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Which NBA Stars Could Be on the Move Next?

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If this summer has taught us anything, it is that another star will always become available.  Just when everyone thinks the game of musical chairs is over, additional rumors leak out.  Since the end of the season, six of the fifteen All-NBA players have changed teams.  Given that the league is seemingly more winnable than it has been in years, many teams can talk themselves into thinking they are just a big swing away from being right in contention.  This may be misguided, but it does not make the rest of the time between now and the return of the season any more interesting.  Determining who the next star player on the move will be the top task for many GM’s, so let’s go over some of the more likely names.

Coming for the Throne

Toronto knew they were taking a calculated risk bringing in Kawhi Leonard on an expiring contract.  With only one year guaranteed, they knew it was likely a rental and if he walked they would be in a position to reset if they wanted.  A championship made that move even sweeter and will give the front office some leeway with the fans in terms of turnaround time.  While expiring contracts Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will draw some interest with their reputations as franchise-changing, impactful veterans, there is really only one veteran they could look to move that could shake up another franchise.

Kyle Lowry has been the face of the franchise since arriving in Toronto in 2012.  While Leonard was undeniably their best player last season, Lowry is their leader and trading for him back when they did changed the perception of their franchise.  He clearly peaked statistically two years ago, but he is still a very effective player.  Lowry has become more intelligent and efficient with age and is on the final year of his contract as well.  A team who thinks they are a point guard away from contention could attach a future asset in order to add Lowry to the mix.

A team like Detroit makes a lot of sense for Lowry.  They were interested in Russell Westbrook but balked at the price.  Lowry is cheaper, expiring and would likely cost less in terms of future compensation to nab him from the Raptors.  Something like the expiring collection of Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway and Thon Maker plus a first round pick may be enough to interest Toronto.  They would get a free look at Maker before he enters restricted free agency and would get an additional pick in the process.

Dumpster Diving

If a team is interested in an aging point guard, Chris Paul is clearly available.  After moving on from Paul George and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder seem to be taking bids for any usable asset they have.  Paul is unlikely to ever play a game for the team, as they do not seem to be looking to win in the short term.  Paul makes a lot of sense on a team like Miami, and it would seem there is mutual interest.

Sending Goran Dragic (expiring contract) and James Johnson to the Thunder with a minor salary filler would give Oklahoma City financial flexibility going forward.  There are reports that Miami would want some sort of asset for taking on Paul’s deal, such as receiving their own future picks back from the Thunder.  If this type of deal does not work out, it is hard to imagine a likely landing spot quickly for Chris Paul.

The Thunder will be fielding offers for many other useful players as well, even if they do not have the profile of Chris Paul.  Despite a disappointing postseason, Steven Adams remains one of the better centers in the league and would be an interesting option for a team like Boston if they would rather have Enes Kanter in a reserve role.  Danilo Gallinari does have a history of health issues, but it is hard to find better value on a $22 million expiring contract.  Gallinari averaged nearly 20 points per game last season on 46/43/90 shooting splits.  He is an exciting small forward option if he is the third or fourth offensive option on your team.  The Thunder will not have much use for him given their current situation, but plenty of contenders would benefit from having him in their lineup.

Lost Love

It has been a while since NBA fans have seen Kevin Love play meaningful basketball.  While it was only one lost season, that is often enough to change the perception of a star’s value.  The last three seasons have been marred by injuries and last season was lost before it started given the state of the roster in Cleveland.  Even still, here is a statistical breakdown over these three “down” years:

2016 – 2017: 19 ppg / 11.1 rpg/ 37.3 3P% / 51 eFG%

2017 – 2018: 17.6 ppg / 9.3 rpg/ 41.5 3P% / 55.2 eFG%

2018 – 2019: 17 ppg / 10.9 rpg/ 36.1 3P% / 47.9 eFG%

This is still an all-star caliber player. In the right situation, he has already shown the ability to fit into whatever role the team needs.  Even though he is slowing down, he is an elite rebounder, a fantastic shooter for his size, and a solid team defender.

Looking for Love

The two teams that come to mind are Denver and Portland.  Both teams think they are close to the top of a very competitive Western Conference. Adding Love to the lineup could cement that possibility.  Denver could swap Paul Millsap — who is in the last year of his deal — straight up for Love.  Love is four years younger and is locked up long term.  This is a big deal for a team who has never been seen as a free agent destination.  The defensive pairing of Love alongside Nikola Jokic is not great, but the offensive fit would be a thing of beauty.  If there was a way to make this work defensively, the team could vault to the top of the West.

Portland has always made sense for Love.  He is from that region of the country and fits their roster perfectly.  The Blazers would be locked in financially upon making this move, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Signing Lillard to his extension this summer already removed flexibility.  Taking a swing on Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore shows that they believe this team can return to the Conference Finals.  Making the number work on the trade would likely require a third team as both teams are over the tax.  Either way, both teams should explore the options they have.

Capital Asset

Likely the best name on this list will be Bradley Beal.  While Beal said he intends to stay in DC this season, reports came out this week that he would not be signing an extension.  This does not mean a move is imminent.  It just means Washington will likely listen to offers once they have a GM.  Most teams in the league should be making that call.

Beal is a young all-star who has already shown the ability to play on and off the ball.  He is an elite shooter and playmaker.  Finding a team that would be able to provide the appropriate return for someone like Beal is tough.  The Thunder have the assets, but are clearly not in win-now mode.  The Heat have expressed interest, but do not have future first round picks to send back.  Someone will likely sneak into the discussion out of nowhere and greatly improve their team.  If any lesson can be taken from the last few months, it’s that there is always someone out there.  It just takes one buyer.

Other Options Down the Line

There are a few other star-level players to watch around the trade deadline this year.  The Warriors swear they did not trade for D’Angelo Russell with the intent to flip him.  However, the fit alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson when the latter returns from injury is tough to see.  The Timberwolves pursued Russell this summer.  They could provide the Warriors with much-needed depth in return.  The Spurs look to be pushing for another playoff season.  If the right offer comes in for DeMar DeRozan or LaMarcus Aldridge, things could change.  If they are below expectations this season, both could be available.

The NBA is changing faster than ever before.  Interest in the league has never been higher,and teams are changing direction and identity with the wind.  Trying to predict which star could change markets next is tough for everyone involved.  Three weeks ago, the Thunder were looking to run it back with two all-NBA stars.  Now, they have split into two new elite duos.  Basketball has a way of keeping things interesting always.

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