The NBA trade deadline recently passing was met with quite a bit of disappointment. Big names such as Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford, Dwight Howard and many others were mentioned as being in discussions of potential trades but nothing happened with them. The biggest stars to get moved at the deadline were Jeff Green and Channing Frye. Smaller moves do play a role in the success or failure of teams in the playoff race but they just aren’t as sexy or appealing. The amount of rumors created anticipation that was met with one of more timid trade deadlines in recent memory.
There is one good thing to come from the failed trade discussions and that’s adding to the excitement of the offseason. Teams clearly have shopped some of their bigger names and that shows they are expendable. The bigger and better trade packages come in the offseason when everyone is scrambling to make the important moves. The trade deadline features teams trying to improve for the playoff run while the offseason has everyone hoping to get better for the upcoming season with the right signings or trades. Speaking of signings, NBA free agency has become a huge spectacle in itself every summer.
The bonanza of teams offering big contracts and elaborate pitches to stars in hopes of changing their status in the NBA has become almost as exciting as the actual games. Nothing is assured in the league and that makes it must-consume content. DeAndre Jordan agreeing to join the Dallas Mavericks but changing his mind to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers showed the perfect example of how entertaining it has become. The combination of teams trying to change their identity, rebuild or add new pieces for a title contender all are fascinating parts of the offseason and we may see it reach a new peak this year. With many stars and stories in play, we’re going to look at fifteen bold predictions for the NBA offseason.
15 LeBron James and Kevin Durant Cash In
The NBA salary cap is set to rise this summer with the big money coming in from the new television rights deal. Teams will have the ability to give NBA superstars extremely large contracts and two of the biggest names in the sport will be free agents. LeBron James has been signing contracts with an opt-out clause each year since returning to Cleveland but he’s likely been strategically planning this to cash in on the salary cap rising now for a longer deal. Kevin Durant is also entering free agency and it’s a safe bet he’ll stick around in Oklahoma City. Both men should set the records for the two biggest contracts in NBA history.
14 Phil Jackson Leaves Knicks for Lakers
One of the hottest new rumors sees the Los Angeles Lakers expressing interest in the services of Phil Jackson once again as they hope to make big changes. The legendary head coach has failed to create a culture change in the New York Knicks organization as the President. The triangle offense has been a disaster on the court and Jackson’s pet project of Derek Fisher being the team’s head coach of the future has already ended. Speculation has circulated that the Lakers will be cleaning house in the organization after Kobe Bryant retires and Jackson will have a new management position back in the franchise he coached to five rings. Every party involved would benefit and Jackson will opt out of New York to return to LA.
13 Many Stars Pass on Olympics
The free agent period will be the most exciting time of the offseason but the 2016 Summer Olympics is also scheduled and will see the American Men’s Basketball team try to continue to dominate. Expect most of the NBA superstars that won the last two gold medals to sit out this time around. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul are all getting up there in age and are likely to pass on adding more stress on their bodies in between crucial regular seasons. Stephen Curry and a couple of the other young rising stars like Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis are going to become the new faces of American basketball in the world games.
12 Celtics Trade Lottery Pick for Star
The Boston Celtics are currently sitting in a tremendous situation. Boston is one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference and will look to contend in the playoffs but they also have a valuable lottery pick. The Brooklyn Nets acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce a few years ago sent many draft picks to the Celtics, including the upcoming unprotected first round pick. Brooklyn has the third worst record in the NBA and the pick will be quite high. Danny Ainge is very strategic with utilizing lottery picks in trades for superstars as seen in 2007 with Garnett and Ray Allen. Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford and other superstars we aren’t aware of now should be available and Boston will get one of them (maybe even two).
11 Tom Thibodeau Becomes New Kings Head Coach
It’s quite disappointing that the Sacramento Kings are failing to make the postseason once again despite the talent of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Rajon Rondo. Head coach George Karl has had his fair share of ups and downs with the franchise and it’s a safe bet he’ll be fired after the season. Tom Thibodeau is the perfect coach for the Kings and they will go hard after him if available. Sacramento has talent but lacks the discipline that Thibodeau brings to a team. The hiring could represent the missing piece of a gifted team just lacking the leader and mentality that Thibodeau can add to the Kings.
10 Dallas Overpays Zaza Pachulia
DeAndre Jordan going back on his word and deciding to not sign with the Dallas Mavericks led to the team taking fliers on many veterans to fill out their roster last summer. Veteran center Zaza Pachulia has been a revelation with a breakout season. Pachulia is averaging a double-double and will head into the offseason an unrestricted free agent. The Mavericks fan base has fallen in love with him to the point where Pachulia gained the fourth most All-Star votes among all frontcourt West players. Mark Cuban will end up overpaying the fan favorite to reward his success and it will turn out to haunt them as this is likely the case of overachieving.
9 Philadelphia Signs Harrison Barnes
The biggest story for the Golden State Warriors entering the offseason will be if they make history as they’re currently chasing the Chicago Bulls all-time best NBA record. Golden State has an outstanding team but forward Harrison Barnes will enter free agency. The team doesn’t necessarily need him, so there’s a good chance he is forced to find a new home. Barnes will command a lot of money in the environment of bigger contracts but is just the fifth or sixth best player on the team. The Philadelphia 76ers are sitting on cap space and will have to take a chance on someone sooner or later. Why not Barnes? The forgotten talent may have a desire to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
8 Atlanta Loses Everyone
The recent trade deadline rumors saw just about every Atlanta Hawks star involved in discussions. Al Horford will be a free agent and has stated he’d like to stay in Atlanta but the team was already shopping him. Jeff Teague has been in rumors for months and showed his frustrations by deleting all Hawks material from his Instagram. Sharpshooter Kyle Korver was even in stories about possibly heading to Cleveland. None of the Hawks players were dealt but this showed Atlanta didn’t have strong ties to anyone but Paul Millsap. Whether through free agency or trade, expect the Hawks to make big changes and ditch all three stars they were hoping to before the deadline.
7 Pau Gasol Signs With Warriors
Pau Gasol hoped to contend for a NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls. While Gasol has made the All-Star team in both seasons with the team, they’ve not been able to pose a legitimate threat in the East. Gasol enters free agency again and will look to find a chance at competing for another championship before retiring. The Golden State Warriors will have some cap space to offer a fair contract, especially if they let Harrison Barnes go, and Gasol could be added on as a rental for a year or two. Gasol was rumored to almost take a discounted deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder before signing with the Bulls two years ago, so the right scenario would see him take a small contract if need be.
6 John Calipari Becomes Nets Head Coach
The Brooklyn Nets have very little talent and even less upcoming draft picks after recklessly trading them all away. All that Brooklyn can offer is money and that is less impressive to players since all teams have money with the cap space rising. The Nets can use their riches to an advantage by offering John Calipari a massive contract as head coach. The college coaching legend has expressed interest in the NBA but wants a lot of money. Brooklyn is desperate enough to make a splash and add a new face of the franchise. There are personal connections between Calipari and people in the Nets organization from a past stint there in the 90s. Look for Brooklyn to offer a record contract to Calipari in the offseason.
5 Knicks Acquire Ricky Rubio
This would be a perfect deal to benefit all parties involved. The Minnesota Timberwolves apparently want to move Ricky Rubio with the hopes of playing exciting young guard Zach LaVine more often. The team has great pieces but they won’t contend anytime soon. Rubio’s prime is being wasted and they are open to trading him. The New York Knicks desperately need a new point guard. They don’t have too many pieces but a few bench players or a sign and trade of a free agent could appeal to Minnesota if they just want to get rid of Rubio. Most NBA teams have a good starting point guard, so the trade market won’t be as deep and the Knicks could have enough to snag him.
4 DeMar DeRozan Heads to Los Angeles or New York
Every time the Toronto Raptors make you believe they are building something special, they disappoint in the postseason. As things set up, the Raptors are having a great regular season but their roster looks weak against some of the other better East teams. If they suffer defeat again, DeMar DeRozan will have more incentive to test the free agent market. The three teams that have expressed the most desire in him are the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers. With the latter two, DeRozan will become the biggest star on his team rather than second to Kyle Lowry. Playing in New York or Los Angeles would be a better business move and DeRozan will entertain it if Toronto doesn’t show it can succeed in the playoffs.
3 Tim Duncan Retires
For years, experts have been predicting Tim Duncan’s retirement but it is starting to appear more imminent now. Duncan is finally beginning to look human rather than the iconic All-Star talent we’ve been spoiled with for almost two decades. Duncan’s numbers have gone down dramatically and his role is a secondary one to the San Antonio Spurs new superstars of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. San Antonio has a great team but Duncan is barely contributing on the court. The superstar seems like the kind of person that will quietly bow out rather than have a retirement tour. Duncan will give his all in hopes of winning one more ring, but this will be his final season.
2 Dwight Howard Joins Charlotte
Dwight Howard is expected to become one of the bigger stories of the offseason. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and most of the big names are more than likely going to stay put in their current situations but Howard wants to ditch the Houston Rockets. As an aging big man with a bad reputation, most contenders will look to pass on offering Howard the big contract he is searching for. The Charlotte Hornets are trying to build a core to contend in the East and seem like the perfect team to take the risk with the need of a star talent. Charlotte already expressed interest in trading for him at the deadline and has a roster that would work well with Howard’s game.
1 Cavaliers Trade Kevin Love To Clippers For Blake Griffin
The two biggest realistic names on the trade block this season were All-Stars Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. Griffin injured his hand striking a team employee and is in the doghouse with Clippers management. Love has failed to fit in with Cleveland and has put up some of the worst numbers of his career in both seasons with the team, along with overall atrocious defense. If both teams fail to reach their goals in the playoffs, they’ll be looking to make a change and a trade could shake both rosters up. Griffin is a better defender and paint presence that the Cavaliers lack. Love would be lethal in the pick and roll with Chris Paul and has ties to Los Angeles. The deal would see everyone get better out of it and is quite likely if their playoff fortune is disappointing.