The 2023 NBA playoffs are more than nine months away, and one thing is already clear.
There will be chaos.
The Minnesota Timberwolves grabbed a megaphone and announced that for the world when they traded several players and several first-round picks – one of them in 2029, meaning the youngster is currently 12 and might not sink yet. – Rudy Gobert for Utah Jazz.
And with that, Minnesota has been officially added to the list of legitimate Western Conference title contenders. There are solid arguments to be made for no less than seven teams right now when debating who will represent the West in this coming season’s NBA Finals: Phoenix, Dallas, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis, Denver along with defending champion Golden State. And Minnesota is all on that list.
Remember, at least three of those teams will not advance to the first round next spring. at least three.
But give the Timberwolves credit for what they did, because that’s the way the NBA world is now. Organizations are either all-in or all-out.
Some teams are about to send another big package of players and choose Brooklyn for Kevin Durant, unless the Nets somehow change their mind about trading elsewhere. And that team – no matter which – will immediately raise their title hopes even higher by adding perhaps the most invincible player in today’s game. Durant, who is owed nearly $200 million for the next four years, is about to enter his 15th season (not including the one he missed for injury), turns 34 this fall and teams still wear his uniform. They are putting it all at stake to get it.
“Those who were locked in that gym with me, they know what it is, they know what I’m about,” Durant tweeted on Saturday, His first public comment since requesting a trade from the Nets. “If you haven’t been there with me, ask around.”
Inexplicable in some ways, obvious in others. Durant wants more rings. In other words, someone better be all-in.
That’s what it seems.
Golden State spent about $340 million on the championship-winning roster last season, about half of it in salary and the other half in luxury taxes. Sure, the warriors have loose pockets. But such is the price of doing business at the moment, especially coming after a year in the NBA where it generated a record $8.9 billion in basketball-related income.
And the Timberwolves are the latest team to embrace that reality.
Gobert is owed $170 million over the next four seasons. Karl-Anthony Towns is owed $295 million over the next six seasons, with most of it being guaranteed in one extension. Joe Gobert was killed hours before the trade took place. Anthony Edwards, who is becoming a star, is on pace for a massive Rookie expansion next summer. Minnesota, a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004, is swinging for the fence. New owner Alex Rodriguez, he scored 696 career home runs, should be proud of.
Somebody is going to get it soon. It’s not reckless to think that Kyrie Irving Still want a trade, and if the Nets do transfer Durant, they can move Irving next summer instead of losing nothing. Imagine Irving reuniting with LeBron James, this time with the Los Angeles Lakers, trying to recreate what he did in 2016 when Cleveland got to celebrate a title. If Irving gets there, add the Lakers to the West’s list of legitimate contenders, too.
New Orleans will have things to say about chasing the playoffs. So should Portland assume that Damian Lillard is Damian Lillard again, and there’s no reason to think it won’t. And who knows what Utah would be like without Gobert, especially now with speculation surrounding whether the Jazz will choose to tear down their roster remodeling altogether and trade Donovan Mitchell.
Keep in mind, the trick is working in the past as well.
Eastern Conference champion Boston significantly advanced their depth by landing Malcolm Brogdon – Another example of a big spend, $67.5 million and three years left on his deal – and Danilo Gallinari.
1 seed in the East playoffs this past season, Durant is known for sweepstakes and Pat Riley is always, always, always on the lookout for more stars. It was not a free-agent move, but Atlanta believe it was made better by the trade of DeJonte Murray to play alongside Trey Young. James Harden 76er . provided your most important assistance as giving Philadelphia the freedom to get out and get PJ Tucker; Harden is now expected to sign a new deal in Philly, and it solidifies him as another contender. Milwaukee spent the year keeping Bobby Portis, meaning most of the title-winning core around Giannis Antetokounmpo remained intact.
Still not able to sign for few days. The training camps will not start until the end of September. The season doesn’t start until mid-October. And then there’s another six months until the playoffs.
Only then can this summer’s big, bold and cool moves pay off.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for the Associated Press. treynolds(at)ap.org . write on
More Associated Press NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports