By Mark Paulette
Since no one actually knows what is to take place this off-season, here are a handful of fantastical options which could fall into place…albeit, under very unlikely circumstances.
After successfully appearing on an episode of TLC’s hit-show Hoarders, Danny Ainge realizes his best path to success is by letting some of his precious assets fly free. The Grand Fleece-r sets his reputation aside and deals a treasure trove of picks along with his beloved Jae Crowder to New York for the unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, on draft night. After spending the weekend locked in a dark room and more distraught than Daenerys Targaryen after her Dragons were stolen from her, Danny (the Celtic one, not the fictional conqueror) emerges and finds solace in some sweet, sweet Jazz…of the Gordon Hayward genre. Oh, and they resign themselves from everyone’s favorite Canadian, the big K-O.
Proj. lineup: G – Isaiah Thomas, G – Avery Bradley, SF – Gordon Hayward, PF – Al Horford, C – Kristaps Porzingis
Role players: G – Marcus Smart, F – Jaylen Brown, C – Kelly Olynyk
Reports suggest, literally as I’m writing this, that Jimmy Butler has informed the Cavs he would rather stay in Chicago than be dealt to The Land. The GM-less Cavs plunge into a state of anarchy. Desperate to make a deal of any sort, the Cavs say screw it to all hopes of a future and deal Kevin Love to the Knicks for Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah. The deal spells the end of Cleveland’s recent sustained success as the dysfunction spills from the front office onto the court with head coach Ty Lue, I mean, LeBron James, assembling a wildly unathletic four forward formation.
Proj. lineup: G – Kyrie Irving, F – Carmelo Anthony, F – LeBron James, C – Joakim Noah, C – Tristan Thompson
Role players: G – Iman Sumpert, C – Andrew Bogut (yeah, their bench is that bad)
Trust the process. Trust the process. Trust the process. Philly spends the #1 pick on guard, Markelle Fultz, and then belly flops off the high-dive, splashing into the market and swooping up unrestricted point guard, Kyle Lowry. Upon seeing the plan coming to fruition, last year’s top-pick, Ben Simmons, decides to suit up for the ’17-’18 campaign and develops into one of the most versatile combo players in the league. Jahlil Okafor returns from an injury-plagued yet Rookie of the Year caliber debut season to anchor the middle as Philadelphia vaults into the playoff picture as one of the deepest team in the field.
Proj. lineup: G – Kyle Lowry, G – Markelle Fultz, F – Ben Simmons, F – Dario Saric, C – Jahlil Okafor
Role players: C – Joel Embiid, F – Robert Covington, G – T.J. McConnell, G – Nick Stauskas
New York Knicks
After dealing Porzingis to Boston and before acquiring Love from Cleveland (gotta provide a little context in this Avengers-esque universe of super talents aligning) the Knicks trade the #8 pick in Thursday’s draft to the Clippers in exchange for De’Andre Jordan. Phil Jackson doesn’t stop there, inking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a deal, providing scoring depth to a depleted back court and selects Naismith Award winner, Josh Jackson, with the #3 pick from the Celtics. With their two big and new fancy toys in Love and Jordan, along with Crowder (via the Boston deal), the Knicks are primed for the playoffs in ’17 before really being able to cash in on Boston’s coveted assets for years to come.
Proj. lineup: G – Derrick Rose, G – Kntavious Caldwell-Pope, F – Jae Crowder, F – Kevin Love, C – De’Andre Jordan
Role players: F – Josh Jackson, G – Courtney Lee, G – Ron Baker
After Jimmy Butler shocked the world and voiced his desire to stay in Chicago, the Bulls pounce on Paul Millsap with a newfound sense of purpose. Unfortunately for Chicago, Dwayne Wade then opts-in to his $25 million player extension for the 2017 season, handcuffing any future move for the Windy City team.
Proj. lineup: G – Rajon Rondo, G – Dwayne Wade, F – Jimmy Butler, F – Paul Millsap, C – Robin Lopez
Role players: F – Bobby Portis, G – Denzel Valentine, G – Michael Carter Williams (If those last two even count)
San Antonio Spurs
Diamonds can be purchased on Rodeo Drive, but they can also be earned in the heart of Texas. Future Hall-of-Famer, Chris Paul, (yes, I just said that) swaps his Beverly Hills mansion for the Alamo to team up with Kawhi Leonard and brings an unlikely Robin along for the ride, in the form of sharp-shooter, J.J. Reddick. The Spurs quickly erase the memory of a slow-paced, aging team from fan’s minds as the trio transformers Pop’s attack into a high-scoring juggernaut.
Proj. lineup: G – Chris Paul, G – J.J. Reddick, F – Kawaii Leonard, F – LaMarcus Aldridge, C – Pau Gasol
Role players: F – Jonathon Simmons, G – Tony Parker
Los Angeles Lakers
It’s a dream first off-season in charge for Magic, who after dealing D’Angelo Russell and Timofy Mosgov to Brooklyn Wednesday night, takes advantage of Indiana’s lack of leverage and packages a pair of late first-round picks with Julius Randle for Paul George. Magic then makes a pair of crafty moves, signing Serge Ibaka and former Spurs’ backup guard, Patty Mills, to team friendly deals. 2017 sees a return to the playoffs for the Lakers, who sneak into the 8th seed in the West, but the season is simply a stepping stone for the franchise.
Proj. lineup: G – Lonzo Ball, G – Brandon Ingram, F – Paul George, F – Serge Ibaka, C – Brook Lopez
Role players: G – Patty Mills, G – Jordan Clarkson, F – Luol Deng
Oklahoma City Thunder
You heard it here first. 2017 sees the return of a MASSIVE star to the Sooner State. No, it’s not Kevin Durant, fresh off a title with the Warriors. That would be too poetic. Instead, it’s Blake Griffin. The former Sooner teams up with Russ as the duo takes center stage on each night’s Sports Center top-10 plays. However, in this league of super teams, two guys simply don’t cut it. But they are good enough to vault the Thunder to third place in the West.
Proj. lineup: G – Russell Westbrook, G – Victor Oladipo, F – Taj Gibson, C – Blake Griffin, C – Steven Adams
Role players: C – Enes Kanter, F – Domantas Sabonis, F – Doug McDermott
Golden State Warriors
The defending champs make the two-marquee signings of the summer, inking Steph Curry to a super-max 5-year/$205-million extension and give Durant an additional $30-mil for his efforts after KD opts-out to maximize his returns. Okay, those aren’t exactly groundbreaking, considering both players were already on the team, but it’s enough to ensure misery for the rest of the league. Oh, and Zach Randolph pulls a David West and signs on a vet’s minimum for a chance at a ring, which he, along with the rest of the ‘Dubs’ nab for the third time in four years with rather ease. The only downside for the Warriors is the departure of Andre Iguodala (to Utah). And thanks to the contracts handed to Curry and Durant, it means they’ll be virtually unable to pay Klay Thompson come 2018.
Proj. lineup: G – Steph Curry, G – Klay Thompson, F – Kevin Durant, F – Zach Randolph, F – Draymond Green
Role players: G – Shawn Livingston, G – Patrick McCaw, G – Ian Clark, C – Javale McGee
And then comes 2018…
If you thought the 2017 off-season was wild, just wait until 2018. In a nutshell…
LeBron and the Lakers
– LeBron James heads to La La Land to live out his days in the sun and pair with Paul George. But that’s not all…
– Magic then trades Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, every draft pick for the next millennium plus writes a personal check of $100-million to New Orleans and finagles Anthony Davis. Then, a geriatric Dwayne Wade signs on a vet’s minimum, creating a super team capable of dethroning the mighty Warriors.
Proj. lineup: G – Lonzo Ball, G – Dwayne Wade, F – Paul George, F – LeBron James, C – Anthony Davis
– Refusing to play another second for the Cavs after the departure of Bron Bron, Kyrie demands a trade out of Cleveland and is dealt to Phoenix, where he forms one of the most dangerous backcourts alongside Devin Booker. Oh, and look, there’s Jayson Tatum, that guy being rumored currently with the Celtics. He ended up being selected fourth overall in the 2017 draft by the Suns.
Proj. lineup: G – Kyrie Irving, G – Devin Booker, F – Jayson Tatum, F – Marquese Chriss, C – Alex Len
Don’t Forget About Jimmy
– Immediately realizing he’s made a giant mistake in staying put following another first-round playoff exit for Chicago, Butler decides it’s time to jump ship. Who’s waiting in the wings? The Minnesota Timberwolves, who send ’17 number seven overall pick, Malik Monk, to Chicago in return. The unlikeliest of super teams takes shape, as Butler heads to the great wilderness to meet up with Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, who returns from a knee injury in ’17 to average 20 ppg and drive Ricky Rubio out of town. In the blink of an eye, the West becomes a log jam of super teams, while the East has crumbled at the feet of Boston, New York and Philly.
Proj. lineup: G – Zach LaVine, G – Andrew Wiggins, F – Jimmy Butler, F – Gorgui Dieng, C – Karl-Anthony Towns
The South Beach Revival
But not so fast…Klay Thompson amicably takes his talents to South Beach after winning three championships in four years, where he’s met with open arms, a beach named after him, and more money than humanly imaginable. Meanwhile a storm which had been brewing for two years in the northwest makes landfall as Damian Lillard demands a move out of Portland. Miami emerges as an unlikely destination, who package picks, an aging Goran Dragic and the literal centerpiece, Hasan Whiteside, for the “Dame-dropping” guard. To finalize their status as contenders, the Heat secure restricted free agent, Jabari Parker, on a $9-mil/year deal.
Proj. lineup: G – Damian Lillard, G – Klay Thompson, F – Justice Winslow, F – Jabari Parker, C – Frank Kaminsky (I needed someone. Why not end on a random note?)
And that, everyone, is exactly how the NBA frenzy will unfold over the next two seasons and bring relative parody to a league of super teams.
Mark Paulette is the senior producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.