Offseason Landing Spots for Players Who Could End Up on the Trade Block
Normally, we would be midway through the second round of the NBA playoffs, and 22 teams would have already started scheming for the offseason.
Why not make the best of the stalled season and look ahead anyway? We know several big names will be in trade talks, and the goal here is to find them the best possible destinations.
The complications are obvious. What league year are we talking about? If not July 1 as usual, when will the calendar flip? Who'll opt in? Who'll opt out? What's the salary cap going to be? How might slashed revenue projections affect each team's willingness to spend, take on money or send out money?
Everything is so uncertain that constructing cap-legal trades is more complicated than ever. The idea here, then, is to find a home that makes sense for the player in question and lay down the rough outline of how to get him there.
This will be a player-centric exercise. We're basically trying to do right by the player while keeping these hypothetical deals as plausible as circumstances allow.
Jrue Holiday Is the Final Piece in Milwaukee
The New Orleans Pelicans are skewing young with a core built around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram (and possibly Lonzo Ball). That group is going to need some seasoning before it's ready to compete in a serious way; assume it takes them at least a couple more full seasons to really see where they fit in the contender hierarchy.
That makes it tough to justify spending just over $53 million for Jrue Holiday's age-30 and age-31 seasons (assuming he opts in for 2021-22).
Without knowing how the Milwaukee Bucks will end 2019-20 (championship or nah?), it's hard to be certain of their direction. But if they flame out in the playoffs, they'll head into 2020-21 with the option of a Giannis Antetokounmpo trade looming. He can hit free agency in July 2021, and if he makes noise about leaving, the Bucks could pivot to a full rebuild.
Holiday, though, could be a signal to Antetokounmpo that Milwaukee is all-in. He'd be an upgrade on both ends over Eric Bledsoe, and his ability to guard larger wings would add another dimension to an already elite defensive core.
Holiday is a better three-point shooter and facilitator than Bledsoe, who's a quality player in his own right but might still be best known for postseason unreliability. Think of Holiday as an upgraded Bledsoe who can be trusted to show up when the stakes are high. That's worth the added cost to a team in Milwaukee's position.
The Bucks could easily slap together Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo, salary filler and a first-rounder to help New Orleans shed money and add future assets.
Buddy Hield Bolsters the Sixers' Shooting
For a team that employs Ben Simmons, it's impossible to have too much shooting at other positions. So while Josh Richardson's more complete game might make him a better player than Buddy Hield, the latter's outside stroke is a better fit.
When we last saw him, Hield was coming off the bench and shooting the lights out for the Sacramento Kings, helping key a late playoff push. Already vocally disgruntled, how much longer do we really expect Hield to keep quiet in a reserve role?
With the Sixers, he could assume the gig JJ Redick vacated, darting around picks and working the dribble-handoff game with Joel Embiid. Though ball-handling isn't among Hield's top skills, he'd still be a better shot-creator in an emergency late-clock situation than Redick was.
Since we mentioned him already, yes, Richardson would be the principal asset heading back to the Kings. You'd have to assume they'd prefer his defense and lower annual salary to Hield's more one-dimensional and expensive profile.
The only question that remains is what else the Sixers might be willing to include. If they threw in Zhaire Smith and some light draft compensation, that'd probably be enough to get the job done.
In Philly, Hield could assume a major scoring role. Only now, he'd have defensive erasers in Embiid and Simmons behind him. That's an ideal situation for a lights-out shooter who, in Sacramento, had to be hidden on defense.
Aaron Gordon Packs Warm for Minnesota
Six years in, it's starting to feel like the three-point shot isn't going to be among Aaron Gordon's calling cards. Granted he's been over 30.0 percent in each of the last three seasons, but that's on middling (and, critically, downward-trending) volume.
Both he and the Orlando Magic seem to acknowledge his future isn't as a perimeter threat.
With the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that already has stretch at the 5 in Karl-Anthony Towns, Gordon is a much better fit than he is in Orlando's shooting-starved frontcourt. Ideally, the springy 6'8" forward could slot next to KAT at the 4, operate as a high-end second-side playmaking forward and help Josh Okogie make up for the horrendous defense the Wolves will get from Towns and D'Angelo Russell.
Gordon is a terrific rebounder who has the mobility to guard multiple positions and has ranked in the top 15 percent among forwards in assist rate over the past two seasons. Though he's not an efficient scorer, he now only has to be a third option whose real job is defending and facilitating—two clear strengths.
The Wolves might hesitate to give up Jarrett Culver in the return package, but Gordon seems like a player who needs a new situation to thrive. There may still be untapped potential in the 24-year-old, and Minnesota needs what he brings.
The Kings Finally Get Zach LaVine
Things have changed.
LaVine has been at the center of the Bulls' frustration with head coach Jim Boylen from the jump, and though he's been mostly reserved in his public comments, it seems clear a parting of ways is in the best interest of both team and player.
So how about a challenge trade: LaVine for a similarly surly Buddy Hield?
At the very least, we know the Kings were willing to pay what LaVine is currently making, and his salary matches up nicely with what Hield will collect annually when his extension kicks in for 2020-21. Added bonus for the Kings: LaVine is over two years younger than Hield, which makes him a better fit alongside 22-year-old De'Aaron Fox.
Hield would be a clear starter in Chicago, which he might not be in Sacramento going forward. Meanwhile, LaVine could replicate much of Hield's outside shooting with more transition and playmaking oomph layered in.
Neither defends his position, so the swap would really be about getting two players a change of scenery—and hoping better moods produce improved play.
Kevin Love Ends Up in Golden State After All
Things we know to be true:
- Kevin Love's contract is brutal at three more full years and $91.5 million.
- Andrew Wiggins' contract is also an eye-searer at three more years and $94.7 million.
- The Golden State Warriors nearly traded Klay Thompson for Love five years ago.
Wiggins is younger and theoretically better positioned to succeed with the Warriors than he was with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But let's never forget he also owns the second-worst career value over replacement player (VORP) since 1973-74 among players who averaged 30.0 minutes over at least 450 games. Shorthand, he's arguably the least helpful rotation player of the last half-century.
Love has his flaws—defense and health, principally—but he's not historically harmful to his teams.
Let's get him to the Warriors in a package centered on Wiggins, where he fits into the tight title window determined by the early-30s ages of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. With the Dubs, he'd alleviate the spacing crunch Green creates, occupy the weakest frontcourt defensive assignment and fling the ball around, rediscovering the elite passing touch that defined his younger years.
Love is becoming underrated, and he can still get himself to the foul line, hit threes and make others better.
Trapped in Cleveland (but raking in cash, so let's not pity him too much), Love needs an escape. He'd fit right into the Warriors' desperate last effort to make a run* before the lights go out.
*If the Warriors think they have even the faintest shot at using Wiggins to land Giannis Antetokounmpo at some point, forget everything you just read. That's the ultimate move for Golden State, but it feels unlikely at the moment.