Breaking Down Most Realistic Potential Trades of NBA Offseason
From the time Blake Griffin moved to the Detroit Pistons until the final whistle on this NBA season's trade deadline, 22 of the league's 30 organizations made at least one transaction. A whopping 38 players made the shift from one franchise to another, including four men who found themselves dealt multiple times. Moreover, 18 draft picks—if we count in-season selection swaps—were included in deals.
But the breathless nature of the 2017-18 trade season doesn't mean this offseason is going to be quiet. Already, a handful of notable figures seem like realistic choices to end up on the block, and we can take sturdy shots at guessing their next locations.
Where will Kawhi Leonard go if he can't find common ground with the San Antonio Spurs? Is Kemba Walker done with the Charlotte Hornets? Which big man are the Miami Heat going to shop?
These upcoming trades aren't guaranteed to go down. But they're all realistic for both sides and have a decent shot at transpiring after this campaign comes to a conclusion.
Names to Keep an Eye On
At this stage of the calendar, predicting trade specifics can be difficult. We've managed to do so for the four players you'll see later on in this article, but not all likely movers have obvious landing spots. Sometimes their positions, individual styles and contract situations can make shopping them difficult, especially before we start seeing some organizations' offseason strategies.
Don't be surprised when these three players pop up in plenty of trade rumors and eventually get dealt. We just can't ascertain where they'll be sent quite yet.
Tyson Chandler, C, Phoenix Suns
Traditional centers are tough to sell these days, particularly when they come in 35-year-old packages with declining skills.
Tyson Chandler has played just 25 minutes per game for the Phoenix Suns in his 46 appearances during the 2017-18 campaign, and it's obvious he's not the same rim-protecting presence who finishes lobs with aplomb. But he's still somewhat skilled in those areas, sitting in the 83rd percentile for points per possession as a roll man (on more minimal attempts than in the past) and helping hold opponents (barely) below their typical percentages within six feet of the tin.
That should be enough to tempt some squad into acquiring his services for a minimal price and taking advantage of his $13.6 million expiring salary.
Dennis Schroder, PG, Atlanta Hawks
Most teams should be satisfied with their situation at point guard, and those that aren't have a good chance to remedy that during the 2018 NBA draft. In Jonathan Wasserman's latest mock draft for Bleacher Report, he had 10 players selected whose primary or secondary position falls at the 1. So unless you're a legitimate All-Star, finding a trade market is tough.
Dennis Schroder is not a legitimate All-Star.
The Atlanta Hawks should be looking to move on from the German floor general and his remaining salary (three more years at $15.5 million apiece) as they progress with their rebuild. Schroder can score points in bunches and set the table for teammates, but his lack of defensive progress and recent legal trouble are firm indications he's not going to serve as a centerpiece.
Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
Take it away, Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes:
"If the Magic are willing to take back a second-rounder for someone like [Elfrid] Payton—cost-controlled, unlikely to command huge money in free agency and solid offensively (he averaged 13.0 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from long range before the deadline)—they'll surely take back less than dollar-for-dollar value on Vooch.
"Plus, his deal expires after next season. A team could send Orlando a pick with bad long-term money attached, taking on Vucevic's matching value. From there, Vucevic's new team could let him lead second units or buy him out.
"The Magic need to recalibrate their timeline. It's tied to Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac now, and getting a pick for a serviceable scoring big man on an expiring deal would be one good way to embrace that."
Vucevic is the prototype here—the guy who should be on the move but could go to a wide variety of locations. It all depends on priorities that won't be established until the offseason is underway, given the possibility of letting him become a useful rotation member or a buyout candidate.
Kawhi Leonard to the Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs Get: Tyus Jones, Justin Patton, Andrew Wiggins, 2018 first-round pick (via Oklahoma City Thunder)
Minnesota Timberwolves Get: Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills, 2018 second-round pick
Rarely is the stage set for such a marquee swap of allegedly disgruntled players.
"Vultures are circling," ESPN.com's Zach Lowe tweeted as confirmation of colleague Brian Windhorst's report on Outside the Lines that NBA teams are looking into the availability of San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard. This comes on the heels of Nate Robinson's comments about the two-time Defensive Player of the Year on an episode of the Holdat podcast with former NBA player Carlos Boozer (beginning at the 20:50 mark): "I heard that the reason why...he doesn't want to be in San Antonio no more is because that I heard a big bag was coming. But if he doesn't leave San Antonio, that bag's not coming."
While Leonard continues the everlasting rehab of the quadriceps injury that has limited him to nine appearances in 2017-18, Andrew Wiggins is actually playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves. But the high-scoring young wing whose advanced metrics continue to look unabashedly terrible—he sits five spots from the bottom in NBA Math's total points added and holds down the No. 277 mark in ESPN.com's volume-independent real plus/minus—might also not be pleased with his situation.
Rumors flew about Wiggins' alleged unhappiness as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler in mid-March. Regardless of the validity, let's fix the potential issue before it becomes problematic.
Imagine that San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich milks all the potential out of Wiggins' athletic frame, getting him to try distributing the ball and exerting more effort in off-ball defensive scenarios. He'd be a go-to scorer alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Spurs would also get a non-lottery first-rounder and a pair of intriguing youngsters to add to their rotation.
Meanwhile, Minnesota would finally fix its defensive woes as Leonard suits up alongside Butler throughout the foreseeable future. He'd essentially fill Wiggins' current role...except in superior fashion on both ends of the floor in a way that takes pressure off his primary running mates.
Plenty of legitimate possibilities exist if the Spurs do plan on trading Leonard this offseason. However, none kill two birds with one stone in such seamless fashion.
Hassan Whiteside to the Los Angeles Lakers
Miami Heat Get: Luol Deng, Josh Hart, 2018 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets)
Los Angeles Lakers Get: Hassan Whiteside
Don't be fooled into thinking the Miami Heat are going to get a first-round pick in exchange for Hassan Whiteside, no matter how glamorous his per-game marks may be. Opposing front offices will surely know the team's net rating has declined by 3.7 points per 100 possessions with this big man on the court, counting on his lack of defensive awareness and ball-stopping offensive habits to drive down the realistic asking price.
"You could get a lottery pick, but a late lottery pick," an anonymous scout told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald about Whiteside's trade value. "I could see a first-rounder and a decent player—a rotational guy—but not a lottery pick and a decent player. I would be shocked if you got an All-Star for him. No way."
That was in January. Whiteside's value has only gone down, and that trend might continue as it becomes even more obvious Bam Adebayo and Kelly Olynyk comprise the center combination of the future in Miami. Plus, Whiteside doesn't sound too thrilled about his South Beach tenure.
"Man, it's annoying. Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don't have a good center. They're going to use their strength," the big man exclaimed after failing to enter the fray in the fourth quarter or overtime of a recent loss to the Brooklyn Nets, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It's bulls--t. It's really bulls--t, man. There's a lot of teams that could use a center. S--t. That's bulls--t."
Maybe the Heat smooth things out with this particular 5, even if he's wrong calling himself "one of the best centers in the league" in his self-assessment. But the more likely scenario involves a cost-cutting move that trades Whiteside's salary ($25.4 million in 2018-19 and then a player option for $27.1 million) to the Los Angeles Lakers for the Luol Deng albatross (at least $18 million each of the next two years).
Los Angeles gets its mitts on a high-upside big man to pair with the many incumbent up-and-comers. Miami sheds a bit from the ledgers—especially important with Tyler Johnson's deal set to balloon—and receives Josh Hart and a mid-tier second-round pick in exchange.
This isn't a glamorous move for the Heat. It's just an increasingly sensible decision to sell low before Whiteside's trade value runs out.
Kemba Walker to the Detroit Pistons
Charlotte Hornets Get: Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, 2018 second-round pick, 2020 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
Detroit Pistons Get: Jeremy Lamb, Kemba Walker
The Charlotte Hornets chose to keep Kemba Walker at this year's trade deadline, but that doesn't mean they'll avoid shopping him during the hottest months of the calendar. Financial concerns are still very real for a small-market team that's starting to brush up against the luxury tax, and embarking upon a rebuild would be a sound decision.
Walker has largely said the right things and is even building a house in the Queen City. But it's still hard to avoid wondering if he'll be on his way to a more competitive organization this summer—stated desire to remain in Charlotte be damned.
"At this point, I want to win. I want to be in the playoffs," Walker told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer in late March. "I'm tired of not being in the playoffs. ... I hate watching them on TV. I've been there twice in seven years, and it's just not fun [missing out]."
Knowing how much he prioritizes winning, the Hornets could make a business decision and elect to relocate him this summer. Walker's contract expires after the 2018-19 campaign, and his affinity for re-entering the playoff mix—something that will be tough to do with Charlotte's current roster construction—could lead to an exit in search of a more competitive environment. Strike now, though, and you still get plenty for his services.
"There will be no cap flexibility this offseason unless the Hornets are willing to go into the luxury tax (unlikely), or they manage to dump a salary (good luck)," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor penned before listing the Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks as potential trade partners. "Rookie Malik Monk (who has struggled) or their first-round pick (currently No. 11 in the pre-lottery order) has value, but there realistically isn't a player they could get that'd drastically move the needle."
Allow us to go off the list and select the Detroit Pistons as the destination of choice.
The Motor City can offer enough current talent to appease Charlotte management should it want to stay somewhat competitive—and a future first-round pick coming down the tracks never hurt anyone. In return, Detroit would get its hands on both Walker and Jeremy Lamb, allowing it to surround a new triumvirate of Walker, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin with even more shooting talent.
This is about the most the Hornets can expect to get for the floor general's talents while he's on an expiring deal. Parting with him remains tough, but they might as well take advantage of a franchise that proved at this year's deadline it's willing to pony up for present-day success.
Wilson Chandler to the Philadelphia 76ers
Denver Nuggets Get: Justin Anderson, 2018 second-round pick, 2018 second-round pick (via Houston Rockets)
Philadelphia 76ers Get: Wilson Chandler
This is a salary dump.
The Philadelphia 76ers have boatloads of financial flexibility this summer—Spotrac has them at No. 3 in the practical cap-space rankings ($31.2 million), trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers ($61.9 million) and Chicago Bulls ($41.5 million). They shouldn't be afraid to use it in the pursuit of even more talent. Of course, this gets negated if LeBron James or Paul George decides to join the City of Brotherly Love, but let's pretend that isn't happening for the time being.
Absorbing Wilson Chandler's deal (assuming the soon-to-be 31-year-old opts into his $12.8 million salary for 2018-19) for the price of a forward who never plays and a pair of second-round picks almost makes too much sense. Philly would adore his defensive switchability and ability to thrive in off-ball situations, allowing him to improve a young bench in need of more established talent at the 3 and 4.
But why would the Denver Nuggets just give away Chandler?
Again, this is all about money. Their looming problem is solved if the forward opts out and hits unrestricted free agency since they can let him walk and partially clear up their ledgers before engaging in other cost-cutting moves. They'll be looking to shop Kenneth Faried either way, though the Morehead State product's contract is far less movable.
Denver will likely turn down Nikola Jokic's team option this summer, allowing him to enter restricted free agency for a split second before immediately inking him to a maximum contract. That's the only way to ensure they retain his services throughout the foreseeable future. The alternative is letting him continue to play on a bargain-basement salary before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019.
If that happens, he could go anywhere.
But adding a max deal for Jokic pushes the Nuggets toward the luxury tax, and that's a situation they've historically sought to avoid. Chandler's departure is part of the logical solution, especially if a team in need of his services is willing to give back even the tiniest of draft-day assets.