As we head into the first weekend of the regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a tough task on their hands.
It’s time to determine which of the seven teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference will get the opportunity to advance to the second round.
The Celtics, 76ers, Knicks, Pistons and Nets will be the only teams to have at least two playoff appearances this season, with the Wizards and Pacers being the only other teams to finish the regular-season with no playoff appearances.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the opening round of play:1.
What happens with Isaiah Thomas?
Thomas has been on the wrong side of the law in his career, and in his past six seasons in the league he has been suspended for at least one game for a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy.
He has yet to return to the court.
He’s currently on a five-game suspension for his role in the fight at the end of the 2012 playoffs between Boston and Philadelphia.
He is eligible to play for the Cavs this season and will be eligible to return in June if he is eligible for a second suspension.
Thomas was suspended for his involvement in the Celtics’ win over the Wizards last season, and the NBA Players Association is seeking to re-open the suspension.
It has been unclear what the NBA will decide in Thomas’ appeal.
The NBA will not confirm the status of Thomas’ suspension, which will likely come before the NBA draft in late July, but sources have indicated that it could be extended for another season.
The Cavs are expected to draft a point guard in the upcoming draft, so the Cavs’ decision to hold onto Thomas until June could be seen as a form of bargaining leverage to keep him off the court in the second half of the season.2.
What about the Celtics?
Thomas’ suspension could also affect what the Celtics can do if they want to retain their two All-Star point guards.
Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk are both on the trade block, and both have been under contract through the 2017-18 season.
While both Smart and Oly, who both have the ability to become free agents after the 2018-19 season, could command a high price in the draft, it’s difficult to imagine the Celtics parting with either.
The Cavaliers are unlikely to be able to reallocate Smart or Oly’s salary to another team, and a trade to move the guards could hurt Cleveland in the short term.
The Cavs could also look to acquire another point guard to add depth in the backcourt, which would mean moving Thomas.
The only player the Cavs would be able, or willing to part with, would be Isaiah Thomas, who is also under contract for next season.
If Thomas can’t be re-signed to a new deal, then it’s not clear whether the Cavaliers will trade Thomas, or if the Cavs will move him to another organization.
If the Cavs are going to make a trade, it would be to either acquire a point forward or a center to help fill out the roster, and that would put the Cavs in a position to make an adjustment if Thomas isn’t able to return next season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.3.
What will the Celtics do if the NBA finds out that Thomas is still suspended?
The Celtics could make an offer to Thomas, but it is unknown if the Celtics will accept that offer.
If it’s the Celtics who have made an offer, then Thomas is eligible, and if the Cavaliers are willing to accept that, then they will have to make the decision on whether to extend his suspension.
If there is no offer, and Thomas continues to play through his suspension, then the Cavaliers could release him without a compensation pick and potentially let him go for nothing.4.
What does the Cavs do if Thomas is released?
The Cavaliers could extend Thomas’ ban and make a new offer to him, but they would have to be willing to release him before June.
If they don’t want to extend the suspension, they could release Thomas at any time, and it’s unclear whether the Cavs could re-sign Thomas.
If he’s released, the Cavs can use the 2019 NBA Draft to trade up or down in the 2019 draft to draft either Marcus Smart or Kelly Oylynyk.
The 2019 draft is expected to be filled with players who could be acquired by the Cavs.5.
How long will Thomas be suspended?
Thomas is not eligible to be reinstated until after the 2019-20 season.
He will be ineligible to play in the playoffs until 2019-2020.
It could take several weeks for the NBA to rule on the case, but Thomas is currently eligible to participate in the postseason for the first time in six years.