With the start of free agency rapidly approaching Sunday, NBA teams are looking at every possible way to maximize their offseason hauls.
The Golden State Warriors had their future plans wrecked by the unfortunate injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, and they are now reportedly looking at a way to pull off a sign-and-trade deal with one of Durant's potential suitors to open up some cap availability.
Houston has reportedly been hard at work trying to figure out a sign-and-trade deal of its own with Philadelphia in order to acquire Jimmy Butler, who would form one of the top trios in the league alongside Chris Paul and James Harden.
While the Warriors and Rockets are the highest profile teams dominating the trade rumor mill, there are a few other deals that have been discussed as well.
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According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, the Warriors are pivoting to a plan to try to potentially work on a sign-and-trade deal involving Durant.
The ESPN report states the Warriors have been in contact with Durant and his agent since the end of the season.
Golden State could sign Durant to a max deal of five years worth $221 million when free agency opens, but if he wants to go elsewhere, the sign-and-trade option is the best chance for the Warriors to recoup their losses.
A potential Durant sign-and-trade could create a $37.6 million trade exception, which would allow the Warriors to add to their roster via a sign-and-trade deal for another free agent or throughout the next year.
In order for this to work, the Warriors might have to sacrifice an asset, like a first-round pick, in a trade to incentivize one of Durant's potential suitors.
But the efforts to put together a sign-and-trade deal could come to no avail since Durant has plenty of teams interested in signing him as a free agent.
On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Durant declined his $31.5 million player option to become a free agent.
Wojnarowski mentioned the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers, as well as the Warriors, as teams in consideration for Durant's free-agent decision.
It is hard to imagine the Knicks, Nets or Clippers wanting to give up something in return for Durant in a deal with the Warriors, given the state of their respective rosters.
New York would ideally not want to lose any key pieces in its rebuild, while Brooklyn and the Clippers most likely would not want to trade young assets from their playoff teams a year ago when they could just simply add Durant.
The Rockets have made it clear they are going to try to secure the services of Jimmy Butler through some type of sign-and-trade deal.
According to The Athletic's Sam Amick, the Rockets are extremely confident in landing Butler, who grew up in Houston.
Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe reported the Rockets are canvassing the league to individually offer Clint Capela, Eric Gordon or P.J. Tucker in exchange for a first-round draft pick that could entice the Sixers in a potential deal.
Any type of trade for Butler is reliant on Philadelphia's willingness to sign him but then give him up to acquire other assets in its own quest for a championship.
The Sixers have a chance to form a long-term Big Three with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Butler, and they will be motivated by their exit in the East semifinals to improve their squad.
The likely situation that would trigger a sign-and-trade is if Butler informs the Sixers of his intentions to play in Houston.
If that is the case, Philadelphia might be forced to deal Butler and then work on getting the best-possible return from Houston, which could be better in the form of draft picks instead of extra contracts.
The Athletic's Joe Vardon spoke to a few league executives about Kevin Love's status in Cleveland, and one mentioned he could be an option for a big-market team that fails to land a big fish in free agency.
The other executives said Love's contract is hard to digest in a trade unless he is the missing piece for a franchise and that he would fetch a deal similar to Al Horford of four years and $120 million if he was coming off a healthy season.
Love is scheduled to make $28.9 million in the 2019-20 season as part of the contract extension he agreed to with the Cavaliers last summer.
With John Beilein taking over a young squad headlined by Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, the Cavs are not expected to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, which is why it would make sense to trade Love.
It hurts Cleveland that Love is coming off a season in which he missed time with a toe injury, but a trade partner could come calling if the free-agent market develops a certain way.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, they do not appear to have teams lining up to trade for Love at the moment, which means his contract could stay on the books for next season.
If that is the case, Cleveland will at least have one star veteran for its young players to rely on for advice throughout the season.
According to Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, Minnesota tried to engage Brooklyn on a sign-and-trade deal for D'Angelo Russell. Wolfson also reported that the trade talks between Minnesota and Brooklyn did not get off the ground.
Even though a trade does not appear to be possible, Minnesota is still interested in Russell, per ESPN's Zach Lowe (h/t RealGM).
"There has been a lot of Minnesota (signing) D'Angelo Russell noise," Lowe said. "And it's not all Karl Towns commenting on Instagram because they're friends. Minnesota has communicated to the league, not the NBA league, just the league at large that they believe they have a pathway to get D'Angelo Russell."
In order to even have a chance at signing Russell, the Wolves have to clear salary-cap space, which is why a sign-and-trade sounds feasible.
What exactly they do to clear cap room for Russell remains to be seen, but if they want to go all-in on signing the point guard, they could conceivably find a way.