NBA Blockbuster Trades That Should Happen During 2014-15 Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2014

NBA Blockbuster Trades That Should Happen During 2014-15 Season

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    Good news, fellow NBA apologists.

    December is here, and with it comes a license for us hoops heads to shake things up, general manager-style.

    The trade deadline is still months away, which means the rumor mill is light on anonymous sources and debatable scenarios. But with nearly 25 percent of the 2014-15 regular season in the books, we have seen enough to know which teams could benefit from a blockbuster trade.

    (Hint: A lot of them.)

    In lieu of going through each team individually, though, we've elected to isolate the coolest of super-duper trades. To be sure, there's (likely) no traction to any of these ensuing deals. They're suggestions—fun, conversation-creating suggestions. Don't take them to heart or as signs of disrespect or as me trolling your entire life.

    Take them as an exercise in critical thinking instead. Have fun with it. That's the goal.

    There's only one rule: These are blockbuster deals. Recognizable names must be in play, which will inevitably heighten subject sensitivity, touching nerves, inciting anger and warping views of reality as we know it.

    Still, that's how these things work. We seek out high-profile names to headline high-profile trades that should culminate in high-profile results. So check all narrow-mindedness at the door.

    Only the most open minds need travel beyond this point.

    *Trades were vetted through the ESPN Trade Machine whenever possible.

Nerlens Noel to Cleveland

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Possible Trade

    Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Nerlens Noel

    Philadelphia 76ers Get: Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and 2015 first-round pick (via Memphis)

    I'm rehashing an older idea here because the Cavaliers need rim protection that badly. They rank in the bottom six of opponent field-goal percentage at the iron, and both Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao are allowing rival offenses to shoot better than 60 percent within six feet of the basket.

    Philadelphia, meanwhile, isn't opposed to dealing one of Joel Embiid or Noel, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv for ZagsBlog. Not only are there plenty of talented and polished bigs available in the upcoming draft, but Noel and Embiid aren't compatible partners; neither can play power forward full time.

    Though Embiid has the jumper to man the 4 in spurts, he won't be able to adequately defend floor-spacing shooters. And while Noel has the lateral mobility to guard against three-pointers, he's limited offensively. Even if his inside game develops properly, he's only hit eight shots outside the paint thus far this year. Playing both would clog driving lanes for Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten, among others.

    Acquiring Thompson and Waiters gives the Sixers two potential building blocks. Thompson is due for an extension this summer, but he's an actual power forward who can complement Embiid nicely if his outside shot improves. Waiters also gives them another scorer who can be evaluated against Wroten. One of them could be the team's shooting guard of the future.

    Landing Noel also plays well financially for the Cavaliers. With Thompson and eventually Waiters tracking toward extensions, he's cheaper, giving general manager David Griffin more flexibility for the expected cap boon in 2016.

    Losing Thompson would definitely hurt. He can be a rebounding machine and shares LeBron James' agent. But dealing for Noel forces Varejao to come off the bench, where he would replace most, if not all, of Thompson's scoring and rebounding.

    Shoring up a bottom-14 defense that's been aided by recent matchups against lackluster offenses is one of the few things standing between the Cavaliers and absolute dominance. This trade brings them one step closer to being accepted as a championship-chasing powerhouse.

Paul Millsap, Al Horford Travel Northwest

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Possible Trade

    Atlanta Hawks Get: F Danilo Gallinari, F Kenneth Faried, C Timofey Mozgov, PG Nate Robinson and Denver's 2016 first-round pick

    Denver Nuggets Get: SF DeMarre Carroll, C Al Horford and F Paul Millsap

    Why yes, Crazy and Bold are my two middle names. The Nuggets have rebounded from an atrocious start, but they're still employing too much overlapping talent. This trade helps clear up the roster-wide logjam a little bit.

    Trading Faried does seem outlandish on the surface. He's less than three months removed from a long-term extension, and he, along with Ty Lawson, has become the face of the franchise. But a source told ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz that Faried isn't well-liked within the organization. He's also more of an endless energy supply than star.

    If the Nuggets can land two legitimate building blocks in Millsap and Horford, they have to consider this—provided they're interested in retaining Millsap, who will reach free agency this summer. And as for the Hawks talking shop here, please turn your attention to what Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote ahead of this season:

    It happened in stealth mode last season, when the Hawks reached out to a select group and made it known that Horford could be had for the right price — including an unprotected 2014 first-round pick, per several league sources. ...

    ... A healthy Horford is a top-20 player on a below-market contract that runs through 2015-16 — long enough that some team could talk itself into gambling on him. He could net a hefty return for the Hawks, who have been happily skipping down the 'pretty good with cap room' path under Danny Ferry.

    Gallinari, Robinson, Faried and Mozgov all add something to Atlanta's ongoing system overhaul. With the exception of Faried, they're all also on short-term deals that keep in theme with the team's "pretty good with cap room" model.

    This admittedly isn't the most ideal return for Atlanta. But Millsap's market value is curbed by his expiring contract, and there's no telling if the Hawks are prepared to invest tens of millions of dollars in bringing him back. Every other player can serve a cheaper long-term purpose without severely compromising the team's bottom line while infusing more depth into a pleasantly unconventional rotation.

3-Team Super Buster

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Possible Trade

    Denver Nuggets Get: SF Matt Barnes, PG Goran Dragic and C Alex Len

    Los Angeles Clippers Get: SF Wilson Chandler, SG Gerald Green and C JaVale McGee

    Phoenix Suns Get: C DeAndre Jordan and SG J.J. Redick

    Multi-team blockbuster trades aren't especially common. They are, however, an essential part of playing "Laptop GM."

    Some Clippers fans might want to hurl here. That's totally understandable. Jordan has blossomed under head coach Doc Rivers, becoming an interior force who—gasp—actually plays during crunch time.

    But the Clippers need perimeter defense and scoring on the wing. Redick hasn't been playing up to snuff, and the combination of Hedo Turkoglu, Reggie Bullock and Barnes isn't getting it done on defense. Green and Chandler add a little bit of everything. Both are hitting more than 36 percent of their long balls and remain athletic enough to pester outside scorers.

    McGee also replaces much of what Jordan does for the Clippers. He's an average rebounder, but he blocks shots in volume and can play above the rim. He'll wind up being cheaper too since Jordan is approaching free agency and the lucrative payday it promises.

    Pulling the trigger on this should be a no-brainer for the Suns. Dealing Dragic and Green makes more sense than keeping them. Dragic is already planning an open free agency, according to the Sporting News' Sean Deveney. Keeping him, along with Green, will cost a pretty penny. It's redundant as well, given the contracts of Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas.

    This trade gives them the inside track on re-signing Jordan, who bolsters their bottom-eight rim protection and and rebounding rates. They also lock up Redick—who replaces Green's shooting—on a reasonable deal for the next few years.

    The Nuggets do this in conjunction with the previous trade. They would have the frontcourt depth in J.J. Hickson and Horford to trade away McGee, and Dragic gives them another top-tier playmaker who can operate beside Ty Lawson. And, you know, who says no to a starting five of Lawson, Dragic, Millsap, Horford and Arron Afflalo?

    Sending Chandler to Los Angeles opens up more minutes on the perimeter, making it easier for the Nuggets to re-sign Afflalo if he enters free agency (player option). Len is also a top-five pick who gets to develop under Hickson and Horford for the next couple years.

    Sure, this is bold for all parties involved. But it still gives the Suns and Clippers what they need while helping the Nuggets secure a less chaotic rotation.

Minnesota Looks to the Future; Boston Expedites Its Rebuild; Charlotte Panics

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Possible Trade

    Boston Celtics Get: C Nikola Pekovic

    Charlotte Hornets Get: SG Corey Brewer, SG Kevin Martin and Clippers' 2015 first-round pick (via Boston)

    Minnesota Timberwolves Get: C Bismack Biyombo, SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Gerald Wallace and Boston's 2015 first-round pick

    Meet the trade-machine brainchild of Bleacher Report's residential Timberwolves sage, Joel Cordes. It has something for (almost) everyone.

    Boston needs a center. End of story. The Celtics can play Pekovic alongside Kelly Olynyk and/or Jared Sullinger, and they have a stable of first-rounders they can fork over who help them pawn Wallace off on the Timberwolves. This deal accelerates their rebuild, gives them ample reason to re-sign Rajon Rondo and doesn't deplete their collection of young prospects, whom they can either build around or use as trade fodder.

    Rebranding efforts in mind, the Hornets look a lot like the Bobcats this year. They rank in the bottom six of defensive efficiency one season after finishing in the top six, their offense is broken and Kidd-Gilchrist will be eligible for an extension this summer.

    Brewer can help replace some of the athleticism Kidd-Gilchrist takes with him, and both he and Martin add instant offensive firepower. The latter's wrist injury could hold things up, but this is a deal that simultaneously forces the Hornets to play Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh more while increasing their chances of turning things around.

    (In the event Charlotte doesn't bite, an alternative deal would have Boston send Brandon Bass, Wallace and a first-rounder or two to Minnesota for Pekovic and Martin.)

    On the Timberwolves' side of the table, coach, president and part-owner Flip Saunders needs to feel bulletproof. Moving Pekovic and Martin opens minutes for the up-and-coming Gorgui Dieng and Zach LaVine long term; netting Biyombo and Kidd-Gilchrist gives them two more prospects to evaluate this season.

    Rolling with this deal also enhances the value of the Timberwolves' draft pick. They wouldn't be tanking, but they would flirt with one of the league's worst records and the lottery opulence it guarantees.

    Housing Wallace for the next two seasons is a small price to pay for deepening a well of young talent. And after this trade, the Timberwolves—who already boast Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, Shabazz Muhammad, Glenn Robinson III, LaVine and Dieng—would have themselves a bottomless pool of possibilities.

Thunder, Meet Lightning

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Possible Trade

    Detroit Pistons Get: PG Reggie Jackson and C Kendrick Perkins

    Oklahoma City Thunder Get: PG Brandon Jennings and PF Greg Monroe

    I'm swinging for the fences here.

    Monroe cannot be traded right away, so this a deal that would have to materialize in due time. But it makes sense for a Pistons team that is somehow on pace to be worse than last year's dumpster fire.

    Unloading Monroe allows the Pistons to capitalize on the departure of a player who is probably leaving in free agency anyway. Josh Smith can shift back to power forward, where his skill set will be better utilized, and Perkins' contract comes off the books after this year.

    Jackson is also someone Detroit can invest in once he reaches restricted free agency over the offseason. He has franchise point guard potential and offers more of a long-term solution than Jennings.

    In all likelihood, Monroe winds up being a rental for the Thunder, since he'll command top dollar as a free agent. History—which is to say, the cases of James Harden, Jeff Green and Martin—tells us the Thunder won't pony up the cash to keep him. But they do get an affordable backcourt scorer in Jennings, who can play the 1 or 2 and is under contract through 2015-16.

    Jennings is especially valuable as an off-ball scorer these days; he's converting 51.7 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities for 2014-15, including a 50 percent clip from deep. His success as a spot-up shooter under Stan Van Gundy lends merit to the argument that he can coexist alongside the ball-dominant Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

    Full disclosure: This deal assumes the Thunder don't plan on re-signing Jackson this summer, which truthfully isn't a huge assumption at all.

    "When I said command a team, I didn't mean be a temporary starter or anything like that," Jackson explained in November, per NewsOK.com's Berry Tramel. "Just trying to play my role while I'm here."

    That only reads ominously because it is ominous. Westbrook is already back in the lineup, and there isn't room for two starting-caliber floor generals in the starting five. And with Jackson barreling toward a new contract, it makes sense for the Thunder to have an affordable contingency plan that won't slam their tottering title window shut.

The Warriors, Nets and Spurs Get Weird

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Possible Trade

    Brooklyn Nets Get: F David Lee

    Golden State Warriors Get: SG Marco Belinelli and F/C Kevin Garnett

    San Antonio Spurs Get: SF Andrei Kirilenko

    At one point it looked like Kirilenko's future in Brooklyn was kaput. While it still could be, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Kirilenko is tending to a "family matter" in New York, rendering an immediate trade unlikely. Still, this masterpiece has conceptual legs.

    Kirilenko is a Spurs player who hasn't yet played for the Spurs if there ever was one. He's fallen out of the Nets' rotation and provides the type of perimeter defense that makes Gregg Popovich grunt with approval. Don't discount the possibility of him becoming a lights-out shooter in San Antonio either. Blistering three-point rates are contagious in those parts.

    To answer your question, no, I'm not trying to make Lionel Hollins red with rage and confusion here. Losing Garnett might rub the defensive-minded coach the wrong way, but 1) Garnett is 38 going on 57, and 2) the Nets defense is statistically better with him on the bench.

    Lee winds up being a huge get for a team that cannot make any moves in free agency until 2016 at the earliest. He's a double-double machine when healthy as well as a crafty playmaker who offsets Brook Lopez's lack of court vision. With Garnett and Kirilenko both on expiring deals and likely on their way out, nabbing a stats-piler like Lee helps the Nets remain competitive for the next two seasons.

    Things get iffy when looking at the Warriors, though. They're a dominant team on both sides of the ball. Shaking things up is typically taboo when a team already looks like a Western Conference favorite. But Lee only just returned from a hamstring injury and is eating up serious cap space.

    "Lee is on the books at $15.01 million this season and $15.49 million in 2015-16, which is the last year of his contract," wrote ESPN insider Nick Borges (subscription required). "There is a chance the Warriors might try to deal Lee this season as they are set to be over the tax line in 2015-16 if he's on the roster."

    Flipping Lee for the expiring pacts of Belinelli and Garnett insures the Warriors against luxury tax territory next season.

    Better still, Garnett gets to play for a title contender while anchoring a bench unit that ranks 22nd in defensive efficiency, per HoopStats.com, and Belinelli promises shooting for a team that has its most dangerous weapons—Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson—starting games.

    Try not to mistake this as an idea that flagrantly undervalues Lee. At 31, the two-time All-Star is a contractual detriment to a squad that plays just fine without him. If the Warriors can ship him out in exchange for capable players who help them evade the luxury tax line next season—thereby preserving their financial plasticity for 2016 free agency—they have to at least take the call.

    *Stats via Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise cited and are accurate as of games played on Nov. 30, 2014. Salary information and draft-pick commitments via ShamSports and RealGM.


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