As the 2018-2019 NBA playoffs begin, teams are starting to play their way to the championship, which also means teams that didn’t extend their season past 82 games are beginning to set their sights on this summer. With many free agents set to hit the market and a guarantee for at least one blockbuster trade, this summer for the NBA is shaping up to be a big one. Here are the top five things that need to happen this summer around the Association.

Number 5: Kyrie Irving

It’s no secret that Kyrie is not succeeding in Boston. Kyrie left the Cleveland Cavaliers two years ago, leaving for the Boston Celtics. This move looked promising at first. He lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first season.

Heading into this year, Boston was touted as one of the best teams in the league, but they are finished as 4-seed at 49-33. The media and fans are blaming these struggles on a lack of chemistry. I, however, see it as Kyrie’s inability to lead the team right now.

via Jonathan Daniel of Getty Images

At only 26, Kyrie’s inability to be consistent without another star by his side right now is a serious issue. He does not have the capacity to be the best player on a team night-after-night at this time. This lack of consistency is exactly why he must leave.

He needs to be somewhere like Los Angeles where he can reunite with LeBron, one of the best players in the league, and still be successful while not having to be the best guy on the floor every night. This is his best option unless he wants to team up with someone like fellow free agent Kevin Durant in, say, New York, which takes to our next thing on the to-do list.

Number 4: The New York Knicks

This franchise is a dumpster fire right now, and I say that as a devout Knicks fan. There are many issues to get under control here (ownership, failure to contend, etc.) but the main one is their lack of direction. With their last three picks, they’ve taken a player they traded within four years in Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina, who doesn’t fit the current offense, and Kevin Knox, who is productive but a secondary star on a team that contends.

via Adam Hunger of USA Today Sports

While I think trading Porzingis was a horrible move on the Knicks part, getting the insane athlete that is Dennis Smith Jr. was a good start to a full rebuild. They finished with the worst record in the league with 17 wins, and they’ve gone full tank mode in hopes of drafting Duke phenom, Zion Williamson.

This would help with the reconstruction of the desolate franchise, but they must recruit Kevin Durant at a minimum this year, and Kyrie Irving would be a nice addition. If they cannot get at least one of these big stars, then it is vital that they don’t try to sign any other big-name and continue to commit to a full rebuild, and, in the words of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, “Trust the process.”

Number 3: The New Orleans Situation

Don’t get me wrong here, the Pelicans have been a very fun team to watch these past few years with Anthony Davis (and Demarcus Cousins last year) on their roster, but the organization is a mess. They play in a 20-year-old arena, they’re near the bottom of the league in attendance almost every year, they fired their GM halfway through the season, and they finished just over .400.

The team as a whole is a mess. The biggest warning flag for this team was their outrageous demands in order to trade Anthony Davis. With Anthony Davis likely to get traded over the summer or sign with a different team next year, it is very unlikely that this team will be successful from a business standpoint much longer.

via Sports Illustrated

Now, you can look to the Clippers and say “They were successful without any big-name stars,” but that’s Los Angeles. New Orleans is a much smaller market and is struggling with attendance even with him on their roster. If and when Anthony Davis leaves New Orleans, the team will struggle financially and the NBA should start considering a possible relocation to somewhere like Seattle that can draw the big name free agents and draw in lots of fans.

Number Two: The Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron has been the best player in the league for the past 15 years, give or take, and has carried teams all the way to The Finals (and won a few). When he announced his move out west to Los Angeles during the summer of 2018, the team immediately became a contender. As we near the end of the season, however, the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs and the whole experiment seems to be a failure. You may be asking where did it all go wrong?

via Kevork Djansezian of Getty Images

The answer is the trade deadline. Their (now) former President of Basketball, Magic Johnson, and current GM Rob Pelinka were ready to give up some of the best young stars in the league to get Anthony Davis and their ease of deciding to make this trade was shocking. Their willingness contributed to their biggest mistake all year.

They messed up team chemistry and the team’s image. Injuries also plagued the team, but the chemistry was a massive issue. If the Lakers want to contend, they need to continue to fix the issues in the front office and get another superstar to pair with LeBron, who, as great as he is, will not be able to carry a young, inexperienced team through the challenges that come with Western Conference playoffs and win a title.

The Lakers have the pieces, they just need to put them together (and maybe get some new pieces while they’re at it).

Number One: The New Face of the League

As we’ve seen through the Laker’s struggles this year, it is apparent that LeBron is beginning to lose his claim of being the best player in the league. There are too many great players in the league right now, namely Kevin Durant, James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, for LeBron to still be the best. The past two years, those players have been racing for the title of MVP, with Harden winning it in the 2017-18 season. These players have been climbing the ranks and have finally reached the penultimate tier of stardom.

via Benny Sieu of USA Today Sports

The only thing standing between them and superstar status is LeBron. The man who will take his place, however, is something that needs some figuring out. While the NBA cannot directly decide this, we, as fans, need to start to come to a consensus on who is the best player in the league. We need to decide who can become the face of the league down the road.

Kevin Durant will become a free agent this summer. If he leaves the Warriors and is still able to successful, then it is likely he will be the best player. If Durant is not able to do this, then the title will be completely up for grabs. However, based on the events coming up in the next year and a half, it’s safe to say that we will be crowning a new king this time next year at the latest.

While lots of things have to get sorted out around the NBA this year, it will surely make for a very exciting offseason and an even more promising season next year.