Even if basketball isn't your favorite sport, you would sound ridiculous if you claimed the National Basketball Association (NBA) offseason isn't the most exciting offseason of any of the major professional sports. Sure, we saw Giancarlo Stanton join the New York Yankees, there have been some newsworthy signings in the NFL, and, well, nothing happens in the NHL offseason aside from bottom-six forwards changing teams. The NBA is a whole different beast. In the last few years alone, we've seen arguably two of the greatest players in this generation - LeBron James and Kevin Durant - sign with new teams. And that's not even including the likes of Paul George, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and DeMarcus Cousins.
Beyond actual signings, the NBA is the best league for rumors. It's a news-making machine in which there's a new rumor or opinion as to where a superstar might sign in the summer. We've head it regarding James for what seems like every single year and this summer will be no exception. Is he staying in Cleveland, finally going to Los Angeles, or joining a darkhorse franchise like the Trail Blazers or New York Knicks? There are endless possibilities, but only a few are gaining traction in NBA locker rooms - as are the rest of these rumors.
20 Isaiah Thomas to the Pistons
A little less than a year ago, Isaiah Thomas was on the verge of becoming a hero in Boston as he was coming off a career-high 28.9 points per game during the regular season with the Boston Celtics and came up clutch in big moments for the Celtics during the playoffs. Since then, he has been sidelined by injury and had a tough time establishing chemistry with LeBron James and his new teammates in Cleveland. He has been slightly better since being dealt to the Lakers, but has been coming off the bench.
Coming off the bench he's going to want to prove himself again next year. He's still only 29 years old and, with a full offseason of training under his belt, could redeem himself next season. The Pistons would make perfect sense as the team is looking to build around Blake Griffin and make that transaction pay off. They could also desperately use an upgrade at the point.
19 Jabari Parker to the Bulls
Selected second overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2014 NBA Draft, Jabari Parker has had an up-and-down career through four seasons. He recorded a career-best 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last season, but was limited to 50 games due to injury - he also missed 57 games to injury as a rookie. He has taken a step backward this season again due to injuries and inconsistent play, starting in only two of 29 games and averaging a career-worst 12.1 points per game.
Parker recently spoke about his pending restricted free agency status and didn't sound like someone who wants to stay in Milwaukee. "I know that, just looking from afar, [the Bucks] will be fine. But I just have to see what's going to happen with my future, and that's uncertain. But I know for them, they'll be fine regardless. They've been doing well." He's a Chicago native and several publications have already began to push the narrative that he's going to end up there via an offer sheet or trade.
18 Chris Paul Staying in Houston
It wasn't necessarily a shock that Chris Paul left the Los Angeles Clippers last offseason as rumors persisted for quite some time, but it was strange to see him join the Houston Rockets, where James Harden had already established himself as the league's best point guard and perhaps player. However, Harden has been even more dangerous away from the ball with Paul as the team's primary playmaker. Harden is still talented in that regard, but it's his one-on-one and three-point shooting ability that makes him stand out.
The pair have worked better than anyone expected and, although Paul will be pursued by nearly every team in the league, it'll be hard for him to leave such a perfect fit, especially if the Rockets enjoy a deep playoff run and win the NBA Finals. Because of how the CBA works, he can also get an additional year of guaranteed money if he stays in Houston.
17 Chris Bosh Returns
An alumnus of the University of Texas, Chris Bosh was a good but not great star with the Toronto Raptors as he could never get the team over the hump in the playoffs, but he cemented his legacy with a pair of NBA Finals wins with the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the power forward hasn't played since 2016 due to blood-clotting issues. He hasn't yet retired, but the Heat made it clear they weren't going to allow him to play and the rest of the league seems to be just as cautious.
That hasn't stopped Bosh from hoping for a return. He told ESPN in March he hopes to return next year, adding that a few players in the league have reached out to him to join their team. The question is which team is going to be desperate enough to take the risk and sign him?
16 Kevin Durant Staying in Golden State
There was a small percentage of people who thought one championship might be enough for Kevin Durant. Those people expected he might bail after one season with Golden State and sign elsewhere for more money, but that wasn't the case as he re-signed for another one-year contract at a discounted rate. The Warriors have taken a backseat to the Houston Rockets in the West this season and with Steph Curry's injury it seems like they might not even be the favorites in the playoffs, which is amazing to think.
However, don't expect that to sour Durant, who recently told The Athletic that money isn't important to him when it comes to free agency. "I've made so much over my career. But I do know that I want to be here, I love playing here." Perhaps that changes if the team is upset in the playoffs, but for now, the consensus seems to be that KD isn't going anywhere.
15 Jusuf Nurkic to the Atlanta Hawks
The 16th overall pick of the Chicago Bulls in the 2014 NBA Draft, Jusuf Nurkic began his career with the Denver Nuggets, but has developed into an impressive complementary player with the Portland Trail Blazers. He had a career year last season (albeit in just 20 games) and, while his per game averages are slightly down this year, his field goal percentage is roughly the same. He's also been healthy.
Despite that, Nurkic is still making less than $3 million on a team option this season with Portland. They would love to keep him, but he's going to make significantly more on the open market and would be foolish not to explore those options. It's no secret the Atlanta Hawks have cap space and require interior scoring so Nurkic would be a perfect fit.
14 LeBron James to the 76ers
This is the first of two LeBron James scenarios that seem likely, although we probably could have included 20 teams in the hunt for LeBron as, let's be honest, they're all going to want to sign The King when his contract with Cleveland is up. James originally went back to Cleveland to win a championship and he did that in one of the most memorable ways possible. Cavaliers fans might be sour that he would leave this summer, but there likely wouldn't be any jersey-burning ceremonies this time around.
Several teams/advertisers have already began putting up billboards in their respective city to recruit LeBron, but one that makes the most sense is Philadelphia. The 76ers are the hottest team in the league right now and boast a talented core of young players. LeBron would put them over the top next year and for several more years to come to the point where they could easily contend with the powerhouses. There's also a budding bromance building between him and Ben Simmons.
13 Return of NBA to Seattle
The NBA returning to Seattle seems like more and more of a slam dunk with each passing day. It has all but been confirmed that the NHL is coming to the city in the next few years and the NBA is the logical next step. Seattle is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan markets in the United States and its more than deserving of getting back in the NBA. In December, Seattle city council approved a plan for major renovations of the Key Arena, which would be the home of both hockey and basketball franchises.
In either an ultimate troll job or a sign of positive things to come, the league has even scheduled a Golden State Warriors preseason game in 2018 for Seattle, where Kevin Durant will serve as a reminder to what could have been for basketball in the city.
12 LeBron James to the Lakers
You'd have to be foolish to make a list of prominent NBA rumors and not include LeBron James to the Lakers. It happens every year. Even if he's under contract. There's something about the biggest and most successful market in the NBA and perhaps one of its greatest players that seems like a perfect match. And, like with Ben Simmons of the 76ers, LeBron seems to have taken on sort of a mentorship role with Lonzo Ball. He has nothing but great things to say about him despite what LaVar might say about LeBron.
Oh, and there was that moment earlier this season during a Lakers-Cavaliers game in which LeBron and Lonzo covered their mouths to share a conversation. You can't read too much into something like that, but you also can't not suggest The King could go to Los Angeles. If there was ever a GM in LA to make it happen it's Magic Johnson.
11 DeMarcus Cousins to the Trail Blazers
The New Orleans Pelicans looked as though they had the potential to become a top team in the league when it acquired DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings last season. The team wasn't exactly in contention, but the idea of Cousins being paired with Anthony Davis was one that likely scared a lot of Western Conference opponents. Both big men have shown they can shoot from three and they're beasts to handle down low.
It didn't really work toward the end of last season, but they proved a formidable duo this season, at least until Cousins was shut down due to a ruptured left Achilles tendon. He's a free agent this summer and would be a welcome addition to any team, despite his reputation as a trouble-maker. Portland would be completely fine losing Nurkic if it meant they could add Cousins.
10 Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets
You have to love the OKC Thunder management team for doing its best to compete in the Western Conference this year, but it seems more and more likely that it could be a one-year thing. Paul George is as good as gone to the Lakers and Carmelo Anthony will likely follow suit in leaving OKC unless the team goes on an unexpected run to the NBA Finals, of which they are entirely possible if everyone plays to their abilities. Yet, Anthony, like George, had wanted to be traded to another team ahead of OKC - he was hoping to end up in Houston.
And that's where he'll go in the offseason, joining Chris Paul and James Harden in the latest attempt to get a future Hall of Famer a championship ring. Last September, he told SiriusXM NBA Radio that a deal was done between his former team, the New York Knicks, and the Rockets, but it fell through at the last minute. He accepted the trade to OKC merely because he didn't want the other alternative of returning to New York.
9 Dwyane Wade Staying in Miami
Dwyane Wade might not be the game-changing player he once was, but the Chicago native still brings veteran leadership and can provide a solid 20-plus minutes a night, not to mention clutch shooting and playmaking abilities. Originally drafted fifth overall by the Miami Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft, the 36 year old has spent the majority of his career in South Beach before a nearly two-year hiatus with Chicago and Cleveland that didn't work out at all.
However, he was dealt back to Miami at the 2018 trade deadline and was given a hero's welcome. He's obviously nearing the end of his career and, while he might want to chase another championship, it makes more sense for him to ride off into the sunset in Miami, where he built a Hall of Fame career.
8 Paul George to the Lakers
Paul George made it quite clear he wanted to go to the Los Angeles Lakers last season. He told the Indiana Pacers he would play out the final year of his contract, but basically assured them he wasn't going to re-sign. That led the team to deal him to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a package that involved breakout star Victor Oladipo. During an appearance on SportsNation in September prior to the season, George called the trade a "kick in the behind."
He has even continued to push the narrative that he wants to go to the Lakers, despite the team being a bit of a sideshow with Lonzo Ball and the Big Baller Brand's presence. His teammate, Russel Westbrook, was recently asked how he would attempt to recruit George to stay in OKC and seemed pretty annoyed at the notion of having to do so. It's unlikely George returns and even more likely Los Angeles is his future home.
7 DeMarcus Cousins to the Raptors
Before he was dealt to New Orleans, there was a belief that Cousins could end up in Toronto, which was in need of a bit of a roster overhaul after continued playoff failures of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Surprisingly, the Raptors retooled its offensive game plan instead of making widespread changes and it worked much better than anticipated as the team finished first in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history.
But don't get too excited Raptors fans. It's not outside of the realm of possibilities that the team loses again in the first or second round. If that happens, drastic changes will come, and the need to pursue a big name like Cousins could be kicked into overdrive. Expect a sign-and-trade possibility with a package centered around Jonas Valanciunas and a young guard like Delon Wright or Fred Van Vleet.
6 LaMarcus Aldridge to the Mavericks
Naturally, the Dallas Mavericks may try to pursue DeAndre Jordan once again this offseason, but it won't take a hostage situation for him to remain in Los Angeles. As a result, the Mavericks, in an effort to get Dirk Nowitzki back in the playoffs in what could likely be his final season, will add a motivated LaMarcus Aldridge to its roster. The San Antonio Spurs have been the blueprint for success in the NBA for two decades, but that finally seems to be changing.
Tim Duncan is long gone and the likes of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli are nearing the end. LaMarcus Aldridge has been unhappy with his role in San Antonio at times and Dallas would be the ideal location for him if it was playing time - and money - he was concerned about.
5 Raptors Trade Kyle Lowry
This one might not be discussed much in NBA locker rooms as of yet, but you can believe that if the Raptors come up short once again in the playoffs that point guard Kyle Lowry might want - or need - a change of scenery. Lowry has been quite volatile with the Toronto media as of late, being challenged for attending the Villanova Wildcats national championship win before a big game in Cleveland in which he played disastrous. It's hard to see him being enthused about coming back after another playoff disappointment.
Moreover, it's hard to imagine the Raptors wanting him back if he chokes again in the postseason, especially with either Delon Wright or Fred Van Vleet ready for increased minutes and if they acquire DeMarcus Cousins.
4 Kawhi Leonard to the Celtics
We're not sure how much weight the words of Shaquille O'Neal holds in an NBA locker room, but you can bet that if the Big Aristotle said it, players around the league are listening and paying attention. Early in April, the NBA on TNT panelist put it plain and simple for everyone to hear: "You heard it here first: Kawhi to Boston."
Kawhi Leonard is arguably one of the best all-around players in the NBA, comparable to LeBron James, but things haven't been going well for him in San Antonio this season. He has missed most of the season with a quad injury and doesn't feel comfortable returning despite having been cleared to play. He isn't a free agent until 2020, but with the Spurs on a downward trajectory for the first time in 20 years, it makes sense that they would trade him and expedite a rebuild. He would be a perfect fit alongside Kyrie Irving in Boston.
3 Brooks Lopez to the Bucks
A few years ago, Brooks Lopez joining a new team would have been major news in the NBA and could have potentially changed the landscape of the league - he consistently averaged 20 points and 7-plus rebounds per game over the course of eight seasons - but that likely won't be the case this summer. Still, despite a drop in production, the 30 year old is still a valuable player who can start for most teams and be an exceptionally impressive player off the bench.
Lopez has just 13.2 points per game this season with the Lakers, but has the second-best efficiency field goal percentage of his career (.541) so there's some obvious value there. He'd be a good fit in Milwaukee, especially if they move on from Parker, and could come at a discounted rate.
2 DeAndre Jordan Staying in Los Angeles
Remember a couple years back when members of the Los Angeles Clippers apparently kept DeAndre Jordan hostage to ensure he would re-sign with the team instead of signing with the Dallas Mavericks, who he had previously come to a verbal agreement with. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were there. So was Doc Rivers and Clippers owner Steve Balmer. Now, both Griffin and Paul have moved on from Los Angeles and only Jordan remains.
The big man has the opportunity to leave once again this summer, but he might actually be more inclined to stay now than he was back then. Since trading Griffin and acquiring Tobias Harris, who has been great, the Clippers are 10-10 and present a more well-rounded attack. Jordan is still optimistic about the team's future: "I'm excited," he told Yahoo Sports in March. "Like I told somebody the other day, I hope I can play another ten years here. That's what I'm focused on now."
1 J.J. Redick to the Lakers
Staying in Los Angeles, there's another team that hopes to acquire some major Superstars in the offseason. What else is new? The difference is this year it feels like there's a legitimate possibility. The whole Ball family situation might make the Lakers seem like an undesirable situation, but in the end, it's still Los Angeles. And Kyle Kuzma is a promising young player, as is the likes of Julius Randle and even Ball himself if he can fix his shot mechanics.
It wouldn't be the offseason if half the league wasn't linked to the Lakers and, as much as they'd be happy to take a team of superstars, they're going to want to add shooters to ease the shooting frequency of Ball and allow him to showcase his passing abilities. J.J. Redick makes perfect sense as he is averaging a career-high 17 points per game with the 76ers and could cash in significantly on his one-year contract.
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