5 Blockbuster Trade Ideas Early in NBA Free Agency
Free agency may be the most exciting part of the NBA summer, but the trade market can send shockwaves throughout the league, as well.
Some deals, like Kawhi Leonard's trade from the San Antonio Spurs to the Toronto Raptors last year, can result in a championship.
While not every swap will lead to a title, there could be enough stars on the move after the free-agency dust settles to push teams into the Finals conversation.
With nearly all the big free agents already under contract, here are some potential summer deals to keep the NBA offseason hot.
Kevin Love Gives Boston a Big 3
Boston Celtics Receive: F/C Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SF Gordon Hayward, 2020 first-round pick, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Hayward, Marcus Smart and Romeo Langford give Boston plenty of shooters and ball-handlers. After losing Al Horford in free agency, trading Aron Baynes and retaining little money for free-agent forward Marcus Morris, the Celtics need another big, even after agreeing to sign Enes Kanter, per Stadium and The Athletic's Shams Charania.
Adding Love to Walker and Tatum would give Boston its latest Big Three, pushing it back toward the top of the Eastern Conference. Hayward's contract (two years, $66.9 million) has become a burden on Boston's salary cap, and the C's would likely have to attach draft picks to get rid of it.
The Cavs would get the Celtics' first-round picks in 2020 (unprotected) and 2022 (lottery protected)—essentially one for giving up Love and another for taking back Hayward's contract. While Love is due a hefty amount himself (four years, $120 million), he's a far better player than Hayward and gives Boston the All-Star power forward it desperately needs.
Losing Love would hurt the development of the Cavs' young guards, but Hayward could be a usable rotation piece and veteran influence.
Andrew Wiggins Goes Home to Toronto
Toronto Raptors Receive: SF Andrew Wiggins, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: PF Serge Ibaka
To be clear, this trade is made under the assumption Kawhi Leonard does not return to the Toronto Raptors in free agency. If he does, please disregard.
Yes, Wiggins has a tough remaining contract to swallow (four years, $121.2 million), but the Raptors stand to have significant cap space next summer with Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet all coming off the books. They're one of the few teams that can take on Wiggins' money and still have max cap space next summer.
While he's nowhere near Leonard's level, the Raptors could use his scoring from the small forward position. Wiggins has the physical tools to become a great defender, and playing alongside Pascal Siakim and Gasol would be a big help.
A move to his hometown of Toronto might help unlock some No. 1 overall pick potential for the 24-year-old Wiggins, as well.
Meanwhile, Ibaka would give Minnesota a quality starting power forward after it lost Taj Gibson in free agency and traded Dario Saric to the Phoenix Suns on draft night. Ibaka averaged 15.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for the Raptors last season and would be a terrific veteran to place next to Karl-Anthony Towns.
This move would also clear $29.3 million in cap space for the Wolves next summer, as that's the number to which Wiggin's contract will elevate for 2020-21. Even including a protected first-rounder would be worthwhile given those savings.
Steven Adams Lands in Atlanta
Atlanta Hawks Receive: C Steven Adams
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: SG Allen Crabbe, F/C Omari Spellman, Jaylen Adams, 2021 second-round pick
While this trade would represent a mismatch in terms of talent, it's one the Thunder may be forced to make.
As Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer reported, OKC is making Adams, Andre Roberson and Dennis Schroder available via trade in an attempt to shed salary and get under the luxury tax. Adams is certain to attract the most attention of that group, and his skill set would fit beautifully alongside a young Hawks squad.
With Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter and John Collins already in the fold, the Hawks only need a center to complete their young core. Adams, 25, is youthful enough to fit into Atlanta's rebuild and brings 52 games of playoff experience over the past six years. He put up 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 33.4 minutes per game for the Thunder last season.
For OKC, this move would give it the salary relief it requires while also adding some much-needed shooting and a young big man to develop.
Crabbe made 39.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers for the Brooklyn Nets last season while chipping in 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He could start as a floor-spacing shooting guard between Russell Westbrook and Paul George or come off the bench.
Spellman, 21, gave the Hawks 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per contest as a rookie last season and started 11 of his 46 games. Jaylen Adams only has $100,000 of his $1.4 million salary guaranteed, meaning the Thunder can waive him before July 19 and save an additional $1.3 million.
Atlanta would throw in a future second-round pick to give the Thunder some future trade assets, as well.
Domantas Sabonis to Spurs, Derrick White to Pacers
San Antonio Spurs Receive: C Domantas Sabonis
Indiana Pacers Receive: G Derrick White, Chimezie Metu
Consider this a swap of two budding stars who may be forced to come off their current team's bench next season.
Sabonis put up 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in just 24.8 minutes per game while backing up Myles Turner in Indiana. He shot a career-high 59.0 percent from the floor and won't turn 24 until May. He would be an immediate upgrade over every center currently on the Spurs roster and could be a nightly double-double threat while playing starter's minutes.
White had a breakout postseason with San Antonio, scoring a career-best 36 points in a Game 3 win over the Denver Nuggets en route to averaging 15.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. At 6'4", he can play either guard position.
Even though they have Aaron Holiday and agreed to a sign-and-trade for Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pacers could use another point guard after losing both Darren Collison (retirement) and Corey Joseph (free agency).
Brogdon spent 84 percent of his court time at shooting guard last season, which means White could be the team's starting point guard while Victor Oladipo continues his rehab from a January knee injury. Even after Oladipo returns, Indiana could use a lot of three-guard lineups since former starting small forward Bojan Bogdanovic has agreed to leave for the Utah Jazz, per Wojnarowski.
While the Spurs wouldn't want to lose White, former starting point guard Dejounte Murray is returning from a torn ACL and DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and Lonnie Walker IV are also looking for time in the backcourt.
A Sabonis-White swap would satisfy positional needs for both teams, though the Spurs could add draft compensation if needed. To make the money work, the Spurs would include 6'10" power forward/center Chimezie Metu, whom Indiana can also use as depth behind Turner.
Rockets, Grizzlies Swap Wings
Houston Rockets Receive: F Jae Crowder, SG Kyle Korver
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: SG Eric Gordon, 2020 second-round pick (via Memphis Grizzlies)
The Grizzlies received both Crowder and Korver from the Utah Jazz in the Mike Conley trade, although they don't exactly fit into a rebuild.
Crowder, 28, is the kind of switchable defensive wing the Rockets crave. He gave Utah 11.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 27.1 minutes per game, primarily playing as a reserve. With 51 games of playoff experience already under his belt, he could become the Rockets' starting small forward or play small-ball power forward as needed.
While retirement seemed like a possibility for the 38-year-old Korver, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the veteran shooting guard is likely to play another one-to-two seasons. The 16-year veteran averaged 8.6 points and nailed 39.7 percent of his threes for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jazz last season. He'd be a valuable sniper off Houston's bench.
For Memphis, getting Gordon back would mean pairing a reliable veteran scorer with rookie point guard Ja Morant in the backcourt. His 16.2 points per game trailed only James Harden and Clint Capela for Houston last season. If the Grizzlies decided they wanted to go younger, Gordon could be flipped again at the deadline or bought out altogether.
The Grizzlies would also get their own second-round pick in next summer's draft back from the Rockets, and that selection should carry value somewhere in the 30s.