NBA Trade Ideas for League's Most Desperate Buyers
NBA trade season is in full swing now that we've reached Dec. 15, the unofficial starting point.
Over the course of this season, there's been a lot of talk about the lack of a title front-runner, and that remains true. Less discussed, however, is just how deep the NBA is.
Only six teams are more than three games out from the eighth and last playoff spot in each conference. It's going to be a fight to the finish in both the East and West, so expect numerous teams on the fringe of the playoff picture or unhappy with their current rosters to make a move to try to gain an advantage over prospective postseason opponents.
Here, we've outlined eight potential trades, both for teams without a secure playoff spot and likely postseason-bound teams with glaring roster flaws.
Obligatory Kevin Love-to-Portland Deal
Cavaliers: Hassan Whiteside, Nassir Little
Trail Blazers: Kevin Love
Kevin Love-to-Portland speculation has been mentioned before.
And before that.
But if it's become cliche, it's for a reason. It just makes sense.
As the third star, Love's offensive responsibilities would be minimal, and so he would have maximum opportunity to succeed. The Blazers are not as deep as many of their competitors, but they have Damian Lillard, the best healthy player on any non-top-six West team, and years of postseason experience. Adding Love should be enough to push them back into the top eight.
From Cleveland's side, just offloading Love's massive contract is a win. Yes, the Cavaliers would bring back Whiteside's $27.1 million, but he's a free agent this summer. In addition, a look at a tantalizing young prospect like Little could be quite valuable. Before a disappointing season at North Carolina, he was considered a surefire lottery pick. In a low-pressure situation like Cleveland, Little would have time to uncover his untapped potential.
Nets Get Risky
Knicks: Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, Protected First-Rounder
Nets: Kevin Knox II, Taj Gibson, Second-Rounder
Joe Harris is the best player in this trade and a great fit in Brooklyn. So why would the Nets want to trade him, especially to their crosstown rivals?
Well, it comes down to money. Harris is a free agent this summer and has earned a massive raise over his current $7.7 million salary. It normally wouldn't be a problem for Brooklyn to extend him, but center Jarrett Allen is also eligible for an extension starting next summer.
If the Nets feel they will limit their financial flexibility by committing to Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, DeAndre Jordan, Harris and Allen, then they may want to explore trading their sniper.
The Knicks, as has been joked about for months, are a big man-heavy team without many shooters, so they could use Harris, even for just a few months. Acquiring him also gives them the opportunity to jettison several of those forwards.
Knox showed potential as a rookie but has been marginalized through much of this season, even once receiving the dreaded DNP-CD. The Nets have a vaunted player development system that has turned the likes of Harris himself and Spencer Dinwiddie into valuable NBA players, so Knox could shine under their guidance.
Gibson, on the other hand, isn't a major on-court contributor anymore, but his reputation as a fantastic teammate precedes him. In case of chemistry issues popping up via Durant, Irving or anybody else, he could be a good resource to keep the morale high.
Chicago Sells High
Bulls: DeAndre' Bembry, Bruno Fernando
Hawks: Kris Dunn
You'd think having five point guards on your roster would at the very least lead to a well-run offense.
Not in Chicago.
Despite having Tomas Satoransky, Kris Dunn, Coby White, Shaquille Harrison and Ryan Arcidiacono, the Bulls rank 29th in the league in offensive rating. Instead of acquiring yet another point guard, they should declutter the roster and send one away, and it should be Dunn.
Coming into the season, Dunn was thought to be on his way out. The Bulls drafted White and signed Satoransky this summer, and the trade market around Dunn seemed relatively healthy. However, he remained on the roster and has responded with the best basketball of his career, leading the NBA in steals and making 52.2 percent of his two-pointers.
Dunn is also an impending free agent and his trade value has peaked, so the Bulls should move on from him as soon as possible. Few teams need defensive help more than the Hawks, and Dunn could be an excellent counterpoint to Trae Young, who is an offensive juggernaut but almost could not be worse on defense.
For Chicago, Bembry is the enticing return. His stats don't necessarily jump off the page, but he is an efficient two-point scorer and point forward-type who does exactly what's asked of him and no more. For a Bulls team that is still trying to figure out its offensive hierarchy and identity, that kind of consistency is necessary.
Pistons Shed Salary, Take a Chance
Grizzlies: Reggie Jackson
Pistons: Solomon Hill, Josh Jackson
Despite two All-Stars in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, the Pistons have been a fringe Eastern Conference playoff team of late, in large part due to Reggie Jackson. His on-court play hasn't been great, but it's largely his albatross contract that has limited Detroit from building effectively around its stars. Well, until this season.
The point guard has only played two games due to a stress reaction in his back, yet the Pistons have the league's eighth-best offensive rating. This essentially makes him a lame duck when he returns.
Jackson's contract finally ends after this season, so he's a classic trade candidate. For instance, Memphis could use him. Jackson would be a good interim mentor for Ja Morant and competent injury replacement, as the rookie has been injury-prone this season and the Grizzlies are 1-5 without him.
The Pistons also get a chance to address their wing weakness. Hill is shooting 40 percent from three this season and has the third-best net rating on the Grizzlies, but the real intrigue is a low-cost look at former top-five pick and Michigan native Josh Jackson, who disappointed in Phoenix but has been great in the G League, averaging 21.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
It's curious why Jackson hasn't been called up, but back home, he might be extra motivated every night and could be the X-factor that pushes the Pistons into the playoffs.
Wolves Swing for the Fences
Timberwolves: D'Angelo Russell, Alec Burks
Warriors: Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng, First-Rounder, Two Second-Rounders
There's a reason that Russell-to-Minnesota rumors keep popping up.
The Timberwolves pursued him relentlessly this summer, up until the moment he was traded, per The Athletic's Anthony Slater. They are also in need of a point guard, and Russell is close friends with franchise face Karl-Anthony Towns. Plus, the guard was a strange fit with the Warriors before Stephen Curry got hurt, so imagine how directionless he feels now on a 5-23 team.
Though he hasn't been quite as good as last season, Russell has still played fairly well for the Warriors and would command a hefty return. The Wolves would have to include Covington, as he is their only starting-caliber player with a high enough salary to match with Russell. Dieng is a filler contract, and the picks make the deal relatively equal.
This deal works for both teams in the short and long term. For Minnesota, Towns, Russell and Andrew Wiggins could be one of the best young Big Threes in the NBA and would be set up for years of potential contention.
For the Warriors, let's say they get Memphis center James Wiseman in the 2020 draft, a prospect who has some weaknesses but could be tremendous on a culture-oriented team like Golden State. They could head into the 2020-21 season starting Curry, Klay Thompson, Covington, Draymond Green and Wiseman. That group has elite offensive capabilities and smothering defensive potential.
Just like that, the Warriors would be back.
Magic Get Buckets; Spurs Get Length
Magic: DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, Second-Rounder
Spurs: Aaron Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu
Both Orlando and San Antonio get immediate help in this deal by swapping members of their crowded frontcourt and backcourt, respectively.
Behind an elite season from Jonathan Isaac, the Magic have a good defense but remain in need of scoring, ranking 25th in offensive rating and 27th in three-point percentage. This makes DeRozan and Forbes a natural pairing to send to Orlando.
Though both are impending free agents, their injection of offense could be enough to return the Magic to the playoffs. DeRozan's scoring numbers are declining, but his sheer ability to get a bucket has been lacking in Orlando for years, while Forbes' proficient shooting would be a nice boost to a team that lacks many competent three-point shooters.
In return, San Antonio gets two forwards in Gordon and Aminu. Gordon is underachieving this season, though that can be attributed to the aforementioned lack of shooting. Of course, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is now famously three-pointer-averse, but DeRozan's departure would extend the team's spacing. Gordon can also work well with LaMarcus Aldridge and eventually replace him after Aldridge's contract expires next summer.
Aminu is currently injured, but his presence would likely be delightful for Popovich. After years of dynamite defenses, San Antonio ranks 22nd in defensive rating, but the spindly Aminu led Orlando's roster with a 100.0 individual defensive rating before being sidelined.
His competitiveness could inspire the rest of the Spurs to grind harder on that end and salvage their playoff hopes in the process.
Bucks Bring In Brogdon Successor
Bucks: Bogdan Bogdanovic
Kings: Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova, Second-Rounder
So far, the 24-4 Bucks have been nearly invincible. Giannis Antetokounmpo has improved upon his MVP-winning 2018-19 season, and most of the team's role players have been solid.
With that said, Milwaukee lost Indiana Pacers star Malcolm Brogdon this offseason, and his loss could be felt in a major way once the postseason begins.
The Bucks have mostly played a combination of Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews and Pat Connaughton at shooting guard. They've been passable, but Korver and Matthews particularly will be serious weak spots in the playoffs. You can easily imagine the Sixers or Celtics targeting them relentlessly on pick-and-rolls.
The Bucks can start preparing for that by trading for Bogdanovic.
The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks wrote about this potential trade earlier this season, saying that Bogdanovic's combination of elite shooting and ball-handling has been marginalized as a sixth man in Sacramento, and that the Kings may not feel the need to pay him after just extending Buddy Hield and needing to pay De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III in upcoming offseasons.
From Sacramento's perspective, the trade would net a potential Bogdanovic replacement in DiVincenzo, who is breaking out this season as a ball-handler and long-range sniper, and a good veteran in Ilyasova, who is mostly salary filler but can take a charge like nobody else and shoot.
Luka Gets Another Mentor
Mavericks: JJ Redick
Pelicans: Maxi Kleber, J.J. Barea, Boban Marjanovic, Second-Rounder
One of the NBA's best fun facts is that JJ Redick has never missed the playoffs in his 14-year career. However, barring a near-miracle, that streak will end this year with the 6-22 Pelicans.
But we can keep Redick's playoff streak alive. He's been as good as ever, and it would be a shame if his performance was wasted on a lottery team.
Let's move Redick to the Mavericks, where he could be a superb off-ball weapon and mentor for Luka Doncic. Redick is the classic kind of veteran who bridges the gap between mere playoff berths and serious contention, and while Dallas is not yet elite, his leadership could position the Mavs for deep playoff runs.
Now, the New York Times' Marc Stein recently reported that the Pelicans are "reluctant" to trade Redick. But teams frequently say things like that in order to get the best possible offers, so don't be surprised if Redick is still moved.
For instance, in this proposal, the Pelicans get a competent big man in Kleber, who could cover up many of their defensive flaws, two excellent locker room guys in Barea and Boban, and a second-round pick. Kleber can't be traded until January 14, per his contract, but barring a long-shot Zion Williamson return before that date, New Orleans will still be a high-lottery-caliber team.
Do all those pieces equal Redick's present value to New Orleans? Perhaps not. But the Pelicans likely want to give their young guards more playing time, and this trade would make that a necessity.