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Work to Do! Analyzing Offseason Needs for Conference Semifinal Losers

The latest round of NBA playoff losers, who fell in the conference semifinals, are a mixed bag. Some teams will be among the favorites for next season, with three of the four teams being the higher seed, and there are some others that have a lot of work to do this offseason.

Every team will look to get better, but some have more moves to make than others. Let’s take a closer look at the teams that were eliminated one round short of the conference finals.

Work to Do! Analyzing Offseason Needs for Conference Semifinal Losers
Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers/Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

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Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34)

Donovan Mitchell Trade Rumors Rock Cavs’ Future

Cleveland has become a solid playoff team in the last two seasons, winning 99 games and advancing to the second round of the postseason for the first time since 2017 this year. But, the team is facing a potential makeover this summer, with guard Donovan Mitchell eligible for an extension, though it’s uncertain if he wants to sign it.


There are rumors of Mitchell and coach J.B. Bickerstaff not getting along, and the All-Star backcourt pairing of Mitchell and Darius Garland doesn’t always seem to play as well as it should. Would Mitchell prefer to be traded rather than sign the extension, and what could the Cavaliers get in return for him?

We’ve been talking to (Mitchell), sure, for the last couple of years about extending this contract,” owner Dan Gilbert told The Associated Press in late March. “We think he will extend. I think if you listen to him talk, he loves the city. He loves the situation in Cleveland because our players are very young and we’re just kind of putting the core together that he’s clearly the biggest part of.

The team’s frontcourt duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley is also eligible for contract extensions, so the team has to balance those potential new deals with their decision on how to handle Mitchell. Another situation that must be dealt with is restricted free agent Isaac Okoro, the team’s starting small forward.

The experience of getting to the second round – and needing to win a seven-game series to do it – can only help the Cavaliers in the future. But will that future include Mitchell? That’s the team’s top offseason question.


New York Knicks (50-32)

Healthy Jalen Brunson + Key Free Agents = Title Hopes?

Despite its conference semifinal loss, New York has a bright future, as long as it can get and keep key players healthy. The Knicks were 33-17 in January when All-Star forward Julius Randle was lost for the season, and the team dealt with injury absences of OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mitchell Robinson during the postseason.


Still, the Knicks are certainly going to be a contender in the East again next season, with guard Jalen Brunson leading the way. The All-Star guard cemented his spot in Knicks history with his performances in this postseason, which ended with him nursing his own injury, a fractured left hand suffered in the Game 7 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

The team has most of the key pieces from the playoff run under contract, but there are some moves that need to be made. Anunoby has a player option, which will make him a free agent if he declines it, and center Isaiah Hartenstein is also going to be a free agent. Bringing back those two should be the team’s top priority this offseason.

The Knicks have a pair of late first-round picks (Nos. 24 and 25) that they can use to try to build some depth. The team’s bench, especially up front, was really tested with the injuries, so adding some versatile frontcourt players would be helpful.


Denver Nuggets (57-25)

Nikola Jokic & Jamal Murray Lead Denver Rebuild?

The Nuggets were the team everyone was gunning for this season until they were knocked off in the conference semifinals by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Denver has much of the roster that won the franchise’s first title a season ago, but there are moves that need to be made as the team goes back to one of the many teams chasing the defending champions next season.


Just mentally and physically, conjuring up the energy to fight like you’re being hunted,” Denver guard Jamal Murray said after the Game 7 loss on Sunday. “I think that’s the emotion. When you’re the hunter, you have so much more motivation and you grasp on to anything to prove everybody wrong and you have a constant chip on your shoulder.

Not that Denver won’t get the best shot of every team in the league as long as it has three-time league MVP Nikola Jokic on its roster. Murray is also a highly-regarded player who will get the team’s best effort.

The Nuggets’ biggest moves this offseason will have to do with the rest of the starting lineup. Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a player option for next season, so he may become a free agent. Murray and forward Aaron Gordon, who has been a key cog in the team’s championship status, are eligible for extensions as well.

Denver’s bench could also use some fortifying after it was virtually non-existent in the postseason. The Nuggets only have one pick in the upcoming draft, No. 28, so low-cost free agents or the development of current bench players will have to be the way to improve that area.


Oklahoma City Thunder (57-25)

Trade or Trust Young Core?

The Thunder may be in the best position of any team in the NBA right now, coming off the best record in the Western Conference with a roster that included 11 players under the age of 26. Oklahoma City has no major free agency issues to worry about this offseason, and it holds the No. 12 pick in the draft thanks to a previous deal with the Houston Rockets.


But can Oklahoma City management continue the slow build? The team has 13 first-round and 22 second-round picks over the next seven years, and it has at least $30 million in cap space going into the offseason.

Would the team be helped by a veteran acquisition via trade? Or should the young team that played so well this season continue to grow together?

As it has shown over the past few years, Oklahoma City will certainly be looking at all options. Trading away Paul George a few years ago seemed a little rash, but it netted the team MVP contender. The Thunder can sit pat and be among the favorites in the NBA Finals odds again next season, but there’s also the future to plan for.

All of the high draft picks on the team are going to be up for extensions in a couple of seasons, so the Thunder want to have as much flexibility in that area as well. Eating up cap space for a short-term move might not be the way to go, so despite all of the optimism built by this season, the Thunder’s front office still has some decisions to make.


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Questions Of The Day

Out of the teams that lost the conference semifinal, which one won the NBA title most recently?

The Denver Nuggets won the NBA title last season, the first in franchise history.


The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.

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