One Question: Conference Finalists

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With there only being two teams still active, the rest of the NBA has officially shifted its focus (end-of-season tanking, notwithstanding) to next season. In the latest installment of the "One Question" series, the teams eliminated in the conference finals are the focus. While Atlanta has a big decision to make regarding a member of its young core, the Clippers are essentially in a holding pattern due to the status of one of its star players.

Atlanta (41-31, 5th): How much are the Hawks willing to pay John Collins?

There are actually two important questions that will heavily influence the Hawks this offseason. Whether or not Nate McMillan, who went 37-20 (counting the postseason) as the team's interim head coach, will return is one. Given his impact on the Hawks, with the franchise making its first conference finals appearance in six years, it is incredibly difficult to envision a scenario in which the team wouldn't want McMillan to return. But ultimately the choice is his, and there are a couple head coaching jobs that remain unfilled at this point in time.

NOTE: Monday afternoon, it was announced that the Hawks and McMillan have agreed to remove the "interim" tag.

The big on-court question is how much the Hawks are willing to pay their starting power forward, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. Collins turned down the Hawks' offer of an extension worth more than $90 million just before the start of this season, as he wanted a max contract. He finished the season with averages of 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers per game, while shooting 55.6% from the field and 83.3% from the foul line.

The points and rebounds averages dipped considerably when compared to Collins' 2019-20 numbers, but it's important to note that this season he played alongside a productive center in Clint Capela. So the decrease was bound to happen. And Collins' offensive rating (125) was one point higher than the number he produced last season. Given the market for power forwards this summer, especially with Giannis Antetokounmpo signing his supermax deal, Collins isn't going to lack for suitors.

Atlanta can match any offer sheet that he signs, but does GM Travis Schlenk have a particular "we won't match that" number in mind? That's the most important question facing the Hawks this offseason, as they look to build on what was a very good season. Lou Williams, Tony Snell and Solomon Hill will all be unrestricted free agents, while Brandon Goodwin will be one of the restricted variety. Also worth noting is that Kevin Huerter will be eligible for a rookie extension this offseason.

LA Clippers (47-25, 4th): What will Kawhi do?

Entering this season, both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George had the ability to opt out of the final year of their respective contracts in order to become free agents this summer. Obviously that is no longer the case for George, who committed to the Clippers long-term and signed a four-year extension (player option in the fourth). But Leonard, who did not appear in a playoff game after Game 4 of the conference semifinals due to a sprained knee, has yet to decide if he'll pick up his option for next season. That would be worth a little over $36 million, but with the market not looking as power-packed as once anticipated, Leonard could instead opt out and become an unrestricted free agent.

When you're talking about one of the game's best all-around players, Leonard obviously isn't going to lack for options if he were to do this. In 52 regular season games he averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 1.9 3-pointers per, while shooting 51.2% from the field and 88.5% from the foul line. The biggest concern, especially with Leonard still recovering from the knee injury that ended his postseason prematurely, is his availability. Due to either injuries or load management, Leonard hasn't played in at least 80% of his team's regular season games since the 2016-17 campaign (74 out of 82 games with the Spurs).

The Clippers would obviously want Kawhi back in the fold; the team's current project is centered around both he and the aforementioned George. But whether he returns to Los Angeles or looks to ply his trade elsewhere, Leonard's availability will be crucial. While we don't know what next season's schedule will look like officially, if the NBA goes back to 82 games on the "usual" league calendar that could mean more "load management" days for players such as Leonard. And that will have a noticeable impact on both his value to his team, and his value to fantasy players.

Beyond Leonard, Reggie Jackson, Nicolas Batum, Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins will be unrestricted free agents, and Serge Ibaka has a player option. Add in the fact that Terance Mann's contract for next season isn't full guaranteed, and the Clippers have some other decisions to make. Jackson likely earned himself a substantial payday due to his postseason performance, but will his role with a new team be better than the one he enjoyed with the Clippers?

Mann also helped himself, and guaranteeing his contract should be an easy decision for the Clippers front office. While Batum will certainly be a player of value to contending teams, the market options for Patterson and Cousins are unlikely to be as plentiful.

Past Articles

East Non-Playoff Teams
West Non-Playoff Teams
First-Round Exits
Conference Semifinalists