The current NBA landscape is as fluid as it can be. Players have more power and choice than ever before in terms of their teams and influence on a team roster.
With the top two players taking the lead in picking their own teams, it makes sense that the rest of the All-Stars would follow. Here are five All-Stars who have been in the conversation for a team change and the future is bright for everyone.
5. Jimmy Butler
One year ago, everyone was excited to see Jimmy Butler arrive in Minnesota to be the alpha dog to lead the young core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
One season into the experiment, what we hear is disgruntled sentiments, displeasure within the team and lack of showing for the potential that the team harbors. Is it a personal chemistry issue or poor management from the coaching staff or merely mismatch of playing styles? Nobody knows.
One thing for sure is, the demand for a hardworking professional with a proven ability to win is always high. If willing, Jimmy Butler has no short of suitors. Proven title contenders who want to bolster their roster rotations, such as Boston Celtics as well as teams such as Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks, who may seek a new wingman, might appreciate the services of Jimmy Butler.
He requested a trade last night, but even though he prefers destinations like the Clippers, Knicks or Nets, don't forget that Lakers or Celtics can send very good trade packages until the February deadline.
4. Goran Dragic
With the rise of small ball in the NBA, many teams are emulating the Golden State Warriors in assembling a team filled with sharpshooters.
Miami Heat has been on quite a funk last season. Rumour has been going on that Pat Riley and his front office team are seriously considering a rebuild and moving key pieces. With Hassan Whiteside locked up with his big contract, the Heat might be looking for youth, better shooting and playmaking in their rebuild attempt. That, perhaps, generates the ‘push’ factor for Dragic to consider changing teams.
On the other hand, demand is also present for Dragic, with a louder rumor from the Phoenix Suns. The Phoenix Suns hired Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov as their new head coach earlier this year. This former assistant coach, under Alvin Gentry, specializes in player development and has forged a close bond with Goran Dragic during his time there.
The respect is mutual as Kokoskov has coached Dragic with the Slovenian national team and has high praise for the point guard. This bond might help become a ‘pull’ factor that attracts Dragic to return back to his former NBA in the near future.
3. Damian Lillard
Last season saw the ascension of Damian Lillard into NBA elite status. For a few years, Damian had been canvassing for his All-Star and All NBA caliber, finally receiving the due honors last season. The backcourt combination of Lillard and McCollum have been consistently in the talks of best backcourt in the NBA but often outshone by the duo from Golden State.
After 2 seasons of dismay in the postseason, the patience may have run low for Damian, who is seeking for a win-now situation for the prime of his career.
He has been openly quoted as wanting to remain a Trail Blazer for life but is also realistic in stating that he is open to join a good team with compatible pieces. His clutch expertise, leadership and versatility is going to be well valued in any team in the league, but the Los Angeles Lakers could be his final destination.
2. Kyrie Irving
One year of injury recovery time is the unsaid edge that Kyrie Irving has. Remember his hiatus year recovering from knee injury in Cleveland? He came back faster, more elusive as an offensive player and made the clutch shot over Stephen Curry to help seal the Championship run with LeBron.
With his highly popular playing style of shake-&-bake, his signature shoes, his fame as a movie star in Uncle Drew, Kyrie's market is bigger than ever. Kyrie knows his value and is in his prime to negotiate a bigger contract than he currently holds in Boston Celtics, where he shares the pie with fellow All-Stars Gordan Hayward and Al Horford, as well as rising players Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier.
Boston is a good blue-collar market and pays Kyrie well. However, a larger and more affluent market, such as New York or Los Angeles, will be more attractive for his exposure to media deals, side gigs or merchandise sales. If money is high on Kyrie's priority, it is a no-brainer to consider the offer from the big teams. Don't forget the fact that Irving and Jimmy Butler want to play together, and only New York, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers can offer them max contracts next summer.
1. Anthony Davis
Arguably the top 5 best player in the world, Anthony Davis had catapulted himself quickly into Superstardom by clinching Finalist nominations for both the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year.
The title contenders who have the cap space, like Lakers and Sixers, would likely make a concerted push to woo this mega All-Star. His presence on any team instantly alters their odds of winning and disrupts opponent team's game plans. If the Pelicans don't play well, maybe Boston Celtics could send one of the best trade packages, so it will be very interesting where he will play after the February deadline.
It is an open secret that Anthony Davis had voiced his desire to have better teammates over the years in order to give more help to him to advance in the playoffs. Last season is, perhaps, one of the better years after the addition of Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins. The Pelicans showed flashes of brilliance when all three Kentucky products were on the floor. Sadly, the team dismantled after DeMarcus had his Achille's heel injury and the Pelicans got ousted.
With the loss of two former All-Stars, Anthony Davis is back to square one as he was years ago. With Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic being the only stable pieces, the future of the Pelicans seemed a little uncertain. Anthony Davis may seek a new team where his aspirations for winning and recognition are better positioned to shine.