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It’s official: The NBA off-season begins in earnest at noon today

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After many weeks since the Lakers claimed the 2020 NBA title, we’ve finally arrived at the official start of the off-season. The Draft is on Wednesday, free agency begins on Friday, and today: let’s get into some trades!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA’s off-season buzz already reached a fever pitch over the weekend, with more than a few transactions being discussed. Starting today however, as reported by ESPN’s Woj, the league is officially prepared to let loose with the full range of its great sound and fury — will it signify nothing? Time will tell.

But not too much time, because a lot of league business is set to happen this very week, starting, uh, later today. As Woj tweeted yesterday, the NBA’s trades are nearly upon us.

To get you up to speed on trade talk so far, the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder have already put a transaction together, discussing on Sunday a swap of Danny Green (plus the 28th pick in the 2020 Draft) for Dennis Schroder. There’s some thinking to this deal for both teams: after winning the championship, the Lakers need to get a touch younger and need more scoring punch. The Thunder, meanwhile, are looking to acquire more assets in their gradual re-tool of the squad. (Do not be surprised to hear Chris Paul’s name uttered another million times over the next week.)

But I digress. With the starting gun sounding off at noon today, we begin a rapid run through a very condensed off-season schedule. On Wednesday night, November 18th, the NBA Draft is set to go down, with the Raptors selecting 29th in the first round. Then, as we discussed earlier, the league’s free agency period is set to begin on Friday (November 20th), with the Raptors queued up to make a handful of significant decisions involving the core of their championship-winning team. (The overarching issue holding that all up was what to do with the league’s salary cap/luxury tax structure, which has apparently been worked out for the next couple of years.) What’s more, all of this starting on Monday, November 16th has to basically wrap up by the end of the month, as teams will then report to training camp on December 1st. If that doesn’t seem like a lot of time to process all this information, please consider: it isn’t.

For the Raptors, here’s what’s on the off-season docket:

  • Toronto hasn’t really come up in any serious trade talks as of yet. In truth, it doesn’t seem like team president Masai Ujiri will look to pull the trigger on any deals until the dust settles on this speedy off-season; he’s got free agency matters to sort out first;
  • The 29th pick doesn’t really offer franchise-changing value, but it’s not nothing. As our guy JD Quirante as discussed, there are a plethora of players who could be available for the Raptors at no. 29, and who could have the talent (or drive) necessary to become rotation pieces for the team going forward; and
  • The big day for Toronto is really November 20th, when the league’s free agency period officially kicks off. It stands to reason, with all three of Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka (plus Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson) available on the free market by this coming Friday, that we’ll finally have a sense of which way the Raptors will be going for 2020-21 and beyond.

Yes, there’s a lot of intrigue there, but then, of course, there’s actually the season of games to play — and presumably for Toronto, a playoff run as well. To that end, the dutiful reporting of Woj has produced a tentative schedule for the latest NBA season:

Obviously, a couple of things jump out. First, there will be no All-Star Game this season, which makes sense since we still shouldn’t be gathering together in any large number. (And the All-Star Game only succeeds based on how loud its party-like atmosphere grows to be; if there are no, say, reaction GIFs to be created, then did the All-Star Game even really happen? I say no.) Second, the league is hanging in there with their play-in tournament idea — who knew! It’s a fun concept, one the NBA had seemingly been dancing around for some time. That it’s being back-doored in during a pandemic is also fun to consider. Anyway, let’s just hope the Raptors don’t somehow get involved. That’s stress we don’t need.

The rest of the league schedule unspools from there, concluding in the summer — albeit later than usual. We still don’t know exactly how all these teams and personnel are going to move around a country ravaged by a still-ongoing pandemic. And we as yet do not know where the Raptors will play (despite a general sentiment from Ujiri that they’d indeed like to play their games in Toronto). But those are, uh, minor details?

Nevertheless, we carry on. Here’s one more date to mark down in your calendar, cheekily added by Woj on Sunday morning as if for a laugh:

However messed up this year is about to be for the NBA — including the Raptors too — there’s always hope for 2021-22.