With the 2018 NBA Finals officially in the rearview, and the entire league still chasing the Golden State Warriors, we could be in for another offseason with lots of player movement.
The rumor mill is already churning something fierce, and it's not just being propelled by tidbits on LeBron James. This week, we have reports on Kevin Love, Hassan Whiteside and EuroLeague sensation Luka Doncic.
All three could be on different teams next season (almost certainly in Doncic's case).
In his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love posted a Box Plus-Minus (BPM) of 8.4 in 2013-14, per Basketball Reference. Only LeBron James and Kevin Durant posted better BPMs during that campaign.
Over the four years since he became a Cleveland Cavalier, Love is 50th in BPM (among players who've logged at least 4,000 minutes over the four seasons).
And in the same time frame, the game has evolved to the point that it's hard to find a home for a traditional power forward. So, the championship in 2016 aside, this chapter of Love's career probably hasn't helped his value.
That might not keep Cleveland from shopping him, though.
In an appearance on The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN's Brian Windhorst talked about what the Cavs might do if LeBron leaves.
"They start over," Windhorst said, per RealGM. "They fully make Kevin Love available. I bet they would look for a first-round pick in that trade. He's on the last year of a deal so they don't want to take on money."
With such a strong draft, little cap space available and a saturated market for big men, an early first-round pick for Love might be out of the question.
Could a team picking at the end of the first round convince itself that Love's the last piece it needs to go from good to contender next season?
In a 2015 video for The Players' Tribune, Kevin Love called Park City, Utah, his "favorite place in the U.S." Could the No. 21 pick and salary filler from the Utah Jazz be enough to pry Love away from a rebuilding Cavs squad?
The traditional power forward may be on its way out, but it could make a heck of a last stand with Love complementing Rudy Gobert in Utah.
Whiteside is another big man who may be on the market this summer. Like Love, he faces an uncertain future, brought on by the changes in the game.
The Miami Heat are exploring potential Whiteside trades, but the search might not turn much up, as The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported.
"A source in touch with the Heat’s front office said it's considered 50-50 at best—perhaps less—if the Heat will be able to trade Whiteside because his value around the league is diminished," Jackson wrote.
Whiteside's clashes with the Heat organization aside, his value has likely diminished around the league for basketball reasons as well.
This season, Miami was outscored by 2.4 points per 100 possessions when Whiteside was on the floor, per the NBA. It outscored opponents by two points per 100 possessions when he wasn't on the floor.
Additionally, among the 1,293 players with at least as many career minutes, Whiteside is 1,291st in assists per minute, per Basketball Reference.
As switchability on defense and unselfishness on offense become more important for bigs every year, it's getting harder and harder to see where Whiteside fits.
Somehow, a 19-year old dominating the second-best basketball league in the world is starting to slip in mock drafts here and there. And smart front offices, including one that employs legendary executive Jerry West, may be looking to capitalize on that slip.
In an episode of Chris Mannix's podcast, The Vertical's Shams Charania posited the idea that the Los Angeles Clippers could package their two late-lottery picks to move up and closer to a shot at Doncic.
"You could see a lot of pick movement," Charania said. "The Clippers have looked to trade up. I think one guy that they've looked at heavily is Luka Doncic from Real Madrid."
Given the loss of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in the last year, as well as the potential for free agent DeAndre Jordan leaving, a full rebuild makes sense. And there aren't many cornerstones as intriguing as Doncic.
According to Jacob Goldstein's international Box Plus-Minus database, Doncic is second in both the Spanish ACB and EuroLeague in BPM.
Producing at that level against competition superior to that found in the NCAA, in combination with his ideal wing size (6'8") and playmaking, makes Doncic feel like a no-brainer in a stacked draft class.