Super-teams might be destroying the NBA post-season, but they’re definitely making the NBA offseason fun. Chris Paul joining James Harden in Houston was just the latest example of mega-stars teaming up in an effort to both challenge the Golden State Warriors and bludgeon to death any remaining parity in the association.
Rumors are that the Rockets aren’t done, either, rumored to be making a complicated, salary-cap-confounding move for Paul George.
With the Timberwolves adding Jimmy Butler to a young, talented core, and now shipping off Ricky Rubio to clear space for (they hope) Kyle Lowry, the super-teams trend clearly isn’t going anywhere. So many stars in this league have yet to taste any real playoff success, and they know their taste buds will continue to go wanting unless they join forces.
Here’s how I see the rest of the NBA offseason playing out from a super-teams vantage point.
The Rockets already have a head-start, adding Chris Paul to their formidable offense. They’re on the hunt though, trapped by the arms race that is the Western Conference into chasing the biggest names available, which right now means Paul George or Carmelo Anthony. Getting George will be tough; the cupboard’s bare of tradable assets after the Paul deal and the salary cap has been stretched to within an inch of its life. Anthony would be a slightly easier acquisition; the Knicks aren’t in a great position to negotiate right now and might take a sub-optimal deal just to move on from the Phil Jackson era, but still: tough.
Carmelo is in a tricky position in his own right: the Knicks are looking to move on and Anthony’s not likely to see another contract like the one the Knicks extended him three years ago. Taking a buyout would mean getting less money than what he’s owed by the Knicks, but would entitle the ten-time NBA All-Star to play wherever he wanted, and to chase titles with one of the established contenders.
The Paul trade was already this offseason’s blockbuster transaction, one that arguably makes the Rockets a certifiable superteam.
The 2017 NBA Finals showed that, for all of their greatness, the Cleveland Cavaliers are a few pieces short of toppling the Golden State Warriors. In their last year with LeBron James on contract, they’ve been plenty aggressive in the offseason, reportedly trying to organise a monster five-team trade that would bring them Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. If Anthony takes a buyout and decides to go ring-chasing, the Cavaliers are the most eligible bachelor.
Blake Griffin opted out of his contract with the Clippers for a reason, and it could be that he wants to chase titles, as well. In that case he’d be a decided upgrade over Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson in Cleveland.
If Griffin would be welcomed with open arms in Cleveland, he may just be given his own parade in Boston. Isaiah Thomas is looking for someone to help him topple the Cleveland Cavaliers and, hopefully, the Golden State Warriors. The pitch, to Paul George and others, is the same pitch that has kept LeBron James in the East for his entire career: it’s decidedly easier to make the Finals from the East than the murderers’ row that is the West.
Boston is competing with the Lakers to get Paul George from Indiana, and while the Celtics have more in the way of draft picks and assets to trade, the Lakers have player preference. It might not be worth it for the Celtics to send a big trade package to Indiana for one year of potentially uninspired play from a dissatisfied veteran.
The Celtics also met with Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward as part of his free-agency tour. Fun fact you’ll hear every eight minutes until Gordon Hayward signs a contract: Brad Stevens coached him at Butler. The Celtics will aim to convert that personal relationship into a professional one. The scuttlebutt was that the Celtics wanted to sign both George and Griffin, and that the relevant timelines might not line up properly and they could end up with neither.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have already pulled off the best trade/heist of the 2017 offseason, grabbing Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn, and a swap of first round-picks in this year’s draft. The combination of Butler, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns is already formidable, but the Wolves aren’t done yet.
They can’t be, since they no longer have a point guard on the roster after dealing Ricky Rubio to the Jazz for a first-round pick. That move cleared the path for Minny to go after Kyle Lowry, whom Butler has already been in contact with.
If Lowry really wants to compete for a title, he could come to Minnesota on a team-friendly deal and leave the franchise room to go after Andre Iguodala. The Warriors are going to have a tough time finding enough money in the universe to pay the luxury tax on Iguodala’s contract, and the Golden State veteran will be understandably picky in his free agency. It would be interesting, to say the least, to see Iguodala walk away from the team that holds his Bird rights and saw him win two titles for, say, the Brooklyn Nets. Playing as a mentor for some great young players with genuine playoff prospects makes a lot more sense. Adding him to a roster that also features Butler, Lowry, Towns, and Wiggins puts us into bona fide super-team territory.
The LeBron-James-to-LA rumours have been circulating for about as long as I can remember, but with his stated goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland completed, free agency looming in 2018, and the Lakers leaving room on their pay sheet for … something, they’re circulating faster than ever.
The Lakers are also looking to sign Paul George in free agency in 2018. George has made it very clear that he will not re-sign with the Pacers and wants to be a Laker, ultimatley, either via trade in the 2017 offseason or free agency in 2018. This erodes his trade value for the Pacers, they don’t really have a way to walk away from a deal, they have no pretension for keeping George long-term, and if they want to get any kind of value for him they’ll have to make a trade.
Featured photo: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en]
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