It's the time of year that sports fans dread. Basketball and hockey are over, there are still months until football season, and this year in particular there are no Summer Olympics or World Cup to fill the two month void. Aside from cities with good baseball teams (not Detroit) or the golf/tennis major every 6ish weeks, it isn't a great time to be a sports fan. Unless of course you enjoy the most entertaining offseason in professional sports league in the world has to offer:
- No other league has a draft that can change so many team's trajectories so rapidly because 1) the chance at a star means more given how few players a team has and 2) because the value of a pick is so high, blockbuster trades happen far more frequently
- No other league has its players tweeting about each other, responding to fans, and criticizing their front offices as often as NBA players do
- Similarly to the draft, no other league can have its entire landscape shifted so dramatically through free agency compared to the NBA. Lebron has controlled the east for almost a decade now, but with two different franchises. All-star players like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Lamarcus Aldridge, and now Chris Paul have left contenders for new contenders just in the past few summers.
- Also, the players are always in front of cameras during the summer (ex. Kevin Durant embracing his "softness" sporting a hat with a cupcake, but the cupcake is garnished with an NBA Championship ring)
Last summer it was the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. This summer we have already seen Chris Paul switch teams via sign-and-trade (unofficially). Jimmy Butler was also traded more than 24 months before he will be a free agent, joining a loaded young core in Minnesota. And we still have:
- Paul George, who will be traded before the season tips off after telling the Pacers he is signing with the Lakers next summer
- Gordon Hayward, who is taking meetings with the Heat and Celtics BEFORE his current team (Utah)
- Paul Milsap, a likely sign-and-trade candidate for a rebuilding Hawks team (possibly again to Houston)
- Blake Griffin, who is a major flight risk following Paul's departure
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Pistons most valuable player who is a restricted free agent and will command max offer sheets from the Nets and other teams (KCP doesn't even belong in the same article as the previous four guys mentioned)
The "so un-tradable that even if Danny Ainge had the cajones to trade for a superstar he couldn't get a deal done with all his assets" tier:
(Note: I won't start ranking until the next tier since these players won't be traded. Also, when I do start ranking players, it essentially means that the #2 player alone isn't enough to acquire #1 via trade, #3 isn't enough for #2, and so on.)
Lebron James, SF Cleveland Cavaliers: Is there an NBA team Lebron James could not make the playoffs with? How many college teams could he make the NBA playoffs with? Even if the Cavs were convinced he was a flight risk, they couldn't trade him. He's worth too much and any team would have to give up all their assets to acquire him, meaning they would have nothing left to win with once he got there so he wouldn't resign.
Kevin Durant, SF Golden State Warriors: See James, Lebron. (Also, would the Warriors trade KD straight up for James? Food for thought)
Kawhi Leonard, SF San Antonio Spurs: He is younger than Lebron and KD, and despite not having the same sexiness to his game that they do, is on the same level as them. If I had an MVP ballot, it would've read: Lebron, Kawhi, Harden.
Russell Westbrook, PG Oklahoma City Thunder: Unless Westbrook ditches OKC for the Lakers in 2019, he will probably end up being (hot take cover up: one of) the best player(s) to never win a championship. Similar to the next player on the list, it isn't impossible that Russ gets traded, but OKC would look foolish (especially after trading another player in this tier and losing another to free agency)
Anthony Davis, PF New Orleans Pelicans: The Celtics want Davis. The Pelicans should not trade Davis for anything less than Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and the Nets 2018 First. Aka: AD isn't being traded.
James Harden, PG/SG Houston Rockets: Harden should have won MVP in 2015, and rightfully came in second this year. You don't trade MVP candidates.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Everything Milwaukee Bucks: I went back and forth about whether to put the Greek Freak in the last tier, but he is still so much more potential than actual results. Had he won the series against the Raptors, he would be in the prior tier.
2. Karl Anthony Towns, Center Minnesota Timberwolves: I'm not as big on KAT as some, which should tell you all you need to know about his talent level based on his ranking here.
The "proven superstars that I didn't think would ever get traded but some of them are already getting traded" tier:
3. Stephen Curry, PG Golden State Warriors: Ankle issues and weak defense aside, Curry would also be in the un-tradable tier.
4. Chris Paul, PG Houston Rockets: He is the reason for the title of this tier.
5. Draymond Green, PF Golden State Warriors: I believe that he is valuable enough defensively to make any team elite on that end.
6. Jimmy Butler, SF Minnesota Timberwolves: See Paul, Chris. Also, I think a lot of people have more of an idea of what they think Jimmy Butler is than an actual understanding of what he is. So I think he is a little underrated and when he leads the T-Wolves to being a top 4 seed in the west this year he may actually get some of the credit he deserves.
The "pretty un-tradable but if Danny Ainge calls you don't hang up the phone young guys" tier:
7. Nikola Jokic, C Denver Nuggets: There is a growing contingent of people around the NBA who believe the Joker is better than KAT. They should have a fun rivalry that was created for them for the next decade and a half.
8. Joel Embiid, C Philadelphia 76ers: You probably think this is way too high for a guy who has played 37 games in 3 NBA seasons, and you are probably right. But let's say he stays healthy. He would be way higher on this list based on the way he did perform.
9. Kristaps Porzingis, PF New York Knicks: Nobody not named Phil Jackson would trade modern NBA Dirk. Phil is gone, and he is safe now.
10. Markelle Fultz, PG Philadelphia 76ers
11. Ben Simmons, SF Philadelphia 76ers Neither has played a game in the NBA, but if they are even 3/4 of what they could be right away, the 76ers will get to lose to the Cavs in the first round.
The "PGs" Tier
12. John Wall, PG Washington Wizards: If he were a better shooter he would be a perennially MVP candidate.
13. Damian Lillard, PG Portland Trailblazers: This might be too high. I don't know. He scores points and his team makes the playoffs.
14. Paul George, SF Unknown Team: The other kind of PG.
15. Kyle Lowry, PG Unknown Team: He's actually great at playing basketball. He really does everything well.
The "land of misfit toys" tier:
16. Rudy Gobert, C Utah Jazz: He is elite defensively, but can he take the next step offensively? He needs a jumper to become a superstar.
17. Brandon Ingram, SF Los Angeles Lakers: So much of the potential success of the Paul George to LA scenario hinges on his development into a star.
18. Josh Jackson, SF Phoenix Suns: He was the most talented player in this draft, and Danny Ainge would have taken him at number one. (I don't know how Jackson not working out for the Celtics and intentionally knocking himself down at least 1 spot in the draft isn't a bigger story)
The "Dwayne Wade from Lebron's Heat elite sidekicks" tier
19. Kyrie Irving, PG Cleveland Cavaliers: I will never stop feeling like Kyrie only gives 50% 80% of the time.
20. Gordon Hayward, SF Unknown Team: If he stays with the Jazz, he is Rudy Gobert's Robin. Ditto if he goes to the Celtics with Isaiah Thomas. If he goes to the Heat he will be waiting for another star to join him there.
21. Devin Booker, SG Phoenix Suns: If Josh Jackson becomes a star, he will be open for 3s all the time.
22. Klay Thompson, SG GSW: He is the most underrated defensive player in the league. Period.
23. Lonzo Ball, PG LA Lakers: If Ingram develops, and Paul George (followed by Lebron or Westbrook or Anthony Davis) joins the kids in Laker-Land, Lonzo Ball could have a 4 year period where his stat-line looks like: 8 ppg, 20 apg, 6 rpg, 2 spg, 1 bpg. If that isn't elite sidekick status I don't know what is.
24. Blake Griffin, PF Unknown Team: There was a time, before all the injuries, when a lot of people thought Blake was gonna join KD and Lebron in the top tier of players in the league. Now, he is 28 and may not even be this valuable.
25. Paul Milsap, PF Unknown Team: He will thrive if he gets traded to the Rockets (CP3 and Harden feeding him easy buckets) or Nuggets (forming the best offensive and worst defensive front-court in the league with Nikola Jokic).
The "Stars that can carry a team but will always be more valuable to their own team than anyone else" tier:
26. Isaiah Thomas, PG Boston Celtics: I'm sorry but he sucks at defense and will always be "the other Isaiah Thomas."
27. Demarcus Cousins, C New Orleans Pelicans: I'd buy a lot more Boogy Stock if the Pelicans make the playoffs this year.
28. Kemba Walker, PG Charlotte Hornets: If he played at a time when the point guard position wasn't so loaded, he would be regarded as a star by a lot more people. He is gonna go down as a college basketball legend who had a fine career and didn't bust in the NBA.
29. Demar Derozan, SG Toronto Raptors: He will get a chance to prove himself as a star without Kyle Lowry next year.
30. Bradley Beal, SG Washington Wizards: He should be in the sidekicks tier but he isn't quite good enough.
The "2016 and 2017 draftees who could be superstars but no one really knows yet" tier:
31. Jaylen Brown, SF Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge reportedly hangs up when teams ask for Brown during trade talks. If this were any GM other than Danny Ainge, that'd be enough to move him up two or three tiers in these rankings.
32. De'Aaron Fox, PG Sacramento Kings: I'm huge on Fox, and I think the Kings are being WAYYYY underrated in the "up and coming young teams talk." Sure the 76ers, T-Wolves, Lakers, and Nuggets have more young pieces, but I'm convinced Fox is gonna be a better version of John Wall.
33. Jayson Tatum, SF Boston Celtics: Can he break the trend of Duke scorers flopping in the NBA? I think so but don't be surprised if he joins Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor as a bust.
34. Jonathan Isaac, SF Orlando Magic: I think the Magic finally got a draft pick right.
35. Andrew Wiggins, SF Minnesota Timberwolves: I know he technically doesn't belong in this tier, but this is where he belongs.
36. Dennis Smith, PG Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs got a steal because GarPax and Phil Jackson are delusional.
The "kind of stars but really would be better off as a 32-38 minute per game role player who does 2 or 3 things really well" tier:
37. Kevin Love, PF Cleveland Cavaliers: Rebounding, Shooting
38. Lamarcus Aldridge, PF San Antonio Spurs: Scoring, Facilitating
39. Otto Porter, SF Washington Wizards: Shooting, Defense
40. Al Horford, C Boston Celtics: Shooting, Facilitating
41. Avery Bradley, SG Boston Celtics: Shooting, Defense
42. Eric Bledsoe, PG Phoenix Suns: Scoring, Having one of the most valuable contracts in the NBA
43. CJ McCollum, SG Portland Trailblazers: Shooting, Tweeting
44. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Detroit Pistons: Shooting, Defense
45. Deandre Jordan, C LA Clippers: Shot-blocking, Rebounding, Dunking
46. Mike Conley, PG Memphis Grizzlies: He actually does everything well, but having the contract he does and being over 30 years old and being from Ohio State knocks him down these rankings.
47. Marc Gasol, C Memphis Grizzlies: Passing, Defense
The "Young players who might develop into elite sidekicks and the old veterans who can make a difference for a contender" tier:
48. Myles Turner, C Indiana Pacers: He could develop into a star without Paul George.
49. Hassan Whiteside, C Miami Heat: Meh.
50. George Hill, PG Unknown Team
51. Jrue Holiday, PG Unknown Team
52. Patrick Beverly, PG LA Clippers
53. Patty Mills, PG Unknown Team
Any of those guys could reasonably be the starting point guard for a contender.
The "Contenders Role Players" Tier:
No more rankings, so I'll just throw out all the valuable role players in the league that would only be traded in pursuit of a superstar.
- Tristan Thompson, C Cavs
- JR Smith, SG Cavs
- Iman Shumpert, SG Cavs
- Andre Iguodala, SF Unknown Team
- Ian Clark, PG Unknown Team (If the Warriors lose Iguodala and Clark, then they could actually have a weakness: Depth. Vince Carter won't fill those holes)
- Louis Williams, SG LA Clippers
- Eric Gordon, SG Houston Rockets
- Ryan Anderson, PF Houston Rockets
- Clint Capela, C Houston Rockets
- Marcus Smart, SG Boston Celtics (I could be convinced that he belongs way higher on this list, but eh)
- Terry Rozier, PG Boston Celtics
- Kelly Olynk, PF Boston Celtics (F*** you Kelly Olynk, you're the dirtiest player in the NBA and you cost the Cavs a championship)
- Danny Green, SG Spurs
- Dewayne Dedmon, C Spurs
- Jonathan Simmons, SF Unknown Team
The Pistons suck, so if you're upset I didn't include any Pistons on this list, it's because I believe they have zero trade value. Since SVG hasn't started rebuilding he must believe he can't. (I know this isn't true, but he's delusional. Not rebuilding to try to compete for a first round playoff exit is why the Red Wings, Pistons, and Tigers are all among the franchises in the worst positions in their respective leagues. Past their prime stars, no young talent, and very little roster upside tied to huge pay sheets.)
Feel free to respond in the comments, on facebook, or on twitter (@E____money). LESS THAN 60 DAYS UNTIL COLLEGE FOOTBALL!!