The past few years of NBA free agency have made it another huge part of the year in basketball. In past years, the end of the NBA Playoffs would signify a lack of NBA stories until autumn when the next season begins. The major stories over the past few summers have definitely changed the landscape with free agency becoming almost as big as the actual season. Top tier players change teams all the time. LeBron James re-joining the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and Kevin Durant signing with the Golden State Warriors in 2016 each helped usher in a new boom period for free agency.
This year looked tame on paper but the rumor mill is now filled with huge names. Chris Paul, Paul George and Jimmy Butler were all traded. Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving may be moved in the next few months. Many top players signed new long term contracts for their future. Next summer will be even more action packed with a plethora of Superstars hitting free agency. Some of these talents are restricted or have options, but the lack of stability often leads to changes coming. We'll take a look at fifteen potential landing spots for top NBA stars that may change teams in 2018.
15 Dwyane Wade: Miami Heat
The decision of Dwyane Wade to leave the Miami Heat in 2016 free agency looks like a bad basketball move already. Wade joining his hometown Chicago Bulls saw them have arguably the most disappointing NBA season barely making the playoffs. Chicago traded away Jimmy Butler and bought out Rajon Rondo proving they no longer are attempting to contend.
Wade reportedly regrets leaving the Heat but opted into the second year of his Bulls contract for the money. We'll most likely see Wade re-join the Heat as a free agent in 2018. Miami may even get away with signing him to a lower contract than expected. Wade misses his NBA home and will want to contend in the Eastern Conference. It would only be fitting for Wade to spend his final few NBA seasons in Miami before retiring.
14 Joel Embiid: New York Knicks
Joel Embiid is likely not leaving the Philadelphia 76ers but crazier things have happened. The 76ers have an abundance of young talent. Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are viewed to be bigger parts of Philadelphia’s future than Embiid. The success of Embiid last season showed him good enough to be an All-Star but injuries hold him back.
There’s a scenario in which the 76ers look to make a splash by going after a Superstar. Embiid loves the Philadelphia franchise but would not remain with them if they fail to offer him a max contract. The 76ers may very well go after a bigger name and let Embiid walk. A team like the New York Knicks would be the perfect fit for Embiid to take his profile and career to the next level. New York fans would fall in love with him and the league would benefit.
13 Jabari Parker: Dallas Mavericks
Unfortunate luck and bad injuries have ruined the first couple of years of Jabari Parker’s career. The Milwaukee Bucks love his talent but the inability to stay on the court makes him expendable. Milwaukee is building around Giannis Antetokounmpo as the face of the franchise and they have other young pieces around him. The Bucks have a big decision to make regarding how they much value Parker and how much they want to contend.
Milwaukee could feasibly let Parker leave and go after someone that makes a bigger impact to help them contend now with the Eastern Conference getting weaker than ever. One team that has been searching many years for a free agency signing to change their franchise is the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki is nearing retirement and the franchise will need a new star to build around. The Mavericks could be the perfect fit for someone like Jabari to find his way in the NBA and harness all his potential.
12 J.J. Redick: Houston Rockets
J.J. Redick shocked the NBA world when joining the Philadelphia 76ers on a one-year contract. The thought process of Redick was to find a spot where he can contribute and make a lot of money without remaining there long term. Redick will help the 76ers progress and find out if they're the right fit for him.
If Philadelphia isn’t the place Redick wants to commit to, he'll look for a new team on the free agent market. One team that expressed interest in Redick this summer before he signed elsewhere was the Houston Rockets. There’s a theory that he only signed a one-year contract so he can sign with the Rockets next season if they look like a contender. If Chris Paul is still there, he can reunite with him. If Paul leaves, he'll start alongside James Harden in the back court. Regardless, Houston is a great fit for Redick next summer.
11 LaMarcus Aldridge: Portland Trail Blazers
LaMarcus Aldridge deciding to leave the Portland Trail Blazers for a chance at a NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs turned out to be a huge regret. All reports indicate that Aldridge and the Spurs have been a poor fit with the team looking to trade him this past summer. Aldridge having to change his playing style to fit into the Spurs offense has hurt his value big time.
On the flip side, Portland is struggling to find a difference maker at any front court position to complement their Superstar backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Don’t be surprised if Aldridge decides to return to the organization that made him happiest. The power forward can rejuvenate his career and help them get better in the Western Conference.
10 Andrew Wiggins: Cleveland Cavaliers
The current rumor of Kyrie Irving demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers stated he listed the Minnesota Timberwolves as a team he’d love to play for. Andrew Wiggins was the last number one draft pick that Cleveland traded to Minnesota but he could be heading back. Point guard is arguably the most important position in the NBA today and the Timberwolves could be going for Kyrie.
A realistic situation could see free agent Wiggins take part in a sign and trade to find his way back to Cleveland for Irving. Wiggins is likely going to sign with whichever team has the rights to offer him the most money in his first ever max contract. The money is way more important to young stars cashing in for the first time. We may see the Cavaliers rebuild with Wiggins as their Superstar just a few years after they traded him.
9 Avery Bradley: Philadelphia 76ers
One of the most underrated NBA players going today is Avery Bradley. The argument can be made that Bradley was the Boston Celtics best overall player during the recent postseason run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Bradley plays superb defense to match his impressive offense. Boston traded him to the Detroit Pistons after signing Gordon Hayward.
It's highly unlikely that Bradley will be staying in Detroit long-term unless the franchise wows him this season. As a free agent next summer, the safe bet is on him looking for a new NBA home. The Philadelphia 76ers will have a lot of cap space available, especially if they don’t re-sign Redick. Philadelphia would be better suited going after a better two-way player and Bradley is the right man for their shooting guard position. Bradley would lead on defense and defer to the young stars on offense.
8 DeAndre Jordan: Brooklyn Nets
The Los Angeles Clippers saw their world change when it became clear Chris Paul no longer wanted to play there. Paul being traded to the Houston Rockets saw them enter a new phase. One of the reactions was to put DeAndre Jordan on the trade block around the time of the draft. No deal was made but Jordan will be a free agent next summer.
Most NBA summers only have one big man in their lineup and Blake Griffin is locked up in the long term in Los Angeles. Jordan is likely going to find a new team. The franchise with the most cap space available and a need at center is the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn needs a new big man after dealing Brook Lopez to the Los Angeles Lakers for D’Angelo Russell. The combination of Russell and Jordan could be what the Nets build around after their past few years of disaster.
7 Isaiah Thomas: San Antonio Spurs
For whatever reason, no NBA team ever seems truly sold on Isaiah Thomas. The Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns each traded him not believing his success could last in the long-term. Thomas proved them wrong by leading the Boston Celtics franchise towards the top of the Eastern Conference. After finishing in the top 5 of MVP voting, you’d assume everyone was sure he’s the man to lead the franchise, but there’s still doubt.
Various Boston outlets have reported Danny Ainge wants an upgrade with a better overall player as the top name. Thomas could be let go in favor of another point guard if the Celtics find a bigger name. The next destination of Thomas would have to be on another contender after tasting success with Boston. One perennial contender that is looking for a point guard is the Spurs. San Antonio is on the verge of major changes and signing Thomas could be the first big move.
6 DeMarcus Cousins: Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have a lot of cap space and a couple of young assets to build something special. Devin Booker looks like he's going to blossom into a superstar as soon as this coming season. Phoenix has dreams of signing LeBron James but that remains highly unlikely. However, they'll still be able to offer big money to other free agents on the market.
DeMarcus Cousins is a very interesting name hitting free agency in 2018. The New Orleans Pelicans acquired Cousins last season but the fit with Anthony Davis does not look like something that can work long term in the current landscape. Cousins is most likely leaving in free agency if the team doesn’t prove to be a contender. Phoenix offers a great situation for him to become part of a Superstar duo that could be threat in a few seasons.
5 Chris Paul: Boston Celtics
As mentioned earlier, the Boston Celtics badly want a huge Superstar. The All-Star trio of Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford is great, but there will be plenty of bigger names available next summer. Danny Ainge could easily give Thomas the boot in chase of a better point guard. Chris Paul is still one of the top at his position as he reaches the end of his prime.
The presence of Paul not only adds a better facilitator and defender, but he can convince another Superstar to join the time going forward. Boston needs more help if they want to reach the NBA Finals and top the Golden State Warriors. Paul would get the best chance at winning a NBA Championship before his career ends. The Houston Rockets hope to have him long-term after their trade but sharing the ball handling duties with James Harden is something that could turn into a disaster.
4 Paul George: Los Angeles Lakers
One move that seems quite obvious next summer is Paul George signing with the Los Angeles Lakers. Before the Lakers even drafted Lonzo Ball, rumors broke that George was dead set on heading to Los Angeles when his contract ends in 2018. The Oklahoma City Thunder acquired George in a trade with the hopes of contending this season and convincing him to sign long-term.
It still remains more than likely that George is going to join the Lakers. George wants the special aura of being a member of the Lakers. The cap space situation of the Lakers would allow them to sign two top tier Superstars to pair with the promising Lonzo. George badly wants to be a Laker and the potential of contending for a title with them is right there.
3 Russell Westbrook: Los Angeles Clippers
Russell Westbrook had one of the all-time great NBA regular seasons averaging a triple double and winning the MVP Award. The lack of a strong team behind Westbrook however made it unclear how they would compete for a title in the near future. Paul George joining the roster is huge, but as mentioned, he's likely leaving after one season.
Westbrook may very well join him in switching teams as a free agent. Sam Presti is already trying to work out an extension with upcoming restricted free agent Westbrook, but it doesn’t appear the MVP is sure of his future yet. Don’t be surprised if both parties come to the decision of working out a sign and trade. The Los Angeles Clippers have a great roster but lack a point guard without Chris Paul. Westbrook heading back to California following his college days would see him pair with Blake Griffin and solid role players to contend for a ring.
2 Kevin Durant: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Golden State Warriors will be the overwhelming favorites to win the NBA Championship every single their star core of Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are together. It's improbable to see Durant leave a potential dynasty teaming with his friends in a place he loves to live. There's only one realistic option for him aside from Golden State in 2018.
If Durant is coming off two dominant NBA Championship wins in a row and wants a new challenge, his former team will always want him back. Durant’s reputation and perception in the league is negative due to leaving the team he grew with to ring chase. The decision of LeBron James to head back to Cleveland after leaving them erased all negative narratives about him. Durant heading back to OKC would do the same after he won his rings in Golden State.
1 LeBron James: Los Angeles Lakers
The biggest story of 2018 free agency has already started with rumors of LeBron James wanting to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers organization appears to be falling in a downward spiral between Golden State dominating them in the NBA Finals and Kyrie Irving requesting a trade. LeBron already fulfilled his goal of bringing a trophy to Cleveland and would receive less criticism when leaving this time.
The juiciest rumor out there right now claims James is very much interested in the Los Angeles Lakers situation. As mentioned earlier, Paul George is likely signing there as a free agent. Young assets Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle all have massive potential and could even be used as trade assets for another Superstar. LeBron forming a super team on the NBA’s biggest franchise is more likely than you realize.