LeBron James is dominating the NBA playoffs on his own, the Toronto Raptors have disappointed their fans once again, and it seems Golden State is going to win it all for the third time in four years. I think it's fair to say that nothing has truly changed in the NBA.
But while nothing has changed in the playoffs, let's talk about some potential changes coming this offseason. Some major NBA superstars could find themselves on new rosters come July, whether it be through free agency, trade, or demanding to be moved because their current team has no idea what they're doing. So today, let's try to look at 15 players who could be on the move this offseason and where they might find themselves going.
There's not really any ground rules for this list, although every player on here has been rumored at some point to be headed elsewhere come next season. They could be under team control for another few years or they could be a free agent after this season. From potential MVP candidates to young, rising stars, let's take a glimpse at who could be in a new jersey next year.
We may as well start off with someone who sells a lot of jerseys, right?
15 LeBron James - Philadelphia 76ers
Even if Cleveland winds up winning the NBA Finals, this season has shown not only that LeBron James is the greatest player of this generation, but is easily the most valuable. At 33-years-old, LeBron was carrying the Cavaliers night after night because it was just him - and when healthy, Kevin Love - making shots, grabbing rebounds, dealing assists, and even playing defense. Cleveland did add some youth at the trade deadline in Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, but will that be enough to bring King James back for another season in Cleveland?
I personally think so, but what if LeBron decided he want to try going someplace else? What if LeBron wanted to take his talents to a younger, stronger team which can truly contend?
Would the basketball world explode if LeBron signed with the Philadelpha 76ers?
They most likely would, even if it was only on a one-year deal with a player option for the second year. You'd be putting LeBron and Ben Simmons together, along with Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz - if they can stay healthy - while also adding someone in this year's NBA Draft. I don't know how realistic this is, especially with LeBron most likely staying in Cleveland, but you have to admit this would be fun.
14 Kawhi Leonard - L.A. Lakers
There's currently a lot wrong between Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, who have publicly feuded over his rehab from a hamstring injury and the All-Star training away from the team. It doesn't help matters that there are several questions about the Spurs' plans for the future, including Gregg Popovich's future after his wife died last month. Put simply, a divorce between Leonard and the Spurs is coming, though we have no idea how it's going to end. Will it be amicable with the two just splitting up this summer, or will the problems linger into next year in hopes of maintaining the marriage for the kids - we mean, the fans and the hopes of winning it all?
Four possible spots have mainly been outlined for Leonard so far - the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Philadelphia 76ers - and out of those four, the Lakers make the most sense. Los Angeles has the assets to give up and would certainly have to pay enough of a price that a Western Conference rival feels its enough. Does that mean we're going to see Ball in the Family airing live from the San Antonio Rodeo? I need to see LaVar Ball squaring up with a bull.
13 Paul George - Brooklyn Nets
Is it fair to say the Big 3 era in Oklahoma City failed? Given the Thunder didn't even make it out of the first round despite building a team of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, the answer almost certainly has to be yes. George can come back for another season after playing well with Westbrook - trust me, we'll get to Anthony shortly - but there are plenty of other teams out where the All-Star can go back to being the lead player and having the franchise centered around him.
Some people may call me crazy for this, but how about Paul George heading to the Brooklyn Nets this summer?
There have been rumors that George could be a good fit there because he shares the same agent with D'Angelo Russell, not to mention the lower portion of the Eastern Conference is so weak that a George-led Nets team could automatically be good enough for the No. 6 seed. No, the Nets wouldn't immediately be NBA Finals contenders and wouldn't even be the third-best team in the Atlantic Division, but it'd be an opportunity for George to be the No. 1 guy again on a team in need of a superstar and with some interesting young players. Why not?
12 Carmelo Anthony - Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City thought they were getting a rejunivated Carmelo Anthony when they traded for him in September, although it'd be a Carmelo who was fine with potentially taking a reduced role alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George. What the Thunder instead got was a player who looked miserable and kept taking shot after shot even when he was cold. Anthony tried to be the No. 1 guy on a team where he was the third and sometimes fourth option, clashing with teammates in the process and setting himself up to be on his third team in four years.
There is a very real chance that Carmelo Anthony is going to be stuck in Oklahoma City next year because of all the players on this list, his future value is so low right now. There's two teams I see likely for Anthony, though both are for very different reasons; the first is the Brooklyn Nets as a potential starter and sixth man, as Anthony does come from that area (although he infamously has Baltimore ties) and it'd be a homecoming for the former Knick. The second option is Houston, where he'd have to take a cheap deal to come off the bench for a title contender. The Carmelo Anthony era in the NBA is sadly not going to end well.
11 Hassan Whiteside - Cleveland Cavaliers
Whiteside clashed with coaches and the Miami front office this season, eventually being fined for a rant to reporters about his playing time. By the time Miami's season ended in Philadelphia, it was almost guaranteed that Whiteside would be on a new team next season. The Heat don't have much of a need for the dominant big man, who is still inconsistent and tries to do too much. Before Miami winds up in basketball purgatory, trading Whiteside is going to be on the agenda this summer - as will likely ridding themselves of Tyler Johnson and, potentially, Goran Dragic for the right return - but where will the fan favorite go?
I've said this before, but I love the Cleveland Cavaliers as a potential landing spot for Whiteside.
You'd be putting a defensive beast on a team in desperate need of, well, defense and he'd give the Cavaliers a Big 3 again...if LeBron James stays, of course.
In the case that Cleveland isn't an option because of either assets or LeBron leaving, the Phoenix Suns could be an interesting option as well, although there's another center later on this list that I think would be a better fit for them.
10 Kemba Walker - L.A. Lakers
Well, the Charlotte Hornets are headed into basketball purgatory, so they're going to have to figure out what to do with Kemba Walker. Most likely, they're going have to trade Kemba (and yes, he's earned the first-name basis) way too late after having opportunities to trade him this winter. With the current point guard depth in the NBA, I'm admittedly not even sure what major teams would try to make a trade for Kemba. Well, I can think of one, actually. This is where it's going to get complex, my friends, so try to work with me here.
The Los Angeles Lakers already made one attempt at trading for a point guard this season when they acquired Isaiah Thomas (more on him later) to play alongside Lonzo Ball, so I'm not so sure if they'd do it again. I do like the idea of Kemba Walker on the Lakers with Lonzo maybe seeing some time at the two, though there's different variables as to how this would work. The other team in Los Angeles may want to take a flier on Walker as well, even with the Clippers signing Lou Williams to a multi-year extension during the season.
9 Isaiah Thomas - New York Knicks
I can't be alone in thinking Isaiah Thomas still has a chance to do major things in this league. This year was way, way too much stress on Thomas and a lot of it was unnecessary, though he could've handled a lot of it better. I'll let all of you debate that in the comments because Thomas is turning into a league-wide punching bag, so let's focus on the facts. Thomas was an MVP candidate last season and really did nothing this season with either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Los Angeles Lakers, in part because of a hip injury and in part because of other situations. So, what's next?
Normally, I'd suggest the New York Knicks because they're always in the market for players like Thomas, so we'll use them here.
Frank Ntilikina didn't show too much in his rookie season and Emmanuel Mudiay, as high as his ceiling might still be, is also a bit unproven.
It'd be the total Knicks thing to go out and add yet another point guard, yet I have faith in David Fizdale doing the right thing and helping Thomas regain his old form. Or, Thomas will somehow wind up back with the Celtics.
8 Marcus Smart - It's Complicated
Celtic fans love Marcus Smart and the Celtics seem to really love him too, but do all sides really want to keep him around with Kryie Irving as their point guard of the future. Some of you may say the answer is yes because Irving has problems staying healthy, but others will say that Smart needs to get a fresh start somewhere else. Where are some of those places, you ask?
There's actually several fits I can think of:
- Miami Heat: If the Heat decide to trade Goran Dragic or Tyler Johnson this offseason in an effort to relieve themselves of some cap space issues, would they try to land Smart? It's certainly possible. Miami will have options this offseason of fixing themselves, but they need to be smart.
- New York Knicks: We spoke about them needing a point guard earlier and they've been tied to Celtics' point guards before. Remember when they tried to trade for Rajon Rondo? Multiple times?
- Orlando Magic: I'm not quite sure if Smart would necessarily want to go to basketball purgatory, although I will say a Marcus Smart for Aaron Gordon trade would be fairly interesting for both sides. It all comes down to if you'd rather have Aaron Gordon or Marcus Morris.
7 Derrick Favors - Brooklyn Nets
If you're a Jazz fan, nothing. If you're a player on the Jazz, nothing. I do think the time has come for Derrick Favors to find a new home outside of Utah and it's something we nearly saw happen at this year's trade deadline. Favors still fits that traditional, old-school big man who can't shoot threes but can make plays in the paint, which will be appealing to some teams but not others.
We know about the Chicago Bulls having shown interest, but does that mean they'd go for him again this summer?
Probably, but the Bulls don't always make the most obvious move. I still think a return to the Brooklyn Nets would be a great option for all parties. Favors started his career with the-then New Jersey Nets before being traded to the Jazz in the Deron Williams move (stop laughing, the Nets ruined things later on) and the team does have a need for another big man. I wouldn't be surprised if the Nets simply trade for a big man who is worth some money if it means getting another young prospect - something like Tyson Chandler if it meant also getting Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender. Favors to the Nets? Why not?
6 Marc Gasol - Houston Rockets
I could spend ten hours talking about how bad the Grizzlies are going to be in the next few years, but I'll instead try to do it in nine. Remember when Memphis was always a dark horse NBA Finals contender because of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol? Now, Conley can't stay healthy and is more-or-less overrated - if only because he's doing nothing with how much money he's making - and I have no idea what's going to happen with Gasol. Do we want to try to figure it out?
The most realistic fit is Memphis because, again, I have no idea who would take a chance on him at this point. Gasol is no longer who he once was, so I'm going to put the super deep Houston Rockets here. Houston can trade Ryan Anderson and some role players to make the salaries match and be more fair, while Gasol would be an awesome fit with James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela. And no, the Rockets aren't going to have to trade Capela to get an older, run-down Gasol. When Capela is included in the trade which brings Gasol to Houston, I will eat my laptop with hot sauce.
5 Tyreke Evans - Milwaukee Bucks
Why did the Grizzlies not trade Tyreke Evans at the deadline when his value was so high? There would have been at least one team out there willing to trade a first-round pick for him, so what gives? Now, Evans will almost certainly be joining another team this offseason on a loftier contract, but the Grizzlies are going to pay the price for wanting to be stuck in basketball purgatory. What's going to happen next with Evans? Let's try to figure it out.
The New York Knicks are a cheap option (no pun intended) since Evans was signed by Fizdale last summer, but I like Milwaukee as an interesting option. Tony Snell is not a bad option at the two, though he is still a little inconsistent for my liking. Maybe the Bucks could afford to roll with Snell and Evans essentially splitting time at the two, with one coming off the bench but still seeing plenty of minutes, and it'd be smarter than making a major move for a shooting guard. Evans will realistically get a two or three-year deal this offseason without being overpaid, which makes perfect sense for the Bucks as they try to win with the Greek Freak.
4 Avery Bradley - Cleveland Cavaliers
Avery Bradley was the less-discussed version of Isaiah Thomas this season, going from starring on the Boston Celtics to struggling with another Eastern Conference team (Detroit Pistons), then being included in a second blockbuster to a Western Conference team in Los Angeles (the Clippers, obviously) where things really didn't improve too much. I think Bradley still has more momentum going forward and that's why he's on this list. I still like Bradley and what he brings to the floor, therefore let's try to find him a new place.
I think the Cleveland Cavaliers or Chicago Bulls would each work here, as both could use a defensive shooting guard and will probably get Bradley cheap.
It's more likely that Bradley would prefer Cleveland given Chicago's current rebuilding, although the Bulls can probably offer more money depending on how certain things this offseason work.
Is it about money, or is it about winning?
And this is yet another situation where the New York Knicks are a perfect match as well, but there are other team besides the Knicks. Who else wants to be optimistic in the current, cynical NBA that Bradley will be able to fix things and regain his old form.
3 DeAndre Jordan - Phoenix Suns
When are the Clippers going to finally part ways with Jordan? They already traded Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, so DeAndre Jordan is clearly next up, as the Clippers try to start over. I'm just concerned that the time for the Clippers to get maximum value in a trade has passed, which leads us to wondering what happens next. Does Los Angeles truly try to build around Jordan for another playoff run or three, or do they decide to find a taker this offseason? I think option one is slightly more realistic right now, though let's look at option two.
I stand by the idea that the Phoenix Suns make the most sense, but I do want to see who they hire as head coach and what their plan is with some of the younger big men they currently already have. Jordan makes so much sense with this roster and would give Devin Booker a second star to play with. I'm sure that'd make Booker thrilled with how frustrated he currently is about the direction the team is taking. Phoenix's time to win under Booker is slowly running out with the angrier he gets, so the time to strike is now for the Suns.
2 Dennis Schroder - San Antonio Spurs
And speaking of the time to strike, now is when the Atlanta Hawks have to make a trade and send Dennis Schroder packing for assets. It's nothing against Schroder, who I've praised in the past many times, but it's what the Hawks need to do if they want to get a rebuild done fairly quickly instead of being stuck in purgatory like the Kings, Magic, or even the Timberwolves were. Or worse, they could be the Knicks. No one wants to be the Knicks!
This is where I'd love to see the San Antonio Spurs potentially make a trade to get another point guard, especially with Tony Parker's career winding down.
Popovich (or whoever is going to replace him if he retires in the coming months) could use Schroder as either a starting point guard and move Dejonte Murray to the bench, or vice versa. Maybe we even see that idea I mentioned the Bucks doing earlier of splitting playing time with two players at the same position. We do also know of Mike Budenholzer's past with the Spurs, so there's always the possibility of him recommending his former point guard to Popovich. This move makes too much sense.
1 Aaron Gordon - Boston Celtics
The Orlando Magic are basketball's version of true purgatory, even more than the New York Knicks. The time is going to have come sooner rather than later where they trade Aaron Gordon and see what they can get in return. If Gordon does want to stay in Orlando, i can't see it happening, not even with a new head coach coming after Scot Skiles was let go. This team has nothing and this roster has nothing, meaning Gordon is their best possible option without him even taking the court.
I did mention the Boston Celtics earlier in a possible Marcus Smart trade, so let's expand on that. Boston currently has Marcus Morris as their main starting power forward, though Gordon would be an awesome addition to the main five and Morris can make plays coming off the bench. Boston is setting themselves up to be contenders for the next decade with the roster they're building and putting Gordon in the green and white would only make things better. If Boston is serious about challenging Golden State for an NBA title, this is the type of move they need to make, even if it means giving up more than Smart.
Which one of these players do you think has the highest chance of leaving their team this offseason? Who do you want most? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!