5 NBA Teams Already Dreaming of Offseason Trades
For those NBA teams that missed opportunities to pull off much-needed trades before the deadline, they must now wait for the offseason, whenever that may be.
While some are still hoping for a chance at the 2020 NBA title, others should already be planning for 2021. Injuries, falling back in the standings and bloated contracts are all additional reasons to punt on this year and begin planning for the fall (winter?) for a new season to begin.
With top-ranked teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers remaining focused on winning a championship, the following five teams should be more concerned with shuffling their decks for next year.
The Brooklyn Nets were never going to be concerned with the 2019-20 season.
Knowing that Kevin Durant was going to miss the entire season while recovering from an Achilles injury tempered expectations. Losing Kyrie Irving to shoulder surgery after just 20 games shifted them entirely to 2020-21.
Now, ESPN's Brian Windhorst states the Nets "have telegraphed they intend to use some of their young talent to acquire a third star along with Kyrie and Durant."
By young talent, Windhorst likely means Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Spencer Dinwiddie. They also own the Philadelphia 76ers' first-round pick, currently sitting at 19th overall.
If the Nets are healthy, they should absolutely be considered one of the top teams in the East, assuming Durant returns to at least close to what he was pre-injury. Unfortunately, Irving's injury history continues to pile up, with the 28-year-old on pace to miss 99 total games over the past three seasons.
Getting a third star would hurt the roster's depth but help keep the Nets afloat should Irving or Durant miss extended time. Windhorst mentioned Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans and Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards as two potential targets.
There should be plenty of other options out there as well, especially if the NBA finally gets to finish its regular season and playoffs.
The Cavaliers' frontcourt is ready to win now, with a starting duo of Kevin Love and Andre Drummond combined with starter-quality backups in Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr.
However, the backcourt is still a few years away.
Collin Sexton, 21, is already up to 20.8 points per game but isn't a particularly good passer or defender yet. Darius Garland, 20, and Kevin Porter Jr., 19, have shown more upside than Sexton, but the rookies aren't ready to lead a team anytime soon.
This puts the Cavs in a tough position.
A divorce from Love seems inevitable, although Cleveland won't trade its best player just for the sake of it. There has to be some value coming back. His contract will be down to three remaining years and $91.5 million, but that's still a tough pill for most teams to swallow, despite his production.
After trading for Drummond at the deadline, there's also a chance Cleveland looks to move the two-time All-Star and three-time rebounding champ already this offseason.
"I don't think [Drummond and the Cavs] will last long," one former NBA general manager told Bleacher Report after the deadline. "I could see them trading him to a team this summer if he agrees to pick up his option. They could also do a sign-and-trade if he agrees to a new long-term deal. I don't think he'll be in Cleveland for long."
With the Cavs committed to a rebuild, they'll likely push for a Love trade once again while listening to offers for Drummond.
Oklahoma City Thunder
While Chris Paul has been the guiding force in Oklahoma City's 40-24 start to the season, the Thunder should still look to shop him this offseason.
An All-Star for the first time since 2015-16, Paul's production (17.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.6 steals, 60.9 true shooting percentage) and leadership have helped increase his trade value, with his contract down to two years and $85 million after this season.
While cap space-wary teams avoided trading for Paul last summer, his contract is a little less toxic, and the production is clearly still there.
The Thunder should use this chance to trade Paul if they can without surrendering any assets. As good as he's been, paying the soon-to-be 35-year-old $41.4 million next season and $44.2 million the year after is way too much, especially with second-year point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander playing at such a high level.
By not trading Danilo Gallinari before the deadline, Oklahoma City still has the option to work out a sign-and-trade for the unrestricted free agent. With few teams projected to have significant cap space, the Thunder could help Gallinari get to a destination he wants and still get value back.
OKC could also capitalize on Dennis Schroder's stock, as he was originally salary-dumped on the Thunder but is now in Sixth Man of the Year contention with averages of 19.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and a 38.1 percent mark from three off the bench. The 26-year-old has one year and $15.5 million remaining on his contract, offering value both as a scoring combo guard and expiring money before the summer of 2021.
With draft picks galore and a franchise piece in Gilgeous-Alexander to build around, the Thunder can collect even more picks and young talent with some crafty trades this offseason.
Even at 39-26, the Sixers have been a disappointment this season, sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference after being a trendy pick in the offseason to reach the NBA Finals. An offense run by Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Al Horford and Josh Richardson is still just 17th in the league (110.4 rating).
While it's still too early to break up the Simmons-Embiid combo (it is, right?), it has become clear there are too many big men and not enough quality guards and wings.
The first order of business should be to find a new home for Horford.
When Embiid takes the floor without Horford, the Sixers are beating opponents by 8.4 points per 100 possessions. Adding Horford next to Embiid plummets the figure down to minus-1.4. Embiid is averaging more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks and is shooting at a higher efficiency without Horford in the game as well.
Moving Horford to the bench helps, but the Sixers still owe him $81 million ($27 million per season) over the next three years. With Simmons, Embiid and Harris all making $29 million or more starting next season, that's too much to pay a backup.
Philadelphia would have even traded Horford for Kevin Love and his sizable contract at the deadline.
The Sixers are likely going to have to swap bad contracts while trying to get a guard or forward (Chris Paul? Harrison Barnes?) who better fits the roster.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers are beginning to give off vibes of the 2013-2018 Toronto Raptors, a talented team led by a dynamic backcourt that's good enough to win some playoff games but not quite title-ready.
Now all they have to do is trade CJ McCollum for Kawhi Leonard.
If that doesn't work, Portland needs to explore some other trade options. At 29-37, the Blazers may miss the playoffs for the first time in seven years, something that may finally force them to break up the Damian Lillard-McCollum duo.
Getting Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injury will help, but this team still needs some serious help on the wing. Trevor Ariza is going to be 35 this summer and only has a partial guarantee on his 2020-21 contract. Carmelo Anthony is going to turn 36 next month and will be an unrestricted free agent. Obviously, an upgrade at the forward positions is a must.
McCollum remains the best trade bait, although Collins, Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little should interest teams as well.
Portland should remain in rumors for Kevin Love given his floor-stretching ability and ties to the area, but acquiring more defensive-minded wings who can guard multiple positions and knock down open shots should be the priority.
If the Chicago Bulls are looking to shed salary, Otto Porter Jr. would be a good fit, as would Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings if Portland could execute a sign-and-trade for the restricted free agent.
Trading McCollum is a last resort at this point, but no player besides Lillard should be considered safe if Portland misses the playoffs.