SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest question of the day. Today, we examine …
Which NBA star is in most need of a change of scenery?
Lee Jenkins: Kevin Love. For the sixth straight spring, Kevin Love is home, seething while the playoffs proceed without him. Several superstars could use a change, and may even hanker for it, but Love is the rare headliner who will realistically get one. He has made clear that he is willing to turn down the extra year, and the extra cash, to leave Minnesota and join a contender after his contract expires next summer. Whether or not Love is a top-five player, he belongs on the post-season stage, and unless the Timberwolves make a transformative trade this off-season, he can’t get there unless he first goes somewhere else.
Phil Taylor: Paul Pierce. OK, so he's not a star anymore, but he used to be, and he ought to finish up his career somewhere other than Brooklyn, where, let's face it, he always looked out of place. Not that they didn't play hard, but as ex-Celtics, Pierce and Kevin Garnett had too much green in their blood to ever really have their heart in being Nets. That was obvious ever since their introductory press conference after they were traded to Brooklyn last summer, when they posed for photos looking like they were in a hostage video. KG is probably better off in retirement (thought he might find it hard to pass up the $12 million on the final year of his contract.) Pierce, a free agent, probably still has enough in the tank to help a contender, and the Clippers make perfect sense. He could go back to home to the Los Angeles area where he grew up, and play for Doc Rivers, with whom he hung a championship banner during nine mostly idyllic years in Boston. Pierce would be a nice, veteran piece to bring off the bench for the Clips, who could afford to play him sparingly enough to keep him healthy and fresh for the postseason. Pierce to the Clippers. Who says no? Nobody.
Ben Golliver: Carmelo Anthony. I was a little slow to get on the "Dwight Howard should leave L.A." bandwagon last summer, but there's no question at all that he made the right call. Even though Houston suffered a disappointing first-round exit, the Rockets' present and future is just so much brighter than the Lakers. Carmelo Anthony seems to have reached the point, like Howard, where the reasons to leave are starting to outweigh the reasons to stay: Winning is years away, the coaching situation and the franchise's direction are completely in flux, the roster parts are peeling around him like old paint, and president Phil Jackson is asking him to take a pay cut. That sounds like a fairly horrible pitch, and franchise players entering free agency are accustomed to significantly greener grass. I understand that Anthony and his family enjoy all that New York City has to offer, but market alone can only go so far. I won't blame Anthony at all if he hits the eject button come July.
Matt Dollinger: Deron Williams. Remember when Deron Williams was one of the best point guards in the league? Now he may not even be the best point guard on his team (hello, Shaun Livingston). D-Will's career has taken a nosedive of late. He's coming off his worst season since his rookie year and has seen his shooting percentage plummet since coming East. In Utah, Williams shot 46.6 percent from the field. As a Net, he's shot just 42.7. The arrival of Jason Kidd, one of the best point guards in history, hasn't done much to revitalize Williams, either. With Brooklyn likely to lose Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this summer, it could be time for a complete overhaul. Joe Johnson is essentially untradeable due to his contract and Brook Lopez is too valuable to move, despite his foot woes. That leaves Williams, an All-Star point guard with a hefty contract, but also a hefty amount of talent. Williams will turn 30 this offseason and has the tools to be one of the best floor generals in the league. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear he's going to realize that potential in Brooklyn.
Richard Deitsch: Dirk Nowitzki. The de facto answer is probably Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony and both would clearly benefit from new homes. But I look at the Mavericks roster and I feel for Nowitzki because I can’t see him having a shot a another title in Dallas given his age (he turns 36 in July) and that roster composition. Yes, I know Dirk is a loyal guy and loves Dallas, and I know owner Mark Cuban says he’s untouchable, but I’d love to see him join an emerging team (Houston, Indiana, Portland) that he could lift to a different level because he has at least two quality offensive seasons left in him. The Mavs say the plan is to go after a big fish in the 2015 free-agent pool but unless they nab LeBron James, I think it’s dark days ahead for Dirk in Dallas.
Chris Johnson: Carmelo Anthony. Anthony has worn out his welcome in New York. This season he averaged 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.5, yet the Knicks still missed the playoffs in the woeful Eastern Conference, marking the first time Anthony has not played in the postseason. Anthony has made it clear that he wants to win. The problem is, the Knicks are not equipped to win next season, and it’s no guarantee Phil Jackson can lure a high-profile free agent when the team has more cap space next summer. Anthony is best served moving to a team with which he can leverage his peak years into deep playoff runs. Anthony still has plenty left in the tank, and he remains one of the top scorers in the league, but it doesn’t seem like he’s all too keen on enduring what figures to be a multi-year rebuild in New York. This isn’t about Jackson’s triangle offense; Anthony could adapt his game. It’s about taking advantage of the opportunity to pursue a championship. Anthony has already said he plans to opt out of the final year of his contract. While it will be hard to pass up the extra $33 million the Knicks can offer him, it’s time for Melo to abandon ship.