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NBA predictions – What’s next for the biggest players in free agency and trade season

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This NBA offseason is full of decisions that could impact the hierarchy of the league for years to come.

Will back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hold off on signing a supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks? Will the Golden State Warriors keep or trade the No. 2 overall pick in November’s draft? Will the Brooklyn Nets deal for a third superstar to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving?

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel about five of the biggest offseason storylines.

MORE: Where the real power is held this offseason


Which path will Giannis choose?

For most of our panel, the choice seems clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo should and probably will wait a year to decide whether to sign a supermax contract to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks posted the NBA’s best record for the second-straight regular season but again fell short of the Finals. After their elimination, Antetokounmpo said, “Hopefully, we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years [and] come out here and compete every single year for a championship.”

But he didn’t say that he was ready to sign a five-year, $220 million extension.

Will he ultimately ask for a trade, à la Anthony Davis in New Orleans? Or will the Bucks get the answer they want? Either way, we might have to wait until 2021 to find out.

What should Antetokounmpo do?

What will Antetokounmpo do?

MORE: How 11 teams can try to land Giannis


Will it be the Warriors picking at No. 2?

The Golden State Warriors hope their lottery detour was a brief one, but it did yield the No. 2 pick in the draft.

We asked the panel what the Warriors should do with that valuable pick, and a majority endorsed a “win now” approach for the team that took three of the past six NBA titles. Also relevant: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are already 32, 30 and 30 years old, respectively.

The vote was far from unanimous, as a large minority of the panel thought the correct “light years” move would be looking to bring in a top draft prospect to build for the future. Of course, that draft pick would be eligible to be traded, along with Minnesota Timberwolves‘ 2021 first-round pick held by the Warriors, so the story of Golden State’s trip to the lottery still has chapters to be written.

What should the Warriors do?

  • Draft LaMelo Ball (if available) with the No. 2 pick: 3.8%

  • Draft another top prospect (with the No. 2 pick or by trading down): 38.5%

  • Trade the No. 2 pick to win now: 57.7%

What will the Warriors do?

  • Draft LaMelo Ball (if available) with the No. 2 pick: 11.5%

  • Draft another top prospect (with the No. 2 pick or by trading down): 30.8%

  • Trade the No. 2 pick to win now: 57.7%

MORE: Big decisions await the Warriors


Will Chris Paul be in a Thunder uniform next season?

The Thunder parted ways with head coach Billy Donovan last month, signaling what could be the beginning of a full rebuild in Oklahoma City. Will All-Star point guard Chris Paul be the first domino to fall?

Our panel thinks so, with the majority agreeing that OKC should and will move the future Hall of Famer this offseason.

Paul’s contract might play a part in why a handful of other panelists think CP3 will remain in a Thunder uniform next season. Paul is owed more than $41 million in 2020-21 and more than $44 million in 2021-22, which makes him one of the most difficult-to-trade players in the league.

What should the Thunder do?

  • Trade Chris Paul: 88.5%

  • Keep Chris Paul: 11.5%

What will the Thunder do?

  • Trade Chris Paul: 80.8%

  • Keep Chris Paul: 19.2%

MORE: Which direction is OKC headed?


Is Brooklyn’s third star already on the roster?

In a fascinating split, our panel predicts the Brooklyn Nets will make a big trade for a third star — but should instead give their current trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert a chance.

Of course, due to Durant missing a full season with a torn Achilles, that threesome has never actually taken the court together. With Durant and Irving expected to be healthy, and with Steve Nash as the new coach, will the Nets swing for the fences?

Our panel suspects they will. In his column on Tuesday, Kevin Pelton explores the reasons why LeVert might not be an ideal fit and which stars the Nets might pursue.

What should the Nets do?

What will the Nets do?

MORE: Why the Nets are a team to watch in trade season


Does Philly’s offseason shakeup continue?

After being swept in the first round inside the playoff bubble and the subsequent firing of coach Brett Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers headed into the offseason full of questions. The franchise answered one of them earlier this month when it named Doc Rivers as the new coach. Now the spotlight shifts to whether Philadelphia will make any big changes to its roster this offseason.

Our panel is nearly split on whether the 76ers should do it, but the majority agrees that Philly will ultimately see what Rivers can do with its star core intact for the 2020-21 season.

What should the 76ers do?

What will the 76ers do?

MORE: How Doc Rivers helps the Sixers contend

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Charlotte Hornets complete sign-and-trade with Boston Celtics to acquire Gordon Hayward

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The Boston Celtics have traded Gordon Hayward and second-round draft picks in 2023 and 2024 to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for a conditional 2022 second-round draft pick.

The sign-and-trade agreement creates a $27.9 million trade exception for the Celtics, the largest in NBA history.

Hayward, 30, declined his $34.2 million player option with Boston earlier this month, ending a tumultuous three-year run with the team, then agreed to a four-year, $120 million deal with the Hornets.

“We are thrilled to welcome Gordon and his family to the Hornets organization and Charlotte,” general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Gordon is an NBA All-Star, a proven scorer and playmaker and a tough competitor that will fit well into the needs of our team. We believe that his basketball talent, NBA experience and veteran leadership will make a positive impact on our young, talented team as it continues to develop.”

To help make room for Hayward’s salary, Charlotte waived Nicolas Batum. The final year of his deal will be stretched over the next three seasons as a yearly $9 million dead cap hit.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks contributed to this report.

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NBA says Kobe Bryant’s delayed Hall of Fame induction coming in May 2021

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett will finally enter the Basketball Hall of Fame in May 2021.

The NBA said Saturday that the delayed Hall of Fame weekend — it was to have taken place in Springfield, Massachusetts, in August before being pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic — will be held May 13-15.

Bryant, Duncan and Garnett — with a combined 48 All-Star Game selections and 11 NBA championships between them — were the headliners of the class that was announced in April. They all got into the Hall in their first year as finalists, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings.

Others had to wait a bit longer for the Hall’s call: Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich got in this year, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, along with daughter Gianna and seven others. Sutton died May 23.

Also going in as part of this class is former FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann, who was chosen by the international committee. Baumann died in October 2018.

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NBA outlines COVID-19 safety protocols in 134-page guide

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Ahead of training camps opening up across the NBA next week, the league has compiled a comprehensive health and safety protocol for the 2020-21 NBA season and sent it to its teams.

The document, which was obtained by ESPN, is 134 pages long, and is similar to the one the league created to govern everything that happened inside the bubble it created at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, this summer.

This time, however, the league will be attempting to combat the coronavirus without the benefit of being inside a bubble where it was able to be successfully sealed away from the outside world.

And, like in that document, the league has constructed a rules system for what will happen when someone tests positive for COVID-19. Under such a scenario, there are two potential paths to return: a “time-based” resolution, and a “test-based” resolution.

Under the time-based resolution, the infected person would have to either have gone at least 10 days since the date of their first positive test or the onset of any symptoms, if they’ve had any; gone at least 24 hours since their fever went away without using any medications; and other symptoms have improved, while specifically noting that losses of taste or smell alone are not expected to prevent someone from leaving isolation.

Under the test-based resolution, the person must return at least two consecutive negative PCR tests from samples taken at least 24 hours apart.

Either way, any player who is determined to have a new positive case from testing — whether they have symptoms or not — will not be allowed to participate in any exercise training for at least 10 days from either the positive test or the resolution of symptoms, if they have any.

Once a player has waited that minimum of 10 days, they then must spend two days working out by themselves, not interacting with anyone or participating in any team activities, wearing a mask at all times when at the facility — whether they are working out or not — and must participate in a cardiac screening. So any player who tests positive will have to miss a minimum of 12 days before they can return to play.

Any player who has had a severe case of COVID-19, or who was hospitalized at any point, will have to be observed for at least three full days before they can be cleared to return to play.

When someone tests positive for the coronavirus, teams must go through a variety of steps, including: reporting the positive test to local authorities; contact trace all close contacts; clean and disinfect any space controlled by the team or its arena where the person who tested positive had been since their last negative test; and set up isolation housing for the person with the positive test.

Typically, teams are unable to pay for housing for their players, as it is seen as a way to circumvent the league’s salary cap. However, in this unique situation, the league has waived that to allow for teams to be able to pay for isolation housing for any players who test positive.

As for the possibility of suspending the season — like the NBA did back in March — the league doesn’t state what would trigger such a decision to need to happen again. Instead, all it says is that, “The occurrence of independent cases or a small or otherwise expected number of COVID-19 cases will not require a decision to suspend or cancel the 2020-21 season.”

The document says it is designed to “promote prevention and mitigation strategies to reduce exposure to, and transmission of, the coronavirus,” but that it is likely some players and staff will contract the virus.

As the league confronts the reality of teams having to crisscross the country in order to try to attempt to complete the 72-game regular season, and the playoffs after that, it has imposed a limit of 45 people for any team’s travel party — including up to 17 players. The protocol states that, “as when in their team’s market, members of the traveling party shall remain obligated to minimize risks to manage their health and enhance that of all individuals involved in the 2020-21 season.”

It also says further information regarding what travel parties will be permitted to do on the road will be provided at a later date.

The NBA’s preseason opens Friday, Dec. 11.

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