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Free Trade: NBA Deals That Need to Happen

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 22, 2015

Dec 2, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson (33) drives the ball during the fourth quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Pelicans 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No team in the NBA was perfect when we embarked upon our first edition of "Free Trade." A little over a month later, that hasn't changed. 

We're not interested in making a squad such as the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs better right now, even though it technically could be done.

Instead, we're focusing on shoring up units that actually need to improve. And this time around, we're looking at one legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference, a fringe playoff squad in what's typically been the Association's tougher half and a downtrodden franchise still trying to rebuild.

For each of the three, yours truly, Adam Fromal, will present a potential trade that would benefit everyone involved, and then pick the brain of Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes to see if the thought flies. 

These deals aren't necessarily heating up the real-life rumor mill. They may never happen. 

Nonetheless, off we go!

Toronto Raptors Go All-In

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04:  Ryan Anderson #33 of the New Orleans Pelicans reacts to a three point shot during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Smoothie King Center on December 4, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Toronto Raptors receive: Ryan Anderson
  • New Orleans Pelicans receive: Patrick Patterson, Delon Wright, 2017 second-round pick

Adam Fromal: How exactly would you stop a pick-and-pop between Kyle Lowry and Ryan Anderson? The prospect grows even more dire for a defense when you include DeMar DeRozan as an off-ball slasher who can also create his own offense, and the Toronto Raptors would grow more deadly still with a healthy Jonas Valanciunas serving as an interior scoring threat and DeMarre Carroll spacing out the court. 

Thus far, this rising Eastern Conference power has been a middling squad from beyond the three-point arc, taking one fewer triple per night than the league average despite playing two extra games. Plus, it's hit at a 34.8 percent clip, which again leaves it just shy of the NBA average. This wouldn't be too problematic, except for the fact that the mediocre nature comes despite rostering Lowry, who has made more treys than anyone in the Association not named Stephen Curry or Paul George

More spacing would certainly help, especially if Anderson replaces Patterson in the lineup and the remaining portion of the haul going to the New Orleans Pelicans consists of fungible assets. Parting with a 2017 second-round pick isn't a big deal, and despite coming aboard via the No. 20 pick in the 2015 NBA draft, Delon Wright's value is mitigated by the impressive growth of Cory Joseph. 

Nov 25, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) and forward Ryan Anderson (33) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Suns 120-114. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Spor
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Would it hurt New Orleans to give up Anderson? Absolutely, as he's one of the bigs who looks best next to Anthony Davis.

But after the Pelicans' slow, injury-riddled start to the current campaign, they need to throw in the proverbial towel and look to the future. Dealing a key rotation member is a worthwhile endeavor when it boosts the draft-day coffers, allows for better standing in the Ben Simmons race and adds a high-upside guard such as Wright. 

Grant Hughes: I'm good with this one, although there are a couple of issues that should give both sides pause.

First, if I'm the the Raptors, I'm not at all comfortable with the idea of having two frontcourt players who are vitally important to my offense on the bench down the stretch because they make it impossible for me to get stops on the other end.

Valanciunas sat out plenty of fourth quarters last year because he couldn't defend the rim, and Anderson is every bit as bad (and maybe even worse) on D at his position. A Valanciunas-Anderson pairing would have to score like crazy to see the floor in the closing stages of a tight game. Still, because Toronto isn't giving up anything it truly needs, adding Anderson's talent and floor spacing is worth it.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 01:  Ryan Anderson #33 of the New Orleans Pelicans takes a shot during a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Smoothie King Center on December 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Memphis defeated New Orleans 113-104. NOTE TO
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The second hangup is on the other side of the deal, where I'm not convinced the Pellies would settle for a package like this. Now, Anderson is on an expiring contract, so two cheap NBA talents and a pick is a whole lot better than the nothing they'd get if Ryno were to walk as a free agent. But it seems like there would be a slightly more desperate team out there willing to give a little more for a legitimate stretch 4.

I'm nitpicking, though. This helps both teams achieve what they want (or should want, since the Pelicans ought to be tanking). Green light.

Utah Jazz Upgrade

BROOKLYN, NY - DECEMBER 16:  Jarrett Jack #2 of the Brooklyn Nets dribbles the ball in traffic against the Miami Heat on December 16, 2015 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
  • Utah Jazz receive: Jarrett Jack
  • Brooklyn Nets receive: Trevor Booker, Chris Johnson, 2016 second-round pick, 2017 second-round pick

AF: As we head into the winter portion of the NBA calendar, offense isn't the problem for the Utah Jazz, who rank No. 8 in offensive rating and No. 17 in defensive rating. But this team can afford to think ahead, planning for changes when Rudy Gobert returns—likely in the middle of January—from his MCL sprain. 

With the 7-footer holding down the paint and protecting the rim as well as anyone in the Association, the Jazz should become a defensive juggernaut once more. When he's played this season, they're allowing 1.7 fewer points per 100 possessions, and that disparity should grow even larger if last year's splits serve as any indication.  

But Gobert's complete absence of shooting range can also clog up the paint, and the Jazz need more legitimate options at point guard if they're going to advance through some section of the Western Conference gauntlet. Raul Neto clearly isn't a serviceable option, and Trey Burke's shooting—even if the improvement is sustainable—can't entirely make up for his porous defensive play. 

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 21:  Trey Burke #3 of the Utah Jazz handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns on December 21, 2015 at vivint.SmartHome Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading a
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

Jarrett Jack is a legitimate starter in this league, as he's proved while running the show in Brooklyn to the tune of 13.3 points and 7.1 assists per game. Allowing him to control the rock and dictate pace would help Utah take that next step with Gobert on the court, and it's not like the Nets should be viewing a 32-year-old floor general as a major part of their rebuild. 

GH: If I'm the Nets, I'm falling all over myself to accept this proposal.

Any incoming picks are doubly valuable to Brooklyn, which has no worthwhile draft selections until sometime around 2047. Even second-rounders have massive appeal. Booker and Chris Johnson aren't really going to move the needle, but neither has a cost-prohibitive contract, so the Nets shouldn't have a problem taking them on.

It's the Jazz's side that concerns me here.

BROOKLYN, NY - DECEMBER 6: Jarrett Jack #2 of the Brooklyn Nets handles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors on December 6, 2015 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Jack is a fool's gold point guard—one whose counting stats and legitimately positive veteran influence aren't enough to overshadow his offense-crippling tendencies. Master of the off-the-dribble pull-up (often early in the shot clock), Jack is a throwback offensive point guard in one of the worst ways. You wouldn't know it from looking at this year's on-off splits because Jack's replacement when resting is Shane Larkin, but the Nets were demonstrably worse on offense last year whenever he was on the court, per NBA.com

And if spacing is a concern when Gobert comes back, I'm not sure how Jack's penchant for the long two helps.

Plus, Utah has been reluctant to shake up its gradual, youth-driven process so far. Adding young players seems more on-brand, so I'm wondering if we can work a multiteam deal that gets someone like Wright, a Utah product, from the Raptors to the Jazz.

AF: Let's pivot then, per your suggestion. 

I'm not entirely convinced Wright, even as a local favorite, would be a perfect fit here because the Jazz don't necessarily need someone that raw. This is a team that wants to win now—albeit doing so while maintaining its youthful tendencies—and a rookie who hasn't seen the court much in Toronto isn't going to be a huge difference-maker. 

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 14:  Delon Wright #55 of the Toronto Raptors drives to the basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves during a preseaon game at Canadian Tire Centre on October 14, 2015 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
NBA Photos/Getty Images

Then again, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks can also handle the ball regularly, which gives Wright the ability to serve as a spot-up shooter who occasionally runs the show in a half-court set. He did knock down 35.6 percent of his long-range shots during his final year with the Utes, and his physical brand of defense would fit in rather nicely with the Jazz identity. 

Plus, as we've already established during the previous trade, Wright can probably be had cheaply. We really don't even need a multiteam deal, as Utah can part with Trevor Booker (who's on an expiring deal and adds more range than Luis Scola) to help give Toronto the help it needs at the 4. 

What say you to a swap of Wright and James Johnson (who's also on an expiring deal, fits with the Jazz's defensive theme and is incredibly underutilized by Raptors head coach Dwane Casey) for Booker, Neto and a pair of second-round picks from a team that's going to have three in the 2016 NBA draft? 

Revised Trade Offer

  • Toronto Raptors receive: Raul Neto, Trevor Booker, two second-round picks
  • Utah Jazz receive: James Johnson, Delon Wright

GH: I love this for the Jazz, as Johnson is a heck of a throw-in, and Booker's departure might get Trey Lyles a little more playing time. The Raps are getting plenty from Joseph, so Wright isn't worth much to them. And those second-rounders are enough of a sweetener to get this done.

The Jerry Colangelo Influence

Nov 30, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Houston Rockets guard Ty Lawson (3) dribbles the ball during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 116-105. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
  • Philadelphia 76ers receive: Ty Lawson
  • Houston Rockets receive: Richaun Holmes, Hollis Thompson, 2016 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets), 2017 second-round pick

AF: As soon as the Philadelphia 76ers added Hall of Fame executive Jerry Colangelo to their front office, it was abundantly clear that the "process" sweeping through the City of Brotherly Love for the last few seasons would undergo a few significant changes. One, it seemed, was that there would be a relative influx of veteran presences, and CSN Philly's John Clark soon confirmed there was interest in going down that route: 

John Clark @JClarkNBCS

Jerry Colangelo says he has had discussions with Sixers today about possibly bringing in some veterans. #Sixers https://t.co/RrJl9dBApq

Acquiring Ty Lawson would appease both of the leading voices in the Philly brain trust. Colangelo would get his veteran (albeit one who needs some serious monitoring after a string of off-court incidents), and general manager Sam Hinkie wouldn't need to give up many pieces to get him. 

The Sixers can sell high on Richaun Holmes, who has served as one of the few bright spots on the team during his rookie year out of Bowling Green. Hollis Thompson has regressed during his third season, but his spot-up ability could look rather nice on a team with a player such as James Harden actually drawing defensive attention. And given the host of draft picks Philadelphia has at its disposal, parting with two second-rounders isn't the end of the world. 

Meanwhile, from Houston's perspective, getting something for Lawson is better than nothing. As CBS Sports' Ken Berger reported: "There are even whispers in league circles that the Rockets might consider waiving the 28-year-old guard, who agreed to make his $13.2 million salary in 2016-17 fully non-guaranteed as part of the trade." 

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 15:  Ty Lawson #3 of the Houston Rockets looks on from the bench against the Sacramento Kings during an NBA basketeball game at Sleep Train Arena on December 15, 2015 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Lawson is by no means guaranteed to thrive with the Sixers, but he'd be able to control the rock and play a lead role on virtually every offensive possession. Ideally, increased usage and glamorous stats make him happy, healthy and enthused. But even with no certainties, it's worth a shot while the Houston asking price is so low, especially because he can be waived free of charge in 2016-17 if his presence continues to be toxic. 

GH: Ironically, I'd expect a Lawson-to-Philly move to be more likely if Hinkie were still operating without Colangelo's influence—insofar as it basically ignores chemistry concerns and focuses solely on Lawson as an undervalued asset.

The problem now is that the Sixers have pivoted, recognizing the dearth of stable veteran influences as a real weakness. So adding Lawson, as intriguing of a buy-low gamble as he is, doesn't quite square with Philly's new direction.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 7: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers watches the game against the San Antonio Spurs from the bench on December 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

I mean, maybe it's unfair, but do you really want him around Jahlil Okafor after what we've seen from the rookie over the past few weeks?

There is absolutely no question the Sixers need a point guard, and Lawson, when right, has been a borderline All-Star at the position. But it's just too hard for me to see him as the kind of veteran influence Philly wants.

AF: Lawson may not be that veteran influence, but the benefit here is his ability to make the Sixers into a more competent squad that can actually hang with many of the teams on the schedule. 

Is it possible he could be a bad influence on a young and impressionable mind like Okafor's? Absolutely. But it's also beneficial if he can bring more of a winning mentality to the organization, simply by giving the team the ability to play a real point guard who was actually on the fringe of All-Star contention before his relationship with the Denver Nuggets soured. 

At the very least, having a legitimate 1-guard allows the Sixers to do some evaluation on their incumbent pieces. It's a lot easier to judge Okafor and Nerlens Noel when they're operating on a team that isn't missing such a crucial piece. 

Dec 12, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard Ty Lawson (3) shoots the ball during a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In many ways, this is a deja vu situation, because the same rationale that led to the Rockets trading for him still applies. Lawson is still a talented offensive force, and the current asking price will make him a strong value.

There's a risk of implosion, but his game fits much better with Philadelphia's current roster, which doesn't have a Harden to eat up possessions and force him into a spot-up role. And even if the plan goes awry, the Sixers can cut ties with him quickly, thanks to the non-guaranteed nature of his 2016-17 contract. 

Though it's a risky move, this struggling organization is in a position where it not only can afford to take risks but actually has to start taking some. 

Stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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