In many ways, the NBA offseason has become more exciting than the actual season. With a “super team” in both conferences, its almost more fun to watch GMs desperately find ways to compete (or creative ways to tank) than it is to watch 82 games and a two-month playoff that leads to the inevitable Cleveland vs Golden State finals. In particular, this offseason proved to be one of the most entertaining in recent memory, with numerous superstars and franchise cornerstones leaving their teams for greener pastures (and the Western Conference, mostly). So here are the Top 5 NBA Players who will be wearing new colors in 2017-2018.
The Move: Chicago Bulls to Minnesota Timberwolves
In the fall of 2014, Jimmy Butler turned down an extension from the Chicago Bulls. “It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself,” he told Yahoo Sports at the time. By the summer of 2015, he had signed a five-year, $95 million contract. Somebody with that much confidence is the kind of player you’d think you want to build a franchise around.
Instead, the Chicago Bulls front office opted to trade Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves for a non-shooting point guard, Broken Zach Lavine, and seventh pick Lauri Markkanen (who will be the best player of that bunch), signaling that Chicago was heading into full rebuild mode. Butler now joins a core that includes Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns. Throw in the free agent acquisition of Jeff Teague and the reunion with Coach Thibs, and suddenly everybody wants to bet on Jimmy Buckets.
The Move: Indiana Pacers to Oklahoma City Thunder
How do you replace a player like Kevin Durant and make Russell Westbrook happy enough to sign a long-term extension? You sign arguably the best two-way player in the game not named Kawhi. In what may turn out to be Sam Presti’s greatest heist, OKC won the Paul George sweepstakes by trading two cast aside Orlando Magic assets for a four-time all-star. It ends up being a wash if George takes his talents to LA in 2018, but considering the #1 player on this list, it seems like Sam Presti is doubling down.
The Move: Cleveland Cavaliers to Boston Celtics
In one of the more surprising offseason twists, Kyrie Irving began to voice his frustration with his role on the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Feeling more like the Burt Ward-era Robin to Lebron’s Batman than the Pippen to his Jordan, Uncle Drew essentially forced Cleveland’s hand.
Cleveland ended up with a pretty decent return in Jae Crowder and an angry (and banged up) Isiah Thomas, while Kyrie becomes the leader of a revamped Boston Celtics who look to give his former team a run for their Eastern Conference Title. A Cleveland versus Boston Eastern Conference Finals is entirely possible, and poetic, if Kyrie leads his Rebel Army, with his Han Solo Gordon Heyward against Lebron James and Emperor D-Wade’s Empire come playoff time.
The Move: Los Angeles Clippers to Houston Rockets
This is going to anger a lot of Golden State Warriors fans, but let’s all be clear about one thing: Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. Yes, he’s on the wrong side of 30. And yes, it’s going to be interesting to see how Chris Paul and James Harden share the ball in Houston. But the State Farm-slinging, Wake Forest product sees the game like few before him ever have. The way Chris Paul moves the ball can only help an offense that already finished 3rd in Assists last year. It may take Mike D’Antoni some time to tweak that crunch time lineup, but like life, they will find a way.
The Move: New York Knicks to Oklahoma City Thunder
Carmelo Anthony’s time in New York can be seen, by the most objective of standards, as a massive disappointment. The guy who was supposed to bring a title to Madison Square Garden never had much of a chance, though, as the particularly inept New York front office failed to surround him with a quality squad or any kind of stability. Melo had five different head coaches in his time as a Knick.
Following a weird and depressing season where he was essentially bullied by Phil Jackson, it’s good to see him free of that mess, in a new situation. The 10-time All Star may never win another scoring title (although he still put up 22.4 points per game last year), but he’s now the third option (!) on a good Thunder team.
Adding Paul George to a team with the reigning MVP was already a great offseason move, but adding Hoodie Melo (an easy Halloween costume, by the way) really makes the Thunder a must watch team. Now it’s up to the new-look Thunder to give the Warriors a scare in the Western Conference, and add to the “super team” conversation.
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