It is a fascinating time to be an avid follower of the National Basketball Association. The Golden State Warriors are looking to become back-to-back NBA Champions and also a side for the ages that could be considered as one of the greatest teams in the history of the league. We could be a short time away from seeing the end of an era for what has been a successful and classy San Antonio Spurs franchise. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have made a ton of news in 2015-16 for reasons that have had little to do with how the team has performed during games.
Do not expect things to slow down once the 2016 NBA Finals come to an end and the summer months and offseason begin. New media rights deals that have been inked by the NBA are going to lead in changes to the league's salary cap restrictions, and those changes are understandably going to result in top-tier players wanting to be paid more money and more power. It is, to steal a phrase from a World Wrestling Entertainment act, a new day for the NBA, and shifts in the league could result in some blockbuster NBA trades being rumored and occurring this coming summer.
Multiple superstars could be eyeing moves to different franchises depending on what goes down during the playoffs and then during contract negotiations. The big question that will be asked by members of at least one fan base will be about the future of a player who has already made two significant and historic moves this decade. Is there any chance that man could once again break the hearts of local fans and leave his current employer so that he can pursue a championship and other opportunities? Probably not, but the rumors about that man's thoughts and desires are going to be interesting this summer.
13 Carmelo Anthony to the Cleveland Cavaliers
This won't be the only time that you will see Carmelo Anthony mentioned in this piece, and for good reason. LeBron James has said on the record that he wants to play with Anthony, James is able to restructure his contract to his liking in the summer and the Cavaliers could give the New York Knicks an asset such as Kevin Love, if King James wanted to bring Anthony to northeast Ohio as soon as the summer of 2016. James is in a position where he can build his ideal roster in Cleveland and the Cavs really do not have any other choice than to let the two-time NBA Champion serve as the team's general manager; unless the Cavs want to risk making James unhappy.
On top of that, J.R. Smith has already mentioned that he's going to opt out of his contract and test free agency. With that extra cap space available, the Cavs will likely try to please their king and this acquisition would likely accomplish that task. The trade wouldn't come without risks, as Carmelo Anthony has been on the decline for the last couple of years, as he went from 27.4 PPG in 2013/14 to 21.8 PPG in 2015/16.
12 Brook Lopez to Toronto Raptors
The harsh reality for the Brooklyn Nets is that the team probably will not be in a position to compete for a championship at any point before the end of the decade. That's the way things are for multiple reasons. Brook Lopez will still have trade value this summer, as his current contract runs through the spring of 2018. If rumors linking Lopez with a potential trade to the Toronto Raptors from this past February were accurate, the issue could be revisited, as the Raptors were unable to get past the Cleveland Cavaliers in the postseason. Dark days are ahead for Brooklyn whether the Nets keep or trade Lopez and that must be considered by the club during the summer. If they wait any longer, the trade market for the center will dry up, as Lopez hasn't managed to play a full season since the Nets were still ion New Jersey, back in 2010/11. In terms of this trade, Bismack Biyomo recently opted out of his deal, so the Raptors could use more depth at the center position...
11 Draymond Green to Boston Celtics
Fans of the Golden State Warriors may be thinking about diving through their screens upon seeing this. Realize, though, that Stephen Curry is going to be paid – we mean really paid – by the Warriors sooner rather than later and that could lead to the franchise having to make at least one difficult decision. If you're curious about how underpaid Steph Curry is, we suggest you check out this article, which looks at 12 average players who somehow make more than Chef Curry.
Giving Curry the contract that he deserves and then picking up multiple noteworthy assets from a team such as the Boston Celtics could help make these Warriors similar to those Chicago Bulls squads that dominated in the 1990s. Golden State obviously would not want to lose Draymond Green, but the club may have to see the writing on the wall come this summer.
The downside to this is that the Warriors have looked somewhat weak with Green out of the lineup. Watch game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Cavs to understand what we mean. Without their emotional leader, the Cavs lacked defensively and they had no one to defend against LeBron. Proceed with caution Golden State...
10 Blake Griffin to ???
Is Blake Griffin worth the trouble for the Los Angeles Clippers? This is a question the Clippers will have to answer following an incident that ended with Griffin suffering a hand injury that occurred when the player allegedly had an altercation with a team equipment manager. The Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets are three possible landing spots for Griffin, but each of those teams would have to be willing to give up valuable assets to land Griffin. A trade involving Jimmy Butler and Blake Griffin may make sense, on paper, but the Chicago Bulls would probably need more to sign off on such a deal.
While Griffin had a strange year due to off-court issues, it seems as though many fans are forgetting just how talented this former first overall pick is. Last year was the only year that he didn't make the All Star team and he's consistently improved different areas of his game. The Clippers better get a king's ransom if they move this star.
9 Kyrie Irving for Chris Paul
Is there any chance that the “Big Three” of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will be playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers next fall if the Cavs don't win a championship this season? Probably not, if certain rumors are to be believed. You may have seen earlier this year that James stated that he would enjoy playing alongside Chris Paul at some point of his career.Many would predict that Kevin Love is the most likely to be traded, but what is his trade value? He's been average at best during the playoffs and doesn't seem to show up when his team needs him most. Who does that leave? Kyrie Irving. Neither James nor Paul are getting any younger these days and the right time for a deal involving Irving and Paul could be this coming summer if the Los Angeles Clippers and Cavs can come to terms on a trade.
The Clips would need to give more than Paul for this to happen, but it's no as crazy as you might think...
8 Bradley Beal for Jimmy Butler
This NBA trade rumor assumes several different things. For it to even be possible, the Washington Wizards would have to be willing to deal Bradley Beal for anybody, let alone for Jimmy Butler. Bradley Beal is an interesting case in the NBA. The former third overall pick has shown glimpses of absolute brilliance in his four year career, but injuries and inconsistency have left a variety of question marks surrounding the young star. He and John Wall can form an elite backcourt if they both can remain healthy and consistent.
The Chicago Bulls would also have to be accept a deal for Butler, who could realistically be the team's future if the Bulls are going to rebuild and potentially part ways with a different star (more on that next). Butler emerged out of nowhere during the 2014/15 season and has made the All-Star in both of the last two seasons. The Bulls may have fallen apart in 2015/16, but it's hard to pin that on Butler, who scored 20.9 PPG.
If everything were to fall into place, a Beal-for-Butler swap could become possible and it is a trade that could benefit both the Wizards and the Bulls.
7 Phil Jackson to Los Angeles Lakers
This one could be just for fun, if for no other reason than those of us on the outside do not know, for sure, about the details of Phil Jackson's current contract and status with the New York Knicks. Say, for the sake of argument, that Jackson would be willing to leave the Knicks and become team president of a different team. Why wouldn't that team be the Los Angeles Lakers? Jackson has a history with the franchise and there is no chance that Jackson and Kobe Bryant would clash following Bryant's retirement. The Knicks would want to be compensated so long as Jackson does not have an immediate out in his deal and that is where a possible summer trade comes into play.
We can't possibly imagine what the Lakers would want to give up to get The Zen Master back on their side, but he has a heck of a track record when running the purple and gold. Whether or not the Lakers have the personnel to play the triangle offense is besides the point. Lakers fans haven't been treated to good basketball over the last few years and the presence of their famous former coach would help generate some hope in their fan base.
6 Kevin Love to ???
Unless you have not been paying attention to the situation since last summer, you are probably aware about the rumors that unofficial Cleveland Cavaliers general manager LeBron James is not thrilled with the team's current situation. That would probably change if the Cavs win the NBA Championship this spring, but that is a huge “if” at the moment. Kevin Love has been rumored to be on the trading block throughout 2016, as he's failed to impress in Cleveland. The Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are four potential landing spots for Love. King James could find himself rather busy this summer if the Cavaliers fall short for the second straight year.
While Love hasn't succeeded in Cleveland, that isn't to say that he'll flop at his next destination, if he were to move. Due to the fact that he's been poor over the last two years, many fans are forgetting how dominant he was in Minnesota. In his final year with the T-Wolves, he averaged 26.1 PPG and 12.5 RPG. Sure, he was playing with scrubs and getting plenty of touches, but terrible players don't average over 26 points per game.
5 Jahlil Okafor to Boston Celtics
One of the worst-kept secrets in all of the NBA earlier this year is that the Boston Celtics were reportedly interested in acquiring Jahlil Okafor from the awful Philadelphia 76ers. Assuming that Joel Embiid will be able to take the court and contribute for the 76ers next year, seeing as he still hasn't played a single game in the NBA despite being drafted two years ago, the team could have options as it pertains to Okafor's services. While Boston could be able to use current assets to prepare for the team's future, the Celtics also could be ready to win as quickly as next season if the team completes the right transactions during the summer. Okafor could end up wearing Boston green when all is said and done, after all.
4 Kevin Durant to Los Angeles Clippers
Kevin Durant is going to be able to write his own ticket with the Oklahoma City Thunder or with a different NBA team during the summer. The possibility does exist that Durant could put pen to paper on a deal with the Thunder just for the sake of then being traded to a team that needs his services, so that he can get the largest deal possible. We're looking at you, Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers have to do something during the summer to, at the very least, try to keep up with the Golden State Warriors assuming that the Warriors will again be great next season. Durant could be the player to put the Clippers at the top of the conference. They'd need to give some talent back to make their salary cap work, but they'd definitely love to acquire one of the top three players in the league if they could.
However, it appears as though Oklahoma City won't go down without a fight. Not the team, but the city itself. Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin had this to say:
“If Kevin Durant thinks about leaving, which I hope he doesn’t — Oklahoma loves Kevin Durant and Kevin Durant loves Oklahoma. But if he’ll stay, I’ll make him a Cabinet person for health and fitness on my Cabinet.”
Not a bad deal.
3 Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles Lakers
The New York Knicks cannot realistically win a NBA Championship with Carmelo Anthony on the roster unless Anthony is willing to accept a massive pay-cut that frees up salary cap space. There's really only so much Kristaps Porzingis can do with a disinterested Carmelo Anthony and talent-less roster. A clean break may be what is best for all involved and the Los Angeles Lakers could be the ideal situation to help both Anthony and the Knicks. Los Angeles needs star power and also an improved roster following a disastrous 2015-16 season that will end with Kobe Bryant retiring. Adding Anthony could be a first step toward the Lakers building a contender and Anthony may also be able to convince some buddies to join him out west. More on that later.
If the Lakers can keep most of their talent in acquiring Anthony, without considering the trade we'll discuss in our #1 entry, the Lakers might actually be able to be competitive next year. They have a lot of young talent and a rejuvenated Carmelo Anthony might be able to lead them back to relevancy.
2 Jimmy Butler to the Boston Celtics
When the Chicago Bulls parted ways with head coach Tom Thibodeau, the team guaranteed that one of two things would happen: The Bulls would either be able to flip the figurative switch in a way the team never could under Thibodeau or the Bulls would fall apart. We now, of course, now that the latter occurred and that the Bulls did not even qualify for the playoffs after finishing 42-40 under new coach Fred Hoiberg. Big changes could be coming for the Bulls and Jimmy Butler being dealt to the Boston Celtics could be among those changes. Boston has assets, including draft picks, that could intrigue the Bulls, and the current foundation of the Bulls is not close to catching the Cleveland Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors in the NBA Eastern Conference.
While Jimmy Butler might not be able to fetch the third overall pick from the Celtics, they could reasonably ask for their 16th or 23rd overall picks. It's also not completely unreasonable to assume that the Bulls would be able to acquire both of those picks if they're able to drive up Butler's price in a bidding war. Butler is incredibly talented and many teams would be lucky to have him.
1 LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers
Let's start off by saying that we don't think LeBron James will again leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, especially if James is unable to deliver a championship to northeast Ohio. With that said, is it theoretically possible that James could team up with friends such as Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and/or Carmelo Anthony as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers? It is... once Kobe Bryant is retired and off the books. James has to know that his brand would take a huge hit and that he would never again be accepted by fans in his own region were he to orchestrate such a move. We will soon see how much James cares about such things.
If this insane move were to happen, it would have to be in the form of a sign and trade. LeBron took a discount to help the Cavs compete for an NBA title, all with eyes towards cashing in when the NBA Salary Cap increases due to their new television deal. Well, Los Angeles isn't his hometown and LeBron won't be one of the best players in the world forever. The time is now for The King to be paid like it.