In the past few weeks, the NBA has seen Paul George,Chris Paul,Jimmy Butler,Paul Millsap and Gordon Hayward change teams. The month of July is always a busy one in the NBA, but this off-season has been particularly active, with 29 franchises chasing the superteam Warriors.
And while there's already been an abundance of movement, there's been even more speculation. Carmelo Anthony has been a fixture of NBA gossip. Names like Anthony Davis, Kevin Love, Andre Drummond and others have popped up as well. With Golden State boasting an armada of stars, everyone else in the league feels like it must do something drastic to compete. That's created a star-chasing frenzy, with anyone with an All-Star appearance on their résumé being rumored to join forces with other stars.
But which NBA star will actually be the next to change teams? With the NBA's silly season officially underway, The Crossover paneled its writers to answer that question.
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
This seems fairly obvious. The Rockets want him, the Knicks should probably dump him, and Melo's career has reached the point where literally everyone (except the Knicks) realizes he needs a fresh start. Ah, star-crossed lovers. Anyway, despite the Rockets’ impending ownership change, it still feels like this deal still goes down, it’s just a matter of Houston roping in trade partners at this point. I trust them to get creative and make it happen. Melo alongside James Harden and Chris Paul would be awfully interesting (and potentially lethal if he’s cool standing in the corner and getting easy looks all game). Lots of stars around the league are in fluid situations, but no departure feels as imminent as this one. Bottom line, no amount of couples therapy between Melo and the Knicks can erase the increasingly poor fit between player and organization. — Jeremy Woo
Andre Drummond, Pistons
The Pistons have been making and taking calls regarding their All-Star center for months. Detroit began last season with the hope of Drummond and Reggie Jackson forming an inside-out combo that propelled them into upper echelon of the East. Then Jackson fell to another bout of knee troubles, Drummond's defensive motor completely stalled, and Detroit found itself back in the lottery. The Pistons would like to part ways with both of those aforementioned big pieces, but Drummond clearly has more trade value. The Pistons' net rating skyrocketed 9 points per 100 possessions with Jackson on the bench last season. While the center position is surely changing, there are few chiseled 7-footers with Drummond's level of athleticism walking this earth, let alone available this summer.
Toronto called dangling Jonas Valanciunas before the deadline, and Sacramento and Phoenix also expressed strong interest in Drummond in June, per sources. There's enough grease to ultimately move the wheels and find Drummond a new home before the season starts, and he's almost certainly not finishing out the final four years of his five-year, max contract in Detroit. The Pistons had eyes on Ryan Anderson before he hit free agency last summer. Perhaps Detroit finagles its way into the Melo-to-Houston talks, moving Drummond to New York and taking back Ryan Anderson—a Stan Van Gundy favorite from Orlando—in return. Portland called about Drummond before they ultimately moved on Jusuf Nurkic this spring, but perhaps those front offices' familiarity could also help deliver Drummond to the Knicks in a Melo maneuver. Or maybe Drummond is simply the latest weapon to change teams in the NBA's arms race to defeat the Warriors. He will very likely be wearing a new jersey by the end of the 2017-18 season. Why not now? — Jake Fischer
Kevin Love, Cavaliers
The trade rumors started soon after Kevin Love first stepped foot in the city of Cleveland. With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving capable of creating their own shots, Love has always been an awkward fit on the perimeter, missing the post touches he once received in Minnesota. He was the focal point of the Wolves' offense, but has played third fiddle for the Cavaliers. And when things have gone south for the Cavs in recent years, Love's name pops up in trade rumors and the narrative of him being dispensable cranks up again. The most recent Love rumor had the big man going to Denver and Paul George to Cleveland in a three-team deal, but the Pacers backed out of that deal, according to reports.
All that said, the Cavaliers have few ways of upgrading their roster, and all signs point to Love being the only way to bring in another star. Cleveland isn’t willing to part with LeBron or Kyrie (obviously), leaving Love as one of few movable assets on the team. And the discontent from James and recognition of a “peculiar time” by Irving are signs that something could be on the horizon. Don’t be surprised if Dan Gilbert and the GM-less Cavs make a move sooner than later. — DeAntae Prince
Blake Griffin, Clippers
After losing Chris Paul this summer, the Clippers avoided a full-blown meltdown by inking Blake Griffin to a five-year, $173 million extension. But that deal may have only delayed the inevitable for L.A. The Clippers have done their best this off-season to mitigate the loss of Paul, adding Milos Teodosic to run the point, Danilo Gallinari to fill their void on the wing, and getting a decent package of role players in return for CP3. But it's hard for any team that loses Paul not to take a step back, and it's even harder when your other two stars were dependent on their All-Star point guard to create easy shots.
If things go south for the Clippers, they could put Griffin on the trade block. L.A. is no longer at risk of losing its star forward in free agency, but it might not be able to turn down an enticing package of prospects and picks if the team is headed for the lottery. DeAndre Jordan could also be dealt, but Griffin would likely return the better haul and give them a prospect or lottery pick to build around. At 28 years old, Griffin can still be a franchise-altering talent. And with few of those players not already on superteams, he could be a popular trade candidate if the Clippers struggle and eye a rebuild. — Matt Dollinger
Paul George, Thunder
Though the Thunder made a savvy move stealing Paul George for a shockingly low price, there’s no guarantee George stays a full season in OKC.
First off, if any franchise will feel trigger-happy when it comes to trading a star before losing him for nothing, it’s the Thunder (remember that KD guy?). It’s not only about on-court fit. What if it’s clear by mid-season, even with OKC playing fairly well, that George still wants to sign with L.A. in the summer? The Thunder could trade him for a nice package of players to surround Russ.
And then there’s the chance that the Westbrook-George pair doesn’t work out. Russ still needs to prove he can play nice with another superstar, and it’s probably going to be even harder for him to take his foot off the gas after his MVP season. If the Russ and George experiment blow up quickly and fall behind in the ultra-competitive West, it would be in Sam Presti’s best interests to move George quickly.
At its worst, the George trade was a solid salary dump for the Thunder. It wouldn’t be shocking if it ends up being the first move in a series of trades to reshape the franchise. — Rohan Nadkarni
LeBron James is as good as gone, and I'm not sure the Cavs even want to keep him at this point. Cleveland's off-season has made no sense. Why would you try to bring in Chauncey Billups, someone who has zero front-office experience, to run your basketball operations? Was that supposed to inspire confidence from James?
Maybe Dan Gilbert is tired of paying massive luxury tax bills. I don't know. He certainly isn't acting with the sense of urgency required when James can be a free agent next year. We're in the middle fo July and the Cavs still don't have a GM!
LeBron already brought a trophy back to Cleveland, and Gilbert's lack of strategy gives him enough cover to leave. I think James knows he needs a radically improved team to beat the Warriors, so he's going to team up with some fellow stars next summer. Chris Paul? Paul George? There will be no shortage of people looking to team up with LeBron and dethrone the Dubs.
Where will James end up? The Lakers are probably the favorite, even if it would be weird for Bron to be stepping into Kobe's shadow a little bit. Wherever he ends up, James has one last earth-shifting free agency move left in him. He's not going to waste the last years of his dominance on a rudderless ship. He will find a team ready to compete. — Rohan Nadkarni