After the Boston Celtics' 114-112 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, four teams are left in the NBA playoff field.
The other 26 teams are left wondering how they can contend for an NBA title some day. Many rumors are swirling in regards to potential deals or signings, while the NBA Draft Combine from May 16 through May 20 will give every squad a chance to see most of the best prospects in the nation all at once.
Here's a look at a couple of trade rumors that could cause big waves on the NBA landscape if they come to fruition, alongside an interesting third note about a star wanting out in the past.
Per Ken Berger of Bleacher Report, a Western Conference executive said the following in regards to whether the frayed relationship between superstar forward Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs can be repaired: "I don't think it can. At the end of the day, Kawhi wants out."
However, Berger also noted that "multiple league sources advised not to underestimate [Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich's] ability to repair the team's relationship with Leonard."
The Leonard-Spurs saga, which largely involves a disagreement in regards to the management of a quad injury, has been discussed ad nauseam in NBA news outlets for months, and Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com went long on the reasons in a May 1 piece.
Leonard is unquestionably one of the top players in the league when healthy, and he already has a fantastic resume, winning the NBA Finals MVP at 22 years old in 2014 and making the All-NBA First Team in 2016 and 2017. He enjoyed a great 2016-17 campaign, posting 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Leonard only played nine games last season, but the Spurs should obviously do everything possible to repair the relationship and keep him onboard. The team still made the playoffs with Leonard on the sidelines more often than not last year, registering a 47-35 record. With a healthy Leonard back in the mix, the Spurs are a top-three Western Conference team and would be championship contenders.
Another relationship between team and player may lead to a trade, as Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat could be parting ways.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, "there is strong support among numerous people inside the Heat to trade Hassan Whiteside" and that Heat president Pat Riley "is now mulling what to do with Whiteside, according to someone close to the situation."
Per Heat Nation, Whiteside liked an Instagram post from The Score which discussed the Jackson article, making the situation more intriguing.
Whiteside enjoyed a dominant 2016-17 season in which he started 73 games and averaged 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest. However, his production dipped this year, in part because his minutes dropped from 32.6 per game last year to 25.3 this year as the Heat played small ball on multiple occasions.
The issue is that the league has been drifting more towards small ball, with teams shooting three-pointers at a remarkable pace (an average of 29.0 per game, per Basketball Reference). It renders a player like Whiteside unusable in some spots, as he is not a three-point shooter or as capable of defending the perimeter. That leaves quicker big men like Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, who played the five at times this season, closing out games instead of Whiteside.
Still, Whiteside is a double-double and blocking machine when he's on, and he'll be just 29 years old at the beginning of next season. He could still be a productive starter for a team, so a trade from Miami certainly seems plausible.
Leonard isn't the only Spur to have a disagreement with the team in recent history, as LaMarcus Aldridge had a rift with the team soon after he arrived from the Portland Trail Blazers.
As Ken Berger noted in a May 10 piece, it got "to the point where Aldridge called former teammate Damian Lillard and asked him to approach general manager Neil Olshey about bringing Aldridge back to Portland, a person familiar with the conversation told B/R."
The good news is that the Spurs and Aldridge resolved their differences, and the big man enjoyed an All-Star campaign in 2017-18, averaging 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while leading the Spurs to a playoff appearance.
Aldridge was brought over to help lead the Spurs with Leonard, but the 32-year-old found himself as the team's primary star this season. That might be the case for the next few years if Leonard forces a trade (Aldridge's contract runs through the 2020-21 season).
On the flip side, if Leonard returns, he, Aldridge and Dejounte Murray could form an interesting trio, one that could easily make San Antonio the NBA's best defensive team.
The 21-year-old Murray was first among all point guards in defensive real plus-minus, per ESPN. Leonard is a three-time member of the All-Defensive First Team, while Aldridge finished 24th out of 92 power forwards in defensive real plus-minus.
That's tough for any offense in the league to face, but the question is whether it comes to fruition.