Summer is almost upon us, and the NBA doesn’t stop. The playoffs are going at full steam, but most people are already talking about next season as if everything was already said and done in the postseason. Teams like the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder are biting their nails off, just imagining what could happen this summer. Teams like the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies have had their minds set on the summer ever since the season began, or at least very early in it. These are teams that made the most out of these last opportunities to tank and try to get the best position possible in the draft. And there is yet another variable that will dictate a lot of how the summer goes. Several teams have enough money and cap space to navigate fairly well during the summer, but many will have to build through the draft or even use the draft in order to get trades and better value to help them win now.
While many storylines will certainly unfold, we are mostly interested today in talking about what will happen to some of the game’s most prominent stars. Long gone are the days when a great player played his entire career in one city. We live in an age in which even All-Stars get traded, and we could very well see all-stars getting traded this summer. So sit back, relax, and check out a few possibilities we entertained for this summer.
15 Kawhi Leonard - Brooklyn Nets
This NBA season has been fantastic, to say the least. However, even as we go through every awesome little thing that happened over these past few months, there is one factor that left NBA fans wanting more. It was the absence of Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs through most of the season. That became especially a problem when the playoffs came around, and Gregg Popovich didn’t have his best player available to play against the reigning defending champions Golden State Warriors.
Many people might claim that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, but those people are probably the ones with very short memory. Everyone who follows the NBA has to remember how the Spurs were well ahead of Golden State last season before Leonard was injured by Zaza Pachulia. But the story here is that the Spurs thought he was okay to play, but apparently, Leonard was the one who didn’t want to get on the court. With that, he became a prime target for trade talk in this upcoming summer. Popovich was clearly not happy with his superstar, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he decided to trade Leonard this summer. Especially if he wants to punish him and send him to a place like Brooklyn, who would die to trade for him.
14 Carmelo Anthony - Denver Nuggets
The Carmelo Anthony experiment did not work out. He was supposed to be that last piece in creating the three-headed dragon of Oklahoma City. However, it only takes a quick look at their season for everyone to realize the trade for Carmelo was probably the worst move Sam Presti made in quite a long time. Carmelo clearly did not adapt to the role Billy Donovan wanted him to play, and in trading for him, Oklahoma City lost a couple of pieces they could have used, especially in the playoffs. Just imagine how different that first-round series against the Jazz would have been if instead of having Anthony sitting on the bench, the Thunder had Enes Kanter helping Steven Adams in the paint against Rudy Gobert. Yes, Gobert would have had a tough time dominating the inside, and Donovan Mitchell surely would not have been able to drive as easily as he did during the entire series. And let’s not even mention how much of a nonfactor Carmelo was on the offensive end.
Regardless of what Paul George decides to do, the one thing OKC can be sure of is that Melo will pick up his $28 million option.
The only answer here for OKC other than finding a way for him to play in a role he would be able to thrive in would be to find a team desperate enough to take the $28 million deal. We could see a team like the Nuggets bringing Melo back and seeing if he can make magic happen again in Denver.
13 Kemba Walker - Orlando Magic
Even before the season was over, there was already talk about the Charlotte Hornets wanting to trade Kemba Walker. And let’s just start by saying that the Hornets saying they wanted to trade Kemba was about as ridiculous as trade rumors get if we are thinking about rational franchises. At the same time, while he was an amazing player, Michael Jordan has proven to the world he is not the greatest when it comes to making roster moves and building his own team. He might have tried to wave off the talk after the trade deadline was over, but if they were shopping him out during the season, you can be sure the Hornets will try to trade Walker during the summer.
Call it a hunch, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see that trade happening during draft night. Yes, if they want to trade their All-Star, they are building for the future, and what better way to get that done cheaper than trading an All-Star for a high draft pick? For example, there are teams like the Orlando Magic, who already have solid cornerstones and would be willing to listen to an offer that could include Walker for their (probable) top-five draft pick this year.
12 Damian Lillard - OKC Thunder
If anyone is to blame for the Portland Trail Blazers going down as easily as they did against the New Orleans Pelicans, it is Damian Lillard. The right thing here would be for this guy to take a step back and look in the mirror just to see how badly he performed during the playoffs. After all, them losing four straight games to New Orleans was no fault of C.J. McCollum, who played his heart out. Jusuf Nurkic did the best he could to contain Anthony Davis inside the paint, and the role players did what they could with the rest of the Pelicans. Meanwhile, Lillard played more than 40 minutes a night, scoring a little over 18 points a game. A drastic contrast to the regular season in which he averaged almost 27 a night.
This is a guy who needs to look in the mirror and see that the fault in losing in the first round was mostly his.
Still, no one should be surprised if the summer came and Lillard decided to do the same thing Kyrie Irving did last year and demand a trade. Going along with something we mentioned before, a trade involving Lillard and Carmelo Anthony would be possible (if the homecoming to Denver doesn't happen). Just throwing that out there.
11 Dennis Schroder - San Antonio Spurs
Nobody can blame the Atlanta Hawks for drafting Dennis Schroder and giving him the keys to the kingdom. He was a prospect with a lot of upside, but it just seems like he didn’t work out. Much of it had to do with how he failed to adapt to a point guard role in this new NBA where every single guard is required to be able to shoot reliably from beyond the arc. As the starting point guard in Atlanta this season, Schroder shot a measly 29 percent. But don’t be fooled, this is a guy who can get his buckets in the paint as, despite his terrible shooting, he still averaged more than 19 points a game. He is a piece that a lot of teams, like the San Antonio Spurs, for example, could use. We mentioned the Spurs because they certainly will be in the market for a new point guard as Tony Parker could be on his way out. There is also the fact that Schroder is the kind of guy who Greg Popovich seems to have a knack for helping improve.
Schroder is a hard worker, and he has improved a ton defensively over these past few years. With the Hawks in 100 percent rebuilding mode, he is one of those guys who will be shipped out, and if he is lucky enough, the Spurs will make a play for him.
10 Hassan Whiteside - Milwaukee Bucks
There are not many guys in the NBA who are as puzzling as Hassan Whiteside. In one night you can watch this kid play and think he is the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal. In other nights he just looks soft. And yeah, it is kind of hard to describe a guy who is 7’0” tall and weighs 265 pounds as soft. By definition, someone who is that big cannot be soft. At the same time, that is exactly how Whiteside looks when he doesn’t want to play up to his potential.
At 28 years old, he is not that young anymore, but if he gets lucky enough to land in a place where the coach believes in him, this is a guy who could help turn a good team into a great one.
The talent is there. Whiteside is as athletic as big guys in the NBA come these days. For God’s sake, he led the NBA in rebounds last season. He was also the 2015-16 blocks champion and was selected to the All-Defensive team that same year. The talent is there.
Whiteside still has a couple years left on his contract, but the tough thing will be finding someone who is willing to take a chance that will ultimately cost about $26 million a year on a guy who is as inconsistent and injury-prone as he is. Depending on what the Bucks do with Jabari Parker, they could have room on their payroll for a guy like Whiteside.
9 Chandler Parsons - Orlando Magic
It's almost beyond comprehension for a casual NBA fan to understand why Chandler Parsons has one of the top 15 salaries in the NBA. Nevertheless, that is just how things are these days. After the salary cap went up, everyone got a huge pay raise, and someone who took massive advantage of that was Parsons. The thing here is that you can’t really blame the Memphis Grizzlies for giving Parsons a deal as lucrative as the one they offered him, which in case you were wondering was a four-year $94 million contract. This was a guy who seemed like he would be able to compete against any other small forward in the league. At 6’10” and 230 pounds, Parsons sure has the body to guard anyone at the three or even the four positions. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, he ended up not being as good as they thought he would be. Not to mention there was also the fact that he suffered a bunch of injuries.
Taking all that in account and putting it together with the fact the Grizzlies will probably have a top three draft pick, they will undoubtedly try to trade Parsons and his contract. With some room to spare on their payroll, we could see the Magic making a play for him.
8 Marc Gasol - OKC Thunder
Still talking about the Grizzlies, we could not help ourselves but entertain the possibility that Marc Gasol could be traded this summer. This would be a tough sell because this guy has such a great relationship with the franchise in Memphis that we find it hard that he would try and push a move away from the Grizzlies. Nevertheless, it is almost a crime that a guy who is as skilled as Gasol never really got a chance to contend for an NBA championship. While his brother, Pau, got awards and championships, Marc had to stay in Memphis and try to do the best with what he had around him. And this guy has been absurd if you really look at it.
He is arguably one of the most skilled centers this league has ever seen, and he doesn’t get the recognition for it. Over this past couple of seasons, he even developed a three-point shot.
At 33 years old, Marc is another guy who is running out of time to contend for a title. And we have the perfect destination for him in mind, Oklahoma City. With their new timeline, Memphis should be okay with taking the Carmelo Anthony contract that would only last for one year. Meanwhile, the Thunder would have a spectacular center to put next to Steven Adams.
7 Wilson Chandler - Philadelphia 76ers
Wilson Chandler is one of those efforts guys every coach loves to have on their team. This guy is a reliable piece on offense, but he gets his money’s worth on the defensive end of the floor. A veteran with more than a decade of NBA experience, this guy would be a no-brainer for an up-and-coming team like the Philadelphia 76ers if they were to refuse to go after the likes of LeBron James and Paul George this summer. The fact that they are going deep into the playoffs and have as much salary cap flexibility as they have puts the 76ers in an interesting spot, to say the least. These guys already have two players who are generational talents in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but they still have enough money to add least one max contract player in the summer. This is just ridiculous.
Still, as we prepare for all kinds of possibilities, we are picturing a summer in which the Sixers decide not to go after the big fish and instead add more reliable pieces around their two cornerstones. With the Denver Nuggets looking to add more young talent, it wouldn’t be weird for them to send Chandler to Philadelphia for a couple of draft picks and a young player.
6 Dwight Howard - New Orleans Pelicans
Oh, Dwight. What would we do in the NBA without Dwight Howard? This guy is beyond comprehension. It doesn’t matter what team you cheer for in the NBA, one of the things you are always looking forward to in a new season is to see what kind of Dwight is going to show up. This guy had so many ups and downs that it is almost impossible to guess what he is going to do next. He went from being a superstar in Orlando, to a locker room destroyer in Los Angeles, to an okay player in Houston, to an irrelevant guy in Atlanta, to back to being a superstar in Charlotte.
Dwight averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game with the Hornets.
Yes, he was one of the silver linings in what was a rather uninspiring season in Charlotte. Well, every season in Charlotte seems to be uninspiring since Michael Jordan took the helm.
Nevertheless, this good season Howard had could mean that some contending teams looking for a good center would be willing to listen to trade offers involving Howard. Since Jordan seems to be gearing up for another rebuild in Charlotte, it would make a lot of sense to get young players and draft picks in exchange for Howard. If the Pelicans lose Boogie Cousins in free agency, Howard might be a decent replacement for him.
5 Nikola Vucevic - Washington Wizards
Nikola Vucevic is the kind of guy that every single NBA team could use given how the league is shaped today. It is hard to find someone who will say no to a seven-footer who can shoot the basketball reliably. During his six seasons in Orlando, Vucevic evolved into a very reliable center. Just this last season he averaged 16.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Not to mention that he also averaged 3.4 assists, one steal, and 1.1 blocks per outing. Those are crazy numbers if you want to add a versatile big man. His height also gives him a lot of advantage over other big men who play the so-called stretch-four position. For Orlando, getting rid of Vucevic does seem to be a good idea if they get some value back from him, especially if that value comes in the shape of draft picks.
Like we mentioned before, pinning down a destination for a guy like Vucevic is hard because he could literally play anywhere. He could help a team win now, and even if he doesn’t, he only has one year left on his contract after the summer so he could be a low-risk-high-reward trade option. The Wizards need a replacement for Marcin Gortat and Vucevic would be a big upgrade for them.
4 Austin Rivers - Houston Rockets
You have to give it to Austin Rivers. For you to be considered by a lot of people the most hated player in the NBA when guys like Lance Stephenson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant are around is impressive. It has a lot to do with his attitude and how the fans perceive him, but at the end of the day, everyone knows that the hate on Rivers mostly revolves around the fact that daddy is his coach. A lot of what his son goes through is without a doubt Doc Rivers’ fault.
No one would hate Austin as much as they do today if it weren’t for Doc trading for him when he arrived in Los Angeles.
But let’s get back to reality here. If you are the Los Angeles Clippers, this season was a wake-up call, and you know that you need to start all over again because the last good player you have, DeAndre Jordan, is going to leave this summer. You might as well just try to get the most out of the last tanking season. Two moves that we could see happening this summer are the Clippers getting rid of both father and son in order to start over. As for Austin’s destination, the only place we would scratch from that list is probably Houston, or anywhere he would see Chris Paul.
3 Otto Porter Jr. - OKC Thunder
Otto Porter Jr. is a good player. At just 24-years-old, he has been a reliable contributor for the Washington Wizards, especially when they lost John Wall. This kid stepped up, and everyone has to respect that. At the same time, it is beyond our comprehension why the Wizards decided to give him a four-year deal worth more than $106 million. Come on, that is All-Star money. That is the kind of money you should be saving to spend on free agency for a guy like Paul George or even a DeAndre Jordan if you can’t get anyone else.
Yes, we said Porter stepped up when John Wall went down, but that stepping up came in the shape of him averaging 14.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. That is not the kind of production you are looking for in a guy who is getting paid more than Anthony Davis. Yeah, he gets more money than Anthony Davis. With all of that in mind and adding their early exit in the playoffs, the Wizards should be looking for a team that would be willing to take the remaining three years of his contract. Sorry to mention it again, but a team that would fit that bill and would be willing to do that for a young player with as much upside as Porter would be Oklahoma City.
2 Kevin Love - Philadelphia 76ers
This one comes down to what LeBron James decides to do this summer. If the Cavaliers don’t go far in the playoffs, it is very likely that James will say goodbye to Cleveland for the last time and take his talents elsewhere again. If that were to happen, a guy like Kevin Love would be faced with a tough decision to make. Do I stay here in Cleveland and try to play like I used to in Minnesota, or do I demand a trade to try my luck in another team that could hopefully contend for a title?
That is as hard a decision as NBA players have to make during their careers. Now let’s just imagine a scenario in which LeBron left, and Love decided that his future was not in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers should not be opposed to trading Love since without LeBron they are going to be in rebuilding mode anyway so it wouldn’t make any sense to keep paying Kevin more than $24 million a year.
Now guess who has that kind of cash and would probably be willing to make a move for a guy like Love. Oh yeah, we are talking Philadelphia.
They could put together a package with young guys like Markelle Fultz and Justin Anderson, and Cleveland would probably bite. Maybe you don’t even need to give them Fultz but just your first-round pick instead, which Philadelphia really doesn’t need.
1 Tyson Chandler - Boston Celtics
At 35 years old, Tyson Chandler might not be the inside force he was one day, but he is still the kind of guy who could help a lot of teams that need reliable rebounding and rim protection. Yes, he is not athletic as he used to be, but he is still athletic enough to get a block or more per game. Take for example this last season he played with the Phoenix Suns. Chandler averaged 6.5 points and 9.1 rebounds. Not that impressive, right? Well, those numbers become impressive when we tell you that he only played 25 minutes per game and also when we remind you that he is 35 years old. This guy is still effective in the same ways he was when he was younger.
But the real game changer here is that most teams could get Phoenix to bite on a trade for Chandler if they were to send a draft pick or even a young prospect that they don’t have much hope in. Phoenix is in full rebuilding mode, and they will literally take anything or anyone who could develop into an okay player. This gives a lot of leeway for teams who want to win now, like the Celtics, who could make an offer for Chandler without having to give up much.