Impact Trades NBA Contenders Can Make Now
Impact trades in the NBA don't always have to involve superstars.
Like with Channing Frye to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 or Marc Gasol joining the Toronto Raptors in 2019, sometimes putting the right role player on a team already loaded with talent can make the difference between making the playoffs and winning a title.
While trading for a star should still be on the table for the following six contenders, bringing in a solid starter or rotation player is more realistic given the lack of future draft picks and young talent most teams competing for a championship are left with.
Luke Kennard Joins the Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: G/F Luke Kennard
Detroit Pistons Receive: 2020 No. 28 overall pick, SG Talen Horton-Tucker, G Quinn Cook
Despite winning the 2019-20 title, the Lakers were not a good outside shooting team.
L.A. ranked just 21st during the regular season in three-point accuracy (34.9 percent), finishing 12th out of 16 teams during the playoffs (35.4 percent).
Kennard would instantly become the Lakers' best outside threat as a 40.2 percent lifetime shooter from three who canned 42.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this past season. At 6'5", he can line up at shooting guard or small forward, keeping the floor spaced for LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
At 24, Kennard is still improving and will be a restricted free agent next offseason, meaning the Lakers can match any offer he receives. This wouldn't just be a rental.
For the Pistons, getting a first-round pick in this draft and a 19-year-old guard in Horton-Tucker is good value for the team's rebuild.
A late first-rounder puts Detroit in position to grab a player such as Tre Jones, Jaden McDaniels or Cassius Winston, and Horton-Tucker averaged 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 steals in 38 G League games as a rookie.
Cook gives the Pistons a veteran guard in the backcourt to help mentor whichever point guard the team likely selects with one of its first-round picks.
Tristan Thompson Brings Toughness to Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: C Tristan Thompson (sign-and-trade)
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: C Ivica Zubac
With Montrezl Harrell entering free agency and Zubac still a few years away from hitting his prime, the Clippers could use a veteran center who can defend and clean the glass.
Enter Thompson, who's coming off a career year by averaging 12.0 points, 10.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in his 30.2 minutes per game. The 6'9", 254-pound center is athletic enough to defend on the perimeter and still strong enough to bother opposing big men in the paint.
With the Clippers likely over the cap ($115.8 million in salary even without a new deal for Harrell), signing a free agent like Thompson is out of the question. The two sides would have to agree to a new deal instead, one that likely ends up being between $8 million and $10 million annually.
The Cavs should ask for Zubac back, a center who better fits their rebuilding timeline.
Zubac is under contract for three years and $22 million, great value for a player who has developed into a solid starter in Los Angeles. While he doesn't possess Thompson's defense versatility, Zubac is a great rebounder with rim-protecting potential.
Thompson should be thrilled with the move, given he already owns a house in L.A. and would get to start for a championship-caliber team once again. The Clippers get a win-now, playoff-tested big man, and the Cavs make sure they don't lose their longest-tenured player for nothing.
JJ Redick Returns to Bucks
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: SG JJ Redick
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: 2020 No. 24 overall pick, PF D.J. Wilson, PF Ersan Ilyasova
Despite his jump to 30.4 percent this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn't look like he'll be a good three-point shooter anytime soon, so finding guys who can space the floor around him will continue to be a priority.
While the Bucks had the NBA's most accurate sniper this past season (George Hill, 46.0 percent), adding the player who finished just behind him would go a long way in improving Milwaukee's 18th-place ranking.
Redick nailed 45.3 percent of his threes for the Pelicans and doesn't look like he's slowing down at age 36. He'd be an elite option for Antetokounmpo to kick out to and serve as a veteran mentor to young shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo.
The Pelicans may not be ready to part with veteran Jrue Holiday just yet, but letting Redick go for a first-round pick and Wilson would be difficult to pass up.
Adding two more first-round picks (Nos. 13 and 24 overall) should complete New Orleans' rising core, and Wilson is a 24-year-old first-round pick by the Bucks in 2017. Ilyasova gives the Pelicans a veteran floor-spacer off the bench.
Warriors Keep Flexibility Alive
Golden State Warriors Receive: C Cody Zeller
Charlotte Hornets Receive: 2020 No. 51 overall pick, $15.4 million trade exception
While Zeller isn't going to push the Warriors past the Los Angeles Lakers by himself, getting the veteran center is a chess move that helps set up Golden State's future.
With a $17.2 million trade exception that's set to expire Oct. 24, this is a use-it-or-lose-it situation for a Warriors team that should be looking to take in veterans that rebuilding teams want to move on from.
Zeller (11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 52.4 percent shooting in 23.1 minutes per game in 2019-20) is good enough to become the Warriors' starting center for now, and his $15.4 million expiring salary could come in handy in future trades.
Charlotte could open up roughly $43.6 million in cap space this offseason by dumping Zeller and taking on no salary in return and would get a $15.4 million trade exception to use over the next calendar year.
The Hornets could then go after multiple free agents, with Fred VanVleet, Montrezl Harrell and Christian Wood making the most sense from an age and position standpoint.
Getting an additional second-round pick for Zeller is a bonus for a player who's likely going to leave a rebuilding Charlotte team in 2021 anyway.
Drummond Goes to Dallas
Dallas Mavericks Receive: C Andre Drummond
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: PF Maxi Kleber, C Dwight Powell, PG Delon Wright, 2020 No. 31 overall pick
Getting Drummond is a two-part plan for the Mavericks, one that helps them be competitive in 2020-21 and opens up cap space for a run at Giannis Antetokounmpo in free agency.
With Powell still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in late January, the Mavs could use Drummond as their starting center alongside Kristaps Porzingis. As a two-time All-Star and the NBA's best rebounder again this past season (15.2 boards, 26.0 total rebound percentage), Drummond would give Luka Doncic another big body to use as a screener and lob target.
While his presence could help Dallas make a deep playoff run, his expiring $28.8 million contract may actually be more valuable.
If the Mavericks want to open up space for Antetokounmpo in 2021, this deal gives them an extra $28.4 million to do so by trading the contracts of Powell, Kleber and Wright. Dallas would then have roughly $55.9 million in committed salary going into 2021-22, giving the Mavs more than enough cap space to try to sign the two-time MVP.
For Cleveland, this is about maximizing assets and getting the best draft pick in the 2020 second round.
Instead of losing Drummond for nothing in free agency or risk giving him a monster contract, the Cavs instead get three rotation veterans to fill in around their young core. Kleber, Powell (when healthy) and Wright could all be flipped later for picks or young players as well.
Cleveland has the No. 5 overall pick but no other selections, so picking again at No. 31 a year after getting Kevin Porter Jr. at No. 30 overall would be wise.
Spencer Dinwiddie Comes to South Beach
Miami Heat Receive: PG Spencer Dinwiddie
Brooklyn Nets Receive: G Kendrick Nunn, SF Andre Iguodala
The Heat should be looking for potential replacements for unrestricted free agent point guard Goran Dragic while also maintaining their financial flexibility heading into 2021.
Dinwiddie would be the perfect fit as a 27-year-old floor general who averaged 20.6 points, 3.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 31.2 minutes per game for the Nets this past season. He has a $12.3 million player option for the 2021-22 season, meaning he can either opt out and open up more cap space for Miami or stay on an incredibly reasonable contract.
Able to play on or off the ball, Dinwiddie fits the Heat as a scorer and playmaker who could take over Dragic's role and is seven years younger.
The Nets won't have as big of a need for Dinwiddie's scoring with a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this upcoming season, and they could certainly use Iguodala's defense, experience and leadership.
Nunn—who finished second in Rookie of the Year voting this past season after averaging 15.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists—gives the Nets a backup to Irving.