Ideal Landing Spots for NBA Top Trade Targets

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2018

Ideal Landing Spots for NBA Top Trade Targets

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    Chris Schwegler/Getty Images

    As we plow toward the 2018 NBA trade deadline, excitement is building and it's getting harder to keep a clear head.

    This exercise, in which we toss aside talk of compensation, salary-matching and other particulars of trade season, should help simplify things. Because instead of tinkering with trade machines and contemplating draft-pick sweeteners, we're stripping the discussion down to a more basic concern.


    We're taking some of the big names on the market and figuring out where they slot in most logically.

    What need do they fill? Where can their skills make the biggest difference? And how significantly could they elevate their new team's stature?

    In short: Where should some of the league's most-discussed trade candidates wind up?

George Hill: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers have done plenty wrong lately, but snatching up George Hill could set things right.

    Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania reports the 31-year-old Sacramento Kings vet is drawing interest from the floundering Cavs, and he'd be an an ideal fit with the reigning three-time Eastern Conference champs.

    Nominally a point guard, Hill is best utilized as a secondary playmaker and spot-up shooter. Even as part of a 30th-ranked Sacramento Kings offense bereft of sensible spacing and scheme, he's been drilling from distance. Among players who've attempted at least 100 threes this season, only Klay Thompson, Marvin Williams and Jayson Tatum have been more accurate than Hill. The Cavs haven't been a model of functionality of late, but they're still a top-five offense loaded with talent.

    Imagine what Hill could do with LeBron James controlling the proceedings, commanding maximum attention and creating clean looks.

    Hill's tenure with the Kings has revealed weaknesses. He's not a pure creator at the point, and he's not a guy who necessarily makes others better with the ball in his hands. But he'll make open shots, avoid taking bad ones and can pull defenders into space, which helps teammates in an indirect way.

    Above all, Hill is a capable defender at both backcourt spots. So if Isaiah Thomas still features in Cleveland's plans, Hill would give them a better way to hide him. If Iman Shumpert is still around, Cleveland could pair him and Hill in a switchable backcourt that gets even more defensively viable with James and Jae Crowder as the forwards. Cleveland's midseason malaise is rooted in shoddy defense. Hill helps on that end.

    Hill's contract would keep him on the books for $18 million next year, but the 2019-20 season is only partially guaranteed. For a Cavs team that can't be sure of its future because James' plans are uncertain, that's some valuable flexibility.

DeMarcus Cousins: Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Boom! The Cavs double up!

    The New Orleans Pelicans aren't listening to offers, and DeMarcus Cousins is confident he's not going anywhere. But he had assurances from the Kings on that same account last season, and that certainty didn't matter much in the end.

    Cousins could give the Cavs a puncher's chance against the Warriors, which should still be their only short-term concern. That makes this a risk worth taking, because Cleveland knows (or should know) a fully healthy Dubs team isn't concerned with either Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson at the 5. When you think of Cleveland's most successful stretches against Golden State during this rivalry, you see James bludgeoning them with deliberate, brutish force. You see the Cavs slowing the pace down and overwhelming Golden State with sheer physicality.

    That's a Boogie specialty.

    More than that, for Cousins to truly be at his best, he's got to be in a place where his shenanigans—the pouting, the inconsistent effort on defense and the general behavioral traits that arise when there's nobody to check him on his nonsense—won't stand. Granted, the Cavs of the last few seasons haven't been acclaimed upholders of Spursian effort or consistent commitment to execution.

    But they have James. And if anyone in the league has the clout to invoke alpha status to put Cousins in his place, it's the best player alive.

    And hey, if things go well and James likes the fit with Cousins, maybe the Cavs entice their savior to stay this summer. If not, at least Cleveland has a chance to re-sign Boogie and build around him.

Kemba Walker: Indiana Pacers

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    Kent Smith/Getty Images

    Darren Collison has been fantastic this season and is one of only five players averaging at least 12 points and five rebounds with an effective field-goal percentage above 56 percent.

    But Kemba Walker could shove the Indiana Pacers into another tier. And he might be available, according to Adrian Wojnarowksi of ESPN.

    An All-Star last season, Walker's relative down year is still substantially  better than what Collison is doing in a career 2017-18. He tops Collison in box plus-minus and wins above replacement. The upgrade is more stylistic than statistical, though, as Walker would join Victor Oladipo in the backcourt to give Indiana's offense two players with one of the league's most valuable weapons: a deadly off-the-dribble three.

    Oladipo's breakout is pull-up-three fueled. After hitting 34.7 percent of a ridiculously low volume 49 attempts last year, he's up to 40.2 percent and has already attempted nearly three times as many pull-up bombs. 

    Walker's emergence last season had the same driving force. He upped his 2015-16 accuracy on off-the-bounce treys by nearly six percentage points, ultimately hitting more such threes than anyone but Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and James Harden. Walker hit a higher percentage than Westbrook and Harden, for the record.

    This year, only Harden, Damian Lillard and Lou Wiliams have canned more pull-up threes than Walker—and that's with defenses selling out to stop Walker from propping up an abysmal Hornets offense with that exact shot. Defenders chase him over screens, crowd him well beyond the arc and force him into the lane. A defense (through great effort and focus) can devote that kind of attention to one opponent. But it can't expect to stop two guys who have to be hounded beyond the arc whenever they've got a live dribble.

    Walker has long been an underrated defender, his contract is a bargain and who knows what the leap from the sad-sack, stuck-in-the-mud Hornets to the up-and-coming Pacers would do for his state of mind?

    He and Oladipo would be a dynamite pairing—one that could get Indy into the race for a top-four spot in the East.

DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams: Washington Wizards

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    For the billionth time, DeAndre Jordan isn't what the Milwaukee Bucks need. Just stop it with that one.

    Sure, he's a theoretical rim-protector, but Jordan's true value has always been on offense, where he commands a ton of attention as a roll man. Besides, the Bucks defense is broken. Jordan isn't going to fix that.

    The Washington Wizards, though?

    Now there's a team that could use a high-altitude lob finisher...and a blowtorch bench scorer as a throw-in.

    Imagine what John Wall could do in the pick-and-roll if, in addition to zipping passes to lightly attended corner shooters, he could fling lobs to a roller of Jordan's caliber. And once a few of those oops go down, watch as Wall relishes the extra attention Jordan's vertical spacing garners by gunning even more pinpoint setups to corner snipers.

    Washington could feast on dunks and short-corner triples, which, you know, are the shots every intelligent offense strives to create.

    Williams might seem superfluous for a backcourt as established as Washington's, but this move would slot him back into his natural position as a bench assassin. The Wizards offense craters when Wall isn't on the court, dipping by nearly six points per 100 possessions and suffering a drop in its effective field-goal percentage. Williams, in the midst of a career year, would feast on second units, preventing the Wizards from the Wall-less collapses that have plagued them over the last several seasons—particularly in the playoffs.

    When considered that way, Williams might be more than a throw-in. He might be what takes this dream acquisition from good to great.

Rodney Hood: Portland Trail Blazers

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Rodney Hood is an intriguing player as he approaches free agency—one who has improved in every year of his career but remains something less than a star shooting guard. That's fine; the Portland Trail Blazers have two backcourt dynamos already. What they lack is a wing who can do anything to get shots for himself or anyone else.

    That's where Hood excels.

    Though never much of an assist man, Hood uses his size to work into the lane and elevate for jumpers, floaters and push shots. Even if he's not so great at getting all the way to the rim or drawing contact, Hood doesn't depend on others to get him looks. This year, 49.8 percent of his field goals have been unassisted. Compare that to Moe Harkless (23.4 percent) and Al Farouq Aminu (25.4 percent), and you can see the new dimension he'd bring to Portland.

    He's averaging 16.7 points on 38.6 percent shooting from long range, both career bests.

    Defensively, Hood can hold his own against wings at either position, and he can switch onto all but the quickest point guards. He's far from a shutdown perimeter stopper, but his length means he can bother most ball-handlers.

    Utah is "actively" trying to trade him, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. He should be hoping to wind up in Portland.


    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference or unless otherwise specified. Salary info via Basketball Insiders.

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