The 2017 edition of NBA free agency is right around the corner, folks. Teams can begin reaching verbal agreements with players on July 1 and can officially sign players on July 6. The next few days are going to be chock full of excitement—but not just because of free agency.
We could have a number of notable NBA trades, too, which in many ways would be even more exciting because they’re moves that affect multiple teams. We’ve already had a couple of big trades in the Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul deals, and we’re likely to have more, even as free agency unfolds.
Who will be the next noteworthy player on the move? Indiana Pacers forward Paul George seems to be a likely candidate, as the team has made it clear he’s available. However, no team has secured him and anything can happen in the coming days.
We’re here to examine the latest trade buzz and what it could mean for the 2017 season.
Cavaliers, Rockets Both Interested in George
The Houston Rockets already made a huge splash by acquiring Paul from the Los Angeles Clippers. However, the team doesn’t appear ready to rest on its offseason laurels. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (h/t Jack Maloney of CBS Sports), the Rockets are also interested in trading for George.
The hangup with George is that he’s only under contract for one more season. However, Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com doesn’t believe that this would be a problem for Houston.
“Rockets GM Daryl Morey is creative and tireless in his pursuit of star players, and the possibility of George leaving as an unrestricted free agent a year from now surely would not be enough to scare off Morey,” Pelton wrote.
Houston isn’t the only team interested in adding George, of course. The Cleveland Cavaliers are still looking to acquire him, though they’ll likely have to find a creative way to get a deal done. The Cavs are short young talent and draft capital, which is what Indiana is truly interested in getting.
The Pacers aren’t going to accept a deal they’re not happy with.
Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com recently explained the situation:
“The Pacers are telling teams they plan to keep Paul George if they can’t receive a deal that they really like. No one believes Indiana will actually go into the regular season with George. Once the season begins, the longer they wait to deal George—the more his value goes down. The Pacers want young players and picks, not a veteran such as Kevin Love.
The Cavs still want George, and they remain in the same position of trying to find a place to trade Love to gain picks/players who would appeal to Indiana.”
The Cavaliers already tried once to put together a creative three-team deal for George, per ESPN’s Marc Stein:
This deal likely would have sent Love to the Denver Nuggets and had Denver send young talent or draft ammunition to Indiana. The Cavaliers would have ended up with George on a one-year rental. The deal obviously didn’t get done, of course, which leaves teams like Houston in the mix.
The Rockets are in better position to do a straight-up trade for George, though they aren’t the only team in position to do so.
Celtics Looking to Add George and Hayward
The Boston Celtics are also looking to trade for George, though they may only do so if they can first acquire Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward in free agency.
According to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Boston wants to have a commitment from Hayward before the team will be willing to trade for George.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the Celtics won’t enter the George sweepstakes if they can’t land Hayward. However, it does seem more likely that the team will want to add at least one marquee free agent before going after him. This is because George is essentially going to be a one-year rental.
The Celtics want to ensure they either have a legitimate chance of winning now or have enough talent that they may be able to talk George into re-upping with the team. A talent like Hayward may aid both possibilities.
According to Brad Botkin of CBSSports.com, the Celtics are also looking at Los Angeles Lakers star Blake Griffin as sort of a Plan B in free agency, “Plan A being one of Gordon Hayward or George, or both if everything breaks right.”
Timberwolves Looking to Move Rubio
The Pacers are hoping to move George before the start of the 2017-18 season. The Minnesota Timberwolves are looking to do the same with veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, according to Stein:
The Timberwolves, interestingly, are the other team—along with the Rockets—that has managed to add a premier talent via trade already this offseason. Minnesota got Butler from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and a swap of first-round draft picks.
With Butler in the fold, the Timberwolves have a solid young core of players. Guys like Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns can be building blocks alongside him. However, Minnesota obviously believes that Rubio doesn’t fit.
While Rubio is a solid handler and distributor, he doesn’t provide much offensively. He averaged just 11.1 points per game last season, a career high.
Per Stein, Utah is one team that is interested in dealing for Rubio:
While Rubio has developed into a solid NBA player, he hasn’t quite lived up to the hype of being a former fifth-overall draft selection. Perhaps he’ll be able to reach his full potential in a new environment.
Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com