Top Landing Spots for NBA's Best Offseason Trade Targets
After a 2019 offseason that featured an unprecedented level of player movement, the NBA is barreling toward another offseason that could further shake up the league.
This is the nature of today's NBA. If you're a star who doesn't lead a deep playoff run, you're almost bound to be connected to a team other than your own.
We haven't even reached the conference finals, but it's time to sift through some of these rumors. Which stars might be on the move? And which teams might land them?
LaMarcus Aldridge to the Portland Trail Blazers
After a series of transactional missteps over the last few years, the San Antonio Spurs' incredible streak of 22 straight postseason appearances is over.
The multiyear extension LaMarcus Aldridge signed in 2017 is one of the culprits.
In the preceding season, San Antonio's net rating was four points worse with Aldridge on the floor. The Spurs decided to commit well over $20 million per season to him through 2020-21 anyway.
This offseason, they may have a chance to dodge the final year on that deal, per CNBC's Jabari Young.
"Near the NBA's trade deadline, the Spurs were rumored to be shopping Aldridge, but rival executives suggest the Spurs 'overplayed their hand thinking they were supposed to get some giant package for him,' one NBA executive said. The Spurs could shop Aldridge again this offseason. Aldridge had repaired his relationship with [Portland Trail] Blazers superstar Damian Lillard, and one agent suggests the Spurs could ship him back to the Blazers."
Reuniting Lillard and Aldridge would be an all-in-on-offense move for Portland. San Antonio's defense has been consistently worse with him on the floor since 2015-16, but he can still score.
And this season, for the first time in his career, he truly embraced the three. Aldridge shot 38.9 percent from deep on 3.0 attempts per game.
Whether at the 4 or backing up Jusuf Nurkic at the 5, that's the kind of shooting that would pull bigger defenders away from the paint and open up driving lanes for Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Acquiring Aldridge might be tricky, though. Portland doesn't have many salary-matching deals outside of Trevor Ariza's $12.8 million in 2020-21. Combining that with Zach Collins' contract gets the two sides close in terms of CBA satisfaction, but the Blazers would probably be hesitant to trade an intriguing younger player for a big near the end of his career.
Consider this prediction a desire for both chaos and nostalgia.
Victor Oladipo to the New York Knicks
Victor Oladipo was named an All-Star in each of his first two seasons with the Indiana Pacers, but a quadriceps tendon injury has sent his tenure there off the rails.
Oladipo has appeared in only 55 games over the last two seasons. In 2019-20, he averaged 14.5 points with a well-below-average effective field-goal percentage. Plus, the Pacers were comfortably better with him off the floor.
The signing of Malcolm Brogdon and emergence of All-Star Domantas Sabonis may make it difficult for the Pacers to justify re-signing Oladipo. That will likely cause them to explore trade possibilities before he hits free agency in 2021.
"I bet they trade him," a former Eastern Conference executive told Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus, who suggested the New York Knicks as a potential landing spot.
Matching salary in this case is a piece of cake. Oladipo is slated to make $21 million in 2020-21, and New York has plenty of expiring deals that could add up to that number. What it would likely come down to is draft compensation.
The Knicks have two first-round picks this year. Given his injury history, parting with No. 8 might be a bit aggressive. At the same time, a weak draft class means No. 27 may not be enough.
Would the later pick in combination with some future seconds do the trick?
It'd be a bit of a gamble for the Knicks, but if Oladipo returned to his pre-injury form, he'd give them something they haven't had since 2000-01: an All-Star guard.
Jrue Holiday to the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors hold the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, but it seems clear they'll try to move it.
"People around the league are unanimous in thinking that the Warriors will do their best to pull off a trade," ESPN's Tim Bontemps reported.
Using that pick and Andrew Wiggins' salary to land a superstar would push Golden State right back into title contention, but a top-tier pick in this draft isn't as valuable as it might be in other years. And Wiggins' contract won't be attractive to many teams. He's 408th in the league in wins over replacement player since the start of his career.
That means some of the big names you'll likely hear attached to the Warriors this offseason—like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons—probably won't end up there.
If you drop down a tier or two, there are more realistic targets.
"The most gettable name might wind up being New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday," according to Bontemps.
At the outset of a rebuild, New Orleans may be more willing to absorb Wiggins' average salary of $31.6 million through 2022-23 than others. It would come off the books right as Zion Williamson's second deal would kick in.
And paying that hefty salary might be worth a shot at another player with upside to develop alongside Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
This deal would make Golden State smaller, but undoubtedly better in the short term. Holiday is a clear upgrade over Wiggins, especially on defense. In combination with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, he'd help the Warriors have one of the most effective and switchable perimeter defenses in the league.
He'd also give the coaching staff another option beyond Thompson for defending opposing 1s. Sparing Stephen Curry for the other end is key, but reserving that task exclusively for Thompson is taxing, especially since he's returning from a torn ACL.
Buddy Hield to the Philadelphia 76ers
Buddy Hield signed a four-year, $94 million extension ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, but he and the Sacramento Kings didn't have much of a honeymoon phase.
In January, Kings coach Luke Walton benched Hield, which never seemed to sit well with the sweet-shooting guard.
"He didn't like the role he was in," general manager Vlade Divac told Marcos Breton of the Sacramento Bee in mid-August. "I support his feeling. But for Buddy Hield, he has to look in the mirror and see what he does right and what he does wrong. He's an elite shooter in this league. But he has to provide that (more consistently). He has to do a better job defensively. It's hard to win in this league."
Over the course of the season, Sacramento's net rating was 1.5 points better with Hield on the floor, thanks entirely to the offensive boost he provided. But he never did enough in his coach's eyes to get back into the role he coveted.
A team on which he'd almost certainly start is the Philadelphia 76ers, who are in dire need of shooting.
Over the course of JJ Redick's two seasons there, Philadelphia was plus-14.4 points per 100 possessions when he shared the floor with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. This season, the Sixers were plus-0.7 points per 100 possessions when Simmons and Embiid shared the floor.
Hield in the Redick role would make a ton of sense and could potentially get Philly's young superstar duo back on track. Neither does much to space the floor, so a legit threat from outside is crucial.
The problem is that Sacramento won't give him up for nothing. Prior to 2019-20, the Kings were prepared to offer Al Horford a massive contract, but this season likely suppressed his marketability. Would Sacramento take on his deal if Philly attached a first-round pick?
Tobias Harris is another possibility, but the Kings may already have the discount version in Harrison Barnes. Having both could lead to more positionless lineups, but Harris' contract is another one that won't be easy to move.
What this could come down to is how determined Hield is to bolt. He's under contract through 2023-24, but stars (or near stars) hold plenty of leverage these days.
Chris Paul to the Milwaukee Bucks
Despite drastically outperforming expectations in 2019-20, Chris Paul's time with the Oklahoma City Thunder always felt like a bit of a stopgap.
After being eliminated from the playoffs by the Houston Rockets, it seems that idea may be picking up steam again.
After reporting that OKC would not re-sign coach Billy Donovan, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about the team's "eventual transition toward a rebuild..."
If Donovan isn't a part of that future, it's hard to imagine a 35-year-old point guard is.
Which teams might be willing to pay CP3's average salary of $42.8 million through 2021-22? He proved he had plenty left in the tank this season, but that's still a daunting number for a smaller guard entering his late 30s.
Desperation may be the key, and the Milwaukee Bucks should probably have some to spare.
They entered the 2020 playoffs with the best record in the league and the reigning MVP on the verge of 2021 free agency. Giannis and the team may be insisting that he isn't going anywhere, but we've seen this situation before.
In the NBA, it's tough for small markets to hang onto superstars.
Instead of moving Giannis ahead of his free agency, Milwaukee might look to pair him with Paul.
"There are rival teams that believe Milwaukee will explore trading for Chris Paul—complicated as that would be financially—if Oklahoma City indeed makes CP3 available via trade," the New York Times' Marc Stein reported Tuesday.
Giannis' shaky jumper and the fact that both stars need the ball to do what they do best makes this a potentially awkward fit, but high-end talent often overcomes slightly mismatched puzzle pieces. And it seems clear the Bucks need a jolt of such talent following their five-game ousting by the Miami Heat.
In terms of satisfying the CBA, the contracts of Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova would get it done and open up significant flexibility for OKC. Milwaukee would then have a glaring need at center, but that shouldn't dissuade it from upgrading to Paul.
OKC would likely require some future draft considerations as well, but again, these are desperate times.