With most of the restrictions on recently signed players lifted, the NBA is officially in its annual trade season. As is seemingly the case every year, that season has been ushered in by a wave of trade rumors.
Russell Westbrook's name has been bandied about for months, and it remains in the rumor mill today. John Collins has seemingly been on the trade block since before he signed an extension, and the Atlanta Hawks "are merely asking for a quality player in return (and not a first-round pick)" for him, according to The Athletic's Sam Amick.
Bojan Bogdanović figures to be a name you'll hear a lot between now and the deadline since he doesn't fit the Detroit Pistons' rebuilding timeline. And despite the Indiana Pacers' better-than-expected 2022-23 campaign, deals involving Myles Turner and Buddy Hield probably shouldn't be ruled out, either.
Instead of finding (or concocting) individual trades involving all of the above, we came up with a way to include them in a single trade.
As is the case with any fake trade, any haggling is welcome. More picks or young players could be involved. You may want to redirect a prospect or future asset one way or another. That's the fun of a made-up deal.
However, this general framework accomplishes something for every team involved.
A more thorough explanation of why each team would say yes can be found further down, but it helps to be able to see everything in one glance.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Myles Turner and Bogdan Bogdanović
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Bojan Bogdanović, Buddy Hield and Alec Burks
Detroit Pistons Receive: John Collins, Jalen Johnson and Max Christie
Indiana Pacers Receive: Russell Westbrook (to likely be bought out), Frank Kaminsky, a 2027 first-round pick from Los Angeles and a 2029 first-round pick from Los Angeles
L.A. Goes All-In for LeBron
Lakers Receive: Myles Turner and Bogdan Bogdanović
Lakers Lose: Russell Westbrook, Max Christie, a 2027 first-round pick and a 2029 first-round pick
With the Lakers still below .500 and the top of the West looking increasingly out of reach, it would make sense if the team's front office hung on to the few assets it can trade.
But LeBron James continues to express his desire to compete with this team, and his play this season (especially recently) more than backs that up.
LeBron continues to dominate Father Time (even if the ad campaign occasionally gives that opponent the edge), but he and his career aren't immortal. At some point, his window for title contention will shut. The Lakers need to do all they can to delay that moment.
Moving Russell Westbrook's contract, the oft-discussed 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and a prospect in Max Christie can help them do just that.
This deal would give L.A. one of the game's top three-and-D centers in Myles Turner, who's averaging a career-high 17.4 points, 2.3 blocks and 1.5 threes per game while shooting 39.0 percent from deep. He's a reliable anchor on one end, and he won't clog the paint for LeBron's drives or Anthony Davis' post touches on the other.
His presence would also allow AD to spend more time at his preferred position, the 4, where he won't have to bang inside with some of the West's bruising centers. If that increases the likelihood of Davis being healthy for the playoffs, all the better.
Perhaps just as intriguing as the addition of Turner is the inclusion of Bogdan Bogdanović. He checks a few boxes, one of which isn't checked by Buddy Hield, Turner's current teammate and a longtime rumored Laker target.
First, Bogdanović adds some much-needed shooting (the Lakers are 25th and well below average in team three-point percentage), but he can also create a bit off the dribble. As we've seen with Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving, LeBron having a teammate who can occasionally give him a break as the primary creator helps.
Adding that versatility to lineups that include Turner, AD and James would give the Lakers a high-end starting five. With what's left of the bench, there's no guarantee that foursome would push for a title, but it would certainly get L.A. closer than it currently is.
Atlanta Surrounds Trae Young with Shooting
Hawks Receive: Bojan Bogdanović, Buddy Hield and Alec Burks
Hawks Lose: John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanović, Jalen Johnson and Frank Kaminsky
The recent revelation that Atlanta is willing to move Collins for less than a first-round pick helps with this scenario. And it's maybe not all that surprising. After years in the rumor mill, Collins is averaging 13.1 points (his lowest mark since his rookie season) and posting a career-low effective field-goal percentage.
What may be most concerning is that his three-point percentage has taken a nosedive from 37.6 percent over his first five seasons to 22.8 in 2022-23.
Replacing him with the volume and shooting that Bojan Bogdanović is currently providing the Pistons (a career-high 21.2 points and 2.4 threes on 41.5 percent shooting from deep) is kind of a no-brainer, but it doesn't explain the inclusion of 21-year-old Jalen Johnson, veteran Frank Kaminsky and Atlanta's own Bogdanović (who, at 30, is older than people realize).
This deal allows Atlanta to overhaul its rotation between the high-usage guards (Trae Young and Dejounte Murray) and a pair of bigs that do most of their damage inside (Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu).
Like Bojan, Buddy Hield and Alec Burks both bring shooting with them to the Hawks, who currently have a bottom-10 offense. Infusing the rotation with three 40-plus-percent three-point shooters and spreading the floor for Young- (or Murray-) led pick-and-rolls with Capela and Okongwu would make Atlanta's offense far more dynamic.
While there is some intrigue with Johnson, and Bogdan Bogdanović has had some moments with the Hawks, this move would raise Atlanta's short-term ceiling. Following the win-now acquisition of Murray this past offseason, that should be the Hawks' main focus.
Detroit Swaps Veterans for Youth
Pistons Receive: John Collins, Jalen Johnson and Max Christie
Pistons Lose: Bojan Bogdanović and Alec Burks
Bojan Bogdanović and Burks have both played well enough this season to return some real value to the Pistons, should they decide to steer even further into the rebuild and pursuit of Victor Wembanyama. (Side note: They should.) If Detroit is insistent on first-round picks for either or both of Bogdanović and Burks, this deal might be dead on arrival.
Having said that, a flurry of trades over the last several years means a lot of first-round picks throughout the league are already spoken for. This particular trade package would still add young talent (and probably some pingpong balls for the lottery).
Collins has been in the league for a while, but he's still only 25 years old. That's shy of his prime and eight years younger than Bogdanović. And playing with a less ball-dominant setup man like Cade Cunningham (when he returns in 2023-24) could help Collins recapture the 20-and-10 form he had in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
As for Johnson, his time at Duke and in the NBA has been underwhelming, but he's only three years removed from being one of the top high school recruits in the country. He has good size for a combo forward (6'9" with a 7'0" wingspan) and has shown flashes of playmaking potential. Detroit could be the perfect place for Johnson to explore his potential.
And finally, there's Max Christie. He's included because it didn't feel like the Pistons were getting enough for two difference-making veterans before his inclusion.
Christie, a second-round pick who failed to average double figures in his lone season in college, might not have off-the-charts upside. But he has good size for a wing (6'6" with a nearly 6'9" wingspan) and is 19-of-45 (42.2 percent) from three for the Lakers.
Indiana Gears Up for the Future
Pacers Receive: Russell Westbrook (to likely be bought out), Frank Kaminsky, a 2027 first-round pick from Los Angeles and a 2029 first-round pick from Los Angeles
Pacers Lose: Myles Turner and Buddy Hield
The Pacers have been one of this season's best and most entertaining stories. Third-year guard Tyrese Haliburton has a case to be an All-Star starter, and Indiana is plus-5.4 points per 100 possessions when he shares the floor with Turner and Hield.
Removing two of the Pacers' top veterans could send them spiraling down the standings, but let's be honest, they probably aren't going to compete for a title with those two.
There's plenty of value in being a good, entertaining team, especially in a smaller market. But sacrificing that for what could be two prime picks—LeBron will be well into his 40s by the time the first one conveys—would make sense for the Pacers.
Haliburton will be on the verge of his prime in 2027. Indiana could use that draft to supplement its young core, or it could redirect one or both of the Lakers picks to another team in a star trade.
This deal also adds a little flexibility to Indiana's cap sheet. It would no longer be on the hook for Hield, who's owed $19.3 million in 2023-24.
If he isn't bought out right after the deal, Westbrook's contract will expire this summer. Ditto for Frank Kaminsky.
It's sad to think about Westbrook's career progressing that way, but we've been headed in this direction for a while. The Pacers are the team that can justify getting us there.