It’s shaping up to be a busy offseason in the NBA, with numerous star players set to hit free agency. Others are under contract, but seem set to feature prominently in trade talks for various reasons.
On Wednesday, the talk was all about Chris Paul being dealt to Houston. That could be the first of many major moves to come.
Who will stay? Who will go? Who will be busy actively trying to get these guys? Here is a list of eight NBA stars who may well find themselves with new organizations next season, and what the future may have in store for them.
1) Paul George
At this point, it will probably be an upset if George isn’t moved. He’s told the Indiana Pacers that he’s leaving at the end of next season, and even if that knowledge will bring his trade value down, the Pacers will want to at least get something for him.
A number of teams have registered interest in George, but it doesn’t appear that anything has ever been close. The Boston Celtics tried on draft night, but talks reportedly stalled. Cleveland tried to put together an ambitious package, but their efforts seem to have fallen short as well, at least for the moment.
The Pacers seem to be in little hurry to move George, but their franchise is somewhat hamstrung until his situation is resolved. Expect him to be traded this summer.
Any potential Cleveland Cavaliers trade for Paul George will have at least one major obstacle to overcome.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on Sunday that the Indiana Pacers are not interested in acquiring Kevin Love and are instead seeking young players and draft picks.
Without those types of young assets to offer, Cleveland’s most valuable trade chip is most likely Love. But he’s a costly, in-his-prime player who has yet to prove that he can lead a team to the playoffs as the No. 1 guy, so it makes sense why the Pacers might not exactly be interested.
Granted, the Cavs could get a third team involved, and the Pacers are virtually a lock to trade George now that he has informed them he plans to leave in 2018. But with other destinations also very much in play, Cleveland will have a lot of hoops to jump through to turn their PG-13 pipe dream into a reality.
The only thing that could slow down Kevin Love’s hot start to Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night was an injury.
Love got hurt after being involved in a collision four minutes into Game 2. Love was guarding Draymond Green, while LeBron James was defending Kevin Durant. Durant took a screen from Green and then tried to slice between James and Love towards the basket, but he appeared to collide with Love.
Love went down and missed the possession, but a stop in play allowed him to get back up.
Love, still just 28 years old, spent the first six years of his career in Minnesota (here’s an idea of what he looked like back then). He made three All-Star teams there before being traded to Cleveland in 2014. The former No. 5 overall pick is a lot more perimeter-oriented these days and doesn’t gobble up nearly as many rebounds as he did when he was with the Timberwolves. But Love has become a much more versatile and intelligent player in his Cavs iteration, and the team will be relying on him to overcome what will be a difficult personal matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
The 2017 NBA Finals will be a star-studded affair, and there is no question that the big names will have to perform if they want to lead their teams to an NBA title. However, both teams have some auxiliary pieces who could also play huge roles in whether the Golden State Warriors take back the title, or the Cleveland Cavaliers manage to defend it.
Here is a look at ten players on both Golden State and Cleveland who will have a big say in who takes home the championship.
10. Kyle Korver, Cavaliers
When the Cavaliers acquired Korver in January, the NBA world was content to more or less shrug it off. Sure, he’s one of the NBA’s most efficient three-point shooters, but Cleveland was seeking a playmaker at the time, and Korver did not fit the bill.
Cleveland will not be regretting their acquisition now.
Korver quickly slotted into the rotation and got better looks due to the Cavs’ abundance of talent. He promptly shot 48.5 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season, and he even helped his star teammate with free throws. He has already shown the ability to impact the postseason as well, as he went 4-for-6 from three in Game 4 against Toronto, playing 28 minutes and helping Cleveland close out the Raptors.
He is the player best equipped to go toe-to-toe with the Splash Brothers, and if Cleveland needs points fast, don’t be surprised if they look Korver’s way.
Kevin Love thinks that a defending NBA champion deserves a little more respect around these parts.
Addressing reporters after practice on Saturday, the Cleveland Cavaliers big man laughed off the team’s underdog status against the Golden State Warriors heading into their third straight NBA Finals meeting.
“The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because, yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title,” said Love, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “We’re trying to repeat, which is so hard to do.
“I think we will use it as fuel,” he continued. “We will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It’s tough for me to say that is the case. I don’t feel like we’re underdogs. We match up well with them, and I think they’d say the same about us.”
In fairness, a 73-win team adding Kevin Durant will make an underdog out of just about anybody. Vegas odds, public opinion, and virtually every other sphere already reflect that much. But as Love alluded to, the Cavs from top to bottom really seem to be letting the longshot label fuel them, and that should only further heighten the intensity of Round 3 between the two bitter rivals.
After losing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in danger of dropping a second game. But then Kyrie Irving stepped up.
They were down by 10 at the half and star LeBron James had four fouls, so there was no certainty the Cavs would pull off a comeback win. Thankfully Irving rescued them in the second half. The Cavs point guard went 15-for-22 and 8 of 9 at the line for a game-high 42 points.
During an interview with TNT after the game, Kevin Love praised Irving for his “special” performance.
“Down 10 … it was just an effort all the way around. We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of playoff minutes, been in situations like that before. I can sit here and say that, but also Kyrie Irving was also very special. He was very special tonight. Bron playing with four fouls, being able to play through that, overall the mentality, getting stops …” Love said when talking about coming back to win the game 112-99.
Love credited the Celtics for playing tough and shouted out Boston coach Brad Stevens for putting his players in position to win.
Irving overcame a scare with his ankle to score his 42 and lead the Cavs to victory. He was awesome in the game, pulling off incredible fakes like this one:
Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue is hoping to take a longer ride on The Love Boat for the remainder of the postseason.
Lue said on Thursday that he wants to find more touches for Kevin Love.
“Some of it’s my fault because we haven’t really featured him a lot because of the matchups we had on other teams,” said Lue after Cavs practice, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “[Love has] been great. His whole mindset is winning and that’s what it’s all about in the playoffs. In this next series, we have some matchups he can definitely take advantage of and it’s on me to make sure we do that.
“Just because [he’s] not scoring the basketball or whatever, defensively and rebounding the basketball he’s been great,” Lue elaborated. “That’s why [the Raptors] went out and got [Serge] Ibaka and those guys, to try and slow Kevin down. Maybe we didn’t feature Kevin enough against Toronto, maybe we showed ’em too much respect and that’s on me. But next round I’ve got to do a better job of really getting Kevin involved and really establishing Kevin.”
Love is putting up just 13.8 points on 9.9 shot attempts per game through the first two rounds of the playoffs. That’s well below his season averages of 19.0 points on 14.5 attempts per game. Granted, the four-time All-Star has still been productive for Cleveland so far this postseason with 9.1 rebounds a night and 40.9 percent shooting from deep. The Cavs’ LeBron James and Kyrie Irving-centric offensive gameplan has also been money, as their 8-0 record can attest to. But Lue has always been one of Love’s strongest defenders, right from the time that he got the job, so the winner of the Wizards-Celtics series can probably expect a healthy dose of amor next round.