With NBA free agency starting to enter its second wave, trade rumors are beginning to resurface as the league's landscape reshapes. For teams jilted by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and others this month, the trade circuit remains the quickest route toward immediate improvement.
No significant trades figure to be finalized until free agency is totally finished and teams have a better picture of their financial situations. Moreover, with the draft in the rearview mirror, teams with a treasure trove of picks hold considerably less leverage, since no one is quite sure how the 2015 class (or beyond) will shape up.
Nevertheless, the rumor mill is an irrepressible force, as speculation continues to swirl around some of the league's biggest names. For the latest, check out the most intriguing possibilities below.
Love and LeBron?
Following the Cleveland Cavaliers' league-changing signing of LeBron James, the Cavs are suddenly a hot destination for stars. With a plethora of young lottery picks and future draft selections (as many as four first-rounders next year alone), Cleveland possesses no shortage of assets to throw into a deal.
Thus, LeBron's new home has become the most recent destination in the Kevin Love saga. In the aftermath of the LeBron signing, ESPN's Marc Stein reported Love's interest in joining the league's premier player:
Sources say KLove remains "intrigued" by chance to join LeBron with Cavs. I'm told Wolves, though, still asking for off-limits AWiggins— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 13, 2014
However, newly installed general manager and coach Flip Saunders remains steadfast. It appears Minnesota is increasingly content to keep Love as the season starts unless another team offers a young player who accelerates the T-Wolves' rebuilding process and allows them to win immediately, per the Associated Press' Jon Krawczynski:
Lots telling me Wolves HAVE to move Love now. All I can say is they don't see it that way. No Klay. No Wiggins. No Love. Period.— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) July 13, 2014
Such a change of heart from Love would not be unprecedented. LaMarcus Aldridge seemed ticketed out of Portland at this time last year, only to see the Trail Blazers emerge as one of the NBA's finest success stories. With a young nucleus surrounding him, Aldridge appears destined for a career in the Northwest, affirming his desire to become "the greatest Blazer of all-time," per The Oregonian's Joe Freeman.
But Minnesota's corps is far from what existed in Portland. Though Nikola Pekovic remains an underrated post presence, Ricky Rubio's development has stalled, while young lottery picks like Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine do not hold the promise of immediate results.
In the brutal Western Conference, the Timberwolves still stand as a likely non-playoff team. By holding off too long, Minnesota is gambling that it will not need to trade Love midseason, when his value has diminished. Based on their track record, that is a dangerous game for the 'Wolves.
Stephenson for Dragic?
Lance Stephenson's potential return to the Indiana Pacers has apparently stalled, as the sides have not made progress on the initial five-year, $44 million deal that Stephenson rejected, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.
Now, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News, the controversial shooting guard could find himself as part of a sign-and-trade for Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic:
"The Pacers would love to make a deal for Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, with Lance Stephenson being a candidate to go to the Suns in a sign-and-trade," writes Lawrence. "But the Pacers want to keep George Hill, their much-maligned point guard."
After inking former Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas, the Suns have a logjam at point guard. Though the most obvious solution would be to let restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe walk after he receives what is likely to be a max offer, Thomas could actually be insurance for Dragic:
Good moves for Suns on Isaiah Thomas deal. Goran Dragic has player option ($7.5M) on 2015-16. Don't be surprised if he's a free agent.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) July 11, 2014
There are plenty of moving parts here, and Bledsoe's situation will likely need resolution before the Suns even consider moving the NBA's Most Improved Player. But if no one overwhelms them with a Bledsoe offer or Phoenix is resolute on keeping the 24-year-old, a move could become increasingly likely.
Stephenson would be a perfect fit for a Suns team badly in need of wing depth. Even after re-signing P.J. Tucker and drafting T.J. Warren, Phoenix is still dangerously reliant on Gerald Green's continued resurgence. Adding Stephenson would provide a much-needed perimeter stopper and a secondary scoring option.
Stoudemire to Philly?
Amar'e Stoudemire's Knicks career has been injury-plagued and largely unhappy after a terrific start. Marc Berman of the New York Post suggested that Stoudemire's time in New York could be coming to an end, reporting that the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers were discussing a deal for the former All-Star.
With more than $30 million in cap space, the Sixers need to add salary to hit the cap floor and could be amenable to taking on a bad contract. However, such a deal would need to include a sweetener, and Berman reported that Philly had sought out Iman Shumpert.
Now, Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling has reported that a Stoudemire trade is unlikely:
Source close to Amar'e: Don't think trade w/ 76ers happens along w/ Shump. "Bron's not coming to NY; only 1 made sense." Love unlikely too.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) July 12, 2014
The Knicks' books clear up considerably next offseason. Even after inking Carmelo Anthony to a huge new contract, New York only has roughly $41 million committed to next year's cap, per ShamSports.com. Even factoring in a potential extension for Shumpert, the Knicks should be big players in free agency next year.
Stoudemire is unlikely to stick around long enough to see the fruits of Phil Jackson's labor. With next season likely a rough one at Madison Square Garden, Stoudemire has unfortunately become a derisive target for disgruntled Knicks fans.