Teams that need to make moves this offseason

Published June 30, 2022, 8:00 AMPolo Bustamante
Polo Bustamante

Making a major roster move this offseason is absolutely necessary for these five teams.

Not all major moves in the offseason are necessities.

Take the Los Angeles Lakers as an example. Last offseason, they made a move to get Russell Westbrook. Did they NEED to do the trade to acquire Westbrook? No. They could have kept their roster intact and filled in the holes around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Getting Westbrook didn’t work out for the Lakers and now they enter this year’s summer with a need to make major roster moves to get back in contention. 

Let’s take a look at the Lakers and four other teams that need to make moves in the offseason.

Los Angeles Lakers

It’s not surprising but it is official, Westbrook is opting into the final year of his contract.

With that out of the way, the Lakers have two roads they can take. The first is to work with their mistake from last year and find a way to properly field Westbrook around James and Davis. The problem with Westbrook is that he still sees himself as an MVP-level player when in reality he’s a low-efficiency scorer that plays awful defense.

To offset that, the Lakers need to find 3DA-type players to space the floor and help defend the perimeter. They also have a limited budget to work with since Westbrook’s contract takes up a huge chunk of their cap space. 

One player they should focus on keeping is Malik Monk. The shooting guard has already voiced out his willingness to stay in LA and is even willing to take a discount to do so. The Lakers made a mistake last season when they let Alex Caruso walk. They shouldn’t make the same mistake this season with Monk.

The more obvious route the team can take is to trade Westbrook. That will give them way more roster flexibility to be able to add players that can help the team contend for a championship. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of teams interested in a high-usage, aging point guard that’s due to be paid $47 million in the coming season.

Charlotte Hornets

One team that has been linked to Westbrook, though, is Charlotte. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense for a team with LaMelo Ball to bring in Westbrook. Digging deeper, the Hornets are more interested in Westbrook’s expiring contract. To afford Ball, as well as other key pieces of their young core like Miles Bridges and PJ Washington, the Hornets have to clear cap space for next season. They plan to trade away Gordon Hayward (two years left), or Terry Rozier (four years left) to take in Westbrook who comes off the books next season. 

Keeping their exciting core intact is the top priority for the Hornets. Adding a big man to that core is the second move they have to make this offseason.

In the past two seasons, the Hornets have had to make do with players like Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller as their starting centers. They’re serviceable but odd fits to a team that likes to get up and down the court. They need a young big man that can defend the paint, grab boards to help start breaks, and finish strong inside.

There are several big men available for Charlotte to pick from, such as Mitchell Robinson and Mo Bamba who fit the team’s play style and timeline. But there’s one player that they can acquire that will put them straight into the playoff picture: DeAndre Ayton.

Phoenix Suns

Like it or not, Ayton has been crucial to Phoenix’s runs in the past two seasons. Devin Booker is the team’s best player, Chris Paul is their closer, Mikal Bridges is their defensive ace, but Ayton is their tank. He’s the one that does the dirty work in the paint. He’s a double-double machine that doesn’t need a lot of touches to be effective. More importantly, he’s a capable defender anywhere on the floor, which means he won’t get schemed out in the playoffs.

The Suns and Ayton have a strained relationship. It stems from the team’s refusal to give Ayton the max contract he felt he deserved. Phoenix has to fix this relationship before it’s too late. There are a lot of teams out there that have been linked to the big man, several have the cap space to make a godfather offer to the restricted free agent. 

Replacing Ayton will be difficult. There are a lot of serviceable big men out there that the Suns can slot into the starting center position. However, “serviceable” might not cut it though. A big man of Ayton’s caliber is hard to come by. Keeping Ayton can mean the difference between the Suns’ title window staying open or closing shut. 

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers are looking to open their title window. They need to if they hope to keep Damian Lillard in Portland. The noise surrounding Lillard’s exit from the team has grown louder in the past two years. He’s not content with just another playoff appearance anymore - Lillard wants to win a championship and he’s not afraid to leave to be able to do so.

The Blazers have made minor moves to shore up their roster. They traded for Jerami Grant and added rookie Shaedon Sharpe from the draft.

That’s still not enough to move the needle out in the West. Portland needs to successfully lure one of the top two free agents this year to pair with Lillard. 

Being able to get either Bradley Beal or Zach LaVine would be a coup for the Blazers. As a small market team, Portland doesn’t always get the big names. Bringing in either of the two free agents shows Lillard that the team is willing to do everything to keep him a Blazer. On the basketball side of things, being able to trot out a backcourt duo of Lillard with either Beal or LaVine makes the Blazers more dynamic next season. After missing out on the playoffs this season, Lillard and the rest of the team are definitely raring to make a comeback.

New York Knicks

The Knicks have been busy.

It’s no secret that New York is going all-in to sign Jalen Brunson. All their moves have been to clear cap space to be able to offer him an irresistible contract. 

With all the moves that they’ve been making, the Knicks definitely NEED to get Brunson now. If they don’t, then they just gave up a lottery pick and a couple of pieces from their working rotation for nothing.

The team is hoping that Brunson is the stabilizing force that’s been missing from the team. He’s proven his worth as a secondary ball-handler and scorer alongside Luka Doncic in the Dallas Mavericks. With the Knicks, Brunson can stretch his wings further and be the lead playmaker and backcourt scorer that the team has been missing.

The Knicks want to get back to the heights that they reached in 2021. Getting a free agent like Brunson is a huge step in the right direction for a team that’s had an up-and-down couple of seasons.