We are in the age of player mobility. We are seeing less and fewer star players staying with their original teams by departing via free agency like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Gordon Hayward or by demanding a trade like Kyrie Irving, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard. Chris Paul falls under both categories as he demanded a trade away from New Orleans then left the Clippers during free agency. And Jimmy Butler is just the latest of this trend of wanting out, and you should not expect it to end anytime soon.
Players are at a point now where they have the most power they have ever had, and they are just starting to realize that, so it’s only likely that the likelihood that they exercise it increases. It’s up to franchises to not take their players for granted and continue to improve the roster, or at least try to, every year. There have been numerous reasons for these guys moving, ranging from not being in a situation where they think they can win to the level they want, to wanting a change of scenery (preferably to home), or unhappiness within the organization. Here are the best candidates to next demand a trade from their current team for whatever reason. Not saying it’s likely, but if it were to happen, it would be one, some, or all, of the following names.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Davis has been the center of trade talks for years now. The Pelicans have only made the playoffs twice with him, but it’s not his fault. They have not surrounded him with the requisite pieces to win, until last season, and New Orleans lost in the second round to the Golden State Warriors. Can’t blame them there.
But they allowed their most successful team in a decade to break up by letting DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo walk as free agency. Granted, Boogie Cousins was coming off an Achilles tear, and rumors are that AD didn’t want him back. But, those are just rumors and Boogie is an All-NBA talent, and arguably the best center in the NBA when healthy.
And Rondo is one of the smartest players in the league who adds toughness and experience to any roster, and it showed this past spring, as the legend of “Playoff Rondo” continued. He was arguably the most significant reason as to why the Pelicans were able to sweep the third-seeded Portland Trailblazers and have come close games against the Warriors. And they replaced the duo with Julius Randle, who had a breakout last three-to-four months but does not equally replace those two in production or value.
Davis is a free agent after the 2021 season, and he has remained loyal to the franchise, and plans to, but is taking things “year-to-year.” If this season does not go as planned, the timer until a potential departure as a free agent may start, or he may want out sooner via a trade demand. How many prime years will he want to waste away? And he recently dropped his former agent in favor for Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James, among many others, so the rumors to the Lakers were only fueled.
Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum, Portland Trailblazers
The Trailblazers are not going to go anywhere as long as this backcourt is together. They have hit their ceiling, and it’s the second round at best, with first-round exits more common. They earned the third seed last year, but with only 48 wins, and were swept in the first round, even with home court. They have simply plateaued, but whether they want to believe it or not is up to the team. As someone once said “ Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” and that would be Rip City.
Lillard and McCollum are peeled from same the old-school breed of wanting the challenge instead of teaming up with other stars. But even they must realize that with $172.2 million locked up on them for the next three season, the Trailblazers won’t have much flexibility to do much. Reality must hit them at some point. And asking for a trade does not mean you are going for the easy way it. It’s the smarter way and one that gives both parties a fresh start.
Am I’m not saying both need to go. Portland should hold onto one of them and use the other to improve the other in another area such as help on the wing or frontcourt. And Dame Lillard has been the name that people have circled over because shown some cracks at frustration with the Portland front office and did not dispel rumors for a trade this summer.
When asked about a potential trade by a Twitter user to a team such as the Lakers, the point guard responded, “I’m typically a happy camper.”
But he has also said his preference would be to finish what he has started in Rip City. But, if any of the two were to ask for a trade, my money would be on Lillard, especially if Portland has another first-round exit like the past few seasons, or even fails to make the postseason (which is a possibility).
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Brewers
The Greek Freak has shut down any rumors about a move to the Los Angeles Lakers by saying he wants to bring a championship to the city of Milwaukee. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be moved elsewhere. There are situations out there where he can get traded to that isn’t Los Angeles and that team would be better than the Bucks are right now.
He is on the cusp of entering his prime, and the Bucks have disappointed recently. This year, they should earn home-court with the departure of LeBron James from the East. The team has the roster to do so, as they surrounded him with pieces that fit with him well around him and the conference is still a bit mediocre.
But, if they don’t make any noise, maybe they realistically aren’t good enough to do so. And Milwaukee is not a big market, thus attracting star free agents is going to be next to impossible. It’s not a place that star-level players would go by choice, and if they can’t do that, it will be virtually impossible to land anyone except by trade, but they don’t have the exact assets to pull one off.
His contract runs through 2021 when he will be just entering his prime, but Giannis may want to leave sooner if he can’t win with the Bucks, and choose to optimize his earnings with another team instead of departing as a free agent and taking a discount.
Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison