By the time the 2014-15 NBA season begins in late October, the entire league may be unrecognizable.
This offseason could potentially alter the NBA landscape drastically. Several premier stars, most notably four-time MVP LeBron James, could join a different organization by the end of the summer. While he can't match King James' hardware, Carmelo Anthony would still merit a king's ransom in free agency if he chooses to opt out of his contract.
Don't forget Kevin Love, whom the Minnesota Timberwolves are getting serious about trading before he can bolt in free agency next offseason. It's possible all three stars stay put for at least one more year, but the rumor mill is churning out a full plate of possibilities to suggest otherwise.
Let's take a look at the most recent developments surrounding these NBA superstars.
LeBron Looking for New Big Three?
Fans can forgive James for experiencing nightmare flashbacks during the 2014 NBA Finals. As the Miami Heat got dismantled by the San Antonio Spurs with little help from the supporting cast, it felt like his 2007 trip to the Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers all over again.
James joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to no longer have to carry the burden alone, but he was again forced to play that part during Miami's failed attempt at winning its third consecutive title. Bosh averaged a modest 14.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game against the Spurs while Wade went a combined 7-of-25 during the last two games.
Although giving up on the Heat due to a few transcendent basketball games from the Spurs is an overreaction, it's enough to force James to think ahead. Wade is 32 with crumbling knees, and Bosh, 30, could decide to become someone else's No. 1 option rather than continuing to play the third fiddle in South Beach.
A perfect situation would have to come along to persuade James to go. According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, the Houston Rockets are looking to make that case:
League sources say that Houston is preparing to make an all-out push to land James when free agency opens on July 1, assuming James opts out, as expected. If the Rockets miss out on James, they will turn their full attention to Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh is also on the radar.
There are rumblings that James will start weighing his options this weekend. One rival executive pegged his chances of leaving Miami at 40 percent.
Going forward, James Harden and Dwight Howard represent a younger, better star support group than Wade and Bosh. Harden successfully shared the spotlight with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and Howard represents the big man Miami has lacked.
Grantland's Zach Lowe broke down some potential spacing issues before determining that their sheer skill would ultimately win out:
Howard soaks up a lot of possessions with his own post-ups, and James Harden loves to jab-step away before and after running high pick-and-rolls. But greatness eventually trumps fit issues. We ranted and raved about the skill overlap between James and Wade in their first season together, but they came within two wins of a championship.
For the Rockets to have enough salary cap space to make this work, they'd need to move disgruntled backup center Omer Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin, both of whom will make $14,898,938 next season, per HoopsHype. It's possible since both are expiring contracts.
Carmelo Anthony Nears Decision Deadline
Carmelo Anthony has until Monday to decide if he will opt out of his remaining contract with the New York Knicks and enter free agency early. All signs are pointing to him at least testing the open market.
According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the star scorer is eyeing juicier fruit outside the Big Apple, looking to leave the feeble Knicks for a better team:
As re-signing with the Knicks continues to fade as his priority, Chicago and Houston have emerged as the clear frontrunners to acquire Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Anthony's meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender.
Can anybody blame him? Despite Anthony scoring 27.4 points per game with a career-high 8.1 rebounds, the Knicks missed the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference at 37-45. Hiring Phil Jackson looks great on paper, but the roster is still a mess, and the team will have to at least wait a year for cap relief before bringing about any significant alterations.
Beck's report from above shows Houston has its eyes on landing another marquee name alongside Harden and Howard. While James brings much better passing and defense to the table, landing an elite scorer such as Anthony would also make the Rockets a formidable contender.
The Chicago Bulls, however, look like the much better fit for both sides. Per Basketball-Reference, they ranked 28th with 102.5 points per 100 possessions, and they traded away All-Star forward Luol Deng during the season.
Even if a healthy Derrick Rose returns, Chicago needs a complete-package scorer like Anthony that can create looks for himself from anywhere on the court. If they're lucky, the team's relentless defensive intensity will rub off on Anthony, who has shown glimpses of tenacity in big moments.
If he goes, the Knicks will have to toil away for a season before dumping Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire's massive contracts, placing them right where they started four years ago.
New Teams Emerge in Kevin Love Sweepstakes
The Kevin Love sweepstakes has taken a couple new turns over the past few days. A big player out West is reportedly willing to pony up a core piece of their franchise, while his landing spot could affect another star's future.
Yahoo Sports' Marc. J. Spears reported that the Golden State Warriors put 24-year-old shooting guard Klay Thompson on the table in their latest offer for Love:
The Golden State Warriors recently included shooting guard Klay Thompson in trade talks for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star power forward Kevin Love, a source told Yahoo Sports.
The framework of the proposed deal is Love and shooting guard Kevin Martin to Golden State for Thompson and power forward David Lee, the source said.
The rumored trade is a short-term victory for both sides. Golden State gets to pair Stephen Curry with a legitimate superstar whose 26.97 player efficiency rating (PER) trailed only Durant and James last season. In place of a soon-to-be departing Love, Minnesota gets a young shooting guard who averaged 18.4 points per game and a terrific offensive replacement in Lee.
Trouble could arise, however, when Thompson becomes a restricted free agent in 2015. As the top scoring option for the Timberwolves, he'll make the case for deserving a max contract in a league void of talent at shooting guard. Still, it's a move both teams should deeply consider.
Golden State, of course, is not the only suitor for Love. According to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett, the Boston Celtics are also in the running, but they'll move to Plan B—blowing it all up—if they cannot obtain the star forward:
If the Celtics cannot get Love, they are planning to continue with the longer and more methodical rebuilding process, a process that would likely see Rajon Rondo traded. (An NBA source said they would also have a taker for Jeff Green if they chose to move him.) But the Celts are still efforting a trade for Love to accelerate their improvement.
Boston does not have the same immediate talent to offer Minnesota. Instead, the Celtics can entice the T-Wolves with picks No. 6 and 17 in the upcoming NBA draft.
Both clubs were in a similar situation seven years ago, when the Celtics traded a top pick that became Al Jefferson to snag Kevin Garnett from Minnesota. Boston quickly transformed a rebuilding process into a championship.
That's unlikely to happen if Love joins Rondo, but the Celtics would at least find their way back into the playoffs.
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