Trade Ideas for NBA Buyers and Sellers
NBA trade season is upon us.
Come Dec. 15, the floodgates could open, as players who signed contracts this season first become trade-eligible. Couple that with sample sizes now large enough to be relatively trusted, and market conditions could be perfect for a flurry of activity.
But who wants to wait that long? With a quarter of the 2022-23 campaign already in the books, we already have a good of sense of who the NBA's buyers and sellers will be. So, why not link a few of them together with a fresh batch of trade ideas?
Kings Deal for Defense and Depth, Spurs Add More Assets
Sacramento Kings receive: Josh Richardson
San Antonio Spurs receive: Richaun Holmes, 2023 second-round pick and 2024 second-round pick
It's early, but the Kings look decent. Maybe even pretty good. Their 115.9 offensive rating ranks fourth overall. Their .591 winning percentage is their highest since 2004-05, back before their record-setting playoff drought started.
If they've ever had incentive to buy, the time is now. Especially when their 18th-ranked defense, while not totally terrible, is leaky enough to potentially prevent them from reaching their goals.
Snagging a perimeter stopper like Richardson would make plenty of sense, particularly if the price proved as reasonable as this.
He's pesky on the ball and a pest away from it. He is long enough to bother wings and quick enough to keep in front of guards. He can spark transition plays with steals or an occasional block. Offensively, he can find his fit as a spot-up shooter (career 36.5 percent from three) and secondary ball-handler.
Richardson, who turned 29 in September, has plenty to offer a winning team. Since San Antonio is temporarily no longer in the business of winning basketball, the club should have no hesitation about shipping him out before he heads to unrestricted free agency next summer.
The Spurs would have to take back Richaun Holmes, who doesn't fit their timeline and is overpaid, but adding a pair of second-rounders for their troubles should make it worth it for this future-focused franchise.
Warriors Upgrade Offense, Jazz Play the Long Game
Golden State Warriors receive: Kelly Olynyk
Utah Jazz receive: James Wiseman and Ryan Rollins
The Warriors have started turning the corner of late, but the front office shouldn't take this as a sign of the roster suddenly being championship-ready. They're only getting so more cracks at expanding their championship collection with an in-prime Stephen Curry; they have to make sure they count.
That's why a James Wiseman deal feels increasingly inevitable. The No. 2 pick of the 2020 draft lasted just 10 games as a rotation regular and was banished to the G League shortly thereafter. He cannot, in his present form, help this club chase another ring.
Kelly Olynyk could, though.
His steady shooting, slick passing and sky-high basketball IQ would make him a seamless fit in this offense. He has played above his head so far, but even when regression comes for the 31-year-old, he'd have plenty to give Golden State in a reserve role. The second unit has badly needed ball movement—which is why Draymond Green has been such an impactful addition to it—and you could argue that's the strongest part of Olynyk's arsenal.
He has some deficiencies on defense, and they are probably damaging enough to keep him from ever sniffing Golden State's closing group. For the biggest Wiseman believers in the Warriors front office, shipping him out for a non-star, non-closer would be rough. Still, there is no arguing against Olynyk being substantially more helpful to the current club than the outgoing package here.
As for Utah, Jazz fans might scoff at the notion this club should do any kind of selling this trade season. That's fine. The Jazz have obviously exceeded expectations this season, and it's fun to let yourself get caught up in the hype.
Here's the reality, though: Since starting the season on a 10-3 tear, the Jazz are 4-9 with the 20th-ranked net rating over that stretch (minus-1.4). Their roster is deep, but it lacks the high-end talent needed for postseason success. Their defense, which ranks 25th on the season, looms like a fatal flaw any worthwhile playoff opponent could exploit.
The Jazz don't necessarily have to lean into a tear-down, but they should realize their future trumps their present. At the very least, flipping a replacement-level veteran like Olynyk for a pair of long-term, potential-rich prospects feels like a no-brainer.
Lakers Trade for Depth, Magic Add Pick, Flexibility
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac and R.J. Hampton
Orlando Magic receive: Russell Westbrook and 2027 first-round pick
Each Purple and Gold-hued pipe dream seems more outlandish than the last. Most recently, word leaked via The Athletic's Sam Amick that the Lakers thought they might have a shot to pry Shai Gilgeous-Alexander away from the Oklahoma City Thunder (h/t Silver Screen & Roll).
Obviously, L.A. thinks it has enough trade assets to nab a star. Also obvious, this trade doesn't deliver a star. So why would the Lakers consider it?
Because star power isn't the problem. Anthony Davis suddenly looks better than ever—99 points, 27 rebounds and six blocks over his last two outings—and any age-related decline experienced by LeBron James gets a million times less scary if he can finally serve as AD's co-star, not the other way around.
With those two leading the charge, the Lakers need reliable role players, and this deal might deliver as many as four.
To be fair, only two are certainties for now. Gary Harris is the best part of the incoming package, as he masters the three-and-D role that works so well alongside James and Davis. Terrence Ross, meanwhile, can be hit or miss on defense, but he's ignitable on offense. Both Harris and Ross are shooting better than 39 percent from three.
Each could easily handle 20-plus minutes per night for the Lakers. Harris would probably force his way into the closing lineup, too. What could make things really interesting, though, is if one or both of Jonathan Isaac and R.J. Hampton panned out.
Now, the odds aren't great. Isaac has been working his way back from a knee injury since August 2020. Hampton has just 136 games under his belt and has yet to fill an important role for a winning team. Neither should be counted on for much of anything, but if everything breaks right, Isaac is a five-position defender and Hampton is an athletic, downhill attacking combo guard.
The Magic, meanwhile, might not have any of the four outgoing players in their plans at this point. Ross is 31 and Harris is 28, so they don't really fit the overall team timeline. Orlando is two-plus seasons removed from getting a game out of Isaac, so it's hard to paint him as any sort of essential. Hampton struggles to find floor time when this backcourt group is healthy.
Rather than ship one or two out for moderately valuable assets, Orlando could shoot for the moon with this 2027 first-rounder. James will be long gone from L.A. by then, and Davis might be a Hollywood memory, too. If the Magic could obtain the pick with zero protection, it would instantly become one of the top trade chips around. That's a big enough prize to stomach Russell Westbrook's salary long enough for the two sides to settle on a buyout agreement.
Wizards Make Their Push, Bulls Look Toward Future
Washington Wizards receive: DeMar DeRozan
Chicago Bulls receive: Will Barton, Rui Hachimura, Johnny Davis and future first-round pick (top-five protected)
You could make the argument—a pretty good one—that the Wizards have no business buying this trade season. They've dropped six of their last seven games, and they weren't exactly world-beaters before this stretch.
And yet, this seems too soon for Washington to abandon ship. If the franchise wanted a do-over, it could have orchestrated one well before giving Bradley Beal a quarter-billion dollars this offseason.
This group feels new enough that you can at least entertain the idea that it might be capable of more. Beal hasn't played a ton of minutes alongside Kristaps Porziņģis and Kyle Kuzma yet, and the floor time together has been mostly encouraging (plus-5.1 net rating over 397 minutes this season).
"It's been great because me, Brad and KP don't get in each other's way," Kuzma told The Athletic's Shams Charania. "We all just flow out there. It's been a pretty good jell for the first 20 games. We're all averaging 20 a game without having any friction out there."
That's a solid trio (when everyone is healthy), but it feels a little lacking for top-shelf talent. Drop DeMar DeRozan in there, though, and now the narrative is much different.
DeRozan and Beal can copilot the offense, and both are good enough passers to make sure the others stay involved, too. There are defensive concerns, sure, but the offense might be good enough to overcome them. Plus, the four feel flexible enough to take on different looks in different matchups. The fifth spot could go to a table-setter like Monte Morris, a stopper like Deni Avdija or a sharpshooter like Corey Kispert.
That team could be fun. Maybe fun enough to snag a top-six seed in the East. That feels like a big enough reward for the Wizards to take the plunge.
The Bulls, on the other hand, feel like they're running on fumes. Maybe a healthy Lonzo Ball could pull them out of their funk, but who has any clue when we'll see him on the hardwood again? Their offense is depressingly bad (26th in efficiency), their Big Three too often steps on one another's toes, and there's zero indication a leap from Patrick Williams is happening any time soon. Or at all.
Chicago could be ready for a change, and this deal would start to sketch out some long-term direction. Rui Hachimura is a really skilled scorer, Johnny Davis is still only a few months removed from being the 10th overall pick, and the draft pick would help fill some of the void created by previous deals. Will Barton is a serviceable role player or a chip for a separate swap should the Bulls torpedo into a tank job in hopes of saving the top-four-protected pick they owe the Orlando Magic.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.