The Golden State Warriors completed the sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers to become the 2017-18 NBA champions. This means that the chapter on the 2017-18 season is officially closed and it is time to turn the page. Now, the focus for all 30 NBA teams is the draft, free agency and off-season trades to dethrone the Warriors, or in Golden State's case, go for a three peat. The last three peat we saw in the NBA was the Kobe and Shaq Lakers in the early 2000s so that shows just how rare this Warriors run is.
The Houston Rockets were close and in their minds they were an untimely Chris Paul injury away from a championship. If you are the Boston Celtics, you have similar views regarding a freakish injury to Gordon Hayward in the first game of the season. Last season, we saw the trade between Boston and Cleveland in which the two teams swapped all-star point guards. A buyout with the Chicago Bulls led Dwyane Wade to rejoining his best friend LeBron James in Cleveland. Will a similar buyout happen in Oklahoma City with Carmelo Anthony? The worst part about the NBA now is that you can successfully predict who will win the NBA finals one and sometimes two years ahead. The most intriguing part of the NBA season can be the summer where every team has that "this is our year" motto.
With that being said, let’s take a look at 15 NBA trades that must be made before the start of next season.
15 Kyrie Irving To The New York Knicks
The Boston Celtics may have had the worst injury luck of all teams in the NBA this season with injuries to Gordon Hayward on opening night and a knee injury sidelining Kyrie Irving for the post season. Even with their best two projected players sidelined, the Celtics were one win away from their first NBA finals appearance since 2010. Their roster is built for sustained success but with that luxury comes some decisions on contracts that will not be easy. Terry Rozier proved that he has the ability to be a starting point guard in this league and Jayson Tatum is a star in the making.
This would not have been so visible had it not been for the injuries to Hayward and Irving. A report by Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports revealed that the Celtics were worried about possibly losing Irving to free agency next season because of his fondness of playing in Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks. This should come as a surprise to some but the unpredictability of Kyrie Irving makes this report not that surprising to me. If the Celtics can resign Terry Rozier, the team may be just fine in trading Irving to the Knicks before they potentially lose him for nothing.
14 Kristaps Porzingis To The Boston Celtics
Last year, Kristaps Porzingis was having an All-NBA level year before an ACL injury sidelined him for the second half of the 2017-18 season. Earlier this season, Janis Porzingis, brother and agent of Kristaps stated the possibility of his brother leaving the Knicks in an interview with EuroHoops.net. “The most important question here is this: What do you really want to achieve in your career? Because money – if Kristaps performs at least on his normal level, is gonna come. We are more focused on some other values and not just to quickly sign a new contract so we can collect the money. That’s definitely not our goal, so we won’t be feverishly counting minutes or counting points.”
Those values that Janis alluded to were winning and the Knicks have not done much of that in recent years.
There is a scenario in which Porzingis finds a winning situation and the Knicks receive a superstar in return to soften the blow of his potential exit. In a deal with the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks would trade Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee to the Boston Celtics for Kyrie Irving and future draft considerations. This deal works for both sides as they find the kind of situation they are looking for and that is not always the case in NBA trades.
13 Gordon Hayward To The Miami Heat
When Gordon Hayward was a free agent last summer, one of the top teams on his list was the Miami Heat. In an attempt to lure Hayward to South Beach, the Miami Heat made a banner with Hayward's face on it outside of American Airlines arena. The Heat prepared a video tribute for Hayward in addition to the banner. Hayward spoke about Pat Riley's pitch in an interview with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowsi, "After the video, he kind of talked a little bit," Hayward said. "And that was the moment where you kind of do get some chills. And everyone's wearing their ring, too, everybody on the staff was. And so that's the moment where you're like, 'Wow, that's really cool,' an I-want-to-put-on-the-jersey-right-now type feeling."
The development of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have put the Celtics in a situation where it will be tough to bench one if these young talents for a 28-year old Gordon Hayward coming off a major injury. It will be a tough decision to make as one of the main reasons Hayward signed in Boston was his connection to head coach Brad Stevens dating back to their days at Butler University. Danny Ainge traded away their fan favorite Isaiah Thomas after he played through injury so that shows that Ainge will put winning ahead of any player and one that played only one quarter in a Celtics jersey should be no different.
12 Harrison Barnes To The Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors finished the season with the best record in the eastern conference and second best record in the NBA behind the Houston Rockets and just ahead of the Golden State Warriors. When a team has that much regular season success to only get swept by the team they have been trying to beat for the last four years, change is inevitable. The team already relieved Dwane Casey of his coaching duties and the team has pondered moving on of their all-stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Panic has indeed set in north of the border and the Raptors fired their head coach in a move that I am not sure was warranted. The best case scenario for the Raptors is to keep their all-stars and make a more subtle move and acquire Harrison Barnes from the Dallas Mavericks. Barnes proved during his time in Golden State that he has the ability to play alongside other all-stars. The Raptors could use a player that could score the basketball in isolation situations and also thrive in a system that is focused around ball movement and player movement. The Toronto Raptors were on the right track last season and the development of their young reserves should have them in the conversation for the best teams in the east again next year.
11 Serge Ibaka To The Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks own the fifth pick in the 2018 NBA draft and can go in a multitude of different directions depending on which player is available for them at five. Last season, the Mavericks were clearly in rebuild and owner Mark Cuban publicly stated their best option was to lose basketball games. The team has the ability to improve their win total next season significantly if they go about the off-season the right way.
A deal in which the Dallas Mavericks send Harrison Barnes to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Serge Ibaka would greatly improve their defense.
Ibaka would be the team's defensive anchor and the former Thunder forward could use a change of scenery. In their semifinal match-up with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ibaka was benched as he was rendered ineffective against the LeBron led Cavs. Playing with Dennis Smith Jr, Serge Ibaka could get some of the same looks he did during his time with Russell Westbrook that helped Ibaka become one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA. If the Mavericks decided to draft Texas center Mo Bamba they would have a stout defensive front court. Or they could settle on Michael Porter Jr. would also fit alongside Serge Ibaka in Dallas.
10 Hassan Whiteside To The Boston Celtics
This season the Miami Heat and Hassan Whiteside were clearly on different pages as Whiteside often saw himself on the bench in their first round match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers. Even times when Whiteside did play, he was often frozen out of the offense and in response he showed little effort on the defensive end and did not grab many rebounds. Just two years ago, Hassan Whiteside was a prized free agent and the Heat were ecstatic to sign him to a max contract with the hopes of him being their franchise cornerstone for years to come.
In that match-up with the Philadelphia 76ers, Whiteside said, "It's just different, man. I feel like our offense is a lot different. I'm not as involved in as many dribble handoffs as I was and post-ups as I was in the regular season." Later adding, "That's what coach (Erik Spoelstra) wants. Coach wants me to just be in the corner and set picks. That's what he wants. I've just got to trust it." This is not the kind of role that a star player is put into in the most important games of the season. This lets me know how the team really feels about Whiteside and his importance to their ball club. If there is a coach that could revitalize the career of Hassan Whiteside, Brad Stevens has to be tops on that list.
9 Karl-Anthony Towns To The Phoenix Suns
The Minnesota Timberwolves faced the Houston Rockets in the first round of the NBA playoffs this past season. In that series, Towns was thoroughly outplayed by the Rockets' Clint Capela. Towns was voted by NBA General Managers as the number one player they would build their team around. After his subpar playoff performance, management in Minnesota has to be thinking that maybe Towns will be better off elsewhere.
In an interview with ESPN's Zach Lowe Brian Windhorst suggested that the Timberwolves and Karl Anthony-Towns "are not in a good place." He elaborated saying, "Let's just put it this way: I didn't make this up," Windhorst said. "People in the league have been saying, 'You know, maybe we should call and take a look and see what's going on with Karl Towns." Minnesota will have a tough decision to make because Towns will be a free agent at the end of next season and the team will have to pay big bucks to keep him. Last summer, the Timberwolves were faced with a similar dilemma regarding Andrew Wiggins and decided to give him a five-year max contract. It is hard to envision the Timberwolves signing Towns to a max deal if there are any signs that he may be unhappy in Minnesota.
8 DeAndre Ayton To The Minnesota Timberwolves
The Phoenix Suns are in luck since Karl Anthony-Towns is still on his rookie contract. This allows the Minnesota Timberwolves to trade Towns to Phoenix in exchange for the number one pick in the 2017-18 NBA draft. Who the Tomberwolves select with that pick would be obvious and that is DeAndre Ayton from the University of Arizona. You are probably thinking that it does not make much sense to trade one big man for another big man that is unproven in the NBA. That kind of trepidation is warranted but the Phoenix Suns would be getting a proven commodity and the Timberwolves will add a dominant center in theory.
Defensively, DeAnre Ayton has all the tools to become a good defender at the NBA level and physically he would be able to fare better than Towns did against a center like Clint Capela. Ayton would also buy time for Minnesota to figure out if Andrew Wiggins can develop into a franchise player without tying up their salary cap with a large contract for KAT. The connection with Towns and Devin Booker goes back to their days at Kentucky and the two would make for a great duo in the NBA.
7 Kawhi Leonard To The Philadelphia 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers took the next step this season in "the process." A team that won 24 games last season won 52 games this year and their 24 game improvement in the win column was the best in the NBA. During their 5-game series with the Boston Celtics the team looked young and in need of a veteran to make plays at the end of the game. Sure, Joel Embiid is a superstar in this league but a center is a dependent position and without someone to get him the basketball he could be easily neutralized.
Kawhi Leonard's uncle (who has taken over his representation) mentioned the Sixers as one of Kawhi's preferred destinations.
In a trade where a team has no leverage the way the Spurs won't if Leonard demands a trade this summer, you usually see a team not get the proper compensation. The other destinations that Kawhi would want to go do not have the pieces to make it worthwhile for San Antonio. The Sixers have the chance to compete for the NBA finals if they continue to get better as individuals and an addition like Kawhi Leonard should surely make them the favorite next season to win the eastern conference.
6 Markelle Fultz To The San Antonio Spurs
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Markelle Fultz with the first pick in the 2017 NBA draft. The 2017 draft class has already shown that they have several players that will one day be superstars in this league. For Fultz to be the first player chosen means that the team had to really think highly of the Washington product as they traded a future lottery pick to move from three to one to pick him. When the Sixers were in the midst of a tough second round playoff match-up with the Boston Celtics, Fultz did not see the court. For a healthy number one overall pick to not be able to get minutes that could further his development is head scratching.
The drama that unfolded around former Sixers President Bryan Colangelo was bizarre and with him out of the picture they no longer have any ties to keeping Markelle with the team. San Antonio can comply with Kawhi Leonard's requests and move their all-star forward for a promising point guard and front court player. In a move that would send Kawhi Leonard to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Spurs would receive Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric. The Spurs have Dejounte Murray as their point guard of the future but Fultz and Murray could make a formidable back court if Fultz can clean up his act. Saric would be ideal in San Antonio and the trio could develop into a "Big 3" that has had tons of success in San Antonio over the last couple decades.
5 DeMarcus Cousins To The Oklahoma City Thunder
A top free agent this summer was going to be DeMarcus Cousins before an achilles injury changed his value around the NBA. Teams are no longer looked at DeMarcus Cousins as the missing piece that could put them over the top. Now, Cousins is coming off a major injury and will be 28-years old at the start of the season. The perception around Boogie during his time with the Sacramento Kings was that he was a head case, but he showed a different attitude in his time in New Orleans, but he would be a risk nonetheless.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were the most disappointing team this season and Carmelo Anthony did not look comfortable in a catch and shoot role as the third option. Behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Carmelo was not the same player he was as a primary option in New York and both parties look ready to move on. In his exit interview, Anthony stated how he only intended to play this role for one season and the Thunder have to figure out something that works. In a trade sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, the Thunder would receive DeMarcus Cousins for Melo. Melo would be able to have the ball in his hands more and the Pelicans would have a scorer in Anthony that they did not have last season. For OKC, Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and Steven Adams would be all the firepower needed to lure Paul George to resign in free agency.
4 Bradley Beal To The Los Angeles Clippers
The Washington Wizards were supposed to be a challenger for the best team in the eastern conference to start the season. They felt a year ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers were scared to play them in the playoffs and that they had the pieces to beat them. Subtract Kyrie Irving from the situation, and they should be more vulnerable than ever. The timing was perfect except, the Wizards barely made the playoffs finishing as the eighth seed and lost to the Toronto Raptors.
There were two different Wizards team this year, the one with John Wall and the one with John Wall injured. There was a drastic difference between the styles of play of the two lineups. With John Wall the team lacked ball movement at times even though Wall was among the lead leaders in assists. Without Wall, Bradley Beal was the primary option, and he was much more willing to share the basketball. Beal made his first all-star appearance this season after having his best season as a pro this year. In a perfect scenario, John Wall would be the player they choose to move, but they may not find the market they are looking for. Bradley Beal on the other hand was healthy this season and his trade value has never been greater.
3 DeAndre Jordan To The Washington Wizards
The Los Angeles Clippers have been trying to trade DeAndre Jordan for nearly a year now. After staying put at the trade deadline, the Clippers will finally part ways with the last piece left from the Lob City era. Jordan is best suited playing with a facilitating point guard and John Wall would love to have a player like Jordan in the pick-and-roll. The Washington Wizards absolutely cannot stay pat and have to change things in a conference that appears to be slipping away from them. The Wizards will have to find an answer for Joel Embiid who does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
That answer is Jordan who can defend the post against any big and also switch on the perimeter and move his feet well enough to defend guards.
Bradley Beal has shown that he has the ability to lead his own team and what better market for Beal than Los Angeles. The Clippers get the young all-star they're looking for and the Wizards get a piece that fits alongside their franchise star John Wall. This move should benefit both teams and the Wizards can play a style that brings the best out of John Wall and DeAndre Jordan can do what he does best.
2 Kevin Love To The Portland Trail Blazers
This season, the Portland Trail Blazers finished in the third seed in the western conference in a year when the west was more challenging than ever. The Blazers matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans that were without their all-star DeMarcus Cousins and lost a first round sweep. If the Blazers could not advance further than the first round this year than when will they ever be able to? The problem in Portland is the same problem that the Washington Wizards face. Their two best players are both guards and it is often a your-turn-my-turn offense that lacks a player that can get an easy basket.
In this scenario, the Portland Trail Blazers would be acquiring Kevin Love from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kevin Love would give Portland a player that could score in the lost post, a talent that they have lacked since the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. Love also has the ability to stretch the floor and make shots from beyond the arc, something that they do not have the ability to do outside of their back court duo. Love's name comes up in trade talks every deadline and off-season but this time the Cavaliers actually pull the trigger.
1 C.J. McCollum To The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a prime example of how you can never over value a superstar point guard. Unlike a center, when you have one of the best point guards in the NBA you hold on to him unless you get a better one in return. Ask the Boston Celtics the value of having a superstar ball handler. Previously, I pegged Damian Lillard to the Cleveland Cavaliers but with the deals in place for George Hill and Jordan Clarkson, the Cavs may be better off trying to improve their shooting guard position.
The Cavs were swept by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals and since their 3-1 comeback in 2016, the Cavs are 1-8 in the championship round. They also have that dark cloud of LeBron James' free agency looming over head and must find a way to close the gap with Golden State. A 73-win team that adds a player like Kevin Durant is unheard-of in the NBA and there is no reason why they shouldn't have a strangle hold of the NBA. If Cleveland would like to keep James a move before he decides his future for C.J. McCollum should be enough for him to think twice about staying home and giving it another go with the Cavs. At least until his next two year contract is up and we do this all over again.