Maybe it has something to do with Kevin Durant's surprise decision to join the Warriors. More NBA stars are dealing with trade rumors and answering to free agency rumors throughout the year. The NBA seems to be going through somewhat of a transition phase. No more are the days of sticking with the franchise that drafted you, the way Bird, Magic, Robinson, and more recently Kobe and Duncan did. NBA superstars are teaming up now more than ever to form the NBA "Superteams". Whether it was LeBron to Miami or Durant to Golden State, it seems like NBA players are more likely to chase a winning situation rather than play through a rebuild.
This, of course, makes writing this article more fun. I never thought the Golden State Warriors was a realistic destination for Kevin Durant, until free agency started last summer. I never thought I'd see Dwyane Wade in any other uniform besides the Miami Heat. And it still seems weird to see Al Horford in a Celtics uniform. Well, now it's our chance to guess the unthinkable and sprinkle in some sensible locations for NBA players that could be on the move and wearing a new jersey in 2017-2018.
Throughout the list, 15 NBA Faces That will Be In Different Places Next Season, teams will address needs, will need to move on from past stars, and up and coming teams will look to add the piece to take the next step towards their championship aspirations.
15 Jahlil Okafor
The 76ers are finally relevant again after a tank that seemed to last forever. Sam Hinkie had been accumulating assets for years and also made a habit of drafting the best player available rather than need. This resulted in a logjam at center, and Okafor seems to be on the move to unclog the position. Okafor is a low post threat and ahead of his years as far as offensive game. His lack of defense and rebounding has landed him out of the rotation in Philly, and it looks like both sides are ready to move on. Ever since last years draft, Okafor has been mentioned in talks with the Celtics. Boston had an overflow of guards they may be willing to part with for the 2nd year big man. Whether its this upcoming trade deadline or in the off season, expect Okafor to be wearing a new uniform next year.
14 Brandon Knight
It seems like the Phoenix Suns are always unloading another point guard. It will be no different for Brandon Knight, who is under contract until 2020 and a rebuilding franchise like the 76ers or Dallas Mavericks could come in play with their cap room - another move that will most likely be made by this year's trade deadline. The 76ers are still looking to move a young talented big man, and the Suns' Brandon Knight could be trade target. Knight offers scoring and dependable guard play, something the 76ers are clearly lacking during the 2016-2017 season. The Mavericks need another scorer to go alongside Harrison Barnes this year and for the future. With Dirk Nowitzki likely to retire at the end of the season, it is time to start building a roster for the future. Brandon Knight will move onto his fourth NBA team, and perhaps find a fit for the long term.
Destination: Philadelphia, Dallas
13 Lou Williams
The former second round pick and Sixth Man of the Year is playing in his 11th season with his fourth NBA team. Where the Lakers are as a rebuilding franchise and Williams turning 30 this year, it seems as both parties are better off moving in opposite directs. Maybe a move to the other Los Angles team could make sense. Austin Rivers just hasn't become a quality back up guard, and the Clippers are in win now mode with perhaps their window slowly closing. A team full of veterans and to add Williams off the bench alongside Jamal Crawford could create a deadly tandem. Another possible destination resides in Cleveland, where LeBron James has been lobbying for a better option at backup point guard. Lou Williams has spent most of his career on non-playoff teams, and has never really had the chance at a NBA Championship. Perhaps he makes a move towards that next.
Destination: Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland
12 Allen Crabbe
Crabbe has established and NBA identity as a 3-point specialist and last summer signed a 4 year/ 75m dollar deal. The Blazers seem set at shooting guard for the foreseeable future with CJ McCollum. With Damian Lillard at point, the future is bright in Portland, but it seems that they are missing a dominant post presence. The 76ers and Blazers have been linked to rumors about Nerlens Noel, and more recently Crabbe has popped up in trade rumors with Sacramento. It would take a lot more than Crabbe to pry Demarcus Cousins away, but the Blazers have lacked that low post presence since the departure of Lamarcus Aldridge. The easier deal seems to be with Philadelphia. Whether is Nerlens Noel or Jahlil Okafor, a big man will be leaving the 76ers, and Sixers will be looking to add shooting and guard play in exchange.
Destination: Philadelphia, Sacramento
11 Nerlens Noel
As discussed earlier with Jahlil Okafor, the 76ers have an abundance of credible big men on their roster. Joel Embiid has made his mark on the NBA after sitting out two years with a foot injury. Jahlil Okafor seems likely to move on and the same could be true for Nerlens Noel. Noel offers defensive skills as well as the ability to run the floor and can catch lobs with the best of them. He is limited offensively and becomes a free agent after the 2016-17 season. His circumstances have improved recently, becoming the back up center and reestablishing himself in the rotation. The Sixers and Jerry Colangelo will have to decide if this makes Noel a candidate for a max contract in the summer. The Sixers will not just let him walk. Expect a sign and trade if he does end up leaving town. In the mix should be Boston and Portland for the same reasons discussed earlier. Some teams need a low post presence and Noel can supply it.
Via sign and trade
Destination: Boston, Portland
10 Derrick Favors
The former 3rd overall pick has put together a decent career in Utah. With the Jazz becoming a playoff team and the emergence of Rudy Gobert, Favors may act as a trade piece to take them to the next level. While a shooter and scorer to take some pressure off Gordon Hayward would be the answer, there has also been talks recent years of a Paul Millsap return. Millsap can stretch the floor more than Favors playing alongside Gobert. The Jazz could also look to land guard depth from the likes of Boston or Portland in exchange for the big man. Under contract through 2018, like most of the list Favors would land elsewhere in a trade. Finding a suitor should not be too hard.
Destination: Boston, Atlanta, Portland, Dallas
9 Kyle Lowry
This one has some underlying circumstances involved. If the Raptors can get over the hump and somehow dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers, I'm sure the view on this would change. But if they again are ousted, then Toronto will most likely have to rethink how they will become more of a serious contender. Lowry is an All-Star and Olympian. Pairing with Derozan to perhaps make the league's best backcourt. During the offseason, Lowry will be looking for a max deal. With a ton of money invested in Derozan last summer, I'm not sure the Raptors will be willing to go that deep into their pockets for fellow backcourt mate, Lowry. Expect a team far under the cap like hometown 76ers to make a strong run at bringing Lowry to town. Maybe a team like the Mavericks make a push to pair with Harrison Barnes, and help the rebuild process.
Via free agency
Destination: Philadelphia, Dallas
8 J.J. Redick
Redick becomes an unrestricted free agent at year's end. The Clippers are poised to make the playoffs once again, but how far they can go this year must improve on recent playoff failures. The window seems to be closing for the Clippers and the 32 year old Redick may be getting his last run in a Clippers uniform. He will be a highly sought after free agent at year's end, and teams like the Cavaliers, who can always use more sharp shooters, and the Charlotte Hornets may be possible teams willing to pay Redick enough to leave Los Angeles. Redick has one finals appearance with the Orlando Magic, and despite high expectations in L.A. he has not been back since. Expect a change in scenery if this playoff run ends with an early exit once again.
Via free agency
Destination: Cleveland, Charlotte
7 Paul Millsap
It has already been made public that Atlanta was shopping Paul Millsap in recent weeks. With the departure of Al Horford and Jeff Teague last summer, it looked like the Hawks were heading towards a rebuild. Dwight Howard decided to come home to Atlanta and has put together a solid 2016-2017 season thus far. But it doesn't look like its enough to get Atlanta back into serious contention. Kyle Korver has recently been traded to defending champion, Cleveland Cavaliers, and it seems like Millsap will be next to leave Atlanta. A possible Utah return has been rumored as far back as last year, and hopeful contenders like the Celtics (reunite with Al Horford) or Blazers to help young and talented back court of McCollum and Lillard could make sense as well.
Destination: Utah, Portland, Boston
6 Enes Kanter
Kanter has carved out a nice role with the Thunder. A skilled big man willing to come off the bench and supply some scoring. In the playoffs we even saw a lot of Kanter and Steven Adams playing side by side. This isn't so much about Kanter's time being done with the Thunder, but that the Thunder may be looking to add a big piece in order to take Westbrook and the Thunder back into elite status. A certain Clippers big man comes up much in conversations about who Russ' next superstar teammate could be. Kanter may just be collateral in this situation. The Thunder, as they stand, should get into the playoffs and most likely cause some noise, but adding a piece after the season will be on OKC's radar. Kanter will likely be apart of any deal bringing a new sidekick for Westbrook to OKC.
Destination: Los Angeles Clippers
5 Derrick Rose
Rose has made it known that he will be seeking a max contract this summer. In the past, I'd say the Knicks were probably going to be willing to do it. But even for them, that would be an absurd move for the franchise. Rose's injury history is well known, and although he still serves as a serviceable and above average point guard, he is not even remotely close to the player he once was. Recently, Derrick Rose left the team without reporting his departure to any teammates, coaches or front office personnel. Rose will find a home, and he may even get overpaid. But if the Knicks really want to move in the right direction with Kristaps Porzingis as their franchise player, they need to avoid offering out another bad contract. Where he goes is difficult to say. Maybe a Dallas Mavericks, where Mark Cuban has been known to hand out money to aging stars, or a young team lacking guard play like the Orlando Magic.
Via free agency
Destination: Dallas, Orlando
4 Andre Iguodala
Former NBA Finals MVP, and an integral part to the Warriors historic success in recent years, it may be time that Iguodala moves on. At 32, a former leading scorer and All-Star in Philadelphia, it is hard to tell if his skills have diminished or his role with the team. Regardless, Golden State will need to pay Stephen Curry this summer and Iguodala figures to be the one moving on. With the addition of Kevin Durant last year, there will not be enough cap space to go around for very long. Expect Iguodala to find himself back in a starter role somewhere next season, most likely with a borderline contender. Could offer a young Portland team his services or help a Houston Rocket team get over the hump and surpass his current squad.
Via free agency
Destination: Houston, Portland
3 Demarcus Cousins
Demarcus "Boogie" Cousins has been being mentioned in trade rumors since he entered the league. Regarded by many as the best center in the game at the moment, it has been his attitude and lack of leadership that has landed him in the latest rumor mill. Cousins hits free agency in 2018, but has already expressed his interest in acquiring a $200 million dollar contract with his current franchise, the Sacramento Kings. The Kings will have to decide if they sign him for the long haul, or get some pieces in return for the former Kentucky big man. Cousins ability to score around the rim, as well as stretch the floor can take any team to the next level. The Boston Celtics have the best trade assets available to offer the Kings in the form of Brooklyn's first rounder, a sure top 5 pick. It would be a big move, but for a team that only seems a player or two away, the Celtics could pull the trigger.
2 Jimmy Butler
The Chicago Bulls cleaned house last year, ridding themselves of longtime Bulls, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. The team achieved some great years with the trio of stars, unfortunately falling to the Miami Heat super team more than once. Rose was the league MVP, and Jimmy Butler, who was somewhat an unknown coming out of Marquette, carved out a defensive role early under Tom Thibodeau. In more recent years the Bulls had become Butler's team. He added a polished offensive game to his hustle and defense, and has become one of the league's most complete players. The Bulls acquired Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in attempt to build an Eastern Conference contender. Rondo is all but gone already, and as good of a player Wade still is, it just isn't enough.
Butler was involved in trade rumors leading up to and during the 2016 NBA Draft. It seemed as though the Timberwolves were trying to deal the number 5 overall pick in exchange for a swingman. Head Coach of the Timberwolves? Tom Thibodeau. Expect another possible run at Butler in the 2017 offseason.
1 Blake Griffin
I teased this thought earlier when we covered Enes Kanter. It feels like the Clippers window is coming to a close, at least with the current roster. This group has been going at it together for years, but yielding the same disappointing results. One more early exit this year could be reason enough to begin seeking trades for at least one star. And despite maybe being the most exciting player in Clippers history, Blake Griffin could be on the move. As already mentioned, the Thunder seem like a perfect fit. An athletic big man who can step away from the basket playing along side Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams. Sprinkle in Victor Oladipo and a roster filled with veteran and role players, the Thunder could be right back into contending status. Westbrook looks fine on his own this year, but I don't think he'll mind having Blake Griffin to lob the ball up to on breaks. More pieces will have to be involved for L.A. to party ways with the main component of Lob City, and both sides may be willing to make that work.
Destination: Oklahoma City