One Question: West Non-Playoff Teams

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While the NBA Playoffs remain in full swing, nearly half of the league's teams have already begun to officially focus (end-of-season tanking, notwithstanding) on next season. With that in mind, over the next couple weeks we're going to take at one major question that each team will have to answer this offseason. This week the focus will be on the teams that failed to reach the postseason, and from there the playoff teams will follow based upon when they're eliminated. Today's column focuses on the seven Western Conference teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.

Golden State (39-33, 9th): Do the Warriors bring back Kelly Oubre? Can they afford to?

With Klay Thompson set to return from his second season-ending injury in as many years, and both he and Andrew Wiggins on sizable contracts, the answer appears to be quite obvious when it comes to Oubre's future with the Warriors. Having made nearly $14.4 million this season, Oubre is due to be an unrestricted free agent. And if the Warriors want to bring him back, they'll have to do a lot of juggling in order to make it work financially. As mentioned above, Thompson and Wiggins are both on large contracts that run through 2024 and 2023, respectively, and Draymond Green's deal is of similar length (player option for the 2023-24 season). And that's before you get into discussing the Warriors' desire to sign Stephen Curry to a long-term extension, as he'll be a free agent next summer if Bob Myers and company don't get that done.

So if the money doesn't work out with regard to keeping Oubre, the next question is how will they go about accounting for his production? Oubre started 50 of the 55 games that he played in this season, averaging 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.6 3-pointers per while shooting 43.9% from the field and 69.5% from the foul line. The "easy" answer here would be that Thompson is fully healthy and experiences no lingering issues from the ACL and Achilles tears that have kept him out for the last two seasons. With Thompson being one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, and a plus defender to boot, that would more than make up for Oubre's departure if he were to land elsewhere. But given the nature of those injuries, that's a pretty big "if."

Houston (17-55, 15th): How does John Wall fit into the rebuilding project?

With the exits of Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Houston was clearly in rebuilding mode this season. Christian Wood, who was playing well before an ankle injury precluded the team's 20-game losing streak, appears to be a player worth utilizing as a key building block. And the addition of Kevin Porter Jr. is similar to a "lottery ticket," in that the Rockets didn't give up all that much to get him. If he pans out like many believe he can, that would be a significant development for Houston. This rebuild won't be a quick fix and, as a result, it's fair to wonder if GM Rafael Stone will entertain the possibility of moving John Wall.

Given his career, he doesn't appear to fit in with a rebuilding project like this. That being said, potentially trading Wall would be far easier said than done. He's due to make a little over $44.3 million next season, and has a player option worth nearly $47.4 million for the 2022-23 campaign. That's a lot of money for a potential trade partner to take on, especially when considering Wall's injury history. So if he remains a part of Houston's plans, how will Stephen Silas stagger the minutes played by Wall and Porter Jr. (who the Rockets are developing into a primary playmaker)? The answer will have a major impact on both Houston's rebuild, and the fantasy values of both players.

Minnesota (23-49, 13th): Is this current core the answer?

The Timberwolves played some solid basketball down the stretch, but their brutal start condemned them to the draft lottery for the 16th time in the last 17 seasons. The biggest bright spot was rookie Anthony Edwards, who increased his scoring average by more than nine points after the All-Star break and is a finalist for Rookie of the Year honors. A negative for Minnesota: due to injuries, there wasn't a lot of time to see how their most important pieces fit together.

Edwards played in all 72 games, but Karl-Anthony Towns missed 22 games, D'Angelo Russell 30 and Malik Beasley 35. So that's the big key for Chris Finch and Gersson Rosas: figure out how to ensure that this quartet is as effective as possible. With Jarred Vanderbilt (restricted) and Ed Davis (unrestricted) being the only free agents on the roster, and it being likely that their first-round pick (top-3 protected) will be conveyed to Golden State, Minnesota doesn't appear to be in position to make major changes ahead of next season. With that being the case, the biggest key for the Timberwolves is that their top four players are all healthy at the same time.

New Orleans (31-41, 11th): Will Ball return to the Crescent City?

Lonzo Ball's second season in New Orleans was better than his first; in fact, from a statistical standpoint he had a career year. The Pelicans point guard averaged 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks and 3.1 3-pointers per game, shooting 41.4% from the field, 37.8% from three and 78.1% from the foul line. The points and shooting percentages were all career-bests for Ball, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason. The question for New Orleans: are they convinced that Ball is their point guard of the future? And if so, how much would they be willing to pay in order to keep him?

What may complicate things somewhat is the presence of Kira Lewis Jr., the Pelicans' first-round pick of a season ago. Eric Bledsoe is under contract for another season (the 2022-23 year is not fully guaranteed), but he was used primarily as the off-guard while Ball ran the show. Is Lewis ready to take the reins? While he did show some flashes of potential as a rookie, it's difficult to answer that question in the affirmative, especially for a team that is looking to take that next step as soon as possible. So if Ball isn't in the Pelicans' plans for the future, they'd likely be going the veteran route, via free agency or trade.

Oklahoma City (22-50, 14th): What will they do with all those picks?

In recent years the Thunder have managed to stockpile an impressive number of draft picks, and Sam Presti will have five to work with this July. In addition to its own first, Oklahoma City could add a second lottery pick if Houston lands outside of the top-4 thanks to the Russell Westbrook trade from a couple years back. If the Thunder don't get that pick, they'll have Miami's first (18th overall) to work with.

Already boasting the league's youngest roster, it's possible that Oklahoma City will retain that status next season. Presti could use those picks to add more talent to the team's stockpile, or he can instead look to be more active on the trade market in an attempt to reel in a more established talent. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who's eligible for an extension this offseason, is a keeper, and rookies Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski had their moments this season. But they're going to need help if Oklahoma City is to have a successful rebuild.

Sacramento (31-41, 12th): What will the Kings do with Marvin Bagley?

Bagley, the second overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, is under contract for next season. But the Kings have a decision to make. Do they look to sign him to an extension, even though Bagley has appeared in a total of 118 games in his three NBA seasons due to injury? Or do the Kings take their chances on Bagley playing out the final guaranteed year on his deal before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2023?

Due to the injury issues and inconsistent production, it would be understandable if Kings GM Monte McNair was hesitant to fully commit to Bagley. Especially when remembering that a lot of money has already been committed to De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes, and Richaun Holmes will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. And if the Kings decide to not work out a deal with Bagley, would they be open to moving him? That way, Sacramento could bring back either a player or draft asset(s) that could help with the team's rebuilding project.

San Antonio (33-39, 10th): Which veterans will return for next season?

The Spurs have managed to add some solid young players to the organization in recent years, most notably Derrick White and Dejounte Murray. But the biggest question for San Antonio this offseason is whether or not the team will bring back any of the veterans who will hit the market as unrestricted free agents this summer. DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay will all be available, as will in-season signing Gorgui Dieng. While Dieng was more of a "matchup" center, with his minutes dictated by the opposition's rotation. DeRozan, Mills and Gay were key rotation players all season long.

All three are at least 31 years of age, with Gay (34) being the oldest. Will San Antonio go "all-in" with its younger players? Or will they attempt to bring back a couple (or all) of those veterans? While the Spurs did manage to qualify for the play-in tournament, they finished the regular season six games behind the team that had the eighth-best record in the West (Golden State). And that team, as mentioned above, is bringing back Klay Thompson. This sets up to be an interesting offseason for San Antonio.