The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone and, while several teams were able to immediately improve their fortunes for next season with players already capable of contributing at a high level, there were few trades to discuss. Dwight Howard, as he has in the past few years, was dealt again, this time going from the Charlotte Hornets to the Brooklyn Nets, where careers go to die. In fact, Howard was traded on the same day (June 20) as the year prior, when he was dealt from the Atlanta Hawks to the Hornets. We're still days away from free agency, which is when the real craziness begins, but it was somewhat surprising to see a lack of major moves on draft night - the same thing happened in the NHL, so perhaps organizations across sports are becoming more apt to hold on to picks and build for the future through the draft.
Regardless of inactivity at the draft, the summer will be a wild time for NBA teams, players, and fans. Over the past few years, the league has had no trouble generating interest through player movement in the offseason. Whereas stars and even franchise players generally stay with the team that drafted them in other sports, the NBA is different; last year alone, we saw Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, and Chris Paul, among others, switch teams. Expect more of the same this offseason with a plethora of star players eligible for free agency and others looking for a change of scenery via trade.
20 DeAndre Jordan Signs With Dallas
This isn't great news if you're a Clippers fan as we expect the team to lose both Avery Bradley and DeAndre Jordan in free agency. Jordan has been on the block for quite some time and was close to signing with the Dallas Mavericks in 2015, before eventually returning to Los Angeles. In fact, he actually agreed to a contract in principle with the Mavs, but was basically quarantined in his home along with other members of the Clippers to ensure he officially signed on the dotted line with Los Angeles. So why would Dallas even bother circling back on the big man? For one, they need a center. The second reason? Mark Cuban. Despite admitting to tanking last year, you can bet Cuban isn't going to wait through a long-term rebuild and the addition of Jordan can expedite the process.
19 Tyreke Evans Signs With Golden State
Tyreke Evans is far from a top player in the league, but the 2010 Rookie of the Year and former fourth overall pick is an adept scorer who can create his own shots and is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. The 28 year old shooting guard averaged 19.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 5.1 rebounds in 52 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season and came off the bench in 20 of those games. If he's comfortable coming off the bench for a non-playoff team, he would happily do so in Golden State on a team-friendly contract. There was rumblings the Warriors might be interested in him at the trade deadline so expect them to pursue him in free agency.
18 Bidding War For Fred VanVleet
The phrase "bidding war" might be a bit aggressive, but if you aren't aware of Fred VanVleet you probably aren't a die-hard NBA fan. A finalist for the Six Man of the Year Award, the 24 year old undrafted point guard out of Wichita State not only provided solid minutes behind Kyle Lowry in Toronto, but became one of the team's most trusted players in late-game situations. He averaged 8.6 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.1 rebounds in only 20 minutes per game and shot an impressive 44 percent from three-point range. Raptors general manager Bobby Webster has stressed he will be the team's highest priority in free agency, but teams desperate for a point guard might tender a contract to the coveted restricted free agent.
17 Isaiah Thomas Signs With Phoenix
Isaiah Thomas is a free agent and desperately needs to turn his career around after a disastrous season that saw him struggle in Cleveland after injury and then fail to fit in with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was quite a drastic change from the year prior, when he put the Boston Celtics on his back in the playoffs with inspired play following the death of his sister. He was named to the All-NBA team that year, but his numbers and usage declined significantly in 2017-18. What better place to boost his career than the team that first took a chance on him with the 60th overall pick in the draft? The Suns need a point guard and it appears they'll target one in free agency after drafting center Dendre Ayton and small forward Mikal Bridges in the first round.
16 Marcus Smart Traded To The Detroit Pistons
The sixth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Marcus Smart has been a valuable player for the Boston Celtics over the course of the past four seasons. He isn't a dominant scorer, but the dual guard is a capable playmaker with impressive defensive abilities. He's a restricted free agent so he can sign with any team, although the Celtics have the right to match any offer. They could also trade him to ensure they get the assets they want in return should they be unable to match an offer, which seems likely. The Pistons aren't exactly deep at the guard position and new head coach Dwane Casey is known for being defensive-minded. It would not be a shock to see him in Detroit next season.
15 Rudy Gay Signs With The Raptors
This isn't the first major prediction you'll see involving the Toronto Raptors. The team had one of its best ever regular seasons last year, but once again flamed out in the playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. More importantly, its best players - Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan - failed to step up when needed. As a result, Dwane Casey was shown the door and that won't be the last of the changes. The Raptors will once again look to be competitive in a weak Eastern Conference and one way they can do that is by signing high volume scorer Rudy Gay. The 31 year old played parts of two seasons with the Raptors and was dealt in 2014 with an eye toward a rebuild, but the Raptors actually began playing much better following the trade. Still, they may seek to bring him back since one of - or both - Lowry and DeRozan could be gone this offseason and they'll need scoring to come from somewhere.
14 Carmelo Anthony Traded To Denver
Rudy Gay signing with Toronto isn't exactly a homecoming worth celebrating, but Carmelo Anthony returning to Denver would not only be a great sight to see for Nuggets fans, but a sign that the team is truly ready to compete in the playoffs after consecutive ninth-place finishes in the Western Conference. The 34 year old isn't as effective as he once was during the first eight years of his career with the Nuggets, but he can still create his own offense and would be a much better fit with the likes of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray than he was in OKC playing with ball-hungry players like Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
13 Aaron Gordon Re-Signs With Orlando
A player re-signing with his own team isn't typically groundbreaking news worthy of shaking up the league, but Aaron Gordon is an improving player who is shedding his label as a dunk contest competitor and becoming one of the league's brightest young stars. More than that, the Orlando Magic haven't exactly been a relevant team since 2010, when it reached the Eastern Conference Finals, so to lose its best young star to restricted free agency would be a significant blow, especially after it just added Mo Bamba with the sixth pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The team would be ridiculous to not match an offer for Gordon.
12 Avery Bradley Signs With Utah
The Celtics trade of Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons last offseason made sense given its salary cap situation, but the Pistons trade of Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and a first-round pick for Blake Griffin is looking worse by the day. It might look a little better if the Clippers are unable to bring back Bradley, who is an unrestricted free agent - and perhaps the Pistons knew they couldn't re-sign the two-time All-Defensive team guard. Ironically, he would fit perfectly on Dwane Casey's Pistons, but expect the Utah Jazz to pursue the 27 year old to complement Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, and Rudy Gobert.
11 Jabari Parker Signs With The Knicks
You've gotta love the Knicks - even if you hate them. The comically-bad team had made strange decisions in the past few years and their ownership and management has been a circus. However, the hiring of David Fizdale should bring about some excitement and enthusiasm moving forward, even if fans weren't exactly thrilled about the team drafting Kevin Knox with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The offseason should bring about more positive news because, well, how can it get worse? Expect the Knicks to target restricted free agent Jabari Parker, whose injury history could make him available at a discounted rate. The former second overall pick is still only 23 years old and, although he only played in 31 games last season, was on the verge of a breakout campaign in 2016-17 with 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists through 51 games.
10 Lonzo Ball Traded To Sacramento
The Los Angeles Lakers, at least as of late June, are considered the front-runners to land LeBron James in free agency. Sure, the Lakers are linked to every prominent free agent, but it feels real this time. James has given his all to the Cavaliers and the chance to retire in Hollywood seems the right move for him given his growing brand and star power. If he goes there, it's likely the Lakers trade Lonzo Ball simply just to keep LeBron from answering questions about LaVar every day. Sacramento would be a great fit for the talented point guard as it keeps him close to home and essentially keeps the patriarch of the Big Baller family out of the limelight as nobody cares about the Kings.
9 Kyle Lowry Traded To The Knicks
The Knicks are going to be busy this offseason. David Fizdale is going to be pressuring general manager Scott Perry to provide him with a roster he can work with and one player he might target is Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. The Knicks targeted Lowry in 2013 and it would behoove them to not seek out a trade for the 32 year old. In addition to being a top 10 point guard in the league, Lowry is an elite spot-up three-point shooter who shot 40 percent from beyond the arc last season. He would also give young point guard Frank Ntilikina a chance to grow under an experienced point guard over the course of the next two seasons.
8 Chris Paul Re-Signs With Houston
There has been tons of speculation as to where Chris Paul would sign following the conclusion of the 2017-18 season in which the Rockets reached Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals but lost to the Golden State Warriors. Paul missed the final two games of the series and he has to be wondering "what if." The Rockets appeared poised to break the string of three consecutive NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers and could certainly disrupt that streak again next year, but only if Paul returns. He's more of a traditional point guard than James Harden and gives the Rockets the most dynamic backcourt arguably in NBA history. They'll need to offer him a max contract and make some moves to accommodate his salary, but they need to make it work.
7 Kevin Love Traded To Minnesota
If we're right on even a few of these, it'll be a summer defined by homecomings in the NBA. One player in particular who could help out his former team is Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers power forward/center who has become more of an outside shooter in recent years. If LeBron James leaves Cleveland, it makes no sense for the team to keep Love, but he would be a great fit in Minnesota; he doesn't need to be relied upon as a rebounder with Karl-Anthony Towns in the mix and he would provide a consistent, dangerous three-point threat that the team has been lacking.
6 DeMarcus Cousins Signs With OKC
The Oklahoma City Thunder are likely to undergo another significant overhaul this offseason as the Paul George/Carmelo Anthony experiment didn't really seem to play out as the team had anticipated. Both players, in not as many words, have expressed a desire to move on, but it's not as if OKC can rebuild with former MVP Russell Westbrook still on the roster - and they won't trade the fan-favorite point guard either. Westbrook is going to be somewhat selfish in how he runs the offense, but someone who can complement that style sufficiently is DeMarcus Cousins, who is a decent three-point shooter and dominant rebounder.
5 Andrew Wiggins Traded To The Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have been in the NBA for more than two decades, but the team really hasn't put an emphasis on drafting and developing Canadian players, even as the city of Toronto is becoming one of basketball's hotbeds in regard to player development. The team signed point guard Cory Joseph a few seasons ago, but he has since moved on to the Indiana Pacers. However, there's an opportunity to make a splash and facilitate a drastic roster overhaul this offseason as Andrew Wiggins could be on the block. It has been reported that there was a rift between Jimmy Butler and Wiggins last season and that might lead the T-Wolves to move on from the former first overall pick who hasn't really lived up to expectations. The Raptors don't have a ton of assets, but they'll be pushing hard for the 23 year old Canadian.
4 Kawhi Leonard Traded To The Celtics
The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio has been fascinating. The former 15th overall pick was slowly developed over his first four seasons and is now regarded as one of the top five players in the game on both side of the ball. The two-time NBA All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year was expected to have an even better year in 2017-18, but injuries limited him to nine games and he refused to return to the lineup, despite being cleared by doctors. The relationship between the two sides is strained, which is unusual in San Antonio, and it appears he's all but on his way out of Texas. It can be tough to get value on trading a franchise player, but there's almost no way the Spurs would give Leonard to a Western Conference team. Boston makes the most sense as they have the assets and are building toward a championship. Imagine Leonard playing alongside Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum.
3 Kevin Durant Returns To Golden State
This might not be a huge surprise, but Kevin Durant definitely has options and should feel comfortable leaving Golden State for more money after two championships, but it appears as though he's eyeing a return to the Warriors. In fact, on one occasion, he did confirm he would re-sign with the team in July, but remember the Deandre Jordan situation: nothing is guaranteed in the NBA. Would it be the biggest shock of all-time to see him sign elsewhere? No. But it's much more likely he chases another championship with the returning cast of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green - not to mention Tyreke Evans, who we also have the Warriors adding.
2 Paul George Signs With The Lakers
This summer has to be the offseason in which the Lakers turn the corner, right? The team brought in Magic Johnson to oversee the improvement of its roster last year and he made baby steps at last year's draft by bringing in Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, but Magic doesn't come across as someone who is going to be patient in his approach. More than that, Los Angeles is a prime free agent destination that becomes even more attractive with a talented roster. Paul George is one unrestricted free agent who has already expressed his desire to play for the Lakers and is almost guaranteed to sign with the team in the coming weeks.
1 LeBron James Signs With The Lakers
There you have it. The news you were waiting for. LeBron James is signing with the Lakers. The four-time MVP is 33 years old and, although he defies logic and science by continuing to get better the older he gets, it's hard to foresee him continuing to dominate the league into his late 30s. He has won three NBA championships and might have a better opportunity to win a fourth elsewhere, but his presence alone will immediately make the Lakers a contender. Factor in additions like Paul George and the team could compete with the Warriors and Rockets for Western Conference supremacy next season. Beyond that, James is an entrepreneur and budding mainstream celebrity who enjoys the Hollywood lifestyle.
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