1 Trade to Get Every Starless NBA Team Its New Face of the Franchise
Free agency is where most of the offseason fireworks will happen in the NBA, but a handful of teams and players could bring some fun to the trade market as well.
Anthony Davis is the obvious non-free-agent candidate to shake up the league. A few other big names under contract could hit the block too. Bleacher Report's Dan Favale tabbed Bradley Beal, Clint Capela, Mike Conley and Chris Paul as other "Stars and Fringe Stars" who could find themselves on the move.
But which teams might be willing to deal for them? Five squads currently without a star follow as potential landing spots.
Of course, the definitions of "star" or "face of the franchise" are subjective, so feel free to gripe over whatever inclusions or exclusions you'd like.
One exclusion you may notice is the Miami Heat. They don't have a star. What's worse, they don't really have a path to trading for one.
Whatever package Miami might try to cobble together for big names like Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal would surely be topped by others around the league.
New York Knicks
Being a so-called "starless team" would end quickly for the New York Knicks if the Kevin Durant rumors come to fruition in July.
Even with the Achilles injury he suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, as reported by ESPN.com's Nick Friedell, imagining New York rolling out the red carpet isn't terribly difficult. After years of dysfunction, that team and its fans are desperate for a star, even if it's one who has to spend the first year of his deal recovering from an injury.
Perhaps trading for Davis would make the waiting period more palatable.
The Los Angeles Lakers figure to stay in the mix as long as possible, but New York is a huge market and has a trade package that may top L.A.'s.
Health concerns abound with Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. The potential of the rest of the young core pieces doesn't feel like enough to anchor a deal for AD.
The Knicks can absolutely compete on this front.
New York can offer the No. 3 pick (presumably R.J. Barrett), Mitchell Robinson and Dennis Smith Jr. for Davis. They should be willing to throw in Frank Ntilikina if the New Orleans Pelicans think he has some untapped potential.
Prior to a season of being overshadowed by hyper-athletic Duke teammate Zion Williamson, Barrett was seen by many as the eventual No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
"Barrett is on track to follow Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett as the third Canadian-born No. 1 pick in the last seven drafts," Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo wrote just over a year ago. "An athletic, slashing wing, Barrett's ability to get to the basket and create off the dribble coupled with the consistency of his play has earned him the top spot coming out of high school."
Those abilities were never on clearer display than when Williamson missed five games with an injury. During that stretch, Barrett averaged 24.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
For as much promise as Barrett has, he may not even be the most intriguing piece of this deal. Robinson showed the potential to be one of the game's premier rim protectors and rollers in his rookie campaign with the Knicks.
Smith and Ntilikina are both basically flyers at this point.
No, that haul wouldn't make up for the loss of Davis right away. It may never. But AD has plenty of leverage, and New Orleans would be wise to explore options that could better set it up for the future before he walks for nothing.
As for the Knicks, this deal would forfeit a ton of potential. But they have enough cap space to both absorb Davis' huge salary and sign Durant to his 35 percent max deal.
Even if the roster is fairly bare-bones after that, a top two of AD and KD is probably an instant contender.
Shortly after their offseason began, the Houston Rockets set out to do some soul-searching.
"In calls to front offices, Houston GM Daryl Morey is showing an aggressive desire to improve roster with all players and picks available in talks," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. "Hard to imagine James Harden scenario, but the rest under contract—perhaps even Chris Paul—could be moved in right deal."
Non-Harden Rockets obviously include center Clint Capela. He may not fit the traditional mold of a star, but he absolutely could be for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There is perhaps some concern that his productivity is tied to James Harden. Any center would love all the wide-open dunks Harden sets up. And Cleveland's current point guard, Collin Sexton, is nowhere near that level. Capela could help him get closer, though.
"Capela has built a reputation as one of the NBA's elite rim protectors and would be able to instantly provide relief to a Cleveland defense that allowed 50.0 interior points per game," Forbes' Evan Dammarell wrote. "He also has grown notorious as an elite rim runner as well and would be huge for Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton."
At 25 years old, Capela has several years left in his prime and could be an ideal pick-and-roll partner for Sexton for the foreseeable future. With his dynamic rolls to the basket, defenses will be forced to pick between sinking down to try to prevent Capela's dunk or going over the screen to stymie Sexton, who shot 40.2 percent from three as a rookie.
The fit in Cleveland isn't hard to get behind. Houston, though, would need some real incentive to move him. He's been a staple during a stretch in which Houston has been a top-three to top-five team.
This isn't a deep draft, and if the Cavs aren't terribly excited about anyone outside the top three, perhaps the No. 5 pick and Tristan Thompson for Capela could serve both teams well. Houston might have to send someone like Gary Clark or Isaiah Hartenstein to make the money work.
Thompson would approximate some of what Capela has done for the Rockets over the last few years. And 2019-20 is the last season he's under contract, opening up some flexibility Houston doesn't currently enjoy.
While this draft class does drop off after the top three picks, a flyer on a three-and-D prospect like Cam Reddish or De'Andre Hunter could make the team more switchable for another potential matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Clint Capela isn't the only Rocket who could potentially be on the move. As noted by Adrian Wojnarowski, "perhaps even Chris Paul" is on the market.
But his would be one of the least movable contracts in the NBA. Paul is 33. He's set to make $124.1 million over the next three years, including $44.2 million in his age-36 season alone.
And since 2016-17, CP3 has only averaged 59 games per season. Nagging injuries have unfortunately played an undeniable role in his career.
So what team might be willing to sacrifice such a significant amount of financial flexibility for a past-his-prime, undersized point guard with health concerns?
The Chicago Bulls front office has a knack for unpredictability.
And an organization with that much pride and history may be feeling antsy after posting the third-worst winning percentage in the NBA over the last two seasons.
Paul's best years are behind him, but he's still a surefire Hall of Famer who can elevate an offense. In the Eastern Conference, he might even help the Bulls contend for a postseason berth.
Paul is set to make $38.5 million next season. The Bulls can get to around $28 million in cap space if you don't count the incoming salary of the No. 7 pick.
If Chicago offered No. 7, Kris Dunn ($5.3 million) and Cristiano Felicio ($8.2 million) for Paul, it would be able to take on the monster salary.
This doesn't sound like a lot for Houston's second-best player, but this is mostly about financial relief. This deal would save the Rockets a boatload of money. Dunn has an expiring deal, and he has the potential to be a Patrick Beverley-like backcourt mate for Harden. Felicio's contract expires after 2020-21 and actually declines by just under $1 million that season. The No. 7 pick offers a shot at another switchy defender.
For the Bulls, Paul's contract is fraught with risk, but a top five of Paul, Otto Porter, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter offers plenty of intrigue, especially in the East.
Los Angeles Clippers
This one's a little bit more of a roundabout way to get a star.
The Los Angeles Clippers already have more than enough cap space to sign Kawhi Leonard.
The salary cap is projected to be $109 million. Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, Landry Shamet and Tyrone Wallace are the only players with guaranteed money for next season. Their combined salaries add up to $47.7 million.
That leaves barely enough room for a 30 percent max (which Leonard is qualified for) and a 25 percent max (which players with fewer than seven years of service are qualified for).
Pairing Kawhi with another 30 percent max player, or even a 35 percent max, is in play if L.A. can find a taker for Gallinari. The Italian combo forward is coming off the best season of his career and could push a team needing one last piece over the top.
Enter the Utah Jazz.
Even if they keep Derrick Favors' non-guaranteed salary for 2019-20, Utah is projected to have around $17 million in cap space. The difference between Gallinari and Jae Crowder's salaries for next season is $14.8 million.
The Jazz have enough space for a straight-up swap of Gallinari and Crowder, and that would give the Clippers the ability to sign two Kawhi-level max contracts.
For a team that often struggled for from-scratch offense, Gallinari would offer a significant upgrade on the Crowder minutes. A three-big rotation of Rudy Gobert, Favors and Gallo would be one of the best in the league.