Around the league, team executives are already bracing (and/or plotting) for the next disenchanted star to ask out, with speculation focused on Zion Williamson in New Orleans, Damian Lillard in Portland and Donovan Mitchell in Utah.
Notably absent from this list: Wizards star Bradley Beal. Perhaps, that’s just an oversight. Or maybe teams now see his future in Washington. The Wizards got him a potential co-star in Kristaps Porzingis.
But Williamson, Lillard and Mitchell certainly make sense as targets. Even if their availabilities are currently low, their abilities to transform franchises are high. And there are paths to their availabilities increasing.
Teams plot for years to land a star. They sometimes push lines to pry a star loose. In a sport where a single player can make such a huge difference, the upside of landing a star justifies extreme attempts to acquire one.
Like it or not, it’s on the Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Jazz – and Williamson, Lillard and Mitchell – to handle this interest and the noise that accompanies it.
Giannis Antetokounmpo said super-max drama gave him a headache all summer. Lillard said players leave money on the table because of media pressure. Certainly knowing he could make a soft landing with the 76ers, Harden just sulked his way off the Nets.
These potential dramas in New Orleans, Portland and Utah could go any direction.
As many teams are eagerly waiting to see.