The NBA is a star driven league. Customers will travels hours across the country just to see the best of the best and who wouldn’t? Basketball stars are some of the best athletes on the planet with their combination of size, strength, speed and technical ability. They are what we could only hope to be in terms of athleticism and physical prowess.
The buzz and noise around these stars are immense with the media following their every move. Everything they do on and off the court is scrutinized for people to form their opinions, and when it comes to free agency and trade rumors, that’s what sends the basketball world into overdrive.
You need stars to win titles in the NBA. Over the past 30 seasons, only two Finals MVPs were not selected to the All-Star game that same year. Because of this necessity of star power, the decisions of these particular athletes dictate the future of the NBA and who wins the titles.
LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ in 2010 had the whole country at a standstill and people scrambled to TVs to find out where he would be playing next year. The Same thing happened again in 2014 when he choose to go back home to Cleveland and then Kevin Durant took the world by storm last summer with his decision to leave OKC and go to the Warriors.
Every summer it seems like there is one player who everyone agrees is the most intriguing free agent due to their current situation and what they bring to the table. This year was Gordon Hayward who choose to leave Utah and head to Boston and compete with LeBron and his Cleveland Cavaliers.
Who will be the next stars to hold us all to ransom in the not so distant future? Here are my top 5 stars who have that power next summer.
5. Isaiah Thomas - Boston Celtics
Last season it was extremely hard to argue against Isaiah Thomas being the most exciting player in the NBA. A guy who is shorter than the average man in America at 5 foot 9 somehow was third in the league in scoring and lead his team to the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference.
Thomas is unbelievably fast who can shot from deep and has an incredible ability to finish at the rim against guys who are always at least a foot taller than him. He is in his last year of his contract and will definitely be demanding a max deal worth more than $30 million a year. If Boston, however, fails to get past Cleveland again this year then Thomas will have a big decision in his hands on whether he stays or if he goes.
This could be the marquee decision of next year as everyone would wait with baited breath to see where the offensive dynamo would end up playing.
4. Chris Paul - Houston Rockets
I have to say I was extremely surprised when I heard that CP3 was joining James Harden down in Texas. They are both very ball dominant players and on paper, this doesn’t look like a good move.
Paul, however, is a free agent after next season, so if it doesn’t work out then he can go elsewhere where he would be more effective. Paul was one of the biggest names in free agency this year and could be again next summer as well.
I’m still hoping for the Banana Boat buddies of CP3, LeBron, Wade and Carmelo to team up just because of the amount of fun they would have and the memories they would create.
3. Carmelo Anthony - New York Knicks
For a city known as the Mecca of Basketball, New York is doing a lousy job at living up to that name. Ever since the Patrick Ewing era, the franchise has been a disgrace known more for blowout losses and terrible draft picks than the glitz and glamor of the city they play in.
Melo went to New York because it was his home team and he has played his heart out for the fans who very quick to throw him under the bus. The problems with the Knicks start at the top with James Dolan and they slither on down, the latest of which being Phil Jackson who has tainted his reputation as ‘The Zen Master’. Jackson made it very clear he didn’t want to be there except for the money he was raking in and Melo became his verbal punching bag.
Hopefully, Anthony gets traded very soon so he doesn’t have to spend another second in that toxic environment, but if now they at least he can terminate his contract at the end of next season. Melo’s game ensures that he will have a smooth decline into retirement. He will still be effective for some years to come.
Like I said with Chris Paul, those four guys need to join up to give us the superteam we deserve.
2. Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
One of the reasons why Westbrook won the MVP was because people felt sorry for him due to Kevin Durant leaving Russ last summer to go play with the team that beat them in the Playoffs last year. They felt like it was Russell Westbrook vs the world and they wanted their guy to come out on top, and he most certainly did.
We need to keep saying it to ourselves so that we don’t forget it. “Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double. Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double.” What he did last season was astounding made more impressive by the fact that he lead his team to the playoffs and lead the league in scoring as well.
Russ appears like a guy who values loyalty above all else so it’s unlikely that he’ll leave OKC, but this is the NBA where not just amazing happens, but anything can happen. Who knows what the pairing of Russ and Paul George will be like. Maybe George still leaves next summer to go play for his hometown Lakers and leave Russ is a mess. There is a possibility that Russ could copy Durant and bolt from the Thunder seeking greener pastures elsewhere.
Westbrook is the league’s MVP and one of the best players in the league; for him to move elsewhere next year would certainly be a shock to us all.
1. LeBron James - Cleveland Cavaliers
Yet again it is the face of the league is the most important free agent next year. The Warriors, barring any injury, will win the title next year. They were simply unbeatable in this year’s playoffs and will only be more potent this year with improved team chemistry.
LeBron and his Cavs have stayed exactly in the same place, or have got worse. LeBron will be 33 this year and if he wants another chance to add to his already prestigious resume then he may need to leave his beloved Cleveland.
LeBron isn’t just the best player on the court, he’s the best of it as well. He is easily the most influential figure in basketball right now and any team that signed him would see a huge increase in their value.
LeBron has learned from 2010 about how to handle his free agency, so don’t expect a TV announcement, but do expect the basketball world to be shaken to its core if he uproots and says goodbye once again to the Cavaliers.