NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Raptors' Potential Trades, Jimmy Butler, More

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 22, 2018

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 25:  Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves reacts in the second half during Game Five of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on April 25, 2018 in Houston, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

While a few notable players still reside on the NBA's free-agent market and trading block, most of the big names have found homes for the 2018-19 regular season.

However, next year's offseason has a chance to be as chaotic as this year's, as the 2019 free-agent class looks loaded at first glance. Furthermore, numerous All-Stars can opt out of their contracts in 2019, per a RealGM list.

We'll take a look at some potential player movement for next year's offseason below, in addition to a few notes on the 2018-19 campaign.


A New Big Three?

On the Bulls Talk podcast (h/t Danny Abriano of Sportsnet New York), analysts made some interesting points about a potential trio forming in 2019.

Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago spoke of players potentially joining forces prior to the 2019-20 season. In particular, he mentioned Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving. Both can opt out of their contracts in 2019, making them free agents.

As Schanowski noted, "...and then you look at Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler talking about getting together somewhere. That could be with the Knicks or Nets."

Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago interjected, saying a third player could be in the mix: "There's a third guy that I can't mention. I can't tell you (who) but I can tell you it's a very accomplished NBA player. Very accomplished." 

The New York Knicks' books are almost entirely clear starting in 2020, and they have a decent amount available in 2019 as well. Per Spotrac, the Knicks are currently eighth in the league in "practical" cap space.

The Nets can make plays for Butler and Irving as well, as their ledger is almost entirely empty starting in 2019. They are more or less a blank canvas at this point as they enter a significant rebuilding program.

The Knicks would be a more interesting fit for Butler and Irving. New York has three young players it is building around: guard Frank Ntilikina, forward Kevin Knox and forward/center Kristaps Porzingis. With Irving and Butler, the Knicks would have a solid mix of youth and experience as they make a run at the Eastern Conference title. Any mystery third player would be an added bonus.

Removing that player from the discussion at the moment, though, Irving would presumably run the point with Ntilikina playing off the ball and providing shutdown defense on the opposing team's best backcourt player. Butler would play the three, and Knox could play power forward. Porzingis would then man the five, where he could be deadly if there full time.

Of course, this is just speculation, but if there is smoke behind an Irving-Butler free-agent tag team, New York should be one of the first places to look.


Raptors Looking to Clear Salary?

After trading for San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, the Toronto Raptors are looking toward their next move. Ian Begley of ESPN has the latest:

Ian Begley @IanBegley

Several opposing executives say the Toronto Raptors remain motivated to shed salary via trade following the Kawhi Leonard deal earlier this week.

If the Raptors want to move salary, then forward Serge Ibaka could be a candidate. Per Hoopshype, Ibaka has two years and nearly $45 million left on his deal. Notably, Ibaka's minutes also declined last year from 31.0 to 27.5, and he had a 14.7 PER, which was the second-lowest mark of his career.

On the flip side, Ibaka is still a tough defender (he ranked a solid 29th out of 83 power forwards in defensive real-plus minus, per ESPN), and he can stretch the floor with his three-point shot (career 36.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc). If the Raps can't move him, Ibaka can still be an asset for the team next year.

Otherwise, Kyle Lowry has two years and over $64 million remaining on his contract, but it's hard seeing the All-Star going anywhere, especially considering that he's clearly the most dependable floor general left on the roster.

Norman Powell has four years on $42 million remaining on his deal, though he'd be hard to trade after a down year in which he shot just 40.1 percent from the field. The Raps may be better off keeping him anyway, as Powell is just 25 years old and has room to develop. He's also one year off shooting a respectable 44.9 percent from the field and proving solid wing depth off the bench.

Ultimately, the Raptors have decided to make a significant change given the Leonard deal, and they will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season.


Suns Making More Moves?

Per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 Radio, the Suns were looking to clear a roster spot for Philadelphia 76ers center Richaun Holmes, who was acquired via trade, and spoke with veterans Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler on buyouts:

John Gambadoro @Gambo987

The Suns have been talking to players about buyouts for a couple of weeks trying to free up a roster spot. They did discuss with both Dudley & Tyson. It may have been that they were just trying to get one to accept so they could make this move. Not sure what happens to Tyson now

Dudley was moved to the Brooklyn Nets, leaving Chandler's status with the team up in the air. Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com noted, however, that Chandler isn't in the buyout discussion:

scott bordow @sbordow

To those asking if the Suns are trying to buy out Tyson Chandler, I'm told that's incorrect

Answering questions on Twitter, Gambadoro noted some teams have been interested in the 17-year veteran, who has one year left on his deal:

John Gambadoro @Gambo987

@KHarris7 some market yes - last year Houston had some interest. This year Golden State before they signed Cousins.

If the Suns don't buy out the last year of Chandler's deal, they have two options: Keep him around as a veteran presence on a young and rebuilding Suns team, or trade him to a contender where Chandler can get one last shot at a ring.

As far as veteran leadership goes, the first pick of the 2018 NBA draft (center Deandre Ayton) has already spoken about working with Chandler to Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports: "Our vets can help us. I can’t wait to see Tyson Chandler to really tell me the ropes on how to defend the post and how to talk to refs certain ways, even if you’re mad or fatigued. I just want him to teach me that."

For his part, Ayton seems excited about the opportunity.

As far as a trading partner goes, the Warriors are obviously off the table with DeMarcus Cousins signing a one-year deal. As is, the Dubs obviously play a ton of small ball, too, and Chandler isn't a fit in those lineups.

Houston doesn't seem like a great landing place either. While Rockets center and restricted free agent Clint Capela is currently in negotiation limbo with the team, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Houston would be crazy to let him go.

Capela was a big part of the team's 65-17 season, averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Houston wouldn't have a solid fallback plan sans Capela at the five, and it also has Nene Hilario as a dependable backup center and veteran.

Ultimately, expect Chandler to return to Phoenix and help Ayton transition into the league.