1 Trade to Help Get NBA's Best Superstars over the Top
For the past seven years, one (or two) of these players has won the title, a streak that will reach eight no matter who wins this year's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors.
With Durant and Leonard about to hit free agency, we could see an opening at the top of each conference, just ripe for the picking for the rest of today's top stars.
We're looking at you, James Harden. And we saw how close you made it this year, Giannis Antetokounmpo. And don't think we forgot about the playoff run you just had, Damian Lillard. It's OK to admit you need a little help. There are some damn good teams in the NBA right now, ones that just need a little push to reach that next playoff round or championship level.
Ringless superstars, these trades are for you!
Damian Lillard Gets Some Love
Blazers Receive: PF Kevin Love
Cavaliers Receive: SF Maurice Harkless, C Meyers Leonard, 2019 No. 25 overall pick
Lillard's spectacular postseason performance reinforced two previous beliefs.
First, he's a superstar and among the best guards in the NBA. Second, defenses will plan their attacks around stopping him, and the Blazers will need someone besides CJ McCollum to turn to for offense.
Enter Love, who should be happy to move off a rebuilding Cavaliers team and return to his home area of Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Given Love's injury history and juicy remaining contract (four years, $120.4 million), the Blazers won't have to give up McCollum or a great deal of assets. Simply including the expiring contracts of Harkless and Leonard, along with their late first-round pick this season, should do.
Is Love still productive when healthy? His 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in just 27.2 minutes per game this season suggest so. Can he be the third-best player on a championship team? Again, check. Will his presence open the floor and create even more driving lanes for Lillard and McCollum? Absolutely.
For Lillard and the Blazers, a trade for Love is well worth the risk.
Bradley Beal Joins Paul George, Russell Westbrook in OKC
Thunder Receive: SG Bradley Beal, C Dwight Howard
Wizards Receive: 2019 No. 21 overall pick (after selection is made), 2021 1st-Round Pick (unprotected), C Steven Adams, PF Jerami Grant, SG Terrance Ferguson
Outside shooting is a need for the Thunder, who finished the regular season 22nd overall with a team three-point success rate of 34.8 percent. Beal is a career 38.4 percent shooter from deep and has evolved his offensive game to near superstar status.
He won't come cheaply, of course.
Losing Adams would sting, as the 25-year-old center is coming off a 13.9-point, 9.5-rebound, 1.5-steal per game season. Grant is a springy 25-year-old three-and-D power forward, and the 21-year-old Ferguson fits in nicely with a rebuild in Washington as well.
Because of the Stepien Rule, the Thunder would have to make the pick for the Wizards first before making the trade and then give up a future unprotected first as well for Beal.
The Thunder get a third star, while Washington picks up three potential starters and two first-round picks. With no use for a 33-year-old Howard, the Wizards would gladly move him to the Thunder, who need a rebounding big in Adams' place.
James Harden Gets Some Help on the Wing
Rockets Receive: F Robert Covington, F Taurean Prince, C Alex Len, 2020 second-round pick (via Timberwolves)
Hawks Receive: C Clint Capela
Timberwolves Receive: 2019 No. 10 overall pick (via Hawks), C Miles Plumlee
The Rockets are really close. Really.
Even if they try to move Chris Paul this summer, the market will be slim for a 34-year-old injury-prone point guard due $124 million the next three years. Houston is probably stuck with Paul, which means it'll be forced to dangle Capela as trade bait.
The Hawks should have interest in a 25-year-old center who's locked up for the next four years and averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season. With two picks in the top 10 of this June's draft, Atlanta should be willing to part with the worse of the two if it means landing Capela.
Minnesota looks like it's still stuck in rebuild mode after a brief flirt with the playoffs in 2017-18, and it should gladly take on a lottery pick and the expiring contract of Plumlee for Covington.
Capela has been great in Houston, but he often gets squeezed off the floor when the Rockets are forced to go small to match up with the Warriors. Already with a set backcourt, the Rockets need three-and-D wings who can run the floor and don't need the ball in their hands to be effective.
Enter Covington (13.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals) and Prince (13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 steals), who both shot at least 37.8 percent from deep last season. Combined with PJ Tucker, the Rockets would now be loaded with defensive wings.
Anthony Davis Finally Joins Lakers (with Wizards' Help)
Lakers Receive: PF/C Anthony Davis
Pelicans Receive: SG Bradley Beal, SF Brandon Ingram, 2019 No. 9 overall pick (via Wizards)
Wizards Receive: 2019 No. 4 overall pick (via Lakers), PG Lonzo Ball, PF Kyle Kuzma
Since the whole Lakers-Pelicans trade never worked straight up, bringing in a third party may be what it takes to get a deal done.
While the Pelicans would have been fun in 2019-20 with Davis, Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson, that's still not the makings of a title team.
Pairing Davis with a rested LeBron James, one who averaged 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists at age 34, should mean a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. Adding a third star in free agency to a roster that still has Josh Hart and Mo Wagner could make them serious Finals contenders if James stays healthy and doesn't have to manage his load too often.
The Pelicans avoid a rebuild by adding Beal, and Ingram showed elite scoring potential for stretches last season. New Orleans would also have two top-10 picks entering the draft.
Washington may be fighting an inevitable rebuild, but adding the No. 4 overall pick along with Ball and Kuzma would be too good to pass up.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Gets a Point Guard Upgrade
Bucks Receive: PG Mike Conley
Grizzlies Receive: 2019 No. 30 overall pick (via Bucks, after selection is made), PG Dante Exum, SG Grayson Allen, G/F Tony Snell
Jazz Receive: PG Eric Bledsoe
The now yearly tradition where Bledsoe balls out in the regular season only to retract back into his shell during the playoffs has to be concerning for the Bucks.
Milwaukee needs Conley, who averaged 24.7 points, 7.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game during his last postseason run in 2016-17. His remaining contract (two years, $67 million) expires the same time as Antetokounmpo's, giving the Bucks money for a supermax extension for their superstar and/or free agent help to surround him with.
The Grizzlies will get Milwaukee's first-round pick this season, even if the Bucks will have to make the selection first because of the Stepien rule. They'll also get the chance to groom Exum and Allen for their rebuild and pick up a three-and-D wing with Snell.
Utah will be looking for a point guard this offseason with Ricky Rubio hitting unrestricted free agency, and Bledsoe is signed to a reasonable four-year, $70 million extension. If Bledsoe goes into turtle mode in the playoffs again, Donovan Mitchell is more than capable of carrying the offense for stretches.
Because Bledsoe signed his extension March 4, this deal would have to be completed after the six-month anniversary Sept. 4.