Four teams are still in the hunt for the league championship, but that hasn't stopped the influx of NBA rumors from swirling like crazy as we approach the end of the season.
There's a whole lot going on in the Association right now. The conference finals are in full swing, the NBA draft is on the horizon, and teams are looking to replace the coaches that they let go following disappointing campaigns. But wait, there's more.
Teams that aren't involved in the playoffs at this point are already starting to get a jump on preparations for next year. Those preparations include many different things, but personnel are what will make or break their futures.
Expect a ton of player movement this offseason. Several names have been floating around in trade rumors, and it's only a matter of time before the first deal is made. After that, expect the domino effect to begin.
Here are the top rumors surrounding three notable players in the league: Kevin Love, Paul Pierce and Tristan Thompson.
For Love, it's not a matter of if he will go but rather when.
He is one of the premier big men in the NBA, and nearly every team in the league would be thrilled to acquire his services. Sam Smith of NBA.com broke down an interesting possibility regarding the Houston Rockets, and it's one that may seem a bit surprising:
Houston, like with rumors of a trade involving every top player (and they have gotten a few), is said to be involved [in Love discussions]. They only have a low first rounder. But they supposedly believe they can make a deal involving Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons to get Minnesota what it wants. Of course, they always say things like that.
Trading Asik makes all the sense in the world. Ridding themselves of that salary would allow the Rockets to pursue more impactful players this offseason. If not Love, the Rockets could feasibly go after Carmelo Anthony. But that can only happen if Asik's contract is off the books.
The surprise here comes in trading Parsons. The small forward has transformed into one of the better lesser stars in the NBA, and the Rockets would be losing a ton of young talent by dealing him. His scoring and rebounding numbers have increased in each season he has been in the league, and he's only 25 years old, so there's no telling how much more he'll improve.
It takes talent to acquire talent, though, and the Minnesota Timberwolves would be getting a great player in return for Love. The outlook is bleak for Love in Minnesota, so the team would be wise to take this deal if Houston does indeed present it to upper management.
Brooklyn Nets veteran Kevin Garnett may not be back next year. Rod Boone of Newsday tweeted about his status being up in the air:
If Garnett retires, there's no telling what Pierce might do. He could stay in Brooklyn and hope to improve on this season's disappointing end, or he could make a move closer to home to finish out his career. Marc Stein of ESPN.com alludes to the latter:
If KG decides to play on, those who know him well say Pierce’s incentive to stay in Brooklyn naturally spikes. If Garnett decides it’s time to stop, Pierce is bound to be intrigued even more by the scenario that is said to be on his radar already: Reuniting with Doc Rivers in Clipperland in what would also be a homecoming for the Los Angeles native.
The Los Angeles Clippers would present Pierce with a much better chance at winning another championship before retirement, as their core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan aren't far away from seriously contending for a title.
Throw in the team's depth, and Pierce won't be asked to contribute nearly 30 minutes per game like he did this past year.
He struggled at times under Jason Kidd. It took him time to learn his role on the team and find his niche in terms of leadership. It was clear from the beginning that the team was Deron Williams' and not his.
In LA, he would have a clear voice in the locker room. Rivers knows what kind of player and person Pierce is. That might be the best situation for him.
Thompson, a former first-round selection, could be on the move before the NBA draft, according to this tweet from ProBasketballDraft.com:
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been in a state of flux the past three seasons. Now with its third coaching change in three years, Cleveland is hoping to move on past the adversity. Thompson is still frustrated over the constant change, as he told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, via Mary Schmitt Boyer of Cleveland.com:
It's the business of basketball. Whenever you lose someone or someone leaves the family it's tough, but like I tell young guys: It's the business of basketball, you always have to prepare for anything, that's why you have to keep working on your game every day and keep getting better.
Thompson is one of the better young forwards in the league. The 23-year-old dropped 11.7 points and grabbed 9.2 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per night last season, and any team that acquires his services would be getting a walking double-double.
In the right system, he has the potential to shine. It has been difficult for him in Cleveland. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters give him quality talent to play off, but constant shifts in philosophy due to coaching changes have made it difficult for all the players to adjust.
On a team with an established system, Thompson could turn into a force in the paint.
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