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Same faces, new places: NBA stars who switched teams this summer

Getty Images/TieBreaker Illustration

The summer of 2019 will go down as arguably the wildest in the history of the NBA. That isn’t just hyperbole. This offseason saw some of the game’s greats find new homes in an unprecedented league-wide roster overhaul. The city of Los Angeles alone welcomed three of the biggest NBA superstars as imports to a place already home to LeBron James. 

It didn’t end there. Consider that the following 20 players have combined for multiple MVP Awards and 77 All-Star appearances will now be wearing new uniforms for the upcoming 2019-20 season. 

Here’s a rundown on what stars landed where:

Paul George, Kawhi Leonard — Los Angeles Clippers

It’s hard to find a team that had a better summer than the Clippers. They went from potentially missing out on all the big free-agent fish to landing this superstar duo in one fell swoop. In the process, they managed to acquire two players their Los Angeles counterparts, the Lakers, have long fancied. Guessing what team Leonard would sign with after guiding the Raptors to their first title in franchise history last season was anybody’s guess. Yet, once the possibility of the Clippers acquiring George from the Thunder came to fruition, that’s all Leonard needed to sign on the dotted line. The additions of these two immediately make the Clippers one of the clear favorites in the Western Conference, if not the whole league.

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan — Brooklyn Nets

Irving joining the Nets felt like a forgone conclusion as soon as the Celtics’ tumultuous season concluded as he returns home after growing up in New Jersey. The former Rookie of the Year has established himself as one of the best point guards in the league and will steer the ship offensively for the Nets. As for Durant, his decision to leave the Warriors and head across the country was a bit more surprising. After winning a pair of championships with Golden State, he decided new challenges awaited, with the allure of teaming up with his close pal Kyrie proving too good to pass up. Durant’s first season in Brooklyn will likely be a redshirt one as he works back from an Achilles injury suffered in last season’s Finals. As for Jordan, adding a big man of his caliber as the third option was icing on the cake.

Anthony Davis — Los Angeles Lakers

Davis nearly landed with the Lakers at last season’s trade deadline before a deal failed to materialize. A new Pelicans front office revisited the negotiations in the offseason and traded away their franchise cornerstone for three players and a haul of first-round draft picks. Davis was clear in his desire to move on from New Orleans while requesting a trade last season, and it was no secret of his desire to play alongside LeBron James in Los Angeles. Davis was among a handful of offseason acquisitions by the new-look Lakers, who are eyeing their first postseason appearance in seven seasons.

Russell Westbrook — Houston Rockets

File this one under: Most Unexpected Trade. Thunder GM Sam Presti decided a full rebuild was in order after watching his team get bounced in the first round of the playoffs for a third consecutive season. He responded by shocking the NBA world in shipping out Westbrook and Paul George within days of each other to jump-start the rebuilding process. Westbrook reunites with former OKC running mate James Harden in Houston, pairing two players who have won two of the past three MVP Awards. The partnership forms what is arguably the most explosive backcourt in the league. If nothing else, the Rockets will be must-see TV.

Kemba Walker #8 of the Boston Celtics talks with head coach Brad Stevens

(Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Kemba Walker — Boston Celtics

The departure of Kyrie Irving left a giant void at the point guard position for the Celtics. Enter Walker, a three-time All-Star fresh off his best season to date, after ranking 10th in the league in PPG (25.6). He receives a significant upgrade in his supporting cast upon leaving the Hornets to team up with Jayson Tatum. Walker will be a seamless addition in the offense as the Celtics build off last year’s conference semifinals appearance.

Jimmy Butler — Miami Heat

Following a 55-game stint with the 76ers, Butler joins his fourth team in four seasons. He takes his talents to South Beach as a member of the Heat. He instantly becomes the biggest name on a roster that was in desperate need of some star power. We will see if Butler can rediscover his All-Star form and guide Miami to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

Chris Paul — Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s safe to say the CP3 experiment in Houston just didn’t pan out as expected. Considered to be one of the best players in history at his position, the veteran point guard heads to the retooled Thunder. With the move, his personal streak of nine straight playoff appearances could be in jeopardy. Paul likely would not be opposed to being traded to a contender. As his career is winding down, he’ll be tasked for now with being an on-court leader and mentor in OKC. 

D’Angelo Russell — Golden State Warriors

Once it was clear Kevin Durant was heading East, the Warriors did their best to salvage the situation by landing Russell.  Coming off his first career All-Star appearance, Warriors acquired him in a sign-and-trade with the Nets. It will be interesting to see how he and Stephen Curry operate in the same backcourt. There will be ample scoring opportunities in the interim with Klay Thompson sidelined after suffering a torn ACL last season.

Al Horford — Philadelphia 76ers

The heartache of defeat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals is healed by the arrival of a veteran reinforcement in Horford.  After three seasons in Boston, the big man didn’t head far in moving to the City of Brotherly Love. He joins Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons in a formidable 76ers lineup that can rival any unit in the league.

Ricky Rubio — Phoenix Suns

The Suns have long been in search of a steady presence at point guard and are banking on Rubio being the guy to stabilize the position. Still just 28 years old, the Spaniard brings his flashy game to Phoenix following a successful two-year run with the Jazz. He joins a roster led by young players Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton under first-year head coach Monty Williams. 

Pau Gasol — Portland Trail Blazers

The future Hall of Famer isn’t ready to call it a career yet. Gasol returns for his 19th season joining a squad that’s fresh off an appearance in the Western Conference Finals. Gasol’s contributions will come in the form of mentorship, but his presence may get the Blazers over the hump.

Mike Conley #10 of the Utah Jazz drives with the ball as Lonzo Ball #2 of the New Orleans Pelicans

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Mike Conley — Utah Jazz

Conley gets a fresh start with the Jazz after 12 seasons as a key cog on the Grizzlies. Nostalgia aside, it’s a clear upgrade for him on the basketball side of things. Coming off a career season, Conley leaves a team that will reside in the bottom of the standings. He moves on to one that will potentially take the next leap in becoming a legitimate threat in the West.

Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram — New Orleans Pelicans

This pair of former No. 2 overall picks come to New Orleans as the prize of the Anthony Davis trade. The move was probably for the best, as both could use fresh starts after not yet meeting expectations. Ingram has improved each season while serving as a complementary piece in LA.  Injuries have prevented Ball from showing his full capabilities for prolonged stretches. 

Andre Iguodala — Memphis Grizzlies

The Warriors announced that Iguodala’s jersey will hang in the rafters of the Chase Center. Despite that, the 2015 Finals MVP was a casualty of their attempt to gain salary cap flexibility. Don’t expect to see him in a Grizzlies uniform any time soon. The rebuilding franchise looks to move Iguodala for assets, something that would surely please the veteran Iguodala. 

Derrick Rose — Detroit Pistons

Rose’s career has been marked by the inability to stay healthy since winning Rookie of the Year, followed two years later by capturing league MVP. He is currently coming off a productive campaign in which he averaged 18.0 PPG in 51 games with the Timberwolves. Also, Rose has shown he has plenty left in the tank and is expected to contribute meaningful minutes off the bench.

Julius Randle — New York Knicks

After striking out on star free agents, the Knicks instead acquired six complementary players, with Randle serving as the standout. As he’s fresh off his best season to date, in which he averaged 21.4 PPG and 8.7 RPG. Randle doesn’t turn 25 until next month, so the best might be yet to come.