Looking back at 2017, much has changed in the NBA landscape. Superstars switched teams, sometimes multiple times, and both conferences featured clashes that influenced the rest of NBA history. More importantly, the superstar movement has put the NBA in a very good position. There is more parity in the league than ever before, as the Golden State Warriors are a big problem in terms of competition in the league. Thanks to player moves and trades, every NBA team has at least one player who is not tradeable.
That was not the case in the analysis of the 2017 roster. The top 10 stars in the league have all changed teams in the last 4 years, and the NBA isn’t really what it used to be. Looking at 2017, we can see where each of these 10 NBA superstars originally lived and how they ended up with their teams in 2021.
10. Paul George at Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers: 2017
Oklahoma City Thunder: 2018, 2019
Los Angeles Clippers: 2020, 2021
Paul George was the man from Indiana. The Pacers have grown from a mere outside player to one of the best two-way players in the world and pose a threat to the juggernaut Miami Heat in the East. Under Paul George, they even reached the Eastern Conference finals. For the first time since Reggie Miller, Pacers fans felt like they had a better player for a while.
But 2017 was George’s last year with the franchise. He requested a deal from Indiana and was sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a package around Victor Oladipo. While the Thunder looked like championship contenders with George and Russell Westbrook, the Pacers had to regroup without their top player.
9. Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder: 2017, 2018, 2019
Houston Rockets: 2020
Washington Wizards: 2021
Russell Westbrook is Mr. Thunder. Westbrook could have stayed with the franchise forever because he was the guy with all the pressure and the ability to execute decisions for the team. Westbrook loved carrying the team and putting up monster stats, which Thunder fans loved.
But Westbrook’s time with the Thunder came to an end in 2018, when the team went into full rebuild mode. After multiple failures in the playoffs with George and Westbrook, the Thunder traded Paul George to the Clippers and Westbrook to the Houston Rockets. It’s crazy to see that Westbrook is now on his third franchise as a member of the Washington Wizards, and a lot has changed for the triple-option machine since 2017.
8. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers: 2017
Houston Rockets: 2018, 2019
Oklahoma City Thunder: 2020
Phoenix Suns: 2021
Chris Paul may be the best player the Los Angeles Clippers have ever had. He made the NBA mockumentary relevant and showed his leadership skills by making the Clippers title contenders in the Western Conference. Although Chris Paul never won an NBA title with the team, he is credited with bringing the franchise out of oblivion and into the spotlight.
Today the Clippers are title contenders thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, but it was Paul who changed the paradigm of the city. Paul is now a member of the Phoenix Suns and has taken another franchise from mediocrity to title pretension.
7. Kyrie Irving – Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers: 2017
Boston Celtics: 2018, 2019
Brooklyn Nets: 2020, 2021
Kyrie Irving was the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers until LeBron James returned to his home team. When LeBron is in town, Irving automatically gets a supporting role on the team. That is what is happening with LeBron, as the attention he is getting everywhere he goes is truly unprecedented.
Irving and James won an NBA title together in 2016, but it only took one season for Irving to leave town. Kyrie decided he didn’t want to play with LeBron James anymore and asked for a trade. The Cavaliers traded him to the Boston Celtics, where Irving got the chance to lead the franchise. It didn’t work, and Kyrie is now Kevin Durant’s assistant in Brooklyn.
6. Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls: 2017
Minnesota Timberwolves: 2018, 2019
Philadelphia 76: 2019
Miami Heat: 2020, 2021
Jimmy Butler has accomplished a lot with the Chicago Bulls. He went from an inexperienced rookie with a 13.1 PPG average to the NBA’s most improved player in 2015 with a 20.0 PPG average. Butler’s hard work and dedication later led him to the 2015 All-Star Game, and he would become the Bulls’ next star after Derrick Rose ruled from the perch.
But the Bulls weren’t good enough and signed aging stars Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo for the season, and Butler then went to Minnesota to play for the Timberwolves. Given Butler’s time in Chicago, he could have played a very important role had he been able to stay. With Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic on the roster, Bulls fans can only dream of a potential Big Three.
5. Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans: 2017, 2018, 2019
Los Angeles Lakers: 2020, 2021
Anthony Davis was arguably the most dominant big man in the NBA when he played for the Pelicans. The young star is putting up Hall of Fame-worthy numbers and aiming for greatness. The only thing holding him back is success in the postseason, as his supporting cast has suffered from injuries and inconsistencies for years.
In 2021, Davis is already an NBA champion after he teamed up with LeBron James last year. Davis made it a point to drive himself out of New Orleans, though Pelicans management tried to build a team by surrounding him with players like Jrue Holiday, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. Either way, it looks like Davis will be a Laker for a very long time.
4. James Harden – Houston Rockets
Houston Rockets: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Brooklyn Nets: 2021
It’s strange to see James Harden without a Rockets jersey. He ultimately revolutionized the franchise and became a franchise player in Houston for the first time since Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Harden made Houston relevant, and he became MVP in a Rockets jersey. But year after year, the Western Conference has become increasingly difficult this year.
Beard forced his banishment from Houston by beating his teammates, coach and entire management team early in the season. A day later, he was sent out of town to play for the Brooklyn Nets. Along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, James Harden is destined to win his first NBA title. But will he cherish it as much as he cherished the title with the Rockets? Only he would know.
3. Kawhi Leonard – San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs: 2017, 2018
Toronto Raptors : 2019
Los Angeles Clippers: 2020, 2021
Kawhi Leonard rewrote his own destiny. Leonard once won an NBA title with the Spurs under Greg Popovich, but when Tim Duncan retired, Leonard’s team became his once and for all. Leonard looked like an outlier, as he played hard on both ends and was barely visible. But Leonard decided he wanted out of San Antonio and the rest is history.
Leonard was traded to the Raptors with the 2nd pick in his first and only season with the team. NBA title. Shortly thereafter, he joined the Los Angeles Clippers via free agency, where he is currently a franchise player. No one expected Claw, or any other star, to ever leave the Spurs, but Kawhi certainly made history.
2. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors: 2017, 2018, 2019
Brooklyn Nets: 2020 (DNP), 2021
Kevin Durant never made it with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but his time with the Warriors changed his career. In 2017, he was part of a dominant Warriors team that won two consecutive NBA titles. After suffering a serious hamstring injury in 2019, his time in Golden State is over and he is now part of the Brooklyn Network.
Kevin Durant seems to have a knack for super teams, as in Brooklyn he’s on another team with Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Blake Griffin and company. Durant looked like a Warrior for life alongside Stephen Curry, but a setback from Draymond Green may have pushed him out of town. Durant is back to his best this year and could be a three-time champion by the end of the year.
1. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers: 2017, 2018
Los Angeles Lakers: 2019, 2020, 2021
LeBron James is the best player in the world, and has been for almost a decade. King was with the Cavaliers in 2017, a year after leading the legendary 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors. Of course, Durant’s arrival to the Warriors completely changed the Cavaliers’ title chances.
LeBron, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were no match for the Warriors’ super team and lost the next two NBA Finals. LeBron James is currently a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and as a four-time NBA champion thanks to his championship last year, he looks to be heading for retirement in purple and gold.
Credit for an idea: a tyre camp
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