1 Trade Idea for Every NBA Team 2 Weeks into the Season

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2021

1 Trade Idea for Every NBA Team 2 Weeks into the Season

0 of 30

    Carmen Mandato/Associated Press

    All NBA rosters can be upgraded.

    Or downgraded temporarily for an eventual lift in the right direction.

    That's why the trade rumor mill moves in perpetuity. The Association is never more than a productive phone call away from a blockbuster exchange, and even trades that are seemingly made on the margins can prove to have major repercussions down the road.

    With two weeks of the 2020-21 campaign behind us, clubs have a better sense of what they can and can't do and how that should shape their approach to #TradeSZN. We'll help get that process going with a trade idea for every franchise, though we'll stop short of working out all the finer financial details of these hypothetical moves. Executives need something to do between now and the March 25 trade deadline, right?

Atlanta Hawks

1 of 30

    Tami Chappell/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Consolidate prospects for Caris LeVert trade.

    Atlanta looks rock-solid on the wing, but an aggressive move for Caris LeVert could give that group a shot at being special.

    He'd bring a dynamic element this supporting cast can't replicate without him. It's like the secondary scoring of John Collins, but more of a self-sufficient nature. Or the secondary playmaking of Bogdan Bogdanovic with a more powerful scoring punch. Or the net-shredding of Danilo Gallinari but with more off-the-dribble verve.

    LeVert may not correct Atlanta's imbalanced slant toward the offensive end, but he'd take what this team does best and make it even better. He could be obtainable, too, if the Brooklyn Nets could use this deal to fetch the trade chips needed to broker a bigger blockbuster.

Boston Celtics

2 of 30

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Bulk up the backcourt with George Hill.

    The center spot might seem like the obvious area of focus, but what are the chances Boston would bring in a big man who could join its closing lineup for a playoff game? That's almost certainly not happening.

    But crunch-time postseason minutes for George Hill? Absolutely.

    The veteran guard has more than 100 career playoff appearances on his resume, plus a low-maintenance style built around spot-up sniping, secondary playmaking and rugged defense that fits into almost any five-player puzzle. He could land in Boston and immediately provide insurance behind Kemba Walker while scratching itches for additional scoring and spacing help.

    He's leading a fish-out-of-water existence with the Oklahoma City Thunder at the moment, but the Celtics should be able to fix that with future draft picks or a prospect like Romeo Langford or Robert Williams III.

Brooklyn Nets

3 of 30

    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Address defensive void with Aaron Gordon.

    The Nets will have better than a puncher's chance of winning any playoff series they enter thanks to the combined knockout power of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. On nights when Caris LeVert is breathing fire and Joe Harris is hitting his target like a world-class archer, Brooklyn can and will overwhelm the opposition with offense.

    But turning every contest into a race for 120 points probably isn't a championship formula. At some point, the Nets will need to win games through point prevention, and they should've seen enough by now to know Taurean Prince can't be their best big-wing stopper.

    The trade market might have an answer in Aaron Gordon, who could thrive as an uber-athletic defensive Swiss Army knife while the Nets' many scorers mask his shortcomings at the opposite end. The Gordon-for-LeVert framework of a mini-blockbuster could capture the interest of both sides.

Charlotte Hornets

4 of 30

    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Add a young center for cheap.

    Charlotte probably can't justify a big-ticket splurge at this stage of its post-Kemba Walker rebuild, but the roster is clearly making progress. Now it's time to see what it could do with an exciting option on the interior.

    The center spot is the obvious area of attention, as Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are on the final seasons of their contracts. Oh yeah, they're also Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo, so even if they were on the payroll going forward, the Hornets probably would've hunted for an upgrade.

    Now, since splurging is off the table, Charlotte should scan the clearance section, where it might find Mo Bamba with several rate reductions since being made the sixth overall pick in 2018. He's (woefully) short on proven production but literally long on intrigue—there aren't a lot of 7-footers with 7'10" wingspans walking around, let alone ones who might actually have a three-point shot in their arsenal.

    The Orlando Magic might be running out of patience with Bamba, but he could easily be worth the wait for the Hornets. A change-of-scenery swap built around Bamba for Malik Monk makes a lot of sense on paper.

Chicago Bulls

5 of 30

    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Turn Zach LaVine into future assets.

    After an overhaul of the front office and a coaching change from Jim Boylen to Billy Donovan, the Bulls sought to break away from their recently abysmal past (.310 winning percentage the past three seasons, second-worst in the Association).

    It's not clear that's taking place. In fact, Basketball-Reference's simple rating system—which weighs average point differential and strength of schedule—was a bigger fan of last season's squad (minus-4.00) than this year's (minus-4.19).

    The front office inherited much of this roster, and it might have major doubts regarding how much is worth keeping. That seemingly starts right at the top, where leading scorer Zach LaVine is over his head and would benefit from moving down the offensive pecking order elsewhere. If a team would part with picks and a prospect for him—looking at you, New York Knicks—the Bulls' new brass should pounce on the deal and continue the redesign of this franchise.

Cleveland Cavaliers

6 of 30

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Increase versatility with do-it-all swingman.

    The calendar could eventually prove there's plenty smoke-and-mirrors with Cleveland's strong start—this probably isn't the second-best defense in basketball—but two things won't change.

    First, this group is surprisingly fun. Collin Sexton obliterating opposing defenses, Darius Garland finding his mark from distance, Andre Drummond and JaVale McGee running their own glass-cleaning operation—we're here for all of it.

    But the second certainty isn't as enjoyable: This roster runs light on versatility, which is a no-no in the modern NBA. Cleveland needs more flexibility, and it might sniff out an undervalued supplier if it turns enough stones. Troy Brown Jr. looks like he's waiting to be rescued from the Washington Wizards, and if something like Damyean Dotson and second-round picks could get it done, that might be a big win for the Wine and Gold.

Dallas Mavericks

7 of 30

    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Buy a bargain-priced Patrick Beverley.

    The Mavericks have been in the third-star market for months, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News, but that kind of blockbuster probably isn't in the cards. Even if someone like Bradley Beal makes his way to the trade block, Dallas would have trouble forming the strongest offer without sacrificing an untouchable.

    So the Mavs could instead get more mileage by targeting a complementary piece like Patrick Beverley, whom they targeted in 2019 free agency. Now that he's logging the fewest minutes of his Los Angeles Clippers tenure, there's major bargain potential should Dallas swoop in with a palatable offer.

    Could Jalen Brunson and filler be enough to appease the Clips? The Mavericks would instantly grow more defensive and better spaced around Luka Doncic, and the sting of sacrificing Brunson might be mitigated if second-round rookie Tyrell Terry proves ready to contribute sooner than later.

Denver Nuggets

8 of 30

    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Broker an internet-breaking blockbuster.

    Early-season stumbles do nothing to change the fact that the time is now for the Nuggets to consider a conference-shifting mega-trade. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are ready to anchor a contender, and Denver could achieve that status by winning the James Harden sweepstakes.

    Now, it'll cost Michael Porter Jr., the apple of the Houston Rockets' eye the last time these teams talked Harden, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post, plus one of (if not both) Gary Harris or Will Barton.

    Maybe that sounds steep, but it's James Freakin' Harden. You know, the three-time scoring champ who took the long road to training camp and is still pumping in 33.0 points and 10.8 assists per night with eye-popping efficiency (47.4/40.9/87.0 shooting slash).

    If it's possible to construct a championship almost exclusively on the offensive end, the formula probably involves powering up with a Jokic-Murray-Harden trio. That's enough to devolve opposing defensive game plans into crossing fingers and hoping for the best.

Detroit Pistons

9 of 30

    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Flip Derrick Rose for the most draft considerations available.

    The Pistons are going nowhere fast, but at least it sort of seems intentional now. Seemingly abandoning their annual pursuit of the eighth seed, they are on the doorstep of a full-scale rebuild.

    Turning Derrick Rose into draft picks would be a wise way to cross the threshold.

    The 32-year-old just engineered his most prolific outing of the early campaign on Monday (24 points on 50 percent shooting, 8 assists against 0 turnovers), which should remind all suitors how effective he can be in an instant-offense role. Would the Philadelphia 76ers give up their 2021 first-round pick for Rose? If there's a first on the table, there's a deal to be done.

Golden State Warriors

10 of 30

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Expand the Splash family.

    The Warriors need more shooting.

    Yes, Stephen Curry is still the sharpshooting king of the Bay, and Klay Thompson will eventually make it back to this team, but the point still stands. Those players need more spacers around them, and for as synonymous as the organization has been with marksmanship over the years, the cupboards have run dry of support snipers.

    "Golden State's role players still aren't scary enough to prevent opponents from helping hard off of them," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote. "Only Brad Wanamaker has logged a season hitting over 40 percent of his threes, and it came on only 39 attempts; most struggle to reach league average."

    The Warriors should be cautious about overinvesting in this team, since it might be a few more bad breaks away from a teardown. That probably restricts them to the specialist market, but they should still explore juicing that orange. Given their non-Curry shooting shortage, they could get a lot of mileage out of a designated gunner like Wayne Ellington, who may not cost more than a future second-round pick.

Houston Rockets

11 of 30

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Bring back Ben Simmons in a James Harden blockbuster.

    Houston's primary aim in any Harden deal should be adding central figures for the franchise's next chapter. For all the potential pieces going back to Space City, none better fits the cornerstone role than Ben Simmons, 2016's top overall pick who's already made two All-Star appearances and been named to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive teams.

    The Sixers "have signaled a willingness" to part with Simmons for Harden, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, and the Rockets should be prepared to pounce. For all the mystery-box appeal of a top prospect like Michael Porter Jr. or Tyler Herro, the certainty of a ready-made star like Simmons should ultimately tip the scales in Houston's favor.

    Simmons needs a roster tailored to his strengths, and Philadelphia has (understandably) made Joel Embiid its focal point in lineup constructions. But a Houston team that's woefully short on long-term keepers should have the time and resources to position Simmons for success. In exchange for that effort, the Rockets would be getting a disruptive, five-position defender and jumbo-sized playmaker who's a nightmare in the open court.

Indiana Pacers

12 of 30

    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Trade Aaron Holiday for wing depth.

    Expecting to see a Myles Turner trade suggestion here? Honestly, so were we at first. But the Pacers seem committed to their twin-tower model, and when the two-man crew of Turner and Domantas Sabonis is sporting a dominant plus-7.6 net rating across 131 minutes, maybe this zig against the league's small-ball zag is the right move to make.

    You know what else would be a savvy move? Swapping out Aaron Holiday to beef up a wing rotation missing both Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren.

    The Pacers have spent two-plus seasons trying to craft the ideal role for Holiday, and he's never looked farther from finding it (5.6 points per game on 37.2/26.1/50.0 shooting). He needs more seasoning, and Indy may be done waiting. But the New York Knicks should have nothing but patience, and if they could flip Alec Burks for Holiday, that has real win-win potential.

Los Angeles Clippers

13 of 30

    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Bring back Eric Bledsoe.

    Kawhi Leonard's request for an upgrade at point guard went unfulfilled. The Clippers need to correct that, both to improve their championship chances and to show Leonard, who can enter free agency this offseason, that his future is best aligned with theirs.

    An aggressive move for Eric Bledsoe, who spent his first three seasons with the Clippers, could send that message pretty clearly. He's a more natural playmaker than any of L.A.'s nominal floor generals, and if his early shooting success sustains (37.1 percent from distance), he shouldn't spoil the squad's offensive spacing.

    Conversely, the New Orleans Pelicans might see Patrick Beverley as a cleaner fit for their roster, since he's a more proven shooter and less ball-dominant. Tack on a few low-level sweeteners heading to the Big Easy (maybe a future second-rounder and project center Mfiondu Kabengele), and perhaps there's enough to get the Pels' approval.

Los Angeles Lakers

14 of 30

    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Swap Montrezl Harrell for a stretch big.

    Switching locker rooms at Staples Center has done nothing to slow Montrezl Harrell's individual production. The hustler-turned-skilled-scorer remains a wrecking ball inside the lines, posting flashy per-36-minute averages of 18.5 points and 10.9 rebounds.

    But there remain unanswered questions about his utility in late-game postseason situations. Depending on the matchup, those exist for Marc Gasol, too. Unless the Lakers plan to pivot heavily toward using Anthony Davis at center in the second season (he spent 60 percent of his minutes there in the 2020 playoffs), L.A. should diversify its frontcourt looks ahead of time.

    Nemanja Bjelica may not match Harrell's talent, but the former could enjoy a cleaner fit playing off the Lakers' stars as a superior spacer and ball-mover. If the Sacramento Kings would throw in someone like Glenn Robinson III—if they're worried about Marvin Bagley III's development, they might need Harrell—the Lakers could improve their playoff whole, even if the individual parts aren't quite as strong.

Memphis Grizzlies

15 of 30

    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Make a future-focused trade with Kyle Anderson.

    Maybe Kyle Anderson has a different definition of slow motion than the rest of us? Aptly nicknamed Slo Mo, the veteran forward has sprinted through the early portion of the new campaign and bumped his output to career-best levels in several categories, including points (16.7), rebounds (8.3) and assists (3.7).

    If the Grizzlies were playing for the present, he'd be the kind of player who would never be in the same zip code as the trade block. But a Memphis team missing Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow should be thinking much further into the future—especially if it conveniently improves the club's odds of striking it rich in the loaded 2021 draft.

    The time to sell Anderson is now, and his modest contract ($19.4 million over this season and next) should make him extremely marketable to contenders. The Portland Trail Blazers could target Anderson to continue their overhaul at the forward spots, and they might grab Memphis' attention by building a package around a prospect like Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons or Nassir Little.

Miami Heat

16 of 30

    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Tab Otto Porter Jr. to be the new starting 4.

    Six games, six starting lineups for the Heat. While teams will surely do plenty of shuffling in this unique season, Miami's scrambling has less to do with covering absences than it does reflecting the fact this roster never got around to replacing Jae Crowder in the offseason.

    Maurice Harkless got a look and has three points in six games. Meyers Leonard and Kelly Olynyk have both gotten chances, even though both have defensive issues and neither resided in coach Erik Spoelstra's circle of trust last postseason. Andre Iguodala is 36, Jimmy Butler is 31, and both are wings—they aren't the long-term solution here, either.

    But maybe Otto Porter Jr. could do the trick. He's a top-shelf three-and-D option when healthy, and while he's overpaid, his $28.5 million salary will come off the books at season's end. He could offer Olynyk's spacing and the defensive flexibility of a Harkless (or aging Iguodala) all in one.

    Porter should be obtainable, too. Chicago needs to clear the runway for No. 4 pick Patrick Williams, whose arrival likely pushed Porter out of the organization's long-term plans. If the Bulls would accept something like Iguodala, Leonard, Kendrick Nunn and KZ Okpala, they'd walk away with a pair of prospects, while the Heat would finally have a playoff-ready starting power forward.

Milwaukee Bucks

17 of 30

    Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Pave a path to P.J. Tucker.

    One of the easiest ways of identifying potential trade targets is to follow the breadcrumbs trailing behind a team. In this case, Milwaukee looms as a logical suitor of P.J. Tucker, because he was already on the team's radar ahead of the draft.

    The Bucks might only be certain of 60 percent of their closing lineup in the playoffs: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Tucker would bring this group 20 percent closer to completion as a multi-positional defender with a trusty 36.1 percent three-point success rate for his career. Good luck scoring against this quartet, no matter how coach Mike Budenholzer handles the final spot.

    Tucker is also "irate" over his contract situation, per The Athletic's Kelly Iko, Sam Amick and Shams Charania, and the Bucks could be far more amenable to a new deal than a Rockets team that's one Harden trade away from a top-to-bottom rebuild. As long as the trade cost isn't astronomic—would Jordan Nwora and D.J. Wilson do the trick?—Milwaukee should be all over this.

Minnesota Timberwolves

18 of 30

    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Find a new frontcourt partner for Karl-Anthony Towns.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves made a big step toward appeasing Karl-Anthony Towns by brokering a deadline blockbuster for his close friend D'Angelo Russell. Upgrading the frontcourt around Towns should be the next area of focus for this franchise.

    Juancho Hernangomez and Jake Layman have both auditioned at the 4 spot to disastrous results. Hernangomez's shooting rates have plummeted (26.7/13.3/33.3 slash line), and Layman's 52.1 true shooting percentage marks a three-year low. This is not working.

    The Wolves could consider a dramatic shake-up, like prying 2018 No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III away from the Sacramento Kings (and granting Bagley's father's wish). Bagley's physicality and athleticism could be snug fits for Towns, whose spacing might give Bagley more opportunities to attack the basket. If the Kings are eager for a fresh start, they might be interested in 2019 No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

New Orleans Pelicans

19 of 30

    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Flip Jaxson Hayes for a perimeter scorer.

    The New Orleans Pelicans can't shoot. Like, at all. They're bottom five in three-point makes (10.4), three-point percentage (32.3) and free-throw percentage (70.0). The funk in Crescent City is so bad, it's even enveloped JJ Redick (a career 41.5 percent three-point marksman who's now hitting just 24.3 percent from distance).

    They should use Jaxson Hayes—an intriguing young big who's not a spacer and indefinitely blocked by Steven Adams (plus any of Zion Williamson's minutes at center)—to correct that.

    Hayes has neither the upside nor the exposure to bring a difference-maker back to the Big Easy, but he could at least be used to nab someone with a functional outside stroke. Svi Mykhailiuk might be worth a flier if the Pistons want to hedge their bets on developing a long-term starter at center.

New York Knicks

20 of 30

    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Ship out Alec Burks for rebuilding assets.

    The Big Apple's spotlight still shines bright enough to prop up a player, and when that exposure is combined with eye-catching statistics, it can create quite the trade chip. Last season, the phenomenon helped the New York Knicks convert Marcus Morris Sr. into a first-round draft pick. History could be repeating itself with Alec Burks.

    Like Morris, Burks is maximizing his moment in a featured role for the 'Bockers with a nightly contribution of 20.7 points on an absurd 53.1/66.7/90.0 shooting. You can attach all the caveats you want—tiny sample size, big numbers on a (presumably) bad team—but that production will still grab the attention of a contender in the market for an offensive boost.

    Golden State, which rostered Burks for the first half of 2019-20, could find itself in the market for supplemental scoring. If it deems the need great enough, maybe it would part with Jordan Poole and some type of draft consideration to get Burks, marking the second straight season the Knicks have parlayed a one-year pact with a veteran into a long-term asset.

Oklahoma City Thunder

21 of 30

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Add more draft picks to the pile with a George Hill trade.

    George Hill spent the better part of the past two seasons chasing championships with the Bucks. Now, he's passing the time with an Oklahoma City Thunder club most concerned with increasing its draft lottery odds.

    Contenders are monitoring the situation closely. Before the season even started, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Hill had sparked interest "around the league." The fact Hill is off to a scorching start—12.8 points per game on 52.2/43.5/75.0 shooting—should only increase the interest, as should his team-friendly contract (only $1.3 million of next season's $10 million salary is guaranteed).

    A bidding war is almost a reasonable expectation given Hill's playoff experience and flexibility as an on- or off-ball guard who can handle some switching at the defensive end. A first-round pick might be the start of OKC's asking price, and it's quite possible a championship hopeful could put more than one pick on the table.

Orlando Magic

22 of 30

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Convince Trail Blazers that Aaron Gordon is their missing piece.

    The Orlando Magic should be cautious of making any sweeping generalizations about their potential after a 5-2 start. Maybe they'll prove friskier than expected in this Jonathan Isaac-less year—or maybe wins over the Washington Wizards (twice), Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers aren't worth any extra pats on the back.

    This team still feels like its trudging toward a back-end playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, and it shouldn't accept this as fate. The Magic must start dreaming better, and they could start by trading away Aaron Gordon for prospects who can eventually assist a healthy Isaac and Markelle Fultz.

    With the right sales pitch, maybe Orlando can convince the Portland Trail Blazers that a Gordon deal would grant them equal footing with the West's elite. It's an optimistic take, sure, but a closing quintet of Gordon, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. or Gary Trent Jr. could be flat-out ferocious.

    If Orlando can extract multiple prospects from Portland—Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons should top the wish list—that could prove quite the haul for Gordon.

Philadelphia 76ers

23 of 30

    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Bring in The Beard.

    Joel Embiid is unguardable around the basket. Tobias Harris is simultaneously averaging 19.3 points and applying for 50/40/90 club membership. Seth Curry is shooting approximately a zillion percent from distance (officially 54.3). Dwight Howard is shooting even better from the field (72.0).

    Guess what all of the above has yielded the Philadelphia 76ers. You guessed it—the No. 14 offense in basketball. That's right, the offseason jettisoning of Al Horford and additions of several shooters has somehow done nothing to improve the efficiency of an offense that finished 14th in 2019-20.

    While this shouldn't be rationale for a blanket recommendation of splitting apart Embiid and Ben Simmons, the availability of Harden has made Simmons expendable for that specific swap. Let Houston try to figure out how to construct a modern offense around a non-shooting point guard. Philly should get busy unraveling all the potential layers of the two-man magic Embiid and Harden could create.

    "Philadelphia's post-Process kryptonite has been shot creation. James Harden is perhaps the best non-LeBron James shot creator this century," CBS Sports' Sam Quinn wrote. "Trading in Simmons, a non-shooter, for Harden, the NBA's best one-on-one generator of offense, vaults the 76ers to the top of the league offensively."

Phoenix Suns

24 of 30

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Swing big for John Collins.

    It's tempting to say the best trade idea for the Phoenix Suns is no trade idea at all. But since we promised you a swap for every squad, why not give the rising Suns an explosive power forward with moon-boots bounce?

    If the Suns alter their rotation, power forward is the obvious place to target. Newcomer Jae Crowder has been solid, but he's nothing special. John Collins could be exactly that, crushing lobs from Chris Paul or spacing the floor to open the attack lanes for Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

    The Hawks could be preparing for life after Collins, since they failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension this offseason. They also might have signed (Danilo Gallinari, $61.5 million) or drafted (Onyeka Okongwu, No. 6 pick) Collins' replacement. If Atlanta is ready to move forward without Collins, maybe it could flip him and Tony Snell to Phoenix for Crowder, Cameron Johnson and a lightly protected future first-round pick.

Portland Trail Blazers

25 of 30

    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Sell the farm for James Harden.

    CJ McCollum trade talk has long been an exercise in futility, but this could be the megadeal that finally changes the conversation. The Portland Trail Blazers have joined James Harden's list of preferred destinations, per The Athletic's Sam Amick and Kelly Iko, and the interest could absolutely be mutual, as The Athletic's Jason Quick detailed:

    "If there was a player who could rival McCollum for holding prime real estate in [Blazers president of basketball operations Neil] Olshey's heart, it would be Harden.

    "Olshey and Harden have remained close since Harden's youth, when both lived in Los Angeles. Olshey was an assistant coach at Artesia High, where Harden later attended after Olshey left, and when Olshey was hired by agent Arn Tellem to be a workout specialist for draft prospects, he and Harden forged a friendship that hasn't wavered."

    A Harden-Damian Lillard backcourt might be the Lillard-McCollum pairing on steroids. The defense might still be disastrous—though Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr. and Jusuf Nurkic would still be around to help stop the bleeding—but the offensive fireworks would be magnificent. Even if it never became more complex than "your turn, my turn," defenses would routinely face impossible pick-your-poison decisions.

    While Houston probably wouldn't think of McCollum as a long-term keeper, it could extract other assets from Portland in this exchange and then ship out McCollum for even more in a separate deal (or turn this exchange into a three-team deal). If the money could work for P.J. Tucker to join the trade, the Rockets might collect Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and draft picks.

Sacramento Kings

26 of 30

    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Move Marvin Bagley III for Lauri Markkanen.

    Ah, the good, old-fashioned challenge trade. With trade winds swirling around Marvin Bagley III and somehow never far from Lauri Markkanen, the highly drafted forwards could both be sent out by organizations no longer run by the front offices who brought them onboard.

    Bagley may forever be known as "Not Luka Doncic" to Kings fans, so perhaps a change of scenery is necessary to bring out his best. While it's far from certain how good he actually is, there have been flashes of brilliance, and it's not like he's hurting for physical tools.

    Markkanen, meanwhile, has occasionally tantalized when on the floor, but he's spent an uncomfortable amount of time on the injured list. Still, he's had enough magical moments to convince someone he's worth the risk.

San Antonio Spurs

27 of 30

    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Get DeMar DeRozan to Orlando for Aaron Gordon and a first-round pick.

    DeMar DeRozan is off to an almost best-case-scenario start for the San Antonio Spurs. He's been potent enough to increase his trade value (21.3 points and 7.3 assists per game), but not so good that he increases the win total and potentially decreases the lottery odds.

    At this production level, DeRozan should be marketable—yes, even as a 31-year-old with an expiring contract and a begrudging relationship with the three-point arc. And the first place for San Antonio to market him should be obvious: an Orlando team that already targeted him in November 2019, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor.

    DeRozan could waltz into the home of Disney and immediately serve as Orlando's offensive focal point, quite possibly raising the club's ceiling in the process. San Antonio, in turn, would leave the exchange with a long-term option at power forward in Aaron Gordon, a lottery protected first-round pick and possibly Al-Farouq Aminu as salary-filler.

Toronto Raptors

28 of 30

    Kim Klement/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Make a move for Caris LeVert.

    The sky is falling on the (Tampa Bay-based) Toronto Raptors. Six games are in the books, and all but one landed in the loss column. Certain portions of the fanbase are already calling for a dramatic deal rerouting one of the organization's most important players, be that 34-year-old Kyle Lowry or slow-starting Pascal Siakam.

    Toronto, which is just two seasons removed from a world title, might opt for selective buying instead.

    Rather than remove one of the roster's top talents, the Raptors could complement them with a scoring force capable of taking some of the heat off their backs. Caris LeVert could be the shot-creator this 28th-ranked attack needs to gain traction, and while he won't come cheap, he won't be break-the-bank expensive, either.

    The Nets could be inclined to move him for pieces who can more easily support their stars, like three-and-D swingman Norman Powell and sharpshooter Matt Thomas. Throw in a top-10 protected pick for Brooklyn to keep or dangle in a separate exchange, and both sides might be agreeable to the swap.

Utah Jazz

29 of 30

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Win the George Hill sweepstakes.

    Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder is essentially rolling out his playoff rotation already. While preparing too early is always preferable to doing it too late, this is happening out of necessity. There don't seem to be more than three trustworthy guards on the roster (Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson).

    The Jazz need more backcourt options—not to mention insurance behind the 33-year-old Conley—and they could find one with a familiar face. George Hill, who averaged a career-best 16.9 points during his lone season in Salt Lake City, is just waiting for a win-now power like the Jazz to free him from the Sooner State.

    Utah is close enough to title contention that it could justify parting with multiple assets to get him. The package would be highlighted be draft picks—Sam Presti's favorite!—but the Jazz could also give the Thunder their pick of lower-tier prospects in the Elijah Hughes, Juwan Morgan, Miye Oni range.

Washington Wizards

30 of 30

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Trade Idea: Meet Indiana's asking price for Myles Turner.

    This season's Washington Wizards sure look an awful lot like last season's Washington Wizards. Despite several personnel changes—most notably, the drafting of Deni Avdija and the John Wall-for-Russell Westbrook trade—this remains a team that's solid on offense (11th) and atrocious on defense (27th).

    If this team has any hopes of building a winner around Bradley Beal—if it didn't, wouldn't he have been traded by now?—it has to fix its fractured defense. Bringing in Myles Turner, the NBA's leading shot-blocker, would be a massive step in the right direction. As an added bonus, he's a good enough shooter from distance (career 35.2 percent) that he wouldn't spoil the spacing for Beal and Westbrook.

    The cost would be significant. It might take Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown Jr., a lottery-protected 2021 first-rounder and salary-filler to pull this off, but what do the Wizards have to lose? They aren't stopping anyone or winning much with this roster, and the switch will never flip without a substantial roster move.


    All stats current through games played on Jan. 4 and used courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.