Blockbuster NBA Trade Ideas You've Never Thought Of
NBA trade machines are running on fumes.
Between a forgettable free-agent class, the twists and turns taken in the James Harden sweepstakes and the perpetual interest in basketball's next blockbuster, fans and media alike have been wearing out the online resources used to create hypothetical trades.
Naturally, we're here to add to the wear and tear.
But what's the fun in dissecting potential deals that have already been discussed ad nauseam?
We want something new and different. You deserve something new and different. You deserve...well, the following five off-the-radar-but-definitely-could-happen mega-swaps.
Blazers Bulk Up, Cavaliers Add Assets
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Andre Drummond
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Jusuf Nurkic, Rodney Hood, Nassir Little and 2022 second-round pick
Portland is, as per usual, pretty good. But that's not good enough—not to play out the shared peaks of Damian Lillard and (as soon as he's healthy again) CJ McCollum, and certainly not enough to escape the Western Conference.
The Blazers need better balance to halt their defensive decline (28th in efficiency) and prevent further damage on the glass (23rd in rebounding percentage). They need Andre Drummond, a 6'10", 279-pound package of bulk, bounce and all the boards the Pacific Northwest could ever want.
The big fella is steamrolling toward his fifth rebounding title in six seasons (14.6 in just 30.4 minutes a night) and using his size and quick hands to disrupt opponents' activity at a staggering rate. If his rates hold, this will be his fourth straight season with a 4.0 block percentage and 2.0 steal percentage. Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel are the only other players to clear those marks more than twice in that stretch.
Drummond, who's also averaging a career-best 18.7 points, is a punisher around the basket and a better passer than you think (2.7 assists). He's also likely to be deemed expendable by the Cavaliers after they sneaked into the Harden trade to steal Jarrett Allen.
If Cleveland doesn't envision a future with Drummond, an unrestricted-free-agent-to-be, then flipping him for assets is the smart play. Cleveland probably doesn't want a total demolition, since it's proved quite plucky this season, so it would add useful rotation pieces in Jusuf Nurkic (recovering from a broken wrist) and ignitable scoring wing (and former Cavalier) Rodney Hood, who can't be traded until after Feb. 18.
But the Cavs also shouldn't be solely focused on the present, so they'd also bring back intriguing 20-year-old Nassir Little and a future second-rounder. That's a healthy return for a player the Cavs acquired for next to nothing at the 2020 deadline.
Suns Find Their Power Forward, Hawks Find a Future First
Phoenix Suns receive: John Collins
Atlanta Hawks receive: Cameron Johnson and 2024 first-round pick (top-five protected)
The Hawks haven't come out and said they're ready to move on from John Collins, but the writing is on the wall, and the script sure looks like it came from general manager Travis Schlenk.
Collins was extension-eligible this offseason and reportedly sought max money. Atlanta reportedly offered about $90 million instead. Collins can fill the 4 and 5 spots. The Hawks have heavily invested in other options at that position, from sacrificing a first-round pick to get Clint Capela to spending the No. 6 selection on Onyeka Okongwu to signing Danilo Gallinari to a three-year, $61.5 million deal.
Collins is also growing tired of Atlanta's Trae Young-centric offense, perhaps because Collins is averaging his fewest shots and points in three seasons—in a contract year, no less.
At the very least, Atlanta should be gauging Collins' market, and Phoenix should have an offer ready as soon as the phone call comes through. The Suns are making strides during Chris Paul's first season in the desert, but they could use more consistency at the power forward position than newcomer Jae Crowder and sophomore Cameron Johnson can provide.
Collins can put up silly stat lines in his sleep. Last season, he was one of four players to average 20 points and 10 rebounds. Franchise centerpieces Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns were the others.
Playing with Paul could get Collins the ball movement he's after, and the point guard could maximize his impact as a pick-and-roll screener. There should be enough spacing for the Collins-Deandre Ayton frontcourt to work, and head coach Monty Williams could stagger their minutes a bit to give each free rein on the interior. Having Crowder as a full-time second-teamer could make this already strong bench mob (fifth in plus/minus) even more potent.
Atlanta, meanwhile, would turn a player it's seemingly OK losing into 2019's No. 11 pick (Johnson, whose three-point sniping could help take heat off Young) and a lightly protected future first from a team with a 35-year-old point guard.
Pelicans Strengthen Supporting Cast, Bulls Reset
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Ryan Arcidiacono
Chicago Bulls receive: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Jaxson Hayes, 2021 first-round pick (protected 8-30 via LAL; unprotected in 2022) and 2022 first-round pick (top-eight protected)
The Bulls and Pelicans are both struggling to gain traction this season. The difference between them is that New Orleans already has a pair of foundational pieces to build around in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Chicago, on the other hand, must soon decide whether the best players left behind by the previous regime are worth keeping (and, more importantly, paying).
Lauri Markkanen will enter restricted free agency this offseason. When the two sides discussed an extension before the season, they were "roughly $4 million apart for the starting salary figure in the first year of a multiyear deal," K.C. Johnson reported for NBC Sports Chicago.
Zach LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022, and the first-time All-Star candidate is going to get the bag. "He's a max player," an Eastern Conference executive told B/R's Eric Pincus.
The Bulls might be (understandably) hesitant to commit major coin to a core that hasn't proved it can win (let alone win big). If that's the case, the Pelicans should be ready to cash in some assets for the support-scoring and floor-spacing relief Williamson and Ingram so desperately need.
Despite getting more than 46 points per contest from its top two stars, New Orleans sits just 20th in offensive efficiency due to a severe shooting shortage (29th in threes, 28th in three-point percentage). LaVine and Markkanen would immediately scratch that itch. Together, they're splashing six triples per night at a combined 39.1 percent clip.
They'd immediately jolt this offense, and if New Orleans is ready to commit to both, it might have its foundation fully set. LaVine would be the senior member of this quartet at 25 years old. Ingram and Markkanen are 23. Williamson won't turn 21 until July. This club could be a playoff participant this season or next and a problem in a few years.
Ryan Arcidiacono makes the money work, but he could also provide backcourt depth if New Orleans' young guards aren't quite ready for rotation roles.
Chicago would be pouncing on the picks as roster-building material, but for a club that has struggled with ball movement (29th in assist-to-turnover ratio) Lonzo Ball could be a good get, even with his shooting struggles. Jaxson Hayes is a project big man worth developing to see if his tools translate into more production. Eric Bledsoe is equal parts money matcher, serviceable starter and perhaps future trade tool.
Wizards Give Beal Scoring Support, Knicks Take the Long View
Washington Wizards receive: Julius Randle
New York Knicks receive: Robin Lopez, Ish Smith, Troy Brown Jr. and 2021 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
I get it. The fun part about discussing potential Wizards deals is the idea of relocating Bradley Beal elsewhere, ideally somewhere with proper scoring support and, you know, the ability to defend a parked car.
But Washington hasn't wavered on the idea that Beal is its building block, so maybe the focus should just be on building something more substantial around him.
Why not throw a flier at Julius Randle? Is there a chance his stats are inflated by his own underwhelming supporting cast? Sure. But that doesn't mean the production should be outright overlooked.
How many other players are even capable of averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists? Right now, the answer is one: MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. That's the statistical company Randle is keeping. You can try knocking the numbers, but they're as solid as a Charles Oakley screen.
Randle won't be the focal point of a good team, but could he be a strong sidekick? That's a question the Wizards should find out. While they must be cautious about over-investing in a season that might fall short of the playoffs, Randle shouldn't be prohibitively expensive to get.
New York's best basketball could be years down the line. The most important players for its future are probably a combination of RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin and players on some college (or high school) rosters. Robinson and Toppin are the senior members of that core at 22 years old.
That should keep the Knicks focused on the future, which ups the appeal of Troy Brown Jr. (2018's No. 15 pick) and a lottery-protected first-round pick. Robin Lopez, who can't be traded until after Feb. 20, and Ish Smith are primarily money-matchers, but their defense-first approach could get them in the good graces of Knicks skipper Tom Thibodeau.
Mavs Get Their Third Star, Rockets Get Another First-Rounder
Dallas Mavericks receive: Victor Oladipo
Houston Rockets receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green and 2025 first-round pick (top-seven protected)
Luka Doncic is a magician. But there's a reason magicians keep assistants close by their side.
Even the great ones need help, and Doncic isn't getting enough of it to put a serious dent in the Western Conference race. While he's busy auditioning for MVP (27.3 points, 9.9 assists and 9.8 rebounds), the 8-9 Mavs are spinning their tires at 10th in the West and 15th in net rating.
Dallas has been third-star hunting for a while, and its balanced books open the door to a major expenditure in 2021 free agency. But what if the Mavs could make their splash before then? And what if this cannon-ball addition did nothing to disrupt their financial flexibility?
That option is on the table in the form of Victor Oladipo, a free-agent-to-be who's getting his numbers back to near his pre-injury level (20.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.8 steals). Get him on the Mavericks, and he'd simultaneously fill support scoring, secondary shot-creating and point-of-attack-defense voids.
Some load management might be required for Oladipo and Kristaps Porzingis, but when healthy they could comprise the other roles in a Doncic-led Big Three. Oladipo "doesn't want to be" in Houston, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, and the rebuilding Rockets might not want to cover the cost of his free agency anyway. Opportunity is knocking for the Mavs, and answering it could be what makes this season a special one.
Houston has almost nothing stored away for the post-James Harden era beyond the wildly intriguing Christian Wood. Twelve different players have logged more than 100 minutes for the team this season. Undrafted rookie Mason Jones is the only one under 25.
While Tim Hardaway Jr. might be a rental (or a trade chip if the Rockets can flip him), rookie Josh Green, this draft's 18th overall selection, could be a keeper. He's an athletic, high-motor defender who stays in his lane as a cutter and catch-and-launch shooter on offense. Throw a future first-rounder into the trade, and that could be enough for the Rockets to bite.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.