Now that the Golden State Warriors have completed their sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers and solidified themselves as a true dynasty (winning 3 championships in the last 4 years), teams around the league are focused on reaching that level of success themselves. This means positioning the draft, free agency, and offseason trades as priorities in improving their respective organizations.
Last year saw its fair share of blockbuster trades as per usual, some of the most notable being Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics. Each of those teams saw some success and some failure throughout this past season, forcing their front offices to rethink their strategies and possibly delve into another round of shocking trades. Aside from the aforementioned three, the following team scenarios are some of the most speculated now entering the 2018 offseason.
Kyrie Irving Traded to the New York Knicks
Had Irving and Gordon Hayward stayed healthy for the duration of the 2017-18 season, many fans would agree that we would have seen a Golden State-Boston Finals series as opposed to Cleveland’s late run. As unpredictable as injuries are, the Celtics experienced perhaps the worst, losing two star players before the postseason. However, the team was still able to find success.
Players like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum stepped up amidst the doubt and showed several teams that they were still formidable. Combining that with the constant unpredictability of Kyrie Irving’s actions, and a trade does not seem that unlikely. Irving has expressed his love in the past for playing in Madison Square Garden, and a player of his caliber would surely help the struggling Knicks with getting back on track. Of course, this may require New York to sacrifice a few players and/or draft picks themselves, but Irving’s talents may be worth it.
Kawhi Leonard Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers
These rumors have begun to swirl fairly recently given the Sixers success this past season. A team that had won just 24 games a year prior improved to 52 wins the very next season, showing the league that they are an up-and-coming force. Unfortunately, their postseason run fell short against the Celtics, largely due in part to a lack of a veteran presence. This is exactly the role that Kawhi Leonard would fill.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are two of the most exciting rookies in the league at the moment, but long-term success is often perpetuated by experience. If Leonard were to request a trade, the San Antonio Spurs would not be in a great position of leverage, other than to take into consideration their lack of young talent; something the Sixers can surely offer in exchange for their star player.
DeMarcus Cousins Traded to the OKC Thunder
Cousins has been considered somewhat underwhelming since his departure from the Sacramento Kings. In his time there, he proved himself as a strong player, albeit a bit hot-headed. His signing with the New Orleans Pelicans gave the young team a reason to be excited, pairing him alongside the highly impressive Anthony Davis. However, Cousins suffered a torn achilles in January and underwent season-ending surgery. While he has shown flashes of greatness in the Big Easy, the Pelicans need a more consistent scorer.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were one of the most disappointing teams this past season after acquiring both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, who played alongside the former MVP Russell Westbrook. The buzz surrounding them was that of a championship team, but they would go on to lose in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs to the Utah Jazz. Carmelo failed to find a role on the team, and the Thunder need another big man. Cousins, combined with Westbrook and Steven Adams, could add strength in the paint, in addition to a reason for Paul George to resign with OKC. Carmelo on the other hand, would give New Orleans a (potentially) high scorer to compliment Anthony Davis’ offense and defense.
Anthony Davis Traded to the Golden State Warriors
As if the Warriors could not be any more sound of a team, there is talk of them pursuing star center Anthony Davis. Currently under a three-year contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis has the ability to opt out a year early and become a free agent by summer of 2020. However, acquiring Davis will be no easy task for Golden State.
Assuming the Pelicans continue their winning ways of brief postseason runs, Davis may look elsewhere for success. Without him, it seems very likely that New Orleans will slump back into mediocrity for the foreseeable future. Unless the Warriors are able to offer them an enticing trade. Both Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are set to hit free agency the same year as Davis. Sure, this may seem incredibly lopsided in favor of New Orleans, but if Golden State wants Davis that badly, giving up Green and Thompson would almost guarantee them acquiring him.
LeBron James Traded to the Los Angeles Lakers
Of all the teams currently in the market for a star player, the Lakers may be the most desperate. Much like the 76ers, they have a young, talented team lacking a veteran presence, and both of them seem to have their sights set on the perhaps the biggest veteran of all; LeBron James.
After being swept by Golden State, it seems much more plausible that LeBron will part ways with his hometown team Cavaliers and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Los Angeles, specifically, seems to make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. First, there are several rumors floating around that he is planning to enroll his son in a Los Angeles high school. This would support the notion that he is choosing teams according to lifestyle at this point as opposed to championship odds. Given the fact that he has solidified himself as one of the best of all time, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to many. Second, working with such a skilled businessman like Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson could be a selling point as well given the fact that James will more than likely want to enter the corporate side of basketball sooner than later. Johnson’s assistance in this realm could prove highly beneficial.
There are a plethora of teams currently in the market to sign the King assuming he chooses to leave Cleveland behind. While the Lakers are no guarantee, they have strong reasoning for needing his assistance, much like a number of Eastern Conference teams, and a few in the West.