Simple NBA Trades That Could Change Everything
One trade can change the NBA landscape forever.
The last two titles hammer that home.
The Toronto Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard in July 2018 and hoisted the championship trophy the following June. The Los Angeles Lakers effectively operated on the same timeline with Anthony Davis in 2019, only the campaign's suspension meant the champagne showers didn't flow until October.
Will this offseason follow suit? That's impossible to tell, but if any of the following five hypothetical deals go down, the league will feel their impact.
Miami Adds Victor Oladipo
Miami Heat receive: Victor Oladipo
Indiana Pacers receive: Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala and KZ Okpala
Oladipo also has a potential path to South Beach by way of his 2021 free agency, though he's not the primary focus of Pat Riley's next whale hunt. But Oladipo may not want to wait that long away, as The Athletic's Jared Weiss reported the two-time All-Star is "looking to move on" from the Pacers this offseason.
Oladipo's trade value is murky, given his contract uncertainty and the fact that he hasn't looked right since a January 2019 knee injury. Even Miami has reportedly "cooled on the notion" of adding him, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, but this specific deal would be hard to overlook.
If healthy, Oladipo would immediately attack Heat deficiencies in point-of-attack defense and perimeter shot-creation. While not an elite spacer, he's shown enough—2.0 threes per night at a 36.6 percent clip between 2016-17 and 2017-18—to think he could keep defenses from overcrowding the middle.
It'd be a gamble that Oladipo could return to form, but the reward seems worth the risk. If he's right, Miami would improve its championship outlook for Jimmy Butler's age-31 season without sacrificing Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson or the chance to chase Giannis Antetokounmpo next summer.
This would only work if the Pacers decide they're done with Oladipo—either because he's done with them or they don't want to cover his next contract—and think both Kendrick Nunn and KZ Okpala can be long-term keepers. If that's the case, they'd also be attracted to Andre Iguodala for veteran leadership, playmaking and lockdown defense, all of which could help a club trying to snap a streak of five consecutive first-round exits.
Denver Wins Jrue Holiday Sweepstakes
Denver Nuggets receive: Jrue Holiday
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Gary Harris, Bol Bol, PJ Dozier, 2022 first-round pick (top-five protected) and 2024 first-round pick (top-five protected)
Every title contender with assets surely took note when The Athletic's Shams Charania reported the Pelicans "are openly discussing" Jrue Holiday deals. He might be one tier shy of elite, All-NBA status, but he's an impact player at both ends who does so many things sufficiently or better that he'd be a seamless fit on virtually any roster.
New Orleans should be inundated with offers, though Holiday isn't quite enough of a catch to bring back a top-shelf asset like Michael Porter Jr. or Tyler Herro. But Denver would still need multiple trade chips to bring him in and could justify the cost given its proximity to contention.
Despite reaching the conference finals, the Nuggets still look like they need one more piece. Remember, they needed seven games to survive the first and second rounds, the latter of which required a Houdini-level escape from a 3-1 deficit. They have a superstar in Nikola Jokic and, if his postseason performance sustains, a second star in Jamal Murray, but a do-it-all third wheel could bring everything into focus.
Denver is probably a half-step behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers for best in the West. This deal would at least help the Nuggets narrow the gap if not erase it entirely.
New Orleans' 2020-21 outlook would damper a bit, but a team whose best players are 20 (Zion Williamson) and 23 (Brandon Ingram, a near certainty to return in restricted free agency) years old shouldn't be hyper-focused on the present.
All five incoming pieces could brighten the future, especially Bol Bol, whose best-case scenario—a 7'2" package of sniping, shot-blocking and even a little handling—seems an unbelievable frontcourt fit with Williamson. Gary Harris has value as a defender and loads more if he rediscovers his three-point form. PJ Dozier would add backcourt depth, and the draft picks could be kept or used to broker another deal.
Blake Griffin to Golden State
Golden State Warriors receive: Blake Griffin and No. 7 pick
Detroit Pistons receive: Andrew Wiggins and No. 2 pick
The Warriors should re-enter the championship race with healthy versions of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson back in the fold. But they probably don't lead the discussion, due both to an unproven supporting cast and the fact that their core members (the Splash Brothers) are on the wrong side of 30.
That's why trading the No. 2 pick for an impact addition has long made sense, but there's a catch. This is a down year for the draft, so the pick isn't bringing back an All-NBA-level star. The Warriors have "explored" the possibility, but nothing is "likely to materialize," per ESPN's Zach Lowe.
Enter Blake Griffin. He's been on five All-NBA rosters, but most selections came several years and multiple injuries ago. He's still paid like a star ($36.8 million for next season, $39.0 million player option for 2021-22), but he won't be priced as such on the trade market. His future looks murky as ever after an injury-riddled 2019-20, and he holds little value to a Detroit team staring down the barrel of a full-scale rebuild.
Griffin's upside might be the best Golden State can get. If he finds his way to full strength, he'd give the Warriors another shooter, shot-creator and adequate spacer.
There's no telling if he can return to form, of course, but that's why Detroit would pair him with the No. 7 pick. That's important for the Warriors not only to expand their rotation, but also to potentially find a foundational keeper for the next chapter.
The Pistons, in turn, would go from an aimless rebuild to now having a top prospect at the heart of the project. Even if they all have weaknesses, Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman also have potential paths to stardom. The same might be true of the players on the board at No. 7, but they wouldn't have the same pedigree or as good of odds of climbing that high.
That would be the drive for Detroit, though Andrew Wiggins still has the age (25) and tools to make him worthy of a developmental project.
Phoenix Makes Push with CP3
Phoenix Suns receive: Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Ricky Rubio and Kelly Oubre Jr.
The Suns tabbed Ricky Rubio as their rebuild accelerator last offseason and saw a decent return on the investment with a jump in winning percentage from .232 to .466. But Chris Paul could be a different kind of fast-forward button.
The Point God might zoom this developmental process to ludicrous speed.
His reputation took a few hits in recent years due to his colossal contract (which still has two years and more than $85 million left on it) and a sometimes awkward fit with the Houston Rockets, but Paul proved he remains a special talent. He propelled the Oklahoma City Thunder to a jaw-dropping fifth-placed finish in the Western Conference and landed fifth overall in ESPN's real plus-minus.
Rubio showed the Suns what they could achieve with a competent point guard. Paul could change the possibilities as a top-of-the-line floor general. He could take defensive heat away from—and simultaneously raise the efficiency of—Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton and pinpoint the offensive comfort spots of Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.
Even after an 8-0 run through the seeding games in the bubble, Phoenix is at most a mild curiosity in a fully loaded West. Put Paul on the roster, and the Suns could find themselves competing for the right to host a first-round playoff series.
OKC, meanwhile, would gain significant financial relief—Kelly Oubre Jr. has an expiring $14.4 million salary; Ricky Rubio is owed $34.8 million for the next two seasons—and add two players to keep or trade. Oubre in particular could be interesting for the Thunder. He fits their mold of long, athletic wings, and at 24 years old, he's young enough to grow alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley.
Boston Gets Gobert, Hayward Returns to Utah
Boston Celtics receive: Rudy Gobert, Ed Davis and Miye Oni
Utah Jazz receive: Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis, No. 14 pick (via MEM), No. 26 pick and 2023 first-round pick (top-three protected)
There are a lot of reasons to imagine this deal wouldn't happen, but those aren't fun to break down. Conversely, it's fascinating to think what Rudy Gobert could do along the back line of Boston's fourth-ranked defense and how Gordon Hayward would look back in Salt Lake City and alongside Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and a healthy Bojan Bogdanovic.
Boston left an Al Horford-sized hole in its frontcourt unaddressed for the 2019-20 campaign and almost got away without it. But in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics couldn't find a physical answer for a fully charged Bam Adebayo.
Gobert would scratch that itch in the best way possible. He's a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and one of only two players with career marks of a 21.0 rebound percentage and 5.0 block percentage. While his offensive range is limited, he just paced the Association in screen assists and ranked in the 72nd percentile as a pick-and-roll screener, so it's not like he's a one-way contributor.
But he'll need a new contract by 2021, and maybe he wants more than Utah is Willing to spend. Boston might balk at a massive number, too, but it's worth executing the trade to see if it's the last piece of the Celtics' puzzle.
If the Jazz don't want to pay Gobert, this would give them an escape option that includes a former All-Star, a plug-and-play center and three draft picks. If Utah deems that the right decision, then it shouldn't worry about whatever awkwardness might initially come with Hayward's return, since he left the franchise at the alter in 2016.
Hayward could take some playmaking and scoring responsibilities off of Donovan Mitchell's plate, plus he can handle multiple assignments at the other end. Theis could fit fine as a starter or work off the bench if Tony Bradley is ready to take over. In addition to the draft considerations, Utah would also get out of paying Ed Davis' $5 million salary in 2020-21 and send out Miye Oni to make the money work.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.