With the NBA Offseason coming up, it is time once again to check into Blockbuster and see what big moves will be made. Those blockbuster names that many are anticipating to see on the move during the seasonal melodrama that is the NBA Offseason. The top names on the market are examined, and predictions of which new place these familiar faces will be lacing them up for at the start of the 2023-24 NBA season.
The Anticipated Free Agent Class and Trade Market of 2023
James Harden, Player Option
It has been already heavily rumored that James Harden is "Very Serious" about reuniting with the Houston Rockets. On top of rumors with the Rockets, have come the Phoenix Suns, which re-joins him with former Thunder, and Nets Teammate Kevin Durant.
What could that mean for Phoenix? With two names listed below that are on the trade block, a sign-and-trade could very well be possible. The rumors of both Phoenix and Houston signify that Harden's days are most likely numbered, and this upcoming contract is Harden's best chance to get one last bag, why not go back to familiar poles...
Prediction for Harden: Houston Rockets
Chris Paul, Trade Block
The Suns have a desperate need for depth, and more 3-and-D wings around Durant and Booker. Unfortunately for Chris Paul and the name below, neither are in the plans future, and both have trade rumors surrounding them.
For CP3, he certainly has lost a step, and has dealt with injury in Phoenix after the 2021 Finals Run. Add in 2 years left in his contract with $60 million on the books, trading him will not be easy. That being said with James Harden most likely out of Philadelphia and Kyrie Irving's looming free agency, Dallas and Philadelphia both are logical fits for the 38-year old Point Guard.
Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers
DeAndre Ayton, Trade Block
The other Phoenix Suns team member on the market is DeAndre Ayton. The 2018 #1 pick has taken his fair share of criticism, so a new team may be welcomed for the former Arizona Wildcat.
Dallas and Chicago are both teams that make logical sense for Ayton assuming both clear out their bigs, Nikola Vucevic and Christian Wood. Personally, I believe Dallas would give Ayton the best chance of growth. Similarly to Clint Capela's growth around isometric, heavy pick-and-roll action with James Harden, I could envision Ayton doing the same with his 2018 Rookie Class Counterpart, Luka Doncic.
Prediction: Dallas Mavericks
Russell Westbrook, Free Agent
After Russell Westbrook's departure from one Los Angeles team, he quickly was bought out and joined the other team across the street. In the same arena, Russ saw postseason success, and gave all he could against the Phoenix Suns in the first round.
Now picturing Russ anywhere is tough just based on his play style. He needs the ball in his hands to be the most effective version of himself, and what better place to do so then a Clippers team that feels they will forever be decimated by injury since making the move to pair up Kawhi Leonard with Paul George. Hard to imagine the Clippers, with Westbrook's good pal Paul George, not doing anything they possibly can to retain the former MVP.
Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers
Damian Lillard, Rumored to be on Trade Block
Damian Lillard has seemingly joined Bradley Beal in the never-ending trade rumor mill since the Blazers have taken a down turn the past two years. It will take an overhaul to get an All-NBA caliber guard, Top-20 player in the NBA, and few teams will have that ability to make that move.
With a move rumored around Damian Lillard, the Bucks have already made a move to interview Scott Brooks, who has been linked to Dame. Toronto has been in mediocrity the last few years, and a move for Lillard could boost their title chances. Brooklyn has a strong young core begging for a star to speed the process of growing into a contender. But I do not see Dame going to Milwaukee, Brooklyn, or Toronto.
Look no further than the two teams in the Eastern Conference Finals. Neither have gotten over the hump to win the title. The loser of Heat/Celtics III will most likely looking to retool. For the Celtics, Jaylen Brown just made Second-Team All-NBA, and with that award comes a $600+ million bill to pair a duo that, if they lose, will not have one a title. For Miami, Jimmy Butler can get you so far, and with young core, a big market, may be looking to make a splash to get them the Larry O'Brien.
Prediction: Loser of Heat/Celtics
Khris Middleton, Player Option
The Bucks season was a failure. I do not care what any big Greek man wants to say. One of the biggest parts of the failure was Khris Middleton. Coming back from an injury in the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Middleton had bright spots, but when push came to shove, the Heat dominated a Middleton/Holiday led Bucks team in the first round.
That utter domination opens up a world of opportunities for the Bucks front office, and it starts with Khris Middleton who has a player option. With Jon Horst of the Bucks hoping to keep the gang together, and bring in a new coach, it will be interesting to see if that entails Middleton picking up said player option, or declining it to pick up a longer extension for less to give more space to build the Bucks back into the expected title contender fans believe them to be.
If Middleton does depart however, there have been rumors of Houston looking for a sign-and-trade for Jalen Green to pair Middleton up with most likely James Harden. But with the looming option for Giannis to extend once again in 2024, I have to imagine the Bucks will do everything possible to keep Middleton in town.
Prediction: Declines Option, Takes a Paycut with Milwaukee Bucks
Draymond Green, Player Option
Draymond Green has made it evident that he does not want to hear any of the 'End of the Dynasty' noise that has been made since the Lakers eliminated the 2022 NBA Champs in the second round this year. That being said, with that elimination comes many questions about the roster make-up. It is clear the two timelines idea has been a failure, and Jordan Poole's name has made its way into trade rumors along with Jonathan Kuminga's.
Similarly to Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green takes a specific team makeup to maximize his effectiveness as the two-way playmaking hybrid power forward that he has developed into out of Michigan State, and similarly to Russell Westbrook, I struggle to see Draymond leave the situation he is in. There will be roster changes, and some of them might be rumored around Klay Thompson, but at the end of the day, I feel the Warriors put their chips on the table for one final run with Steph, Klay, and Dray at the start of the 2023-24 NBA season.
Prediction: Draymond Green
Kyrie Irving, Free Agent
Of the names hitting the free agent market and rumor mill, Kyrie Irving is certainly the most interesting. The off-the-court news will always cloud Irving, but joining Luka in Dallas and not making the playoffs was one of the biggest on-the-court storylines we saw as the 2022-23 regular season closed out.
All the news, the Mavericks struggles once paired with Doncic, making a move on Kyrie will certainly be a risk. Rumors have swirled of him joining Booker and KD in Phoenix. Dallas has felt confident that he will stay a Maverick, and both L.A. teams were rumored to be in on Irving. His destination may be in question, but contract wise, I would not expect anything to be longer than three years, as injuries and the aforementioned off-the-court news have kept him from playing on the court.
Prediction: Short-Term Deal with Dallas Mavericks
Victor Wembanyama, #1 Pick in 2023 NBA Draft
All the free agents. All the trade rumors, and I would argue the presumed first pick of the draft will be the biggest chip to fall in this year's offseason. The 7'2" 19-year old has already made major waves around the NBA with his athleticism, size and skillset.
The top odds for which team will draft this freak of nature are Houston, Detroit, and San Antonio. For Houston, you most likely pair him with James Harden and immediately put him on display in more nationally broadcasted games putting him with a former MVP. Wemby in Detroit, gives the Pistons an exciting trio of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Victor Wembanyama. In San Antonio, the team will get a new face of the franchise, and will vault them back into contention and the public eye.
Anywhere Wemby ends up will draw immediate eyes, and NBA fans everywhere should be keeping their eyes peeled on the Draft Lottery on May 16th.