Few summers in the NBA may be able to compare to the avalanche of movement we saw around 6 p.m. ET on June 30th of last year. We found out that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were heading to Brooklyn, Jimmy Butler was off to Miami, Al Horford to Philadelphia, Kemba Walker to Boston, and Kawhi Leonard was taking his talents to the Clippers.
Whenever this offseason does start, things will look much different than they did last year. The free agency class isn’t nearly as strong as last year’s was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adding that into the equation, we will likely see guys with player options opt in and elect to stay with their current team until next summer, weakening the 2020 free agent class even more. The top of the free agent market this summer may end up being guys like Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, and Danilo Gallinari. That’s a way different class than Durant, Irving, Leonard, and Butler.
All that said, just because the free agency group might be a bit lackluster doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty of movement this offseason, it’s just going to have to come in the form of the trade market. We took a look at a number of impact players that could find themselves on the move this summer.
On The Block
Contract: Two years, $85.5M (second-year player option)
Potential destinations: Miami, New York
The Chris Paul experience has gone pretty well for the Thunder this year, certainly better than some expected. Oklahoma City is going to be a team absolutely no one wants to square off against in the playoffs once they begin in Orlando. Will they be a team that contends for a title this year? Probably not. But they will be a team everyone dreads trying to beat four times in two weeks? Absolutely.
But just because things have gone better than expected for the Thunder this year doesn’t mean that they won’t try and move off Paul and the two massive years left on his contract. They certainly don’t have to trade him. With all the assets they acquired from the Paul George and Russell Westbrook trades they’re loaded with draft picks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the star of their next core. But if a deal comes up where they don’t have to attach any assets of their own to get Paul’s contract out of town and position themselves as a potential lottery team next year, it may make some sense.
As far as destinations, Miami is going to be a team that keeps popping up every time a star player comes available. There were rumors about the Heat being a potential landing spot for Paul once he was dealt to OKC last summer, and it would make sense for them to pop up again. The only thing that complicates things in that situation is the desire the Heat have to keep a maximum salary slot open next offseason, when Giannis Antetokounmpo and a group of others can become free agents.
Contract: Three years, $91.4M
Potential destinations: Portland, Orlando, Philadelphia
Love’s name might be the one that’s spent the most amount of time on this type of list. He was traded from Minnesota to Cleveland all the way back in the summer of 2014 and it feels like his name has been in trade rumors ever since.
He’s not the player that he once was. It feels like Love averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds per game in Minnesota is long gone, but he’s still a useful player. Love is a perfect stretch-four in today’s NBA. He’s an above-average 3-point shooter, and only a full season worth of games removed from shooting 41 percent from deep for the Cavs back in 2017-18. Adding to that, Love doubles as one of the best passers for his position and is still a strong rebounder, too.
Adding him to a team like Portland could raise their ceiling alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Orlando is a team that needs to become better offensively—despite a pretty good 10-game stretch before the league shut down—and Love certainly could help that happen. As for Philly, there’s little question he’d be a better fit alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid on the offensive end of the court than Horford.
Contract: Three years, 94.2M
Potential destinations: Well, who wants that contract?
The Warriors can hype up Wiggins at every turn, and it’s still tough to believe them that he’s really going to be part of their core going forward. There have been times throughout his career where it looks like he’s turned a corner and is on his way to becoming the player so many folks thought he would be when he was drafted first overall by Cleveland back in 2014. Then, after five or six games, he crashes back to Earth and remains the player that casually floats through games like always.
When the Warriors decided to take him back—along with a loosely protected first-round draft pick—from the Timberwolves for D’Angelo Russell, it’s hard to think there wasn’t more to that plan. The “Light Years Ahead” Warriors couldn’t simply be trading for one of the worst contracts in the NBA without a plan in mind to turn it into something else, right?
It’s hard to think of a suitor for Wiggins right now, but if the Warriors are really intent on making another run at a title, they’ll have a top-five draft pick this year, and potentially another high draft pick via the Wolves next offseason, adding in Wiggins’ high salary could potentially net them something worthwhile.
Keep An Eye Out
Contract: Four years, $130.9M
Potential destinations: Minnesota, Brooklyn, Miami
Alright, let’s do this.
Is Booker likely to get traded by the Suns? No, probably not. Is there the chance he becomes the NBA’s next disgruntled superstar wanting to find a path towards winning? Yeah, that could happen.
The Suns are in Orlando, but they’re pretty unlikely to make the playoffs, even with the new play-in format being in place this year. It’s fair to wonder how Booker feels about two of his best friends—Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell—getting to play together in Minnesota after the three of them proclaimed their desire to all play together at some point in the future. This summer, we may see quite a few people wondering just how far away that future is, exactly.
Minnesota fans already feel like they spoke the Towns and Russell pairing into existence, and are trying to do the same thing with Booker. Now, that team wouldn’t play very much defense, but they might turn into a really exciting offensive squad. The Nets are going to be a team to watch with quite a few guys in this category. They still have assets to add a third star to Durant and Irving, and Booker could make some sense as additional scoring. Miami is going to be the other team constantly mentioned in these talks as we know no one covets star players like Pat Riley.
Contract: One-year, $28.7M
Potential destinations: Brooklyn, Dallas, Miami, every organization in the NBA with a pulse
This is the name on this list that’s been the most talked about over the last 12 months or so. There’s been plenty of speculation that Beal is unhappy in the situation in Washington. It does seem like the Wizards are intent on giving Beal and Wall another run together, but it’s certainly going to be a fluid situation.
This year Beal had a breakout of sorts. Despite being snubbed from the All-Star Game, he averaged 30.5 points per game on a Wizards squad that wasn’t very talented. He’s a walking bucket and carried the Wizards to an invite to Orlando. It’s sort of difficult to see the Wizards voluntarily dealing him at this point, but a trade request certainly would surprise no one.
The teams listed—Brooklyn, Dallas, and Miami—all make sense for Beal, but in reality, almost every team in the NBA does. You’ll have a real difficult time trying to find a general manager or head coach that doesn’t want Beal around. It makes sense that he’s likely the most sought-after guy on this list.
Contract: One-year, $21M
Potential destinations: Brooklyn, Miami
Oladipo is one of the more interesting names we’re talking about today, partly because he’s a bit of an unknown right now, and partly because he isn’t a name that immediately comes to mind when trades are the topic of choice. Before the NBA descended upon Orlando, Oladipo declared himself out for the restart. Then he joined the Pacers and has been practicing and may play when games start. He only played 13 games after returning from a ruptured quad tendon in his right leg suffered in January of 2019. He hasn’t exactly impressed over the few games he’s played this season, either.
The reason that it’s fair to speculate Oladipo as a trade candidate is the fact that he’s eligible for an extension this summer. The two-time All-Star is going to want to get paid, and it’s unclear if Indiana is going to feel comfortable paying him with his injury history and the financial situation the NBA may be in for the immediate future. Could that lead to Oladipo wanting to be in a situation that better suits him long term? It just may.
Contract: Two years, 51.6M (Player option in year two)
Potential destinations: Denver, Miami, New York
There was plenty of chatter regarding Holiday throughout this season. The Pelicans didn’t get off to a great start, the team is trending younger, and Holiday could still grab a pretty significant return for New Orleans. Obviously, none of that came to fruition, but it certainly could be re-visited this summer.
At 30 years old he still has plenty left to give a contending team. Maybe that is New Orleans, but maybe it’s a different franchise. The Pelicans certainly could get a pretty strong haul for Holiday, making adding even more young talent to Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and company a possibility.
Of all the names on this list, Holiday might move the needle the least, and if the Pelicans are successful down in Orlando, it could be difficult to see him dealt once the offseason begins.
Let’s Shake It Up
Contract: Three years, 54.3M (Final year partially guaranteed)
Potential destinations: Orlando, New York
Bledsoe certainly isn’t a name that is thought of when discussing available guards. He signed an extension with the Bucks during the middle of the regular-season last year, and has been a solid regular-season player alongside Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
The issue with Bledsoe has been the postseason. In back-to-back years he’s been outplayed when it counts. In 2018, we saw Terry Rozier cooking him on the court and showing up to games in a Drew Bledsoe jersey as the Celtics beat the Bucks in seven games. Last year, he couldn’t figure out Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This isn’t to say that the Bucks need to move Bledsoe. But if the Bucks don’t win the title this year, the pressure is on to win it all next year before Antetokounmpo could become a free agent, and shaking up the roster could mean Bledsoe is on the move. Figuring out what the return would be interesting, but there’s no doubt that the Bucks have no choice but to be all-in to winning a title at any cost.
Contract: Three years, $81.5M
Potential destinations: Minnesota, Phoenix
It doesn’t take a basketball savant to know that things haven’t gone as planned in Philly this year. The Sixers are currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Offensively, things have looked too bogged down for much of the year. There hasn’t been enough space for Horford, Ben Simmons, and Joel Embiid to operate.
Prior to the season shutting down, Horford started to come off the bench, and will continue to do so when the season resumes later this month. This was done to try and limit the minutes that he shared the floor with Embiid, thanks to the fact that those two have a negative net rating on the floor together. It wasn’t much of an improvement when Simmons was added to the mix, either.
If Philly doesn’t go on a deep playoff run, there’s been plenty of chatter that things will need to change. Embiid, Simmons, and coach Brett Brown have all been mentioned as far as who could be on the move, but moving Horford might be the process that makes the most sense right now.
Contract: Two years, $34.5M
Potential destinations: Cleveland, Washington, Chicago
The Magic is fine. Not great, not bad, just…fine. Being fine is an okay place in most circles of life, but the NBA standings certainly isn’t one of them. They’re a really good defensive team that struggles, at times, to score offensively. It’s difficult to see them taking a nosedive in the standings over the next couple of years, but it’s also pretty tough to envision them climbing up into contention, too.
Gordon is an explosive athlete that hasn’t fulfilled his potential. He’s a pretty good defensive player, but has been a net negative offensively. Swapping him with a more offensive minded player could help to elevate the Magic to a different level. How much better do they get if they swap Gordon with say, Kevin Love enough though the money doesn’t matchup? I’m not entirely sure, but at this point it certainly looks like it would be worth a shot.
Contract: One year, $25.7M
Potential destinations: Someone willing to pay big for a big man
With everything going on in Utah, it begs the question of whether or not Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are going to be on-court partners for the long haul. With their current COVID-related situation sparking what appears to be bad blood, it’s worth looking into. The part that complicates things even further is Gobert’s contract situation. This offseason he’s eligible to sign a supermax extension.
Whatever your opinion of the big man from France, it’s hard to see the Jazz tying up that much money in a big man that will be 29 years old when the extension would kick in. But just because the Jazz may not extend Gobert with the supermax, doesn’t mean that they can’t negotiate with him. If things go smoothly in negotiations, maybe this is all a moot point. But if they don’t Gobert’s name could be one that begins to be floated around in trade talks. The Jazz certainly wouldn’t want to lose him for nothing should he walk away in free agency in 2021.
It’s tough to find a great fit for Gobert in the trade market, but one place that keeps making a little bit of sense is Golden State. Sure, they’d be paying a ton for him, but his rim protection and ability to set screens could help Steph Curry and Klay Thompson age gracefully. Plus, they do have that Wiggins contract to help make a deal like this one work.