Realistic Trades Post-NBA Lottery: New Homes for Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, More
We now know the order of the long-delayed and much puzzled-over 2020 NBA draft.
Any level of certainty helps in a draft process that figures to include more guesswork and disparate, team-specific eye-of-the-beholder evaluation than any in recent memory.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have the top selection, followed by the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers to round out the top five.
This class lacks a clear No. 1 prospect, and the pandemic eliminated several pre-draft staples: in-person workouts at team facilities, face-to-face interviews and the entire NCAA tournament. That leaves every team with far less information than it would normally have for a decision this big.
Everybody picking high in the draft should target the best player available. Trouble is, each of the teams selecting in the lottery could have a different opinion on who that player is.
One team's preferred choice might not be in another's top five—or even top 10. And several clubs would probably rather avoid picking first with so little assurance of landing a superstar and so much pressure attached to that draft slot. At the same time, we know somebody is going to fixate on one prospect and sacrifice whatever it takes to get him.
These circumstances create an environment ripe for trades. We've got a few options right here.
Warriors Focus on the Present
The Trade: Golden State Warriors send the No. 2 pick, a 2021 first-round pick (top-three protected via the Minnesota Timberwolves) and Andrew Wiggins to the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal and Washington's No. 9 pick in 2020.
James Wiseman would be an intriguing selection if the Warriors opt to keep their pick. He's a supreme athlete with legit center size (7'1", 240 lbs) and, possibly, the highest two-way upside in the class. The Dubs' window is open now, though, and Beal would make a much bigger short-term impact.
Plus, wings are still king in the modern NBA. Golden State might be able to snag its big man at No. 9 if Obi Toppin or Onyeka Okongwu slips. That's a win-win, although you'd have to expect Washington would try to keep its pick in this scenario.
There's a chance Washington would balk at moving Beal before seeing him alongside John Wall again. Still, that Wolves' 2021 pick is immensely valuable, and Wiseman would give the Wizards a bridge to the post-Wall era of the franchise. The Wizards could use a fresh start.
The downside for Golden State in this scenario is that it wouldn't have its juiciest draft asset to pair with its $17.2 million traded player exception. As a fallback in the somewhat likely event Washington turns this down, the Warriors could package either their 2020 pick or the one coming from Minnesota in 2021 with that exception for someone like Marcus Smart or JJ Redick.
The Knicks Get a Little Desperate
The Trade: New York Knicks send the No. 8 pick, a 2021 first-round pick (via the Dallas Mavericks) and Reggie Bullock to the Warriors for the No. 2 pick and Jordan Poole.
The Warriors would certainly like to get more for their pick than Reggie Bullock, a six-slot slide down the lottery and what's likely to be a first-rounder in the 20s next offseason, but there's just no telling what the market for their No. 2 selection is going to look like.
(As an aside, the Dubs would have to add a bit more salary alongside Poole's to make this work. But we're not going to get too hung up on the details.)
This is about the Knicks anyway, and after sliding down to No. 8, perhaps the new regime will feel more urgency to trade up for the guy they want.
That guy might be LaMelo Ball.
Ball has question marks, just like every other top prospect in this draft. But there's no doubt he has next-level vision, slick ball-handling skills and the size at 6'7" to maximize both elite tools. New York's point guard play has been abysmal for years, and neither Dennis Smith Jr. nor Frank Ntilikina showed anything in 2019-20 to suggest they can change that.
The Warriors could make use of Bullock's long-range game, still get a quality prospect at No. 8 and use the additional incoming pick to attach to their TPE. This feels like a solid win for the Dubs, but there's also a chance Ball is a truly special talent worth the cost of trading up to get him. If he is, the Knicks would come out ahead.
They're due for a break.
The Suns Swing Big
The Trade: The Phoenix Suns send Kelly Oubre Jr. and the No. 10 pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Dante Exum and the No. 5 pick.
There's a good chance Oubre winds up being the best player involved in this deal, which probably says more about the quality of the Nos. 5 and 10 picks in this year's draft than anything else. Still, all it will take for a trade like this to go down is a belief within the Suns organization that there's a transformational star in this class and that he'll be off the board by the time they pick.
Phoenix would be wise to fixate on a scoring point guard, preferably one with a strong defensive presence. If it could be sure Tyrese Haliburton would be there at No. 10, there'd be no sense in making this deal. But Haliburton seems likely to be off the board by Phoenix's selection, and Ball certainly won't be around, either.
If Phoenix is into Killian Hayes or wants to go with three-and-D prospect Devin Vassell out of Florida State, that's all the more reason to stand pat.
The Cavs should actually be the most interested party here as the No. 10 selection should give them cracks at several useful wings. Drafting for positional need is always a bad call in the lottery, but it's still hard to imagine Cleveland would snag a backcourt player after taking Collin Sexton and Darius Garland with its last two lottery picks. And with Andre Drummond and Kevin Love up front, there's a void on the wing.
Oubre and whichever like-sized combo forward is available (Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija, Aaron Nesmith) could plug that hole.
Exum's inclusion here is mostly about salary, but it's worth recalling that his draft profile in 2014 included the backcourt defense and developing playmaking the Suns are seeking. Maybe there's still a chance the injury-plagued guard realizes his potential.
The Bulls Chase Down a Superstar
The Trade: Chicago Bulls send the No. 4 pick, Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Coby White to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons
Maybe the new Bulls management, led by vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, would be hesitant to go nuclear so soon. But if the Philadelphia 76ers' ongoing postseason implosion continues, you know there will be itchy trigger fingers in Philly.
This trade would only happen if the Sixers decide Joel Embiid, not Simmons, is the guy to build around going forward.
The Bulls would surrender a lot of young talent here, but that's the cost of doing business when you're angling for a true superstar. That's what Simmons is, by the way, even if his jumper never comes around and even if he never truly got a chance to prove it alongside ill-fitting personnel with the Sixers.
Simmons could transform the Bulls, and his unique skill set would allow them to build out the roster however they choose. Five-position defenders who can handle the ball and play point guard at 6'10" have a way of creating optionality throughout a roster.
Meanwhile, the Sixers would get a ton of offensive punch in the bargain. LaVine is miscast as a primary scorer, but he'd look great as a high-volume second option playing off Embiid. Markkanen and White could spread the floor and pick up the pace in transition, respectively.
The No. 4 pick coming to the Sixers might seem like an afterthought, but it could ultimately be useful as a sweetener in a future deal to get off the contract owed to either Al Horford or Tobias Harris.
The Hawks Need the Local Prospect
The Trade: Atlanta Hawks send the No. 6 pick, Kevin Huerter and a 2022 first-round pick (via Oklahoma City Thunder, top-14 protected) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 1 pick
This all depends on Atlanta seeing Georgia product Anthony Edwards and deciding it must have him as Trae Young's long-term backcourt sidekick.
Edwards is one of the few players who appear to be locked into a top-three spot, and it's entirely possible the Wolves view him as the obvious pick at No. 1. But if Minnesota focuses on Edwards' dubious shot selection and inconsistent defensive effort, it could just as easily decide the Hawks' offer is too good to pass up.
In Atlanta, the best version of Edwards would add high-end shot-creation and a ton of heft alongside the slight Young. At a chiseled 6'5", the scoring guard has the frame and athletic ability to develop into an ace defender, something the Hawks badly need so they can hide Young on that end.
Huerter probably profiles as a reserve in Minnesota as the team is likely to retain Malik Beasley in restricted free agency. But there's no such thing as having too much shooting, and Red Velvet is at 38.3 percent from deep for his career despite shuttling in and out of the rotation due to injury. He can play, and whomever the Wolves grab at No. 6 could end up being just as valuable as Edwards.