NBA Trade Ideas to Create the Next Superteams
Of the three principal avenues of acquiring players, trades might be the most exciting because of the variety of teams and players involved. Trades are also typically the best means of improvement for teams well over the salary cap. This category represents many of the most viable contenders, including the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers.
In addition, no transaction garners more excitement or intrigue than combining superstars. These megadeals form or strengthen contenders and place immense pressure on the organization to challenge immediately.
Here are eight trades that could add a star to a contender or encourage franchises to go all-in next season.
Jrue Holiday, Aaron Gordon to Brooklyn
Orlando Gets: Caris LeVert
Brooklyn Gets: Jrue Holiday, Aaron Gordon
New Orleans Gets: Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, 2021 lottery-protected first-round pick from BKN
Why Brooklyn Does It
Holiday is one of just six players to have scored 6,200 points and hand out 2,200 assists over the past five seasons, and he finished third in isolation scoring (88th percentile) among those with two possessions or more per game.
But Brooklyn needs him for his defensive prowess. On top of finishing first in deflections and 13th in steals, Holiday finished first in quality of matchup by defending All-Star and All-NBA players on 21.9 and 15.2 percent of his possessions, respectively, according to BBall Index.
Gordon has long been rumored as a trade chip because of his manageable contract, underrated playmaking and defensive versatility. His shooting and playmaking took a dip in 2019-20. However, his defensive presence still helped make the Magic the league's eighth-best defense despite the loss of Jonathan Isaac to a knee injury on New Year's Day. LeVert may be more valuable in a vacuum, but Gordon is the much better fit for the Nets.
Why Orlando Does It
The Orlando Magic have long been desperate for a backcourt playmaker to help big man Nikola Vucevic.
Evan Fournier's performances in the bubble were inconsistent despite a career season. While Markelle Fultz has shown promise, his shooting limitations will stop him from becoming the volume scorer the Magic need.
LeVert was sensational in the Nets' first-round matchup against Toronto, scoring 20.3 points with 9.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 42.9 percent from three on 5.3 attempts per game. Over his last 15 regular-season contests, he averaged 24.9 points, 6.1 assists and 5.3 rebounds, and he scored 51 points against Boston on March 3.
Why New Orleans Does It
The New Orleans Pelicans could lose Holiday to free agency in 2021 (player option for 2021-22). Even if Holiday wants to finish his career in New Orleans, vice president of basketball operations David Griffin needs consider his age (30) relative to the core of Lonzo Ball (22), Brandon Ingram (23), Josh Hart (25) and Zion Williamson (20).
Allen immediately slides into the starting center position in Derrick Favors' place, allowing Jaxson Hayes some needed development time. Dinwiddie and Prince provide depth, which the Pelicans desperately need. Despite boasting the NBA's third-best starting lineup (among groups to play 180 minutes), they still couldn't fight their way into the playoffs.
Brooklyn's lottery-protected first (2021) is near certain to convey in what's thought to be a deep draft and will give the Pelicans three first-rounders next year.
Jrue Holiday to Minnesota
New Orleans Gets: James Johnson, Jarrett Culver, Naz Reid, 2020 No. 1 pick
Minnesota Gets: Jrue Holiday, 2020 No. 13 pick
Why Minnesota Does It
If the Minnesota Timberwolves want to keep stars Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell happy, it's in their best interest to build a contender quickly, rather than wait for the growth of a No. 1 overall selection in a draft void of a consensus first pick.
With Holiday, they'd form the perfect complementary backcourt, joining pick-and-roll savant Russell with arguably the game's best backcourt stopper. In this deal, they do sacrifice a 2019 top-10 selection in Culver but recoup a mid-first-round pick from the Pelicans, which they can use to add a wing shooter.
Why New Orleans Does It
We've address Holiday's contract status. Still, the Pelicans only do this if they've rated LaMelo Ball's and Edwards' skill level or fit far above the class targeted at the lottery's back end. A player such as Edwards fits the mold of Holiday but has 11 fewer years on his tires. Wiseman could be a rim-runner and grow alongside Zion.
Reid showed promise as an energetic big who can join the rotation, and Culver could grow to fill his top-10 billing from one season ago. Johnson is brought in for salary-matching purposes. Still, he could shore up the Pelicans bench at the 3 and 4 positions, where they desperately need help.
Rudy Gobert to Washington
Washington Gets: Rudy Gobert
Utah Gets: Thomas Bryant, Jerome Robinson, Ish Smith, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, 2020 No. 9 pick
Why Washington Does It
The Washington Wizards finished 29th in defensive net rating, and a healthy John Wall can't fix that. The Wizards could gamble on the development of Wagner, Bryant and the fast-tracked success of this year's ninth overall pick.
Still, Gobert would make the immediate impact the Wizards are desperate for. Bradley Beal is under contract through at least 2022, but he's made it clear he's fed up with losing. At just 28, Gobert, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, can immediately thrust the Wizards back into contention amid Wall's return from an Achilles injury.
Why Utah Does It
The awkwardness between Donovan Mitchell and Gobert aside, the Utah Jazz may be hesitant to sign Gobert, a free agent after next year, to the max-level extension he's worth. Instead of riding out the season with that distraction over their heads, they can pad their depth and bring in a top-10 pick who perfectly fits Mitchell's timeline.
A backcourt playmaker such as Killian Hayes to complement Jordan Clarkson off the bench would be a boon, as would a young rim protector like Onyeka Okongwu. As for a starting center, The Athletic's Tony Jones previously reported Favors was interested in returning to Utah, and the 29-year-old could hold down the position for a few seasons.
Nikola Vucevic to GSW, Zach Lavine to ORL, Jonathan Isaac to CHI
Golden State Gets: Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch, 2020 No. 15 pick from ORL
Orlando Gets: Zach LaVine, Tomas Satoransky, Kevon Looney, 2020 No. 4 pick from CHI, 2021 first-round pick from GSW (via MIN)
Chicago Gets: Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Isaac, 2020 No. 2 pick from GSW
Why Golden State Does It
The principal concern with adding Vucevic to a Western Conference contender would be the fear that a team such as the Houston Rockets would play him off the floor.
However, Vucevic is an All-Star who can facilitate and punish teams from the perimeter and the post. He was spectacular in five postseason games against Milwaukee, posting 28.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest while shooting 40.9 percent from three on an average of 8.8 attempts.
He did this even though Gordon (hamstring), Isaac (torn ACL) and Michael Carter-Williams (foot) were all injured. He was one of three players in the regular season to average 19.6 points and 10.9 rebounds per game (Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid).
Though the Warriors give up two assets in their No. 2 pick and next year's 2021 first-rounder from Minnesota, they shed Wiggins, gain Orlando's No. 15 selection and add depth in Birch.
Why Orlando Does It
The Magic need a playmaker, and LaVine is emerging as one of the NBA's most electric, efficient backcourt scorers. In 2019-20, He finished as one of four players to score at least 25.5 points per game while shooting at least 38.0 percent from three (Towns, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving).
President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond have to take a big swing entering their fourth season, as they have little to show for their time with the team. Isaac will not play in 2020-21 following his ACL tear. Center is clogged behind Vucevic, with Birch and Mo Bamba waiting in the wings. Adding LaVine and a three-and-D wing like Vassell may be the shake-up the Magic need.
Why Chicago Does It
LaVine is an offensive force, but he's been equally inept on defense. Though he finished 37th in offensive real plus-minus, he was 484th on the defensive side. Plus, the Bulls may already have his replacement in Coby White, who scored 26.1 points, dished 4.4 assists and grabbed 4.2 rebounds in his last nine games while shooting 43.2 percent from three.
The Chicago Bulls can afford to take on three years of Wiggins' pact and be patient while Isaac rehabs. Besides, moving up two spots may get the Bulls a shot at drafting Jonathan Wasserman's highest-rated prospect: LaMelo Ball.
Chris Paul to Los Angeles Lakers, Kyle Kuzma to Philadelphia
L.A. Lakers Get: Chris Paul, two 2020 second-round picks from PHI
Oklahoma City Gets: Danny Green, Mike Scott, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Zhaire Smith, 2020 No. 21 pick from PHI
Philadelphia Gets: Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker
Why Los Angeles Does It
This is contingent on the Los Angeles Lakers' falling short of the title. Paul gives the Lakers the backcourt presence they need in addition to playmaking when LeBron sits. While Anthony Davis is one of the NBA's best at filling up the box score, he has always struggled to get his own shots—he was assisted on 63.2 percent of his made buckets in 2019-20, 65.3 in 2018-19 and 71.5 in 2017-18.
While this transaction makes the Lakers almost untenably top-heavy, agent-turned-front office executive Rob Pelinka has shown a penchant for attracting veterans to Los Angeles on meager deals. The Lakers also keep their 28th pick, which can be flipped for another veteran.
Why Oklahoma City Does It
This is all about dumping Paul's exorbitant salary while still selling the transaction as a win. The Oklahoma City Thunder can move Danny Green and Caldwell-Pope at next year's trade deadline for additional assets, and they get this year's 21st pick while turning the keys over to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Why Philadelphia Does It
The Philadelphia 76ers don't lose much while adding a volume scorer on the wing in Kuzma plus a veteran presence in the backcourt in Bradley. To achieve this, the Sixers dump a late first-rounder and a couple of second-round selections they probably weren't going to use anyway.
Victor Oladipo to Milwaukee
Milwaukee Gets: Victor Oladipo
Indiana Gets: Eric Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo
Why Milwaukee Does It
Should Giannis play out 2020-21 without signing an extension, the Bucks better not fall short of the title. Hell, even trip to the Finals might help convince him to stay.
Though a torn quad limited Oladipo to 55 games over the past two seasons, he should return to his All-Star form at only 28 years old next year. The Milwaukee Bucks can afford to remain patient with him during the regular season. It's the postseason that they've been desperate for a backcourt closer.
Oladipo was impressive in that role in his previous two postseasons. In the 2017-18 playoffs, he put up 22.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.4 steals in seven games while shooting 40.4 percent from three on 8.1 attempts per night. If the Bucks can get close to that production, they may still sign both All-Stars in 2021 and build a title contender for years.
Why Indiana Does It
Bledsoe's playoff shortcomings have been well-documented. Still, he stands as one of the NBA's best in getting to the rim and defending on the perimeter during the regular season. He finished in the 96th percentile in PIPM and 94th percentile in Defensive PIPM, according to BBall Index, while scoring 19.9 points, dishing 7.2 assists and grabbing 6.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.
DiVincenzo should stand as the long-term prize on the wing. In just his second season, he finished with 14.4 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.0 steals per 36 while making the Bucks 12.2 points better per 100 possessions (98th percentile).
Giannis to Miami, Khris Middleton to Golden State
Miami Gets: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Milwaukee Gets: Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kelly Olynyk, Andrew Wiggins, 2020 No. 2 pick from GSW, 2021 first-round pick from GSW (via MIN)
Golden State Gets: Khris Middleton, KZ Okpala
Why Milwaukee Does It
If Giannis refuses the extension or demands to play elsewhere, the Bucks will have little choice. General manager Jon Horst would hate moving arguably the greatest player in the world, as it would likely cost him his job. However, how many times have we seen franchise players re-sign after refusing an extension? Durant? Nope. LeBron? Nope (three times)! Kyrie? Nope. Kawhi? Nah-ah.
While the Bucks can wait until the deadline, the reward for such a deal will likely be higher during the offseason as we've previously seen with Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis. The Bucks can get a rich return for Giannis in potential deals with Brooklyn, Miami or even Golden State.
And if you're moving Giannis, it makes little sense to hang on to Middleton if you can secure another ransom. At 29 years old, he'd no longer fit the timeline.
Miami offers the best deal for Giannis if the Heat can talk themselves into moving Adebayo and Herro. Herro has shown himself as a JJ Redick-type who can punish opponents all over the floor, but Adebayo is the prize. The 23-year-old All-Star has already become one of the game's best passing bigs, finishing as one of two players to collect at least 5.1 assists and 10.2 rebounds per game (Giannis).
Why Miami Does It
Moving Adebayo will be difficult, but adding a two-time MVP and reigning Defensive Player of the Year will prove worth the sacrifice, especially considering Giannis' age (25). Herro is another fine young player. Still, the Heat keep Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn and can focus on re-signing key contributors Jae Crowder and Goran Dragic. A lineup of Dragic, Jimmy Butler, Robinson, Giannis and Meyers Leonard should still be considered an immediate contender.
Why Golden State Does It
While the famous Golden State package has been rumored for Giannis, a deal for Middleton is probably more realistic. The Warriors don't have time to develop youth in 2020 or 2021, with their three superstars set to turn 31 or older in 2021. Adding a player of Middleton's ilk strengthens their status as title contenders. While these two picks may appear rich for a 29-year-old All-Star with an exorbitant contract, it's the cost of moving Wiggins.
Preston Ellis covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @PrestonEllis.