Another NBA Playoffs is in the books and for the fourth year in a row we get the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. There is no real intrigue this season though, despite strong pushes by the Boston Celtics in the east and the Houston Rockets in the west. The Golden State Warriors are clearly the superior of the two. In all honesty, the 2018 Cavaliers may not be good enough to win a seven game series against any of the teams that made the Western Conference semi-finals, Pelicans included.
So, unless you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Northeast Ohio, chances are you are already thinking about the NBA's ever-exciting off-season. What uniform will LeBron James be wearing come October? Are the Pelicans still open to listening to offers for Anthony Davis? All these questions will be answered soon enough, but that has not stopped fans from pacing around trying to piece together clues as to what may happen.
We're definitely going to look ahead in this piece, but you know what makes predicting the future even more fun? Understanding the past! So in addition to the eight big trades that could happen this offseason, let's also journey down memory lane and examine eight major trades that almost happened but thankfully (in some cases anyway) did not.
16 ALMOST HAPPENED: PAUL GEORGE TO THE CAVALIERS FOR KEVIN LOVE (2017)
Man, poor Kevin Love. He has been the subject of trade rumours so many times that it is a wonder that he has ever even unpacked a suitcase. We went over the Timberwolves’ first attempt to trade him earlier in the article. Now let’s talk about the team Minnesota eventually traded Kevin Love to, the Cleveland Cavaliers. When LeBron James came back to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, the Cavs’ front office immediately went to work trying to build him a new big 3. Kyrie Irving was already in place, so the Cavs used their recent number one picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins to land Love. It seemed like a perfect fit and an ideal addition. After all, Kevin Love was averaging a double-double for his career.
The problem was that Love and LeBron never seemed to gel with each other.
Kevin Love was perceived as the subject of LeBron’s expert subtweeting multiple times. So, last summer things seemed to come to a head. Kyrie Irving was vocal about wanting out. LeBron was vocal about not having enough help. That is why Cleveland was doing all it could to bring Paul George over from division rival Indiana. Negotiations went on so long and got so far down the rabbit hole that the Cavs’ front office was blindsided when the Pacers announced they had agreed to trade PG13 to Oklahoma City.
15 WILL HAPPEN: KAWHI LEONARD TO THE RAPTORS FOR CJ MILES, DELON WRIGHT AND NORMAN POWELL
Alright, we told you earlier that we were going to offer two potential paths for the future of the Toronto Raptors in this article. We already given Raptors fans an option if the team decides to blow things up in favour of building another playoff run around new, younger talent. Now let’s look at the best path forward if Toronto decides to add a superstar to its current roster in hopes of keeping pace with the Celtics and Sixers in the Atlantic Division.
Everyone in San Antonio is saying the right things. Kawhi Leonard wants to stay there. The team wants to better understand his injury concerns and accommodate his demands because they know his value. Do we really believe all that? Let’s say it is both sides trying to polish a turd. Sending Kawhi to Canada gets him out of the Western Conference. It gets the Spurs a starting calibre forward in CJ Miles and two expiring contracts. Kawhi is one of those guys that, when healthy, it is hard to get equal value for if you trade, so it may take a few 1st round draft picks to get the deal done, but you can’t convince us a package that big wouldn’t be worth it for the Raptors to add a top five talent to an already talented roster.
14 ALMOST HAPPENED: KLAY THOMPSON TO THE TIMBERWOLVES FOR KEVIN LOVE AND KEVIN MARTIN (2014)
This isn’t the first time you have seen Kevin Martin’s name in this article and it won’t be the last time you see Kevin Love’s. Minnesota knew their double-double machine was frustrated that the franchise had been unable to put a decent roster around him, so in 2014 it was determined to ship Love to a contender and get back pieces to build around in return. Before Cleveland landed LeBron and assembled the right package for Love, it looked like Kevin Love was going to be on the other side of the NBA Finals for the last four years.
The Warriors were working hard to land Kevin Love. The team’s front office thought there was more value in adding a shooter with better rebounding ability and a stronger inside presence than building around the Splash Brothers. Plus, we have seen Love shoot reliably from three. It’s not like this move would have totally forced Golden State to abandon their reliance on the deep ball. Poor Play Thompson has been talked about so many times as the expendable one in the Golden State Warriors’ “Hamptons lineup” that you have to wonder if it will play a role in him leaving town when he becomes a free agent after next season.
13 WILL HAPPEN: DEANDRE JORDAN TO THE WIZARDS FOR MARCIN GORTAT AND MARKIEF MORRIS
Marcin Gortat has performed admirably during his time in Washington, DC. If you believe locker room gossip, he might be the only person on the Wizards’ roster that John Wall gets along with off the court. But being friends with the team’s best player doesn’t make up for the fact that Gortat is still a journeyman-level talent and that the Wizards need more talent than that down low if they want to get beyond the bottom rung of the Eastern Conference’s playoff teams.
DeAndre Jordan isn’t cheap. He also only has one year left on his current deal, so the Washington Wizards would need him to sign an extension to justify making this deal, but the team shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to add one of the NBA’s best defenders and a the kind of rebounder that can create outback scoring chances for the rare times Bradley Beale misses from three point range. In return, the Clippers would receive two serviceable big men in Gortat and Markief Morris. Both are reliable scorers, and maybe more importantly, both have expiring contracts that could pave the way for the Clippers to pursue bigger name free agents after next season is over.
12 ALMOST HAPPENED: JUSTICE WINSLOW TO THE CELTICS FOR 4 1ST ROUND PICKS (2015)
Danny Ainge turned lemons into lemonade in 2013. The Boston Celtics’ GM watched his big 3 growing older and his head coach Doc Rivers decide to go across the country to lead the Los Angeles Clippers. It was time to press reset, so Ainge made magic happen and convinced the Brooklyn Nets to give up three first round draft picks for 37 year old Kevin Garnett and 35 year old Paul Pierce. Forget the particulars of what those picks turned into for a second.
The headline is that trade led to Boston landing Jalen Brown and Jayson Tatum in the draft and then having the assets to land Kyrie Irving via trade.
Now, would you give up all three of those pieces for Justice Winslow? Because Danny Ainge almost did. In fact, if not for the shrewdness, and some might say foolishness, of then Hornets general manager Richard Cho. The Celtics reportedly offered Cho four first round picks in exchange for the 9th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft because Ainge so coveted Duke guard Justice Winslow. Cho said no, ended up drafting Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, and continue to be stuck just outside of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture instead of getting an instant infusion of young talent.
11 WILL HAPPEN: KARL ANTHONY TOWNS TO THE CELTICS FOR JALEN BROWN, TERRY ROZIER AND A DRAFT PICK
If you pay attention to the NBA trade rumour mill, then you know that the Celtics have long had an obsession with landing a big man. First it was a package of picks to Sacramento for Boogie Cousins. Then it was Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown to New Orleans for Anthony Davis. Well, Boogie is a free agent now and Boston doesn’t have room under the cap to accommodate another max contract. New Orleans just made a deep playoff run and the Pelicans’ front office couldn’t possibly face its fans if they dealt Anthony Davis right now. So where can the Celtics turn?
How about to Minnesota, where there are reports of a rift in the locker room between Karl Anthony Towns and coach Tom Thibodeau? Now, if the T’Wolves are smart, management would side with KAT over Thibs, but what if the Celtics offered them two starters and Sacramento’s unprotected first round pick in 2019 for the big man? It’s a great move for the Celtics who could role out a starting five next season of Irving, Hayward, Tatum, Hereford and Towns and a great move for the T’Wolves who could role out a back court that includes Rozier, Jimmy Butler, Brown.
10 ALMOST HAPPENED: RAJON RONDO FROM BOSTON TO HOUSTON (2014)
There was a time, long before he became something of a journeyman point guard, when Rajon Rondo was considered one of the best in the league at his position. He was the budding superstar on a Boston team filled with aging talent. By the time the 2013-2014 season opened, it was clear that the Celtics weren’t going to be competitive any time in the near future. They had just traded Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets. Doc Rivers left for Los Angeles. The team’s starting five was essentially Rondo and a bunch of New Jersey castoffs.
It would have been cruel to keep such a talented guy on that roster, so Danny Ainge started shopping his point guard. While we do not know what the Rockets were offering Boston, we do know that they entered into serious trade negotiations not once but twice! Both ESPN’s Mark Stein and then-Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski said they had a source saying a deal was close to done. James Harden and Dwight Howard were both on the Rockets’ roster that season, so the addition of a point guard that specialized in distributing the ball made a lot of sense.
9 WILL HAPPEN: C.J. MCCOLLUM TO THE KNICKS FOR ENES KANTER, EMMANUEL MUDIAY AND THE 9TH PICK
The Portland Trailblazers had something of a breakthrough in 2018, so maybe completely tearing down the roster they have is out of the question, but given the way they were decimated by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs, it might not hurt to try a new approach. The two scoring guard system has made the Blazers a year in and year out playoff team, but with the rise of the Utah Jazz, Russell Westbrook’s continued domination in OKC, and the young roster coming together in Minnesota, it is worth asking if the Blazers are doing all they can to stay competitive.
We know the Knicks are desperate for a second star to play alongside Kristaps Porzingis. It would be silly to target Damian Lillard when New York already has Frank Ntilikina showing so much promise at the point, so let’s give them CJ McCollum. In return, Portland gets a starting calibre center in Enes Kanter and a capable contributor off the bench in Emanuel Mudiay, but the real prize for the Blazers might be a top ten pick. The Blazers could use that to land a potential starter that would be on their roster for a decade plus.
8 ALMOST HAPPENED: STEPH CURRY TO THE SUNS FOR AMAR'E STOUDAMIRE (2009)
Imagine a world where Steve Kerr wasn’t thought of as a brilliant coach, because we all thought of him as a brilliant GM. There is a very real chance it could have gone down that way in 2009 after the Golden State Warriors drafted an under-sized sharpshooter out of Davidson named Stephan Curry and were offered the chance to turn that pick into a bonafide star. See, at that time, the nation (at least the part that follows college basketball) knew that Steph was a lights out shooter, but there were very real concerns about how he would hold up in the NBA.
Kerr, who was the GM of the Phoenix Suns at the time, was a believer from the get go.
He had an aging team in Phoenix and wanted to start the rebuilding process while the team still had the bulk of the “Seven Seconds or Less” roster in place. That is why he offered the Dubs Amar’e Stoudamire for him straight up. The prospect of a Suns roster that included a young Curry, Steve Nash in his prime, and Jason Richardson all playing in Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense probably makes fans in Phoenix want to bang their head against the wall. Adding Curry to a roster that was already shooting 41% from three would have been vastly preferable to keeping Stoudamire, who they wound up losing in free agency at season’s end anyway.
7 WILL HAPPEN: EVAN FOURNIER TO THE THUNDER FOR ANDRE ROBERSON, ALEX ARBINES, AND KYLE SINGLER
Alright, let’s slowly ease into the hypothetical trade market. Is Evan Fournier a bonafide superstar? Of course he isn’t. Is he even a star? Probably not. But he is a piece that could make the Thunder a whole lot better considering they are about to lose Melo and Paul George. He’ll be 26 and entering his 7th NBA season in October. He has shown year-over-year improvement in both scoring and rebounding, and is averaging nearly 16 points per game since being traded to Orlando and becoming a full time starter.
The Thunder will be able to find cheap depth. Putting a better shooter next to Russel Westbrook frees him up to do what he does best - drive to the basket. As for the return Orlando gets, how much worse could it actually make the team’s outlook? The Magic are stuck in neutral and possibly even starting to reverse. Singler has shown promise off the bench, but the real appeal is the bulk of expiring contracts that could free up enough money for the Magic to pursue the likes of Play Thompson of Kristaps Porzingis in the 2019 free agent market. Dealing Fournier to OKC is a win for the Thunder, a win for the Magic , and a win for Evan Fournier.
6 ALMOST HAPPENED: AMAR'E STOUDAMIRE TO THE CAVS FOR JJ HICKSON & ZYDRUNAS ILGAUSKAS (2010)
Amar’e Stoudamire makes a second appearance on our list! This time, he was the prize and not the bait though. Fast forward one year after Steve Kerr nearly sent him to Oakland in hopes of landing Steph Curry, and this time the rumours have the big man heading to the Midwest. Remember how crazy things were in the 2010 offseason? That is the year of The Decision, remember. Well, before LeBron announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach, the Cavs were doing all they could to try and bring a big name co-star to him in Cleveland. You gotta remember, that LeBron’s frustration with the Cavs in his first go-round with the team started when he lead a team who’s second best player was Eric Snow to the NBA Finals in 2007.
This proposed sign and trade deal was so close to done that Amar’e Stoudamire was telling reporters that he was expecting to be in Cleveland by the following week. Reportedly, the sticking point was JJ Hickson, who the Cavs thought was a superstar in the making. So instead of landing a the kind of teammate that could have kept LeBron in Cleveland this whole time, the Cavs chose to hang on to a guy they ended up trading the following year anyway and watched Stoudamire sign with the Knicks and James sign with the Heat.
5 WILL HAPPEN: MIKE CONLEY TO THE PISTONS FOR REGGIE JACKSON, JON LEUER AND LUKE KENNARD
The Memphis Grizzlies were not very good this past season. If it weren’t for the NBA Draft’s lottery system, they would be staring at a top 2 pick in next month’s draft. Unfortunately, the balls bounced their way neither figuratively or literally and now they are stuck picking fourth in a draft that many believe only has three potential superstars. It’s not an ideal way to press the reset button. To make matters worse, the Grizzlies are hamstrung by $20 million+ contracts for Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Marc Gasol. If this team is ever going to get back to the playoffs, some of that money has to come off the books.
Enter the Detroit Pistons, point guard hungry and desperate to get out of the lottery. The team is built around big men in Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, so Mike Conley and his six assists and 14 points per game could make a lot of sense assuming he gets the all clear from medical personnel following season-ending foot surgery in January. It wouldn’t be stars going to Memphis in this deal, but instead three capable contributors in Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer, and the very promising Luke Kennard.
4 ALMOST HAPPENED: CHRIS PAUL TO THE LAKERS, PAU GASOL TO THE ROCKETS, LAMAR ODOM AND OTHERS TO THE HORNETS (2011)
In 2011, NBA fans were scratching their heads trying to figure out how the Miami Heat didn’t win the championship in its first season with LeBron James and Chris Bosh. It would have been the season’s greatest mystery if not for David Stern killing a deal that would have sent Chris Paul from the then New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers. Remember, that due to financial hardships, day-to-day control of the Hornets had been handed over to the league office, so it’s easy to understand why the theory that the league didn’t want the Lakers to have another superstar was so widespread.
In order to make the money work, a third team needed to be involved, so up stepped the Houston Rockets.
Had everything gone according to plan, they stood to land Pau Gasol. The team thought pairing Gasol with Kyle Lowery and Courtney Lee would be its ticket back to the playoffs. David Stern claimed that the Hornets were not getting fair compensation in return, but look at those names. That is three all stars going to New Orleans. If the decision wasn’t driven by spite, it is hard to come up with an alternative explanation.
3 WILL HAPPEN: DEMAR DEROZAN TO THE MAVERICKS FOR THE 4TH PICK, WESLEY MATTHEWS, JJ BAREA, AND DWIGHT POWELL
We are going to examine two different paths for the Toronto Raptors in the potential trades outlined in this piece. We’ll get to what the team should do if it decides to double down on it’s two current all-stars a little later. Right now, let’s talk about what the team should do if it decides this roster has gone as far as it can, and that it is time to blow the whole thing up and start over. It’s tough to get American born superstars to want to play in Canada, so the Raptors’ smartest move would be to trade for a high pick and try to develop their own.
The Mavericks are trying to figure out what life will be like after Dirk Nowitzki retires and they have made all of the wrong moves in securing their future. They already have a drive-the-lane point guard in Dennis Smith Jr. Why not pair him with a score from everywhere shooter in Demar DeRozan? DeRozan would be 29 when the season begins and has proven that he is capable of being the type of locker room presence young guys will follow. This trade could not only secure the Mavs’ future, but also give Dirk the help he needs to make one final playoff run.
2 ALMOST HAPPENED: DWIGHT HOWARD TO THE NETS FOR 4 UNPROTECTED 1ST ROUND PICKS (2012)
Before Dwight Howard was a Hornet, he was a Hawk. Before he was a Hawk, he was a Rocket. Before he was a Rocket, he was a Laker, and before that Dwight Howard played for the Orlando Magic. That is a lot of movement for a guy that at one time was literally all-everything in the NBA. One year before the Brooklyn Nets secured the future of the Boston Celtics, it offered a similar package of draft picks to the Orlando Magic in order to land Howard. The Magic was doing all it could to hang on to Howard and change his mind about signing a long term deal in Orlando and wasn’t hearing offers at that point, no matter how good they were.
It was an undeniably foolish position for the team to take because Howard was already talking openly about wanting out and wanting to play with Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams. The Magic ended up giving into reality and Howard’s demands and trading him to the Lakers the following season. You have to think Magic fans look at the Boston Celtics and their ability to land Kyrie Irving in a trade and draft Jayson Tatum, who looks like a superstar in the making, and pine for what could have been.
1 WILL HAPPEN: KEMBA WALKER TO THE CAVS FOR JORDAN CLARKSON AND ANTE ZIZIC
Is there anyone in the NBA currently that can claim his team has wasted his career louder than Kemba Walker? The guy averages nearly twenty points and five assists per game. He has been an All-Star each of the previous two seasons. How have the Hornets awarded that production as a team? They have made the playoffs just twice in Walker’s seven year career and have never advanced past the first round. It is time to free Kemba from the bonds of a truly awful supporting cast.
This will be an offseason that the Cavaliers have to show LeBron James that they are committed to bringing in real help for him, and adding a guard that can score as well as he distributes is a good place to start, plus given what Kemba Walker would be leaving behind, you know he would not have a problem deferring to James. That’s something that not every teammate of the King has found easy to do. The Hornets don’t exactly get cap relief in this deal, but what they do get is two players promising players for the price of one out of place star. They aren’t spending less money. They are spending the same amount more wisely.