1 Surprise Trade Idea for Every NBA Team
With a short and unusual offseason, looming financial uncertainty and a draft nobody seems to have a handle on, almost any NBA trade would constitute a surprise these days.
But we've got 30 swaps, one for every team, anyway.
The goal was to come up with deals that haven't already been concocted, aggregated and re-aggregated a dozen times. It's impossible to bat 1.000 on that front because the market for trade content, founded or otherwise, is hot. We made an honest effort to feature novel trades as often as possible.
There's always going to be an argument that one or both teams in a hypothetical trade wouldn't even consider the idea. Everyone loves to scream, "Team X would never do that."
First of all, relax. Think of these as thought exercises, not ruthless affronts to rationality. The word "surprise" is right there in the headline; these trades are supposed to make you do double takes. You've definitely come up with worse on 2K. Don't deny it.
Enough of that. Here comes an out-of-nowhere trade idea for every team.
Atlanta Hawks: Derrick White Becomes Trae Young's Bodyguard
The Trade: Atlanta Hawks acquire Derrick White from the San Antonio Spurs for Kevin Huerter.
Who doesn't love an old fashioned challenge trade?
Here, the Atlanta Hawks would secure a defender capable of handling the opposition's most dangerous backcourt opponent, shielding Trae Young from the nonstop attacks he's faced his whole career. While teams will still hunt Atlanta's high-scoring guard whenever they can, at least with White the Hawks can force them to work for the matchup they want.
White is among the NBA's best shot-blocking guards, which speaks to his length and ability to pursue ball-handlers into the lane. The San Antonio Spurs have defended better with him on the floor in each of the past two seasons, and as an added bonus, White isn't a defense-only option.
He's a career 36.4 percent shooter from deep. That's not quite in Kevin Huerter's league (38.3 percent), but White has a bit more on-ball zip, athleticism and interior scoring ability than Red Velvet.
Huerter's value to the Spurs would be in his youth and pure stroke. He's just 22, four years younger than White, and would lend offensive balance to a roster that has to compensate for DeMar DeRozan's refusal to spread the floor. His stretchy scoring would make sense for a team that already has Dejounte Murray entrenched as its defense-first point guard.
Plus, the Spurs are quietly much closer to the rebuilding stage than the Hawks. White will be due for a new deal next offseason, while Huerter is under team control through 2023. In a year, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeRozan will be gone, so Huerter's youth and upside should be of more value to San Antonio.
Boston Celtics: Time to Get Defensive
The Trade: Boston Celtics acquire Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz for Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis and three 2020 first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26 and 30).
Let's say the Utah Jazz and Rudy Gobert are miles apart on extension talks this offseason, with Utah wisely refusing to guarantee more than $100 million over four years and Gobert holding out for something much closer to the $247 million supermax for which he's eligible.
Let's also say the Jazz determine the market for what might only be a one-year Gobert rental is rough, and that clean books and draft capital are the best they can hope for in return.
Those are two massive assumptions, but they help get us to a point where this deal appears semi-plausible.
Gordon Hayward's return to the Jazz would be awkward, but they could buy him out if the vibes got too weird. If everyone could get over the events that led to Hayward's departure in 2017, he'd have real value on a Donovan Mitchell-led team that should compete for a top-four spot in the Western Conference.
As would Daniel Theis, obviously a defensive downgrade from Gobert but still a playoff-tested starting center who'll only cost $5 million. Both he and Hayward will have to opt in to their 2020-21 salaries for this trade to be possible.
Boston would get a defensive superstar it could re-sign as part of its contending core (hopefully somewhere short of the supermax) or use in a one-year push for a championship before recalibrating in 2021. The three first-rounders heading to the Jazz hardly matter, as the Boston roster and its looming tax situation mean it can't afford to add three first-round contracts. Though this trade almost certainly won't happen in reality, you can bank on the actual Celtics moving at least one of those picks prior to the draft.
Brooklyn Nets: 3rd Star Inbound
The Trade: Brooklyn Nets acquire Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers for Caris LeVert and Garrett Temple (opt in).
The Brooklyn Nets are here for a good time, not a long time.
Kevin Durant is 32, and the Nets' status as contenders ends when he's no longer a superstar. Perhaps somewhat frighteningly for Brooklyn, it'll never begin if, post-Achilles, he's not at that level in 2020-21.
All that's to say the Nets are already a dicey operation and that they should be perfectly comfortable adding more risk to their profile. Victor Oladipo has played just 55 regular season games over the past two years, may never be the same after that ruptured quad tendon in January 2019 and is in the last year of his deal.
If this trade goes sour, Brooklyn will have dealt a promising young player in LeVert for nothing.
Of course, LeVert hasn't exactly been the picture of health either. The 26-year-old played 45 games last year and 40 the year before. He's a dynamic on-ball creator and would allow Malcolm Brogdon to assume more of a combo guard role in Indy, which would take advantage of Brogdon's knockdown three-point shooting.
The fit makes sense for the Pacers, and if they're hesitant to extend Oladipo, there's clear logic to a move like this—especially since LeVert has three more years on his deal at an average of just $17.5 million per season. Temple would make the money match, which probably matters most to the tax-hit Nets. But he's a capable two-way veteran who could get playing time if Indiana doesn't re-sign Justin Holiday.
The Nets could do worse than holding on to LeVert at that number, but he's not the defender a healthy Oladipo is, and that's going to be a priority with Kyrie Irving as a backcourt mate. Plus, Brooklyn seems committed to adding a third star, and if the Steve Nash hire is any indication, it prizes some splashiness in its transactions.
Charlotte Hornets: Who Needs No. 3?
The Trade: Charlotte Hornets acquire Aaron Gordon and the No. 15 pick in 2020 from the Orlando Magic for the No. 3 pick in 2020.
Even though the 2020 draft is widely regarded as crummy (that's a technical term), the No. 3 pick is still probably the Charlotte Hornets' single best asset.
So it'd be a surprise if they traded it. Fortunately, we're here for surprises.
The 12-spot drop would be significant in most drafts, but things are different this year. If the Hornets aren't convinced LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards or James Wiseman are franchise-alterers, adding Aaron Gordon for a negligible drop in expected pick value would be a nice piece of business.
Gordon and Miles Bridges would form one of the most athletic forward tandems in the league, and if P.J. Washington can play a little more center as he matures, those two would have ample space to attack the paint and fill the lane in transition.
The Hornets are short on top-line talent, so they'll probably stick at No. 3 and hope whichever of the three aforementioned prospects is available has an outside shot to become something special. But it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Charlotte would opt for a safer route by trading down and adding an established 25-year-old starter.
Chicago Bulls: The Big Swing for Ben Simmons
The Trade: Chicago Bulls acquire Ben Simmons and the No. 21 pick in the 2020 draft from the Philadelphia 76ers for Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft.
Chances are Doc Rivers signed with the Philadelphia 76ers with an understanding that he'd get to take a crack at making the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid pairing work. But who can say for sure?
Simmons would be a massive get for the Chicago Bulls, easily the best player in the deal and one who changes the makeup (mostly for the better) of any team for whom he plays. With Chicago, for example, Simmons' playmaking would enable Coby White to slot in full-time at the point, and his defense would make up for White's shortcomings on that end. As long as the Bulls put together lineups with only one other non-shooter, Simmons would supercharge them on both ends—and especially in transition, where White is already dangerous.
Zach LaVine is mostly empty calories and has yet to defend consistently, while Lauri Markkanen's stretch is enticing but hasn't translated to winning play. Those two would give the Sixers a pair of deep-ball threats around a post-centric Embiid offense, so there are wins for both sides. The Sixers are facing a fat tax bill because of the bloated deals they gave Al Horford and Tobias Harris, but maybe that No. 4 pick could help grease the skids in a second trade to get Philly off one of them.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Moving Up the Draft Board
The Trade: Cleveland Cavaliers acquire Nicolas Batum (opt in) and the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft from the Charlotte Hornets for Andre Drummond (opt in) and the No. 5 pick in the 2020 draft.
The most surprising aspect of this Cleveland Cavaliers trade is Kevin Love's absence from it.
It seems like every dreamed-up transaction involving the Cavs these days features Love and the fully guaranteed $91.5 million remaining on his contract heading to some win-now destination with equally bad salary coming back. Stick around, we've got one of those later.
For now, we've got the Cavs and Charlotte Hornets exchanging picks, with Cleveland moving up two spots for the trouble of taking on Nicolas Batum's practically dead salary. This deal would give Charlotte the starting center it needs, and the Hornets would have the future flexibility to re-sign Drummond if they like the fit. And since nobody has any idea about the quality of this year's draft, a two-spot drop might be inconsequential.
Cleveland would have to be convinced its franchise savior (or something close to it) won't last until it picks at No. 5, which is possible. Maybe they'd view this trade as, essentially, Drummond for James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball. Considering how little the Cavs gave up to get Drummond, and the relatively low likelihood they were planning to give him a fat extension, that's not such a bad deal for them.
Dallas Mavericks: More Shooting, Please
The Trade: Dallas Mavericks acquire JJ Redick and the No. 13 pick in the 2020 draft from the New Orleans Pelicans for Maxi Kleber and the No. 18 pick in the 2020 draft.
Assuming Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell are healthy by the start of the 2020-21 season, Maxi Kleber might be more of a luxury than a necessity for the Dallas Mavericks. Kleber is an underrated defender who can space the floor at the center spot, but the Mavs have been better with him off the court in two of his three seasons.
The New Orleans Pelicans need a player such as Kleber to pair with Zion Williamson in the frontcourt, which is why they might consider moving JJ Redick's expiring deal and sliding down five slots in the first round to get him.
For Dallas, a team everyone seems to think has a shot to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021, this move would trim $8.7 million in 2020-21 salary from the books while giving Luka Doncic an all-time three-point shooter to play with for at least a season. If the Mavericks manage to land Giannis in a year, Redick, even at his age, could be a key retention priority. The spacing he'd provide would make life impossible for defenses tasked with wrangling Doncic, Antetokounmpo and Porzingis.
We're way into the weeds on this one, and Kleber might simply be too good of a value to move. If Dallas wanted to clear space next summer, the German big man would be just as easy to trade then. Still, a little intriguing, no?
Denver Nuggets: Nobody Is Really Off Limits
The Trade: Denver Nuggets acquire Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards for Michael Porter Jr., Gary Harris, PJ Dozier and a lottery protected 2021 first-round pick.
No player in the history of the NBA has ever been traded after firm proclamations like those. Oh no, wait...that's exactly what always happens—after said proclamations conveniently drive up the quality of incoming offers.
Beal would give the Nuggets a third star, while Porter would represent a cost-controlled ray of hope for the future—a necessity when John Wall's contract darkens the present. The Wizards could certainly demand additional throw-ins, perhaps starting with Bol Bol, but this would be a solid haul for a star of Beal's caliber.
Meanwhile, Denver would add a 30-point scorer to an offense that was already hard to stop. He and Jamal Murray would belong on the very short list of the league's top backcourts.
Detroit Pistons: A New Lead Guard
The Trade: Detroit Pistons acquire CJ McCollum and the No. 16 pick in 2020 from the Portland Trail Blazers for Blake Griffin and the No. 7 pick in 2020.
CJ McCollum has never been an All-Star, but that'd likely change if he had full control of his own team in the Eastern Conference. Among the best pure shooters in the game, the 29-year-old would have an outside chance to finish among the top five in points per game next year. That wouldn't necessarily mean the Detroit Pistons would be any good, but they weren't going to play much competitive ball anyway.
This is about moving on from Blake Griffin's contract and rebuilding around a younger player at a more valuable position in the modern NBA.
Griffin's future is hazy. The cumulative toll of so many injuries and surgeries would make it difficult for the Portland Trail Blazers (or any team) to count on him for significant minutes or regular availability. But his contract runs for two fewer years than McCollum's, and he'd add a secondary playmaking dimension that could lighten the load on superstar Damian Lillard.
Detroit would have to include the more valuable draft capital because of the possibility Griffin's salary might turn into dead money as soon as next year if he can't stay healthy. But the upside would also favor Portland, and it's long seemed plausible the Blazers could improve themselves by diversifying. They've had success with smallish guards occupying the two highest salary slots on the team, but Griffin's presence would balance the allocation of resources more evenly.
Golden State Warriors: The Core Cracks
The Trade: Golden State Warriors acquire Jrue Holiday, Myles Turner and Victor Oladipo; New Orleans Pelicans acquire Andrew Wiggins, 2021 first-round pick (via Minnesota Timberwolves, top-three-protected); Indiana Pacers acquire Draymond Green and the No. 2 pick in 2020
How's that for a surprise?
There are a half-dozen reasons all three of these teams would pass on a trade such as this. The New Orleans Pelicans might not view a likely lottery pick in 2021 as enough of a sweetener for the three years left on Andrew Wiggins' deal. The Indiana Pacers might worry about the spacing and playmaking they'd lose in the bargain. The Golden State Warriors would understandably be reticent to break up their championship core by trading Draymond Green while also offloading two valuable first-round picks.
At the same time, Minnesota's 2021 selection could be gold, and New Orleans would at least get a player in Wiggins, 25, who fits more neatly into its younger timeline.
Meanwhile, Indiana has long seemed likely to break up the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis pairing, and Victor Oladipo's health history means his value may only decline. Plus, he's in the last year of his deal.
The Warriors would add three high-end starters, supercharge their defense and go from kinda, sorta contenders to betting favorites. Just imagine Holiday, Oladipo, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson darting around a floor spaced by Turner at the 5. And yes, Thompson can handle the 4 defensively, though his poor rebounding would put the Dubs at a huge disadvantage on the boards.
This is admittedly some pie-in-the-sky, Hail Mary stuff. But this one's still kind of fun.
Houston Rockets: Commence Teardown
The Trade: Houston Rockets acquire Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Rodions Kurucs, the No. 19 pick in 2020 and an unprotected first-round pick in 2022 from the Brooklyn Nets for James Harden.
Houston Rockets governor Tillman Fertita continues to profess a commitment to the team's (very expensive) roster, but it's difficult to escape the feeling that the dual exits of Mike D'Antoni and Daryl Morey portend significant changes.
Houston should most want to move Russell Westbrook's contract, but James Harden's would yield a bigger return. Brooklyn, revving up its pursuit of a third star to maximum overdrive, would get its man.
Forget fit. Forget defense. Forget the whole "there's only one ball" thing. The Nets have Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in this hypothetical. Yes, they've surrendered every valuable asset imaginable. But they might also have three-fifths of the East's starting five in the All-Star Game.
Houston would load up on reasonable deals and replenish some of the picks it coughed up to replace Chris Paul with Westbrook (big oops on that one). The Rockets, awash in assets, would still look competitive in this new form. And considering a deal of this magnitude would only go down if Harden makes it clear he wants out, the return would look good for the under-the-gun Rockets.
Indiana Pacers: Myles Turner Yields PIcks
The Trade: Indiana Pacers acquire the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft, the No. 32 pick in the 2020 draft (via Cleveland Cavaliers) and Cody Martin from the Charlotte Hornets for Myles Turner.
This is essentially Myles Turner for the No. 3 overall pick in a "shrug emoji because who knows?" draft. If the Charlotte Hornets are enamored with James Wiseman as their center of the future, they can take him at No. 3 or trade up with marginal cost to make sure they snag him ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves or Golden State Warriors.
But how could the Hornets, or anyone, really know Wiseman is The Guy at this stage? Few collegiate prospects have had a shorter track record than the Memphis center, who logged a grand total of three games and 69 minutes.
Turner might already be better than Wiseman will ever be, but the Pacers already have a center in Domantas Sabonis and may lose Victor Oladipo for nothing. At No. 3, Indy could take a swing at Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, assuming Golden State has eyes for Wiseman.
This wouldn't be a reset for Indiana. The Pacers would still have Sabonis, T.J. Warren and Malcolm Brogdon to stabilize the rotation. Consider this deal a potential ceiling-raiser that would also bring a couple of cost-controlled assets into the fold—highly valuable for a team that perennially avoids the tax.
Los Angeles Clippers: Playmaking Problem Solved
The Trade: Los Angeles Clippers acquire Ricky Rubio from the Phoenix Suns for Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet and as many second-round picks as the Suns want.
The Phoenix Suns are most likely to pass on this one, as Ricky Rubio's leadership, professionalism and defense mean a great deal to a team on the cusp of playing meaningful games on a regular basis.
Patrick Beverley would ratchet up the intensity for the Suns, though his reputation on D outstrips his production. Rubio, quietly, might be better on that end. Landry Shamet would give Phoenix a sweet-shooting reserve still young enough at 23 to have another level or two of growth in him. Considering he's a 40.2 percent shooter from deep for his career, Shamet already has value; the Suns would need to believe he's got even more to entertain this.
The Los Angeles Clippers need a point guard because Kawhi Leonard wants one, and Rubio is basically the prototypical pass-first, unobtrusive model for the position. His shooting could cramp spacing a touch, particularly if L.A. uses conventional big man Ivica Zubac more often next season. But Rubio hit 36.1 percent of his triples in 2019-20. Defenses still tend to deprioritize him off the ball, but that hit rate, if repeatable, means they'll pay for their neglect.
If I'm Phoenix, I need more—possibly from a third team that can include a mid-tier first-round pick. But Rubio, a great human and a very good player, would solve a lot of problems for the Clips.
Los Angeles Lakers: Rental for a Repeat
The Trade: Los Angeles Lakers acquire Victor Oladipo from the Indiana Pacers for Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma and the No. 28 pick in the 2020 draft.
A healthy Victor Oladipo would solve the Los Angeles Lakers' playmaking problems whenever LeBron James isn't on the floor. Rajon Rondo's postseason revitalization was a nice story, but the Lakers can't expect that same level of performance going forward.
Danny Green has no shortage of championship experience, but he hasn't shot better than 34.2 percent from deep in the playoffs since 2015-16. The quickest guards are also now a half-step too quick for him. That's not to say Green would be useless with the Indiana Paccers; he still shot 36.7 percent from distance during the 2019-20 season and profiles as a starter. Kyle Kuzma would give Indiana some youth and scoring touch on the wing, and though his defense didn't make the leap hypothetical teammate T.J. Warren's did last year, Kuzma has been much more capable on that end as he's matured.
If Oladipo can't stay healthy or otherwise flops for the Lakers, this deal could hurt. But with James entering his age-36 season, the potential one-year upside Oladipo would bring would be worth the risk.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Darkest Dark Horse Beal Deal
The Trade: Memphis Grizzlies acquire Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards for Gorgui Dieng, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke and an unprotected 2022 first-round pick.
Nobody's talking about the Memphis Grizzlies as a destination for Bradley Beal. That's for good reason, as Beal may not move at all, and Memphis doesn't profile as the kind of team likely to spend big on a veteran star.
Beal is only 27, though, which means he should sustain his level of play at least through the remaining three years on his deal. Ja Morant was way ahead of schedule as a rookie, and Jaren Jackson Jr. is already entering his third season. The Grizzlies' one-two combo may be closer to reaching ripeness than many think.
The Washington Wizards might be able to do better than this for Beal, but Brandon Clarke and an unprotected first-rounder would be a heck of a starting point for negotiations. Gorgui Dieng is an expiring salary Washington could flip, while Brooks is a solid defense-first starter who could become more than that with better shot selection and fewer fouls.
The Grizz will almost certainly take a more gradual approach to roster construction, but the arms race never stops in the West. Here, Memphis would add enough firepower to compete for a playoff spot in what should be an even tougher conference going forward than it was in 2019-20.
Miami Heat: The Rare Finalist Exchange
The Trade: Miami Heat acquire Kyle Kuzma from the Los Angeles Lakers for Kendrick Nunn.
Nobody would ever see a one-for-one trade between the two most recent Finals participants coming, so the surprise box is checked in bold here. Shock factor aside, you can justify this one from both ends.
In Kendrick Nunn, the Lakers get a ball-handling guard to shore up a weakness Rajon Rondo filled during the bubble—but cannot be expected to fill going forward. Nunn is a dangerous downhill threat who can hit a pull-up jumper and bail his team out when the shot cock winds down. Los Angeles had the second-highest attempt frequency in the last four seconds of the shot clock during the playoffs; Nunn could help avoid so many desperate situations and/or improve the odds of a good result when the Lakers have to chuck something up to avoid a turnover.
Kuzma could bolster a Heat wing rotation that pretty much consists of Jimmy Butler and nobody else.
Miami could bring Jae Crowder back, and Andre Iguodala is still under contract. But the former is already 30, while the latter is a postseason-only option who'll have to be carefully preserved heading into his 17th year.
The Heat might get a little short on guard depth with this deal, but Tyler Herro is ready for a larger role, and Butler is essentially a playmaker when he's on the floor. Add to that Bam Adebayo's gifts as a facilitator, and Miami can make up for what it'll lose in Nunn. Plus, if Goran Dragic comes back on a one-year deal, the Heat's backcourt problems are solved.
Milwaukee Bucks: The Answer to Everything
The Trade: Milwaukee Bucks acquire Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors for Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, Donte DiVincenzo, the No. 24 pick in the 2020 draft (via Indiana) and a top-3 protected 2023 first-round pick.
Everyone immediately fixated on Chris Paul as the guy for the desperate-to-appease-their-superstar Milwaukee Bucks, but he was the wrong veteran point guard to target.
Kyle Lowry is the right one—so long as we entertain the fiction that the Toronto Raptors would trade a player who'll surely have a statue in front of the arena someday.
We've got no indication the Raptors are ready to start over, but Lowry is heading into the final year of his deal, while both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are free agents this offseason. The Raps are, at most, a year away from retooling around the in-place younger core of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet (assuming he re-signs). They can justify dealing a great player to a theoretical rival if they intend to take a temporary step back from legitimate contention.
In that scenario, the two first-rounders coming in from Milwaukee are huge, particularly the lightly protected 2023 selection, which has an outside shot of being very valuable if Antetokounmpo leaves and plunges the Bucks into the depths of the East.
The Lowry move is designed to avoid that outcome. His grit and repeatedly demonstrated postseason leadership could help Milwaukee get over the hump after two straight playoff failures. He, unlike everyone who matters in Milwaukee, has been to the mountaintop.
Bledsoe is basically the anti-Lowry, and the Bucks can't count on him to perform when it matters. Lopez will matter less when Milwaukee moves Giannis to center, which should have already happened, and DiVincenzo is a cheap, rotation-ready guard that should intrigue Toronto.
This is a boatload to surrender for a one-year Lowry rental, but the Bucks have to push their chips in.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Ideal KAT Complement
The Trade: Minnesota Timberwolves acquire Aaron Gordon from the Orlando Magic for James Johnson (opt in), the No. 17 pick (via Brooklyn) in the 2020 draft and first-round swap rights in 2022.
The Minnesota Timberwolves' side of this deal is easy to justify. They would be getting an ideal power forward parter for center Karl-Anthony Towns. Aaron Gordon is an athletic, switchable defender who can rebound, function as a quality playmaker in the frontcourt and, having just turned 25, still has a shot of improving his career 31.9 percent hit rate from deep.
The Orlando Magic might prefer to earn more draft capital for Gordon, but adding Johnson would give them a shot to do exactly that. His expiring $16 million salary would be easily flippable at the deadline, and a team looking to trim cash could send back a longer-term deal with a pick attached.
That's the sort of asset accumulation the Magic should be focused on if they ever want to do more than chase one of the last two playoff spots in the East.
New Orleans Pelicans: Here's Your Defense, SVG
The Trade: New Orleans Pelicans acquire Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz for Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, Darius Miller and the No. 13 pick in the 2020 draft.
We've stripped off some of the New Orleans Pelicans' veteran parts in previous trades, but this time we're leaning into more of a win-now approach. That actually seems to be the likelier path with Stan Van Gundy in charge.
It's hard to imagine he would have accepted the head coaching gig if a rebuild was imminent.
Here, the Pels would swoop in and grab Rudy Gobert after his extension negotiations with the Utah Jazz fail. As a result, Utah would be happy to get two young players on rookie deals in Lonzo Ball and Jaxson Hayes, plus the expiring salary of Darius Miller (which the Pels would have to guarantee to make the cap math work) and a late lottery pick.
The potential spacing crunch in a Gobert-Williamson frontcourt could be a problem. But the Pelicans would theoretically start Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick and Brandon Ingram in the other three spots, and each of those guys scares defenses from distance. New Orleans could get a lot of mileage out of Redick-Gobert handoff actions with Williamson in the dunker spot.
Most importantly, Van Gundy's teams have always been defense-first operations. Gobert completely changes New Orleans' character on that end, addressing a weakness that plagued the team last year and one SVG wasn't ever going to let stand.
The looming Gobert extension could be expensive, but Redick will be off the books after 2020-21, and Holiday could join him by opting out of the final year of his deal. That'd leave Ingram and Gobert (on a new extension) as the only major cap hits, with Williamson's own extension coming shortly thereafter. That's not the worst financial situation—especially if this move vaults New Orleans into clear playoff position.
New York Knicks: Zach LaVine Gets Buckets in the Garden
The Trade: New York Knicks acquire Zach LaVine from the Chicago Bulls for the No. 8 pick in the 2020 draft and either Frank Ntilikina or Dennis Smith Jr.
The New York Knicks have a longstanding affinity for empty-calorie buckets, and Zach LaVine's high-scoring, defense-free, net-negative on-court impact game fits the bill perfectly. That said, the No. 8 pick in a weak draft and another seeming lottery bust (take your pick, Chicago Bulls) isn't much to give up for a very productive 25-year-old shooting guard.
RJ Barrett projects as an on-ball option because of his suspect shooting, and LaVine is also an accomplished facilitator at the 2. That combination would give the Knicks some interesting optionality at the point; they wouldn't necessarily need a pure pick-and-roll floor general with so much playmaking at the 2 and 3.
Of the two, Chicago would be the party to decline this deal. But maybe the new management team led by Arturas Karnisovas would relish the idea of having two picks in the top 8. With their own No. 4 selection and the one incoming from New York, the Bulls could get even younger and more cost-controlled, still having Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White on their rookie-scale deals. If the Bulls grabbed a couple of potential three-and-D wings in the lottery—say, Devin Vassell and Isaac Okoro—they'd have themselves a young, exciting and balanced core.
Oklahoma City Thunder: 1 Expensive PG for Another
The Trade: Oklahoma City Thunder acquire Mike Conley and Ed Davis from the Utah Jazz for Chris Paul and the No. 25 pick in the 2020 draft (via Denver).
There's nothing surprising about Chris Paul being traded; we've been discussing it for months. It's the destination that's unexpected here, as the Oklahoma City Thunder essentially spend a late first-rounder to get themselves clear of CP3's 2021-22 salary.
Mike Conley will almost certainly decline to exercise his early termination option and will collect $34.5 million in 2020-21. It's not out of the question that he could outproduce Paul next year, but the Thunder probably won't care either way. This would be a financial move, and OKC would still have the chance to flip Conley to a contender at the deadline or buy him out.
Utah might not seem like a sensible landing spot. After all, what franchise would willingly trade for an aging point guard with two expensive years left on his contract?
Oh right, the Jazz would. They did exactly that last year. Paul's upside is higher than Conley's was then, so why wouldn't they make the same move again?
Orlando Magic: No More Spending on Centers
The Trade: Orlando Magic acquire Buddy Hield, Richaun Holmes and the No. 12 pick in the 2020 draft from the Sacramento Kings for Nikola Vucevic and the No. 15 pick in the 2020 draft.
Nikola Vucevic is the best player in this deal by a hefty margin, but Richaun Holmes is a quality starter at the same position who'll make a fifth of what Vooch will collect in 2020-21. Holmes is a better value at his $5 million salary, and this trade would shift the Orlando Magic's resources away from a position where nobody spends anymore, center, to one where everyone does, guard.
Buddy Hield is imperfect. He has never been a consistent defender, and it's an adventure whenever he puts the ball on the deck. But he's among the league's most deadly high-volume three-point shooters. Dissatisfied in Sacramento, he could be better than ever with a fresh start.
The exchange of first-rounders may seem inconsequential, but it wouldn't be at all unusual for the Magic to determine the player they want will be on the board at 12, but gone by 15. This is one of those deals that could be agreed to in principle ahead of the draft and then executed if it's clear Orlando needs to move up to snag its target.
From the Kings' perspective, things are simpler. Hield hasn't been happy for quite some time, Marvin Bagley III hasn't shown any ability to man the center spot, and the Kings always try to make the playoffs. Adding an All-Star big man, albeit one whose stats overrate his impact on winning, would be on brand.
Philadelphia 76ers: Paying Up to Save Money
The Trade: Philadelphia 76ers acquire Mike Conley from the Utah Jazz for Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and the No. 21 pick in the 2020 draft.
The Philadelphia 76ers have needed a conventional point guard for as long as the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons version of the team has existed. Conley, who looked much more like himself in the bubble after a rough season with the Jazz, would give Philly the exact kind of player it's been missing.
Bonus: The Sixers would get out from under Tobias Harris' gargantuan contract!
That'll cost them, though, as Philadelphia would have to send Matisse Thybulle, one of the league's most exciting defensive prospects, and the No. 21 pick to the Jazz in exchange for them absorbing the remaining four years and $147 million on Harris' deal. The Jazz should ask for another first-rounder in the bargain, considering that ridiculous number to the right of the dollar sign,. Harris may be a durable, reliable scoring forward. But he's worth maybe half of what he'll make going forward.
Phoenix Suns: Superstar Swap
The Trade: Phoenix Suns acquire Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson from the Philadelphia 76ers for Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio.
You almost never see two top-line stars on max rookie extensions traded for each other, but this exchange built around Devin Booker and Ben Simmons might actually improve both teams.
The Sixers would get the high-scoring wing and playmaking point guard they lack, while the Suns would turn themselves into a defensively switchable monster and shave $5 million off their books for 2020-21. That might be enough to enable Phoenix to beat the market for free agent Fred VanVleet.
The Suns would have to renounce their rights on Dario Saric and Aron Baynes to open up space, but they should be more than willing to do that if it means adding FVV to the fold. Losing Booker stings, but a starting five of VanVleet, Richardson, Mikal Bridges, Simmons and Deandre Ayton has a ton of two-way punch.
Portland Trail Blazers: Adding Some Splash
The Trade: Portland Trail Blazers acquire Klay Thompson from the Golden State Warriors for CJ McCollum, Zach Collins and the No. 16 pick in the 2020 draft.
Even though some view Klay Thompson's contract as the worst in the NBA, the Warriors couldn't trade him without triggering a fan revolt. Few Dubs have ever had a higher approval rating than Thompson, a no-fuss two-way star with a killer instinct you'd never suspect in someone with off-the-charts chill.
These are surprise trades, though, and we're firmly in shocker territory by sending Thompson to the Blazers for McCollum's less-onerous contract, Collins and the 16th pick in November's draft.
Thompson would be a perfect running mate for Damian Lillard—a wing with size who can (or could prior to his ACL tear) stick with everything from shifty point guards on the perimeter to power forwards down low. Gone would be the days of both Portland guards wearing targets for opposing defenses.
Golden State, mired in a ghastly tax situation, would be giving up the best player in the bargain but saving about $28 million (plus the tax penalties) by downgrading to McCollum and adding a young rotation-level big with potential to improve in Collins. What's more, possessing the No. 16 pick could make the Warriors a greater threat to swing a second deal involving their No. 2 selection, Andrew Wiggins and/or that top-three protected 2021 lottery ticket they've got coming from Minnesota.
More ammo should make Golden State's ongoing hunt for win-now stars easier.
Sacramento Kings: A Royal Frontcourt Upgrade
The Trade: Sacramento Kings acquire John Collins from the Atlanta Hawks for Marvin Bagley III and the No. 12 pick in the 2020 draft. Atlanta also gets swap rights on 2021 first-rounders.
In Marvin Bagley III, the Sacramento Kings would be trading a guy who might one day, if he hits the top range of his potential, be 90 percent as good as Collins was this past season. To swing the deal, Sacramento would have to include some sweeteners, but given Bagley's injury history and Collins' vastly superior shooting (40.1 percent from deep in 2019-20; Bagley is at 28.8 percent for his career), it shouldn't complain.
In fact, the only way Atlanta even considers a deal like this is if Collins' extension demands are so out of step with the team's valuation that a future together becomes impossible.
Kings fans will lament a "young team" giving up future assets and the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft as a mistake, but Sacramento actually isn't the up-and-coming development project some believe it to be. Other than Bagley and De'Aaron Fox, the Kings' likely 2020-21 rotation doesn't have a player under the age of 27.
Sacramento must extend Collins in this scenario, though he might be a touch overpaid at his max. Then again, if Collins' defense continues to progress and he can play more center, he and Fox would form one of the West's top young tandems.
San Antonio Spurs: The Horford Reclamation
The Trade: San Antonio Spurs acquire Al Horford and Matisse Thybulle from the Philadelphia 76ers for LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills.
You might want to cut this deal down early by arguing LaMarcus Aldridge would be a terrible fit alongside Joel Embiid, but how could he be any worse than Al Horford was?
In San Antonio, Horford would regain full-time starting center status and help nurture San Antonio's young guards with a game that favors facilitation more than Aldridge's post-scoring-heavy preference. True, Horford's deal runs two years longer than Aldridge's expiring contract, but the final year is only partially guaranteed, and it's not like the Spurs are a hot free-agent destination where preserving max space matters.
Matisse Thybulle is the real gem here, a defensive shark who could team with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White to wreak absolute havoc. No pass would go undeflected with those three on the floor.
Mills isn't the pick-and-roll maestro the Sixers need, but his energy and shooting off the bench—not to mention championship experience—would address several needs in the Sixers' rotation.
Finally, though Philadelphia adds $7 million in 2020-21 salary, it could make moves on the margins to diminish its tax bill before the end of the year and then sigh in relief as $37.2 million comes off the books at season's end.
Toronto Raptors: An O(M)G Trade for No. 1
The Trade: Toronto Raptors acquire the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft and Jacob Evans from the Minnesota Timberwolves for OG Anunoby and the No. 29 pick in the 2020 draft.
Obstacles to getting this done abound.
The Minnesota Timberwolves would have to believe this draft lacks a star, and they'd also have to be surprisingly short on other trade offers for the No. 1 overall pick.
Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors would have to be convinced the 2020 draft does have a franchise-altering talent in it, and they'd also have to believe that the player they take at No. 1 would be more appealing to future incoming free agents (cough, Giannis, cough) than Anunoby.
I'm higher on Anunoby than most. He profiles as a potential Defensive Player of the Year who hits threes at a 40-percent clip. The Wolves might not believe he has that in him, but there's no denying his utterly perfect fit on Minnesota's roster. OG can shut down point guards, power forwards and everything in between, and he never needs the ball unless he's drilling an open three or dunking on someone. He's like a supercharged Robert Covington with significantly more strength and better on-ball defense.
Why would Toronto trade a guy like that? Well, because a rebuild is imminent, and while Anunoby is the type of player who could start for and improve any team, he's not a true cornerstone. Maybe the Raps believe LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards or James Wiseman is.
Utah Jazz: Love Finds a Way
The Trade: Utah Jazz acquire Kevin Love from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mike Conley and the No. 23 pick in the 2020 draft.
Donovan Mitchell shouldn't have a problem running the offense as a de facto point guard, especially with the additional playmaking that would come from Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and new addition Kevin Love. Last season, Utah put up 114.4 points per 100 possessions with Mitchell at the 1, 4.8 points better than its overall offensive rating.
This would be strictly a cost-cutting, asset-acquiring move for the Cavs, who would get out from under the last $91.5 million left on Love's deal and add a late first-rounder to take on Conley's expiring contract.
Assuming Utah doesn't trade Rudy Gobert, Love would have the league's best defensive eraser to eliminate his mistakes. At the same time, Love would add an element of frontcourt shooting and defensive rebounding that would help the Jazz on both ends.
Who's excited for the rebirth of Love's overhead outlet passes to a streaking Mitchell?
Washington Wizards: Doing the Impossible
The Trade: Washington Wizards acquire Devonte' Graham and Nicolas Batum (opt in) from the Charlotte Hornets for John Wall and the No. 9 pick in the 2020 draft.
We did it. We traded John Wall, the man who might very well have the most untradeable contract in the league.
And the deal is almost halfway sensible!
The Charlotte Hornets never attract free agents without overpaying them to historic degrees. Nicolas Batum is the latest example. So while Wall's remaining three years and $132 million mean he's got the scariest contract in the league, that commitment would be less significant for a team that can't expect its cap space to go as far as others'. And with the No. 9 pick joining their No. 3 selection, the Hornets would also give themselves loads of trade options ahead of the draft.
Batum is pure salary filler, but Devonte' Graham actually matters. He broke out in 2019-20, finishing with averages of 18.2 points and 7.5 assists. Point guards who can shoot threes off the dribble, which Graham can, are valuable—certainly worth more than the $1.6 million he's due next season. With Bradley Beal growing as a playmaker during Wall's lengthy absence, Graham's off-ball stretch might even make him a better fit as Beal's running mate.
Chances are, the Wizards will want to see how Wall looks in game action before moving him. His trade value could improve after a healthy couple of months to start the 2020-21 season. But trading him now, if possible, would remove the chance that Wall either looks nothing like himself or can't stay healthy, a development that would further torpedo his value.