Realistic Offseason Trades NBA Fanbases Wouldn't See Coming
If the NBA's power structure shifts at all this offseason, the trade market will almost certainly be the culprit.
Free agency is nearly devoid of household names, and those in that category—Anthony Davis, Brandon Ingram, Gordon Hayward—aren't expected to leave their current digs. Most teams were already facing a salary-cap crunch, and that's before even factoring in the massive financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
It feels like a trade-or-tread-water kind of offseason, which could send clubs in directions their fans never expected.
While staying within the realistic realm, let's forecast some potential turns teams can make.
Terry Rozier to Minnesota
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Terry Rozier
Charlotte Hornets receive: James Johnson, Jarrett Culver
Minnesota's roster reshaping includes no guarantee for a happy ending, but credit this club for finding talent where it can.
Even if there are obvious defensive question marks about the Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell pairing, their offensive potential is enormous. The group only grows harder to handle on that end if Malik Beasley—a nightly 20.7-point scorer across 14 games with the team—stays put in restricted free agency.
The Timberwolves should continue scouring the market for upgrades. If there's a way to shake Rozier loose—the $36.8 million he's owed the next two seasons isn't exactly cheap—they can push their ceiling even higher. His aggressive on-ball defense would be a welcome addition in this backcourt, and Rozier's growth as a shooter (40.7 percent from deep, 45.9 on catch-and-shoot threes) would help him settle into a tertiary role.
He's not a star, but his production is near that neighborhood (one of 27 players to average 18 points, four assists and four rebounds). Tack on whichever prospect Minnesota adds at or near the top of the 2020 draft, and this roster could intrigue in a hurry.
For the Hornets, this is about the acceptance that Rozier and Devonte' Graham aren't long-term backcourt fits together—and the chance to buy low on a recent top-10 pick.
Jarrett Culver had a rough rookie season, but 2019's sixth overall pick is still just 21 years old. With his size (6'6") and two-way versatility, he could thrive alongside Graham. Johnson matches the money here, but he could be a decent fill-in 5—Cody Zeller is Charlotte's only center signed beyond this season—and his $16 million expiring salary (technically a player option) could interest teams at next year's deadline as they prepare for 2021 free agency.
Zach LaVine to Orlando
Orlando Magic receive: Zach LaVine
Chicago Bulls receive: Terrence Ross, Mo Bamba, 2020 first-round pick (top-five protected)
LaVine has paced the Bulls in shots and usage percentage by wide margins each of the past two seasons. Chicago's offense ranks second-to-last, exactly where it finished 2018-19, too. The team's new decision-makers could easily conclude there are better ways to spend $39 million over the next two years than on LaVine's seemingly hollow scoring numbers.
"The best team he's ever played for is the 2016-17 Timberwolves, who finished 31-51," The Ringer's Zach Kram noted. "He has a 105-248 career record in games he's played, the equivalent of a 24-win season, and even in games in which he's scored 30-plus points, his teams have a losing record (18-19)."
If the Bulls determine they're better off without LaVine, they'll need to find a squad so starved for scoring that it's willing to overlook his weaknesses. The Magic kicked the tires on 30-year-old, inside-the-arc specialist DeMar DeRozan earlier this season. If anyone can lock in on LaVine's glowing points-per-game marks (now up to 25.5), this is the team.
And who knows, maybe his shooting and creation could nudge this group to the next tier. Orlando already boasts a top-10 defense, and that ranking could keep climbing as Jonathan Isaac realizes his massive potential at that end. The Magic could rebrand as an uptempo attack with LaVine, Isaac, Markelle Fultz and Aaron Gordon zooming past opponents in transition.
Between LaVine's salary and lack of success, his trade value probably isn't great. But Bamba could join Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. to either form a three-headed monster in the frontcourt or hold a three-man race for the two starting spots going forward. The mid-first gives the front office another dart throw, and Ross replaces some of the shot-making on the perimeter while giving Coby White more room to grow.
John Collins to Golden State
Golden State Warriors receive: John Collins, Kevin Huerter
Atlanta Hawks receive: Kevon Looney, Jordan Poole, 2020 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick (via Minnesota Timberwolves)
Uniquely positioned as a draft-lottery participant with realistic championship hopes for next season, the Warriors might need more of an immediate contribution than even the best prospects in this draft can provide. That's why, as president of basketball operations Bob Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole, the club will "consider" trading its top pick away.
That should get Atlanta's attention. The Hawks are still in the asset-accumulation phase of their rebuild, and they need as many high-upside players around Trae Young as possible. They also have an instant-impact near-star in Collins, whom they're reportedly hesitant about giving "significant" money, per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner.
Collins' pick-and-roll finishing and budding floor spacing (career-high 40.1 three-point percentage) would be even better weaponized on the Warriors, where he could play off Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Huerter, a 6'7" sniper who reminds more than a few of Thompson, could give Golden State needed depth for its next postseason venture.
If the Hawks don't have Collins in their future plans—there's a lot of overlap between him and Clint Capela—then converting him into a first-round pick makes a lot of sense. Atlanta could leave the lottery with two top-three picks to replace Collins and Huerter, plus it adds a 2019 first-rounder in Poole, a possibly early second-rounder in a deep 2021 draft and, if Looney gets healthy, a versatile big who could help the Hawks take flight.
Victor Oladipo to Phoenix
Phoenix Suns receive: Victor Oladipo
Indiana Pacers receive: Ricky Rubio, Mikal Bridges, 2020 first-round pick (top-three protected)
Barring a miraculous run in the Magic Kingdom, the Suns will be looking at a 10th straight season without the playoffs and second since Devin Booker said he was "done" being left out of the postseason. Phoenix can't afford to live in the moment, especially since Booker's buddies Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell have already joined forces in Minnesota and might be in his ear about all the Gopher State has to offer.
The Suns should aggressively seek out every opportunity for an impact addition. They might find what they're looking for in the Circle City, where Oladipo and the Pacers haven't discussed an extension since talks fizzled before the season. Back then, a four-year, $80 million offer was mentioned, and things unsurprisingly fell apart from there, per SNY's Ian Begley.
If Indiana has cold feet about Oladipo's 2021 free agency, this is the time for Phoenix to strike. He's a risky investment given his future uncertainty and recent injury woes (49 appearances between this season and last), but his best-case-scenario version puts the Suns at least in annual playoff races, if not eventually fighting for home-court advantage in the first round.
His defensive versatility would make life easier on Booker, whose shot creation would keep Oladipo from having to do too much. Deandre Ayton could turn this into a star trio with similar two-way growth as he displayed this season, while Kelly Oubre Jr. would fill in all the glue-guy cracks. This could be an interesting quartet sooner than later.
If the Pacers decide Oladipo is leaving—or they don't want to pay him after his uneven play on this side of his knee injury—this return toes the line between remaining competitive and brightening the future. The ceiling and floor both rise simultaneously if everything goes according to plan.
Rubio joins Malcolm Brogdon in an interchangeable backcourt, and they team with Domantas Sabonis to provide overloaded amounts of passing and creativity. Bridges bulks up the wings with his three-and-D game, and the draft pick potentially adds a lottery prospect to what's already among the Association's deepest rosters.
Bradley Beal to Miami
Miami Heat receive: Bradley Beal, Moritz Wagner
Washington Wizards receive: Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson
Giving Beal a one-way ticket to South Beach is admittedly not a novel idea. He's been on Miami's radar for at least a year, and if you took odds on the next star to join the Heat, he'd be among the favorites.
Saying that, the timing of a Beal-to-Miami move this offseason would be puzzling.
The Wizards could have traded Beal last offseason, but instead, they gave him a two-year extension. They have no interest in moving him, per The Athletic's Fred Katz, and still believe he and John Wall can be a top-tier backcourt. The Heat, meanwhile, are focused on keeping their financial picture clean for 2021.
But why couldn't this go down sooner than later?
Beal played at the top of his game this season, and Washington never sniffed .500. Is Wall, at 30 years old and coming off an Achilles tear, really going to turn this team around? The Wizards don't have to abandon their playoff hopes in this exchange, as all four players can contribute right now. The hope is that Robinson and especially Herro become more down the line and help lift the ceiling higher than Beal can.
Miami's wait-for-2021 plan is a good one—unless a star player becomes available now. Slotting Beal alongside Jimmy Butler (who turns 31 in September) and Bam Adebayo gives Miami a legitimate Big Three, and this doesn't deplete all of the supporting cast.
Losing Herro and Robinson stings, but chances are neither will become the player Beal is right now. If the Heat handle the rest of their roster right, they can contend for the crown as soon as next season. With Pat Riley's 75th birthday behind him, it's tough to see the organization passing up a chance to compete at a level that high.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.