With the 2016 NBA trade deadline behind us, rumors are heating up regarding the destinations for some of the top free agents who will be available this summer. While Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard were discussed in numerous trade possibilities over the past few months, there is still a chance that they could leave for greener pastures in the offseason. Additionally, Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James is set to become a free agent, and there is a very real chance that he could sign with another team.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Durant has been linked to numerous teams, including the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Los Angeles Lakers. With a record of 44-20, Durant’s Thunder are once again one of the top teams in the Western Conference. While the Thunder are likely going to win a round in the playoffs, their season is likely going to end without a championship. Even if the Thunder manage to get past the 57-6 Warriors, they are going to struggle with the surging 54-10 San Antonio Spurs.
— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) March 9, 2016
As CBS Sports reports, there was a rumor circulating that Durant will leave the Thunder if they do not win the championship this year. Since Durant will turn 28-years-old in September, it makes sense that he would want to give himself the best chance of finally winning a title as he approaches 30-years-old. In the report, Durant strongly denies the championship stipulation.
“If it didn’t come from me or anyone I know, like I said in the summer time, I don’t know where it came from. Everybody makes up rumors around this time of year and everyone wants clicks for their stories, so that’s a part of it. I have nothing to do with that. I can’t control it. I’m just focused on playing better each and every day.”
Regardless of Durant’s denial, rumors from some very trusted NBA insiders have stated that there is a very real possibility that he will leave the Thunder in the offseason. While the Warriors would have to get rid of a few players in order to make room for Durant, they currently make the most sense.
With a record of 45-18, the Cleveland Cavaliers are currently the top team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. While the Cavaliers have an above-average chance of making it to the NBA Finals, they are probably not going to win the championship this season. As previously noted, the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are much better teams than the Cavaliers. With the emergence of the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, there is even a chance that the Cavaliers do not make it out of the Eastern Conference.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) March 9, 2016
James will turn 32-years-old in December, and many people believe that he is no longer the best player in the league. While he is still an elite player, his athleticism has declined considerably over the past few seasons. In order to have a chance to win another championship, James may look to join a team that has a better short-term future than the Cavaliers.
As reported by Fox Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, and Portland Trail Blazers are the teams that make the most sense for James. Regardless, they note that LeBron’s age and declining skills could make it difficult for a team to set aside $30 million in cap space to sign him.
“If you read this list and have doubts about its plausibility, do not worry. You’re right. All this exercise does is prove just how tiny LeBron’s market actually is. Potential suitors need roughly $30 million in cap space and be in a position to win a championship right away. Even as the rising cap sets a new precedent, those two qualities hardly ever align. Even if LeBron wanted to leave the Cavaliers, it’d be incredibly hard for him to find a team that makes basketball sense, let alone account for all the other factors he’d need to weigh in the face of a landscape-shifting decision.”
While Fox Sports believes that LeBron will stay in Cleveland, a report from NBC Sports says there is a very real chance that James could leave. Stephen A. Smith on ESPN Radio provided his thoughts regarding James’ future.
“One of the things LeBron’s inner circle religiously says is that, “Yeah, he’s back,” but don’t you think for one second that he’s going to sit idly by and watch the franchise take him for granted and put too much excess weight on his shoulders the way that they used to when he was in Cleveland the first go-round. Think that he’s permanently going to stay in Cleveland if you want to. Do not try him. Yes, he is committed to trying to bring a championship back to Cleveland. And it does seem to be something that he would never do again. But don’t rule anything out when it comes to LeBron James.”
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Dwight Howard has been to numerous teams over the past few months. While it was originally reported that he wanted to be a member of the Atlanta Hawks, the latest report from NJ Advance Media says that he is targeting the New York Knicks in the offseason.
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) March 8, 2016
Now 30-years-old, Howard was once one of the top players in the league. Age and injuries have slowed him down, and teams are more reluctant to welcome his difficult personality into their locker room. Regardless, Howard can still help the right team to win. Since he will not win a championship with the Houston Rockets this season, it is becoming more and more likely that he signs with another team.
With a few months remaining in the 2015-2016 NBA season, a lot is going to change for Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. With none of these players likely to win a championship this season, the odds are that they will all at least consider signing with different teams. Rumors will likely continue to connect them to various franchises, but nothing will be certain until after the season.
[Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images]