CP3 to Heat, K-Love to Blazers, Beal to Indy: Deals to Fix NBA's Roster Problems
The 2019 NBA offseason has been a nonstop thrill ride from one blockbuster acquisition to the next.
Incredibly, there remains much more work to do.
For all the roster issues corrected this summer, some new ones were created while others were never addressed. From veterans languishing on rebuilders to up-and-comers stuck behind building blocks, the Association's worst roster problems come in all shapes and sizes.
We're here to correct some of the most egregious issues with trades to appease all parties.
Magic, Cavs Swap Prospects
Orlando Magic Receive: Collin Sexton
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Mohamed Bamba
Collin Sexton appeared Cleveland's most obvious building block this time last year, but the recent selection of Darius Garland potentially throws a wrench in those plans.
Other teams have tried the dual-point guard approach, of course, but it's never looked quite like this.
"While it's possible the pair can start next to each other, that makes for an extremely small backcourt," Bleacher Report's Greg Swartz wrote. "Given that neither is an eager distributor, the fit is even more awkward."
Sexton and Garland both stand 6'2", and neither is the most willing defender. As Swartz noted, each is on the ball-dominant side too. It could take a lot of work just to find a way for the two to coexist, and there are serious questions of whether the ultimate upside would even be worth it.
Instead, Cleveland could ease its own logjam while simultaneously doing the same for Orlando.
Mohamed Bamba was blocked from the second he landed in Disney's home, with his only saving grace that the player in front of him, Nikola Vucevic, was entering the final year of his contract. Of course, Vooch subsequently erupted to book his first-ever All-Star spot and helped Orlando snap a six-year playoff drought. The Magic rewarded him with a four-year, $100 million deal.
Bamba averaged just 16.3 minutes per game as a rookie and was limited to 47 games with a stress fracture in his left tibia. With Vucevic still around and Orlando's frontcourt as crowded as ever (everyone back, plus Chuma Okeke and Al-Farouq Aminu added), Bamba could have trouble improving his playing time as long as he's in Orlando.
Ship Bamba to Cleveland, though, and he could grab hold of the starting center spot with his incredible length, rim protection and offensive potential. Similarly, Sexton could go from being an awkward fit in Cleveland to the possible answer to Orlando's point guard prayers. He's already done more in his career than Markelle Fultz, and Sexton's ceiling is several stories above DJ Augustin's peak.
Kevin Love Returns to Oregon
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins, 2020 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
The Cavs want everyone to ignore the writing on the wall and instead focus on their insistence that they aren't looking to deal Kevin Love.
"The answer still hasn't changed," Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor wrote. "While it's not wise to use the never term in this ever-changing league, the Cavs don't want to trade Love."
Love turns 31 in September and stands to collect $120.4 million over the next four seasons. The Cavs are still in the early stages of their post-LeBron James rebuild and might need more than four seasons to approach contention. The fit between them makes zero sense.
More likely, it's not that Cleveland wants to keep Love, but rather the club doesn't want to move him at his current price. Teams aren't interested, meaning the Cavs are seeing a situation in which they trade away their best player (by far) for nothing of significant value in return.
But the Blazers could be one of the few teams that see Love, who grew up in Oregon, making a big enough impact to warrant sacrificing multiple assets to get him. They still need a third scorer to complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and Love can fill that void while also propping up Portland's perimeter stars as both a floor-spacer and a multidimensional screen-setter.
Portland had the third-best offense without Love this past season. Imagine what it could do with a 6'10" frontcourt force whose career per-game contributions include 18.3 points, 2.3 assists and 1.6 triples at a 37.0 percent clip.
The fact that Cleveland isn't in a rush to move Love helps, since Hassan Whiteside can't be traded with another player until September. The actual timeline of this trade could come much later, as Portland presumably wants Whiteside to cover the remaining time Jusuf Nurkic misses to the broken leg he suffered in March.
Once Whiteside has served his purpose, the Blazers can use him as a money-matcher in this exchange. While the Cavs would welcome the salary relief (Whiteside's $27.1 million salary expires at season's end), the real draws are the pick and the prospect. Zach Collins, the 10th overall pick in 2017, is a 21-year-old stretch 7-footer with more athleticism, mobility and rim protection than the label typically suggests.
Chris Paul Lands in South Beach
Miami Heat Receive: Chris Paul, 2021 first-round pick (their own)
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Goran Dragic, James Johnson, Meyers Leonard
The Miami Heat's enthusiasm for chasing Chris Paul is reportedly "far below" where it was for the Russell Westbrook sweepstakes, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. That should surprise no one. While each is owed $124 million over the next three seasons (Paul has a player option for 2021-22), Paul (34) is several years older and more clearly in his decline.
But all that means is Miami should adjust its offer accordingly, not abandon the pursuit altogether. The Heat should still be in the market for difference-makers after spending big on Jimmy Butler, and no one else on their roster moves the needle the way Paul would.
Trade talks for Paul have stalled, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, as the Oklahoma City Thunder don't feel pressured to part with draft considerations just to shed Paul. That's a big snag for these squads, since the Heat want both their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks back from OKC, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst.
Doesn't this seem like a public negotiation, though? Miami wants two picks, Oklahoma City doesn't want to give up any—can't these clubs meet in the middle?
The Heat need a win-now upgrade to maximize Butler's impact. Paul could immediately be this team's second-best player, and his competitiveness would fit right in with the mentalities of Butler, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley. Reports of Paul's demise have been exaggerated. In 2018-19, he was fourth among point guards in ESPN.com's real plus-minus, and he was one of only five players to average 15 points and eight assists.
OKC's motives are strictly financial, as they should be. Given Paul's advancing age and salary, the Thunder can't hope for more than economic relief, and they part with a first-round pick to get it. That's a justifiable cost given the alternative is paying through the roof for a mid-30-something on a rebuilder.
If these clubs can wait until September when Leonard becomes eligible to be traded with other players, this version of the swap gives the Thunder two expiring contracts totaling more than $30 million. Goran Dragic could potentially be flipped again for another asset. James Johnson is the only player with any commitment beyond this season, as he holds a $15.8 million player option for 2020-21.
Wolves Finally Snag D'Lo
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: D'Angelo Russell
Golden State Warriors Receive: Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng, 2020 first-round pick, 2022 second-round pick (via PHI or DEN)
The Golden State Warriors didn't sign D'Angelo Russell just to trade him. That's according to Warriors President of Basketball Operations Bob Myers, at least.
Others aren't so sure...even Russell himself.
"That's the business of it," he said, per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell. "It is what it is. You put yourself in a position to go somewhere for a long period of time, and it may not be what it is a year later."
The Kevin Durant-less Dubs need more scoring, especially for as long as Klay Thompson's torn ACL keeps him on the shelf. But if Thompson returns around the time Russell is eligible to be traded in January, could Golden State cut ties and find better fits for its roster?
Offensively, Russell plays a different game than Golden State. He finished the second-most possessions by a pick-and-roll ball-handler last season, while Warriors guards ranked last in the same category. Defensively, the Russell-Stephen Curry combo might offer all the resistance of a wet paper bag.
But if you route Russell to Minnesota—which the Timberwolves tried to do—suddenly he becomes a lethal pick-your-poison partner with Karl-Anthony Towns. The top two picks of 2015 are the same age (23) and on the same timeline. If they mesh, they could help the Wolves climb just as the established powers out West start aging out of the process.
The Warriors, meanwhile, get a perfect complementary piece in three-and-D ace Robert Covington, plus a couple of draft considerations to help restock the shelves. The overpriced-but-productive Gorgui Dieng could even play his way into a rotation spot.
Pacers Find Their Second Star
Indiana Pacers Receive: Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards Receive: Domantas Sabonis, Aaron Holiday, TJ Warren, Doug McDermott, 2022 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
Victor Oladipo's All-Star emergence gave the post-Paul George Indiana Pacers a new lease on life. But his ceiling and theirs are both capped by the absence of a second elite.
Bradley Beal could change that. The 26-year-old is precisely the kind of high-level shot-creator and three-point splasher who could make Oladipo's life not only easier but more successful. The in-prime perimeter stars are each plus players at both ends of the court, and with the likes of Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb rounding out the supporting cast, the Pacers could be a two-way problem.
This can't happen until the Wizards accept a rebuild is unavoidable and a Beal blockbuster is the best way to fuel it. That realization could some sooner than later. Washington can offer him a three-year, $111 million extension at the end of July, and if Beal turns it down—the Washington Post's Candace Buckner reported of a "growing belief" that he'll finish his career elsewhere—that could turn the gears on trade talks.
Indiana must also recognize the long-term challenges of a Turner-Domantas Sabonis frontcourt. Both work best at the center spot in today's NBA—as will first-round pick Goga Bitadze—so in addition to addressing the need for a second star, this deal also better balances the Pacers roster.
Sabonis gives the Wizards a 23-year-old offensive hub. If given a featured role, his numbers could skyrocket. In 2018-19, his per-36-minutes averages were 20.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists. His upside likely surpasses those of Washington's other prospects.
Aaron Holiday gives the Wizards a more intriguing John Wall replacement than Ish Smith or Isaiah Thomas. TJ Warren, 25, is just young enough for Washington to consider keeping, but he could just as easily be flipped for further assets. Doug McDermott would probably head straight to the trade block, as career 40.4 percent three-point snipers interest everyone.