The biggest splash of the 2020-21 NBA season has already been made. After nine decorated seasons with the Rockets, James Harden was shipped to a new city. Houston loaded up on future assets in a massive four-team deal that sent the 2018 MVP to Brooklyn, joining forces with Kyrie Irving and former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant.
As expected, Harden is thriving in his new home. The Beard debuted with back-to-back 30-point efforts, including a triple-double in his first game. Nets coach Steve Nash’s squad has won its past four matchups and is narrowly trailing the Lakers as Vegas’ title favorite.
We will not see another star of Harden’s caliber—a year-in, year-out MVP contender—traded before the March 25 deadline. But there are high-level players in the rumor mill, players who could well impact the title picture.
Last year’s deadline led to D’Angelo Russell, Andrew Wiggins, Andre Drummond, Clint Capela, and other big names changing jerseys. Who could do the same before this year’s deadline? Let’s run through it.
Can Opt Out After 2022 Season
Beal is a stud. The 27-year-old former Florida Gator has really found himself both as a player and leader. He’s playing the best ball of his life, easily leading the league with a 34.9 PPG average. The man gets buckets.
Beal could have a legitimate shot at winning MVP this year, but the Wizards are a woeful 3-8, second-last in the East. Washington might want to give the Beal-Russell Westbrook backcourt a bit more time, but the Wizards sure don’t look like a threat to come out of the East, let alone make the playoffs, and Westbrook is 32.
Beal can opt out of his contract after the 2021-22 season, and it would make sense for him to look for a better supporting cast—that’s been the theme of this current generation of NBA stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo notwithstanding.
It would make sense for Washington to start rebuilding, and there are many teams around the league that would love to have him—and be willing to break the bank to make it happen. Looking into our crystal ball, we see first-round picks fluttering like flakes in a snow globe.
Free Agent After the Season
Oladipo just got traded, so he shouldn’t be on the move again already, right?
Wrong. Reports surfaced quickly after the Rockets-Nets mega-deal indicating Houston acquired the former Pacers guard as a trade chip. Think about it: does it make sense for a squad that is clearly entering a rebuild to hold onto a guy going on 29, and a notably injury history, when he could be flipped for young assets?
Oladipo didn’t want to be in Indiana, but he also doesn’t seem to want to play for Houston. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the guard with the most beautiful voice in the NBA has been angling for a move to South Beach. The Rockets’ trade activity may continue with Oladipo, but he’s not the only Houston player in the mix.