Ideal Landing Spots for NBA Offseason's Remaining Trade Targets
The NBA offseason's major moves are complete, but there's still some unfinished business out there.
Across the league, players are stuck in spots that don't make sense. Whether because the market has cooled or their teams aren't quite ready to cut bait, a handful of likely trade candidates have yet to move.
Maybe it'll take a heart-to-heart conversation in training camp or a rough start to the year that clarifies priorities. Perhaps the increased trade capital that'll be available on Dec. 15, when this summer's signees can be included in swaps, will spark renewed negotiations.
Any number of developments could put these valuable trade chips back on the table.
A failure to swing a deal in July doesn't mean that option is gone forever. In time, the guys on this list will move—hopefully to specific destinations that will put them to better use. We've got some ideas on who should wind up where.
Andre Iguodala: Houston Rockets
The beauty of Andre Iguodala's game is that it fits any place in which winning is a priority. There's no such thing as a team with too much perimeter defense, high-IQ decision-making and unselfishness.
Among a class of contenders that could all use Iguodala's help, the Houston Rockets need it most.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook have the high-usage scoring and playmaking stuff handled, but the Rockets are short on wing stoppers. And if they ever adopt a strategy that incorporates more ball movement against well-prepared playoff opponents, they'll also need someone besides Harden who can speed-read a defense.
Westbrook is a competent facilitator whose assists stem more from sheer volume of touch time than preternatural vision. Iguodala is different. He sees plays before they happen.
Iguodala's low-usage game would take nothing away from Houston's MVP duo. And even if Golden State Warriors opponents spent the last half-decade conceding open threes from the 15-year veteran (better him than Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant), Iguodala's career playoff three-point percentage is 35.3 percent.
He hits shots when it matters.
There's no mistaking the trend of Iguodala's last 11 years in the league, each of which has featured a lower minutes-per-game average than the one before. He's slowing down, and his court time has to be managed carefully.
That shouldn't be a problem for the Rockets, who are all-in on their title pursuit and know from experience with Harden that pushing too hard during the regular season can lead to playoff breakdowns.
There's no sense in Iguodala sticking with the rebuilding Memphis Grizzlies. He'll be on the move as soon as a decent offer materializes. Failing that, he could accept a buyout and pick his destination. Either way, Houston is the best spot for him.
Chris Paul: Miami Heat
Based on the extra assets the Houston Rockets attached to move it, Chris Paul's contract (three years and $124.1 million remaining if he picks up his 2021-22 player option), isn't exactly in high demand around the league. The only type of team willing to absorb that kind of salary hit for a declining 34-year-old is one focused on splashy star acquisitions and not altogether concerned about the long-term outlook.
Sounds like the Miami Heat, right?
Paul-to-Miami speculation isn't novel. Almost as soon as the Oklahoma City Thunder added the veteran point guard, chatter arose that he'd be a short-timer. A deal sending CP3 to the Heat, who added Jimmy Butler the week prior, felt imminent.
Talks have cooled, though. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this month that both Paul's representation and the team "believe there are benefits to Paul, 34, playing out the year with the Thunder."
That's a smart leak by either OKC or Paul, neither of whom have any incentive to admit the market is so unwelcoming. Broadcasting a willingness to make things work is a good way to gin up better offers from teams—and the Heat, specifically—who might otherwise try to exploit any urgency the Thunder feel to move Paul.
This feels like a situation we'll look back on in several months—when Paul is running pick-and-rolls with Bam Adebayo and competing with Butler for the team lead in general orneriness—that seemed obvious all along.
Paul prefers the Heat, the Heat's commitment to winning in the present is obvious (see: Butler) and the Thunder can't truly kick off a rebuild with Paul on the roster. The pieces fit.
And though the transactional bent of the offseason makes it seem like a secondary concern, it's still true that Paul could make a real difference on the floor. If he's got another near-prime year in him, CP3 could pair with Butler to form one of the best guard-wing tandems in the East, perhaps propelling Miami to one of the conference's top four spots.
Bradley Beal: Denver Nuggets
Bradley Beal has plenty of good reasons to decline the three-year, $111 million extension the Washington Wizards offered last week, according to The Athletic's David Aldridge, not the least of which is the more lucrative supermax extension for which he might be eligible next offseason.
Money aside, Beal should be cautious about committing to a team whose long-term prospects appear as bleak as Washington's.
The Denver Nuggets are a perfect foil for the Wizards. Led by Nikola Jokic and in possession of a locked-in core of players just now entering their primes, the Nuggets are a franchise poised for a long run of success. Adding Beal, perhaps for a package including Gary Harris and Michael Porter Jr., would elevate an already lofty ceiling in Denver.
Jamal Murray has the franchise's faith, as evidenced by his new $170 million deal, but Beal is already the type of established first option the Nuggets hope Murray can become. The two could coexist nicely, offering scoring and playmaking at both guard spots.
An upgrade over the solid-but-unspectacular Harris, Beal would give the Nuggets a do-it-all wing whose production should only improve with Jokic operating as his set-up man. Beal proved he could handle high-usage work last year, finishing as one of just eight qualified players to average at least 25 points and five assists. With the supporting talent in Denver, he would feast on easier looks and might get to rest off the ball once in a while.
The Golden State Warriors' demise opened up the title chase, and Beal could be the player who puts Denver over the top in a crowded field of ring-pursuers.
Kevin Love: San Antonio Spurs
Can we just start by agreeing that Kevin Love deserves liberation?
Yeah, he won a ring with the Cleveland Cavaliers and got (over)compensated with a four-year, $120.4 million extension after LeBron James left town last summer. But Love spent most of his time on that title team absorbing criticism despite accepting a subordinate role that made use of only a few of his many skills.
Now, he's stuck on a squad several years from relevance, at risk of wasting the last of his prime-adjacent seasons on a rebuild.
Let's get this man to the destination that maximizes strengths and hides weaknesses, that boasts a high-functioning culture that could hardly contrast more with the nonsense he endured in Minnesota and the scrutiny he suffered through in Cleveland.
Love is about three years younger than LaMarcus Aldridge, and his more complete offensive game (passing is important, kids) seems ideally suited to a franchise that preaches team play. Of course, we should expect them to adapt to Love since these are the Spurs we're talking about. San Antonio's style has always shifted to suit its personnel, which would feel especially welcome to a player who spent several years struggling to fit in.
We're not concerned with formulating the particulars of a trade, but why wouldn't Cleveland rather have Aldridge or DeMar DeRozan on the books (probably with a pick or two coming from the Spurs)?
Aldridge's salary is only partially guaranteed for 2020-21, and DeRozan has a player option that year. Both make less annually and have shorter total terms than Love, who'd offer more spacing for San Antonio's exciting young guards than either of the team's current high-dollar vets.
Everybody would win.