5 Risky NBA Trades That Could Actually Work

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 21, 2022

5 Risky NBA Trades That Could Actually Work

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    We've already seen some risk-filled NBA trades this offseason, with teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves trading away first-round picks five and even seven years down the line in order to acquire win-now help.

    Of course, adding players like Dejounte Murray and Rudy Gobert can completely change the trajectory of a franchise, even with the enormous amount of risk involved.

    So what swing-for-the-fence deals will come next?

    Be it taking a gamble on a talented yet part-time star like Kyrie Irving or Ben Simmons, going all-in for a player like Kevin Durant or Donovan Mitchell or the Lakers finally parting with those 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, these five risky trades could end up working out for everyone involved.

Miami Heat Take a Gamble with Kyrie Irving

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    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    Miami Heat Receive: PG Kyrie Irving, PF Day'Ron Sharpe

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: PG Kyle Lowry, G/F Duncan Robinson, F Max Strus

    If the Nets want to end the Kyrie Irving experiment but aren't interested in taking back Russell Westbrook from the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat may be the only team willing to swing a deal.

    Irving and Jimmy Butler became close at the 2016 Summer Olympics, with Butler later declaring on national TV that Irving was his favorite player and the one he would most want to team up with.

    From a pure talent standpoint, swapping Lowry for Irving is a huge win for Miami, a team that finished 12th overall in offense last season (113.0 rating) despite being an elite defensive unit. Irving may be at his best this season, knowing he's going into unrestricted free agency as well.

    The Heat should have interest in Sharpe after losing starting power forward P.J. Tucker to the Philadelphia 76ers in free agency, as the 20-year-old showed strong rebounding and shot-blocking skills as a rookie.

    For Brooklyn, Lowry provides much-needed stabilization at the point guard position and could help convince Kevin Durant to drop his trade request. Even at age 36, his 7.5 assists per game last season tied for the third-highest mark of his career. Lowry can still be a complementary scorer, is a strong three-point shooter and brings 107 games of playoff experience.

    Robinson and Strus add two more wing threats around Durant that can space the floor and knock down open threes at a high clip.

    The Nets go from one part-time player to getting three starters/rotation pieces who can help Durant continue to compete for championships in Brooklyn without all the off-court distractions.

Lakers Give Up Future for Win-Now Help

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    Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG Mike Conley, SG Malik Beasley, F Bojan Bogdanovic

    Utah Jazz Receive: 2027 and 2029 first-round picks (top-5 protected), SG Talen Horton-Tucker, Russell Westbrook (to be bought out)

    If the Lakers are tired of haggling with the Brooklyn Nets about compensation in a potential Kyrie Irving-Russell Westbrook swap, or if the Nets end up trading Irving to the Miami Heat, L.A. should be happy to do business with Utah instead.

    There's simply no way the Lakers can compete for a title next season with Westbrook as the team's starting point guard, even if LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Westbrook are supposedly committed to making it work, per Yahoo's Chris Haynes. The West is way too good, and these Lakers are way too thin, especially with so many odd-fitting pieces.

    L.A. needs to capitalize on a potential Jazz firesale, even if it means giving up their coveted future firsts.

    Conley would be an upgrade at point guard, the perfect steady hand to run the offense, get guys into sets and knock down open threes (40.8 percent from deep last season). Bogdanovic (18.1 points, 38.7 percent from three) and Beasley (12.1 points, 37.7 percent from three) would be terrific complementary shooters to place around James and Davis.

    A starting five of Conley, Beasley, James, Bogdanovic and Davis would actually give the Lakers a chance to compete this season, especially with players like Lonnie Walker IV, Kendrick Nunn, Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones providing this team with some real depth.

    The Jazz seem to be on a mission to stockpile future first-round picks following the trades of Rudy Gobert and Royce O'Neale and should be happy to pick up a few more from Los Angeles now.

    While Westbrook and his expiring $47.1 million contract would likely come to a buyout agreement with Utah, the Jazz could see what the 21-year-old Horton-Tucker could do in a larger role.

    Utah gets off the final year of Conley's contract next season ($24.3 million, $14.3 million guaranteed) and adds a pair of future firsts to its already impressive collection.

    Note: This trade could not be completed until August 31 when Beasley can be aggregated in a trade.

Hawks Build Elite Defense with Ben Simmons

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Atlanta Hawks Receive: G/F Ben Simmons

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: F/C John Collins, G/F Bogdan Bogdanovic

    The Hawks were awful defensively last season, ranking 26th overall with a 113.7 rating. The trade for Dejounte Murray helped address the need for an elite backcourt defender and additional ball-handler, but Atlanta should still be looking for more buy-low defensive help to put around Trae Young.

    Simmons is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward player due to his back issues and sour relationship with his former Philadelphia 76ers team. However, he is still a three-time All-Star and second-place finisher in Defensive Player of the Year voting who just turned 26.

    Building a defense around Young that features Simmons, Murray, De'Andre Hunter, Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu would suddenly make the Hawks one of the best in the NBA, given the amount of size, length and versatility next to the superstar point guard.

    For a Nets team that's extremely thin up front, adding a 24-year-old Collins with four years left on his contract would be a terrific complement to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, or whatever is left of this Brooklyn roster when the summer's over. Bogdanovic (15.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists) can thrive as a starter or a sixth man.

    A lineup of Irving, Seth Curry, Bogdanovic, Durant and Collins would be impossible to stop offensively, especially with players like Cam Thomas, Joe Harris, T.J. Warren, Royce O'Neale and Patty Mills coming off the bench.

Donovan Mitchell Speeds Up the Cavs Rebuild

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SG Donovan Mitchell, F Rudy Gay

    Utah Jazz Receive: SG Collin Sexton, G/F Ochai Agbaji, F Lauri Markkanen, F Isaac Okoro, 2025 and 2027 first-round picks, 2024 and 2026 first-round pick swap rights

    Although the New York Knicks can make a much more pick-heavy offer for Mitchell, the Cavs have a better base of young talent they can present to the Jazz.

    Sexton, 23, thrived as a No. 1 offensive option (24.3 points and 4.4 assists per game on 47.5 percent shooting) just two years ago and could slide into Mitchell's starting shooting guard role in Utah. The Jazz have already expressed interest in acquiring the restricted free agent via sign-and-trade per Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer.

    Agbaji was Cleveland's lottery pick last month after winning the 2022 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Meanwhile, Okoro was the fifth overall pick in 2020 who carries elite defensive potential and made 51.6 percent of his threes over his final 18 games last season. Markkanen, 25, is another former lottery pick who still fits a rebuilding timeline and can play either forward position.

    In addition to these four young players, Cleveland sends its next two available first-round picks in 2025 and 2027, as well as the swap rights to first-rounders in 2024 and 2026. Utah gets off the final two years of Gay's contract as well.

    For the Cavs, a backcourt of Garland and Mitchell could be one of the best in the NBA. Garland, fresh off signing a max extension, is under contract for the next six years, while Mitchell, 25, has four years left on his deal (three guaranteed with a player option).

    If there are any defensive questions surrounding this 6'1" backcourt, a twin-tower combo of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen can make up for a lot of leaks with their athleticism and elite rim protection.

    Cleveland's starting five of Garland, Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Mobley and Allen would all be 21-to-27 years of age and still have a strong bench of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, Gay and Robin Lopez.

    The Cavs take a big risk in giving up so many young players and picks for Mitchell, although what was a fun surprise of a team last year now has the makings of a powerhouse in the East.

    Note: This trade could not be complete until after August 1 due to Agbaji's rookie contract signing.

Suns Go All-In for Kevin Durant

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    Set Number: X163594 TK1

    Phoenix Suns Receive: F Kevin Durant

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: SF Mikal Bridges, PF Cameron Johnson, PF Jae Crowder, 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 unprotected first-round picks, 2028 first-round pick swap rights, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028 and 2029 second-round picks

    The Suns matching an offer sheet to bring back Deandre Ayton means a trade for Durant is dead, right?

    It certainly shouldn't be, as Phoenix can still cobble enough salaries together along with a massive collection of draft picks to offer for the 33-year-old superstar.

    A core of Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Ayton is easily the best in the NBA and would be the favorites to win titles for the foreseeable future. All would also be under contract for the next three years or more.

    The Suns would still have enough role players to fill around its stars (Landry Shamet, Cameron Payne, Dario Saric, Torrey Craig, Damion Lee, Bismack Biyombo, Josh Okogie), even if there wouldn't be many future picks to upgrade the roster.

    Obviously, the trade market for Durant isn't what the Nets would have hoped for, or else a deal would have been done by now, meaning a package headlined by Bridges, Johnson and a boatload of picks could be the best offer the Nets may get.

    Bridges, 25, is one of the elite wing defenders in the NBA and under contract for the next four years. Johnson, 26, is coming off a career-best season (12.5 points on 42.5 percent shooting from three) and has one year remaining on his rookie deal before becoming a restricted free agent.

    Neither represents the All-Star player return the Nets are probably hoping for, but Phoenix can make up for that in draft selections.

    Brooklyn receives four completely unprotected first-round picks, the right to swap a first-rounder and another seven second-round selections, bringing the pick control total to 12 overall.

    This gives the Nets a roster that still features enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in the East this season and the draft capital necessary to go chase a star when one becomes available.


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