Trades to Get NBA's Top 10 Stars over the Top

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2020

Trades to Get NBA's Top 10 Stars over the Top

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    Rosters seem to be in almost constant flux in today's NBA. And even if a team already has a top-10 talent, the desire to add another star is hard to resist.

    Indulging that desire is the name of the game here.

    Bleacher Report recently ranked this season's top 100 players, revealing the following top 10.

    1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
    2. LeBron James
    3. Kawhi Leonard
    4. James Harden
    5. Luka Doncic
    6. Nikola Jokic
    7. Damian Lillard
    8. Anthony Davis
    9. Jimmy Butler
    10. Khris Middleton

    Now, let's concoct the kind of deals that could put each of the top 10 over the top in terms of title contention should they fall short this postseason.

Miami Adds a Playmaker

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    The Trade: Andre Iguodala and a 2020 first-round pick for Spencer Dinwiddie and Dzanan Musa

    The Brooklyn Nets have a pair of superstars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving who could've competed for top-10 status had they had healthy 2019-20 campaigns.

    Both obviously command a ton of ball-handling and playmaking responsibility, something Spencer Dinwiddie grew accustomed to this season.

    Dinwiddie has started 49 of his 64 appearances in 2019-20, posting averages of 20.6 points and 6.8 assists. He could be effective in a lesser role, but if Brooklyn wants to move him for more of a supplementary player, the Miami Heat could offer the defense, experience and championship pedigree of Andre Iguodala.

    The 36-year-old wing is well past his prime, but he wouldn't likely be pushed beyond his capabilities alongside KD and Kyrie. Defend, move the ball and take the occasional catch-and-shoot attempt, a role he magnified as a Golden State Warrior.

    On the other end of the deal, Miami would get another playmaker to slot in alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. The Heat's ability to initiate an attack from either wing, as well as the top of the key or high post with Bam, would supercharge an offense that already ranks seventh in the NBA.

    The hangup, of course, might be Dinwiddie's 2021-22 player option. Miami is angling for cap space in 2021, the year Giannis may enter free agency. That'd probably be a bigger concern than including a first-round pick in this particularly weak draft class.

Portland Breaks Up Its Core

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    The Trade: Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons and a 2021 first-round pick

    This one depends on two teams looking at their rosters and deciding they want to move on from the status quo.

    Last season, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum took the Portland Trail Blazers to the conference finals, their deepest playoff run together. This season, they enter the bubble outside the playoff picture.

    Injuries have depleted the roster, but whether they even have the potential to be a title-contending duo is up for debate.

    On the other coast, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are posting their worst two-man net rating. In fact, during their three years together, that number has dropped from plus-16.2 in 2017-18 to plus-9.5 in 2018-19 to plus-2.0 this season.

    It's fair to point out that the current roster construction doesn't do Embiid and Simmons many favors, but it's also fair to wonder if the lack of shooting between the two makes them a difficult fit.

    Swapping McCollum for Simmons could help both teams.

    McCollum gives Philly more perimeter scoring, which would make it more difficult for defenses to key on Embiid's post-ups. Simmons could be a bigger version of Draymond Green to Lillard's Stephen Curry.

    Of course, the Sixers point guard is younger and likely has a higher career ceiling. So, Portland would have to up the ante to shore up the trade logic. Hence, the addition of a first-round pick and Anfernee Simons.

    The young guard has been woefully inefficient this season, ranking 315th out of 331 players in box plus/minus this season, but he's still just 21 and has shown flashes of upside. He famously closed his 2018-19 rookie campaign with a 37-point performance against the Sacramento Kings.

    If both teams were interested in moving on, something along these lines makes sense.

Denver's Big Three

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    The Trade: Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Keita Bates-Diop and a 2021 first-round pick for Bradley Beal

    "I hate change," Bradley Beal wrote of the possibility of leaving the Washington Wizards for The Undefeated. "If it happens, it happens. But if I can control it, I will finish in D.C."

    The Wizards appear to feel the same way about Beal, the 27-year-old guard averaging 30.5 points per game in 2019-20.

    But as long as John Wall's contract is on the books—and there are three years and approximately $133 million left on that behemoth—Washington may find it difficult to build a title contender around Beal.

    And by the time the deal is done, and Beal is 30, he may be on the back end of his prime.

    That Washington wants to hang on to its star makes sense. Players like Beal don't come along often. But if the front office takes a hard look at the future, it might start to get curious about what kind of return Beal would net.

    The Denver Nuggets are one team that might be able to make a trade worth the Wizards' while.

    Gary Harris is a solid shooting guard, but his contract is clearly the salary-matching piece here. Adding Michael Porter Jr. to Rui Hachimura would give Washington one of the game's most intriguing, young combo-forward duos.

    MPJ is fourth in this rookie class in box plus/minus, third in points per 75 possessions (19.8) and first in rebounds per 75 possessions (11.0). Among rookies with at least 100 three-point attempts, he's first in three-point percentage (42.2) and second in true shooting percentage (58.9).

    None of that means Porter will eventually be a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he has superstar potential. That, picks and intriguing young talent are what rebuilding teams should be looking for.

    Keita Bates-Diop may check that last box. He's barely played 1,000 NBA minutes, and at 24, he's pushing the limits on "young." But Bates-Diop is another player with multi-positional defensive potential, and he averaged 1.9 threes during his senior season at Ohio State.

    If all that's not enough, and Washington wants to drive a harder bargain, Denver could probably justify throwing in a 2023 first-round pick.

    The Nuggets are much closer to contention than the Wizards. And the idea of Beal working off Nikola Jokic's playmaking would be terrifying for opposing defenses. Jokic, Beal and Jamal Murray would comprise one of the league's most explosive offensive trios.

Dallas Empties the Cupboard

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    The Trade: Maxi Kleber, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jalen Brunson, a 2020 first-round pick, a 2025 first-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick for Rudy Gobert

    Finding a workable trade for the Dallas Mavericks is difficult. They already spent plenty of trade capital on Kristaps Porzingis. They can move a 2020 first-rounder, but only on draft night. They can't send another pick outright till 2025.

    And as far as salary-matching contracts go, they have some, but they're probably not the most attractive in the league. The only top-tier prospect on the roster is already an MVP candidate. Luka Doncic may spend his entire career outside the trade rumor mill.

    So, finding a trade might mean cashing in on someone else's desperation.

    The Utah Jazz have maintained for months that the relationship between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell will be fine. But, as ESPN's Tim MacMahon detailed, the friction between those two predated their positive coronavirus tests.

    And with Gobert entering free agency in 2021 and supermax eligible, Utah might have some reservations about carrying his next contract.

    If he were made available, other teams might be able to piece together a better offer than Dallas, but the package above makes some stylistic sense.

    Maxi Kleber can play stretch 5, leaving more room inside for Mitchell's slashing. Tim Hardaway Jr. can be a spark-plug scorer off the bench, which might be even more important if the Jazz are unable to re-sign Jordan Clarkson. Jalen Brunson is an upgrade at backup point guard who could even start after Mike Conley's contract expires in 2021. The picks, of course, explain themselves.

    For Dallas, Gobert's presence would limit Porzingis' minutes as a stretch 5, but he would be the best version of the center archetype Rick Carlisle has deployed for years.

    From Tyson Chandler to Brandan Wright to Dwight Powell, Carlisle has long shown a knack for getting the most out of rim-rollers. Gobert is bigger, more efficient and a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

    With the floor spread around a Luka-Gobert pick-and-roll, the All-Star big man would convert loads of lobs. And his presence would instantly raise the defense's ceiling.

Houston Gets a Little Bigger

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    The Trade: James Johnson for Eric Gordon

    Another team that's tough to forecast in terms of 2020 offseason trades, the Houston Rockets may have exhausted their last option when they moved Clint Capela shortly before the shutdown.

    That is, unless, they want to move Russell Westbrook. For now, let's leave that nuclear option off the table.

    If Malik Beasley signs a monster of an offer sheet in restricted free agency, the Minnesota Timberwolves may be in the market for a shooting guard.

    In 14 games, Beasley averaged 20.7 points and shot 42.6 percent from three, showing Minnesota how valuable that kind of offense can be from the 2.

    Eric Gordon doesn't offer the same upside as Beasley, and his contract is pretty onerous too, but he's experienced, plays solid defense and can space the floor around D'Angelo Russell-Karl-Anthony Towns pick-and-rolls.

    And for salary-matching purposes, his contract is similar to James Johnson's, assuming Johnson picks up his 2020-21 player option.

    Johnson doesn't offer the same scoring punch, but he fits in well as a potential playmaking 5 who can vertically challenge attackers at the rim better than PJ Tucker. And with James Harden and Westbrook on the roster, there aren't a ton of extra scoring opportunities to go around anyway.

    Lineups with those two guards, Johnson, Tucker and Robert Covington could switch all over the floor on defense while maintaining the iso-heavy offense and Westbrook's point center role on the other end.

Clippers Get Even More Switchable

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    The Trade: Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and a 2022 second-round pick for Aaron Gordon

    In November, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported that the Orlando Magic were in the market for additional scoring help. Things haven't improved much since then.

    As the league prepares for its restart, Orlando is 22nd in points per 100 possessions. The Nets are the only team heading into the bubble with a worse offense.

    Despite the fact that he's heading into his age-34 season in 2020-21, Lou Williams could help the Magic on this front.

    Over his last three seasons, all with the Los Angeles Clippers, Williams has averaged 20.6 points, 5.4 assists and 1.9 threes while shooting 36.1 percent from three.

    The Magic could come closer to living up to their nickname on offense with lineups that include him, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic.

    Patrick Beverley, meanwhile, would help them on both ends of the floor. Despite standing 6'1", he can guard multiple positions. And on offense, he's OK with standing on the perimeter as a catch-and-shoot option while teammates dominate the ball.

    Losing Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 pick in 2014, isn't ideal, but a healthy Jonathan Isaac looks poised to seize his role.

    For the Clippers, this wouldn't be an easy deal to make. Williams has been the lifeblood of the second unit since his arrival. Beverley may be that for the entire team.

    But, while Gordon is in the midst of a down year statistically, his length and athleticism in lineups that include Kawhi Leonard and Paul George would make an already scary defense Hitchcockian.

    Imagine the switchability of those three all over the floor. Each is capable of taking on the opposition's No. 1 option, meaning the two who aren't are free to terrorize lesser scoring threats.

    On offense, losing Williams and Beverley isn't ideal, but there's more than enough playmaking potential from Kawhi and PG to make up for that. And with all the attention those two command, Gordon might get significantly easier looks than he's used to.

Lakers and Bucks Shuffle

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    The Trade: Eric Bledsoe and Wesley Matthews for Danny Green, Alex Caruso and a 2020 first-round pick

    Four of the top 10 from B/R's top 100 are from the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. There's a trade between the two teams that could help all four players.

    The Lakers have been a juggernaut in the West this season, but they share a flaw common to plenty of LeBron-led teams over the years: They fall apart when he leaves the floor.

    This season, L.A. is plus-10.5 points per 100 possessions when LeBron is on the floor and minus-1.5 when he's off. A lack of reliable defense from playmakers while he's out appears to be the culprit.

    When AD plays without LeBron, the Lakers are minus-0.9 points per 100 possessions with an offense that ranks in the 70th percentile and a defense that ranks in the 26th percentile.

    Staggering the minutes of Bledsoe, who is averaging 25.4 points and 7.4 assists per 75 possessions when Giannis sits, with LeBron would go a long way toward alleviating that problem.

    Wesley Matthews, meanwhile, would make up for some of the floor spacing lost with Danny Green's departure, though his defense probably isn't quite as good.

    For the Bucks, getting a first-round pick might help soften the blow of giving up the best player in this deal. But Green certainly helps, too.

    The Bucks' model of surrounding Giannis with as much shooting as possible has been a good one. And Green is a more reliable shooter than Bledsoe. His size also makes him a bit more believable as a multipositional defender. He won't do nearly as much on his own, but the Bucks already have Giannis and Middleton to handle most of the playmaking duties.

    The addition of Alex Caruso to this deal is no small thing, either. He's a feisty defender and explosive finisher who can make bench-celebration-inducing plays.

    None of them measure up to Bledsoe individually, but a guard platoon of Caruso, Donte Divincenzo and Pat Connaughton might provide enough value to make up for his loss.

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