It may legitimately take half the season just for NBA fans to be able to reliably recall where every new player is. The past three months can be most accurately described as a "reign of chaos."
All in all, players with 66 combined All-Star appearances changed teams in the span of four months between June 1 and Sept. 23. That number will change to 78 when Dwyane Wade signs. Trade demands from stars in their prime next to LeBron James, free agency declarations, retractions and re-commitments in the span of 12 hours, tampering, and even the top pick in the draft being moved. This summer had it all.
Before a new season begins, let's take a look back at all the craziness from start to finish, if nothing else so we can remember where all these players went.
June 19: Celtics trade No. 1 overall pick to 76ers for No. 3 and Lakers 2018 first-round pick (protected)
We should have known the summer was going to be crazy from the get go when the Celtics, coming off an Eastern Conference finals appearance, traded the No. 1 pick in the draft. Coming off such a strong season led by the explosive play of Isaiah Thomas, with the No. 1 pick, there was talk of how this Celtics team could be dominant for a decade. At the time, the trade was looked at as a way to maneuver for the future, and to build in the short term around Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics nabbed the player they thought was best, Jayson Tatum, and the Lakers pick next season (if it lands between pick No. 2 and No. 5 only). It was a gamble, but one that seemed to be insured for by the success and continuity of the rest of the team.
The rest of the summer turned out quite differently.
Shock value (scale of 1-10 with 10 being most shocking): 8
June 20: Hawks trade Dwight Howard, second-round pick to Hornets for Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, second-round pick
Dwight Howard, former MVP candidate (2011), eight-time All-Star, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, got moved before the draft, and hardly anyone noticed or remembers this three months later. That says a lot about both how much went on and where Howard's career is at. Howard's movement was big, though. For starters, he signed a monster deal with the Hawks last summer which impacted their roster, and then they moved on after a year. Secondly, he was surprisingly effective. This was a big-name player that moved with little fanfare, but he might actually wind up making a difference this season.
Shock value: 4
June 22: Nets trade Brook Lopez to Lakers for D'Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov
Another one that slipped through the cracks. Lost in the mania of Lonzo Ball and his father this summer, the Lakers completely abandoned the thought of D'Angelo Russell being a key part of their future. The revisionist history has made it seem like Ball was the real star, the real player looked at as a transcendent talent, but that's exactly how Russell was talked about when he was drafted. The Nets either landed a temperamental, immature headache, or the next cornerstone of their franchise.
Meanwhile, Lopez, an All-Star caliber center who made monster strides in expanding his range last season, goes to L.A. and could wind up being a key part of an exciting future.
Shock value: 5
June 23: Bulls trade Jimmy Butler, No. 16 pick to Wolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, No. 9 pick
Remember those halcyon days of June when we thought this was going to be the biggest move of the summer? The Bulls had balked at Butler's rising star for years and finally wound up trading him for very little. LaVine is coming off an ACL tear but has incredible upside still, and Dunn disappointed but shined defensively. The Bulls somehow, in a deal where they gave up their best player, only moved up seven spots in the draft. The return the Kings received for DeMarcus Cousins began the trend of stars being moved for very little, the Bulls set the standard for the summer.
For a brief moment in time, it looked like the Wolves might have made the biggest move of the summer. How innocent we were at the time.
Shock value: 7
June 28: Clippers trade Chris Paul to Rockets for Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, contract filler, first-round pick
No one saw this coming. There was talk Paul was interested in Houston, sure. But he was set to be an unrestricted free agent and he had reportedly even filed the paperwork (that was premature, it turns out). There was no reason to think he'd pass up both the freedom and the payday in negotiating a trade, but before free agency even began, Paul informed the Clippers he'd sign with Houston, and so the two teams worked out a deal.
It added a superstar and future Hall of Famer to a team that won the third-most games in the league last season, and created a whole slew of storylines to watch.
Shock value: 9
June 30: Pacers trade Paul George to Thunder for Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis
This one was a stone-cold stunner. All the talk was about George going to the Lakers next summer and how his camp's reveal to the press that he had issued a trade demand had ruined all leverage for the Pacers. Still, the return for Indiana was even worse than expected, and Oklahoma City came out of nowhere. This is the Thunder's M.O., Sam Presti never telegraphs his moves. He does not shuffle the deck, he tries to change the game.
OKC surprised the league by being a sixth seed with the MVP the year after Durant left, then Presti went full bore in adding another star, in a contract season. The move was an easy win for him considering how little he gave up, and yet it pushed the Thunder to another level in the conference and along with the Paul George trade.
Shock value: 10
July 3: Paul Millsap agrees to sign with Nuggets
Denver had literally never signed a player in free agency of Millsap's caliber, which says a lot about that franchise's history. Not since Kenyon Martin had they landed a signature player in free agency. It was also stunning because Atlanta had rejected trade offers for Millsap the past two deadlines, and had reconfigured the team around him when Al Horford left for Boston, only to then lose Millsap for nothing when new GM Travis Schenk invested in a full rebuild.
Millsap joins a team that was very close to making the playoffs last season and will play next to star center Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets are expected to be one of the most intriguing and exciting teams in the league.
Shock value: 6
July 4: Gordon Hayward agrees to sign with Celtics
Hayward had been linked to the Celtics for years, given his relationship with Brad Stevens during his time at Butler. If anything, it was surprising in how predictable the narrative was. Star player joins his college coach to try and win a championship.
What was actually surprising was the crazy way it went down. When word leaked of Hayward's intent before his Players' Tribune article could drop, Hayward's camp quickly put out word he hadn't decided yet and there were even inklings that he might be reconsidering after the mess that had been made of the announcement. All of this was going down on Fourth of July, to boot; it was chaos.
In the end, Hayward did commit to the Celtics, so the result wasn't surprising. The way it went down, however, was one of the more notable dramas of the summer.
Shock value: 2
July 6: Danilo Gallinari agrees to sign (sign-and-trade) with Clippers
Gallinari had been pursued by the Clippers for several years through trade, so it made sense they would sign him. After Denver agreed to terms with Millsap, moving on from Gallinari for cap purposes seemed pretty clear. Still, it was a key move from L.A. to add some offensive firepower after losing both Paul and J.J. Redick.
Shock value: 1
July 6: Rudy Gay agrees to sign with Spurs
Of all the potential moves for the Spurs in an attempt to add an upgrade after losing Jonathon Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon in free agency, adding Rudy Gay coming off an Achilles tear was not the one you would have expected. Not a huge needle-mover, but interesting, nonetheless.
Shock value: 1
July 7: Celtics trade Avery Bradley to Pistons for Marcus Morris
After agreeing to terms with Gordon Hayward, the Celtics had to make cap room. The idea was that either Marcus Smart or Bradley would have to go (or Isaiah Thomas but at the time, that was thought to be a laughable idea). Bradley was drafted by Danny Ainge, and had always embodied things that Ainge valued (toughness, court intelligence, defense). Many in Boston didn't think Ainge would ever part with him, but instead, Bradley was the first to go. It meant losing one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and giving the Pistons a major upgrade and setting the dominoes that would send Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Lakers.
Shock value: 6
July 8: J.J. Redick agrees to sign with Sixers
Redick, a veteran shooter, joined a squad of youngsters on a one-year deal, reaping a huge payday ($23 million). It was shocking to see a player like Redick take the plunge on trusting the process at this point in his career, and to see the Sixers give that kind of money on a one-year deal, increasing the excitement for the most hyped Sixers season in 15 years.
Shock value: 7
July 10: Zach Randolph agrees to sign with Kings
The Grit Grind Era ended in Memphis (for real this time) as Zach Randolph, ZBo himself, signed with the Kings after the Grizzlies were unwilling to shell out to make sure Randolph retired with Memphis. Randolph reunites with Dave Joerger (along with Vince Carter), but it will still be strange to see Randolph in purple and black.
Shock value: 4
July 25: Derrick Rose agrees to terms with Cavs
This guy won an MVP six years ago. This summer he signed with the three-time Eastern Conference champion for $2.1 million on a one-year deal. Life comes at you fast. Rose was supposed to be a foil for James in 2011, and instead, he's the backup point guard (once Isaiah Thomas comes back) for him.
Shock value: 5
Aug. 30: Cavs trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Nets' 2018 first-round pick
Let's list the most amazing things about this trade:
- The starting point guard for the 3-time East champs -- who made the title-winning shot in 2016 -- demanded a trade from the team with the greatest player since Michael Jordan.
- He was traded to the team that finished with the No. 1 seed, who lost to that point guard's team in a five-game conference finals, where at one point the player's new team was down 50 points.
- In exchange, the Cavs received the player who finished with the fifth-most MVP vote points, a very good role player, and the Nets' unprotected pick which the Celtics had not included in other trade talks.
- Upon the deal being agreed to, it was delayed because of the severity of Thomas' hip injury which caused the Cavs to demand more in return for Irving.
- Upon issuing his trade request, Irving did not inform LeBron, and then later admitted to not caring if James was upset about it.
- Kevin Love was not the first major Cavs star traded.
Shock value: 10
Sept. 23: Knicks trade Carmelo Anthony to Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and Bulls' 2018 second-round pick
Melo was always going to be traded. Those bridges had been too badly burned. But to see him wind up in Oklahoma City, next to Paul George? That was the cherry on the madness sundae of the 2017 offseason.
Shock value: 8