The NBA has already seen a dramatic change in its landscape during this offseason, with the most recent bombshell move being All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins' decision to join the Golden State Warriors on a one-year deal. Twenty-nine teams were already chasing the Warriors, who have won three titles in their last four years, but now the possibility of stealing a championship away from them seems a bit bleaker.
That being said, a few other names could be finding new teams this offseason, and they could help contenders get closer to the mountain top in various ways. We'll take a look at three of them below.
The rift between two-time All-NBA First Team member Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs was one of the most notable storylines of the 2017-18 season, and it continues to bleed into the following offseason.
Leonard wants to start over in a new city: According to Chris Haynes of ESPN on The Jump (h/t Raj Prashad of Dime Magazine), "Los Angeles is (Leonard's) preferred destination. He will consider Philly. That's the only Eastern Conference team he would consider if they're able to put a package together."
On July 1, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN noted that Leonard wants to be a Los Angeles Laker.
Focusing on L.A., the team doesn't have many attractive draft picks down the line, especially considering the addition of LeBron James will almost certainly make them a much more competitive team, which would in turn drop the Lakers down the first-round order.
But the Lakers have an exciting young core in forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma in addition to guards Josh Hart and Lonzo Ball, and some combination of that quartet could help form a solid starting point to a deal.
That being said, L.A. may be better off retaining all three, waiting a year and trying to sign Leonard in free agency: The 27-year-old can opt out of his deal next offseason. And if any Leonard deal falls through, the team can fall back on the fact they still have that young core of players.
Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports provided more clarity on the situation from the Spurs' standpoint:
Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report
1 GM tells me #Spurs remain extremely stubborn, unwilling to budge even a little - at least not yet - w/demands for #Kawhi. SA in unchartered territory, could care less if their 27-year-old superstar is unhappy. Just like w/Melo, this could conceivably drag on well into summer... https://t.co/Quvyj3b1Gx
It makes sense for the Spurs to wait this one out, as they have all the cards in this situation with Leonard under contract. Provided Leonard is still unhappy with the team for the foreseeable future, the Spurs can wait this out and hope a team ramps up its offer.
While Oklahoma City dealt with injuries throughout the season (notably a season-ending one to defensive stalwart Andre Roberson), the Thunder lost in the first round of the playoffs in six games to the Utah Jazz and only improved by one regular-season win over the previous year.
Anthony looked like the odd man out at times, as the 10-time All-Star struggled in his 15th NBA campaign. He had career-low numbers in scoring (16.2 points per game) and shooting (40.4 percent). Part of that could likely be attributed to the fact that Anthony is on the back end of his stellar career, although the team never really developed the chemistry needed to go deeper into the playoffs.
It looks like both Anthony and the Thunder are looking towards new paths, as Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young of ESPN reported that "the two sides will part ways sometime this summer." They also noted that "the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers are among multiple teams expected to express interest in (Anthony)."
Schultz also provided more insight in regards to a potential Lakers-Melo partnership:
Miami is an intriguing possibility, as Anthony would get the chance to be a team's primary scorer again. Heat point guard Goran Dragic led the team with 17.3 points per game last year, but Miami could use another scorer who can put up 20 or more a game consistently.
On paper, the Heat seem like the best fit. The Lakers are building around their young talent and/or Leonard joining their team, and the Rockets are built around the three-pointer, which has never really been Melo's forte (he has shot 34.7 percent for his career from beyond the arc).
The Cleveland Cavaliers are entering a new era as LeBron James opted out of his contract and joined the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.
That leads to the question of what the Cavs will do with their remaining All-Star, big man Kevin Love, who could hypothetically be dealt as the team looks toward rebuilding and starting a new era.
Per Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer, one NBA executive believes Love will be on the team at the beginning of the season, noting that "he'll be more in demand during the season by the trading deadline."
The executive also went onto say that "Kevin could have a very good year for the Cavs being the focal point of the offense. He is a talented player."
Love is coming off his most efficient season since the 2013-14 campaign, as he earned a 22.4 player efficiency rating. For the season, the 29-year-old scored 17.6 points per game alongside 9.3 rebounds. He shot 45.8 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from three-point range.
Ultimately, what the executive said makes sense: Although the Cavs' best bet is to likely move Love and look toward the future, teams may be willing to deal more at the deadline. It's possible some teams have to cope with unfortunate frontcourt injuries and need reinforcements. Also, contending teams could covet another player to help it get over the hump and deeper into the playoffs.
That being said, it's hard seeing Love being in Cleveland much longer, as the team's best bet is to undergo a full rebuild and acquire young prospects and draft picks.