Realistic Trade Ideas for NBA's Dog Days
Casual fans might utilize the dog days of the NBA offseason to check items off their binge-watch list, prep for fantasy football drafts or otherwise take advantage of the slowest point on the hoops calendar.
But for roundball junkies, there's no such thing as an offseason. If the Association isn't generating news, our brains shift over to hypothetical swaps and examine both which players might be on the move and why.
The science is as inexact as it sounds, but there are reasons the following five swaps all qualify as realistic. Some of the players have already been connected to the trade block. Others might be logical candidates for financial reasons or changing circumstances for them or their employers.
These aren't trade predictions. It's more than possible none comes to fruition.
Still, this exercise helps spotlight potential problems lingering late into the offseason and possible solutions.
Cavs Add Talent, Clippers Create Cap Space
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Milos Teodosic, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, 2021 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: George Hill, JR Smith
This swap might look lopsided on first glance. Gallinari is the best player in the exchange, so why are the Clippers sacrificing him and a first-round pick for—at most—marginal backcourt upgrades? Because this gets them closest to realizing their wildest dreams for 2019 free agency.
This not only sheds the $22.6 million owed to Gallinari for 2019-20, it does so while nearly wiping the future financial slate clean. Hill and Smith are both technically signed for 2019-20, but only on partial guarantees totaling $4.8 million between them.
"The Clippers will be on track for more than $50 million in room," Bleacher Report's Dan Favale wrote. "That number can explode and land closer to dual-max territory if they find takers for the expiring deals of Gallinari, [Lou] Williams or Montrezl Harrell. Combine that cash with the Los Angeles market, and the Clippers are golden."
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, would prefer winning sooner than later. They're out to prove they can contend without LeBron James, and while this deal doesn't push them atop the East, it makes them more talented and adds an extra asset for future building or a separate swap.
Defense might be disastrous for the Gallinari-Kevin Love frontcourt, but offensively they're both capable hubs as scorers, shooters and passers. Beverley would be a fun mentor and/or fascinating backcourt partner for rookie Collin Sexton, who could also benefit by learning the finer points of playmaking from Teodosic.
Rockets Find Defensive Wing, Hawks Add Assets
Houston Rockets Receive: Kent Bazemore
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Ryan Anderson, Zhou Qi, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
Different iterations of this deal have floated in the rumor mill for a while now. Kelly Iko of Rockets Wire reported in late July that Houston wants another defensive wing and has interest in Bazemore scratching that itch.
"The Rockets have long been admirers of Bazemore, having attempted to bring him in during 2016 free agency," Iko wrote. "... Hawks GM Travis Schlenk wants assets, will always listen to offers and would take back a contract such as Ryan Anderson's but would require it be attached with a draft pick and/or a young player."
Bazemore would be the biggest step yet toward helping Houston replace Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. Bazemore is a more reliable outside shooter than James Ennis III and a far more useful defender than Carmelo Anthony. Bazemore's 39.4 percent conversion rate from three would have paced last season's Rockets, while his length and quickness both fit snugly into Houston's switch-heavy defensive system.
What makes Atlanta pull the trigger here? The future first, mostly. Sure, it'll be a late one, but Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Pascal Siakam and Dejounte Murray were all taken among the final four picks of the past two first rounds. The Hawks could get real value here in exchange for a 29-year-old who doesn't fit their timeline.
Plus, maybe Zhou proves more than a throw-in. He clearly needs developmental minutes, but Atlanta has plenty to burn. There's a best-case scenario future for him where he's swatting shots at one end and splashing threes at the other.
Hornets Go All-In, Magic Seek Balance
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic
Orlando Magic Receive: Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, 2019 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
For all the times Kemba Walker has talked about his loyalty to Charlotte, the city might still be haunted by a quote he delivered in March.
"At this point, I want to win," Walker told Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. "I want to be in the playoffs. I'm tired of not being in the playoffs."
Charlotte's front office should treat that as a call to action. To avoid any scares next summer—when Walker reaches unrestricted free agency—the Hornets must position themselves for the 2019 postseason.
This would significantly increase their odds. Fournier is sort of a souped-version of Batum. Fournier is more consistent with his shooting, aggression and scoring. Batum might be a better passer, but Tony Parker's arrival lessens the need for playmaking. As for Vucevic, he's a versatile scoring threat built to relieve pressure on Walker. Vooch can work pick-and-rolls, pop out as a shooter or create from the post.
Orlando goes head-first into the Aaron Gordon-Jonathan Isaac-Mohamed Bamba era. The Magic must see how all three play off each other and whether it's feasible to keep the trio around long term. Batum can slide into Fournier's old spot and pump passing into an offense that desperately needs it. The first-rounder brightens the future, and Lamb gets a season to show whether he could do the same.
Cavs, Heat Swap Centers
Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Hassan Whiteside
Miami Heat Get: Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson
While Whiteside is saying all the right things on the heels of a frustrating 2017-18 season, this might be nothing more than trying to make the best of a bad situation. It doesn't sound like Miami decided to keep him as much as it failed to find anywhere to send him.
"Two opposing general managers said last week that Whiteside has been made available but the trade market is limited, if non-existent, for a player who's due $24.4 million this season and $27.1 million next season and plays a position that has become somewhat devalued," Barry Jackson reported for the Miami Herald.
This could be the workaround.
If the Cavs see Whiteside as a substantial upgrade—interior production gives him a strong edge—they may not mind ponying up the extra cash over Thompson's remaining contract ($36.0 million for the next two seasons combined). They could also cover the other rotation vacancies by leaning on the likes of Ante Zizic, Sam Dekker, Cedi Osman and David Nwaba (assuming he signs).
The Heat have clear needs for Korver's outside shot and Nance's youth and athleticism. It isn't hard to imagine Korver mimicking the impact of Wayne Ellington, who had the second-highest net rating among Miami's rotation players. Nance would never lack for energy the way Whiteside does occasionally, plus Nance's mobility would make him easier to plug alongside the other frontcourt players.
Miami must still value Thompson to some degree for this to work. That's the hardest leap to make in this hypothetical, as the 27-year-old just logged a career-low 20.2 minutes per game. But he can replicate most of Whiteside's rebounding while setting harder screens and better defending the perimeter, plus he'd presumably be less distracting if he loses minutes to Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and/or James Johnson.
Blazers, Wolves Opt for Major Shake-Ups
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Justin Patton, Tyus Jones, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: CJ McCollum, Meyers Leonard
The Portland Trail Blazers backcourt constantly finds itself in rumors. Last October, SI.com's Jeremy Woo suggested Portland and Minnesota find a way to swap CJ McCollum and Andrew Wiggins. Then, in January, Marc Stein of the New York Times predicted 2018 would be the year in which Portland broke apart the McCollum-Damian Lillard backcourt, one way or another.
The Blazers hardly squelched speculation by getting swept out of the opening round, stretching their playoff losing streak to 10 games. So ahead of 2018-19, we're taking Woo's idea involving McCollum and Wiggins and adding a few key pieces from each side.
The McCollum-Lillard tandem appears too deficient on defense to ever properly function, particularly when there aren't sufficient funds to reform the roster around it. The challenge is Portland presumably doesn't want to reset if it's keeping the 28-year-old, in-prime Lillard around.
The Blazers are banking on Wiggins realizing untapped potential here, and that's far from guaranteed. But given his age (23), athleticism and proven production (career 19.7 points per game), it's foolish to think he's done developing. And if he keeps climbing, he's potentially a much better fit in Portland as a multipositional defender, electric off-ball slasher and serviceable spot-up shooter.
Patton gives the Blazers another young big with upside, and Jones adds extra playmaking behind Lillard. With McCollum moving out, Portland can attempt to accelerate the developments of Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons. A similar dynamic could play out up front for Patton, Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan with Leonard following Ed Davis out the door.
The Timberwolves' motive is simple—chase the best possible on-court product ahead of Jimmy Butler's potential 2019 free agency. McCollum tops Wiggins in most offensive categories, including shot-creating, floor spacing and distributing. The more scoring chances McCollum could generate (82nd percentile on isolations last season), the easier it'd be for Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns to get their wind.
"Minnesota could really use the added backcourt punch, and McCollum's ability to play off the ball would fit nicely next to Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns," Woo wrote.
This is probably too dramatic for either organization to pursue at this stage of the offseason, but if they both stumble out of the gate, they could see it as a way out of potentially stagnant situations.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.