I'm still in pure shock and awe at what happened in this year's NBA trade deadline. If you had any doubts that we were entering a new era of the NBA, look back at this deadline to see exactly how things (thangs, if you're Rick Grimes) are changing between the baselines.
DeMarcus Cousins? Now in New Orleans. Cameron Payne? Probably the future of the Chicago Bulls at point guard? Carmelo Anthony? Still dealing with Phil Jackson's nonsensical management philosophies in New York.
As the salary cap rises and every organization wants to build a superteam, it feels like we're seeing more and more blockbuster trades instead of the one to two we'd really get in a calendar year. Social media doesn't help things either, where every single player is under the microscope and mentioned in every single rumor. We're entering an era where if your favorite team has a superstar, they could be gone in any given second.
This summer, plenty of NBA players are going to take advantage of that and try to find a way out of their current predicament. Why waste your time in a rebuilding situation like Phoenix when you can probably land somewhere like Toronto or Denver. If your coach is probably on his way out and the new coach is likely to move you to the bench or another position, tell your general manager you want to go someplace where you'll feel appreciated!
Today, let's take a look at 15 NBA stars who, whether it be because of personnel issues or wanting to contend in the near-future, might go to their front offices this summer and ask for a trade. In addition, I'll also outline a team or two for each player that may not only be interested, but may want to legitimately consider making the move.
15 Wilson Chandler, Denver Nuggets
How Wilson Chandler wasn't traded during this year's deadline by a team who has been pushing him for months continues to astound me, especially with two years and $24 million left on his contract after this season ends. As Denver continues to mold their identity and future, Chandler - who missed all of last year with a hip injury - may become fed up and tell them, "either play me or trade me."
If Chandler ends up on the block, look for Oklahoma City and New Orleans - as well as the always-in-the-hunt-for-wing-help Los Angeles Clippers - to call Denver up and offer something. Even with the hip injuries and him turning 30 next month, Chandler still comes off as a cheap wing option through trade in a free agency class that includes Otto Porter Jr. Tyreke Evans, and this year's definite candidate to get overpaid: Ersan Ilyasova.
14 Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
At some point, the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to cut Ricky Rubio loose. No, it has nothing to do with the fact they took Jonny Flynn and Rubio over Stephen Curry back in 2009. Instead, it's as simple as this: after this year, Rubio has two years left on his deal and, despite the Spaniard putting up his usual numbers for the T-Wolves, Kris Dunn is the clear future at point guard.
In the hours leading up to the trade deadline, Rubio was rumored to be heading to the Knicks for Derrick Rose, but that won't be happening this summer as the 2010-11 MVP is set to be a free agent. With those two years left coupled with the knowledge that any future you have left with the Timberwolves will be off the bench, Rubio would be wise to tell Tom Thibodaeu, "I'm glad for the time in Minnesota, but it'd be best for both of us to move on."
Would the Knicks try to land Rubio again? It'd be tough, given Rose is headed for free agency and Phil Jackson would be insane to trade any of the young pieces not named Kristaps Porzingis that are on the roster (when the Knicks give up Willy Hernangomez and a future first-rounder for Rubio, get ready for the Twitter riots), but when has Jackson used logic with the Knicks? With Rubio turning 27 shortly before opening night next year, teams will want him as a floor general off the bench, but the only team I could see realistically trading for him right now is the Chicago Bulls.
13 Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets
After only one year - and an injury-plagued one at that - with the Nets, Jeremy Lin leaving Brooklyn would be sudden and a bit dramatic. But, let's think about this from Lin's point of view. With the rebuilding process Brooklyn is in and with Lin needing to prove something after missing so much time this year as a result of injuries, maybe the point guard would ask Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson to be dealt to a contender.
If general managers and coaches were to look at Lin as a sixth man with what he's done in the past off the bench, a team like Denver or Memphis may be a great option - if Brooklyn ate up part of Lin's remaining $24 million. I'd also consider Lin if I were someone like the Toronto Raptors who not only has cap space, but could afford to part with a first-rounder because it'd likely be in the final ten picks.
12 Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls
When Dwyane Wade finally left the Miami Heat last summer and joined the Chicago Bulls, it was a move that many found hard to hate. Yes, Chicago already had a star shooting guard in Jimmy Butler and yes, the Bulls should have really been moving into a rebuilding state rather than adding older veterans, but this was D-Wade returning to his home city. If the Bulls wanted to contend with Wade, then let them go for it and see what the future Hall of Famer had left in the tank.
Other than the traditional 20 or so points, five rebounds, and five assists a night, what has instead happened in Chicago is a team battling inner turmoil that Wade and his refusal to practice was a part of. If the Bulls, who are fighting for that eighth seed in the Eastern Conference right now, fail to make the postseason, Wade could very well opt into the second year of his contract - why pass up $23 million??? - and order general manager Gar Foreman to find a suitable trade partner.
11 Robin Lopez, Chicago Bulls
Regardless of where he goes, teams are always searching for trade partners that will take local mascot fighter Robin Lopez off their hands. The Suns did it, New Orleans did it, and leading up to the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls did it...except they couldn't find a suitor in time. As the Bulls try to determine what is next for their future, maybe we see Lopez come out and ask for a trade to another team.
10 Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
The easiest way of explaining the Julius Randle situation is as follows: though the Lakers have three of the brightest young stars in Randle, D'Angelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram, they're now under new leadership as Magic Johnson takes control in Los Angeles. If Magic can start bringing big name free agents back to the Lakers - which at least one active player, Boston's Isaiah Thomas, has said will be the case - then part of that young core may be on their way out.
Factor in the extremely talented draft class that the Lakers will have a chance at if everything falls their way - Philadelphia will get Los Angeles' first-round pick if it falls outside of the top three, but we've known that the NBA Draft lottery is a crapshoot - and there may be some extra change happening in Tinsletown. Plenty of teams will want to take a chance on Randle if he were to become available, though I'd especially like the Philadelphia 76ers and their plethora of picks to make a call and see what it'd cost for them to land a new front court player.
9 Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Booker is the future of the Phoenix Suns, but this is another organization in the midst of rebuilding - and one that, with so many question marks and no guarantee they'd be a contender in the future, may have to test the market for their star shooting guard. Though Booker should be untouchable, all it takes is the former Kentucky guard asking for a trade for to send waves through the NBA world.
8 Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
Another player who was floated around in trade talks leading up to the deadline, Favors seems to be a guaranteed summer trade option with one year and 12 million left on his 2013 extension. Though the former top recruit is starting at the four for the upstart Jazz, Favors only averages 24 minutes a night and with Utah in contention mode, now may be when a trade is requested by the veteran big man.
Like with Lopez, Brooklyn could definitely be a prime landing spot for the player they once took over Paul George...and Gordon Heyward...and DeMarcus Cousins. Defending that organization is harder than it looks. If they can work with what might be a steeper-than-expected asking price, the Knicks - who could put Favors at the four, move Carmelo Anthony back to the three, and start Kristaps Porzingis at center - wouldn't be a terrible option either.
7 Goran Dragic, Miami Heat
I have no idea if the Miami Heat are going to try to land a marquee free agent or two this summer or if they're going to look for low-key, replacement-level guys like how they found Dion Waiters. I honestly don't know. What I do know, however, is that the future of Dragic in Miami is uncertain. Does knowing that something is uncertain make it certain?
6 Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
Every Knick fan reading this already started searching their cabinets for something sharp, the basketball gods began to chortle, and every non-Knick fan is asking why would Porzingis try to force a trade? Well, why would you want to keep playing in New York with a dysfunctional front office, constant trade rumors about the star of your team, and daily arguments about if the triangle is the right system to run or not?
Keep in mind, I personally can't see Porzingis asking for a trade for a long time, not with the Knicks having a first-round pick in this year's draft and not with how much he seems to love the Big Apple. But if the same problems continue to happen with Phil Jackson at the helm, the Latvian Unicorn may become fed up and want out alongside Carmelo Anthony.
5 DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans
As an NBA fan, how funny would it be if, after New Orleans basically gave up nothing to land the best center in the game today, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins stopped in Dell Demps' office after the season and demanded another trade? If you've ever wanted to see the NBA social media realm fall apart again the way it did after the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead, this would be what would do it.
4 Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
Knight is more or less in the same situation as Ricky Rubio, actually, in that a former first-round pick who was hailed as the point guard of the future is on their way out. Knight, however, suffers from a point guard logjam right now rather than a young point guard waiting in the wings to take his job; given how bad the Suns have been this year and where they'll more than likely land in the lottery, though, a Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball could change Knight's predicament to look more like Rubio's.
3 Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
By all means, the Kevin Love-Cleveland Cavaliers experiment has been a rousing success, especially if LeBron and friends win their second straight NBA Finals this June. See what I said, though? LeBron and friends. We're in year three of Cleveland's superteam, but could this be the last?
Let's say the Cavaliers do win the NBA Finals, giving Love two rings. LeBron has been vocal about getting a playmaker and all moves seem to go through him, so I could definitely see Love essentially offering himself up in that situation. There's going to be plenty of teams that would want a 29-year-old Love to be the face of their franchise - or at the very least, a 1B - come opening night 2017.
In the end, everything in my brain about a potential love Kevin Love points back to Minnesota. Though fans were rightfully upset after the 2014 trade to Cleveland, acquiring Love and putting him into that star-studded lineup may be the final piece into making the Timberwolves a contender. Re-acquiring Love would also mean moving Karl-Anthony Towns to the five, giving Minnesota an offensive powerhouse in the front court.
2 Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Well, you knew this one was coming. Chicago still seems not to know what they want to do when it comes to Jimmy Butler, even as he's becoming one of the league's best two-way players. On one hand if you're the Bulls, he'll net you an insane package of players and picks that can help contribute to a rebuild. On the other hand, Butler is a star that the Bulls may not want to give up on yet.
1 Paul George, Indiana Pacers
If Paul George starts the 2017-18 season as a happy member of the Pacers, then this world will most likely be spun on its axis. Everything that has happened in Indiana - inconsistent seasons, the front office making questionable moves, losing - seemed to be wearing thin on George before he was actively shopped leading up to the trade deadline. With George a free agent in the summer of 2017-18, this summer may be when he finally tells Larry Bird to send him somewhere else.
And where else, really, would be better for George than the Lakers? We know that there were trade talks between the two teams weeks ago and we can reasonably suspect, given his California heritage, that the Lakers may be a suitable fit for him when free agency hits. With all of the assets that the Lakers currently have in both players (Julius Randle!!!) and picks, I suggest a draft day trade between these two. That, folks, will be how the Lake Show starts flowing again.
Which NBA stars could you see forcing a trade this summer and going someplace new? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!
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