An Offseason Trade for Every Eliminated NBA Playoff Team
For the 11 teams already eliminated from the playoffs, it's time to start concocting offseason trade proposals.
While some like the Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks may only need a tweak here and there, others like the Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder may be contemplating a complete overhaul of the roster.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets should be star-hunting, and the Indiana Pacers could throw their hat in the ring for a former MVP, as well.
While the magnitude of the trades will certainly vary, these are deals every team now home from the Florida bubble should be considering.
Brooklyn Nets Receive: SG Victor Oladipo, PG T.J. McConnell
Indiana Pacers Receive: G/F Caris LeVert, PG Spencer Dinwiddie, 2020 No. 19 overall pick (via Philadelphia 76ers), 2020 second-round pick (via Denver Nuggets)
The Brooklyn Nets should probably begin the season with LeVert and Dinwiddie, seeing how both mesh on a roster with a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Going on a star search now may be too tempting to pass up, though.
Oladipo would fit nicely between the two All-Stars, a two-way shooting guard capable of playing on or off the ball. He was 8-of-20 (40 percent) on catch-and-shoot three-pointers during the postseason and would get a tremendous number of open looks with defenses focusing on Durant. If Irving or Durant were to miss time due to injury, the 28-year-old would be perfectly capable of carrying an offense at times, as well.
For Indiana, this would be an insurance policy against Oladipo's upcoming free agency in 2021. If the Pacers don't feel confident in their ability to re-sign the two-time All-Star, getting a 26-year-old replacement under contract until 2023 would be the safe play.
LeVert averaged 20.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 1.3 steals and hit 42.9 percent of his three-pointers in the playoffs, playing a primary-ball-handler role on a Nets team decimated by injuries, opt-outs and positive COVID-19 tests.
LeVert would take Oladipo's spot in the starting lineup, and Spencer Dinwiddie (20.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game during the regular season) would become Indiana's sixth man. Getting the 19th overall pick in the draft would also give the Pacers a chance at a player like Tyrese Maxey, RJ Hampton or Cole Anthony.
For a small-market franchise like Indiana that traded its last star before he hit free agency, history may need to repeat itself here.
Dallas Mavericks Receive: G Frank Ntilikina
New York Knicks Receive: 2020 second-round pick (via Golden State Warriors), F Justin Jackson
While the Mavericks have traditionally (although rarely with any success) tried to chase stars, making a small move now and keeping cap space open in 2021 would be a wise choice.
The offense was spectacular this season, and Dallas only needs to add defenders to complement Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in the rotation.
Ntilikina is never going to be the star the Knicks thought he'd be when selecting him eighth overall in 2017, and the Mavericks don't need him to be one. The 22-year-old is still a terrific defensive prospect with his 6'4", 200-pound frame and humongous 7'1" wingspan.
Putting him on a team where he isn't asked to do any real scoring or playmaking should better suit his strengths, and Rick Carlisle would instantly become the best head coach he has had in his three seasons. Dallas would let Doncic run the offense while making Ntilikina guard the opponent's best wing night after night.
For the Knicks and new team president Leon Rose, this move would be about adding another draft pick for the rebuild and seeing if New York can get anything out of the 25-year-old Jackson. If not, he'd be on an expiring $5.0 million contract, and the pick via the Warriors would be the best of the second round (31st overall).
Houston Rockets Receive: SF Gordon Hayward
Boston Celtics Receive: PF Robert Covington, G/F Eric Gordon, 2021 second-round pick
Is it time for the Rockets to blow it up?
Maybe, but Houston parted with a lot of draft picks to acquire Russell Westbrook, and it certainly can't afford to salary-dump him without getting some significant talent back—at the very least.
With its draft picks and young talent nearly depleted, Houston will have to start trading off rotation players to find ones who better fit Westbrook and James Harden. Between the trio of Covington, P.J. Tucker and Danuel House Jr., Covington likely carries the most value.
Hayward is an extremely versatile player, one who could let Harden rest more throughout the regular season and allow Houston to take advantage of the league's leading scorer off the ball. When Harden and Westbrook are orchestrating the offense, Hayward would be an excellent floor-spacer with his 42.5 percent mark on catch-and-shoot threes this season. His 6'7", 225-pound frame would also fit Houston's switch-everything defense.
For Boston, Covington would be a perfect fit as the team's new starting power forward. The 29-year-old averaged 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks this season between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Rockets, and he is under contract for only $25.1 million over the next two years.
Gordon would give the Celtics a former Sixth Man of the Year to bring off the bench, and getting another draft pick would help in future trade talks.
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Russell Westbrook, PF Robert Covington
Houston Rockets Receive: PG Malcolm Brogdon, C Myles Turner, F Doug McDermott, G/F Jeremy Lamb, 2021 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
The market for Westbrook this offseason should be slim. It would take the perfect team to take on his remaining three-year, $131.5 million contract, one that believes his talent can take it from mediocrity to serious contention for a conference or league title.
Following five straight first-round playoff losses, the Pacers are the perfect team to take the gamble.
Indiana currently doesn't have any bad contracts on the team, and Westbrook was one of two players to average at least 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists this season (Luka Doncic). The former MVP, nine-time All-Star and two-time scoring champ is talented enough to lift the Pacers out of the first round, especially with two other All-Stars by his side.
Reuniting Westbrook and Victor Oladipo would give Indiana one of the NBA's best backcourts, and filling out the rest of the starting lineup with T.J. Warren, Covington and Domantas Sabonis would provide a nice mix of scoring, rebounding and defense.
Houston should only move Westbrook if it can truly put a better team around Harden, and this move would do just that. Brogdon (16.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists) is one of the NBA's most underrated point guards, and Turner is a floor-spacing, shot-blocking standout at center.
McDermott (10.3 points, 43.5 percent shooting from deep) might lead the NBA in three-point shooting playing next to Harden, and Lamb (12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists) would be a nice rotation piece when he returns from a torn ACL suffered in February.
Getting a first-round pick next season would give the Rockets more flexibility in future trades, and a starting lineup of Brogdon, Harden, Danuel House Jr., P.J. Tucker and Turner should still be one of the best in the West while accompanied by an even deeper rotation.
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: SG Victor Oladipo
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Eric Bledsoe, SG Donte DiVincenzo, 2020 No. 24 overall pick
The Bucks need to swing a deal for some extra help this offseason and convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to re-sign, which means anyone not named Khris Middleton should be on the table.
While a player like Chris Paul would be an upgrade over Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks should be looking for a younger co-star to share the floor with the 25-year-old Antetokounmpo.
Oladipo, 28, would be a perfect fit.
A two-time All-Star, Oladipo would bring an intense work ethic and winner's mentality to a Milwaukee team that could lose Wesley Matthews to free agency this offseason. DiVincenzo is a nice young shooting guard, but the Bucks can't afford to wait for him to hit his prime.
In three seasons with the Pacers, Oladipo has averaged 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals, showing off his talent on both sides of the ball. A starting lineup of George Hill, Oladipo, Middleton, Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez would be dominant defensively while also potentially featuring three 20-plus point-per-game scorers.
Indiana should make this deal if it fears Oladipo leaving as a free agent in 2021, and Bledsoe would be able to step into the starting lineup now with DiVincenzo serving as the shooting guard of the future. The Pacers could play Bledsoe and 6'5" point guard Malcolm Brogdon together as the two already shared a backcourt while with the Bucks.
The Pacers would also get the No. 24 overall pick in 2020, their own selection that was traded to Milwaukee in the original Brogdon deal.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma Thunder Receive: SG Malik Monk, C Cody Zeller, SF Nicolas Batum
Charlotte Hornets Receive: PG Chris Paul
The time to trade Paul is now for OKC since the 10-time All-Star's stock is still high following a bounce-back season.
His contract is now a year shorter, but it's still pretty rough at $85.6 million over the next two seasons. Getting any draft picks or young talent for him would be great, but the Thunder should be prioritizing cap space for 2021 instead.
Batum has a $27.1 million player option he'll almost certainly pick up, Zeller is on the final year of his contract at $15.4 million, and Monk's $5.3 million salary runs out in 2021, as well.
For the Thunder, this would be a chance to save over $44 million heading into a star-studded free-agent class, opening up two max salary spots with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still on his rookie deal.
While Batum and Zeller could serve as veteran backups, the 22-year-old Monk is the only player with staying potential in Oklahoma City, even if he's disappointed in three professional seasons thus far.
For the Hornets, this would be a chance to have Paul help set a culture, just as he did for the Thunder this year. While the contract isn't great, Charlotte would be moving off its own worst deal in the process.
The Hornets are unlikely to attract any big free agents in 2021, so getting Paul to help develop players like Miles Bridges, P.J. Washington, Devonte' Graham and even Terry Rozier and keep the Hornets competitive in the East would be worth flipping some overpriced and expiring contracts.
Orlando Magic Recieve: SG Buddy Hield
Sacramento Kings Receive: C Mo Bamba, SG Evan Fournier, 2020 second-round pick
After finishing 22nd overall in three-point makes per game (11.1) and 26th in accuracy (34.3 percent), the Magic desperately need shooting if they ever hope to make it out of the first round.
Hield is one of the NBA's best outside marksmen, converting 41.1 percent of his career three-pointers over 316 games. With starting point guard Markelle Fultz (26.7 percent from three) looking like he may never develop a reliable deep game, getting a player like Hield to put next to him in the backcourt becomes even more important.
Giving up a former lottery pick in Bamba would hurt, but it's hard to imagine the 22-year-old center winning the starting job over Nikola Vucevic anytime soon.
For Sacramento, this would be a chance to add a foundational piece at center while also getting a veteran who can help make a playoff push now.
Bamba and Marvin Bagley III would carry a ton of potential in the Kings frontcourt, and the combination of De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic (assuming he's re-signed) and Fournier would bring plenty of outside shooting and playmaking to balance out the roster.
The Kings wouldn't have to worry about Hield's long-term role with the team, and Bamba could become Sacramento's defensive anchor for the next decade.
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: G Jrue Holiday, SG JJ Redick, C Jaxson Hayes, 2020 No. 13 overall pick, 2021 first-round pick
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: C Joel Embiid, G/F Josh Richardson
While the Sixers will likely try to move Al Horford this offseason, keeping him at center and exploring trade possibilities with Embiid could completely reshape the roster.
Whether Philly keeps Ben Simmons at power forward or moves him back to point guard, Holiday would be an ideal piece in the Sixers backcourt. A menace on defense and a talented scorer and passer on offense, he could play either guard position while defending three different positions on any given night.
Redick would come back to a Philadelphia team that craves his shooting, and Hayes (the No. 8 overall pick in 2019) could develop behind Horford until he's ready for the starting center job.
The Sixers would also get a lottery pick in this year's draft and a 2021 first-rounder from the Pelicans.
New Orleans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin was a big fan of Embiid's when he had the No. 1 overall pick with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, only taking Andrew Wiggins due to an injury to Embiid at the time. Now, he could have a chance to remedy that and get the three-time All-Star on his roster.
The Pelicans frontcourt could straight-up bully opponents with Embiid and Zion Williamson, putting arguably the best center in the game next to one of the NBA's brightest young stars.
Richardson could take over Holiday's spot in the backcourt next to Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram (assuming he's re-signed) would keep his job as the starting small forward for a Pelicans team that would be quickly headed toward the top of the West.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: SF Terrence Ross
Orlando Magic Receive: SG Gary Trent Jr., SF Trevor Ariza
Portland could go big and swing for the fences with a player like DeMar DeRozan this offseason or simply put its trust in a healthy Jusuf Nurkic and a smaller upgrade on the wing to make a deep playoff run next year.
If the Blazers choose the latter route, Ross would be a nice fit.
The 29-year-old small forward averaged 14.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals and shot 37.1 percent on his catch-and-shoot three-pointers this season in Orlando, scoring 20 or more points 18 times.
His presence would lighten the workload for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, helping preserve each for the postseason.
For the Magic, getting Trent would mean adding the starting shooting guard of the future. The 21-year-old averaged 13.3 points on 47.4 percent shooting from three in eight starts this year, and he would give Orlando a terrific floor-spacer next to Markelle Fultz.
Ariza would help the Magic make a playoff push again in 2020-21, and his $12.8 million salary expires next year.
Toronto Raptors Receive: PG Dennis Smith Jr.
New York Knicks Receive: 2020 second-round pick, SG Patrick McCaw
Like the Dallas Mavericks, the Raptors don't need to shake up the roster to contend next season and should also be looking to buy low on a Knicks guard.
With Kyle Lowry now 34 and on an expiring $30 million deal, Toronto needs to start thinking about finding his replacement, especially if Fred VanVleet bolts in free agency this offseason.
Smith is a young, talented guard who may need a strong culture and veteran point guard to learn from in order to reach his potential. Still only 22 years old, he has averaged 12.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals in his three seasons, but he is coming off the worst year of his career as a Knicks reserve.
Few franchises, if any, develop young talent better than the Raptors, and giving Smith a year to learn and grow behind Lowry would be a smart investment.
New York should be happy getting a second-round pick for him given his horrid season (5.5 points, 2.9 assists, 34.1 percent shooting), and McCaw would still fit a rebuild at age 24 and on an expiring $4 million deal.
Utah Jazz Receive: PG Chris Paul
Oklahoma Thunder Receive: PG Mike Conley, C Ed Davis, 2021 second-round pick (via Golden State Warriors)
While Conley improved throughout his first season in Utah, Paul is still the better overall player even at age 35.
The Jazz should be hungry to make improvements to a team that should have been in the second round of the playoffs, and Donovan Mitchell proved he can play the role of No. 1 offensive option.
Giving him a few years of Paul would help improve his game on and off the court as the 10-time All-Star helped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander make a major jump in his second season. Mitchell has the skill set to be a superstar, and Paul would help him improve his leadership and the way he sees the game.
A lineup of Paul, Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O'Neal and Rudy Gobert would definitely be capable of reaching at least the second round.
OKC would once again get major salary relief from trading Paul as both Conley's and Davis' contracts expire in 2021. Conley would also help the Thunder stay competitive next season, and Davis could again become one of the NBA's best backup centers after failing to fit in with Utah this year.