NBA Trade Ideas to Blow Up the 2023 Playoff Race
The NBA trade market is a bit out of whack because of several factors.
The first factor is the play-in tournament. As it stands, two-thirds of the NBA qualifies for the postseason. That's making teams wait longer to see if they can work their way into the tournament and possibly the playoffs before trading an important piece.
The other factor stems from the Rudy Gobert trade to Minnesota. The Timberwolves paid such a steep price for Gobert that other teams have an elevated valuation of their own players. Some of it is posturing, and some of it is just irrational.
Several teams have also made trades using future picks, leaving them with little to no draft equity to make another trade happen.
This trade deadline could be a dud if teams are unwilling to lower their asking prices. Not everyone is worth an unprotected first-round pick. Just because Minnesota overpaid for Gobert does not mean every other team will.
With that in mind, here are some trade ideas for teams looking to contend for a championship this season.
Memphis Grizzlies Take a Huge Swing
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: O.G. Anunoby
Toronto Raptors Receive: Danny Green, David Roddy, 2023 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick (via GSW), 2025 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
The Toronto Raptors are at a crossroads. At the time of writing this, they are five games below .500 and just outside the play-in tournament. The overall vibe around the team has not been good, and teams are watching to see if they blow it up and build around Scottie Barnes.
At the same time, the Western Conference is there for the taking. It's the perfect time for the Grizzlies to swing big with a cupboard full of assets and a ticking clock as this roster becomes more expensive.
Memphis has all of its own picks, plus a Golden State Warriors selection that is top-four protected in 2024, top-one protected in 2025 or unprotected in 2026. They also have the expiring contract of Danny Green to help facilitate a trade as well as a ton of young talent.
Should the Raptors choose to blow it up, the Grizzlies need to not hesitate putting together a package for O.G. Anunoby. Several iterations of this trade work, but using Green as a core piece to help make the money match up is key. The Raptors could ask for any young player from David Roddy, Ziaire Williams, Jake LaRavia or Jon Konchar as well.
The three draft picks are the true prize of the deal, especially the heavily protected Warriors selection. That could be an added lottery pick as early as the 2024 draft.
It's a really nice haul to receive three draft picks for a player who has a year-and-a-half left on his deal (not including a player option for 2024-25).
For the Grizzlies, it's more than just adding Anunoby; it would also give them insurance as Dillion Brooks enters unrestricted free agency next offseason.
Denver Nuggets Get a Backup Big
Denver Nuggets Receive: Isaiah Hartenstein
New York Knicks Receive: 2024 second-round pick, 2025 second-round pick
The Denver Nuggets sit at the top of the Western Conference by a very thin margin and have a serious need for a backup center.
The numbers are screaming this yet again. Nikola Jokić has a 23.2-point net-rating swing (plus-12.6 when he's on; minus-10.6 when he's off). The Nuggets cannot go into the playoffs with that continuing to be an issue.
Isaiah Hartenstein would be the perfect big man behind Jokić. He had a short stint with Denver in the 2020-21 season, so there is some familiarity. Playing in the second unit, he would begin to shrink that massive swing the Nuggets experience, and he also fits within Denver's trade exception from the Monte Morris and Will Barton trade over the offseason.
So the question is: Why would the Knicks make this trade?
The trade would make them thin at center, but the Knicks should look to spread his minutes around. Give more minutes to Jericho Sims, whose per-36 numbers are comparable to Hartenstein's. Experiment with playing Obi Toppin and Julius Randle. Playing small would not be a bad idea for New York.
This is an asset play for the Knicks. Hartenstein has been fine averaging just below 20 minutes per game and has a slightly positive net rating. He's not good enough to fetch a first-round pick, but collecting draft assets is the better play for New York than being a buyer at this season's trade deadline.
The Knicks are loaded with several young players and draft assets to be players in the next chase for a star who becomes disgruntled. This trade would just add to their asset cupboard.
Be sellers, Knicks—not buyers.
3 Teams Fixing Issues
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Pascal Siakam, Robin Lopez, Dalano Banton
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Juancho Hernangómez
Toronto Raptors Receive: Kevin Love, Christian Wood, Josh Green, 2023 second-round pick (CLE), 2025 first-round pick (DAL), 2027 first-round pick (DAL)
Three-team trades are difficult to pull off regardless of the situation. There are two caveats to this trade.
The first one is the assumption the Raptors are going into a rebuild. And the second is that the Mavericks take back the protections on their lottery-protected 2023 pick to the New York Knicks so they can trade unprotected first-rounders in 2025 and 2027. Assuming both those caveats are met, this three-team trade can help all involved.
For the Raptors, they are getting massive cap relief with the contracts of Kevin Love and Christian Wood expiring this season, both of whom fit a need for an actual center. More importantly, they will get two unprotected draft picks from the Mavericks as well as a 22-year-old player in Josh Green who has shown flashes this season. He has grown as a three-point shooter in limited minutes, connecting on 44.4 percent of his 2.2 attempts per game.
Cleveland is limited with assets after making the Donovan Mitchell trade. The best asset is the expiring contract of Love. That will not be available to the Cavaliers after the trade deadline, and they currently have a massive hole at the 3 spot.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is an upgrade over Isaac Okoro offensively and will require defensive attention, opening up more space for Mitchell and Darius Garland. Another added bonus: Hardaway has two more years on his deal after this season, providing insurance should Caris LeVert leave in the offseason.
For the Mavericks, this a huge gamble similar to the one they made for Kristaps Porziņģis. The difference is, Pascal Siakam has been much healthier over his career and will give the Mavs not just a second offensive star but also a defensive boost. Dallas needs to find someone to partner with Luka Dončić, and Siakam might just be the perfect solution.
It is a gamble sending two unprotected first-round picks, but it is better than wasting another Dončić season—especially with the West so wide open.
Raptors Add a Center
Toronto Raptors Receive: Myles Turner
Indiana Pacers Receive: Chris Boucher, Dalano Banton, Christian Koloko, 2023 first-round pick (lottery-protected), 2025 second-round pick
The previous trades up to this point are contingent on the Raptors deciding to tear it down and start over. But if Masai Ujiri decides to take the other route and build a competitive team, they need to look at the center position.
Toronto has been experimenting with an idea of playing a versatile lineup called "Vision 6-9." That has left them playing without a true center.
Considering their 20-25 record, it is safe to say that vision has not worked out.
The Indiana Pacers do not want to trade Myles Turner. They want to extend him, but Marc Stein recently reported that Turner turned down their latest offer. Maybe years of being on the trade block have left Turner wanting to move. If the Pacers and Turner cannot come to an agreement on an extension, Indiana needs to trade him before he walks for nothing in free agency.
Toronto should make an offer centered around rookie center Christian Koloko.
Koloko is not the stretch big Turner is, but in limited minutes this season he's averaging 1.1 blocks and 3.4 rebounds. Stretch that out to per 36 minutes and his numbers jump up to 2.6 blocks and 7.8 boards. Koloko is a development piece, and in the meantime Chris Boucher can serve as a replacement for Turner.
The Pacers would obviously want the first-round pick to be unprotected. Maybe the teams could meet in the middle and make it top-10-protected, but that is a tough sell for me. The main reason is Turner is on the last year of his deal and could be just a rental for the Raptors. It is difficult even sending a draft pick out in the first place.
The Raptors would get a true center and rim protector. Maybe just as importantly, he'd be one of Toronto's better three-point shooters. This would create more space on the floor for Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet.
Phoenix Suns Finally Move Jae Crowder
Washington Wizards Receive: Jae Crowder, Josh Okogie, 2023 first-round pick
Phoenix Suns Receive: Kyle Kuzma
This is a pretty big game of chicken for Washington. The Wizards have have made it known they want to keep Kyle Kuzma if he opts out of his contract this season. But as Marc Stein reported, "Belief persists in various corners of the NBA map that Kuzma would prefer to relocate in the offseason but perhaps that is wishful thinking from teams that covet him."
If Washington believes it won't be able to retain Kuzma, it will get a lot of phone calls about him. The first call should come from the Phoenix Suns. They have been without Jae Crowder, who demanded a trade before the season started and hasn't played a minute.
Kuzma, another long, lanky wing who has grown on both ends of the court, would fit right in with the Suns. He has become a dependable defender, but more importantly, he has improved off the dribble. Phoenix desperately needs more firepower on the offensive end. The weight of the offense is being placed on Devin Booker and Chris Paul, who is beginning to show his age (37).
Crowder would fill a need as a more stout body for the Wizards. Even though he has lost a step, he would fortify Washington's defensive frontcourt. Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura are similar body types, Crowder gives the Wizards a little more beef.
The real prize for the Wizards is getting an unprotected first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Phoenix might try to protect the pick, but there is going to be a massive bidding war for Kuzma. It would be a steep price for the Suns, but they simply cannot stand pat as their championship window is closing.