7 Realistic Trades to Rescue NBA's Top Young Stars
Some of the NBA's young stars need a change of scenery.
Moving from a perennial lottery-bound franchise to one that's known for player development can kickstart a career, as can changing positions entirely or getting more playing time.
For the following seven players, these trades would put them in better situations and allow their already impressive games to flourish.
Mitchell Robinson Gets a Starting Job in Sacramento
Kings Receive: C Mitchell Robinson, G Frank Ntilikina, PF Bobby Portis, 2021 second-round pick (via Detroit Pistons)
Knicks Receive: SG Buddy Hield
Robinson is arguably the best player on a 21-45 New York Knicks team that should be prioritizing player development over everything, yet he still finds himself coming off the bench behind 34-year-old Taj Gibson.
The uber-athletic 7'0" center is already one of the league's biggest threats at the rim, be it throwing down high lobs or erasing opponents' attempts at an easy basket. His 74.2 field-goal percentage leads the NBA, and his 8.0 block percentage ranks third.
The Knicks' reasoning for only giving him 23.1 minutes per game off the bench? Saying how well he's doing in that reserve role, which is the basketball equivalent of telling someone you'd never date them because they're "too good of friends."
If New York isn't going to properly utilize Mitchell, it's time for a breakup.
Sacramento has gotten strong play from Richaun Holmes at center this season, but Robinson has the potential to be a franchise staple at the position for the next 10 years. If Marvin Bagley III can develop his three-point shot, the Kings would possess one of the most athletic, versatile big-man combos in the league.
With Hield losing his starting job, packaging Robinson with Ntilikina (who could also benefit from new scenery), Portis and a draft pick would give the Knicks a dynamic shooting guard and give Robinson the starting job he deserves with the Kings.
Derrick White Joins Markelle Fultz in Magic Backcourt
Magic Receive: G Derrick White, F Rudy Gay
Spurs Receive: C Mo Bamba, F Al-Farouq Aminu, 2021 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
White proved his talent with a 36-point breakout game in the 2019 playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, but he continues to get overshadowed in San Antonio by DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Patty Mills and Bryn Forbes in the Spurs' crowded backcourt.
His usage rate of 18.2 percent ranks seventh among rotation players, and the combination of he and Murray has resulted in a net rating of minus-9.1, compared to plus-0.6 when White plays and Murray doesn't.
Orlando craves backcourt talent, and White can play either guard position at 6'4".
Assuming the Magic are committed to the development of Markelle Fultz as their starting point guard, putting another ball-handler beside him should help take some pressure off. White is good enough to start at shooting guard full time, and Orlando gives him the opportunity to do so.
For the Spurs, Bamba gives them a 2018 top-six pick with elite defensive potential on a team that ranks 25th in defense this season. Aminu can defend multiple positions, and a first-round pick next year helps with a rebuild or can be used as trade bait for one more playoff run(s) under Gregg Popovich.
Lauri Markkanen Gives Blazers a Boost
Blazers Receive: PF Lauri Markkanen
Bulls Receive: PF/C Zach Collins, F Nassir Little, 2022 second-round pick
After a strong sophomore season (18.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 36.1 percent from three), Markkanen has regressed in his third year with the Chicago Bulls. As Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote:
"Make no mistake about it, third-year big man Lauri Markkanen was one unhappy camper before the coronavirus put the NBA on hiatus. Unhappy enough that if the direction of the organization was going to stay unchanged, he'd rather be elsewhere."
If Markkanen is serious about wanting out, the Bulls should be looking to restock their young talent with a new front office led by Arturas Karnisovas.
Markkanen would be a perfect fourth star in Portland with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, grabbing the starting power forward position from day one. His open looks should skyrocket, as would his pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop opportunities with Lillard handling the ball.
For Chicago, Collins, 22, can play both power forward and center and has shown the ability to become a good outside shooter and shot-blocker. Little, 20, was the Blazers' first-round pick in 2019 and can guard multiple positions.
Add in a draft pick and both teams shuffle some young talent.
Myles Turner Holds a Block Party in Boston
Celtics Receive: C Myles Turner, F Doug McDermott, PG TJ McConnell
Pacers Receive: SF Gordon Hayward
While his minutes have increased slightly, Turner's true shooting, shot attempts, scoring, rebound percentage, block percentage and assist percentage have all plummeted with the Pacers this season.
With fellow big man Domantas Sabonis making his first All-Star Game and Indiana selecting center Goga Bitadze in the first last year, Turner may be better off in a larger role somewhere else.
Enter the Celtics, who need an upgrade at the position over Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter.
Turner brings the size (6'11") and defensive chops that Boston needs, all while keeping the floor spaced (35.4 percent career mark from three) for Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Adding McDermott (10.4 points on 44.5 percent from three) and McConnell (6.5 points, 5.0 assists, 51.7 percent shooting) to the rotation gives the Celtics some added depth while allowing Tatum to move from power forward to his more natural position on the wing.
Hayward is an Indianapolis native and former college star at Butler who would be a major addition to the Pacers' starting lineup.
A combination of Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, Hayward, TJ Warren and Sabonis represents one of the best starting fives in the East, with all members capable of dropping 25-30 points on any given night.
Collin Sexton Runs Point in New York
Knicks Receive: G Collin Sexton, C Andre Drummond
Cavaliers Receive: C Mitchell Robinson, F Kevin Knox, PF Bobby Portis, F/C Taj Gibson, 2021 first-round pick (via Dallas Mavericks)
The Cavaliers shouldn't be in a hurry to move Sexton yet, but the 2020 NBA draft may force their hand.
Despite leading the Cavs in scoring this season (20.8 points per game), Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. arguably have higher ceilings.
While Sexton was selected to become the franchise point guard at No. 8 overall in 2018, Cleveland took another floor general in Garland at No. 5 overall a year later. Porter Jr. has shown bits of James Harden in his game as a 6'4" combo guard, and he looks destined for a starting job.
If the Cavaliers land a top pick in the 2020 draft and take another guard such as Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, they can't keep and develop all four young guards.
The Knicks are one of the few teams that could offer a starting point guard job, the position Sexton spent nearly all of his time as a rookie. Now sharing the job with Garland, only 22 percent of Sexton's minutes have come running the point.
New York should have interest in Drummond as well, both for his production (17.7 points, 15.2 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.6 blocks) and his massive $28.8 million expiring salary (assuming he picks up his player option), which would clear a great deal of cap room before 2021's star-studded free-agent class.
Robinson gives the Cavs a shot-blocking center to build around, and Knox brings potential as a 2018 No. 9 overall pick. Portis and Gibson are on expiring deals, and a future first helps Cleveland agree to part with two of its three leading scorers.
If Sexton wants to be a starting point guard again, New York may be the place to do it.
Aaron Gordon Brings His Dunks to Denver
Nuggets Receive: PF Aaron Gordon
Magic Receive: SG Gary Harris, PG Monte Morris, 2021 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
Getting both Gordon and teammate Jonathan Isaac starting power forward jobs isn't going to happen in Orlando, so moving one for a starter on the wing should be the play.
Denver could be in the market for a starting 4 this offseason, with veteran Paul Millsap hitting free agency and Jerami Grant carrying a player option to do the same. Head coach Mike Malone doesn't appear to trust Michael Porter Jr. with a starting job yet, so Gordon should fill a void.
Gordon is another talented passer who would fit well between Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, finishing lobs at the rim from both. He's an athletic, mobile defender who can guard multiple positions and is a good enough three-point shooter to keep the floor spread.
For Orlando, Harris is one of the better defensive guards in the NBA and a former 42.0 percent marksman from three who's still only 25. His role has declined in Denver in recent years, but the Magic should be able to offer him a bigger share of the offense alongside Markelle Fultz.
Morris, 24, is already one of the league's best backup point guards, and a 2021 first-round pick helps Orlando agree to part with Gordon.
Jarrett Allen Heads to the Bay
Warriors Receive: C Jarrett Allen, SG Dzanan Musa
Nets Receive: C Kevon Looney, PF Eric Paschall, 2021 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets), 2021 second-round pick (via Minnesota Timberwolves), 2022 second-round pick (via Toronto Raptors)
Benched in favor of veteran DeAndre Jordan by Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn, Allen deserves a starting job elsewhere.
The Golden State Warriors should be back in full force next season with a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, and adding a rim-running center to the mix would provide a new dimension.
Allen is averaging 10.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks and shooting 64.6 percent overall while sharing center duties with Jordan. Having just turned 22, he possesses Defensive Player of the Year potential. If the Nets aren't going to utilize him correctly, they should move him for other young talent and draft picks.
Looney is a starting-caliber center who's still only 24 and would be a terrific backup to Jordan, while Paschall has been one of the league's best rookies this season with averages of 14.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He could start at power forward for Brooklyn or serve as a rotation player behind Taurean Prince. Three second-rounders also gives the Nets some draft ammo to use in future deals.
If the Nets are going to continue to start 31-year-old Jordan over Allen, the Warriors should make an offer.