B/R NBA Staff: Promising Youngsters Who Could Be Traded for a Star
- A promising, young prospect on a team that needs to win now due to a shortened title window or to appease a star nearing the end of his contract
- An unhappy star, or a team that has grown impatient with said star and is ready to build a new foundation.
Why would an NBA team trade a promising young star? A young, high-upside player on a cost-controlled rookie-scale contract is one of the league's most precious resources.
But in a superstar-driven league, most NBA front offices can't afford to be patient.
Take the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Armed with blue-chip youth in Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, the Lakers and Clippers instead exhausted nearly every resource they had to acquire superstars to complement their incumbent one.
No matter how high the ceiling or how enticing the untapped potential, if the team's championship window conflicts with the youngster's timeline, a swap becomes both beneficial and inevitable.
To find a potential swap, we need two things:
Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen
The Brooklyn Nets could go one of two ways moving forward.
With Kevin Durant expected to make his debut for the franchise next season after missing 2019-20 to recover from a torn Achilles, they could keep their current roster together and allow Durant and Kyrie Irving to play with their existing group of young talent including Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie.
But if another star becomes available—say, Bradley Beal—they'd have enough appealing young players to put together a competitive offer if they wanted to go all-in on a Big Three.
They should hold onto Allen if at all possible, but they did sign DeAndre Jordan last summer due in part to his close friendship with Irving and Durant. That may preclude them from paying Allen when he's eligible for an extension this offseason.
Between Allen, LeVert and Dinwiddie, the Nets have the kinds of complementary players other teams will want. They'll just have to decide whether it's worth mortgaging their depth for star power.
For now, RJ Barrett is the face of the New York Knicks' rebuild. The 2019 No. 3 overall pick is averaging 17.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists since the All-Star break and won't turn 20 until mid-June.
With new team president Leon Rose taking over the front office, will the Knicks be patient and grow the team around Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and the seven first-round picks they own over the next four drafts? Or will they use those picks and players to go after an established star?
In reference to trading for a star, one Knicks front office member recently told SNY's Ian Begley, "It's the best path for us."
While some Knicks fans may view Barrett as untouchable, the Los Angeles Clippers pulled a similar move last summer when they traded point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a deal for Paul George.
As for which stars they could trade for, a look at Rose's former client list could provide some clues.
As an agent, Rose represented Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Joel Embiid, all of whom are currently on losing or underperforming teams. Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday and Rudy Gobert could all become available in the coming months or years as well.
While keeping Barrett is probably Rose's best option, no player should be considered safe on a franchise as star-hungry as the Knicks.
The Los Angeles Lakers have quickly become a veteran team with title aspirations. They may not have time for third-year forward Kyle Kuzma to fully emerge as the next-best player behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers drafted Kuzma with the No. 27 overall pick in 2017. The 24-year-old has already outperformed his draft position—he was ranked 13th in Bleacher Report's recent 2017 re-draft—but he isn't an ideal fit in Los Angeles since he plays the same position as Davis.
Over the past two seasons, the Lakers have experimented with Kuzma at different four different positions (all but point guard). In 2018-19, he averaged 18.7 points in 33.1 minutes per game. This season, he's down to 12.5 points in 24.6 minutes.
Kuzma may be better suited for a team that needs a young, scoring power forward. The Lakers need playmaking and shooting.
Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie would be an ideal target if he became available. Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield is an elite shooter and could feast on open looks that James and Davis generate. An athletic scorer like Zach LaVine might be interesting as well, given the Chicago Bulls' recent front-office turnover.
Kuzma is under contract for one more season at $3.6 million (he's eligible for an extension this offseason), so the Lakers would need to send out significant additional salary to match for higher-paid players like LaVine or Hield. The Lakers also don't have much else to offer in terms of future draft considerations.
Kuzma may be their most important trade chip—one they can't waste on a short-term acquisition.
Miami might be content to play the waiting game until 2021 free agency (i.e., the Summer of Giannis), but patience could go out the window if a legitimate difference-maker like Bradley Beal became available beforehand.
With Pat Riley having turned 75 in March and Jimmy Butler's 31st birthday looming in September, the Heat have reasons to search for an accelerator. But a player like Beal—a two-time All-Star on course to become only the 10th player to average 30 points, six assists and four rebounds—won't come cheap. Guys like Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn aren't getting it done, especially since Miami can't sweeten the pot with first-round picks.
It has to be Tyler Herro or Bam Adebayo. In other words, it has to be Herro.
That's no knock on the 20-year-old sharpshooter, but Miami has already moved Adebayo to centerpiece status. Perhaps Herro could get there eventually, but his ceiling probably peaks around Beal's current level.
For Washington, Herro would be a younger, cheaper replacement for Beal who might spearhead the franchise's next chapter. He's already a quantity-plus-quality marksman—he's the fourth qualified rookie to average two triples per game on 39-plus percent shooting—with the handles to free himself and the confidence to splash clutch shots.
There probably aren't many scenarios in which the Wizards would part with Beal or the Heat would give up Herro. But that short list should include the two swapping locker rooms.
Michael Porter Jr.
The Denver Nuggets reportedly made Michael Porter Jr. "untouchable" prior to the February trade deadline, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. They did so for good reason.
Heralded as the No. 2 overall high school prospect in 2017, Porter's draft stock plummeted as a potentially career-altering back injury sidelined him for most of his lone season at Missouri. The Denver Nuggets were the lucky beneficiary at the bottom of the 2018 NBA draft lottery.
However, the Nuggets have outplayed expectations, reaching Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2018-19 with MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. Given LeBron James' advancing age and the uncertainty surrounding the long-term futures of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (player options in 2021-22), it might behoove the Nuggets to push all of their chips in soon.
If they choose to go that route, they could dangle Porter as an enticing prize for teams looking to unload veteran stars. His combination of size and soft shooting touch make him a matchup nightmare.
New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday would be a logical trade target. Holiday is among the NBA's best backcourt defenders, and he is one of only six players with 6,000 points and 2,250 assists since 2015-16, along with LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowry.
The Nuggets would likely need to include Gary Harris in a Porter-Holiday deal for salary-matching purposes, so they figure to demand more in return. If the Pelicans somehow found a workable deal, they might have one of the league's most terrifying frontcourts with Porter, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.