We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:
What are the chances Klay Thompson could be pried away from Golden State when he hits free agency? — FTD, via Twitter
Thompson signed a rookie scale extension three years ago that has him under contract through 2018/19. It’s hard to predict how the NBA will look two seasons down the road, but we do know a few things. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will both sign max deals this offseason, while Draymond Green has a near-max contract that he agreed to last summer. That leaves Golden State with a very top-heavy salary structure with four players putting the team close to the cap. In two years, Curry will be 31, Durant will turn 30 and Thompson and Green will be 29. All four will still be in their primes and Golden State figures to remain among the NBA’s elite teams. There’s no reason to think the Warriors will be ready to break up their core by then, even with looming luxury tax concerns. Look for Thompson to get another max deal in 2019 and finish his career with Golden State.
Will the Lakers be better next season? — Broad Feet, via Twitter
With a nucleus of young, talented players, L.A. should improve at least a little bit every season. D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. could eventually develop into a team that makes regular playoff appearances. But what the Lakers need is a star to build around, and there are only a few ways to get one. L.A. has imperiled its draft pick with a few late-season victories, falling behind Phoenix into third place in our Reverse Standings. If that pick drops out of the top three on lottery night, it will be transferred to Philadelphia, leaving the Lakers with no shot at Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz or any other franchise-changing talent. The team won’t appear more attractive to free agents than it was last year, and the huge contracts it gave to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov will be a drain on the salary cap for the next three years. The dream of signing Paul George is at least a year away. So the Lakers might be a little bit better next season, but real improvement will require patience.
Whenever anyone makes the MVP case for James Harden over Russell Westbrook, they point to Houston’s record vs. OKC’s. Couldn’t the same argument be used to make the case for Kawhi Leonard over Harden? The Spurs’ supporting cast isn’t much better than the Rockets’, and the gap between San Antonio and Houston is as big as the gap between Houston and OKC. — Jonathan C., via email
That’s a very good argument. Leonard averages nearly 26 points per game on the second best team in the league, and the defensive gap between him and Harden is huge. It should be a very interesting three-man race for MVP, with LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas and maybe some others also getting votes. Westbrook’s triple-doubles will impress voters, as will Harden’s gaudy numbers in points and assists, but you could make the case that no one has done more to help his team win on a nightly basis than Leonard.