how they want to build this team going forward.