New 3-Team NBA Trades Where Everyone Wins
The Donovan Mitchell trade would make a perfectly fine ending to a wild 2022 offseason. After a weeks-long stalemate between the Utah Jazz and New York Knicks, he's now a Cleveland Cavalier, the Jazz rebuild is officially on and the Knicks are leaking their disappointment in the whole process to the media like a spurned ex posting on social media.
There may be a few more moves left in the chamber for Utah, though. With Mitchell and Rudy Gobert gone, there's really no reason for veterans like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanović and Jordan Clarkson to be there.
The Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs are either already in or could be in a similar situation. They're also seemingly angling for ping pong balls for the 2023 lottery, which should make Myles Turner, Buddy Hield and Jakob Pöltl available.
Oh, and of course, there's the whole Russell Westbrook situation. A return to the Los Angeles Lakers felt dubious even before the acquisition of Patrick Beverley. Both can say all the right things now, but Bev's presence in L.A. has to put Russ' future there deeper in doubt.
With all of the above sort of floating in and around the rumor mill, a number of three-team trade possibilities are in play, which is exactly what we're looking at here.
Hornets Go All In for LaMelo
Jazz Receive: T.J. McConnell, James Bouknight and a 2027 first-round pick from Charlotte (top-five protected)
Hornets Receive: Jordan Clarkson, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield
Pacers Receive: Gordon Hayward, Mason Plumlee, a 2023 first-round pick from Charlotte (via Denver), a 2025 first-round pick from Charlotte and a 2026 second-round pick from Utah (via Memphis)
Why the Jazz Do It...
Danny Ainge has driven hard bargains for his veterans throughout the summer, and it paid off in both the Gobert and Mitchell trades. If he can get firsts for Jordan Clarkson, Conley and Bogdanović (according to ESPN's Zach Lowe, the Jazz feel each is worth a first), Utah will be among the summer's biggest winners.
James Bouknight was a first-round pick just last year, and though he had a dreadful rookie season, it's probably too early to give up on him. On a team suddenly loaded with young talent, Bouknight may have a better chance to prove that he's NBA-worthy.
T.J. McConnell being under contract through 2024-25 may not be ideal, but he's in for salary-matching purposes, and his salary that season ($9.3 million) is easily manageable. Plus, teardowns like the one Utah is orchestrating are often benefited by the presence of at least one or two veterans for leadership.
This deal is all about getting another first-round pick, though. It's a ways off and protected, but this is solid value for a heat-check scorer who's had well-below-average true shooting percentages in each of the last two seasons.
Why the Hornets Do It...
Three first-round picks, a player you drafted last season and two veterans is a steep price to pay, but this return should put the Hornets firmly in the playoff hunt.
Mason Plumlee, particularly as a passer, may have become a bit underrated over the last few years, but Myles Turner is an upgrade at the 5 and is six years younger. His three-point shooting would pull opposing bigs away from the paint, making it easier for LaMelo Ball to slash. And on the other end, his rim protection would be a welcome addition for a team that ranked 20th last season.
The next swap is having Buddy Hield in place of Gordon Hayward. On paper, Hayward is the more versatile player, but he's averaged fewer than 50 appearances per season over the last three years. And FiveThirtyEight's player projections estimates that Hield will be worth about three times as much as Hayward over the next half-decade.
He's one of the best high-volume three-point shooters in NBA history, and the more shooting you can put around LaMelo, the better.
And finally, there's the upgrade with Clarkson in place of Bouknight. There may be a bit of redundancy with him and Terry Rozier, but Clarkson's instant offense can put opposing bench units on the ropes.
Is all of that worth three first-round picks?
Charlotte already has its star (and potential superstar) in LaMelo. That alone probably puts the team's first-rounders for the foreseeable future outside the top five, and those picks are ultimately shots in the dark.
Instead of rolling those dice every year, this deal improves the Hornets at three rotation spots and probably makes them more intriguing for other difference-makers down the road.
Why the Pacers Do It...
If last season's Domantas Sabonis deal didn't already do this, trading Hield and Turner for picks would certainly signal Indiana's commitment to the Victor Wembanyama (or Scoot Henderson) sweepstakes.
Replacing good players with future picks will almost certainly add losses and boost those lottery odds.
Of course, having to pay Hayward $31.5 million in 2023-24 would be far from ideal for a team in that situation, but the organization could sell that as a homecoming. And Hayward and Tyrese Haliburton probably aren't pulling the Pacers out of contention for top picks.
Plumlee, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of player who makes sense in this context, thanks to his expiring contract and the fact that he'll likely be worse than Turner in 2022-23.
Hawks Get Even Weirder, While the Nets Double Down
Nets Receive: John Collins, Eric Gordon and Maurice Harkless
Hawks Receive: Ben Simmons, David Nwaba and Edmond Sumner
Rockets Receive: Jalen Johnson, Day'Ron Sharpe and a 2023 first-round pick from Brooklyn
Why the Nets Do It...
The Brooklyn Nets will probably want to see how Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant fit together before they do anything drastic, but it's not hard to imagine the trio struggling to work together.
Simmons has spent his entire career on the ball, and now he's heading into a situation with two of the most prolific isolation scorers of all time. As the old saying goes, "there's only one ball."
Replacing Simmons for someone who may be slightly less talented but is more accustomed to working off of ball-dominant stars makes sense, and John Collins brings an intriguing combination of rim-running and outside shooting ability.
Add another floor spacer in Eric Gordon and an established veteran on the wing in Maurice Harkless, and this deal starts to become fairly obvious from Brooklyn's perspective.
Why the Hawks Do It...
Things get weird pretty quickly when thinking about this from the Hawks perspective, but it makes some sense as a pure talent play.
Before missing all of last season, Simmons had totaled 2,217 rebounds and 2,127 assists in 275 career games. Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson are the only players in league history who matched or exceeded both marks in their first 275 appearances.
With his size, vision and unselfishness, Simmons is one of the more unique playmakers we've ever seen. And he has All-Defense upside on the other end.
Of course, the same concern about ball dominance exists here, but Trae Young and Dejounte Murray are more willing passers than KD and Kyrie. And lineups with all three would feature more playmaking ability than any other group in the league can bring.
And defensively, Murray and Simmons might make up the best perimeter duo.
There would be serious concerns about spacing (it'd help if Edmond Sumner could recreate his 39.8 three-point percentage from 2020-21). Long term, putting Simmons in the frontcourt with a stretch big would probably be necessary. But right away, this team would be a nightmare in transition, and the ball-hawking of David Nwaba, Murray, Onyeka Okongwu and Simmons could create a lot of those open-floor opportunities.
Why the Rockets Do It...
And though a first-rounder this coming summer from a team with Durant and Irving may not be in the lottery, that alone should be enough for Gordon (33 years old) and Nwaba (29).
Neither fits Houston's timeline. This deal gives them three pieces who do.
Jazz and Spurs Help the Lakers End the Russ Era
Lakers Receive: Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanović and Doug McDermott
Jazz Receive: Russell Westbrook (to be bought out), Jakob Pöltl, a 2027 first-round pick from L.A. and a 2029 first-round pick from L.A.
Spurs Receive: A 2025 second-round pick from Utah, a 2025 second-round pick from L.A. and a 2026 second-round pick from Utah
Why the Lakers Do It...
Earlier this month, Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus reported, "As of now, competing executives aren't sure the Lakers will send away one future first-round pick, let alone two, to get out of Westbrook's contract unless the return package substantially improves the team."
Well, this is a deal that substantially improves the team.
Perhaps most importantly, it ends the Westbrook era. That alone makes the team better. Everyone outside the Lakers front office seemed to know he would be a bad fit. And sure enough, he was.
But this isn't just addition by subtraction. Success with LeBron James is often contingent on how much shooting is around him. This trade adds three high-end floor spacers.
Over the last two seasons, Conley, Bogdanović and Doug McDermott have combined to shoot 40.0 percent from deep. And though 30-year-old McDermott is the youngest of that bunch, the Lakers shouldn't be overly concerned with maintaining a young core.
When you have LeBron on your team, particularly as he approaches 40, win-now moves are a given.
Surrounding him and Anthony Davis should be the top priority, and this trade addresses it.
Why the Jazz Do It...
Utah is clearly in asset accumulation mode, and this package fits that billing.
If the Lakers aren't willing to pull the trigger for Conley and Bogdanović alone, a little extra shooting from McDermott could push them over the edge.
If it costs two seconds from the Jazz to get San Antonio to the table, so be it. The front office can sell itself and the fans by saying it's upgrading those two picks rather than giving them up.
Westbrook would, of course, be bought out in this scenario. He'd then be free to sign with whatever team might have some interest in him. And while Jakob Pöltl doesn't fit Utah's rebuilding timeline, he's on an expiring contract (would the team entertain buying out two veterans?).
Why the Spurs Do It...
Like Indiana and Utah, the Spurs should be (and likely are) in the market for losses. Replacing Pöltl and McDermott with future picks accomplishes that.
Of course, the team might be hesitant to surrender the big man without getting a first. Maybe an additional second or a young player from Utah might be enough to get it done.
Regardless, neither Spurs veteran figures to be around when the team is good again. Getting something for them now makes sense.