Ranking the Best Trade Assets of the 2020 NBA Offseason
There could be many NBA offseason trades in 2020.
With free agency looking fairly weak—due to limited cap space and a shortage of difference-makers—and the draft class underwhelming, the trade market might be the one place to land a transformational talent.
From draft picks to established stars, basketball's swap meet should have something for everyone. We're here to compile the best of the best by identifying the top trade assets on the market.
A few rules before we get started. Trade assets are only considered as such if there's a realistic chance they will get moved, so don't expect to find superstars here. (Giannis Antetokounmpo is only a trade asset when the Milwaukee Bucks say so.)
While we considered ages and contracts in our evaluation, the most important factor was talent. There could be some attractive prospects on the market (we'll discuss a few shortly), but for now, things are skewing toward win-now veterans (with one significant exception).
With that out of the way, let's get to the rankings.
Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
If we were simply talking talent, Simmons and Embiid would be jostling for the No. 1 spot (or, if we included Giannis Antetokounmpo, fighting for No. 2). The former is a 6'10" floor general who's a terror in transition. The latter is a Hakeem Olajuwon reboot with modern enhancements. These are building-block ballers in every sense.
Which is why they didn't make the list. There may always be trade speculation around these two, because their games don't necessarily fit the same puzzle. And maybe if Philly flames out of the playoffs in spectacular fashion, the franchise would do something as dramatic as splitting up the dynamic duo. But we're guessing if the Sixers have a busy summer, they'll spend it reshuffling their roster around the co-centerpieces.
Brooklyn Nets' Young Talent
As soon as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving return to action, Brooklyn will rocket into championship-or-bust mode. That knowledge has the Nets itching for another difference-maker, and they're expected to "use some of their young talent to acquire a third star along with Kyrie and Durant," according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst (h/t RealGM).
That presumably means Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Spencer Dinwiddie, and while they could collectively bring back a star, each just misses the cut individually. Between LeVert's injury history, Dinwiddie's erratic shooting (career 31.8 percent from three) and Allen's limited range (70.3 percent of his career shots have come within three feet), they each have a reason for landing just outside our top five.
The Denver Nuggets have wrapped the "untouchable" label around Michael Porter Jr. The Miami Heat did the same with Tyler Herro. If you've seen the two rookies in action, it isn't hard to know why. Porter isn't even 700 minutes into his career and already looks like a three-level scorer (19.2 points per 36 minutes on 49.5/42.2/76.7 shooting). Herro is a 6'5" sniper (99 triples at a 39.1 percent clip) with the handles to free himself.
Saying that, you wonder if either club would reconsider that status if it uncovered a deal that pushed it to the brink of contention. Would Porter or Herro become expendable if Bradley Beal were available as a co-star for Nikola Jokic or to complete a Big Three with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo? We're not convinced, so the rooks stayed off the list, but we also can't rule it out.
No. 5: Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
If injected with a truth serum, the Indiana Pacers might concede Myles Turner isn't a great frontcourt fit alongside first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis. The fact Indy knows that and keeps stiff-arming Turner's suitors is a testament to his talent.
He's not a household name, nor a star by traditional measures. Lock in on his career scoring average of 12.7 points per game, and you're probably wondering why he gets the fifth slot, and not Kyle Kuzma or John Collins.
But if you think about the boxes a modern big man needs to check—shooting, rebounding, rim protection and defending in space—Turner not only surges ahead of Kuzma and Collins, he also threatens to lap the field.
Using the unicorn combo of shooting and shot-blocking, Turner offers a blend like few others ever have. Last season, he became just the third player ever to tally 75 triples and 175 blocks. He's one of just two players with 200 threes and 400 rejections since 2017-18. He has the mobility to handle defensive switches, and when he's not sharing the frontcourt with Sabonis, Turner averages 9.5 boards (and 20.4 points) per 36 minutes.
For any club coveting a contemporary center, Turner should be on a short list of its top targets. Given everything he brings to the hardwood, the $18 million annual salary he'll collect through 2022-23 is more than reasonable. If Indy finally splits up its frontcourt, more than a few teams might regard Turner as their missing piece.
No. 4: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert looks like a franchise fixture for the Utah Jazz. While he just debuted as an All-Star in this, his age-27 season, he already had three All-Defensive selections, two All-NBA honors and a pair of Defensive Player of the Year awards secured before it started.
But he might have more paths out of Salt Lake City than you'd think. And no, we aren't just talking about the damage done to his relationship with Donovan Mitchell ahead of their coronavirus diagnoses.
As ESPN's Tim MacMahon wrote, "there had long been friction between the two" before the pandemic touched the two players and caused the NBA to suspend the season. At the very least, that relationship—the most important one in the organization—has to factor in this discussion.
But there are economic reasons to wonder if Gobert could be on the move. He'll be supermax extension-eligible this offseason, while Mitchell is eligible for his own max extension. Paying both could be tricky for a small-market club, especially in this financial climate. If forced to choose, it's tough to picture the Jazz picking the 28-year-old interior center over the 23-year-old shot-creator and 20-point scorer.
If Utah made that decision now, every defensively deficient team should place a bid. Gobert will always have offensive limitations, but he has elite strengths on defense. He's only the fifth player ever to post career averages of 10 rebounds, two blocks and a 2.0 defensive box plus/minus.
No. 3: Golden State Warriors' 2020 1st-Round Pick
The Golden State Warriors are open for business.
Assuming a return to full strength for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, they should be right back in the championship race next season. That's a tricky environment to throw any rookie into, let alone one coming from a draft class that, as Golden State's president of basketball operations Bob Myers put it, doesn't have a "transformational" player, per NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole.
That's why the club will "consider" trading the pick, Myers told Poole, and that news could be pertinent to the entire NBA, since the Dubs' odds are as good as anyone's to land the No. 1 pick.
Admittedly, this draft class isn't brimming with obvious future stars. But the top pick is still the top pick, and it's not like the draft lacks intrigue.
LaMelo Ball should be a top-10 passer the first time he steps inside the lines, and he could be a nightmare matchup if his off-the-dribble three-ball hits with regularity. Anthony Edwards flashes the shot-making maneuvers of a go-to scorer and physical tools of a multipositional stopper. James Wiseman is an athletic, 7-foot rim-runner who might eventually have handles and a jumper.
There are interesting players on the board, and if Golden State snags the No. 1 pick and puts it up for grabs, it could spark a fairly spirited bidding war.
No. 2: Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans seem in no rush to deal Jrue Holiday. Even though he was reportedly available in December, per Marc Stein of the New York Times, Holiday stayed put through the trade deadline and is a key cog for one of the Western Conference's most exciting teams.
But if someone put a significant offer on the table, New Orleans would have to at least think it over.
Holiday is a really good player, but he's not a star, and non-stars should never be considered untouchable. Since he's already 30 years old, he could be on the decline once this club's young nucleus hits its stride.
Win-now teams should hope that's the case.
Holiday's game would be an easy fit on virtually any roster, and his skills are sharp enough to nudge a team from good to really good or really good to great. He can run offense (career 6.4 assists per game against 2.7 turnovers), find his own shots (three seasons with 19.0 or more points per game) and space the floor (career 35.5 three-point percentage). A two-time All-Defensive honoree, he can pester players at either guard spot or switch on almost anyone.
"No one in the league is asked to do more than him, from a backcourt standpoint at least," New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said late last season, per Pelicans.com's Jim Eichenhofer. "We want him to generate offense, score 20 a game, we'd like for him to have 10 assists, and then we ask him to guard the best player on the floor, sometimes even when [that's] not a perimeter player."
A contender won't need quite that much from Holiday every night, but the fact he has it all in his bag means he can mold his game to fit any teammates in any situation. Save for his age, his trade appeal is almost perfect.
No. 1: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Sorry, Washington Wizards fans, but there's no quieting all the Bradley Beal trade talks—no matter how hard general manager Tommy Sheppard tries.
It's just that Beal boasts drool-worthy skills that every contender would love to add to its equation. His defense might've slipped a bit (or several notches) this season, but that was only so he could launch his offensive numbers into absurdity.
Tasked with a career-high 34.4 usage rate on the John Wall-less Wizards, Beal obliterated his previous bests with 30.5 points and 6.1 assists per game. In the process, he became just the 12th player ever to average 30 points and six dimes.
"He's one of the top 15 players in the league," Washington coach Scott Brooks said, per WashingtonWizards.com's Jackson Filyo. "Every coach that coaches against him, they basically tell me that with all the double-teams that we see and all the ways they try to stop him and all the ways we try to counter that—and Brad somehow figures out a way to still score 30 and six assists and lead us."
If Beal can get his groove back defensively, he will be the best realistically available trade asset by a mile. If he can't, he will still get the honor for his point-production prowess.
With abilities to work on or off the ball and score from anywhere, he is just as potent in the spotlight as he is playing secondary star. If the Wizards ever field offers for him, they could put an astronomic price tag on him, and some squad might actually climb up to meet it. That's the type of talent the offseason's top trade asset possesses.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.