5 Realistic Trades After the Results of 2018 NBA Draft Lottery
Though the 2018 NBA playoffs are still working toward their conclusion, draft season is officially upon us. The pingpong balls have finished bouncing, revealing the order of the first 14 teams in the 2018 NBA draft.
No longer are trade proposals involving picks rooted in hypotheticals.
The New York Knicks can now shop around the No. 9 pick rather than teasing fellow franchises with minuscule hopes of moving up into one of the top three spots. The Philadelphia 76ers know they're getting the No. 10 selection from the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Boston Celtics are not getting the second or third pick. Good thing they still have the Cleveland Cavaliers to focus on in the Eastern Conference Finals as well as the No. 27 pick.
With the increased knowledge that stems from the finalized order of the June 21 prospect pageant, we can make even more informed guesses as to what marquee trades might go down.
Each of these five suggestions is ultimately rooted in speculation. But the deals should make sense for both sides, and the returns for the leading players involved in the swaps all bring back fair value. Maybe you don't want to see Kemba Walker or Kawhi Leonard changing hands, just as two examples. These are still viable transactions if the Charlotte Hornets and San Antonio Spurs, respectively, decide to move on.
Not all of the players involved in these hypothetical deals will serve on-court purposes. Some will be included to match salaries, while others are there as salary-dump victims. Others still offer hints of upside but aren't centerpieces. We won't dive deep into analysis on these players, but they're still important to complete the deals.
The Philadelphia 76ers Go Hunting for Another Star
Philadelphia 76ers Get: Kawhi Leonard
San Antonio Spurs Get: Justin Anderson, Jerryd Bayless, Markelle Fultz, No. 10 pick in 2018 NBA draft (via Los Angeles Lakers)
The Philadelphia 76ers might be one piece away from legitimate title contention, assuming Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid continue on their developmental paths. But what if they could sacrifice last year's disappointing No. 1 overall pick and the No. 10 selection in the 2018 NBA draft to have a shot at two more bona fide stars?
Parting with Markelle Fultz would be painful. Despite the shoulder issues and psychological issues that plagued his rookie campaign, he still profiles as a distinct asset going forward. Even if his shot never returns (and it was partially that shooting prowess that made him the choice at No. 1 last summer), he has the quick first step, finishing acumen and defensive upside necessary to justify a big spot in any rotation.
But giving up Fultz and a lottery pick is necessary if you'd like to get your hands on a player as talented as Kawhi Leonard.
This deal is predicated upon the possibility that Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs really are due for a breakup. That's not a guarantee. It's unlikely to happen, given the wizardry that head coach Gregg Popovich has already shown in getting LaMarcus Aldridge to not just remain with San Antonio but buy fully into the system and have a tremendous 2017-18 season.
If the Spurs do shop Leonard, however, this becomes realistic. Even with Jerryd Bayless' contract included to clear up cap space for Philadelphia, the allure of Fultz and a top-10 selection in a talented draft class makes for an intriguing package geared around the long-term future in San Antonio.
The motivation for Philadelphia is rather obvious. It would land an ace defender who can create his shots from all over the half-court set—a strong complement to the Simmons/Embiid/Dario Saric core. The Sixers would also preserve the cap space necessary to make a legitimate pursuit of LeBron James or Paul George in the ceaseless quest and become the NBA's next superteam, so long as either stud is willing to take a slight monetary hit.
Los Angeles Lakers Try to Land a Superstar
Los Angeles Lakers Get: Kawhi Leonard
San Antonio Spurs Get: Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, No. 25 pick in 2018 NBA draft (via Cleveland Cavaliers)
We're not done with Kawhi Leonard yet.
The Los Angeles Lakers' potential pursuit of the Spurs superstar might have been easier if they didn't need to deal away the No. 10 pick of the 2018 NBA draft, but they still have the ammo necessary to make a swap. It just takes a more established prospect brimming with untapped potential, in addition to another intriguing youngster and a first-round pick.
The No. 25 selection in this year's draft should be a coveted asset, even if it's not on the same level as a top-14 lottery pick. In the latest mock draft by Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman, that slot yields Donte DiVincenzo out of Villanova, just to give you an idea of the type of first-year talent we're talking about.
But exciting as a burgeoning sophomore like Markelle Fultz might be, the Lakers' hope would be the combination of Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram superseding that value. The former should become a solid rotation member, while the latter showed signs of morphing into a two-way stud throughout his second professional season.
Slashing 47.0/39.0/68.1 while assuming plenty of offensive responsibility, the Duke product averaged 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks for the Purple and Gold. He's still inconsistent and not quite loved by many advanced metrics, but the tools are so obviously there—enough so that San Antonio could view him as a clear-cut building block for the next era of Spurs basketball.
As for the Lakers, they'd be getting a premier talent who can help expedite their rebuild and thrive alongside Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Just like the Sixers, they'd also be preserving enough cap space to go after Paul George or LeBron James and create a superstar core in Hollywood.
DeMar DeRozan Changes Countries
Dallas Mavericks Get: DeMar DeRozan, 2019 second-round pick, 2020 second-round pick
Toronto Raptors Get: Wesley Matthews, No. 5 pick in 2018 NBA draft
The Toronto Raptors have already fired head coach Dwane Casey after getting swept out of the playoffs (again) by LeBron James. Now, they should be looking to go down one of two routes: a total rebuild that started with cleaning the coaching house or a willingness to run it back with an internal promotion and the same roster.
If they choose the former, DeMar DeRozan could very well have a new home for the first time since the Raptors drafted him at No. 9 in 2009. He'll inevitably be linked to plenty of locations, but few make more sense than a Dallas Mavericks team likely looking to expedite its rebuild and place top-tier talent around Dirk Nowitzki (who turns 40 in June) for one last playoff run.
Except the Mavericks have already turned their nose up at a package similar to this one.
This deal was originally put together by ESPN.com, with Bobby Marks writing the following justification on Friday:
"Enter the Dallas Mavericks. Though the cost is a top-five pick, acquiring DeRozan leaves the Mavericks with three long-term foundation players: Dennis Smith Jr., DeRozan and Harrison Barnes. Dallas would still have the flexibility in cap space ($20 million) in July to build out the roster, or take a conservative approach and have up to $30 million in cap room the following year."
Mike Fisher of 247Sports wrote on Saturday that his sources indicated the Mavericks weren't interested in trading their first-round pick for DeRozan. And that ends the discussion, right?
Not so fast.
First, we're in prime smokescreen season, during which teams consistently send out false flags to have a better chance at acquiring their coveted targets on the cheap. Second, the Mavericks' first-round pick has lost some value since the Fisher report, since it wound up being the No. 5 pick instead of a higher one.
Maybe this won't happen and Dallas' hesitation will be maintained. But it's certainly even more realistic now.
New Point Guard in Orlando
Atlanta Hawks Get: D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo, No. 6 pick in 2018 NBA draft
Orlando Magic Get: Dennis Schroder, Nos. 19 and 30 picks in 2018 NBA draft
Now that the Atlanta Hawks have the No. 3 pick this year and increased their chances of landing a top-tier prospect, they can be even more willing to part with their later selections. The Nos. 19 and 30 picks are quite valuable in a class as talented as this one, which means they could be paired with an established starter to jump significantly higher in the pecking order.
Of course, Dennis Schroder isn't helping the cause.
He's cleansed his social-media outlets of any references to the Hawks. The 24-year-old said that he "cannot be second-to-last in the Eastern Conference" during the prime of his playing career, per international basketball reporter David Hein. He's even said he could see himself playing for the Indiana Pacers or Milwaukee Bucks, as if he's put together the type of career that allows him to pick his next landing spot with such ease.
Unfortunately for Schroder, his team wasn't second-to-last in the East. His Hawks were dead-last. These statements and actions might be diminishing his trade value and making it tougher for Atlanta to part with him for pennies on the dollar quarter.
But the Orlando Magic may be here to save the day. They're still in search of their franchise point guard after giving up on Elfrid Payton and shipping him to the Phoenix Suns midway through the 2017-18 campaign.
With Aaron Gordon about to cost a lot more (assuming the front office decides to match any offer sheet he signs as a restricted free agent), the onus is on Orlando to win now. It can't keep floundering away, and the allure of an established starter in Schroder and two first-round picks might be too much to pass up.
That's especially true if the Hawks use their cap space advantageously, realizing they're not a primary free-agent destination and have plenty of rotation members operating on rookie deals. They can afford to absorb Bismack Biyombo's contract, which could pay the defense-first big man $17 million each of the next two years (he has a player option for 2019-20). They can even take back one more contract if that's a sticking point.
Kemba Walker on the Move
New York Knicks Get: Kemba Walker
Charlotte Hornets Get: Trey Burke, Lance Thomas, Nos. 9 and 37 picks in 2018 NBA draft
The New York Knicks could get another entertaining point guard with the No. 9 pick of the 2018 NBA draft. Dipping back into Jonathan Wasserman's latest mock draft for Bleacher Report, they'd be able to select from Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anfernee Simmons if they wanted a new body at the 1 rather than trusting Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke right away.
But what if they could make an immediate upgrade and set the stage for a quicker return to the postseason?
By parting with Burke, Lance Thomas, that top selection and a second-rounder, they should be able to get their hands on Kemba Walker. He could pair him with Kristaps Porzingis to create one of the NBA's most exciting pick-and-roll/pop tandems.
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor was on board back with this idea in late March, also mentioning that the Knicks have bigger salaries they could include while taking back one of the Charlotte Hornets' unpalatable contracts to smooth the transaction:
"The Knicks aren't a winning team, but New York is home for Walker, who grew up in the Bronx, graduated from Rice High School in Harlem, and went to college about three hours away at UConn. The most memorable moment of his career to date came at Madison Square Garden. Helping put the Knicks back on the winning track could be something of a full-circle moment for Walker. Meanwhile, Kristaps Porzingis and Walker would be a formidable duo that could appeal to free agents when the Knicks can create cap space in 2019."
The Hornets, meanwhile, would have a tough time accepting a Walker departure. But after years in the NBA's version of purgatory, caught squarely between contention and a true rebuild, and still bereft of the cap space necessary to make substantial improvement, starting from scratch is the right call.
Burke is intriguing enough to allow some hope of enduring competitiveness, but Charlotte would be far more interested in that top-10 selection. Pair it with its No. 11 pick (or package the two to move further up), and it has access to more attractive youngsters working in conjunction with Jeremy Lamb, Cody Zeller, Frank Kaminsky and Malik Monk.