As we enter into the NBA playoffs it can be easy to get lost in the excitement of another postseason and the chase for the championship. But, any true basketball fan knows that after a champion is crowned we will then enter into an off season of wild and crazy player movement. Over the past few summers we have watched NBA superstars, and NBA royalty in some cases, switch teams, shaking up the balance of power in the league. Two years ago it was LeBron James going back to Cleveland, this year was watched Kevin Durant join the already scary Warriors, and this offseason will be no different.
With the amount of talent in the NBA right now, teams that expect to contend for the championship must have, at least, three All-Star caliber players. The upcoming class of free agents has some talents players in it, and this summer's trading block is littered with current and former NBA superstars. Free agency just seems to get bigger and bigger in the NBA, especially with the NBA's TV contracts constantly inflating the salary cap. This list will invoke excitement to many, as there should be some pretty exciting pairings around the league next season.
15 Paul Millsap - Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks seem to make a splash every summer. Whether it was bringing in Harrison Barnes last season, or Chandler Parsons the season prior, or almost having DeAndre Jordan only to watch him bail on a verbal agreement with them, the Mavs are always involved. This summer, however, it is likely the Mavs will be left without landing one of the big fish.
Millsap has a player option in his contract after this season, and he is expected to command a lot of money this summer after exercising that player option. The Mavericks, who are notorious for over spending during free agency, are a likely candidate to sign Millsap for much more than he is probably worth. Look for Dallas to miss early and often on the biggest names in free agency and be forced to settle with an inflated contract for Millsap.
14 Kyle Korver - San Antonio Spurs
Kyle Korver has reached the point in his career where he gets to pick and chose where he plays. Now in his 14th season, he is a veteran in the league and has the freedom to structure contracts that best suit him. Kyle was acquired by the Cavaliers this season in a trade, but his contract expires at season's end, and he is expected to explore his options this offseason.
There are two scenarios for Korver this offseason. The first being if the Cavaliers end the season as champions, Korver will likely command a very large salary, too large for the Cavs to retain him, and he will be an unrestricted free agent. The other is, Cleveland comes up short of the title. This scenario would see Korver again be a free agent, but he would likely look to improve his title hopes at this point. In either scenario, the Spurs are the perfect fit for Kyle. They can afford to pay him a large salary if he earns it, and if not, the Spurs system is a perfect one for a player like Korver.
13 J.J Redick - Cleveland Cavaliers
With the anticipated departure of Kyle Korver this summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be looking to add a veteran sharp shooter. The Los Angeles Clippers are expected to blow things up if they are unable to, at least, win a couple rounds of the playoffs. With that feat looking less and less likely it seems almost certain the Clippers will be moving on from their current core of players, including Redick.
J.J. is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he will be looking to find a team that has championship expectations. As Cleveland begins to shuffle its roster around this summer, there will be a big void in their three point shooting arsenal. This is where J.J. comes in, he will be the ideal fit for a team of veterans who are all playing for one thing, a championship.
12 Brook Lopez - Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder will be looking to acquire some help for Russell Westbrook this summer, and trading for Brook Lopez could be one of their top priorities. Lopez has been unhappy in New Jersey for several years now, and the Thunder are in need of some post scoring options. Lopez is a high level offensive center, who, paired with another potential OKC signing ( you will see who very soon), would form one of the most imposing front courts in the game.
To acquire Lopez, the Thunder would have to trade for him, as he is under contract with the Nets through 2018. The Thunder have plenty of draft picks, and young players to make an intriguing offer to the Nets this summer, and look for the Nets to be active as well. The Nets have been a dumpster fire of a franchise for the past several years, and they are going to be looking to make moves this summer, with the hopes of rebuilding quickly.
11 Rajon Rondo - Atlanta Hawks
The Chicago Bulls made some interesting moves last summer, one of which was adding Rajon Rondo and his expensive contract which doesn't expire until the summer of 2018. The Bulls hoped that pairing Rondo with Dwayne Wade, and Jimmy Butler would be an avenue to success, but this season proved that would not be the case. The Bulls are now looking like they may just have to blow things up and start fresh with young talent.
The Bulls will be looking to move the disgruntled point guard, and they will be looking to acquire draft picks or young talent. The Atlanta Hawks will be a likely trade parter for the Bulls on this one. The Hawks believe they are only a couple pieces away from true title contention, and a veteran, champion, guard like Rondo could be a vital piece to their puzzle. Look for the Hawks to offer a future first rounder for Rondo, and that should be enough for the Bulls to be willing to part ways with Rajon.
10 Derrick Rose - Minnesota Timberwolves
Despite ending another season on the injured list, Derrick Rose will have plenty of teams interested in his services this summer. He proved to many that he is still able to play at a high level, maybe not the MVP level of his prime, but he is still more than capable of leading a team.
As we all know, the Minnesota Timberwolves have actively shopped Ricky Rubio this season. It appears they are ready to move of from the Spaniard, in search of a more athletic, scoring point guard. Wolves coach Tom Thibadeau and Derrick Rose had great success together with the Bulls, so it would make perfect sense for them to go after Derrick this off season. The Wolves are a team full of young athletic rising stars, Rose could come in as a veteran who can help those youngster grow and evolved into perennial All-Stars and beyond.
9 Kyle Lowry - San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are the standard of sustained greatness in the NBA. They do this by being pro-active about their needs. It is clear that Tony Parker is nearing the end of his career, and Patty Mills is good, but not a starter on a championship roster kind of good.
Rumors about Lowry being sent to the Spurs were being whispered early this season, but the Raptors declined to entertain the idea, believing they still have a chance to win a title with Lowry leading the way. This off season, however, could be a different story. When the Raptors realize the roster they have assembled is just simply not championship caliber, they will be looking to improve it. With Kyle still having another season on his contract, look for the Spurs to package a deal that could lead to them landing another All-Star at the point guard spot next season.
8 Gordon Hayward - Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward has taken his game to a new level this season, even being named as All-Star for the first time. Still having one more year on his contract, he would have to be traded if he were to suit up for someone else next year. The Jazz have expressed interest in keeping Hayward in Utah for a long time, but the feeling has not yet been shown to be mutual as of yet.
It is no secret that Gordon and Boston Coach, Brad Stevens are great friends, dating back to Hayward's college days playing for Stevens. The Celtics also have a boat load of cap space this summer as well as young assets and high draft picks. The Celtics will be looking to add a superstar wing player this summer, and they have enough pieces to put together an attractive offer for the Hayward. Look for the Jazz to be stubborn, but ultimately strike a deal with Boston this summer, followed by the Celtics signing Gordon to a lucrative extension.
7 Jimmy Butler - Boston Celtics
As everyone knows, the Boston Celtics have more young assets and valuable draft picks than any team in the NBA right now. Boston was rumored to be looking at Butler this season, but the demand was too high from Chicago. The underachieving Bulls will be listening to any and all offers this season, and Boston has some serious bargaining chips when it comes to a rebuilding team like the Bulls.
Jimmy Butler and coach Fred Hoiberg have not seen eye to eye this season, and Butler has appeared to be frustrated with the direction of the team since they traded away Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and recently Taj Gibson. Butler may be willing to help facilitate a way out of town this summer, even if it mean sacrificing a little money for a real chance at a championship.
6 Dwyane Wade - Cleveland Cavaliers
Many believed Dwyane Wade would retire with the Miami Heat after all the success he had with the franchise. But, after having a dispute with Heat management, Wade opted to go back home to Chicago last summer. He joined a team with some big names, but the chemistry was just not there. Wade does, however, have proven chemistry with LeBron James.
That chemistry and familiarity is why Wade will likely end up playing with his best friend again next year. Dwyane has a player option for next season, and it seems all but certain he will be exercising that option and looking for a new home very soon. Expect to see Wade take a less than market value contract to play with his buddy in Cleveland.
5 Blake Griffin - Oklahoma City Thunder
Here is the tease from the Brook Lopez entry. Blake Griffen played college basketball at Oklahoma University, and is rumored to be great friends with Russell Westbrook, making this addition a no brainer for the Thunder. Could you imagine Russ and Blake, and the highlights they would produce?
Blake is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and unless the Clippers shock the world, Blake will likely be looking for greener pastures outside of Los Angeles. The Thunder obviously know they need to get Russell some help, and with cap space, they would be a prime candidate for Griffin. If the Thunder are able to sign Blake, they are automatically thrust into the title contender category, and depending on who else they get, they could be in the driver's seat next season.
4 Carmelo Anthony - Cleveland Cavaliers
It is all coming together for the banana boat crew. Dwyane Wade will likely take close to the league minimum next season to play along side his two best buddies, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony. The only guy missing is Chris Paul, who is also a free agent this summer...
Melo has already said he sees the writing on the wall, and his days in New York are numbered. His contract is signed through this season, and next season, so for the Cavs to get him there, they would have to make a trade. Anthony also has a no-trade clause in his contract, but, he has already said he would be willing to wave the clause if the potential trade was with the right team. The Cavs have some nice expiring contracts they could offer New York, who will be looking to sign some players this summer as well. If things work out as many think they could, the Cavaliers could be a true banana boat crew.
3 Chris Paul - New Orleans Pelicans
Many folks want to see Chris Paul join LeBron and whatever other banana boaters end up in Cleveland his summer. Unfortunately CP3 is all but boxed out of the reunion due to the strangle hold Kyrie Irving has on the point guard position in Cleveland. A much more realistic landing spot for Paul, who is a free agent come seasons' end, would be New Orleans, a place he has played before.
The Pelicans are one point guard away from being a real threat in the Western Conference. With the addition of DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans now stake claim to the most formidable front court in the NBA. Chris could join the Pelicans, and potentially be in the best situation of his career. Perhaps he could even advance to the conference finals for the first time in his career with this Pelicans team. Look for New Orleans to throw a boat load of money at an aging CP3 this summer, it is their only hope.
2 Paul George - Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are the kind of franchise that is not down for long, and they are currently in the midst of one of their longest run as a lottery team. The Lakers will undoubtably be players in this summers free agency, and trade market.
There have been rumors about Paul George being unhappy with his current situation in Indiana, and the Lakers have expressed unabashed lust for George and his services. The Lakers currently have a bounty of youth, and draft picks, which could sound very enticing to the Pacers who have underachieved again this season. Look for Larry Bird to swing a deal that would send George to Los Angeles, and also send perhaps Brandon Ingram and some draft picks back to Indiana.
1 Kevin Durant - Washington Wizards
If the Golden State Warriors fail to win the NBA championship (even if they do) expect Kevin Durant to skip town immediately. Durant has a player option for next season, and if things don't go just right, he will be exercising that option and looking to find a new home.
Durant is from the Washington D.C. area, and after a season of being the most hated man in the game, it would only makes sense for him to want to be some place where people love him, so what better place than home? Not to mention the fact that Washington is one of the most promising up and coming teams in the NBA, and the addition of KD to that roster would immediately make them title contenders, perhaps even favorites in the Eastern Conference. In an offseason of change, the biggest change just may be KD shifting the dominance of power to the Eastern Conference for the first time in over two decades.
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