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The Whiteboard: 11 big questions for the opening of NBA Free Agency

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NBA Free Agency negotiations can officially open at 6 p.m. ET today, and, as usual, we’re likely to see things heat up quickly. A lot has changed in just the past few days with trade rumors flying and at least one reported deal already imploding. As the deadline looms, what’s on the table?

What are the most pressing questions to be answered in NBA Free Agency?

Who pays Fred VanVleet?

The Raptors could theoretically hold onto VanVleet but it means giving up on Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Either way, they’re losing some significant but other teams may be bidding as well and pushing up the price. VanVleet is among the most important dominos, both because of how his talent could reshape a contender and because of how the cap space that will be needed to sign him could alter the markets for other free agents.

Who upgrades with a tier-two free agent like Danilo Gallinari, Davis Bertans, Montrezl Harrell or Joe Harris?

All four players in this group are serious role players, contributors who could make a huge impact for a contender next season. The arms race for them will be heated and could go along way toward determining a preseason hierarchy in both conferences.

Can the Bucks pull off another move to appease Giannis Antetokounmpo?

Whether the sign-and-trade with the Sacramento Kings for Bogdan Bogdanovic blew up because they hadn’t actually gotten Bogdanovic’s sign-off, or because they announced it too soon and sparked a tampering investigation from the league, the fact remains that it’s dead. Landing Jrue Holiday was a huge move for the Bucks but they still need every big of positive change they can muster to convince Giannis into signing the supermax extension. Can they pull together another big move to make up for the Bogdanovic whiff?

Where does Bogdan Bogdanovic go now?

The writing has long been on the wall with the Kings, and the blown-up deal with the Bucks doesn’t change anything about Sacramento’s fundamental cap crunch. If not, Milwaukee, where is Bogdanovic getting buckets next season?

Do Buddy Hield or Victor Oladipo get traded?

The situation with Oladipo and the Pacers got ugly. He’s tried to make amends but a trade may still be better for both sides. Same for Hield in Sacramento. A straight-up swap is a favorite idea on Twitter but other possibilities are probably a bit more plausible.

Is James Harden really headed to the Nets?

The Harden-to-Brooklyn rumors are loud and persistent, creating visions of an unparalleled combination of offensive talent, and uniquely complex challenge in trying to make it work. Trading Robert Covington before the draft seemed to signal the Rockets really are blowing it up. If Harden isn’t quickly moved to the Nets, is there a Plan B?

What about Russell Westbrook?

The Knicks just released a slew of players, clearing about $40 million in cap space. Just saying.

What other big contracts might get looped into a deal?

A trade for Harden, Westbrook, Oladipo, Hield or Bogdanovic will require some other large contracts to be included for salary-matching purposes. There aren’t a ton of teams with cap space to absorb any of those deals outright so will we see someone like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond or DeMar DeRozan get looped in?

Are the Warriors done dealing?

The news of Klay Thompson’s Achilles’ tear was a crushing blow for the Warriors and it probably affected their strategy on draft night, and their quick move to trade for Kelly Oubre Jr. last night. Thompson won’t play this season and even in a best-case scenario probably won’t be his old self for at least a portion of the next one. However, Stephen Curry won’t stop aging and they’ll need to keep pushing for the present if they want keep their championship window open. What else do they have up their sleeves?

Does anyone want to buy-low on DeMarcus Cousins? What about Carmelo Anthony?

Someone is probably going to make an offer. The question is whether it’s a fringe contender looking for an upgrade, or a middling team just looking to generate some buzz and fill a roster spot.

Are the Pistons going to build around Christian Wood?

The Pistons had an aggressive draft night reshaping the roster in a younger direction, adding talent at several positions and landing a potential franchise cornerstone in Killian Hayes. The next big decision is how hard they want to push for Christian Wood. He began to break out last season, finally getting a chance to expand his impressive per-minute production into a larger role. In nine games after the All-Star break, he averaged 24.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from behind the arc. He looks like the real deal but he’s going to cost a lot and he’s 25, significantly older than the still-teenaged core their building with Hayes and Doumbouya. Is he worth the investment? And if not, who else would be interested in paying up?


Signing Gordon Hayward would improve the Knicks roster in the short-term, but he isn’t the right player to help build a championship contender in New York.

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