With the final games of the 2022-23 NBA season taking place this weekend, the beginning of the NBA playoffs are only days away. For those teams not in the playoff or play-in, the 2023 offseason begins. While some players are already looking at free agency, there are plenty of players under contract in rumors. The following four players have either been in rumors throughout the season or in the past. While some of these players are aging veterans with a lot still left to give, others are franchise centerpieces and cornerstones in desperate need of a new situation.
For years, Damian Lillard has expressed his loyalty to the Portland Trailblazers, but Portland has not been able to give him the team he needs to contend. Throughout Dame’s entire stint thus far as a member of the Blazers, Portland has been a middle-of-the-pack NBA team with very little postseason success. Reaching the Western Conference Finals once, every other season has seen an early exit from the playoffs. Portland missed the playoffs last season and after retooling around Dame and the new look Blazers were just ruled out of contention for the 2023 playoffs. Dame has shared his recent frustrations with the team, saying he did not want to be a part of another rebuild. Having spent over a decade in the league and being over 30 with a history of injuries, Lillard needs to find a new home. Still playing at an exceptional level, Dame could be the missing piece for several teams. Signed for another four years (including his current deal and extension), and any team trading for him would have him for multiple seasons. In return, Portland would get a great package for the superstar guard. At this point in the Damian Lillard era, both teams must admit it’s time for a trade.
After a couple of down seasons in San Antonio, DeMar DeRozan saw a little bit of a career renaissance in Chicago. DeMar finished top 10 in MVP voting and the Bulls made playoffs for the first time in several years. In the second year of his contract, things have not been the same for both DeRozan and Chicago. The Bulls have clinched a play-in spot, but they are not the team many thought they were in the first half of the 2021-22 season. The big three pairing of DeRozan, Zach Lavine, and Nikola Vucevic has not worked in Chicago. There were rumors of potential trade packages and interest for all three players. With teammate Zach Lavine having a strong post-All-Star break, many rumors have the Bulls retooling around Lavine in the offseason. Although Bulls’ GM Marc Eversley and EVP of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas have preached continuity, it will not happen in Chicago. With only a year left on his deal, any NBA team that’s interested in DeRozan would be trading for a one-season rental. DeMar could help push multiple contenders over the line while still competing at a high level. Chicago may ask a decent price for DeRozan, but a few ‘win-now’ teams may be willing to pay that price.
The last handful of seasons has not been kind to Karl-Anthony Towns. Excluding personal reasons, KAT has missed a significant amount of time due to injuries. This season has seen KAT miss 53 games, with the Wolves going 27-26 in that span. Returning to the court in late March, KAT has spent the last couple of weeks of the season getting back into form. While KAT is a great player without a doubt, the team is not going anywhere on the roster. In his eight seasons in the league, the Timberwolves have only made the playoffs twice, losing in the first round both times. Currently sitting in the play-in at the time of this writing, the odds of Minnesota making the playoffs is low. Another problem for this KAT is that it’s simply not his team anymore. While he’s been the leader and number one option of this team for years, Minnesota is Anthony Edward’s team now. KAT could be a valuable big man for many teams. With Edwards being the number one option and Rudy Gobert not having a high trade value following his trade last year, Minnesota may start looking at a future without Karl-Anthony Towns.
There is no denying the Boston Celtics are having a great season. After not only losing last season’s NBA Finals but losing the coach that led them there, the Celtics have remained one the best teams in the league. While Jayson Tatum has been one of the main reasons for Boston’s success, the same can be said for Jaylen Brown. While Brown has been a key part of the Celtics over the last handful of years, there are signs of a disconnect between him and the organization. Brown knows that when it comes down to it, Jayson Tatum is the true centerpiece of the team. When Kevin Durant first requested a trade in the 2022 offseason, there were rumors of Durant going to Boston with the returning package being centered around Brown. Brown acknowledged this and was not surprised by those rumors. It has had an effect on his relationship and trust with the Celtics though. Constantly being in trade rumors, Brown has been unsure of his future in Boston. In an interview with The Ringer earlier this year, Brown said the following regarding his future in with Boston:
“I don’t know. As long as I’m needed. It’s not up to me… We’ll see how they feel about me over time and I feel about them over time. Hopefully, whatever it is, it makes sense. But I will stay where I’m wanted. I will stay where I’m needed and treated correct.”
With a year left on his deal, Brown will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. This postseason could have a lot of implications for Brown’s future. If Boston cannot win it all, the peak of Tatum and Brown as a duo may be brought into question. Brown may want to be the number one option on his own team. The odds of Brown suiting up for another team next season are not high, but if the reports are true, he is already questioning if his NBA future will be in Boston.
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