Halfway through the NBA season and it has already been among the most intriguing and exciting that we have witnessed in recent memory. There haven't been many trades to speak of thus far, but the stiff completion in both conferences has made for a remarkable year that will only get better as the season unfolds. With the trade deadline coming up in February, many franchises will begin shuffling their rosters in hopes of assembling the best possible team for the postseason and going forward.
As for the worst teams in the league, they may choose to part ways with veteran players in order to free more playing time for their prospects, so there will certainly be many releases to come, some of whom could go on to make a difference for a playoff team. Teams prefer trading players in order to get some assets in return, although they have to consider a buyout as the deadline approaches if they can't find any suitors on the market. There are already a few players on the trading block who may be released within the next few weeks, so it will be interesting to see their next destination.
And once the season concludes, the NBA is heading towards one of the best free agent classes in the year, featuring a number of All-Star players. Based on speculation regarding their future, roster, cap space, as well as team fit, these players will have an important career-changing decision to make in the summer. Here are 10 NBA releases we will see before the season ends (and 10 signings we will see this summer)
20 Release Before Season Ends: JR Smith
Since voicing his wish to be traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers early into the season, J.R. Smith has been sitting out as he awaits being sent to a new team. The Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans were said to be interested in acquiring him, although both teams ended up passing on Smith. Unless the Cavs can finally a trade partner, then they will be releasing Smith before the end of the season. He is expected to join a playoff team once he becomes available on the open market and several teams will surely inquire about his services by then.
19 Signing In Summer: Jimmy Butler - Brooklyn Nets
The Philadelphia 76ers are still hopeful that Jimmy Butler will re-sign in the summer, but it is appearing unlikely with every passing week. Butler is already upset with the team as well as his role on the offensive end. Following a confrontation with head coach Brett Brown, many sources now believe that Butler will be on his way out come July 2019. Butler doesn't appear to be interested in being a second or third option on the team, so he will likely sign with a team that builds around him - which explains as to why there has been mutual interest between himself and the Brooklyn Nets.
18 Release Before Season Ends: DeMarre Carroll
Now in the final year of his contract, DeMarre Carroll is unlikely to return to the Brooklyn Nets in the summer. The two sides seem to be in agreement regarding the future, and that is why the Nets are expected to release him before the trade deadline. Given that he has $15.4 million deal left for the season, it would be complicated to find a trade that works for the Nets without taking back a bad contract. The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are both expected to pursue Carroll should he become available as both teams need a 3-D player.
17 Signing In Summer: Tobias Harris - Utah Jazz
Despite an impressive year for The Utah Jazz in 2017-18, they are currently out of the Playoffs picture. They had hoped to take the next big step this season, but the team has been disappointing compared to pre-season expectations. Donovan Mitchell hasn't progressed as well as the Jazz anticipated, and it is evident that they need more assistance if they wish to become a contender. Tobias Harris would be a great fit on the Jazz as he would fit into their offensive flow, and since the two sides have had mutual interest since last season - an agreement may take place in July.
16 Release Before Season Ends: Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony is still on the Houston Rockets roster as of today as the team explores possible trade scenarios. He hasn't generated much interest from other teams, making a trade unlikely at this point. Anthony will likely be released from the roster around the All-Star break to allow him to find a new home for the remainder of the year. Some possible destinations are the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers - all of whom are said to have interest in Anthony. As he seeks a consistent and important role on his next destination, it makes Anthony's future unpredictable.
15 Signing In Summer: Derrick Rose - Orlando Magic
Despite putting up remarkable numbers off the bench, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been hesitant to move Derrick Rose into the starting lineup. Next season, he will aim to find a team that would agree to sign him as the starting Point Guard, and the Orlando Magic are currently in need of an upgrade at the position. Rose's history with injuries may limit his offers in the market, so it's likely that he will base his decision based on his role going forward. It's a low risk, high reward for the Magic as they may finally find the answer to their trouble at PG.
14 Release Before Season Ends: Zach Randolph
It's now only a matter of time before the Sacramento Kings move on from the Zach Randolph experiment. He had a decent season for the team last year, but given their stacked frontcourt, it is no wonder that he has taken a backseat to their prospects. Randolph has been involved in trade talks throughout the season although not many teams have shown willingness to give up assets in return. Once he gets waived from the Kings in the upcoming weeks, Randolph will most likely sign with a contender in hopes of winning a ring before calling it a career.
13 Signing In Summer: Nikola Vucevic - San Antonio Spurs
For the past two years, the Orlando Magic tried to move Nikola Vucevic although they couldn't find a landing spot for him. This season, the Magic may come to regret their past moves, as Vucevic is having the best season of his career. Come July, he will become an unrestricted free agent and Vucevic is rumored to be ready to move on from the franchise. Many teams will surely show plenty of interest in his services since he is the ideal big man in today's league, and the San Antonio Spurs are expected to be favorites in acquiring him via free agency.
12 Release Before Season Ends: Jamal Crawford
Jamal Crawford is currently having the worst season of his career since his rookie year, averaging just 6.5 points while shooting 35 % from the field and 28 % from three-point land. He had struggled to find a team throughout the summer and wasn't picked up until the beginning of the season when the Phoenix Suns picked him up. Crawford is unlikely to finish the season as a member of the team since the Suns have no need for him going forward. The team will look to free up playing time for their prospects during the second half of the season, which means that Crawford will find himself a free agent once again.
11 Signing InSummer: DeMarcus Cousins - Dallas Mavericks
DeMarcus Cousins has the most important decision of his career coming up in the summer. Once his contract with the Golden State Warriors expires, Cousins is guaranteed to leave the team as he seeks a large deal and a bigger role. His one-year stay with the Warriors isn't expected to extend beyond this season, so many teams will attempt to land Cousins if he proves to be healthy. Dallas Mavericks will aim to improve their roster this summer in hopes of returning to the Playoffs, and Cousins would make a massive addition to their frontcourt, making it a suitable deal for both sides.
10 Release Before Season Ends: Jabari Parker
Jabari Parker has been sitting out since mid-December due to disagreements with management, making only two appearances for the Chicago Bulls in that period. As they continue searching for a potential trade, the Bulls have found it tough to move Parker since he is signed to a $20 million contract for the remainder of the season. Rumors suggest that they will eventually reach a buyout agreement since teams are unwilling to take on Parker's current salary via a trade. While the Bulls have lost hope in Parker, he could still succeed in a different role for a better team.
9 Signing In Summer: Kyrie Irving - New York Knicks
At the beginning of the season, Kyrie Irving indicated his wish to remain a member of the Boston Celtics beyond this season. The team has been underwhelming thus far with disappointing efforts on the court. Predicted to top the Eastern Conference, the Celtics have found themselves in the fifth spot. According to rumors, there is mutual interest between Irving and the New York Knicks, which may result in a long-term deal. Not only is Irving aiming to play for a big market, but he also wants a chance to compete for the next few years - and that is a possibility given the Knicks' cap space.
8 Release Before Season Ends: Kenneth Faried
Kenneth Faried had a promising start to his career that made him among the best prospects in the NBA. Following a successful stint with the Denver Nuggets, he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets where he has failed to replicated past years' performances. Faried will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer although it is looking as if he may finish the season with a different team. He is currently only receiving 9.8 minutes per game, increasing rumors that the Nets may buy him out in the next two months. Faried could still be a useful big man off the bench in limited minutes as he has shown at times this year.
7 Signing In Summer: Kemba Walker - Los Angeles Lakers
In one of the better free agent classes, Kemba Walker is expected to generate plenty of interest following a brilliant season with the Charlotte Hornets. His current team will do its best to retain Walker's services beyond this year, but Walker may be looking for a way out due to lack of help around him. He has been linked with Los Angeles Lakers throughout the year and may end up rocking the purple and gold as soon as next season. LeBron James is also said to be interested in playing alongside Walker, making it a likely scenario for a deal to take place.
6 Release Before Season Ends: Vince Carter
Vince Carter is getting closer towards the end of his career despite insisting that he may return for one more season. As the year unwinds, his minutes will only decrease for the Atlanta Hawks as the team looks to hand more playing time to their younger players. It isn't an ideal situation for the veteran who may not want to warm the bench for one of the worst teams in the NBA. At this point in his career, Carter could still have a good game from time to time, which is good enough for a playoff team that is looking to add an experienced player.
5 Signing In Summer: Khris Middleton - Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings spent the past decade in the lottery without any direction in sight, but they have finally shown promising signs this year. With a number of impressive prospects on their roster, the Kings could be a move away from establishing themselves as a Playoff team for many years to come. Khris Middleton may not be the most popular upcoming free agent, but he would be more than enough to push the Kings in taking the next step. Kings have the cap space to attract Middleton away from the Milwaukee Bucks, as well as a bigger role on the team.
4 Release Before Season Ends: Robin Lopez
The Chicago Bulls were expected to trade Robin Lopez during the season since he doesn't mesh with their future plans. While he is having a down year due to lack of minutes, Lopez would still be a positive addition to several teams. He has shown the ability to adjust to his role while contributing on both ends of the floor, so Lopez won't find himself short of potential suitors once he is released. It is now only a matter of time before he becomes a free agent as the Bulls haven't been able to offload him via trade in previous months.
3 Signing In Summer: Kevin Durant - New York Knicks
Kevin Durant has been heavily linked with the New York Knicks in recent months, as many believe that he is ready to move on from the Golden State Warriors. With two championships already won, and a third likely on the way, it wouldn't benefit Durant much to remain with the franchise since his legacy is already under scrutiny for signing with them in the first place. The Knicks have the cap space to sign Durant to a maximum contract, while also recruiting another top free agent such as Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler to assemble the NBA's new Big 3 alongside Kristaps Porzingis.
2 Release Before Season Ends: Chandler Parsons
In the past three seasons, Chandler Parsons has played a combined of 73 games for the Memphis Grizzlies. He made three appearances this season before sitting out due to nagging injuries, although the Grizzlies opted to have him remain sidelined despite being cleared to return. Parsons is now away from the team and hoping to be dealt to a new destination, which has proven to be a complicated task for the Grizzlies as Parsons has one more year on his contract. Given their lack of interest in bringing him back, they will have to reach a buyout agreement prior to the end of this season.
1 Signing In Summer: Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard will give the Toronto Raptors an opportunity to present their pitch, although reports continue to note that he wants to play in Los Angeles. Given that Leonard has no interest in teaming up with LeBron James, it makes the Clippers clear favorites to acquire him in free agency. Clippers already have an impressive roster that is currently competing for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and the addition of Leonard would make them a contender. If Leonard is truly set on playing for his hometown, the Clippers remain favorites over the Lakers for the time being.