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For the past seven years, one (or two) of these players has won the title, a streak that will reach eight no matter who wins this year’s NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.
With Durant and Leonard about to hit free agency, we could see an opening at the top of each conference, just ripe for the picking for the rest of today’s top stars.
We’re looking at you, James Harden. And we saw how close you made it this year, Giannis Antetokounmpo. And don’t think we forgot about the playoff run you just had, Damian Lillard. It’s OK to admit you need a little help. There are some damn good teams in the NBA right now, ones that just need a little push to reach that next playoff round or championship level.
Ringless superstars, these trades are for you!
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Blazers Receive: PF Kevin Love
Cavaliers Receive: SF Maurice Harkless, C Meyers Leonard, 2019 No. 25 overall pick
Lillard’s spectacular postseason performance reinforced two previous beliefs.
First, he’s a superstar and among the best guards in the NBA. Second, defenses will plan their attacks around stopping him, and the Blazers will need someone besides CJ McCollum to turn to for offense.
Enter Love, who should be happy to move off a rebuilding Cavaliers team and return to his home area of Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Given Love’s injury history and juicy remaining contract (four years, $120.4 million), the Blazers won’t have to give up McCollum or a great deal of assets. Simply including the expiring contracts of Harkless and Leonard, along with their late first-round pick this season, should do.
Is Love still productive when healthy? His 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in just 27.2 minutes per game this season suggest so. Can he be the third-best player on a championship team? Again, check. Will his presence open the floor and create even more driving lanes for Lillard and McCollum? Absolutely.
For Lillard and the Blazers, a trade for Love is well worth the risk.
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Thunder Receive: SG Bradley Beal, C Dwight Howard
Wizards Receive: 2019 No. 21 overall pick (after selection is made), 2021 1st-Round Pick (unprotected), C Steven Adams, PF Jerami Grant, SG Terrance Ferguson
Outside shooting is a need for the Thunder, who finished the regular season 22nd overall with a team three-point success rate of 34.8 percent. Beal is a career 38.4 percent shooter from deep and has evolved his offensive game to near superstar status.
He won’t come cheaply, of course.
Losing Adams would sting, as the 25-year-old center is coming off a 13.9-point, 9.5-rebound, 1.5-steal per game season. Grant is a springy 25-year-old three-and-D power forward, and the 21-year-old Ferguson fits in nicely with a rebuild in Washington as well.
Because of the Stepien Rule, the Thunder wou