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If you haven’t had enough player movement during a raucous 2018 offseason, we have you covered.
Sure, 60 players have already joined the NBA fraternity via the draft. Marquee trades have taken place, most significantly when Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan swapped homes. LeBron James, DeMarcus Cousins and plenty of other notable players have joined different organizations during the free-agency period. But more movement may be yet to come as teams peruse the trade market and try to find those final pieces for their rosters.
We have ideas for everyone.
Some are easy to understand, taking advantage of excess at certain positions or natural needs. Others are a bit trickier, since not every organization is primed to make further deals. But we’ve brainstormed one move for each of the 30 squads, trying to remain within the realm of realism while working to further the expected direction of the franchise in question.
Perhaps some of these will become reality. Maybe none will.
Either way, let’s have some lighthearted offseason fun with hypotheticals.
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Atlanta Hawks Get: Sterling Brown, Thon Maker, Tyler Zeller
Milwaukee Bucks Get: Dewayne Dedmon
The Atlanta Hawks don’t have much to do at this stage of the offseason, not after dealing away Dennis Schroder to the Oklahoma City Thunder and completing a Carmelo Anthony buyout that preserves—and, more importantly, promotes—the young core that features youthful upside at just about every position. But if they want to continue the overhaul, they could do so by using Dewayne Dedmon’s expiring contract to get even younger at the biggest position.
Dedmon isn’t truly an expendable piece. He’s still just 28 years old and has started showing hints of reliable floor-spacing ability while remaining an active defender—the very reason the Milwaukee Bucks might be interested in pairing him with Brook Lopez for a win-now pursuit in the Eastern Conference.
But his career curve doesn’t match up with that of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter and Co., whereas Thon Maker’s might.
Though Maker is coming off a miserable 2017-18 season, during which he both failed to live up to the growing expectations and regressed substantially to the tune of a 41.1/29.8/69.9 slash line, the 21-year-old center has immense two-way upside and could continue to promote the shooting-from-everywhere strategy encouraged by the new Atlanta regime. He’s the centerpiece and motivation here, while Sterling Brown and Tyler Zeller are little more than upside and expiring throw-in, respectively.
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Boston Celtics Get: Deyonta Davis, 2020 second-round pick (top-55 protected)
Sacramento Kings Get: Marcus Morris
The Boston Celtics no longer need to make improvements anywhere. Especially now that Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are added back into the mix, their depth chart is loaded with talent, featuring high-quality starters at every position and some of the best backups you’ll find throughout the league. So rather than improving the rotation with this move, we’re just looking to help the front office cut some costs with a player who’s increasingly unneeded.
To be clear, this isn’t a knock on Marcus Morris, who remains quite useful and can contribute positively on both ends of the floor. He’s just the easiest player to trade into space because of his lower salary ($5.4 million) and redundant nature alongside a horde of superior wings and forwards.
That the Sacramento Kings perpetually seem to be in rebuild-expediting mode only helps, because they might be one of the few squads out there willing to take on a veteran player while giving up compensation rather than getting any. Parting with Deyonta Davis is hardly painful, and that 2020 second-round pick will likely never convey.
Of course, this trade would fall apart before discussions ever got started if the Boston brass decides it’s willing to eat luxury-tax costs and keep the full crew together.
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Brooklyn Nets Get: Kent Bazemore
Atlanta Hawks Get: Kenneth Faried, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is about to get expensive.
The defense-first forward is only due $2.5 million for the 2018-19 season, but that cost could skyrocket if he begins developing a reliable three-point stroke. He’s extension-eligible now, and that long-term appeal could help him earn a contract he doesn’t yet deserve…and the Brooklyn Nets are entirely unwilling to pay.
This would be a reversal of course for savvy general manager Sean Marks, who typically takes on younger players and unpalatable contracts—the latter as a service rendered to another organization. But he’s now acquired enough talent on the Brooklyn roster that he can reasonably make a run at a playoff berth in 2019 by trading for a veteran player (Kent Bazemore) who fits the construction of his core quite nicely.
Hollis-Jefferson’s defense at bigger positions is beneficial, but Bazemore can hold his own on the wings while giving the Nets yet another shooter. Lest we forget, this team finished second to only the Houston Rockets in three-pointers attempted during the 2017-18 campaign, so locking down yet another wing willing to fire away early and often should be viewed as a positive.
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Charlotte Hornets Get: Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic
Orlando Magic Get: Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
Going into the offseason, the Charlotte Hornets had to pick between two different courses of action. They could finally escape the NBA’s version of purgatory, selling off prominent pieces such as Kemba Walker to fall down the Eastern Conference standings and build a younger core. Or they could continue competing for a low-end playoff berth with the same group of aging rapscallions.
Except a third option could emerge: What if the Hornets really went for it?
Evan Fournier would immediately assist Walker and the rest of Charlotte’s established pieces with his emerging skills as a facilitator and his well-rounded scoring ability. Nikola Vucevic would give the team an offense-first option at center, taking on plenty of point-producing responsibilities while allowing Cody Zeller to continue thriving in a slightly smaller role. And if both men were there alongside Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams, the Hornets would surely be a playoff favorite in the NBA’s weaker half, even after parting with Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb.
Also including a protected first-round pick makes for a steep price, but that’s usually necessary when acquiring two talents in their prime years. Contention, even for a solid playoff spot, has its price.
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Chicago Bulls Get: MarShon Brooks, Andrew Harrison, 2019 second-round pick, 2019 second-round pick (via Boston Celtics)
Memphis Grizzlies Get: Bobby Portis
After Bobby Portis averaged 13.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks while shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from downtown during the 2017-18 season, this would be considered selling low. But he’s on an expiring deal and rostered by a team that needs scoring help on the wings and already has an overabundance of bigger bodies.
Are the Chicago Bulls likely to extend Portis when he plays the same position as Lauri Markkanen and is now joined in the frontcourt by Jabari Parker and Wendell Carter Jr.? If they do, it won’t be cheap, and they already dedicated so much of their financial reserves to Parker and Zach LaVine.
Instead, they should strike while Portis’ stock is highest. His appeal could decline as the 2018-19 campaign progresses and minutes are harder to come by, which is why they should now deal him to a team like the Memphis Grizzlies that needs more reliable frontcourt contributors, getting back (minimal) future assets and an intriguing offense-defense combination at the 2.
MarShon Brooks and Andrew Harrison aren’t game-changing commodities, but at least they have defined roles in which they’ve succeeded at the NBA level.
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Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Hassan Whiteside
Miami Heat Get: Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson
Everything changes when operating without LeBron James.
Tristan Thompson made sense at center when the world’s best player was still gracing the roster; the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t need a scoring punch at the 5 and could instead be content to roll out a capable interior defender who feasted on the offensive glass. But now that James has departed to the Los Angeles Lakers, they could entirely change the construct of their roster, employing a fundamentally different system by dealing Kyle Korver and Thompson to the Miami Heat, with Larry Nance Jr.’s untapped potential serving as a tasty sweetener.
Their reward? Hassan Whiteside.
Though the big man has been a mercurial presence in South Beach, it’s rather obvious how abundant his potential has grown. Not only is he a physical behemoth capable of altering schemes on both ends of the floor, but he’s flashed some touch around the basket and shown signs of emerging mid-range ability. If he received the right change in scenery and was allowed to function as a complementary scorer alongside George Hill and Kevin Love, he could experience a delayed re-breakout.
This is a risky move, and it could look bad in hindsight if everything clicks for Nance while Korver continues draining threes deep into his 30s. But risks are sometimes necessary, and the Cavaliers don’t have many other chances to add this much raw talent to their coffers.
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Dallas Mavericks Get: Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph
Sacramento Kings Get: Wesley Matthews, 2021 second-round pick
The Dallas Mavericks are unlikely to make a trade, especially if they’re content to absorb the last year of Wesley Matthew’s exorbitant contract and clear up space for 2019 free agency. But if they want to accept a lesser return for Matthews that still lets them get another expiring deal and a player with enduring potential, options do exist.
At this point, they should be more tempted than ever to go down that latter route, knowing full well that Matthews’ presence in Dallas isn’t contributing to a championship chase and is only getting in the way of the full blossoming of a Dennis Smith Jr./Luka Doncic backcourt. Perhaps he can just slide up to the 3, but then you’re still pushing Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki or DeAndre Jordan to the bench or into a more uncomfortable role.
That’s not to say Matthews is devoid of value. Nothing could be further from the truth, even if he’s likely settling in as a marquee backup at both shooting guard and small forward. But this team now belongs to the youngsters, and adding someone like Willie Cauley-Stein into the picture is more beneficial than rostering a serviceable second-stringer preparing to celebrate his 32nd birthday in mid-October.
Cauley-Stein is the type of emerging talent who wouldn’t typically be available in the sloughing off of an expiring deal. But the Sacramento Kings have such a ridonkulous number of bigs on the roster that the Mavericks might be able to catch them in sell-low mode as they look to clear up the self-created logjam.
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Denver Nuggets Get: Justise Winslow
Miami Heat Get: Malik Beasley, Tyler Lydon, 2022 second-round pick
The Miami Heat could easily drive a hard bargain and refuse to part with Justise Winslow unless a first-round pick is included in the returning package, and that still might not be enough to dissuade the Denver Nuggets in their quest to find immediate ability at the 3.
But landing the defensive small forward while only parting with young backups and a second-rounder would obviously be quite a bit more appealing. Malik Beasley and Tyler Lydon both have plentiful potential, but they’re expendable pieces on a deep Mile High City roster that features multiple talents at each of their natural positions—Gary Harris, Will Barton and Torrey Craig at the 2, and Paul Millsap, Trey Lyles, Juancho Hernangomez and Jarred Vanderbilt at the 4.
Even if the Nuggets didn’t have such a glaring need at small forward, Winslow would be a tremendous fit. His physical defense would fill a massive need in a lineup brimming over with offensive acumen, and the passing excellence of the most prominent frontcourt pieces would greatly assist a player who’s largely struggled to serve as a beneficial cutter.
But that hole is the real reason for such a move. The Nuggets are planning to play contributors such as Barton and Hernangomez out of their natural positions until Michael Porter Jr. is healthy enough to suit up and make an impact. Having a healthy body at the 3 would go a long way.
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Detroit Pistons Get: Tyus Jones
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: Luke Kennard
According to 82games.com, the Detroit Pistons had some trouble at point guard. Led by Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith, their floor generals could only muster a 16.1 player efficiency rating (slightly above the league average) while ceding a 17.4 PER to opposing 1s. That makes for a negative differential that lagged behind all the team’s other positional splits, indicating a clear need for improvement.
That improvement hasn’t come yet.
The Pistons are set up to run it back with the same two leading point guards, though an AARP-eligible Jose Calderon is now on the roster. Fortunately, they might be able to remedy this by capitalizing on an overlooked 1-guard buried on another roster: Tyus Jones.
The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t seem to have much intention of handing Jones major run while Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose are still on the roster. Not after Jones played just 13.8 minutes per game during the playoff adventure—literally 10 fewer than Rose, as well as 16.8 behind Teague. While third in the pecking order, he’s entirely expendable on a squad that doesn’t rely much on its bench players.
Yes, even after finishing No. 7 among point guards in ESPN.com’s real plus/minus. Even after finishing fourth on the Wolves in NBA Math’s total points added. Even after the team was 5.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.
If Minnesota is interested in finding a notable backup at a bigger position (Luke Kennard), the Pistons should make this swap in a heartbeat.
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Golden State Warriors Get: Jodie Meeks, Jason Smith
Washington Wizards Get: Shaun Livingston
The Golden State Warriors aren’t likely to make a trade at this stage of the offseason, but they could consider parting with a declining veteran who has two years left on his contract to acquire a pair of shot-in-the-dark shooters.
Though the Dubs still won the 2018 title to earn back-to-back championships, they revealed a dirty little secret throughout this past postseason: When Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant were off the floor, they didn’t have enough shooters. Maybe this changed with the free-agency additions of DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Jerebko, but the squad that’s now arguably the most loaded in league history could still stand to add a bit more floor-spacing to the second unit.
Jason Smith doesn’t have much three-point range (this wasn’t true in 2016-17, we should note), but he’s a mid-range artist who requires some defensive attention on the elbows and along the baseline. Jodie Meeks has a lengthy injury history, but the soon-to-be 31-year-old connected on over 40 percent of his triples during two of the last three campaigns.
Though these guys wouldn’t be guaranteed contributors, they’d at least help fill some needs for a squad that can siphon off Shaun Livingston’s minutes to Quinn Cook.
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Houston Rockets Get: James Johnson, Justise Winslow
Miami Heat Get: Ryan Anderson, Zhou Qi, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
As relayed on Twitter by Ben DuBose of Locked on Rockets, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst revealed that the Houston Rockets are looking to the trade market in a quest to find some defensive additions:
“Brian Windhorst on ESPN regarding potential #Rockets moves beyond Carmelo Anthony: ‘They are active in the trade market.’
“Says Houston is showing some willingness to take long-term money back for Ryan Anderson. ‘They have been talking to teams about adding defenders.'”
The easiest way to get their hands on the players they likely covet is shipping out Ryan Anderson, who’s fallen out of favor and out of the rotation because of his shoddy work on the preventing end. But his unpalatable salary makes it tougher to deal him without including a sweetener of some significance, hence the 2019 first-round pick going in the Miami Heat’s direction for our proposed trade. Even that still might not be enough, which is why we’re adding an intriguing young center (Zhou Qi) into the mix.
But if the Heat would bite, can you imagine the ensuing Houston rotation?
Justine Winslow is a sturdy defender at the 3 who can play up in small-ball lineups, while James Johnson remains a do-everything forward capable of handling the rock in drive-and-kick sets or buckling down on switches against just about any position. If they could add those two men, they might even be willing to dangle another pick for the South Beach residents.
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Indiana Pacers Get: Justin Holiday, Cameron Payne
Chicago Bulls Get: Cory Joseph, 2020 second-round pick (top-50 protected)
Now that the Indiana Pacers have Tyreke Evans and Aaron Holiday—who looked the part of an NBA-ready prospect during his summer-league experience—joining Darren Collison on the 2018-19 roster, Cory Joseph is more movable than ever. They don’t need that many ball-handling options and could instead ship the veteran floor general to another team in return for added depth at another position.
Enter Justin Holiday, who’s on an expiring contract with the Chicago Bulls and would bring a nice jolt of scoring off the pine to the Pacers in their quest to ascend further up the Eastern Conference standings. Plus, it would be a rather nice story for two brothers to team up on the same roster, assisting each other with in-season development and hoping for an against-all-odds clash with Jrue Holiday’s New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Finals.
The Bulls aren’t getting much here, but they could be tempted by Joseph’s steadiness (having a reliable 1-guard always aids the development of frontcourt prospects) and a second-round pick that may convey even with top-50 protection. Plus, Holiday isn’t guaranteed to stick in the Windy City beyond this upcoming campaign, and paying him even a reasonable salary could become a difficult proposition for a team with so much money wrapped up in Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine.
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Los Angeles Clippers Get: Deyonta Davis, Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert
Sacramento Kings Get: Danilo Gallinari
At first, this looks nonsensical.
Why would the Los Angeles Clippers give up Danilo Gallinari, who’s looked like quite the commodity when his body is in working order, for Deyonta Davis (a disappointing prospect), Zach Randolph (a veteran in the twilight of his career) and Iman Shumpert (a player who may not belong in an NBA rotation any longer)? That’s making the team distinctly worse for the 2018-19 season when it should be competing for a back-end playoff seed in the stacked Western Conference.
But this is all about contracts. And trading Gallinari into the Sacramento Kings’ remaining cap space—while filling Sacramento’s dire need for a 3—allows them to clear up more room for the all-important 2019 offseason. Just take a gander at the remaining contracts of each player involved in this hypothetical swap:
- Deyonta Davis: $1.5 million in 2018-19
- Danilo Gallinari: $21.6 million in 2018-19, $22.6 million in 2019-20
- Zach Randolph: $11.7 million in 2018-19
- Iman Shumpert: $11 million in 2018-19
None of the additions have salary payouts due beyond the coming season, which essentially clears Gallinari from the ledgers and gives the Clippers even more 2019 flexibility. At that point, they’d have only Avery Bradley ($13 million), Lou Williams ($8 million), Montrezl Harrell ($6 million), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander ($4 million), Jerome Robinson ($3.6 million), Jawun Evans ($1.6 million team option), C.J. Williams ($1.6 million) and Sindarius Thornwell ($1.6 million) on the payroll.
Not only does that create the requisite space for a Kawhi Leonard pursuit, but it also allows this Los Angeles squad to chase a second max-salary player.
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Los Angeles Lakers Get: Jeremy Lin, 2019 second-round pick (via Charlotte Hornets)
Atlanta Hawks Get: Luol Deng, 2019 first-round pick, 2021 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
This is asking a ton of the Atlanta Hawks front office after it already absorbed and bought out Carmelo Anthony’s bloated contract to ship off Dennis Schroder to the Oklahoma City Thunder. But if they’re willing to pay Luol Deng and assume even more financial responsibility, they should be able to get additional assets in future drafts that could help facilitate a stronger rebuild.
So let’s operate under the assumption that the Peach State ownership team is indeed willing to shoulder those monetary burdens for the sake of future progress. If that’s the case, why wouldn’t the Lakers be willing to slough off Deng’s albatross contract and attach first-round picks that are losing value as the team continues to improve?
Now that LeBron James is aboard, those selections aren’t going to fall in the lottery. They may be closer to second-round selections by the time 2021 rolls around, especially because this move would clear up even more cap space for the pursuit of blockbuster additions in the summer of 2019.
Neither side would be particularly pleased with this swap. And yet, it would have long-term benefits for both.
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Chicago Bulls Get: MarShon Brooks, Andrew Harrison, 2019 second-round pick, 2019 second-round pick (via Boston Celtics)
Memphis Grizzlies Get: Bobby Portis
Yes, this is the same deal we used for the Chicago Bulls. The moves throughout this article are intended to be more advantageous for the team in whose section they’re featured, but this is one of those potential trades that happen to be as mutually beneficial as possible.
We’ve already covered the Bulls’ desires (capitalizing on an expiring player with upside to add useful role players in more needed areas), and the Grizzlies should be just as interested. They need another reliable body in the frontcourt to pair with Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green and Jaren Jackson Jr., and Bobby Portis might be their best chance at adding a significant talent for a cheap price.
Portis’ ability to stretch out the floor or bully players on the interior would play well on Beale Street, especially as the team struggles to replace the perimeter marksmanship it lost during the 2018 offseason with the departure of Tyreke Evans. He’d give Memphis the useful depth it needs behind the incumbent starters, teaming up with Jackson to create a new-age tandem capable of leading the second unit.
But it’s simpler than that. MarShon Brooks and Andrew Harrison are expendable on a squad with Jevon Carter, Garrett Temple, Kobi Simmons and Wayne Selden set to provide minutes off the bench, and lessening the reliance on Ivan Rabb and Dakari Johnson is a positive at this stage of their respective developments.
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Miami Heat Get: Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, 2019 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets)
Milwaukee Bucks Get: Hassan Whiteside
“You could get a lottery pick, but a late lottery pick,” an anonymous scout told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald about Hassan Whiteside’s trade value back in January. “I could see a first-rounder and a decent player—a rotational guy—but not a lottery pick and a decent player. I would be shocked if you got an All-Star for him. No way.”
Since then, his value has only declined further, and not just because Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk continued to look like the centers of the future for the Miami Heat. The team was 4.4 points per 100 possessions worse with Whiteside on the floor during the regular season, and then the net rating dipped by 10.8 when he played in the postseason. And that’s not even including his obviously disgruntled nature.
“Man, it’s annoying. Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They’re going to use their strength,” he said after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets in which he didn’t get a single minute of action during the fourth quarter or overtime, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s bulls–t. It’s really bulls–t, man. There’s a lot of teams that could use a center. S–t. That’s bulls–t.”
The Heat may well be planning to run it back, but trading their big-name big man would allow them to get useful pieces from a center-hungry organization (the Milwaukee Bucks would presumably love to pair Whiteside with Brook Lopez in an offense-defense combination) while clearing up space for the more beneficial incumbents and getting their hands on a second-round pick.
At some point, Miami just has to bite the bullet and realize a minimal return is still addition by subtraction.
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Milwaukee Bucks Get: Kyle Korver
Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Matthew Dellavedova, 2019 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets), 2020 second-round pick
You can never have too much spacing in today’s NBA, particularly when you’re trying to counteract the shooting deficit of offenses headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo. So while convincing the Cleveland Cavaliers to part with a 37-year-old Kyle Korver might be tough, throwing multiple second-round picks at them while dangling a franchise favorite who can still provide (somewhat) useful depth is a worthwhile endeavor.
This move does rely on the Cavs attempting to win over their fanbase with a Matthew Dellavedova return (see: Frye, Channing) in the wake of LeBron James’ departure, but it’s not like the veteran guard is some scrub who doesn’t deserve minutes. He could provide insurance behind George Hill and Collin Sexton, while his 37.2 percent shooting from beyond the rainbow would allow him to fit into some offensive lineups.
As for the Bucks, their motivation is far more obvious.
They ranked just 25th in three-point attempts per game and 22nd in three-point percentage during the 2017-18 campaign, so adding a shooter of Korver’s caliber could make a massive difference. Even though he’s now closer to 40 than 30, he’s coming off a year in which he connected on his 5.2 deep attempts per contest at a 43.6 percent clip—numbers only 14 other qualified players have matched throughout NBA history.
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Detroit Pistons Get: Tyus Jones
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: Luke Kennard
We’re double-dipping once again, because this is another mutually beneficial swap that makes equivalent sense for both sides.
While the Detroit Pistons are upgrading their point guard rotation with a man who’s been unfairly buried on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ depth chart, the Western Conference squad is transferring excess depth at point guard to a bigger spot in the lineup. Given head coach Tom Thibodeau’s affinity for keeping rookies glued to the bench, he might be more inclined to call upon second-year wing Luke Kennard than incoming first-year wings Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop—currently the primary backups at shooting guard and small forward, respectively.
Kennard didn’t do much during his inaugural campaign. The 6’6″ Duke product averaged just 13.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes and played just 20 minutes per game. But he showed the shooting ability that made him such an intriguing prospect after his breakout with the Blue Devils, knocking down 44.3 percent of his field-goal attempts, 41.5 percent of his triples and 85.5 percent of his freebies.
In other words, he doesn’t just grant the Wolves depth at a more useful position; he actively fills a stylistic hole by giving Thibodeau one of those spot-up shooters he sorely needs.
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New Orleans Pelicans Get: Kent Bazemore
Atlanta Hawks Get: Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
As Oleh Kosel penned for The Bird Writes earlier this offseason while providing the framework for this trade, the New Orleans Pelicans have been linked with Kent Bazemore before, and anecdotal observations make this even more likely:
“Possible renewed interest in trading for Bazemore makes sense on several fronts despite his bloated contract. The Pelicans have pursued him in the past — seemingly since Danny Ferry became a special adviser to General Manager Dell Demps, the team will have limited options in free agency even if Boogie leaves as they’ll be limited to the use of exceptions, and the Hawks have maintained a long standing desire to flip Bazemore for some future asset.”
Well, DeMarcus Cousins left, while the signing of Julius Randle worked to replace him in the frontcourt. But that doesn’t shore up the enduring hole on the wings quite like Bazemore could with his combination of defensive intensity and sharp-shooting ability.
Giving up a first-round pick for the former undrafted free agent might be a steep price. It’s also necessary, since the Atlanta Hawks would be onboarding Alexis Ajinca’s expiring contract and a deal for Solomon Hill that has him making $13.3 million in 2019-20. And sometimes, a team has to pay a premium, especially while trying to convince Anthony Davis the franchise is committed to winning and building a quality contender around him.
Dreams about a quintet comprised of Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, Bazemore, Nikola Mirotic/Randle and Davis should eventually win out.
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New York Knicks Get: Kosta Koufos, Zach Randolph
Sacramento Kings Get: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Maybe Tim Hardaway Jr. should get another shot at redemption with the New York Knicks. Injuries prevented him from gaining too much momentum during his first season back in the Big Apple, and he couldn’t produce anything more than 17.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while slashing 42.1/31.7/81.6 and playing disastrous defense. Inefficient volume scoring, we should note, did not make him valuable in spite of what his points-per-game average might initially indicate.
But his eye-popping salary ($17.3 million in 2018-19, $18.2 million in 2019-20 and a player option for $19 million in 2020-21) is now a sunk cost. It shouldn’t color the decision-making at this point, and the Knicks shouldn’t hesitate to ship it off to a franchise eager for high-scoring talents on the wings.
Yes, a franchise like the Sacramento Kings.
In this particular deal, the Knicks aren’t getting back anything of serious value. But they are onboarding two expiring deals who can help clear up space for 2019 free agency, allowing them to lure in the right pieces around Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox.
If the Kings are willing to take on this financial burden for a shot at a true Hardaway breakout, the Knicks should attempt to mask their excitement and pull the lever immediately.
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Oklahoma City Thunder Get: Jordan Clarkson
Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Patrick Patterson, Kyle Singler, 2020 second-round pick
First, a disclosure: The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the hardest teams for this exercise after clearing the books of Carmelo Anthony’s salary and bringing Dennis Schroder into the picture. They simply don’t have many players who are A) expendable and B) capable of drawing interest from other organizations, which leaves them building packages around filler and marginally useful draft picks.
Even that last part is tough, because OKC owes its 2020 and 2022 first-rounders to different franchises and no longer has access to its 2019 second-rounder. Including a 2020 second-rounder is about as good as it gets, which is why we’re limited to a minor target like Jordan Clarkson, who’s fresh off an immensely disappointing individual postseason with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Fortunately, Clarkson does make sense on the Thunder.
Despite his disappointing ventures in Northeast Ohio, he remains a useful scoring talent who’s comfortable creating shots for himself and knocking down catch-and-shoot jumpers—the latter more theoretical than anything else at this stage of his up-and-down career. And considering Oklahoma City’s bench finished only 17th in offensive rating last season, even the hope of a rise to prominence alongside Schroder is worth pursuing.
This is a shot-in-the-dark trade, but that’s about all the Thunder can do right now.
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Orlando Magic Get: Kenneth Faried, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Brooklyn Nets Get: Nikola Vucevic
How many big men do the Orlando Magic need?
With Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac lining up at power forward while Nikola Vucevic and Mohamed Bamba hold down center roles, this franchise is flush with frontcourt bodies, to the point that not everyone will get enough minutes or play in a manner that maximizes his abilities. And that’s why this trade is necessary; it ships Vucevic to the Brooklyn Nets as a mentor to Jarrett Allen and gets back a smaller body.
We’re not talking about Kenneth Faried, who’s only included for salary-matching purposes. We’re instead referring to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, whose 6’7″ frame should be thrown out as either a small forward in traditional lineups or at a bigger slot when teams accept their small-ball inclinations.
Just imagine the defensive potential. Seriously. Sit back and think about it. Allow your mind to wander, drifting over the tantalizing possibilities of Hollis-Jefferson and Isaac switching on everything against guards, wings and forwards while Bamba capably protects the hoop as a last line of defense. Porosity on the perimeter almost wouldn’t matter.
The Magic may be able to get a first-round pick for Vucevic’s services, though it would be heavily protected. This is just even more appealing, considering Hollis-Jefferson’s extension-eligible contract and immense upside while Orlando already has some key rookie-scale players on the books.
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Philadelphia 76ers Get: Kyle Korver
Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Jerryd Bayless, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
This one has been talked about, though we’re speculating about the pick compensation by including a first-rounder that would convert into multiple second-rounders if it doesn’t immediately convey. Per Philly.com’s Keith Pompey:
“According to a league source, the team has had discussions about trading Jerryd Bayless to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyle Korver.
“That move would enable the Sixers to bring back a fan favorite who’s one of the league’s top three-point shooters. He would be an upgrade from former Sixer Marco Belinelli, who signed as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this month.”
We’ve already covered Korver’s shooting excellence, which would be maximized on a team constructed like the Philadelphia 76ers with multiple strong passers and a big man who commands so much defensive attention. The Sixers can never have enough spacing around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, so throwing out JJ Redick and Korver on a nightly basis—arguably two of the best spot-up threats in the Association—would be quite the boon to head coach Brett Brown’s offense.
Plus, they don’t need to be concerned about giving up a first-round pick (or multiple second-rounders). That’s a worry for some teams, though Philly falls into another category when it has access to so many selections throughout the foreseeable future while operating on a roster already loaded with youthful talent.
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Phoenix Suns Get: Kemba Walker
Charlotte Hornets Get: Tyson Chandler, 2019 first-round pick (via Milwaukee Bucks), 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected)
This only works if Kemba Walker agrees to an extension that would allow him to headline an up-and-coming power in the Western Conference. If he’s unwilling to commit to such a future deal, the Phoenix Suns would be foolish to toss away two 2019 first-rounders for a one-year rental before Walker escapes as an unrestricted free agent.
But if he does…
Phoenix, much like the Philadelphia 76ers, doesn’t need to worry about parting with some of its draft capital. Not only does the team already have plenty of rookie-scale contributors expected to play prominent roles, but it doesn’t currently have any outgoing picks other than a 2021 second-rounder owed to the Brooklyn Nets. It’s perfectly set up to make this kind of trade, counting on a veteran floor general to help the development of the many other talents.
If the Suns landed Walker, they could deploy the long-term member of the Charlotte Hornets alongside Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Trevor Ariza and Deandre Ayton, instantly creating a team that looks like a serious playoff contender in the West. And that’s even before we mention Brandon Knight, TJ Warren, Mikal Bridges, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Richaun Holmes providing both upside and depth.
Go for the blockbuster, Phoenix. You know you want to.
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Portland Trail Blazers Get: Courtney Lee
New York Knicks Get: Meyers Leonard, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
We’re killing two birds with one stone here.
Not only would the Portland Trail Blazers gain access to a two-way wing coming off his second consecutive season taking at least three triples per game while connecting at no worse than a 40 percent clip, but they’d also be ridding themselves of an unpalatable contract. Frankly, we’re not quite sure which is better right now.
Though Courtney Lee will turn 33 years old this October, he averaged 12.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals while slashing 45.4/40.6/91.9 for the New York Knicks in 2017-18. It was a career year for the swingman, offering glimpses at his enduring potential on both the offensive and defensive end. Should he fill a smaller role in Rip City, likely off the bench in relief of CJ McCollum and Maurice Harkless, he’ll be plenty capable of remaining effective as Father Time sinks his teeth in.
Meanwhile, Meyers Leonard could benefit from a fresh start, and he’s clearly not carving out a role commensurate to the $21.9 million he’s owed over the next two seasons. Buried behind Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins at center, he’ll likely play too sporadically to develop the rhythm necessary for further growth.
Would the Knicks be interested in taking a flier on him while also getting a lottery-protected first-round pick? They should. Would Rip City be interested in acquiring Lee while ridding themselves of Leonard’s contract, even at the expense of a pick? They should, as well.
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Sacramento Kings Get: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Charlotte Hornets Get: Skal Labissiere, Zach Randolph
The Sacramento Kings have roughly 18 big men on the roster and another 11 guards, but they have precious few players who can realistically line up at the 3 without playing away from their natural position. That’s not a huge deal in today’s positionless NBA, but it’s still troubling that they’re even thinking about using players such as Marvin Bagley III and Nemanja Bjelica at small forward alongside two other towers.
So what if they used an expiring deal and an intriguing big to sway the Charlotte Hornets into parting with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?
Skal Labissiere has enduring potential, but he might never get a chance to develop fully while still playing for the Kings. Carving out enough minutes alongside—deep breath—Bagley, Bjelica, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Deyonta Davis simply isn’t feasible, even if not all those names are expected to work their ways onto the floor. So while parting with him might not be easily stomached without getting a more substantial return, selling low is sometimes necessary.
Plus, Kidd-Gilchrist would be a fun fit on this roster, complementing the plethora of scoring options nicely by stopping the opposition’s best wings on a nightly basis and allowing his comrades to save more energy for the offensive end.
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San Antonio Spurs Get: Dewayne Dedmon, Jeremy Lin
Atlanta Hawks Get: Pau Gasol, 2019 first-round pick (via Toronto Raptors)
Cooking up something for the San Antonio Spurs is difficult after their blockbuster trade for DeMar DeRozan. Their low-salary players are integral to the team’s depth, and their big-money contributors are either unmovable or too important to shop.
As such, we’re getting creative.
Pau Gasol might be the most likely trade candidate on the current roster, as his per-game numbers still hint at value that goes well beyond the production he’s providing. The Spurs could convince a team to absorb his remaining salary ($16 million each of the next two years) while attaching a first-round pick (via the Toronto Raptors) and still get back some useful pieces who aren’t crucial to the future of Gasol’s new destination.
And the Atlanta Hawks are the best match.
Given the defensive woes DeRozan experiences on a nightly basis, landing a defensive center such as Dewayne Dedmon could go a long way. It also doesn’t hurt that he enjoys experience under head coach Gregg Popovich, dating back to the 2016-17 campaign—one year before he learned how to shoot threes under the Hawks’ supervision.
Jeremy Lin could similarly be a nice addition capable of providing depth behind Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili, but what he brings isn’t the main benefit of this trade. Opening up more future flexibility to build around DeRozan is, especially since that can be done while also finding a center who fits the expected style better than Gasol.
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Toronto Raptors Get: Tyson Chandler
Phoenix Suns Get: Norman Powell, Malachi Richardson
Now that Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have joined them in a trade that shipped away franchise icon DeMar DeRozan, the Toronto Raptors are even deeper on the wings. The two incoming players should step into the starting five alongside Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, allowing for continuity from a bench unit that throttled one opponent after another throughout 2017-18.
But take a look at the expected backups at each of the five traditional positions:
- Point Guard: Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
- Shooting Guard: CJ Miles, Malachi Richardson
- Small Forward: OG Anunoby, Norman Powell
- Power Forward: Pascal Siakam
- Center: Chris Boucher
The Raptors are loaded at point guard and small forward, but they’re far too shallow at center after Jakob Poeltl’s inclusion in the Leonard acquisition. Even in the small-ball era, remedying that is important, and it can be done by shipping Powell to the Phoenix Suns (with Malachi Richardson as added salary) for Tyson Chandler.
Chandler’s long-term prospects are obviously worse than Powell’s, but the former fills an immediate need behind Valanciunas—crucial for a team trying to push toward the top of the Eastern Conference and convince Leonard he should become more than a one-year rental.
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Utah Jazz Get: Boban Marjanovic, Lou Williams
Los Angeles Clippers Get: Alec Burks, Raul Neto, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
This trade can’t take place until Dec. 15, but that might work to the Utah Jazz’s advantage. By the time that much of the 2018-19 campaign has taken place, the Los Angeles Clippers might have realized they’re not true threats to serve as anything more than first-round fodder in the Western Conference playoff picture, thereby opening the door to a trade of Lou Williams.
Importantly, the Clippers would be assuming less salary for the 2019-20 season, which still allows them to pursue Kawhi Leonard and other big-name free agents during the next offseason. Alec Burks is on an expiring deal, while Raul Neto makes only $2.2 million each of the next two seasons—significantly less than the current expenditures owed to Williams.
So while parting with a high-scoring threat on a team-friendly deal might be tough, it still makes sense when also acquiring a heavily protected first-round pick. And that’s a selection the Jazz should be more than willing to deal when getting an offensive force of Williams’ caliber, one who can capably supplement Donovan Mitchell’s point production and alleviate some of the inevitable burden shouldered by incoming rookie Grayson Allen.
Utah has the defensive bodies necessary to mitigate Williams’ porosity, but it’s still seeking that No. 2 scorer who can push the team from good to great.
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Washington Wizards Get: Justin Holiday, Robin Lopez, Cameron Payne
Chicago Bulls Get: Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Eventually, the Washington Wizards have to do something that allows them to get more depth.
During the 2017-18 season, the same old flaw reared its ugly head yet again. Partially because of injuries to prominent players such as John Wall, the Wizards only handed 1,483 minutes to non-starters, which left it trailing 17 other organizations. On top of that, the bench could only muster a minus-2.6 net rating, again leaving it ranked No. 18 throughout the league.
That’s a pesky combination, and it’s not likely to improve substantially with Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, Thomas Bryant and Troy Brown Jr. serving as the biggest offseason additions. They should help the Washington second-stringers become increasingly average, but that’s where the improvement should end.
Parting with a first-round pick, even a lottery-protected one, would be unpleasant. However, it’s easier to do so when simultaneously shedding Ian Mahinmi’s salary and getting quality backups at two different positions (Cameron Payne is just a salary throw-in). A quintet comprised of Tomas Satoransky, Rivers, Justin Holiday, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Robin Lopez would be a rather intriguing one, possessing enough established production and untapped upside to strike fear into the hearts of some Eastern Conference outfits.
Is this glamorous? Nope. But that doesn’t prevent it from being sensible.