4 Interesting Storylines Heading Into the NBA Off-Season.

NBA

James Budgen

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Kyrie Irving & the Brooklyn Nets Dilemma

In the three years since joining the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving has only played 103 regular-season games, and with being swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of this year’s play-offs, the Nets have a big decision to make regarding offering Irving a long-term extension.

Irving has a player option in the summer for $36 million, and if he chooses to decline the option, other teams will definitely be interested in his signature, and with the Nets reportedly unwilling to offer him a long-term deal, Irving will almost certainly be listening to the other offers he receives.

With Kevin Durant turning 34 soon, and Ben Simmons just having back surgery, the Nets championship window with Durant is closing soon, and this decision with Irving will be huge in their future going forward.

Signing him to a long-term deal is worrisome considering his availability, a short-term deal could annoy him and they could lose him for nothing in free agency, and with a sign and trade, they have no leverage and could get barely any assets in return, making this decision very important for the future of the Nets.

Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving

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Los Angeles Lakers Russell Westbrook Conundrum

It is safe to say that the Lakers' trade for Westbrook this season didn’t go to plan, with them missing both the play-offs and the play-in tournament as they couldn’t gel Westbrook with their other stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

It was obvious to most people from the outset that Westbrook wouldn’t be the right fit with Davis and James in LA, as he needs the ball to be successful and off the ball, he is quite poor, and at 33-years-old, his insane athleticism isn’t there anymore, creating a team that was completely unbalanced and with injuries involved, couldn’t get a run of results together.

Westbrook has a huge $47 million player option this summer which he is undoubtedly going to pick up, meaning if LeBron and the Lakers front office are looking to trade him this summer, they will have to include a first-round pick, with their earliest available tradeable pick being in 2028.

With LeBron James entering his 20th season in the NBA, this is probably his last year which he can realistically compete for a championship as the best player, and with the roster gradually getting worse over the past year, and him wanting Westbrook last summer, it will be interesting to see if he also admits that the experiment didn’t work out and asks the front office to make the trade.

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Does Zach LaVine stay with the Bulls?

Zach LaVine could be the most desirable free agent this summer if other players accept their player options, and thus far, LaVine has yet to show the desire to sign the extension with the Chicago Bulls.

LaVine has many suitors potentially trying to lure him this summer, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trailblazers all reportedly interested in the 27-year-old, with LaVine likely looking for a max contract, worth $30 million a year for either four or five years.

The Bulls built a good team this season for the first time since LaVine’s arrival in 2017, with them challenging for the first seed in the Eastern Conference until injuries derailed their season, but his decision will be based on whether he believes that he can have future success with them.

LaVine has said recently that he has ‘always been a big fan’ of the Lakers, which has sparked rumours that he will try and join up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles, and it will definitely have mutual interest from the front office of the Lakers, creating a new big three around 37-year-old LeBron James.

Zach LaVine Demar DeRozan Chicago Bulls

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Do the Phoenix Suns Stick with DeAndre Ayton?

The Suns were very surprisingly knocked out of the play-offs in the Conference semi-finals in seven games to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, which included a historic collapse in the decisive game seven, where they lost by 33 points, and trailed by more than 40 points throughout the game.

The Suns were by far the best team in the NBA during the regular season, and were expected to at the very least reach the conference finals, making it interesting if the front office continues to believe that this group can still grow together, or some big changes are needed to take the next step for an NBA championship.

Their big decision will be surrounding their 2018 number one overall draft pick, DeAndre Ayton, who is a restricted free agent and is rumoured to have a number of suitors around the league who are willing to pay him big money.

With Suns owner Robert Sarver known for taking the cheap option, it is likely if the 23-year-old receives a big offer this summer, they will either sign and trade him, or let him walk for nothing, but if he does leave for nothing, it will almost certainly close the championship window with Chris Paul, as they don’t have many other assets to get another player to improve their team drastically.

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