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When will free agency start? And What about the season?NBA off-season asks questions.

Posted in Featured, Sports

Published on October 14, 2020 with No Comments

The Los Angeles Lakers are the NBA champions, which many sports fans would tell you indicates the world is as it should be. After all, though the Lakers hadn’t won in a decade until finishing off the Miami Heat, they’ve won the most NBA crowns since 1980, since 1990 (tied with the Chicago Bulls), or since 2000. This is just what they do.

But, of course, little about the world is normal these days, particularly when it comes to sports. The NBA off-season is upon us and nobody really knows when the 2020-21 campaign will kick off. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it clear that because of the millions at stake, the league doesn’t want to do another bubble, too much money gets raked in from gate receipts. They want fans in the stands, even if it isn’t a full 20,000 or so in arenas each night. That means January, if you’re highly optimistic, or more likely February or maybe even March. That also surely means no Olympics for NBA players, because the season will go on too long to make that a possibility (and Silver has all but ruled out pausing a late-starting season to get his players into the Olympics).

The only thing set in stone at the moment is that the 2020 NBA Draft will take place on Nov. 18 and that teams are furiously trying to get up to speed with prospects they didn’t see nearly as much of as in non-pandemic years.

This is of interest to Canada’s team, the Toronto Raptors, because Toronto boasts a first-round pick for the first time since stealing OG Anunoby in 2017 (the 2018 and 2019 picks were dealt in deals to dump DeMarre Carroll’s contract and to acquire Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from San Antonio).

This isn’t considered a strong draft and Toronto isn’t slated to pick until 28 names have gone off the board, but this front office has proven it can nab talent anywhere in a draft (most notably with Pascal Siakam at 27 and Anunoby at 23).

With needs everywhere but Siakam’s power forward spot, the Raptors could go a number of different ways with the pick, as well as the team’s late second-rounder.

Meanwhile, the league and the player’s association are trying to hammer out a framework covering the salary cap, potential start dates for training camp and the season and contingency plans.

Once the cap numbers have been worked out free agency can start, likely not long after the draft.

“Everything that we’re doing exists outside the current collective bargaining agreement,” Silver said recently. “We need to negotiate everything.”

Perhaps that means shortening the season for a year to try to get the calendar back on track for future seasons. Everything is likely on the table, and a shortened season would allow the NBA to wait even longer for the chance to have fans back in its buildings.

What we do know is that whenever free agency opens the Raptors will be one of the busiest teams, with the most on the line. Starters Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol and sixth man Serge Ibaka are all now unrestricted free agents. VanVleet, one of the best two-way point guards in the league, will be in high demand, though the team is determined to bring him back. Gasol is declining and might consider returning to his native Spain to finish out his playing days, but is still a valuable defensive orchestrator for the Raptors and Ibaka is an excellent centre and one of the team’s leaders and key locker room stabilizers.

The Raptors will also have to think about offering an extension to Anunoby (and possibly to Kyle Lowry), while also making sure they leave enough cap space available for the 2021 off-season, when two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will become available if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Of course team president Masai Ujiri’s potential contract extension will also be an off-season point of emphasis for ownership.

 

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