NBA landscape set for seismic change in the off-season with multiple franchises desperate to atone for playoff failures


The Lakers’ decision to fire coach Darvin Ham just days after their first-round exit is merely the beginning of what will be a flurry of off-season upheaval at many NBA franchises. 

As has been the case for a decade-plus, the epicentre of the seismic changes to the NBA landscape will be LeBron James. 

Ham getting the chop is the first step in the Lakers’ plan to ensure the King doesn’t abdicate the purple and gold throne for another return to Cleveland, a dalliance with the Warriors or anywhere else for that matter. 

Also on the agenda is using their sole selection in this year’s draft to take Bronny James although they have to wait until the 55th pick to snare LeBron Jnr. 

If you were the GM of one of the other franchises wouldn’t you take him with a lazy second-rounder just to see if you could extract some more picks in return from a Lakers front office desperate to keep their star happy. 

Apart from Anthony Davis, nobody else on the Lakers roster can be confident of being LeBron’s teammate next season with all players and future draft picks on the trading table. 

The best option by far of the potential marquee recruits in the Lakers’ sights is Donovan Mitchell, who poured in a lazy 50 for the Cavaliers on Saturday in game six of their first-round playoff but received little support as they went down to Orlando. 

Mitchell now faces the prospect of an early playoff exit against a young Magic side that Cleveland tanked away matches to face in the first round. 

A game-seven loss would be disastrous for the Cavs and likely be the last match Mitchell suits up for them before making his seemingly inevitable off-season trade demand. 

The problem for the Lakers is that Cleveland would be able to get a much bigger bounty for their All-Star guard elsewhere. 

There’s just as much unease, even more, at the other LA franchise following the Clippers’ game-six exit at the hands of Dallas. 

Another post-season of failed expectations where Kawhi Leonard cannot stay on the floor due to untimely injuries. 

It’s deja voodoo. 

Leonard and James Harden are under contract but now well past their primes and the big question is whether Paul George will stick around for another rerun of the NBA’s most underperforming team. 

He will be the biggest free agent in the off-season and as much as he loves living in LA, it would not be a surprise if he heads elsewhere for the last big pay cheque of his career. 

And the contending team with salary cap room to spare is another team which fell at the first playoff hurdle, Philadelphia. 

If not for Joe Embiid’s knee injury which curtailed their regular season, they would have finished in the top three in the East and avoided a straight-up exit at the hands of the Knicks. 

Kyrie Irving.

Mavs advance to the West Semis

— NBA (@NBA) May 4, 2024

George would be the perfect fit on a wing with Embiid’s inside-outside game and Tyrese Maxey running the point. 

The Sixers’ GM loves to make a splash so they will not be backward in coming forward with a huge offer for George if he gets itchy feet. 

Tobias Harris should be facing grand theft charges for the way in which he has pocketed many millions at Philadelphia in recent years while never playing any better than a role player, and not even a high functioning one at that. The only salvation for Sixers fans is that his deal is now over and that albatross contract can be replaced by George and any other combination of talent that will deliver much more value. It can’t yield less. 

Of the other teams that have exited the playoffs, changes galore are in the pipeline. 

Milwaukee need to get younger around Giannis Antetekounmpo and with Damian Lillard a defensive liability on the perimeter, they need a backcourt presence who can make up for his shortcomings. 

Miami are another ageing side which can’t afford to run back a similar squad and expect better outcomes. 

Jimmy Butler is approaching 35 and as good as Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro can be, they are elite role players more than bona fide All Stars. 

In the West, the Pelicans have already stated that they will retool their roster around Zion Williamson with Trey Murphy and Herb Jones the only teammates off limits. 

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram will be decent trade bait but their value has lessened after unflattering returns in the playoffs. 

Sacramento and Golden State didn’t even make the playoffs but they thought their roster had the talent to do so. 

The Kings need to cough up an upgraded contract to keep Malik Monk energising their line-up off the bench while the future of Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green will be the axis upon which the Warriors’ off-season hinges. 

Atlanta could end up being a willing trade partner for any of these teams. They tried to offload Dejounte Murray at the deadline and we’re not satisfied with any offers but this time around Trae Young could be on the table. 

One of them has to be jettisoned because pairing them in the backcourt sounded theoretically strong but in reality has been an abject disaster. 

And then there’s the Suns. Their sweep at the hands of Minnesota was catastrophic for this franchise. 

James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Their owner Matt Ishbia tried to shrug it off by saying they not only weren’t in a bad position but were in a great one during the week. 

He’s been wandering the desert with Homer Simpson and the hallucinogenic coyote by the sounds of it. 

Kevin Durant is no longer able to carry a franchise to a championship, Devin Booker is very good but not great, especially when he does not have a proper point guard setting him up, and Bradley Beal is either injured or failing to justify his price tag when he’s on the court. 

Throw in teams like Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte who are desperate to get better and will be exploring any avenue to do so and it should be one of the busiest transfer markets for several years. 

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