As perhaps the wildest free agency period in NBA history draws to a close, a whole new set of circumstances for a number of teams takes shape. Specifically, the Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder are in starkly different situations after the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, respectively. How aggressive will either, or both, of those teams get in completely hitting the rest button? Will the Cleveland Cavaliers deal Kevin Love? Is D’Angelo Russell with Golden State Warriors for the long haul?
Indeed, this was a crazy free agency, but the madness may be far from over. Here are 12 big-name players that remain trade candidates:
With Paul George out, Westbrook just doesn’t fit OKC’s new timeline. The Thunder are now building for the future, and the small fortune they owe Westbrook over the next four years (three years, $124 million guaranteed with a $47 million player option in 2022 when he’ll be 34 years old) makes no sense on a lottery team. OKC already moved Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets to shed a bunch of tax money, and now the question is: Who’s going to take on Westbrook and his huge contract?
Three Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic. Miami and Westbrook , and you can understand a team like that, which has never been interested in a rebuild, wanting to make a second splash next to Jimmy Butler with almost $50 million potentially coming off the books in 2020 (Goran Dragic is expiring, and James Johnson and Kelly Olynyk have player options totaling a little over $29 million). With Butler and Westbrook, Miami is always a player to maneuver a little more and get a third All-Star in there.: The
One way or another, Westbrook’s time with OKC appears to be winding down.
Kawhi Leonard’s decision to sign with the Clippers could trigger something of a Toronto teardown. Lowry, Gasol and Ibaka will all be free agents next summer, and unless the Raptors plan on re-signing one or all of them (unlikely given their age), getting something for them now seems like a smart move. A lot of teams would be interested in all three. They are championship players on expiring deals.
As constructed, the Raptors could, under optimal circumstances, end up as high as the 3-seed in the East, but would more likely be outside the top four, and they’re not a championship threat without Leonard. Gasol will be 35 next season. Lowry will be 34. Ibaka will be 30. Is one year of mediocrity more valuable than jump-starting your next era built around Pascal Siakam?
Toronto has been a franchise that has resisted rebuilds in the past. Even when they appeared to have hit their ceiling, the Raptors kept themselves in contention, remained one move away, and trading for Leonard last offseason became that move. The championship gives them some equity. They can play this thing out with house money and remain a good team until the next splash opportunity presents itself. But if they choose to go another way, all three of these guys would be pretty hot commodities on teams who find themselves where the Raptors were last summer — one move from contention.
At some point, the Cavs have to trade Love, don’t they? They’re not even close to a playoff team with him, and they owe him north of $28 million in each of the next four years. Love can still be worth that money on a team of consequence, but for how long? He’ll be 31 by the start of next season. The fact that Love is locked up for four years, albeit at a pretty steep price, could be a selling point as a team won’t have to give up good assets for a rental.
The Portland Trail Blazers continue to make a ton of sense. If they were willing to put Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons and/or Nassir Little in a deal, and maybe a future first-round pick, Cleveland would have to listen. That’s a lot to give up, but Portland is right there. Love would make them a legit title contender.
Love would also make sense for the Boston Celtics, who have the assets and a need for a shooting big to replace what they lost when Al Horford left for Philly. If the Golden State Warriors end up moving D’Angelo Russell (who we’ll get to), Love would be a good positional fit next to Draymond Green and Kevon Looney, who could cover for his defensive weaknesses while Love at least somewhat replaces the lost Kevin Durant firepower.
Bottom line, Love is still really good. He can help a championship team. He’s locked up for four years and the Cavs really have no use for him. This is another deal that feels inevitable.
I know the Wizards say they are committed to keeping Beal, but when you look at the haul the Thunder just got for Paul George, Washington would have to consider the right offer. Beal is locked up for two more years, so it’s not a one-year rental situation, and while he’s not quite as good as George, he’s not far off.
The Wizards have to ask themselves if they really believe they have enough to offer Beal that he’ll sign an extension there. John Wall’s contract severely limits any big-game hunting they might plan on doing in the future, and is Beal going to sign up to play another long stretch next to Wall, who likely won’t even be the same player by the time he gets back from that Achilles tear more than a year from now?
Heck, when Wall was healthy he and Beal weren’t able to get out of the second round. And he’s never really sounded all that enthused about playing next to such a ball-dominant co-star. When Wall was out for extended periods and Tomas Satoransky was running the point, Beal was vocal about how much better the ball was moving. Satoransky is gone, too, for what it’s worth.
This is a tough call for Washington. Beal just turned 26. People forget how young he still is. Talented guys like that don’t grow on trees, and if the Wizards could completely build their roster out around Beal by moving off Wall’s contract instead, they would. But they can’t. Waiting for Beal to demand a trade in his walk year is playing with fire if you’re Washington. I have a feeling Beal is going to start getting antsy when the Wizards start getting whipped again this season, and as soon as a star player starts getting antsy, well, you know how that usually ends up going.
The New Orleans Pelicans think they’re going to be a good team right away, and they’re not wrong. This is a good roster. It’s also a highly flexible situation with a lot of players and assets many teams would be interested in. I can see New Orleans, which has a lot of wing depth, entertaining a deal centered on Ingram and future draft picks for a second All-Star-type player to put next to Holiday. If New Orleans offered a deal centered on Ingram or Ball (and a few of those future picks they got from the Lakers) for Beal, can’t you see both sides being intrigued?
On the flip side, New Orleans could eventually move off Holiday, too, and just completely commit to the youth movement. Holiday only has two years left before a player option in 2021, which he’s a good bet to decline in search of a longer-term deal. If the Pelicans don’t see themselves becoming a factor in the next two years, Holiday would fetch a good return. I think they’ll avoid that as long as possible, because again, they’re a good team, and they have the assets to become a really good team.
If you just start piling up young players and future draft picks without an All-Star anchor such as Holiday, the chances of all those guys coming together, and STAYING together, within the same competitive window aren’t great. I think if Boston had it to do over, it would be a little more open-minded about consolidating a few of its young players/assets into one win-now All-Star.
Either way, this remains a fluid New Orleans roster, in my opinion. David Griffin can go any number of ways. I think Ingram would be the most “available” of these three, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see any of them moved for the right deal.
When the Warriors agreed to the sign-and-trade of Kevin Durant for Russell, they did so for two reasons. One, Russell is a good player. Two, he’s a tradeable player. The Warriors can’t move him until Dec. 15, but after that, anything can happen. The Wolves are a team to watch. We know they wanted Russell before he wound up with Golden State. A package centered on Robert Covington could go a long way in filling back out Golden State’s depleted perimeter defense.
Russell may end up thriving on all that Golden State space and stick with the Warriors. Or, he could thrive and simply up his trade value. I know some people are concerned about how many teams would actually be interested in trading for Russell on a max contract, but believe me, someone will. He’s a 23-year-old All-Star locked up for four years. Start counting how many of those guys there are in the league.
People forget how impactful Roberson is. He’s arguably the league’s best perimeter defender when healthy, which he’s expected to be for the start of this season. OKC possessed the best defense in the league when he was playing. He’s a guy who can guard the best players in the league one-on-one come playoff time, a virtually priceless skill.
Also, Roberson’s only making $10 million this year and his deal expires next summer. A defender like that, for a contender, that you don’t have to commit to beyond a one-year run? Yeah, someone is going to be interested in Roberson if he proves he’s healthy and back to his normal self in the first few months. This is a trade deadline move that could put a team over the top and net a pretty good return for OKC relative to that salary. When healthy, Roberson is definitely worth a first-round pick for a contender.
The Celtics are heavy on wings and super light on bigs. Hayward is making $32 million this year and has a $34 million player option next year, meaning the money would work with, say, a deal for Kevin Love. Perhaps a deal with Houston centered on Clint Capela. Maybe something with OKC for Steven Adams. Would Orlando move off Mo Bamba and Evan Fournier to make the money work for a rejuvenated Hayward? That would make for a good team in Orlando, and the Celtics would get an immediate need and future building block in Bamba, with Fournier to replicate Hayward’s production.
Who knows what deal might be out there. And who knows if the Celtics would even be interested in moving Hayward, who could be their second-best player if he returns to form. But it’s a possibility now two years removed from that terrible broken leg/dislocated ankle, if Hayward looks more like his old self to start this year he could have some trade value even at his high salary. Remember, the Celtics also have attractive draft picks they could attach to him.