The National Basketball Association is one of the most exciting professional sports leagues in the world not only because of the athleticism of its players but also because of the amount of player movement. Whereas it's not uncommon for a player to stay with one franchise for his entire career in the National Hockey League or Major League Baseball, it's rare in the NBA; Kobe Bryant might have lasted in Los Angeles despite his on- and off-court controversies, but even Michael Jordan left Chicago to play for the Washington Wizards and the Tune Squad (Space Jam). Mid-tier stars, then, are even less likely to stay with one team for their entire careers.
For instance, despite being regarded as two of the better three-point shooters in recent years, Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick have played for a combined nine teams. If they were - and they are - such great shooters, why would teams be looking to move past them? Well, in the NBA, if you aren't a championship contender, it's best to shake things up even if it means trading a player who might be more talented for one who would better fit in a particular offensive system. But it isn't just the amount of trades or notable free-agent signings that make the league exciting - it's the ubiquity of the rumors that connect certain players to different markets throughout the season. It's impossible to escape talk of player movement in the NBA and that's why we've curated a list of 20 players who could very well find themselves playing for a different team at the outset of the 2019-2020 season.
20 Forward: Tristan Thompson - Memphis Grizzlies
Tristan Thompson might have never reached his full potential given he is a former fourth overall pick, but the 27-year-old is still in the prime of his career and has, at the very least, established himself as one of the league's premier rebounders. Moreover, he is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career without LeBron James eating up so many of the offensive possessions in Cleveland.
Thompson's five-year, $82 million contract expires at the end of next season, but it's likely the Cavs would deal him this offseason to expedite their rebuild. Memphis would be an ideal destination as the Grizzlies ranked dead last in rebounds per game through the first half of the 2018-19 season.
19 Guard: D'Angelo Russell - Charlotte Hornets
D'Angelo Russell is another player whose contract isn't up until the end of the 2019-20 season (and even then he's a restricted free agent), but he's a player who could be targeted this offseason depending on outside circumstances.
The Hornets' starting point guard and potential All-Star Kemba Walker is a pending free agent and, despite his commitment to the Queen City, he's going to receive a max contract offer from several teams and could be enticed to leave. If that's the case, the Hornets would be inclined to acquire Russell, who hasn't exactly fit in with the Brooklyn Nets but has been quietly improving as a playmaker in recent seasons.
18 Forward: Serge Ibaka - Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers are hoping and expecting to be big players in 2019 free agency as the team has space for two max contracts, one of which they hope to use on Kawhi Leonard. However, don't be surprised if they also make a run at his current Toronto Raptors teammate Serge Ibaka.
The 29-year-old native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has another year left on his contract and is owed $23 million next season, but if Kawhi leaves then the Raptors may have to kick-start a rebuild and dealing Ibaka, who is in the middle of a renaissance year, would make plenty of sense.
17 Guard: Derrick Rose - Los Angeles Lakers
What a year it has been for Derrick Rose. From being an under-the-radar pick-up for the Minnesota Timberwolves to receiving love as a potential recipient of the league's Sixth Man of the Year Award, Rose has certainly earned his redemption story, not to mention a drastic increase over the $2.4 million contract he signed last offseason.
The Lakers will certainly be a team looking to improve via free agency this offseason and, while they might not get the likes of Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant, a healthy D-Rose could make them a legit contender in the Western Conference, especially if Durant does indeed leave the Warriors.
16 Forward: Enes Kanter - Brooklyn Nets
Enes Kanter is in the final year of a four-year, $70 million contract and is already rumored to be on his way out of New York, which isn't surprising given the Knicks are a rebuilding team and would be looking for assets in return for his expiring contract. Yet, it's also a shame because no player has loved playing in New York more than Kanter in recent years.
He'll likely be traded to a contender at the deadline, but when it comes time for free agency it wouldn't be a surprise to see him return to the Big Apple, but with the Brooklyn Nets instead of the Knicks. The Nets are on the rise this season and appear closer to competing than the Knicks, which would make them an ideal destination for Kanter, who is having one of the best seasons of his career at 26-years-old.
15 Guard: J.J. Redick - Houston Rockets
A former first-round pick of the Orlando Magic, J.J. Redick has a career three-point field goal percentage well above 40 and is considered one of the best from long range in the league. And yet, somehow, as he prepares to turn 35 in June, he is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers would love to re-sign him following this season, but it might be hard to fit him in the way he's playing this year, especially with Ben Simmons' contract expiring in a couple of years. He would be a perfect fit with the Houston Rockets, where he could simply stand in the corner and wait for James Harden to find him for open shots and not disrupt the team's offensive flow as was the case with Carmelo Anthony.
14 Forward: Nikola Mirotic - Dallas Mavericks
It has been an interesting couple of years for Nikola Mirotic, who was involved in an altercation during practice with then-Bulls teammate Bobby Portis at the beginning of the 2017-18 season before being dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Bulls clearly made the wrong decision in dealing him as he has been averaging career-best figures in points and rebounds per game since the transaction.
He's a pending unrestricted free agent who the Pelicans would love to re-sign, especially given the uncertainty of Anthony Davis' future, but he may be a casualty of the salary cap for that reason. The Pelicans owner and management is committed to extending Davis beyond the 2019-2020 season and giving Mirotic the $20 million he deserves might be too rich. The Dallas Mavericks, meanwhile, could use a big body to complement (or replace) DeAndre Jordan and build around budding superstar Luka Doncic.
13 Guard: Tyreke Evans - Washington Wizards
Tyreke Evans has had an up-and-down career since being selected fourth overall in the 2009 NBA Draft and, while he might not the be star player many expected out of college, he's a versatile and dependable scorer even despite the fact he's having one of the worst seasons of his career with the Indiana Pacers.
That's due in part to the fact the Pacers are a deep team and Evans has mostly been coming off of the bench. On a team with a lesser bench like, say, the Washington Wizards, he could not only be a Sixth Man candidate but even start for the entire season. He's an unrestricted free agent this offseason and one that re-tooling teams like the Wizards will target.
12 Forward: Tobias Harris - Toronto Raptors
We've already got Serge Ibaka going to the Los Angeles Clippers and, in this scenario, it's in a sign-and-trade involving Tobias Harris, who has been a key contributor for the Clippers since coming over from the Detroit Pistons. While Los Angeles might prefer not to part ways with Harris, they might have to in order to not only add someone like Ibaka (and other assets) but also to free up additional space to go after Kevin Durant and retain Kawhi Leonard.
For the Raptors, adding someone like Harris while keeping together a core of Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and Jonas Valanciunas could at least keep the team in playoff contention for the foreseeable future.
11 Guard: Terry Rozier - New Orleans Pelicans
Terry Rozier is a player who has seemingly been on the block for awhile now given his affordable contract and inspired play from last year's playoffs when Kyrie Irving went down with an injury. Rozier would fit in with a lot of teams and the Celtics may have to find a suitor for his services if they intend to sign Irving long-term and create cap space to accommodate its growing, young roster.
Rozier is more of a scoring point guard than a playmaker, but he would fit in well playing an inside-outside game alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans, even if it's only for one season before Davis' contract expires.
10 Forward: Brook Lopez - Portland Trail Blazers
The evolution of the big man in today's NBA has been fascinating with more and more willing to step out beyond the three-point line and attempt shots they would have been benched for taking in the past. No power forward/center has been more adept in that regard than Brook Lopez, who took only 31 three-point attempts in his first eight seasons compared to a combined 712 during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. He's also on pace to set a new career high in that regard this year.
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are decent three-point shooters, but the Portland Trail Blazers lack a capable veteran big man who can stretch the floor with consistency. Lopez would be the perfect addition to take the team to the next level in the ever-competitive Western Conference.
9 Guard: Ricky Rubio - San Antonio Spurs
As good as he was in Minnesota, Ricky Rubio has been an even better fit in Utah. The former fifth overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft is scoring at a better rate than ever, while still facilitating the ball to his teammates with efficiency on offense. That said, the Jazz don't appear to be as competitive this year as they were last and, with Rubio's contract set to expire, he will be a valuable commodity on the free agent market.
His style of play fits in perfectly with Gregg Popovich's system in San Antonio and, beyond that, he just seems like someone who should be on the Spurs, if that makes sense. San Antonio should have young point guard Dejounte Murray back next season, but adding a veteran like Rubio to help him and serve as an insurance policy could be extremely beneficial.
8 Forward: Rudy Gay - Phoenix Suns
If they were to sign Rubio, the Spurs would probably need to move some players around and make changes to manage its offense, which in turn would likely make Rudy Gay available. The 32-year-old is a pending free agent and should make near the $10 million he's due to collect during the 2018-19 season regardless of where he signs.
One team that could pay a premium for Gay's services is the Phoenix Suns, who have been the doormat of the Western Conference for quite some time now. Amid rumors of the team leaving Phoenix while desperately in need of a winning season, Gay's veteran experience and shooting abilities could significantly help the young core of Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton.
7 Guard: Eric Bledsoe - Brooklyn Nets
As previously mentioned, the Brooklyn Nets are a team that's on the come-up. Even without a handful of first-round picks that were traded away years ago to the Boston Celtics in the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade, the team has managed to acquire and develop under-the-radar young players. Now is the time to strive for the playoffs and add from outside of the organization.
One player the team should target in free agency is Eric Bledsoe, who is in the final year of a five-year, $70 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. The 29-year-old is still a capable starting point guard and would give credibility to the rising Nets.
6 Forward: DeAndre Jordan - Los Angeles Lakers
Again, sorry Lakers fans but the team isn't getting either Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant in free agency, but rest easy because not only is LeBron James a Laker, but the team is almost guaranteed to acquire one or two notable names this offseason. In addition to D-Rose, Los Angeles will likely target DeAndre Jordan, whose one-year contract will be up with the Dallas Mavericks.
Jordan was never a great scorer but is arguably the best rebounder in the league. And while James is a capable rebounder himself, he's not getting any younger; having someone do more of the dirty work under the basket in place of James could certainly help keep him fresh during the course of a season and into the playoffs.
5 Guard: Kemba Walker - Miami Heat
We previously mentioned the Charlotte Hornets acquiring D'Angelo Russell and the reason for that being the departure of All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. The 28-year-old has been the face of the franchise in Charlotte practically since he was a rookie in 2011, but he's now a pending unrestricted free agent in line for a significant increase over the $12 million he's making this season.
There are several teams that would be a great fit for Walker, but none more than the Miami Heat, especially if Dwyane Wade calls it a career. They might have to also deal Goran Dragic to make it work, but there's no doubt Walker would significantly improve the Heat.
4 Forward: Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers
We've already teased it several times so let's make it official: Kawhi Leonard is signing with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2019 offseason. Okay, so maybe it's not a 100 percent guarantee - he does seem to be enjoying Toronto for the time being - but there's a huge possibility Leonard is lured to Los Angeles.
For starters, the team has been sending not only scouts, but high-level executives to watch Leonard throughout this season and, as much as he might enjoy the quality of life or relative obscurity in Toronto, it's expected that family and friends will draw The Klaw back to California, making the Clippers an immediate NBA Championship favorite.
3 Guard: Klay Thompson - Chicago Bulls
The Golden State Warriors are finally starting to show cracks this season and it's basically been conceded that Kevin Durant will be leaving to chase the max contract he deserves this offseason. Yet, another pending free agent, Klay Thompson, has flown under the radar.
Thompson, in the past, has stated he would take less money to keep winning championships in Golden State, but that might be tougher than expected without Durant. He took less than what he could have earned four years ago to build something special with the Warriors, so now it feels as though he might follow Durant and seek out a max contract elsewhere. The Chicago Bulls, with plenty of cap space and need for a star player, would be an ideal destination for Thompson.
2 Forward: Kevin Durant - New York Knicks
It really hasn't been a good decade for fans of the New York Knicks, but these last two projections, if accurate, would almost be enough for the city to have a parade. Sure, almost every year insiders and analysts project some of the league's biggest free agents will sign with the Lakers or Knicks, but there's actually a reason to believe it could happen this year.
For starters, Durant is chasing money this offseason and the Knicks have plenty of it. He has also grown accustomed to performing well under the bright lights and there are no lights brighter than in New York. Moreover, although he already has the rings to cement his legacy, he could take it one step further if he brings a championship to the Knicks.
1 Guard: Kyrie Irving - New York Knicks
Landing Durant alone would be the biggest and most noteworthy thing to happen to the Knicks since Charles Oakley was thrown out of Madison Square Garden, but imagine if, on the same day, the team announced it had signed Kyrie Irving? We're almost certain there would be a parade in the streets.
Irving is in the fourth year of a five-year, $94 million contract, but he can opt out this offseason and many expect he will, despite assurances he has given that he loves Boston and intends to play there long-term. Still, Irving, more than others, seems to thrive on the big stage and would be well-suited in New York. More than that, for whatever reason, it's easy to picture him in a Knicks jersey more than any others. Go ahead Knicks fans, allow yourself to feel optimism.