B/R NBA Staff: 8 Blockbuster Trades to Create New Big 3s
In an NBA galaxy that today seems far, far, way-too-far away, basketball was in full swing and even aired live on television. Do you remember those days? Can you recall the good times?
If you can, think back a bit further. Beyond 2019-20.
For years (decades?), the NBA was dominated by Big 3s. If you didn't have one, you weren't considered a contender. If you pieced one together, you had to prove legitimacy against those already in place.
In recent years, with a strong emphasis on the 2019 offseason, the league has encountered a shift. There has been a reshuffling of the deck, and if deuces are wild, new tandems like Paul George-Kawhi Leonard as well as LeBron James-Anthony Davis have caused the frenzy by teaming up and, at least temporarily, tossing the Big 3 concept aside.
But if everything old becomes new again, we're about to expedite that process.
In the current era of dynamic duos, Bleacher Report is shaking it up once more and re-aligning the stars in their familiar triad form. Eight NBA analysts have dreamed up eight new trios, and while we may be in a new world run by re-runs, we're flashing forward to see what the league's new Big 3s could look like.
Trae Young, John Collins + Bradley Beal
It may only be a matter of time before Bradley Beal requests a trade off the woeful Washington Wizards given that the team hasn't been able to capitalize on his scoring this season (1-9 during games in which he drops 40 or more points).
If Washington gives in and is looking for a package of young talent to bring back, Atlanta should be the first team it calls.
Putting Beal in a backcourt with Trae Young would create one of the most lethal scoring attacks in recent history, with the pair combining for 60.1 points per game this season. Adding in John Collins (21.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 58.3/40.1/80.0 shooting) would give the Hawks a Big Three that is just 26 (Beal), 22 (Collins) and 21 (Young) in age.
For Washington, Hunter, Reddish and Huerter represent three first-round picks, including two who were selected in 2019's top 10.
Hunter is the most polished product, a two-way force who can score, rebound and defend, and he's shooting 41.9 percent from three over his last 18 games. At 6'7" and 225 pounds, he can play and defend three different positions.
Huerter is the best playmaker of the trio, a 6'7" shooting guard who's splashing 42.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season.
Reddish has the most potential as a 6'8" athlete who's shown flashes of brilliant scoring. While he wasn't a good shooter at Duke, he's up to 41.9 percent from deep over his last 23 games.
The Hawks would have a chance to become a force in the East, while Washington would boast one of the best young cores in the NBA.
Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray + Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday could be the final piece to give the Denver Nuggets a Big Three, as adding him to the core of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray could put this team over the top.
Holiday's basketball IQ pairs perfectly with Jokic's passing skills and would take some of the playmaking duties off Jokic's plate. Beside being a secondary facilitator for the offense, the guard is a dynamic scorer shooting 35.7 percent from three, something the Nuggets need more of right now. Most importantly, he would bring some bite to Denver's defense on the perimeter. That's an area of need for any Western Conference contender, and Holiday would fill that role for the Nuggets.
A deal built around Gary Harris, Monte Morris and Ketia Bates-Diop, plus a future protected first-round pick, should get New Orleans' interest.
Harris is just 25 years old and locked into two more years at a reasonable salary, which fits better into the Pelicans' timeline. Morris and Bates-Diop are both young players with plenty of promise, and the protected pick is another future asset.
The Nuggets are in win-now mode, and this is a win-now trade that would elevate them to a new level. The Pelicans would add another young guard, two contributors who can be developed into solid role players and a draft asset for their trade cupboard.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving + Rudy Gobert
The Brooklyn Nets won't want to waste time once Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant can finally share the floor. They could look to capitalize on the reported tension between Utah Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell by making an offer featuring Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
DeAndre Jordan would need to be included to make any deal work for Gobert, who'd give Brooklyn the NBA's premier rim protector to anchor its defense behind Irving and Durant.
The Nets' first offer should start with just Dinwiddie, Allen and Jordan for Gobert and Royce O'Neale, a potentially helpful role player. The Jazz declining could mean the Nets must add LeVert with Utah throwing in Ed Davis.
The Jazz would add the 21-year-old Allen to replace Gobert in the middle, while Dinwiddie and LeVert would give the lineup a pair of versatile scorers and playmakers to take pressure off Mitchell.
Trading for Gobert would mean the Nets are going all-in on a Big Three that includes two elite offensive players and a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a trio they'd surround with Joe Harris (assuming he's re-signed as a free agent this offseason), Taurean Prince, Nicolas Claxton, Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa, plus O'Neale and Davis.
Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum + Rudy Gobert
The Utah Jazz were the epicenter of the NBA shutdown last month, leading to tensions between stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (although Gobert, the first NBA player diagnosed with COVID-19, recently downplayed the notion). If the Jazz believe their relationship is irreparably damaged, the Boston Celtics may be able to take advantage.
Boston already has a talented core built around Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum with Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Gordon Hayward as supporting pieces, but the Celtics lack size. Gobert would change the team's complexion immediately.
Hayward is in the last year of his contract but has a player option to extend it through 2020-21 at $34.2 million. Given the NBA's economic uncertainty, he may be more likely to pick up that option and either seek an extension or a new contract as a free agent in 2021.
The Celtics are already stocked on the wing and may not be willing to reward Hayward with another deal. Gobert, though, would give Boston a Big Three and then some. Hayward, who started his career as a star with the Jazz, would return home to a team likely willing to invest in his future.
Utah would need to include one more player to make the salaries match—perhaps Nigel Williams-Goss or even Ed Davis (although he may serve a greater purpose for the Jazz with Gobert out). Boston has draft considerations to send if need be with three first-rounders (Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies and their own) in the upcoming draft.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis + Buddy Hield
Adding a third star to a team with a 5.5-game lead in the Western Conference may appear unnecessary, but the Los Angeles Lakers are not without their share of flaws.
By now, you've heard how dramatically the Lakers' production dips when LeBron James sits (10.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor). They have been fortunate to get 60 of 63 possible games from him in his 17th season but shouldn't expect that level of consistency as he surpasses 60,000 total minutes.
"Usually he's playing and he comes off the floor, we kind of take a dip in all aspects of the game," Davis said on Feb. 28, per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. "Just the way, the same way we played tonight without him, we got to play like that when he's playing but when he's not on the floor."
For that reason alone, the Lakers need help going forward.
Assuming Davis re-signs, they won't have space to be players in free agency. So, they'll need to package what few assets they have by combining Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green to provide playmaking alongside Davis when James sits.
Buddy Hield became more dispensable with an expensive four-year, $86 million deal, coupled with the Sacramento Kings' desire to re-sign Bogdan Bogdanovic to a four-year max. Head coach Luke Walton even benched Hield late in the season, possibly sealing his fate.
The Lakers' offensive rating when Davis plays and James sits is an alarming 105.7. Hield can operate on the ball, shoots 39.5 percent on 9.7 three-point attempts per game and has an assist percentage in the 79th percentile among wings. His offensive skill set and four-year deal would ensure he'll be making shots alongside Davis for years to come.
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson + Kevin Love
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are basically guaranteed to make Andrew Wiggins look good, but why not swap out the 2014 No.1 overall pick for someone who can return the favor?
Kevin Love, 31, could give the Warriors the facilitating, floor-stretching big they've never really had. He'd command attention at all times, allowing Curry and Thompson to zip around off the ball. Would any team have a better 4-5 passing tandem than Love and Draymond Green?
Also, if Green is going to play more center next season anyway, it makes sense to slot him alongside a 4 who can stripe it from deep. Imagine the Dubs in a five-out set that doesn't really surrender much size or rebounding. It'd be the best of both worlds. As an added bonus, Love could punish switching defenses by taking smaller matchups to the post, where he's a gifted foul-drawer and passer.
The 25-year-old Wiggins has youth and, theoretically, the potential to play shutdown wing defense on his side. But Golden State will have Thompson back, and Green should be able to wrangle most opposing 2s and 3s if the Dubs switch liberally to protect Love.
It's hard to know whether the Cavs would accept a straight-up swap of pricey deals that expire in 2023. They might; Love is six years older, and Wiggins would fit into a much longer timeline for a younger, rebuilding squad. If they had to, the Warriors could sweeten the pot with their 2020 first-rounder.
Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. + Buddy Hield
Things aren't great between Buddy Hield and the Sacramento Kings right now, dating back to their public dispute over his contract extension during the preseason (he eventually signed for four years and $86 million). He moved to the bench in the six weeks before the NBA season was suspended in favor of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who Sacramento hopes to re-sign this offseason.
Hield's value is low right now, which means it would be a great opportunity for the Memphis Grizzlies to give him a better situation as a backcourt partner for rookie sensation Ja Morant and the third piece of a Big Three with second-year big man Jaren Jackson Jr.
Even in a down year with his role up in the air, Hield was still shooting 39.5 percent from three-point range. Memphis was the 21st-ranked three-point-shooting team in the league, one of its weak points during a season in which it outperformed expectations. Hield would complement Morant perfectly and give him a great shooter to kick to on his drives.
The Gorgui Dieng and Grayson Allen contracts would be included here for money-matching purposes, and the appeal for Sacramento would be in the variety of draft picks Memphis can provide. The Grizzlies own the Utah Jazz's first-rounder in the upcoming 2020 draft, their own firsts in every draft after that and, perhaps most intriguingly, a top-four-protected first from the Golden State Warriors in 2024, when their superstar core will undoubtedly be nearing the end of its run.
Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton + Chris Paul
Some will invariably see this scenario, which sends Cheick Diallo, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Chris Paul, as overstating Deandre Ayton's potential. Agree to disagree.
Ayton is a fiercely reliable scorer with crafty footwork. It would be nice to see him expand his range beyond the arc or attack from further out off face-ups, but either might come in time if he's granted the necessary creative license. Even if it doesn't, there is real utility in a big who blends force and finesse while playing off others.
No, he doesn't profile as a big-picture defensive anchor. That's OK. He's getting better at the less glamorous end. He doesn't look as lost in pick-and-roll coverage and has turned into a dependable shot contestor around the rim. Opponents are knocking down just 54.4 percent of their looks against him from point-blank range, a mark that puts him right in line with Steven Adams, Myles Turner and Hassan Whiteside.
Translation: Ayton and Devin Booker qualify as a star duo, either currently or inevitably. And adding Chris Paul would constitute a legitimate Big Three base for the Phoenix Suns.
Looking at the rest of Paul's contract might make you queasy. He has two years and $85.6 million left on his deal. That's a ton of money for an undersized point guard about to turn 35. But Paul has thus far defied the traditional aging curve. He's a shoo-in for second- or third-team All-NBA honors this year, and his livelihood has never been the least bit tethered to otherworldly athleticism.
Surrendering Oubre, who's working off a career year, and Rubio wouldn't be a small price to pay. The Suns can justify it. They have wings galore to offset Oubre's departure, and Paul, while older, remains a decided upgrade over Rubio. If nothing else, he properly arms them to navigate minutes without Booker. Phoenix ranks in the 2nd percentile of points scored per 100 possessions with Rubio running the show on his own and places in the 23rd percentile when he's joined by Oubre.
The Suns could get more creative—and nuclear—if they want to acquire Paul without giving up Oubre. Renouncing Aron Baynes, Jevon Carter (restricted), Frank Kaminksy (team option) and Dario Saric (restricted) would give them the cap space to take back CP3 for Rubio and Elie Okobo (non-guaranteed), assuming they enter the draft with the No. 10 pick. The Thunder don't get nearly as many assets in that scenario, but they'd be saving almost $50 million in salary over the next two seasons while still bringing back a serviceable player to run point.