The Perfect Trades to Land NBA Stars Their Ideal Sidekicks
It's also important to find a co-star who complements the existing one, covers for their weaknesses and helps their development and growth.
Many of today's stars already have such a co-star. Between James-Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard-Paul George and Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving, some of the best players in the league have already joined forces with another elite.
But for the following five stars, these are the trades their current teams should pursue to help make life easier.
Trae Young, Gary Harris Form New Hawks Backcourt
Atlanta Hawks Receive: SG Gary Harris
Denver Nuggets Receive: SG Kevin Huerter, C Dewayne Dedmon
Trae Young is already an All-Star starter at age 21, exhibiting some of the best scoring and passing chops in the NBA. While John Collins is growing into a bona fide second star, his scoring, rebounding and athleticism don't help cover for Young's biggest weakness: defense.
Young ranks dead last in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus (minus-3.12), not just among point guards but among all 503 registered NBA players. His small frame (6'1" with a 6'2" wingspan) is easy for opponents to both shoot over and drive past.
Harris would be the perfect backcourt fit.
A 6'4" guard with a nearly 6'7" wingpsan, Harris is a three-and-D shooting guard who ranks first at his position and 11th overall in DRPM (plus-1.88). He's also in need of a change of scenery since his numbers have regressed after he put up 17.5 points per game on 39.6 percent shooting from three in 2017-18. At age 25, he still fits the Hawks' rebuild and would bring six years of experience to a young Atlanta team.
Harris would space the floor for Young while taking on the toughest defensive assignment every night, allowing him to conserve his energy for the offensive end.
Huerter would give the Nuggets a high-upside 21-year-old shooting guard, one who can put the ball on the floor and create for others even at 6'7". Dedmon would be a quality backup for Nikola Jokic, especially since Mason Plumlee will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
With Harris not playing up to his potential in Denver, moving him for another good, young shooting guard makes sense. And while he isn't a superstar, he'd be a perfect fit next to Young.
Devin Booker Gets a Floor-Spacer with Markkanen
Phoenix Suns Receive: PF Lauri Markkanen
Chicago Bulls Receive: F Cam Johnson, G Ty Jerome, 2021 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Devin Booker already has one potential star to run with in Deandre Ayton, but two years together has resulted in a 45-102 record even after adding Ricky Rubio in free agency last summer.
Ayton does most of his work in the paint with a growing mid-range game, but he is 0-of-7 from three in his young career. Booker needs a power forward with star potential who's already shown the ability to knock down threes.
Markkanen has averaged 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 35.6 percent from three in his first three seasons, and he's still weeks away from his 23rd birthday. The Bulls front office that drafted him is now gone, and Markkanen has grown unhappy with Chicago's direction. A swap of young talent may be best for everyone.
The 2017 No. 7 overall pick was hitting 42.7 percent of his threes off passes from starting point guard Tomas Satoransky this season, and that figure should only go up if he's getting the ball from Booker and Rubio. With Dario Saric entering restricted free agency, Markkanen would give Phoenix a new starting power forward who could run pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop actions with Booker.
Chicago could look to pry young talent away from Phoenix, with some combination of players like forward Cam Johnson (39.7 percent from three as a rookie), point guard Ty Jerome (2019 first-round pick) and forward Mikal Bridges (All-Defensive potential) coming back.
At some point, the Suns have to cash in their young talent and draft picks for players who can help them finally reach the playoffs and keep Booker happy. Markkanen would be a great first step.
Rudy Gobert Cleans Up the Defense for Bradley Beal, Wizards
Washington Wizards Receive: Rudy Gobert
Utah Jazz Receive: Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, Jerome Robinson, Ish Smith, 2021 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
While it's fair to consider John Wall a worthy sidekick to Bradley Beal, we have yet to be seen what version the Wizards will be getting when he returns from a ruptured Achilles. If Washington doesn't want Beal to ask for a trade, it'll likely need to bring in another star.
There could be no better fit of problem and solution than Gobert, the NBA's reigning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year. The Wizards are dead last in the league with a 115.8 defensive rating, one that's not likely to get better with Wall coming back after missing 1.5 seasons.
Even Beal, for all his offensive accomplishments, is a terrible defender. Of 503 qualified players, he ranks 501st in ESPN's DRPM (minus-2.84), besting only Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young. Gobert doesn't need plays drawn up for him and could continue letting the 2-guard thrive on offense while covering for him on the defensive end.
While it would mean giving up 2019 lottery pick Hachimura and 22-year-old rim-running center Bryant, the Wizards could have a nice playoff team in the East with Beal, Gobert and Wall, especially if they can re-sign Davis Bertans.
If the Jazz have concerns about Gobert leaving in free agency during the summer of 2021, this package would help reset the frontcourt and add an additional first-round pick.
Ben Simmons Gets Chris Paul to Share Point Guard Duties
Philadelphia Sixers Receive: Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Al Horford, Zhaire Smith, Mike Scott, 2021 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
As good a point guard as Ben Simmons is becoming, having another ball-handler to play off would truly unlock his offensive game.
Joel Embiid is a proven star, but he doesn't exactly complement Simmons. Paul would be a perfect backcourt mate, able to play on or off the ball while using Simmons' 6'10" frame as the roll man or finding him on cuts to the basket.
This season, nearly half of Simmons' shots (49.0 percent) are coming unassisted, an incredibly high number for a guard who's made two three-pointers in three years. He's never had a passer like Paul to play alongside, with Trey Burke, Raul Neto and rookie Matisse Thybulle getting the most minutes at point guard behind him this season.
Paul has learned to be productive off the ball over the past few years while sharing point guard duties with James Harden and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and he would be a tremendous leader and mentor in an underachieving Sixers locker room.
While Paul's contract still pays him over $85.6 million over the next two years, Philly wasn't going to have cap space anyway and could use this deal to get rid of Al Horford's remaining three years and $81 million, even if it means giving up a draft pick.
For the Thunder, this swap would mean letting Gilgeous-Alexander take over the offense while getting three more manageable contracts and a first-round pick to use in future deals. Horford could start at power forward or play behind Steven Adams while Smith develops in OKC's proven system.
A lineup of Paul, Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Embiid may be the best in the East, giving the Sixers better spacing and ball movement while helping Simmons' overall development.
Kevin Love Joins Donovan Mitchell with Jazz
Utah Jazz Receive: Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Mike Conley
With Donovan Mitchell spending nearly half his time at point guard this season and the Mike Conley experiment producing mixed results, it may be best to give the 23-year-old guard more weapons.
Love would be a perfect fit in Utah, especially if the Jazz decide to keep Rudy Gobert. He would bring the floor-spacing from the power forward position that Mitchell needs while also carrying his share of the offense (17.6 points per game on 37.4 percent shooting from deep this season).
Putting the ball in Mitchell's hands while surrounding him with shooters in Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Love should be a recipe for success, especially with Gobert setting screens and rolling hard to the rim.
Love would also bring championship experience to a Jazz team that contains a roster full of players who have never won a ring, and he'd also allow them to go small and use him as a floor-spacing center when necessary.
For Cleveland, this would save two years and $60.2 million on Love's contract while giving young guards Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. one of the best backcourt mentors in the league in Conley.
Only under contract for next season, Conley and Andre Drummond would represent $63.3 million in expiring deals, contracts Cleveland could try to flip to teams looking to save money at the trade deadline if the Cavs are out of playoff contention.