One of the craziest offseasons in NBA history is now behind us and it's very interesting to see how the changes that occurred on team rosters are affecting the way they play. For some of the superstars we'll have to wait a little bit longer to make a judgement, because the injury bug has bitten a surprisingly high amount of them at the beginning of the season. As proven by this summer, NBA teams are not going to stand by and just let the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers run the league as they please. If anything, they're willing to put up a good fight and that in itself is praiseworthy.
Dependent on the outcome of this season, we might see an even crazier offseason in 2018. If the Warriors and Cavaliers make the Finals - which is the safest call you can make regarding this season - expect other teams to get even more aggressive in free agency and in the trading department as well. This list collects the most interesting players that might leave their teams and either join a contender or just earn a lot more money than on their current team.
This list collects the eight superstars that are most likely to leave their teams after this season and seven that'll likely move in 2019. Once again, these predictions are very much dependent on this season's outcome.
15 2018: J.J. Redick
This year J.J. Redick is getting paid for mentoring the young Sixers, but next year expect him to come back to actual title contention. The shooting guard played particularly well for the Clippers and he shouldn't be wasting his time on a team that's just now trying to make it big. Instead, with his superior spacing and shooting ability, he should join more skilled players, like LeBron James, James Harden or Giannis Antetokoumpo, who drive into the lane and kick-back the ball to the open man. Redick should be that open man. He wouldn't make as much as he does on the Sixers though, and signing such a big deal was really smart of him, because it allows him to leave after just one year.
14 2019: Klay Thompson
Shocked? Not really. Klay Thompson is an integral element of the Golden State Warriors and has carried the team on numerous nights. The problem is that because of being on a team with Steph, KD and Draymond, Klay is the most overlooked member of the Warriors. Klay is probably cool with that, but eventually he may want to set out on his own. The man is one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, but doesn't have enough court time and space to prove it. If he would be the first option on a team, he would likely average 30+ points a game and earn more respect, maybe even MVP considerations. Maybe he will be tired of living in the shadows and cash in to help a new team win.
13 2018: Avery Bradley
The Detroit Pistons aren't going to be very good this year. They may make the playoffs, but in a broader perspective that doesn't mean much - this team needs to make major moves in order to be competitive. The fans see this as well and show their discontent by not attending their home games, despite the team having a brand new arena to play in. Moving from a very organized and popular franchise in Boston to Stan Van Gundy's Pistons must've been tough on Avery Bradley. Expect this great defender to be on the move in the summer, preferably joining a team that can allow him to play to his abilities.
12 2019: Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Buckets is struggling a bit with his role on the Timberwolves offence, but this isn't the reason why he's likely to leave Timberwolves. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins are already pretty close as teammates, so expect Butler to be the odd man out here. While it would be good to build a big three in Minnesota, and both KAT and Wiggins deserve some team success, the thing is... Butler tends to clash with his teammates. When on the Bulls he clashed with Joakim Noah and Rajon Rondo. Yes, both players are not the easiest to get along with and Butler was presumably too concerned with making the Bulls his team, but what if the same thing happens in Minnesota. Butler is an alpha-dog and is not particularly keen on following others.
11 2018: Brook Lopez
Blame this on the unlikely rise of Kyle Kuzma, who has similar numbers to Lopez, but is younger and will earn a lot less than the California native. Lopez is a great guy and a good center, yet because of a number of injuries his potential is pretty much limited. That's why it doesn't make much sense for the Lakers to sign him for another couple of seasons and spend the money they will need to lure in Paul George. They may try to keep Lopez in order to develop Kuzma slowly, however it's doubtful that Lopez will accept the role of caretaker. He's still a top-ten centre in the NBA.
10 2019: Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic has hit a wall. He's got so comfortable playing for the Magic that it's unlikely he'll get any better once he stays there. The 2015-16 season was one of his worst and last year he came back to form, but nobody seemed to notice, because he's not on a particularly good team and they're not going anywhere anytime soon. If the centre decides to finally get to the playoffs (that sole game for the Sixers in his rookie year doesn't count), he should leave the Magic and do it sooner than in 2019. A one dimensional player, Vucevic is reminiscent of, although inferior to Brook Lopez. He needs to be surrounded with better talent to get on that level.
9 2018: Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford is now the sixth-man for the Timberwolves after playing for the Clippers for five seasons. When his deal is up, the shooting guard will be 38 and you can expect him to go on a championship hunt in the summer. He won't lose his shooting touch next season, but won't be good for much more. Expect him to join either the Warriors or the Cavaliers. I mean, why not? It's not like he has anything to prove, his NBA career was very solid and the only thing he seems to lack is a title. One of these two teams can easily get him that.
8 2019: D'Angelo Russell
The point guard joined the Nets this summer and he will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019, but it's doubtful he'll stay if the team fails to surround him with enough help. Now that Jeremy Lin is injured, Russell is solely responsible for the team's backcourt and it seems that his second NBA season will already be the one that shows what he's made of. If he succeeds, maybe he'll stay. If not, he'll leave and try to shut out the memories of his failure. The best way to do it is to get a fresh start on a new team - something Russell needed to experience already during his professional basketball career after his rookie season.
7 2018: Jabari Parker
Parker is a very promising player, but he's constantly injured. He played 25 games in his rookie year, 76 in the next, and 51 in 2016-17. This is the last year of his rookie deal and he's projected to hit the court in February. Because of his injury Antetokoumpo was moved to power forward - Parker's position - and he's been spectacular, already earning MVP consideration. The Bucks seem to be playing particularly well together, Thon Maker is much better, Khris Middleton is finally healthy, so there's really no point in keeping Parker, let alone for the money he'll likely demand.
6 2019: Dirk Nowitzki
The Mavericks won't likely skip Dirk's team option in 2018, as his two-year $10M contract is really a huge bargain and you won't get the aging star for less. 2019 is a different story and it seems that one of the best scorers in NBA history will likely finally retire from the game, especially if the Mavericks continue to be a work in progress as they are now. Nowitzki is basically a relic, so it's probably better for him to leave the game on his own terms and on the team that drafted him. He has an MVP title, a championship ring and he's a future Hall of Famer. What else can one want from an NBA career?
5 2018: DeMarcus Cousins
As much as Boogie and The Brow, or Fire and Ice, want to make it work in New Orleans, for his own sake Cousins should just leave. Dell Demps is one of the worst executives in the NBA right now, as exhibited by his constant failures to surround Anthony Davis with a decent supporting cast. Demps overpays for mediocre players and the team is far worse because of his signings. Boogie's been in a similar situation in Sacramento. The Kings wasted away his early years and turned him into a very frustrated player. In order to avoid the negativity, Cousins should leave. Davis on his part has been extremely loyal and went out of his way to keep the team competitive. He probably won't demand a trade once Boogie's gone, but if he does, it'll be at least understandable.
4 2019: LeBron James
Yes, he has a player option for this year, but seeing the roster... why should he leave? The Cavs did everything they could to stay competitive, while simultaneously keeping King James comfortable. That's why James is very unlikely to leave in 2018, especially with the Nets pick coming in. Once he arrives, James will have time to evaluate the new guy on the team and turn him into "his" rookie. 2019 is a completely different story, as then Kevin Love will have the right to exercise his player option and James will have one year to evaluate "his" rookie. Iman Shumpert will also free over $10M (he has a player option for 2018, but expect him to keep that - no one is giving him that much money), so the Cavs should get a quality role player in his place. It's doubtful that James would leave his hometown team and tarnish his legacy, but don't count anything out.
3 2018: Chris Paul
Chris Paul is one of the best point guards of his generation, I think we can all agree on that. But if he wants to be considered the best or at least solidify his Hall of Fame candidacy, he needs one thing - an NBA championship. That's why you can probably expect Paul joining up with James in Cleveland if the team fails to re-sign Thomas. The members of the Banana Boat Crew (Paul, Anthony, James and Wade) numerous times expressed their desire to play competitive basketball together in the near future and it seems that in 2018 they'll have their best chance yet.
2 2019: Dwight Howard
Howard is still regarded as one of the best defenders in the NBA and he earns a hefty paycheck thanks to that opinion, but let's be honest - his skills are constantly diminishing and he won't be better once this contract is up. The deal Howard signed with the Hawks was the last big deal of his career, he won't make more and he shouldn't either. He was traded to the Hornets after just one season and it's hard to predict if he's still there in 2019 when his deal is up. That's why you shouldn't expect the centre to stay on the team he'll be on by the end of next season. If he wants to become an NBA champion, he'll sign on a better team for far less money - he's eating up too much cap space to be a member of a contender with his current deal.
1 2018: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George are adjusting quite well to playing alongside Russell Westbrook in OKC, but it seems that Anthony is more likely than George to leave the team because he's much older than his teammates and his championship window is closing quickly. He's a great second scoring option, despite not being as mobile as in his prime. Melo is 33 years old, but he still has some 2-3 years of solid basketball in him and can be good as a starting small/power forward on any contending team. He seems happy with the Thunder, but, just like Paul, Melo needs a ring to solidify his Hall of Fame legacy.
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