There has been unprecedented movement of NBA stars in recent years. It’s not over. It’s never over.
The churn is eternal thanks to shorter NBA contracts, a player mindset that is less wed to the concept of staying with a single franchise over an entire career, and teams willing to make big shake-ups to get value for players they anticipate could leave.
But because so many stars have so recently left their teams via trade or free agency, we’re running low on additional targets. Here are our guesses on the next three stars to change teams.
(This list is excepting Chris Paul, whose status as a star is beginning to fade substantially at age 34 and who is definitely on the move, likely soon, after being traded from the Rockets to the Thunder in the Russell Westbrook deal. It would be cheating a little bit to list him here — in fact, he could be traded between the time this is written and the time you read it! That’s also sort of the beauty of this new player movement era: everything is fluid and constantly shifting.)
Beal just missed out on the All NBA team, which would have qualified him for a supermax extension to go into effect for the 2021-22 season. He’s set to earn $56 million over the next two seasons, and he’s by far the best thing the Wizards have going given John Wall’s heartbreaking injury issues and albatross contract.
There’s a belief that the Wizards want to hold onto Beal and think they can convince him to re-sign with D.C., but is that a risk worth carrying into the summer of 2021? Every day that passes gets Beal a day closer to free agency, and trading him sooner rather than later is most likely to maximize the value of the return package.
Of course, the decision on whether to trade Beal needs to come from the top, and the Wizards are still rolling with an interim general manager in Tommy Sheppard, as they have all summer after parting ways with longtime boss Ernie Grunfeld. If that’s a hint toward indecisiveness, we could be waiting on resolution for Beal for a long, long time.
Love is wildly out of place on a rebuilding Cavaliers team. He’s really darn good and perfectly placed in the modern NBA as a flexible scoring big man. His contract is large ($120 million over the next four years) and he turns 31 in two months. The Cavaliers are also paying major luxury tax on a bad roster and could stand to cut salary during the rebuild. Leveraging Love could help that.
It’s a little amazing that so many teams with substantial cap space blew it on mid-tier players early in July instead of hanging out to see if Love could be had for cap space and picks. Now, most teams in the Love hunt would need to send salary back to Cleveland, which makes the move less attractive from the Cavaliers’ perspective. What a pickle!
Love could be a solution for a would-be contender that isn’t jelling, or a smart play for a team that is surprisingly in the mix. Part of me thinks he ends up with the Warriors in a multi-team D’Angelo Russell or Draymond Green trade.
Speaking of which …
Green is the only player on our abbreviated list approaching free agency. Green will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career in 2020, and it remains the case that he’s the core Warrior most likely to depart.
Why? There are a few reasons.
First, Green’s value is the most likely to falter. He didn’t start last season in shape and it showed. That’s what made his late-season revival (after a crash diet) so magical: he was the Draymond of old, almost suddenly. Can the Warriors expect that every single night?
Second, Green has had some run-ins with Steve Kerr and the front office. Don’t forget that the Warriors suspended Green one game when he had his public screaming match with Kevin Durant last season. I promise you Green hasn’t forgotten.
Third, Green is signed to Klutch Sports. Rich Paul’s players move. A lot. Rich Paul’s players don’t take pay cuts, unless it’s to play with the ultimate Rich Paul client, LeBron James.
The Warriors could trade Green or he could walk in free agency. Neither would surprise me. But either would sound the bells for the true Warriors core, with no offense to Durant, Andre Iguodala, or Shaun Livingston. Without Green, the Warriors will be intrinsically different. Without the Warriors, Green will be intrinsically different.
For that reason, this relationship might last beyond the summer of 2020. Stranger things have happened. But on paper, it looks like Green is one of the next big stars to show up in a new jersey.