Biggest offseason question for every eliminated NBA playoff team originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
And then there were four.
With the conference finals set to begin on Tuesday, 12 teams have already been sent packing from the 2023 NBA playoffs. Those squads can now shift their focus to the offseason as they hope to retool and reload for a longer run next spring.
Early postseason exits are tough – they leave teams with some hope that they could’ve gone farther, but also some despair after potential missed opportunities and, oftentimes, a lack of high draft picks or cap space to improve.
Here’s the biggest offseason question facing each team that’s been eliminated from the playoffs:
Question: What’s the best way to maximize this championship window?
The Warriors were not a championship team this season, just ask Steve Kerr. Now, they have some decisions to make. Draymond Green has a player option to become a free agent, Klay Thompson is extension eligible and their young players are potential trade chips. Steph Curry turns 36 next season, so the decisions Golden State makes this summer will be crucial.
Question: What happens with Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton?
It became clear in the playoffs that the Suns need more depth beyond Devin Booker and Kevin Durant. Paul and Ayton, who both missed the elimination Game 6 with injuries, are the most obvious trade candidates to help deepen the roster. New owner Mat Ishbia clearly isn’t afraid to make a splash after acquiring Durant and firing Monty Williams in his first few months.
Question: Can another new coach finally unlock playoff success?
Changes are afoot in Philadelphia. Doc Rivers has been fired, James Harden can become a free agent and there’s serious questions about MVP Joel Embiid after another early playoff exit. It ultimately comes down to their star players performing in big moments, but a fresh voice could be a difference-maker.
Question: Is it possible to acquire another star?
The Knicks have a bonafide star playoff performer in Jalen Brunson. While Julius Randle made Third-Team All-NBA, he hasn’t shown up in the postseason for New York. If the Knicks want to seriously challenge the likes of Boston, Milwaukee and even Miami, they need another star to pair with Brunson.
Question: Was Mike Budenholzer really the problem, or was it bigger than that?
Two years after winning the NBA Finals, head coach Mike Budenholzer was fired when the Bucks lost in the first round to the No. 8 seeded Heat. Beyond the coaching staff, the Bucks have serious issues to sort out. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez will be free agents this summer and Jrue Holiday can opt out in 2024. It’s time to retool the roster around Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Question: Is Ja Morant serious about his career?
All the excitement surrounding the Grizzlies’ young roster has stalled. In March, Morant was suspended by the NBA for eight games after holding a gun in a Denver club on Instagram Live. Two months later, he was suspended by the team after again flashing a gun live on social media. The star point guard has to stay out of the news this summer.
Question: What is the missing piece to go from good to great?
Last season was euphoric for the Kings and their fans. Sacramento made the playoffs for the first time since 2006, losing in a tough seven-game first-round series to the Warriors. Now that the postseason drought is over, it’s about taking the next step. The Kings have to find the right ingredients to catapult from regular season darling to legitimate title contender.
Question: Can the double big lineup actually work in the playoffs?
The Cavaliers made the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left, but were quickly dispatched and overmatched by the Knicks. The frontcourt duo of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen was ineffective in the postseason as Cleveland lacked wing depth. If Koby Altman doesn’t think the pairing can work on the big stage, it could be time to deal Allen and balance out the roster.
Question: How long can you trust Kawhi Leonard and Paul George?
In four seasons with the Clippers, Leonard and George have played together in 118 of a possible 308 games. Every year, one or both of them miss key games due to various injuries. The Clippers still seem committed to the duo, and it’s not like they have many options at this point – it really just comes down to health.
Question: Is it time to star-hunt or totally rebuild?
After trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Nets didn’t totally bottom out. Instead, they acquired a collection of capable role players (Mikal Bridges looked like more than that) and stayed in the postseason. Once they got there, it was clear that they lacked a true star. Now they have to decide – get back in the star-hunting business, or sell parts for future value? Staying in the middle can be an endless game.
Question: Can the duo of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray work long-term?
The first year of Young and Murray yielded a play-in win and a first round exit. At times, it seemed like both players were at their best when the other was off the floor. They both averaged more points and assists per game when the other was out of the lineup, according to Statmuse. It’s best for the Hawks to answer this question as soon as possible.
Question: Is it possible to trade Rudy Gobert?
Yes, the Wolves just traded a king's ransom for the French center last summer. No, that shouldn’t stop them from trying to ship him out of town if they have a chance. Gobert clearly didn’t fit in with this squad – on and off the court. It would be best for both parties if the Wolves can find a taker for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. If not, perhaps a trade involving Karl-Anthony Towns could be in the works.