Why Thursday's NBA Draft Will Greatly Affect Next Tuesday's Free Agency
One of the biggest differences between professional football and professional basketball is the order of their offseasons. The NFL’s free agency kicked off on March 11th, a little over a month after the completion of the season. That’s pretty consistent with the NBA season. But the difference is where the drafts fall – the NFL has theirs after the beginning the free agency and the NBA has theirs before.
Not only is the order reversed, but in the NBA, it's a lot more compact. The draft is this coming Thursday evening, and then free agency officially begins the following Tuesday. The NFL is a bit more spread out, with over three months separating the two events.
So why is this important? If the two biggest offseason dates are within five days of each other, like they are in the NBA, then franchises will start to bundle decisions together. Let’s go over some potential examples of how this could happen starting Thursday.
Guards and Wings
With free agency and the draft so close, GMs will have to think about addressing needs this week or next. For example, Lance Stephenson becomes an unrestricted free agent next Tuesday. However, some potential landing spots for him – the Hornets or 76ers, for example – have back to back picks at 9 and 10, right where some of this year’s best shooting guards are slotted to go.
This isn't to say the Hornets couldn’t make a run at Lance and draft someone like Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas with their ninth pick. The Hornets have a good core with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, but desperately need shooting. While Lance would certainly be an upgrade over Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal overall at the spot, the Hornets could still use that pick to get a third guard who is an elite shooter.
However, if Joel Embiid falls further than expected and is available at nine, could the Hornets take him and then make a strong run at Lance? The same would probably be the case if they elect to take power forward Doug McDermott at nine instead of a shooting guard. With any possible scenario, it will likely effect where Stephenson ends up next year.
The Sacramento Kings are picking at the eighth spot this year, and it will be interesting at who is available to them at that point. The top power forwards in the draft – Vonleh, Gordon, and Randle – could all move up before eight now that Embiid is falling.
If all of those guys are gone and Marcus Smart is still available, do the Kings take him? If so, what happens to Isaiah Thomas? The Kings already have a lot of money tied up in their frontcourt, with Rudy Gay opting into his $19 million contract for next year, so getting a new, young point guard on a rookie contract might be something the Kings are interested in.
If that is the case, unrestricted free agent Thomas will likely be in another uniform come October. That might very well happen regardless of who the Kings take with their pick, but taking Smart or any point guard will certainly solidify that notion.
Also important to watch – what happens with the Celtics at six. If Embiid falls to them there and Kevin Love goes somewhere else, do they trade Rajon Rondo and completely start the rebuild again? If so, the Kings would be majorly interested in Rondo and would likely go after him hard in a trade. Any of these scenarios spell the end of Thomas’ run in Sacramento.
Most mock drafts out there right now have the Lakers selecting a power forward with their pick – be it Vonleh, Gordon, or Randle. This would be yet another indicator that the Lakers are uninterested in resigning Pau Gasol in the offseason, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st after making $19.3 million this year.
There have been many rumors recently that Gasol wants to go back to Memphis and play with his younger brother, Marc. While the draft won’t likely affect his ability to do so if both parties are willing, he could be offered a larger contract than expected if a team suddenly misses on the power forward that they had been hoping to get.
Chris Bosh is reportedly highly likely to opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat. If so, one of the best power forwards in the game will suddenly be on the market. Obviously LeBron James will have a big say over where Bosh ends up though. If James stays in Miami, then there is a good chance that Bosh will also re-sign at a lower annual salary.
But if James goes somewhere else, then Bosh would probably think hard about moving to a different team as well, one that would likely give him a bigger contract. It’s doubtful that he would go to a team that has a top-10 pick this year, but the mid round teams should be weighing their draft picks carefully if they think they can land Bosh in July.
If for some reason Carmelo Anthony doesn’t go to Chicago, or Houston decides they want Bosh to pair in their frontcourt with Dwight Howard, then those teams should look for guards and perimeter shooting instead of restocking at power forward.
But as everything in the NBA goes: it all depends on LeBron.