Unlike previous seasons, the current campaign is turning out to be one of the best and most competitive ever.

With teams scrambling for places in the playoffs, there is every incentive to be engaged even at this late stage of the season which typically has a lot of unwatchable games. Due to recharged contenders like Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder, the fight for this season’s NBA title is heading down a similar path.

Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have played each other in the last three NBA Finals and this could be the year when that combo run ends. Top class games between Houston and Boston has had an NBA Finals Series atmosphere about it making it a not so alien idea to see the two sides face off again in June.

The fun doesn’t end there as the offseason is already shaping up to be an interesting one. The drama surrounding LeBron James and Paul George’s next destination remains a mystery and will pick up once the season ends. Kawhi Leonard could ease San Antonio Spurs uneasiness regarding his future by signing a maximum contract extension that will pay him approximately $219 million in five years.

Like San Antonio, other teams in the league face similar dilemma regarding the future of key players which could make or unmake their future in the upcoming seasons. Here is a look at the top three:

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

The days of the Splash Brothers could be coming to an end as Klay Thompson enters the final year of his contract at the start of next season.

With a 19.8 point average this season, three All Star appearances and an $18 million salary for next season, Thompson is one of the best players with competitive value on the market. Powering Golden State to two NBA titles alongside co Splash Brother Steph Curry, has set the team up to dominate for many years. Conversely, that dominant future is likely to be achieved without the Washington University product.

Warriors are above the salary limit and could parlay Thompson’s high value around the league to fetch a sizable collection of impact players on cheaper contracts in a trade. Unlike Kevin Durant who has signed bargain contracts to remain with the team, Thompson has indicated he will not do same since he doesn’t earn as much as Durant off the court. Rather than let him sign for another team as a free agent after the 2018-2019 season, the team’s best bet for continuity is a trade with a lot of interested parties.

Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant (35) drives to the hoop against Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky (44) in the first period of their NBA game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

Thompson was picked 11th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft two places after University of Connecticut Point Guard Kemba Walker was picked by the then Charlotte Bobcats. Walker has since played his way to match his draft value with two All Star selections to his name despite playing in the playoffs twice in his career. Once this season is over, he will be heading to his final season with a $12 million salary tag and a year removed from being a free agent.

As the Hornets best player averaging 23.2 points and 5.7 assists, signing him to a lucrative extension at the end of this season is the most logical option. However, Walker stands just 6 feet and will be 29 in the first year of a massive contract. Players with physical limitations like Walker, cue Allen Iverson, fall from grace faster than their much bigger peers which makes Charlotte’s next move very sensitive. Trading him remains a viable option as the team exploration’s in the past midseason trade market revealed.

CHARLOTTE, NC – FEBRUARY 2: Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets handles the ball against the Indiana Pacers on February 2, 2018 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban stated his team is going hard after juicy spots in the draft by tanking its way through the remaining games in the season. However on the eye test, Dallas remains one of the most competitive teams despite what the team’s 19 win, 45 loss record states. At the heart of Mavericks competitive drive is veteran Wesley Matthews who will be in the final year of four year, $70 million contract.

Matthews 13.8 points per game this season and strong defense is too good to be used on the rebuilding Mavericks side which could use the free space on the salary sheet should a trade happen to bring in more young players to develop for the future. While numbers don’t jump out of the stats sheet, his intangibles on defense and never say die mentality are qualities contenders like Oklahoma City could use this season and beyond.

By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter


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