NBA free agency this summer is light on likely star players who are going to be available. Russell Westbrook signed an extension. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are back with the Warriors no matter what. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are expected to re-sign. So if you want to sign a star, where do you go?
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor weighed in with words last week from a front-office source who says that Jimmy Butler is “as good as gone,” and Paul George could be right there next to him at the exit.
Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.
This isn’t new, per se. Both George and Butler were heavily involved in trade rumors around the deadline, and both have made comments about their respective situations which indicate a real frustration with their teams and front offices in particular. Butler has expressed issues with coach Fred Hoiberg, while management has steadfastly supported their second-year coach. The Bulls were rumored to have been looking into trading him at last year’s draft. Despite Butler’s incredible play, there have been questions as to how the front office feels about his leadership.
George, on the other hand, has made comments about how much the team doesn’t get along, and questioned his teammates’ competitive spirit, even as they continue to battle for a playoff spot.
So none of this is new. However, it’s looking forward that things get interesting. The Lakers are a known target for George if he leaves Indiana. They currently have the No. 3 pick in the draft. But if they get jumped by even one team in the lottery, they fall to No. 4, and their pick is sent to the Sixers as a result of the Steve Nash trade. That could remove them from the running.
But what about the other teams in the top 10? This draft has the most value of any in the past three years, at least. That increases the trade value of each pick. If a team with a core built to win now, say Boston with the Nets’ pick, or the Nuggets (though it would be a longshot given their lottery odds) land a prized top-three pick, they can use that to barter for one of these players.
It should be noted that several league sources indicated ahead of the deadline that they didn’t really believe Pacers head of basketball operations Larry Bird would really trade George, recognizing the rebuilding that kind of move would kick off. As good as Myles Turner is, he doesn’t project as a top-five player, which George can flirt with being on any given night.
And the Bulls are never resolute in their decisions. They’ve danced with trading Butler before, only to back away each time.
Still, this sets up an interesting summer where the biggest names available might not be on the free agency list, but instead might require a trade to acquire.