Trade Ideas to Save NBA Free Agency's Biggest Losers

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured Columnist IVJuly 10, 2022

Trade Ideas to Save NBA Free Agency's Biggest Losers

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    DALLAS, TEXAS - APRIL 16: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks and team owner Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks look on from the bench as the Dallas Mavericks take on the Utah Jazz in the second quarter of Game One of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 16, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    If your favorite NBA team is currently reeling from some especially unflattering on-court developments during 2022 free agency, don't you worry. I am here to help.

    Hypothetically, of course.

    Spotting jilted squads isn't particularly easy this year. There was neither enough cap space nor star power floating around the market for teams to suffer big-time losses—the kind of exits that create voids impossibly difficult to fill.

    Sure, some smack-you-in-the-face candidates exist. In lieu of excessive obviousness elsewhere, though, we'll open up the Uh-Oh clique to include franchises that were—or are currently being—forced to move on from pivotal contributors.

    Emphasis on forced here.

    The San Antonio Spurs decided to trade Dejounte Murray. Ditto for the Utah Jazz with Rudy Gobert. The Washington Wizards willingly gave Bradley Beal the NBA's only no-trade clause...for some reason. The Memphis Grizzlies let Kyle Anderson walk so Ziaire Williams and Jake LaRavia could run.

    These teams—and others like them—that showed key players out the door or made questionable, if not outright bad, moves will not count among the biggest losers. They had more of a choice. (Also, the Grizzlies can't possibly be losers when they locked up Ja Morant on a five-year max extension without a player option.)

    Other teams weren't—or aren't—as in control of their fate. These trades are for them.

Brooklyn Gets What It Can for Kyrie Irving

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 23:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers posts up against Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on January 23, 2020 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: Russell Westbrook, Chicago's 2023 second-round pick, 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), 2027 second-round pick

    Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Joe Harris, Kyrie Irving

    Please, for the love of our sanity, just get Kyrie to the Lakers already so we can talk about something else.

    The Nets should absolutely push for both the Los Angeles' 2027 and 2029 first-rounders. They should ask for a 2028 swap, too. And you know what? If I'm the Lakers, I do it. Because I have LeBron James entering his age-38 season, and the fit with Westbrook is an unmitigated, hopeless disaster.

    This idea that the Lakers have immense leverage over the Nets bends my brain. Maybe I'm a fool. ESPN's Brian Windhorst said during a recent appearance on Get Up that the Nets are up against a "very narrow" market for Kyrie. Los Angeles may actually be in the driver's seat by virtue of registering interest at all.

    Sending Harris to the Lakers while grabbing only one first and a second is the middle ground. Apparently. Sources told Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes the Nets want to offload the two years and $38.6 million left on Harris' contract. Then again, the New York Post's Brian Lewis heard the exact opposite. Funny how the flow of information works during silly season, huh?

    Still, the Nets might be leery of paying Harris as he works his way back from a left ankle injury. They also might just be looking to shave salary in the event they need to acquire someone via sign-and-trade and get under the hard cap as part of the inevitable Kevin Durant blockbuster.

    This deals cuts more than $8.5 million from the Nets' bottom line—before luxury-tax payments. Los Angeles should pounce, even if the cost winds up being higher. Harris is the perfect superstar complement, and for all his locker room baggage, Kyrie remains a massive upgrade over Westbrook.

    What Brooklyn does with Westbrook is anyone's guess. Maybe it keeps him and tries to compete in the East with whomever's left on the roster. Perhaps there's a buyout. This deal could also be expanded to include third, fourth, fifth, etc. teams and be folded into a KD trade. The Nets shouldn't be opposed to stomaching Westbrook's salary themselves. It's for one year, and they're either retooling or on the precipice of a rebuild.

Dallas Gets Reinforcements Post-Jalen Brunson

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    SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - APRIL 28: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks drives against Mike Conley #11 of the Utah Jazz during the first half of Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 28, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
    Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

    Dallas Mavericks Receive: Malik Beasley (cannot be aggregated until Sep. 6), Mike Conley

    Utah Jazz Receive: Josh Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dwight Powell, 2025 first-round pick (top-one protection)

    Jalen Brunson's departure represents a gargantuan failure for the Mavericks, who reportedly had the opportunity to bag him on a four-year, $55.6 million deal at least twice. But his exit does not have to beget nuclear reconfiguration. Dallas has Luka Doncic to ferry the lion's share of its shot creation, and Spencer Dinwiddie remains a capable, albeit inconsistent, on-ball threat. Christian Wood has the outside-in floor game to soak up some of the featured-touch responsibility, as well.

    This is different from saying the Mavericks should sit tight. They shouldn't. They have Luka Doncic. You go for it.

    Utah offers a nice landing spot for prospective buyers. Donovan Mitchell may not be on the table (yet), but even if Alternate Team Governor and CEO Danny Ainge wants to rebuild or retool around him, the Jazz can afford to think bigger picture.

    Accepting Josh Green—a bounce house who parlayed his physical tools into some nifty defensive plays during the latter half of last season—and a 2025 first-rounder to eat the three years and $53.7 million left on Hardaway's contract doesn't shock the senses. But Utah needs wings, badly, and both Green and THJ qualify under the circumstances. They could likewise use another big, which Powell's expiring contract provides, and continuing to load up the draft-pick coffers renders them dangerous in future trade discussions.

    Dallas might be banking on a renaissance from THJ following his left foot injury. But jettisoning him in favor of Beasley and Conley makes too much sense. Beasley is a reasonable facsimile of THJ, with more pop, and his contract can come off the books next summer (team option). People may be down on the 34-year-old Mike Conley given how his playoffs ended, but he was genuinely good during the regular season and can play beside Doncic. The Mavs still emerge from this deal as a cap-sheet positive even after factoring in the $14.3 million he's guaranteed (out of $22.7 million) for 2023-24.

    Trader Danny will want more than a lone first from Dallas. But this structure feels fair. Conley's deal isn't exactly an asset, and the Jazz are balancing out part of their small-guard-heavy roster with this return. If Utah and Dallas don't want to wait until Beasley can be aggregated, they can make this two separate deals (Conley for THJ; Beasley for Green and Powell).

Miami Rejiggers Rotation Following P.J. Tucker's Exit

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    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MARCH 07: Kenyon Martin Jr. #6 of the Houston Rockets dunks against Caleb Martin #16 of the Miami Heat during the first half at FTX Arena on March 07, 2022 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Miami Heat Receive: Eric Gordon, Kenyon Martin Jr.

    Houston Rockets Receive: Gabe Vincent, Haywood Highsmith, Duncan Robinson, 2027 first-round pick (pending obligation to Oklahoma City; top-10 protection)

    P.J. Tucker fled Miami for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Jimmy Butler is going through it. Understandably so. The Heat have nobody to replace Tucker, and their apparent attempt to skirt the luxury tax doesn't bode well for any late-summer free-agency miracles.

    Surfing the non-superstar trade market may also be out of the question. Miami isn't surrendering any first-round equity without knowing whether it's out of the ongoing Kevin Durant or widely-expected-not-yet-underway Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes.

    Let's assume the Heat can't get KD and don't anticipate a Mitchell trade request. Going after someone like Martin as a pseudo-Tucker replacement is smart. He is a career 36 percent shooter from deep who can capably switch across the 2, 3 and 4 spots, and his ability to fly will be a nice bonus.

    Forking over a first-round pick and a smaller salary for Martin could be the end of this deal. But giving up a first for him doesn't sit entirely right. Though he has a cheapo team option for 2023-24, he's never played a higher-volume role on a real team.

    The Heat should look to expand this package to include Gordon. He gives them someone to space the floor away from the ball and bulldoze his way to the basket on downhill attacks. The half-court offense would be much better off. Miami enters the tax with this trade, but only slightly. The Heat can duck it before the end of next season if they're feeling cheap.

    Houston will push for more. Robinson has four years and $74.4 million left on his deal and was basically out of Miami's postseason rotation. But Martin has already requested a trade, and 33-year-old Gordon won't fetch a king's ransom. Nabbing a loosely protected first that won't coney until after Kyle Lowry (and potentially Jimmy Butler) have aged out is a big deal.

    Also: Gabe Vincent is a real player—a reasonable manager of second-unit possessions who's finally hitting threes at the NBA level. And while Robinson's contract is steep, overpaying for a deadeye sniper with otherworldly magnetic pull isn't the worst thing in the world. If anything, he opens up the floor for Houston's three most important creators moving forward: Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith Jr.

Phoenix Suns Finally Make a Splash...No, Not THAT Splash...A Different Splash

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    PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 27: Richaun Holmes #22 of the Sacramento Kings shoots the ball during the game against the Phoenix Suns on October 27, 2021 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
    Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

    Phoenix Suns Receive: Richaun Holmes

    Sacramento Kings Receive: Jae Crowder

    Whether the Suns are losers so far lies in the eye of the beholder. Devin Booker signed a four-year extension, and Phoenix is Kevin Durant's No. 1 preferred trade destination. Both are huge wins.

    But the Suns have also been at a relative standstill. Bringing back Bismack Biyombo is good. The flier on Damion Lee is, too. But Deandre Ayton's future is hanging in the balance, and they haven't made any appreciable upgrades on a roster that imploded during Game 7 of the semifinals.

    Re-acquiring Holmes may not be a move the Suns consider until after the KD and Ayton situations are hashed out. They don't need to wait, though. Getting Holmes frees them up to prioritize alternative returns in Ayton sign-and-trades or simply allows them to let him walk. (Please note: The latter would be franchise malpractice.)

    Holmes is not Ayton on defense. He cannot play as high up and doesn't have the same quick, directional footwork. But he's a rock-solid rim protector who moves better than most traditional bigs and works hard enough on the glass. His trademark push shot allows for variability out of screen-and-rolls, and I will continue to plead with teams to let him re-explore his three-point range. Holme is also worlds cheaper (three years, $36.1 million) than Ayton is about to be.

    Crowder is a real loss for the Suns. But he's on an expiring contract, and they have Cameron Johnson's next deal to consider. Moving Crowder makes including Mikal Bridges in a KD trade even more prohibitive, but, you know, we're talking about Kevin Durant. You figure that out later.

    Sacramento shouldn't have any qualms with this framework. It still needs defensive wings. Crowder will hold up against assignments to which Harrison Barnes and Keegan Murray are less suited, and he doesn't jeopardize the Kings' "De'Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis and a Metric Crapton of Shooting" model.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference, Stathead or Cleaning the Glass. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and subscribe to his Hardwood Knocks podcast.

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