B/R NBA Staff: 7 Trade Ideas to Get Stars New Sidekicks
The trade machine's presence has grown exponentially in the modern era of social media discourse, almost to a satirical degree. But with the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 salary cap amid the coronavirus pandemic, the trading block will be many teams' most valuable tool for filling cracks in the future foundation.
So the trade machine is where we turn.
For those lucky few with a superstar in tow, finding the perfect complement is critical. After all, Michael Jordan never won a playoff series before adding Scottie Pippen in 1987-88. Kobe Bryant never won a series without Shaquille O'Neal or Pau Gasol. Only three teams in the past 15 seasons have managed an NBA Finals victory with just one All-Star (Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks).
Even the all-time greats needed help, and we're happy to oblige the next generation, whether with a complementary All-Star or a high-end role player.
Here are seven trades to support some of the league's top stars and thrust their teams toward contention in 2020-21.
Alan Sepinwall, the chief TV critic for “Rolling Stone” magazine (and long-suffering New York Knicks fan), joins “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to offer suggestions for binge-watching during the NBA shutdown, how binge-watching has changed television and the long-awaited return of the NBA.
Los Angeles Lakers Add Buddy Hield to Anthony Davis, LeBron James
The Los Angeles Lakers have two massive stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Their third-best player is Kyle Kuzma, but he is also a forward, which doesn't make him an ideal fit. They could use an elite backcourt shooter who can thrive off the attention paid to both James and Davis.
Enter Buddy Hield, who the Sacramento Kings benched midseason despite giving him an extension last summer that will pay up to $106 million. The Kings are intent on re-signing Bogdan Bogdanovic, who plays the same position as Hield and will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
If the two Pacific Division rivals are willing to deal (Kings executive Vlade Divac was twice a Laker), Sacramento could get out of Hield's contract while adding depth from the Lakers, starting with Kuzma but also including veterans like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Quinn Cook.
A deal near the draft would need to include Richaun Holmes and Justin James from Sacramento to the Lakers. But if it's done after the moratorium, the Kings could keep Holmes and James to legally execute a five-for-one trade.
The Lakers would get their shooter. The Kings would erase their over-investment in Hield and add Kuzma with relatively inexpensive depth.
To make a deal legal, Caldwell-Pope, McGee and Rondo would each need to opt into their respective contracts; Cook's $3 million for next season would also need to be guaranteed.
Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic Add Aaron Gordon
With Paul Millsap set to hit free agency after this season, the Denver Nuggets will have a hole at power forward.
They could bring Millsap back on a smaller deal, but he's 35 years old and not a long-term starter as they look to contend.
Aaron Gordon, whose name has been in trade rumors for years with various teams, would be a perfect fit. He's an athletic big who can score on his own, and he's the type of player ready to finish lobs from one of the NBA's best passers in Nikola Jokic.
Jokic and Gordon would form one of the more versatile and offensively formidable frontcourt units in the league, and Gordon would fit in perfectly alongside the athletic wings and guards on Denver's roster.
The Orlando Magic could send Gordon to Denver for Gary Harris and a first-round pick.
Portland Trail Blazers Add Derrick Rose to Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum
While the Los Angeles Lakers continually get brought up when talking about trade destinations for Derrick Rose, the Portland Trail Blazers need the veteran point guard's services far more.
In this trade scenario, the Blazers aren't replacing McCollum as Lillard's sidekick but simply adding Rose as an additional helping hand off the bench.
Rose is averaging 18.1 points and 5.6 assists for the Detroit Pistons this season, with a career-high 40.5 assist percentage. Not even Lillard (34.1) or McCollum (19.3) can match Rose's mark, and Blazers backup point guard Anfernee Simons is assisting on just 9.4 percent of his teammates' baskets.
Portland is firmly in win-now mode and needs a dynamic third guard who can keep the offense flowing.
The Blazers should offer Zach Collins and Trevor Ariza to Detroit for Rose and Tony Snell (assuming he picks up his $12.2 million player option). Snell is a 6'6" wing who has shot 40.2 percent from three this season and could start at small forward for Portland, while Collins gives the Pistons a young big man for their rebuild.
Rose no longer fits on a Detroit team trying to go younger, and perhaps no team needs another playmaker more than the Trail Blazers.
Miami Heat and Jimmy Butler Add Jrue Holiday
Since acquiring five-time All-Star Jimmy Butler over the summer, the Heat have exceeded expectations, winning 41 of 65 games. Complementing Butler is a group flushed with youth and upside in Tyler Herro (20), Bam Adebayo (22), Kendrick Nunn (24) and Duncan Robinson (26).
The Heat are stuck between timelines. Butler will turn 31 prior to the 2020-21 season, and the cap space that may have made them a popular free-agent destination appears less viable with the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 cap. The Heat could wait for Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021, but by then Adebayo will earn his own max salary, making it difficult to sign a third star.
The Heat need to make a choice, and knowing team president Pat Riley, the choice will be to win now. To do that, they should pair fellow two-time All-Defensive team point guard Jrue Holiday with Butler.
Inserting the league's best backcourt defender next to Butler would provide him some relief. A wildly underappreciated veteran, Holiday's on/off numbers registered in the 96th and 97th percentiles in 2017-18 and 2018-19, making him one of the NBA's most impactful players. He placed in the 88.8 percentile in isolation scoring so far this season and is one of just six players to have scored 6,000 points with 2,250 assists in the past five seasons.
Holiday seems content in New Orleans, and the Pelicans would surely like to have him back in 2020-21 and beyond. However, if Riley were to offer Herro, Nunn and Andre Iguodala for the point guard, the Pelicans would be foolish not to consider.
Nunn's superb playmaking and high-volume scoring have made him a three-time Rookie of the Month, establishing him as an ideal spark plug off the bench who would fit with these Pelicans. Herro's off-ball movement and elite shooting touch already make him one of just three rookies ever to shoot 39 percent from three while firing at least five bombs per game.
The Pelicans would be hard-pressed to find a better complement to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
Iggy's contract is also of immense value. Not only is his $15 million expiring deal (2021-22 team option) a moveable asset, but his leadership and ability to guard some of the game's best 3s would also service the Pelicans' purpose perfectly.
If he chooses not to report? They could deal him with a first-round pick for an immediate upgrade such as Robert Covington.
Los Angeles Clippers Add Steven Adams to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George
Big men may be a dying breed in the NBA, but the West is still chock-full of them. If there's one area where the Los Angeles Clippers could stand to upgrade, it's with the man in the middle.
To compete with teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz who still use their size to overwhelm opponents, the Clippers need a big body like Steven Adams. The Kiwi is already familiar playing next to Paul George and would provide a massive pick-and-roll screener for Kawhi Leonard. His defensive rebounding and soft touch at the rim would shore up any weaknesses the Clippers might have against rival West contenders.
Oklahoma City already has almost all of L.A.'s future firsts from the George trade, so a sign-and-trade involving Montrezl Harrell, also including Ivica Zubac and Landry Shamet, might entice general manager Sam Presti to make a deal he doesn't need to make. The Thunder would get something in return for Adams' $25.8 million contract and avoid dealing with a difficult decision about his extension after 2020-21.
Consolidating may be a challenge for the Clippers, but their win-now window is so small. Adams' contract lines up with George's and Leonard's player options, giving the Clippers flexibility if their championship aspirations are foiled.
It's a stretch for both sides, but there are clear benefits. The Thunder can begin to think more about their future, while the Clippers' future has all eyes on Larry O'Brien.
Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker Add Lauri Markkanen
The Suns, who will be fresh off their most successful season since 2014-15, should continue their aggressive moves to upgrade the roster. Between Devin Booker's All-Star leap and Deandre Ayton's two-way development, Phoenix has the foundation for an interesting team.
A bold deal for stretch 7-footer Lauri Markkanen, who played his college ball with the Arizona Wildcats, would get the Suns on everyone's 2020-21 sleeper lists. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times brought word of Markkanen's unhappiness with the franchise in April, and maybe the new front office wants trade chips more than the talented, but inconsistent, scoring big.
Suns general manager James Jones should put a 2021 protected first-rounder and a young wing like Mikal Bridges or Cameron Johnson on the table. If that's enough for Chicago to bite, it's a no-brainer for Phoenix.
Markkanen's career averages of 19 points and 2.6 triples per 36 minutes would be gold mines in the desert. The former eases the burden Booker has to shoulder, and the latter frees up Ayton for post-ups and rim rolls. Conversely, the upgraded firepower would give Markkanen cleaner scoring chances—he'd move from the 29th-ranked offense to the 16th-best—and an ascending Ayton could help hide Markkanen's defensive limitations.
New Orleans Pelicans and Zion Williamson Add Bradley Beal
Most expect the Pelicans to steer down the path of a quasi-rebuild. More brainpower is wasted among fans and pundits figuring out whether they'll trade Jrue Holiday, a free agent in 2021 (player option), than anything else other than Zion Williamson's future.
What if New Orleans throws a curveball, though? It has the assets to try. And the motivation too. The Pelicans were gobsmacking opponents with Zion on the floor when the league closed its doors. Their record is not reflective of how ready they might be.
Adding Bradley Beal, a top-20ish player, could turn New Orleans not just into a postseason lock but a viable contender. That changes if the team has to fork over Holiday in a hypothetical package. It shouldn't.
Matching salaries in that scenario would be difficult but not impossible. The Pelicans have Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Lonzo Ball and Jaxson Hayes, can wait for this year's draft pick to count toward the financial tally and also have the option of using Darius Miller's salary as an expiring anchor (next season's money will have to be guaranteed if they make the trade in the new league year).
Cobbling packages together around some combination of those players and picks has to pique the Wizards' interest. The Lakers' 2024 first-rounder, with the option to defer until 2025, is particularly interesting. New Orleans shouldn't open with that included, but if it spares the team from having to include Ball and other picks, that should absolutely be on the table.
Tinkering with the roster's hierarchy could be a little thorny. The Pelicans have plenty of players who prefer to operate on-ball. But Lonzo, Zion, Holiday and Brandon Ingram are all capable of playing off one another. Beal fits that same mold while arming the Pelicans with a bona fide superstar.