5 NBA Teams in Prime Position to Make a Blockbuster Trade This Offseason

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2015

5 NBA Teams in Prime Position to Make a Blockbuster Trade This Offseason

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    As the NBA's frenetic free-agency period slows to a gradual halt, the unofficial "Let's make a blockbuster trade" season is set to begin.

    You know the time of year we're talking about. You've been here before.

    Teams that were unable to fill primary needs by poaching or retaining players will instead work the phones trying to broker a deal that helps get them where they want to go.

    Some of these squads won't have squat to offer. Others, be they buyers or sellers, will have a slew of attractive assets to package together.

    These assets will henceforth be defined as draft picks, a surplus of prospects, allegedly or potentially available stars and the financial flexibility to take on significant salary from any potential trade partners.

    Possessing all of these luxuries isn't necessary, but the following teams will need to have more than one. These contingents must also be willing to shake things up with the intent on improving now or in the near future. They won't be looking to serve as solely salary-dumping ground.

    Thus, the Philadelphia 76ers are excluded.

    Specific targets need not be mentioned, though they will be in some cases. Mostly, this is just a comprehensive look at the teams best suited to capitalize on the acquisition or dispersion of a big name should the opportunity present itself.

Boston Celtics

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    Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge has amassed a platoon of first-round picks and various other tradeable assets, and he's not afraid to dangle them in excess.

    On draft night alone, the Celtics tried enticing teams with six draft picks, including four first-rounders, for a chance to move into the top 10 and draft Duke's Justise Winslow, according to ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg.

    Winslow inevitably fell to the Miami Heat at No. 10, leaving the Celtics to wallow in their own sadness—which, in this case, refers to expending two first-rounders on Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter and maintaining their status as a bona fide Eastern Conference playoff team.

    Of the company they keep in the East, there are better squads. But no organization touts the same number of blockbuster-baiting assets.

    Next summer alone, the Celtics could end up with four first-rounders. They could also have as many as three in 2018.

    Drafting Rozier and Hunter has left them with an embarrassment of riches on the perimeter as well. Those two, along with Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Evan Turner and James Young, are all expendable in the sense that the Celtics have enough depth to replace any one or two (or three) of them.

    Not surprisingly, the Celtics were heavily involved in the DeMarcus Cousins sweepstakes insofar as those sweepstakes actually existed (more on this later), and Greg Dickerson of CSNNE.com says they'll continue to keep pushing the Sacramento Kings to make a deal.

    Them and everyone else. The difference is the Celtics have a fully stocked cupboard begging to be pilfered.

    Wherever there's a disgruntled superstar, they'll be there. Wherever there's a high-profile player on the chopping block, they'll be there.

    They have the kind of asset clout to warrant inclusion in any and all blockbuster scenarios.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Cavaliers shouldn't be here. 

    Title contenders aren't typically in position to make splashy additions via trade. They're looking for roster touch-ups and bargain-bin deals. All of their money and assets are already tied up in marquee players who actually matter.

    Most of this is true of the Cavaliers.

    At some point this offseason, they'll have invested a fortune in LeBron James, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and perhaps J.R. Smith. Per Jacob Rosen of WFNY (via Scott Sargent of WFNY), their salary bill, luxury taxes included, could rise above $295 million.

    That's a figure that would scare even Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. But the Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert aren't batting an eye. They're doing everything it takes to win.

    And that may include flipping Brendan Haywood's non-guaranteed $10.5 million contract, a valuable trade chip for any team looking to do what the Cavaliers are clearly not: cut costs.

    According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, they're already knee-deep in discussions with the Nets about a trade for Joe Johnson and his $24.9 million salary. Marc Stein, also of ESPN.com, reported Cleveland is looking at Los Angeles Clippers combo guard Jamal Crawford.

    Both players would have incited more excitement three to five years ago. But they both also remain household names and, in theory, trade targets the Cavaliers have no business chasing.

    Haywood's contract puts the seemingly unreachable within reach, though. His new team can waive him before Aug. 2 and save a ton of money. 

    So long as there are franchises looking to save money, the Cavaliers are a threat to make a blockbuster-sized splash before the 2015-16 campaign begins.

Denver Nuggets

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    JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

    In the few months since their season ended, the Denver Nuggets have been on the prowl, looking to deal as either a blockbuster-level buyer or seller.

    Leading up to the draft, Ken Berger of CBS Sports brought word the team was open to trading Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson. A move involving Lawson feels especially likely after the Nuggets took fellow point guard Emmanuel Mudiay seventh overall in the draft.

    Just ask Lawson himself. He was caught on video reacting to the draft in real time. And once he heard Mudiay's name called, per the Washington Post's Des Bieler, he said, "I told you. I'm going to Sacramento, bro."

    Sacramento is probably off the table at this point, unless Kings head coach George Karl is enamored with the idea of partnering Lawson with Rajon Rondo in the backcourt. But the Nuggets and their franchise point guard have been speeding toward a breakup for some time.

    Grantland's Zach Lowe reported Denver was exploring trades for Lawson ahead of last February's deadline, and the conjecture hasn't stopped. And though the market for him is uncertain, he's only 27 and owed just more than $25.6 million over the next two seasons. 

    Danilo Gallinari has also been the subject of trade talks in recent weeks, most notably as the apple of the Memphis Grizzlies' affections, per Stein. He's yet another bullet in Denver's chamber as it looks to hoard prospects, picks and/or impact players.

    Chandler, Faried, Gallinari and Lawson are on the books for around $42.4 million next season, and only Faried is under contract beyond the 2016-17 campaign. Shipping out any combination of those four simultaneously is enough to qualify as a blockbuster transaction.

    The only question is whether the Nuggets will be on the buyer's or seller's end of said transaction.

Phoenix Suns

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    On the heels of what the Arizona Republic's Paul Coro called a "surprisingly effective," albeit failed, run at LaMarcus Aldridge, the Phoenix Suns need to regroup.

    Phoenix dealt Danny Granger, Reggie Bullock and Marcus Morris to the Detroit Pistons to clear cap space, and Tyson Chandler, a 32-year-old rim protector, didn't sign on to spend the next four years jumping center for the Western Conference's No. 10 seed.

    While it's wholly unclear what it would take to vault the Suns back into the playoff bubble, they have a host of options.

    All told, they have less than $63 million committed to next year's ledger, giving them some wiggle room when it comes to absorbing salary via trades. They also have the No. 5 pick from the 2013 draft, Alex Len, who may now be expendable with Chandler in the fold.

    Sources told Lowe the Suns aren't interested in moving Eric Bledsoe, but the world knows better. They unloaded both Goran Dragic and Thomas at last season's trade deadline and just re-signed Brandon Knight to a five-year, $70 million contract.

    Markieff Morris' future with the team is fluid at best after the Suns traded his brother Marcus to Detroit. He's on a reasonable four-year, $32 million deal and is capable of spacing the floor as a stretch 4, having shot 32.8 percent from deep for his career.

    To this point, there has admittedly been no indication of what the Suns' contingency plan is after whiffing on Aldridge. They've showed interest in Ryan Anderson, per the Huffington Post's Jordan Schultz, but that's it.

    If and when they decide to make their most attractive assets available, they'll wield the ammo and salary-matching wherewithal necessary to reel in any available high-end contributors—those who will headline their in-progress rebuild or, better yet, help end it.

Sacramento Kings

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Things are complicated in Sacramento.

    Prior to the draft, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that no one on the Kings roster was safe—not even Rudy Gay and Cousins. In the time since, not only have Cousins and Gay stayed put, but the Kings have pulled the trigger on a series of win-now pursuits.

    First they sent Carl Landry, Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and an assortment of first-round goodies (picks and the rights to swap picks) to the Sixers in what was a clear salary dump. They then came to terms on contracts with Marco Belinelli, Omri Casspi, Kosta Koufos and Rajon Rondo.

    To sum up: It's been a very Kings offseason.

    It's only going to get more Kings-y, too. As Tom Ziller wrote for SB Nation: 

    So that's where Sacramento sits after Vlade's big rebound: much improved on paper, no longer the league's biggest laugh line and still likely to be outside the playoff bracket. Chances are the Kings will lose their 2016 pick to the Bulls (it's protected in the top 10), which negates one of the pick swaps traded to Philadelphia. (Few details about the swaps have emerged, but according to Sixers reporter Derek Bodner, they do not appear to defer if the Kings no longer own their pick.) The Kings would only lose their 2017 to Philadelphia if the Sixers manage to shoot up the standings or Sacramento falls back into the cellar. The pick they owe to Philly two years after the Chicago one conveys (likely 2018) is well protected. With Divac's post-trade moves, the Kings appear to be relatively safe from disaster.

    Just barely evading disaster isn't going to win any offseason awards. If the Kings still don't figure into the Western Conference playoff picture (they don't), there's every reason to believe more substantial moves are on the way.

    More likely than not, anything resembling a seller's delight would take place midseason, just before the February trade deadline, when tensions are running high from the Kings remaining on track to miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive year.

    Still, the Cousins bugaboo won't soon fade into the background. Not after all those predraft rumors.

    Selecting Willie Cauley-Stein and signing Koufos, both centers, only complicates matters. Neither has the offensive range to play power forward in today's NBA, and the absence of three-point range spells the same for Cousins.

    Karl also likes to push the pace. The Kings ranked sixth in possessions used per 48 minutes with him at the helm last season, and it won't be easy building upon that speed when Cousins, Cauley-Stein and Koufos will all be asked to play the 4 at different times.

    If the right offer comes along from an asset-amped team (Celtics, Nuggets, etc.) and the Kings fail to make nice with Cousins, they could look to flip him for a multiplayer package that does little to harm their immediate ceiling. 

    Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise cited. Salary information via Basketball Insiders. Draft-pick commitments from RealGM. Free-agency signings come from Bleacher Report's free-agent big board.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @danfavale. 


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