Free agency has yet to begin, and we've already seen one franchise player sold for 50 percent off. If that's indication of things to come in when open season begins on the league's top unrestricted free agents, it's going to be mile-a-minute white-knuckling for a lot of NBA fanbases.
The following are the 10 fanbases whose teams have the most on the line this offseason, as well as best- and worst-case scenarios that could play out for them as the madness unfolds.
Just remember: It could always be worse. Even for Knicks fans.
Hear me out.
Timberwolves fans are righteously excited after watching their front office fleece the Chicago Bulls of their franchise player in exchange for Zach LaVine and a bar of expired novelty Pez, but they’re not out of the woods yet. They still have to contend with the fact that as things now stand, the Timberwolves’ best three-point shooter is Jimmy Butler — not exactly an ideal situation in a league where perimeter shooting is the great equalizer and the only way to box with the best teams in either conference.
They’ll need to remedy this by continuing their trend of front office robberies as free agency unfolds.
Best-case scenario: The Wolves land a three-and-D two without having to move Ricky Rubio.
Worst-case scenario: The ‘Wolves spend the next season losing games but shooting really cool baseline fadeaways.
The Pels front office won itself a lot of leash after robbing the Kings blind with nothing more than a banana they called a gun, but now they have to find a way to give their new Monstar frontcourt the tools it needs to succeed.
Pels fans just have to hope the front office can surround Boogie and Brow with a halfway competent backcourt to give this twin towers experiment an actual shot at working.
Best-case scenario: Chris Paul. More realistic best-case scenario: The Bulls waive Rajon Rondo, the Pelicans sign him for peanuts and Good Rondo arrives in New Orleans happy to play with Boogie.
Worst-case scenario: They stand pat and continue waiting for Jordan Crawford to turn into Chris Mullin.
Sean GardnerGetty Images
The good news is the worst is over. The bad news is it could still get worse.
It makes sense in this context, trust me.
Best-case scenario: GarPax manages to move Dwyane Wade for picks and youth, and Zach LaVine arrives fully recovered and blossoms into an explosive scorer.
Worst-case scenario: Wade stays, LaVine’s injury is nagging and video surfaces of Kris Dunn punching a cashier at the Weiner Circle.
Hello darkness my old friiieeeennnddd.
Yeah, it’s not a great state of affairs in Indianapolis after Paul George notified the Pacers that the jig is up and he plans to leave town once his contract ends next year.
Pacers fans just have to hope their team does what must be done and gets as much as possible for its star player without taking on the Lakers' deadwood contracts.
Best-case scenario: Magic gives up one of LA's young star(ish) players in his haste to bring in George, or George wakes up from his stupor and realizes the Lakers are a Lord of the Flies situation and LA traffic is terrible.
Worst-case scenario: The Pacers sit on their hands and hope for a miracle.
Despite his apparent insistence on staying and fighting the good fight in OKC, the Thunder might be looking at one last shot at putting together a team worth sticking around for Russell Westbrook.
Even if you ride, die and bleed for Russ, you have to be nervous about where his head will be this time next year after another season of hero ball and increasingly frustrating losses to the top teams in the West.
Best-case scenario: The Thunder blow up their roster and build a new one with 100 percent more Blake Griffin.
Worst-case scenario: The Thunder blow up their roster, no one comes to OKC and Russ has to play the entire season with just him and Alex Abrines.
Things in general are looking up, but Boston needs to make significant moves in the next couple seasons if it wants to actually capitalize on the treasure trove of role players the Celtics have collected thanks to Danny Ainge’s hoarder tendencies.
Best-case scenario: Phil Jackson delivers Kristaps Porzingis to Boston's doorstep in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and a crisp high-five.
Worst-case scenario: The Celtics hang tight and continue holding on to Jae Crowder like he’s made of equal parts Michael Jordan and Karl Malone.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
What do you do after being swept in the NBA Finals (in the most gentlemanly fashion, of course) and have all but zero cap space to add to your arsenal and, in all likelihood, will face the same team of prime-age superstars in the Finals next year.
Cleveland is in a tight spot, and though LeBron continues to age like fine Gouda, the Cavs have to contend with the fact that their bench is a MacGyver rig of loose string and Deron Williams compression sleeves, and they probably can’t add to it without pulling out a Jenga block that will bring the whole thing crashing down.
Best-case scenario: LeBron reconfigures his contract, J.R. re-signs for less and the Cavs bring in another star on a veteran's minimum deal.
Worst-case scenario: The team more or less stays exactly as is and next year is just a slower, chopped and screwed remix of the 2017 Finals.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
They got Lonzo, traded D’Angelo, and are in the process of rolling out the red carpet for Paul George, and regardless of your opinion on it all, it must be said that, at the very least, Magic Johnson has a firm grasp on what he wants the Lakers to be going forward.
The question that rightfully worries Lakers fans is whether this young (to the gig at hand) front office can surround George with the talent he needs to succeed without giving away the house and deed.
I have no idea whether it can. No one does. And I won’t blame Lakers fans one bit for white-knuckling deep into early morning hours of July 1st.
Best-case scenario: The Lakers land George and somehow manage to get Luol Deng's or Jordan Clarkson’s contract off the books without losing the house.
Worst-case scenario: The Lakers gore themselves trying to move Deng and Clarkson and George arrives in LA to a roster consisting solely of Lonzo and LaVar Ball.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Chris and Blake might re-sign! They might not! This is fine! Or maybe not!
Best-case scenario: Honestly, a sign-and-trade for either of them that nets the Clippers young stars they can build around.
Worst-case scenario: Both leave and no soup for you, Los Angeles.
Knicks fans shouldn’t be worrying. They should be calling their congressman and rioting in the streets.
That’s only sort of a joke, as it might actually happen if Phil Jackson follows through on the vague and self-aggrandizing remarks he made last week about entertaining trade offers for Kristaps Porzingis after hurt feelings flowered over a missed exit meeting.
This is lunacy, and I believe Phil knows that, and I believe these trade threats don’t go beyond Jackson wanting to reaffirm his alpha status within the organization. Still, playing an ego-driven game of chicken with your once-in-a-generation franchise cornerstone seems like a bad idea, and you can’t count out anything when it comes to the New York front office and its capacity to talk itself into bad decisions.
Best-case scenario: Phil reconciles with Kristaps, resigns and moves to Belize to teach brow-furrowing to underprivileged youths.
Worst-case scenario: The Knicks go Full Leroy Jenkins and trade Kristaps for Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and the Nets’ 2018 Nets first-round pick, causing mass panic and rolling blackouts throughout upper east side.