Blockbuster NBA Trades That Should Happen This Offseason
The approaching 2019 NBA offseason means attention will soon pivot from reality to fantasy.
When the games end, roster reconstruction begins. That means the draft, free agency and, most of all, fanciful trade speculation. Every team has a shot to do something spectacular over the summer, and one of the most satisfying pastimes is thinking up league-altering trades.
Who doesn't want to concoct wild scenarios in which All-Stars swap cities and rosters get overhauled?
This is a tricky time to dream up pie-in-the-sky trades because all 30 teams have unsettled 2019-20 rosters. The draft and free agency still lie ahead, and this summer's market is particularly robust. Somewhere around 40 percent of the league's players will be free agents.
That'll make the normal salary-matching requirement impossible at this juncture. When you don't know where teams will be in relation to the salary cap (because they have half-full rosters), you can't abide by the strict rules of the CBA. Consider these proposals rough outlines; we'll name the principal pieces we'd like to see moved in blockbuster exchanges and worry about the cap minutiae another time.
We can't include players unless they're under contract, so free agents won't be involved. Guys with player or team options are allowed. If they weren't, we'd be drawing from a shallow pool of trade candidates.
Dream big, NBA trade maestros.
Boston Gambles Big
New Orleans Pelicans Get: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, 2019 first-round pick*, 2019 first-round pick (via Clippers)
Boston Celtics: Anthony Davis
The Pelicans don't know where Zion Williamson will end up, which they should consider when looking for Davis trade partners this summer. If Williamson isn't obtainable, the Pels should turn their attention to the Celtics and their naked willingness to bet the farm on AD.
The Celtics telegraphed their intentions in February when they told the Pelicans that "everyone can be available," per Shams Charania of The Athletic
The Pels should make outrageous demands.
They should hem and haw until the Celtics agree to take back Solomon Hill's salary or include the Memphis Grizzlies' 2020 protected first-rounder (assuming it doesn't convey this year). If Boston's serious about adding AD to a core that includes a re-signed Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, New Orleans should wring out every last asset it can get.
The above deal is a starting point for the Pelicans. Considering the Celtics would have the profile of a serious title threat after adding Davis, they may decide there's almost no price too high.
*We have to wait until after July 1 to swing this deal so the Celtics can re-sign Irving and get past the rule prohibiting a team from trading for two "Rose Rule" extension holders. This would have to be one of those situations where the Pelicans tell the Celtics whom to take in the draft, and then wait for that player to be in the trade package after July 1.
Utah Spaces the Floor
Utah Jazz Get: Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Get: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, 2019 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
There's nothing complicated about this one.
The Cavaliers are in the fledgling stages of a rebuild, and Love has no real role on a team in this position. He's heading into his age-31 season and will collect $120.4 million over the next four years of his contract extension.
He can help Cleveland win a few more games next year, but what's that really worth? Certainly not $120 million.
Love is among the most skilled shooting and passing forwards in the league. Though he's a defensive minus, his ability to stretch the floor and function as a secondary facilitator (he was a primary playmaker in his Minnesota Timberwolves days) makes him an ideal fit on a Jazz team that doesn't have enough shot creation outside of Donovan Mitchell.
Favors is a fantastic backup center who'd start for several teams, but he's a luxury for Utah. His presence alongside or behind Rudy Gobert represents a misallocation of resources. If he made the minimum, no problem! But since Favors will collect $16.9 million in 2019-20 if his contract becomes fully guaranteed, he's too costly for his current role.
It's tantalizing to imagine Love drilling threes as the outlet valve when defenses collapse on a rolling Gobert or running the offense from the elbows as a second-unit center. And if anyone can clean up Love's defensive mistakes, it's Gobert.
The fit works well in theory, and both teams should be motivated to make this happen.
Help's On the Way, Vic
Indiana Pacers Get: Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards Get: Domantas Sabonis, Aaron Holiday, Doug McDermott, 2020 first-round pick
The Pacers scored 108.0 points per 100 possessions without Victor Oladipo on the floor this year, a figure that would have ranked 23rd in the league over the full season. In the playoffs, the scoring drought got even worse, and the Pacers managed an offensive rating of only 95.8 during their first-round elimination.
You've undoubtedly seen trade proposals designed to get Mike Conley or Jrue Holiday to the Pacers, both of whom would help juice the offense. But who's to say Indy's lack of shot creation has to be solved by a point guard?
Beal and Victor Oladipo could generate plenty of buckets on their own, especially if Myles Turner ever commits to spacing all the way out to the three-point line in the pick-and-pop.
A healthy Oladipo is among the most dangerous downhill attackers in the league, and Beal proved he could operate as a top option this season after John Wall went down with a heel injury. The Wizards shooting guard was one of only five qualified players to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists in 2018-19. The others were Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Indiana has three starters set to become free agents (Thaddeus Young, Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison), so its offensive overhaul doesn't have to end with Beal. He could be the first step in building a dominant attack.
Losing Sabonis hurts, but the Pacers shouldn't pay him what he's worth (on an extension this summer or in restricted free agency a year later) because Turner is already under contract and is the better defensive fit. Washington could make Sabonis a young centerpiece, though, and Holiday and a 2020 first-rounder work nicely as sweeteners.
Ideally, Washington would move Wall to get a fresh start, but his contract is toxic. Among the Wizards' realistic options for a reset, Beal's the best piece for them to deal.
The Other AD-to-LA Option
Los Angeles Clippers Get: Anthony Davis
New Orleans Pelicans: Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilegeous-Alexander, Landry Shamet, 2020 first-round pick (via Philadelphia), 2021 first-round pick (via Miami)
If the Clippers trade for Davis and land Kawhi Leonard in free agency, they should be willing to sacrifice depth.
This is quite a haul to surrender, but it still may not measure up to what Boston can offer for Davis. That's why this hypothetical deal only makes sense if the Celtics lose Kyrie Irving to free agency, at which point Davis would broadcast his hesitation about re-signing in Boston when he hits the market in 2020. The Celtics may be less willing to mortgage their future for a possible one-year rental.
The Clippers don't have LeBron James, but they're the superior Los Angeles destination in every other way. If Davis is as focused on winning as he says, perhaps he'd be persuaded by the Clips' playoff berth this season.
Does anybody know how the Lakers fared by comparison?
Outside of Davis and James sharing Klutch Sports representation, why would AD want to play for the Lakers over the Clippers? The Clips have the more decorated coach, a front office filled with execs other organizations are trying to hire away, an owner who's empowered said front office to rebuild the franchise without tanking and none of the exceptionalism nonsense that has turned the Lakers into a laughingstock.
The Pelicans add a quality expiring veteran in Gallo, whom they could potentially flip for more assets, plus a heap of useful young pieces and future draft picks. Everybody wins.
Except the Lakers—which is fine, because they've grown accustomed to taking L's over the last half-decade or so.