The NBA is in a fun place right now. The evolution of player movement has ushered in an era where trades are even more unpredictable. The Paul George and Jimmy Butler trades are prime examples. Heck, Kawhi Leonard got sent to another country.
The league has always been based on “super teams”, but the Celtics’ iteration led to LeBron James‘ player control movement. Golden State emerged, restoring hope for organically built teams to prosper. Then Kevin Durant happened and then everything was out of whack again.
The George trade threw an interesting wrinkle in the player movement stratagem: send players to option ‘Z’. In other words, their least desired destination. Not the “worst” destination, that needs to be specified. Rather, the best package gets the deal done, regardless of player preference.
I know, groundbreaking stuff. What is interesting is that the recent deals have yielded positive returns for all parties involved. Again it meds to be specified, of course the goal is a win-win trade.
To actually see it bear out that way, though, is exciting. That is because it may lead to more deals, which brings us to the New Orleans Pelicans. More specifically it brings up their franchise player.
While AD has not asked for a trade, we have seen this movie play out countless times before. So who is going to pay up for arguably a top-three talent? Those previous trades showed that any team can swoop in and steal away a prized player, so none can really be counted out. Still, some destinations do stand out above the rest.
Los Angeles is obviously at the top of the list. LeBron a has a history of assembling talent-laden rosters and his representatives added AD as a client this year. Add in James’ comments in the media that spurred a league-wide memo about tampering and the dots connect themselves. Especially after the Lakers — whiffed on George — may not be where Kawhi ends up even if he comes to L.A.
The package would likely need to include two of the four young core members of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. Which two is where it gets tricky. That Magic Johnson could pivot and deal for someone like Washington Wizards’ guard Bradley Beal instead makes it trickier.
Boston is finally at full strength after Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving both missed all or part of last season. They sit fifth in the East at the moment and are always attached as potential trade partners for big names. They have assets rivaling those of L.A. with the added benefit of not being in the same conference.
That is how Kawhi landed in Toronto and Butler in Philly. Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge just has to determine whether or not to pull the trigger. Something he has been reluctant to do for the most part.
Then there are the defending champion Warriors. They already added DeMarcus Cousins, who has yet to suit up but is said to be close to returning. Even with all that firepower they too are reportedly interested in the player known as the “Brow”.
Beyond those three, any team with assets is a viable landing spot. AD is a generational talent and one that every team will likely make a bid for. The Lakers risk losing out on yet another superstar and Boston is mentioned whenever stars are surrounded by trade rumors. The Warriors would have to do some remodeling get a deal done.
The darkhorse teams all risk gutting themselves for a one-year rental hoping to emulate what the Thunder did with George. It is a risk that most teams are willing to make. The only question is how do moves like that affect an NBA teams future? Maybe that is a question for another post…