NBA Trade Ideas for Every Team 1 Month Before the Deadline
Coming up with trades for every NBA team is ridiculously difficult, oodles of fun and a good way to burn hours upon hours of brainpower.
Let's see if the end product is as fulfilling.
To anyone rolling their eyes at another trade-idea dump: This is not a task that was taken on lightly.
Too often people forget the players in their hypothetical scenarios are actual human beings whose lives are uprooted by real-life trades. Engineering swaps so offhandedly is forever awkward, even if we don't always acknowledge it. This year only adds to the coarseness. The NBA season is unfolding amid a global pandemic and truncated schedule.
Imaginary transactions are still fun, but this is all-important perspective. It is equally paramount that we recognize the wildly ambiguous trade market to which the league is currently playing host. Twenty-two teams are within four games of .500 or better at this writing. Twenty-eight are within four games of a play-in spot or better.
The sellers market is far from a foregone conclusion as a result. Decisions are going to be made on behalf of teams toeing this increasingly blurry line. Names will also be recycled, because that's the nature of this year's beast.
Rest assured, though, there is a ton of variety. And hopefully some ideas you like.
Or at least don't despise.
Atlanta Hawks Receive: George Hill
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Tony Snell, 2021 first-round pick (top-20 protection; top-18 protection in 2022; top-16 protection in 2023; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
It's tempting to suggest the Hawks do something seismic. They have a bunch of digestible contracts and intriguing young players, plus a painfully obvious desire to win now. That's a recipe for trade-deadline desperation when weighed against their sub-.500 lottery standing in the Eastern Conference.
Calls for drastic action still miss the mark. If a superstar wing who defends, knocks down off-the-dribble jumpers and rains threes hits the market, it's a different story. Otherwise, the Hawks don't yet know enough about themselves to declare this season an abject failure.
Kris Dunn has missed the entire season to date after undergoing right ankle surgery. Bogdan Bogdanovic suffered an avulsion fracture in his right knee and hasn't been in the lineup since Jan. 9. De'Andre Hunter has been out with a right knee issue since Feb. 1. Danilo Gallinari is still ramping up after missing a bunch of time with a sprained right ankle.
Rajon Rondo has made just 14 appearances while dealing with left knee and ankle problems. Rookie Onyeka Okongwu has played only 12 games while dealing with a left foot injury. Cam Reddish's right Achilles recently starting acting up.
Atlanta is better off attempting to straddle a middle ground until it can make more informed big-picture decisions. Going after George Hill toes that line.
He should be ready to return from right thumb surgery soon and provides a dose of shooting, backcourt defense and game managing—the latter of which is uber important. The Hawks offense falls off a cliff without Trae Young. A healthy Bogdanovic, Gallinari and Rondo should help the cause, but Atlanta clearly can't count on their availability in concert. Hill can play with anyone in the backcourt, including Rondo or Young.
Oklahoma City shouldn't need much convincing here. Snell is a useful wing when afforded the time necessary to get his three-ball off, and the Thunder are getting yet another first for a 34-year-old who doesn't factor into their long haul. The Hawks might blanch at surrendering a first, but both the protections and the option to bring back Hill next season—only $1.3 million of his $10 million salary is guaranteed—makes this a worthwhile pickup.
Boston Celtics Receive: James Ennis III
Orlando Magic Receive: Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford
Boston Celtics Receive: Evan Fournier
Orlando Magic Receive: 2021 first-round pick (top-16 protection in 2021; lottery protection in 2022; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Don't try boiling down the Celtics' struggles to any one thing. Their issues are widespread.
They need at least one more playmaker even when Marcus Smart returns from his right calf strain. They need another reliable wing aside from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. They could use a more dynamic big man. They could also stand to trade a big man or two.
Basically, the Celtics roster wants badly for consistency outside its top-five players. And even that might be a generous diagnosis given Kemba Walker's topsy-turvy season.
Evan Fournier isn't a cure-all, but he fixes a whole lot. He arms what is to this point a mediocre offense with dependable three-point shooting and a dab of self-creation that will shine brighter as the No. 3 or No. 4 option. He might struggle to anchor lineups without another playmaker, but he does a solid job flinging kick-outs and getting rid of the ball against double-teams and collapsing defenses.
Whether the Celtics are open to coughing up a first-rounder and Romeo Langford is debatable. The No. 14 pick from the 2019 draft has yet to play this season after having right wrist surgery and is coming off a rookie campaign in which he made just 32 appearances. But he's shown defensive flashes in his sparing court time, and Boston is no longer in a position to give up wings willy-nilly.
Still, Fournier should playoff-proof their offense. And they have the runway to climb up the standings. They may send the Magic a pick in the 20s. Bringing Fournier's Bird rights into free agency is also a win for a team that won't have cap space, and his salary will still leave them with more than $10 million to use from their Gordon Hayward trade exception. The James Ennis trade opens the roster spot Boston needs to make it happen.
Orlando doesn't nibble at this deal unless it's selling. Related: It should sell. This season is kaput with Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac out for the year, and the Magic aren't good enough to bankroll a massive or semi-massive salary on Fournier's next contract. A late first-rounder and flier prospect amounts to fair compensation. The late first alone might even be enough.
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Aaron Gordon
Orlando Magic Receive: Nicolas Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, Landry Shamet, 2021 second-round pick (via Atlanta)
Smaller-time moves might be more realistic and easier for the Nets to pull off. But they've done nothing other than go big this season. Why stop now?
Minor moves won't come effortlessly, either. Using the Spencer Dinwiddie disabled player exception—which would expire if they haven't used it if and when he's dealt—is their best shot at reeling in a medium-expensive player. And that doesn't carry much sway when they don't have the draft equity to pair with it.
Sussing out a team interested in acquiring Dinwiddie's Bird rights ahead of free agency (player option) is the more feasible path to a meaningful splash. That's not to be confused with likely. Plenty of teams can seek to sign him outright over the offseason, and he'll be coming back from a torn right ACL.
The Magic profile as one team that might bite. They won't have cap space this summer and need a more dynamic off-the-dribble scorer to captain their offense both beside and independent of Markelle Fultz. A healthy Dinwiddie meets that criteria.
Giving up Aaron Gordon stings, even as he recovers from a left ankle sprain. He is forever miscast on a full-strength Orlando squad that has Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic and very little complementary shooting, but he opens a world of defensive options and has made strides as a passer. Landing Landry Shamet, a shooter who can score off motion, alongside Dinwiddie softens the blow.
Brooklyn placed a tiny premium on Shamet's services before this season by sending out the No. 19 pick (Saddiq Bey) in the three-team deal that secured him. But the roster has since added even more offense. The Nets can afford to fork over Shamet when they have Joe Harris, Tyler Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot as complements to Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
A healthy Gordon beefs up and diversifies a defense that needs a lot of help. Durant's job, in particular, will get easier. Brooklyn can use Gordon at the 4 or as a small-ball 5, and he has the mobility to cover bigger wings. He will pitch in on the glass, and his career-best 36.9 percent clip from downtown should spike relative to the type of looks the Nets can manufacture for him.
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Mo Bamba
Orlando Magic Receive: Malik Monk, Vernon Carey Jr., 2023 second-round pick (via Boston)
Minutes without a true big on the floor—predominantly featuring P.J. Washington in the middle—have actually treated the Hornets quite well. They still need another center.
Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are their only pure 5s. This isn't to say size must be the priority. P.J. Tucker would be super interesting. But he won't do much to help their shoddy defensive rebounding. And the Hornets, while in the postseason hunt, should be angling for someone with staying power beyond this season.
Mo Bamba retains that kind of cachet. He's underwhelmed since being selected No. 6 overall in 2018, but luck hasn't been on his side. The Magic's frontcourt is overstocked in perpetuity, and he's slogged through a gauntlet of health problems—including COVID-19.
At his peak, Bamba projects as a rim-protecting floor-spacer who can help out on the defensive glass by virtue of his absurd 7'10" wingspan. Charlotte may not get immediate dividends from his arrival, but acquiring him is a rock-solid investment in the future with Zeller headed for free agency.
Offering Orlando Malik Monk straight up has its merits. He's shooting a bonkers 47-plus percent from three and gives an uninspiring offense someone who can work on-ball without shrinking the floor. But his career arc has been choppy, and he's set to enter restricted free agency.
Sweetening the offer with a second-rounder and Vernon Carey Jr. evens out the package. The Magic are getting another big-man prospect, which they can use with Khem Birch hitting free agency this year, but not someone who will seem awkwardly redundant buried behind Nikola Vucevic.
Boston Celtics Receive: Garrett Temple
Chicago Bulls Receive: Carsen Edwards, Javonte Green
Boston Celtics Receive: Thaddeus Young
Chicago Bulls Receive: 2021 first-round pick (top-18 protection in 2021; lottery protection in 2022; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Thaddeus Young has been a bright spot for the Bulls. He remains one of the league's most reliable team defenders, and his playmaking on short rolls is a boon for the offense.
Now is the time to capitalize on that value.
Like pretty much everyone else in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are very much a playoff possibility. But the NBA doesn't give out trophies for play-in bids or first-round exits. Chicago is closer to rebuilding than not. That doesn't demand it strip down everything to the studs. Anyone trying to simplify Zach LaVine's future in that way is kidding themselves. Young is different. He is 32 and has a partially guaranteed salary for next season ($6 million). He's not the future.
Extracting a first-round pick for his services is big-time. The Bulls might not get that much in a normal season. They might not get that much this season. But the sellers market is barren for now. They have leverage. Title hopefuls who need wing and big-man defense, on top of some offensive playmaking, should be skulking around Young.
Boston is a wild card in this discussion. It needs competent bodies, period. And it definitely needs someone to throw at a prospective Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup in the playoffs. But Young's finite range can render him a liability in the postseason. He doesn't bolster the offense in the vein of an Evan Fournier.
Acquiring Garrett Temple as well neutralizes some of that concern. He is not a lights-out shooter himself, but he has defensive range that belies his 6'6" frame and offers the Celtics another reserve ball-handling alternative to Jeff Teague.
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: James Johnson, Dwight Powell, 2025 first-round pick (top-16 protection, conditional upon Dallas' 2023 obligation to New York; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond is collecting dust on the sidelines while the Cavaliers try to move him ahead of the March 25 deadline. This is not a small undertaking. Pure centers who don't promise above-average defense, space the floor or wield premier roll gravity aren't highly sought. Drummond's $28.8 million salary only complicates matters.
Any deal Cleveland strikes likely needs to include a longer unwanted contract coming back in return. It'll be hard-pressed to pick up an actual asset otherwise.
Leasing out cap space is far from a given in any season. It feels like much less of a sure thing this year. The 2021 free-agency class has lost most of its sheen following the flurry of extensions. No team seems to be lusting after cap space, and many are slated to have major spending power anyway.
Dallas is included among the latter squads. Its path to max room isn't without collateral damage but doesn't require offloading salary.
Maybe it should. The Mavericks cannot sniff max money without renouncing Tim Hardaway Jr. or Josh Richardson. Shedding the final two years and $22.2 million on Dwight Powell's contract should give them the opportunity to keep at least one while retaining access to $30-plus million in wiggle room.
Using a first-rounder that won't convey for roughly a half-decade to pawn off salary in advance of a lackluster free agency class doesn't scream "Good business" for Dallas. It also isn't malpractice. The Mavericks are getting a player who buoys their presence on the defensive glass in the meantime, and top-16 protection safeguards them against disaster.
Cleveland may have more of an incentive to quash this deal. Its renting out two years' worth of cap space for a first-rounder that will either convey in the 20s or not at all. The risk of the latter is minimal so long as Luka Doncic exists but would be easier to reconcile if the pick wasn't so far into the future. The Mavericks can futz around with the protections, include some seconds or, less preferably, throw in Josh Green if the Cavaliers are entirely disenchanted by this return.
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Victor Oladipo
Houston Rockets Receive: Josh Green, James Johnson, 2025 first-round pick (lottery protection, conditional upon Dallas' 2023 obligation to New York)
It doesn't necessarily behoove the Mavericks to give up assets for Victor Oladipo. They should have the financial runway this summer to make a run at him without coughing up a first-rounder and 20-year-old wing prospect in Josh Green.
On the flip side: Dallas doesn't have the midseason firepower traditionally needed to bag a fringe All-Star. The combination of Oladipo's impending free agency, his injury history (he recently missed time with a right quad issue again) and the Rockets' rebuild(ish) direction poses a unique opportunity. It shouldn't cost the moon to pry him out of Houston.
Landing him now also allows the Mavericks to get a sense for his fit beside Luka Doncic and the rest of the roster while upping their immediate ceiling. If it doesn't work out, they can move on over the offseason. If everything is hunky-dory, they have the inside track on re-signing him and won't have to renounce Tim Hardaway Jr. or Josh Richardson to do it.
Just as the Mavericks may be reticent to cough up a distant first, the Rockets might view this return as an underwhelming pupu platter. It's not a hodgepodge of nothing. Green has the length and athleticism to be an impact defender.
Both teams have alternative avenues they can explore if this proposal tilts too far in one direction. Jalen Brunson has played extremely well for most of this year and would be an interesting fit off the bench in Houston. And the Rockets could coax more out of the Mavericks if they expand this deal to include absorbing the remaining two years and $22.2 million left on Dwight Powell's contract or by sending them Danuel House or P.J. Tucker.
Denver Nuggets Receive: Andre Iguodala, Duncan Robinson
Miami Heat Receive: Will Barton, Bol Bol
A handful of polls for this deal revealed a mixed bag of answers. Most responses failed to see a clear-cut winner. Maybe that's a good thing. It might be terrible thing.
Denver's willingness to go this route rests largely on how they view Andre Iguodala. Questionable shooting and muted scoring cap his two-way value, but the Nuggets are not hard up for offense. They need a wing defender to tussle with the big boys they'll invariably face during the playoffs.
Assigning that job to a 37-year-old Iguodala is all sorts of flimsy. But he remains one of the league's smartest players and is a better option to go up against LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard or Paul George than anyone else on the roster.
Nabbing Duncan Robinson improves the optics on this a great deal. He might net more money in restricted free agency than Will Barton is on the books for next season, but his shooting and relentless motion are divine fits for an offense powered by Nikola Jokic.
Miami's stance on this deal is equally, if not more, hazy. It is punting on both Robinson's future and cap space. Barton has a $14.7 million option for next season. But he nudges an offense that continues to struggle in the right direction. He brings a mix of secondary playmaking, shooting and attacking. The Heat need more of all three even with Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic back in the lineup.
Granted, this proposal falls apart if Barton plans on opting out. On the other hand, if he's going to be in Miami through at least next season, then accompanying Bol Bol makes for a tantalizing acquisition. The Heat can test him out next to Bam Adebayo, sparing him from the brawniest defensive assignments. And his scoring profile resembles that of a wing. Having him at the 4 could be a big-picture luxury.
If Miami prefers a future first-rounder, Denver can toss in this year's pick. (The Thunder own its 2023 first.) Either way, the perception of this deal comes down to the interpretation of how easily the Heat believe they can approximate Robinson's perimeter pull, and how much value the Nuggets ascribe to having Iguodala for the postseason.
Detroit Pistons Receive: Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw, 2021 first-round pick (top-20 protection in 2021; top-16 protection in 2022; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Toronto Raptors: Mason Plumlee
Most bad teams without any chance of an immediate turnaround are painted as full-scale sellers. The Pistons are different.
They have a handful of interesting players who buyers would pounce on—Wayne Ellington, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Delon Wright—but nobody is threatening to compromise their draft position. Shipping Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks gives them even less of an incentive to scour the market for deals, and they cannot reasonably expect to move Blake Griffin's contract ($39 million player option for next season) without swallowing a longer, comparably unsavory deal that may not actually be on the chopping block.
All of which can be interpreted as a license to remain idle. Really, it's a cause to be patient—selectively opportunistic.
Toronto's apparent interest in Andre Drummond is the impetus behind this framework. The mechanics that go into squeezing his $28.8 million salary onto the ledger are a nightmare. The Raptors can't do it without dealing four or five players at once or by trading someone too important to their present and future.
Plumlee is far more cost effective at $8 million. The two years and $16.7 million left on his deal are problematic if Toronto wants to maximize cap space this summer—but only slightly. The final season is non-guaranteed, and he should be easy enough to reroute at his annual number.
In the meantime, the Raptors boost their center rotation with a sound defensive rebounder and passer. Forking over a first-rounder shouldn't hurt too much; they're only making this deal if they enter the deadline as buyers. That pick might still convey in the 20s.
Perhaps the Pistons aren't seduced by a late first-rounder for Plumlee. Along with Isaiah Stewart, he has stabilized the center rotation. But they can view this as turning $8 million worth of space last offseason into a first-rounder. That's a big deal.
Terence Davis, who was recently granted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal of charges "stemming from an October incident in New York in which he allegedly got into a verbal argument with his girlfriend" and "'hit the victim in the face,'" is included mostly for salary purposes. If the Pistons are so inclined, though, he does give them another wing shooter to evaluate in the context of their future.
Golden State Warriors
Chicago Bulls Receive: Kelly Oubre Jr., Eric Paschall, Minnesota's 2021 first-round pick (top-three protection), Minnesota's 2021 second-round pick, 2023 first-round swap, 2026 first-round pick (conditional upon 2024 obligation to Memphis; top-seven protection in 2026; top-five protection in 2027; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Golden State Warriors Receive: Zach LaVine
Oversimplifications of team situations are typically disingenuous. Nuance is required. Simply stating that the Warriors need to pony up and go all-in on now because they have Stephen Curry seems to follow that insincere line of thinking.
At the same time: The Warriors should pony up and go all-in on now because they have Stephen Curry.
Holding onto the Minnesota Timberwolves' pick and James Wiseman to build a bridge into the next era sounds great in theory. It rings hollow in practice. Golden State has an all-time great who still ranks as one of the five most valuable players right now. Burning another year of Curry's prime when he turns 33 in March is a dereliction of duty.
Targeting Zach LaVine should permit the Warriors to hedge against the future more than they could in a possible Bradley Beal pursuit. LaVine isn't considered readily available, per NBC Sports' K.C. Johnson, and he's set to make his first All-Star appearance. But he shouldn't command both Wiseman and the Minny pick.
This isn't meant as an insult. This package is still costing the Warriors the Minnesota selection plus control of two more firsts as far out as 2027. That's a significant investment when viewed against the ages of Curry, Draymond Green (31 on March 4) and the injured Klay Thompson (31).
LaVine is well worth the cost. He's averaging around 29 points and five assists per game while downing 58 percent of his twos and 44 percent of his threes—all career highs. The Warriors offense is lifeless, with a shot selection straight out of 1995, when Curry sits. LaVine instantly shores up those minutes while uplifting the all-hands-on-deck lineups.
Chicago doesn't need to move him now. Let's make that clear. He hasn't aged out of the Bulls' quasi-rebuild, and footing the bill for his next contract in 2022 is hardly ridiculous. But that Timberwolves pick has a real shot at conveying in the top five despite its top-three protection. And shorting the Warriors' long-term future, while not without risk, is a justifiable gamble.
Houston Rockets Receive: Tyus Jones, Xavier Tillman Sr., Justise Winslow, Utah's 2021 first-round pick (protected Nos. 1-7 and 15-30, top-six protection in 2022, top-three protection in 2023, top-one protection in 2024)
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Danuel House, Victor Oladipo
League executives told ESPN's Tim Bontemps that Houston could deal Victor Oladipo prior to the March 25 deadline. It absolutely should.
Paying for Oladipo's next deal doesn't quite jibe with the Rockets' timeline, even if they don't fancy themselves a full-on rebuilding situation. He is still bound to have a semi-lucrative market when teams with cap space don't have many alternatives. Houston shouldn't kick off the post-James Harden era by tethering itself to a soon-to-be 29-year-old who has missed time with a right quad issue and failed to impress on offense since arriving.
Finding the right suitor is a chore. Too many squads have—or can carve out—cap space this summer. Very few overall will be prepared to mortgage part of their future for a high-end dice roll that requires immediate reinvestment.
The Grizzlies are an alluring fit if they can muster up the gall. They need another bankable shot creator beside Ja Morant. A healthy Oladipo can be that without jeopardizing their in-your-jersey defensive approach.
Memphis could try brokering a deal without Xavier Tillman Sr. or the Utah pick. It all depends on how the Rockets view Justise Winslow. His $13 million team option for next season gives Houston a potential three-and-D wing under team control at a reasonable cost, but his murky health bill may render him more of a flier than asset.
Including Danuel House should make it easier for the Grizzlies to part with both Tillman and the Utah pick if they believe his three-ball will tick up. And Tyus Jones isn't here strictly for salary-matching purposes. He is only 24 and can provide the Rockets consistent defensive ball pressure coming off the bench behind John Wall.
Indiana Pacers Receive: Austin Rivers
New York Knicks: 2022 second-round pick (via Miami), 2025 second-round pick (via Miami)
The Pacers have movable contracts if they want to leave a deeper dent on the trade market. They just don't have the motivation.
Playing sub-.500 basketball since the Victor Oladipo trade isn't ideal. The Pacers offense is often a grind. Their defensive execution can be unpredictable. Their defensive rebounding can be nonexistent.
But they're playing without both Caris LeVert (small mass on left kidney) and T.J. Warren (left foot). Jeremy Lamb is logging time at power forward. They have the personnel to at least try correcting some of their defensive lapses. Now is not the time to go nuclear.
Scooping up another shot creator who can help mitigate the absences of LeVert and Warren is their smartest course of action. And it just so happens that Austin Rivers appears to be very available. He has made a grand total of two appearances, totaling a whopping five minutes, since Derrick Rose made his (second) Knicks debut.
Rivers isn't an offensive panacea. His efficiency has crumbled. But he can nail some jumpers off the dribble and put pressure on defenses going downhill, and Indiana will be able to line him up versus certain wings on defense.
Taking him into the Oladipo trade exception or sending out one of their super cheap non-factors so they don't have to create a roster spot makes this a low-risk investment for the Pacers. Two seconds is a tad steep for someone who doesn't have a future on his current team. But Rivers has two non-guaranteed seasons valued at under $6.5 million left on his deal. That level of team-friendly control affords New York some leverage.
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Delon Wright
Detroit Pistons Receive: Terrance Ferguson, Terance Mann, Mike Scott, 2021 first-round pick (via Philadelphia; top-16 protection)
Philadelphia 76ers: Wayne Ellington, Lou Williams
This whole "The Clippers must trade for a point guard" trope is overrated—for the most part.
Only three teams are scoring more points per 100 possessions. No team is shooting a higher clip on three-pointers. What the Clippers lack in traditional floor-general equity they make up for with the playmaking committee of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. Patrick Beverley is still good. Reggie Jackson has his moments.
The Clippers offense is better than fine. It's awesome.
And yet, they could use someone who puts more pressure on the rim and is better suited to defending opposing backcourts. They still have Beverley, but he's more a match for strong guards, if not wings. The Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns are the only teams who attempt a lower percentage of their shots from point-blank range.
Delon Wright checks both boxes. He's taking 46 percent of his looks at the rim. Terance Mann is the only Clippers non-big getting a larger share of his shots around the basket. And while Wright isn't particularly long, he has the size to chase around both guard spots, along with some wings.
Poaching him from Detroit is tricky. The Clippers aren't flush with future assets, and the Pistons need bodies in the backcourt following the Derrick Rose trade and Killian Hayes' right hip injury. Lou Williams qualifies, but a 34-year-old on an expiring contract doesn't fit the rebuilding model.
Enter the Sixers. They need another crunch-time shot creator and more raw three-point volume. Reuniting with Williams and snagging Wayne Ellington gives them both. Philly has the defensive talent to cover up for either veteran and needn't fret about frittering away a first-round pick that forecasts to land in the bottom five. It gets a little smaller by dealing Mike Scott, but bigs are easier to snap up in smaller trades or on the buyout market.
Detroit should be over the moon about getting a first for Ellington and Wright. And Mann intrigues as a 24-year-old who can get to the hoop and played his way into the good graces of Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue.
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Wayne Ellington
Detroit Pistons Receive: Alfonzo McKinnie, 2023 second-round, 2024 second-round pick
Panic should not be reaching fever pitch for the Lakers. They're a worse team when they don't have a top-10 superstar (Anthony Davis) or the player best suited to help navigate the minutes LeBron James spends on the bench (Dennis Schroder). Who knew?
Sure, the Lakers could stand to add another shot creator. Their half-court offense places in the 21st percentile when Schroder plays without LeBron. Those stints are almost deja vu compared to last season.
Addressing that issue on the trade market feels like a non-option. The Lakers don't have the picks or prospects to move in smaller deals beyond Talen Horton-Tucker. Nor are they teeming with equal parts expendable and valuable salary filler. Kyle Kuzma's extension (poison pill provision) limits their options even further. Alex Caruso doesn't make enough money. They have very little breathing room beneath the hard cap.
Maybe the Lakers can try throwing the kitchen sink at the Houston Rockets for Victor Oladipo. Something along the lines of Schroder, Caruso, Horton-Tucker and some seconds isn't laughable. Oladipo is a soon-to-be free agent with a checkered health bill. But the Rockets can probably get more than Horton-Tucker and a two players they'll need to pay over the offseason.
Aiming smaller is simpler—and not without impact.
Head coach Frank Vogel has bemoaned the Lakers' lack of three-point volume. They are 25th in the share of their attempts that come beyond the arc. Ellington has no bones about firing at will. He is used to more off-ball motion than LeBron-led offenses implement but still useful without it. He's draining 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes and swishing an absurd 47.4 percent of his triples that come after a single dribble.
Other teams can offer more imminent second-rounders for Ellington. Pretty much everyone can dangle more assets, period. But Ellington shouldn't engender a full-tilt bidding war, and the Lakers can possibly distinguish themselves by putting two seconds on the table.
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Buddy Hield
Sacramento Kings Receive: Gorgui Dieng, Justise Winslow
Buddy Hield is going through it. He's shooting 30.1 percent from downtown over his last 12 games, and the emergence of rookie Tyrese Haliburton has thrown his already-fuzzy future with the Kings into an even more turbulent limbo.
Sacramento has tried playing all three of Hield, Haliburton and De'Aron Fox. It hasn't worked. The Kings defense is getting kicked in the face. The three years and $62.5 million left on Hield's deal look even steeper when the handsomely compensated Harrison Barnes has played so well and soon-to-be free agent Richaun Holmes has entrenched himself as the team's second-most valuable player.
Unloading Hield in a straight salary dump still seems too extreme. Shooters go through their slumps, and great snipers have value at any price point. The Kings should not move him for the sake of moving him.
Memphis looms as an interesting destination if its playoff pursuit is all systems go. Desmond Bane offers punchy shooting with more defensive range, but the Grizzlies are not a collective flame-thrower from behind the rainbow. They rank in the bottom five of both three-point-attempt rate and efficiency.
Adding Hield opens up the offense both in transition and the half-court. He is not a top-tier shot creator with the ball in his hands, but that deficit gets offset by the extra room Ja Morant has to maneuver. The opportunity cost here is relatively low to boot.
Gorgui Dieng is on an expiring salary, and the Grizzlies cannot be sure that Justise Winslow is their primary wing of the future. They lose that flier by dealing him now, with only a couple of appearances under his belt, but they're more likely to land the answer elsewhere anyway. (Maybe it's Bane.)
The Kings can warm up to Winslow's nebulous trajectory. The sparkle from his 2018-19 campaign in Miami endures. That was Winslow at his best: defending his butt off, setting up some of the offense and finding nylon on standstill threes. Sacramento doesn't have any true wing prospects who mirror that apex. At just 24, with a $13 million team option for next season, Winslow at once makes the Kings cheaper in time for Fox's max extension to take effect and fills their biggest void.
Miami Heat Receive: Al-Farouq Aminu, Gary Clark, Evan Fournier
Orlando Magic: Meyers Leonard, Kendrick Nunn, KZ Okpala, Kelly Olynyk
Coming up with a trade-deadline direction for the Heat is a mental tug of war. Should they sell? Buy big? Buy medium? Do they have the assets to buy meaningfully at all?
Buying medium hits the right note. The Heat don't look one player away from title contention, but urging them to sell exaggerates their struggles. They are 8-3 over their last 11 games with a top-five defense and still have a ways to go before they hit full strength. Avery Bradley remains out with a right calf strain. Tyler Herro is dealing with some right hip stuff. Goran Dragic only just returned from his sprained left ankle.
But waiting for the perfect mix of availability is a futile errand this season. Nearly every team is coping with injuries and absences on the fly. Standing pat doesn't assure the Heat will recapture last year's form.
Reeling in some offensive insurance might. At the very least, it helps safeguard Miami against additional curveballs—more injuries, a stark aging curve from Dragic, roller-coaster play from Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, etc.
Evan Fournier borders on a perfect fit. He's a more dependable secondary scorer and a better passer compared to Nunn, and his expiring contract aligns with the Heat's other deals.
Cost is clearly a hurdle. Miami's first-round obligations leak out until at least 2023, and Herro won't be in play for a 28-year-old non-star on an expiring contract. Parting with Duncan Robinson and salary should pique the Magic's interest, but his brand of shooting unlocks the most dangerous version of the Heat's offense. The two-year age gap also matters when both Robinson (restricted) and Fournier are nearing free agency.
Why choose, right? Miami has to get creative if it's going to field a viable offer without Robinson or a first-round pick. Nunn is a start. The Magic need another player who can manufacture his own offense. But he doesn't do much else and will be a restricted free agent at season's end.
Tossing in KZ Okpala fits with Orlando's addiction to combo forwards, but truer wings and shooters are of much greater need—especially if Fournier is on his way out. The Heat cannot meet that ask. They can, however, take on Al-Farouq Aminu. His three-year deal has aged poorly mostly because of a complete lack of availability. But Miami needs another option to experiment with at the 4, and his $10.2 million player option shouldn't be immovable if the team needs to create more cap space over the summer.
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: P.J. Tucker
Houston Rockets Receive: D.J. Augustin, 2023 second-round pick, 2025 second-round pick (via Indiana)
Speaking of teams with limited assets: The Bucks!
Milwaukee's desire to postseason-proof its defense has reportedly led them to P.J. Tucker, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor. This tracks.
Brook Lopez remains an active deterrent around the rim, but he's only getting you so far when dragged outside the paint or when you're trying to switch. Bobby Portis has outperformed expectations this season, but he's not an answer to that dilemma. Giannis Antetokounmpo-at-the-5 lineups remain an offensive cheat code but have struggled defensively across an itsy-bitsy sample.
Tucker is a natural answer to the Bucks' dilemma—the league's foremost authority on small-ball 5s. Whether he's gettable is a different story.
Donte DiVincenzo is Milwaukee's most valuable (non-star) trade chip. He's not being flipped for a 35-year-old on an expiring contract. Nor does he earn enough to anchor modestly priced returns on his own.
Does D.J. Augustin and two seconds get the job done? It feels like a slight reach. The Houston Rockets need another point guard on the roster, but Augustin's shot-making has underwhelmed. He's downing 32.2 percent of his twos for the season and hitting under 29 percent of his triples over the past 12 games.
Two seconds is at least in line with a previous report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst that Houston wanted three (h/t HoopsHype's Bryan Kalbrosky). The Bucks can try building another permutation around D.J. Wilson and Bryn Forbes. Both are free agents after this season. Maybe Houston sees value in Pat Connaughton.
Failing that, they could consider expanding the deal to include DiVincenzo while also bringing back Danuel House. That return still doesn't seem worth the opportunity cost but at least nets them two more playoff-ready defenders. At any rate, the mental gymnastics involved with Tucker scenarios speak to the Bucks' restrictions. They don't have the prospects or picks to go after a fish much, if at all, bigger than him.
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Aaron Gordon
Orlando Magic Receive: Jarrett Culver, Juan Hernangomez, Josh Okogie, 2022 second-round pick
Lots of stuff is happening in Minnesota. Too much, arguably.
Ryan Saunders is out as head coach. His replacement, Chris Finch, was poached from the Toronto Raptors' assistant coaching ranks not only midseason but also immediately after Saunders' exit went public. Funny how that works.
Meanwhile, D'Angelo Russell is set to miss at least the next month-plus after undergoing surgery on his left knee. And Malik Beasley is currently serving a 12-game suspension handed out by the NBA after he pleaded guilty to "one felony count of threats of violence."
Owners of the league's worst record, the Timberwolves should have "Sellers" written all over them. The top-three-protected pick they owe to the Golden State Warriors says otherwise. So too does Karl-Anthony Towns' superstardom.
Minnesota needs to find a happy medium. This season is a wash whether it wants to maximize lottery odds or aim for wins. The Wolves' ideal trade deadline features the acquisition of a combo forward who plays sturdy defense and fits with Towns' window.
Aaron Gordon is not a novel target within Minnesota circles. He is the obvious one. He doesn't turn 26 until September and can capably guard across three positions. His career-high 36.9 percent clip from deep this season is good enough for the Timberwolves to play five-out or unleash one of their shooting liabilities on the wings.
Cobbling together the right package is tricky. Gordon is miles away from stardom, but Minnesota isn't brimming with expendable assets. Giving up Anthony Edwards is a non-starter. Ricky Rubio doesn't give the Magic what they need at point guard.
Surrendering a future first is too reckless with another steep obligation floating around. The Wolves need Orlando to view Jarrett Culver as a headlining prospect and have a soft spot for Josh Okogie's all-defense, no-offense skill set. The idea of both, plus Juan Hernangomez, might intrigue the Magic should they sell. If it doesn't, Minnesota has Jaden McDaniels or Naz Reid to dangle as potential scale-tippers.
New Orleans Pelicans
Houston Rockets Receive: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Eric Bledsoe, Nicolo Melli, 2021 Los Angeles Lakers first-round pick (protected Nos. 8-30, unprotected in 2022), New Orleans' 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected through 2024; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Victor Oladipo, P.J. Tucker
Lonzo Ball trade scenarios need to be back-burnered for now. I spent way too much trying to come up with a deal that made sense for New Orleans. He's playing too well since being inserted back into the rumor mill. The Pelicans are better off re-signing him and trying to move him on a multiyear pact later rather than as an expiring contract now. I think.
So how about another Victor Oladipo and P.J. Tucker scenario?
Oladipo admittedly isn't the cleanest fit for a rotation that includes Ball, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. But he arms the Pelicans with another ball-handler who can attack set defenses and deliver secondary playmaking. His efficiency has plunged in Houston, but he was banging in 43.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples prior to the trade. He helps their defense.
Giving the Rockets two firsts and Nickeil Alexander-Walker amounts to a sizable risk when considered against Oladipo's health and inevitable windfall in free agency. New Orleans may not be open to paying both him and Ball, after already shelling out money for Ingram and Steven Adams, even if everything's rosy at the end of the season.
Escaping the final two years and $54.4 million on Eric Bledsoe's deal helps deleverage the Pelicans. They're not relinquishing any primo picks, either. The Los Angeles Lakers first profiles as a selection in the 20s of the 2022 draft, and New Orleans' own choice is shielded against disaster. Bagging P.J. Tucker, a Utopian fit next to Zion in small-ball lineups, is additional incentive.
The Rockets might want more for taking on Bledsoe's deal. They shouldn't get it. Oladipo just returned after missing time because of the same right quad that derailed his 2017-18 campaign, and his next team either has to pay him a bunch of money or runs the chance of losing him. Tucker is 35 and approaching free agency.
Two firsts and a shifty, albeit raw, combo guard is a quality return. And no, Houston shouldn't care about having Bledsoe, NAW and John Wall on the same roster. It's not yet positioned to lose sleep over fit. It should be in pure asset-collection mode.
New York Knicks
New York Knicks Receive: JJ Redick
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Austin Rivers, 2023 second-round pick (via Detroit)
Callous observers would have the Knicks sell ahead of the trade deadline to maximize their draft stock. It isn't happening. It was clear before, and the Derrick Rose deal rendered it inarguable: They want to make the playoffs.
Cannonballing into a blockbuster buy still doesn't suit them. Unless Bradley Beal becomes available—and they may not have the firepower to get him if he does—no one realistically on the auction block is worth their home run swing. They need to be on the prowl for impact deals that don't strip them of core assets.
JJ Redick follows that blueprint. He is 36 and no longer a prominent part of the Pelicans rotation, and he provides much-needed shooting. The Knicks are 12th in three-point efficiency but just 29th in frequency. Redick gives them the ammo to up the volume, including their off-the-dribble looks. He's burying 48.8 percent of his treys since the start of his February.
Squeezing him into the rotation shouldn't be an issue. Austin Rivers isn't really playing at this point, so Redick won't replace his minutes. But the Knicks can stand to see less of Elfrid Payton when he returns—or just eliminate his floor time altogether.
New Orleans probably isn't getting much better offers than a future Detroit second and $10 million in immediate cap relief. Few teams will want to take on Redick's $13.6 million salary without sending back longer-term money. The Pelicans will be hard-pressed to get more for his contract unless they're jettisoning him as part of a buy-now blockbuster.
Assuming they don't go down that path, this package clears more minutes in the backcourt even with the addition of Rivers. They have no obligation to play him but can try getting away with him as a reserve 3 in certain matchups or just turn to him whenever they need some additional outside shot creation.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Tristan Thompson, 2022 second-round pick (via Orlando; top-55 protection)
Boston Celtics Receive: George Hill
Orlando Magic Receive: Jeff Teague
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: 2021 first-round pick (top-16 protection through 2022; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Boston Celtics Receive: Al Horford
Are the Thunder too good to drive up their draft-lottery odds? Even with George Hill recovering from thumb surgery?
Nobody expects Hill to finish the year in Oklahoma City, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps. The Thunder should try adding Al Horford to that discussion. The two years and $53.5 million he's owed after this season ($39.5 million guaranteed) threatens to break the bank, but he remains an impactful floor-spacer, playmaker and defensive presence in the middle.
The Celtics might be desperate enough to initiate a reunion. He isn't exactly what they need, but they could use him. He is a far more dynamic offensive option than Tristan Thompson and the better body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo in a potential playoff series. Getting Hill would be a monster upgrade from the Jeff Teague minutes, outfitting the rotation with a more trustworthy shooter, possession manager and backcourt defender.
Boston needs to chisel out more space beneath the luxury-tax apron before absorbing Horford into the Gordon Hayward trade exception. The Thunder should have no issue taking on Thompson (2021-22 player option) when they're shipping out a more expensive big and, in the end, nabbing another first-rounder. Romeo Langford is just 21 and another perimeter prospect for them to take for a test drive once he's healthy.
Orlando is playing a small but important role. Oklahoma City needs to create two roster spots with trade No. 1. Sending Teague to the Magic prevents them from having to knife out three. Orlando will have to open a slot itself, but Teague, in theory, fills a need at point guard. A fourth party may be required to help iron out the logistics.
Orlando Magic Receive: Juan Hernangomez, Jake Layman, D'Angelo Russell
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Cole Anthony, Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier
Aaron Gordon-to-Minnesota enthusiasts will be happy to know that scenario has other permutations—like this one.
Trading away D'Angelo Russell one season after giving up a top-three-protected pick for him (and while he's injured) seems like backward logic. The Timberwolves need the goodwill to deal Karl-Anthony Towns' good friend without having a certified replacement or upgrade in place. Maybe Cole Anthony is the long-term answer. Ricky Rubio won't be.
Functionally, Minnesota has the personnel to overcome Russell's departure. Anthony, Rubio, Malik Beasley and Jarrett Culver can handle initiating duties between them. Anthony Edwards will be worth more on-ball looks in lineups that surround him with four shooters.
Evan Fournier will offset some of Russell's scoring and gives the Timberwolves another secondary passer to plumb. And they gain flexibility by turning DLo into a pair of cheaper, shorter-term contracts and Anthony's rookie scale while also getting out from under Juan Hernangomez's pact.
Interpretations of Russell's value are all over the place (not unlike assessments of Gordon). He makes a lot more sense on a full-strength Magic squad that has Markelle Fultz to pair with him in the backcourt and an All-Defense-caliber anchor up front with Jonathan Isaac.
Orlando sorely needs someone who can jump-start the offense and hit jumpers off the dribble. For all Russell's flaws, he fits that bill. His 42 percent clip on pull-up threes this season ranks fourth among all players attempting at least three per game, trailing only Paul George, Zach LaVine and CJ McCollum.
Whether this return is enough for Minnesota to break up the KAT-DLo duo is in the eye of the beholder. Orlando can sweeten the package within reason if it's not. A lotto-protected first shouldn't be a deal-breaker.
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: George Hill
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Vincent Poirier, Mike Scott, 2021 first-round pick (top-18 protection)
Rookie Tyrese Maxey and Shake Milton may give the Sixers enough secondary juice in the backcourt to navigate the postseason crucible. Philly also might want to safeguard itself by going with a more proven option.
George Hill is no less an attractive fit after undergoing surgery on his right thumb.
Both Maxey and Milton have higher ceilings as from-scratch creators, but they likewise induce more variance into the Sixers' attack. Hill is by far the more tried-and-true shooter. His 38.6 percent clip from deep might even climb when he has Ben Simmons teeing up threes for him. His off-the-dribble game is more basic, but he can chaperone the offense and is hitting 61.5 percent of his looks on drives—a top-three mark among 154 players who have taken at least as many shots in such situations.
Philly can concede a heavily protected first-rounder without worrying about buyer's remorse. Hill can only augment an offense that ranks 27th in three-point frequency and 18th in accuracy; he won't make or break it. And the Sixers don't have to treat him as a rental if the partnership works out. His $10 million salary next season is manageable, but they can show him the door for a mere $1.3 million should things go belly-up.
The Thunder have a fairly straightforward decision on their hands. Opening a roster spot is annoying, but they're dredging up yet another first-rounder for a player they won't keep in the short term while taking on only expiring contracts. That's another W for general manager Sam Presti.
Phoenix Suns Receive: P.J. Tucker
Houston Rockets Receive: Jevon Carter*, Abdel Nader, 2022 second-rounder
The Suns don't need to do anything earthshattering—or anything at all. They have a case as one of the NBA's three most well-rounded teams if this is Cameron Payne's new normal and Dario Saric-at-the-5 lineups continue annihilating opponents at both ends of the floor.
Sticklers will find hairs to split. That's fair. Payne hasn't yet built up the goodwill to be deemed a postseason asset. Smaller guards of slighter builds can run into trouble against playoff defenses. Saric's play at center is established enough to trust, but running him out with both Payne and Cam Johnson (an underrated-not-great defensive worker bee) and thriving on defense feels like it could be unsustainable.
Making a run at P.J. Tucker inoculates the Suns against any regression from these combinations. It also invites them to try different looks for the closing unit. Deandre Ayton is aggressively switchable, but he can run into problems when tasked with defending too high. Even at 35, Tucker is better built to navigate those situations.
Sending Jevon Carter to Houston is a little bit nerve-wracking if Phoenix has concerns about the backup guard rotation, but his minutes have dwindled and his threes aren't falling. He will never be the answer for a team that needs a second-string pilot.
Carter is at the same time an appealing pickup for the Rockets. They still need to hammer out the guard rotation behind (and beside) John Wall, and his defensive relentlessness is a perfect match for the identity they're espousing by default with guys like Jae'Sean Tate and David Nwaba.
Houston can afford to bet on Carter's outside shot returning when he costs just $7.6 million over the next two seasons. And it gets a capable spot-up threat in Abdel Nader on the wing. If the Suns blanch at paying this price for Tucker, tweaks can be made to expand this into two separate deals that also land them Sterling Brown.
*Jevon Carter cannot be traded until March 3.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Khem Birch
Orlando Magic Receive: CJ Elleby, Harry Giles, 2022 second-round pick, 2026 second-round pick
The Blazers approach the deadline in a bizarre spot. They are roughly two good players deep at every position yet can simultaneously use upgrades everywhere—with the exception of point guard.
Settling on the center spot feels right. Jusuf Nurkic hasn't played since Jan. 14 after fracturing his right wrist and didn't look the same prior to his injury. Zach Collins has yet to suit up this season and doesn't have a concrete timeline for return following yet another left ankle surgery. His experience at the 5 is also limited.
Enes Kanter has played well. He's feasting on the glass and drilling 58.8 percent of his twos, in large part thanks to his 70 percent conversion rate on post-ups (28-of-40)—tops among 65 players who have attempted at least 15 such shots.
Expecting this to hold in the playoffs is...ambitious. Kanter has logged a ton of time next to Carmelo Anthony. The Blazers are below water in those minutes. It will get worse in the postseason. Harry Giles is dealing with a left calf strain and was playing in measured doses before the injury.
Bringing on another big is a must but needs to strike the right balance. Portland shouldn't be burning any of its most attractive assets when a healthy Nurkic could possibly change everything.
Khem Birch will push the limits of bargain options. He seems attainable only because he's entering free agency this summer and the Magic have an overabundance of 4s and 5s. Bigs who pancake opponents on screens, roll to the basket with purpose, jack the occasional corner three and move their feet well enough to guard some 4s usually have a higher profile.
Orlando can let him go for two second-rounders and a half-season flier on Giles when it has Nikola Vucevic and, presumably, remains committed to Mo Bamba. Re-signing Birch over the summer should prove tough, if only because it might be superfluous. In the event the Magic push for more, the Blazers have Nassir Little. Birch isn't worth conceding Collins or Anfernee Simons, but he's good enough that acquiring his Bird rights actually matters.
Sacramento Kings Receive: Al-Farouq Aminu, Aaron Gordon
Orlando Magic Receive: Buddy Hield
Imagine a Kings frontcourt featuring Richaun Holmes, Aaron Gordon and Harrison Barnes. That trio presents a lot of defensive options—Barnes would get to tackle the more favorable of the forward matchups—and can mesh together on offense if Gordon keeps shooting around league average from three when he returns from his left ankle injury.
Sign yours truly up. Especially when the road to actualization doesn't seem like a pipe dream.
Buddy Hield is borderline excess at his price point in general. Tyrese Haliburton has rendered him fully expendable. That's not the same as unimportant. Hield will eventually climb out of his shooting rut, and the Magic offense is eternally in need of more floor-spacers.
The tougher matter: Figuring out which team is giving up the more valuable player. I lean Gordon. Deadeye shooting usually trounces a mixed bag of defense, but Gordon adds a fleck of passing and, as of now, competent standstill marksmanship (46.7 percent on spot-up treys). Hield is very much a one-position player. Gordon should primarily be a 4 but can sponge up reps at the 3 and 5.
Taking on the additional year of Al-Farouq Aminu ($10 million player option) may skew the deal a smidgen too far in Orlando's favor. Then again, the Kings could use a bigger-bodied wing defender. Aminu—playing again!—is just that.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Al Horford, Mike Muscala
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: LaMarcus Aldridge, Trey Lyles, 2021 second-round pick
Is Al Horford playing well enough for interested teams to treat him as a net-neutral long-term asset, if not better?
For the Spurs specifically, maybe.
Horford is averaging 14.6 points and 3.7 assists while downing 37.9 percent of his triples on career-high volume. At age 34, with two years and $53.5 million left on his deal ($39 million guaranteed), he isn't anywhere near a bargain. Freed from the confines of the Philadelphia 76ers' 2019-20 clunkiness, though, he has re-established himself as an impact player—someone who can contribute, as a starter, to a really good team at least this season and next.
San Antonio can use everything he offers. He might actually boost its fourth-ranked defense; his quickness isn't what it was, but he's still on the switchable side of the center spectrum. He will do even more for the Spurs on offense. LaMarcus Aldridge hasn't cut it—not even when he's healthy, and not even he's hitting his threes. Horford's passing will do more for half-court initiation. He is a massive defensive upgrade over Aldridge too.
Selling themselves on the remainder of Horford's deal won't be easy. It's far from impossible, though. The Spurs can carry his $27.5 million salary for next season and still finagle a bunch of cap space this summer, and his partial guarantee in 2022 ($13.5 million), while lofty, gives them an out if they need the flexibility.
The Thunder shouldn't have any major qualms. Cap space doesn't mean as much in smaller markets, but ditching the next two seasons of Horford's deal invites them to be more aggressive on the salary-dumping market or even when making buy-now trades.
That's worth doing Aldridge-for-Horford straight up. Other moving parts are involved only because San Antonio is hard-capped. Finishing plus-one in the second-round-pick department would be quite impressive for Oklahoma City given the impressions of Horford's pact just a few months ago.
Toronto Raptors Receive: Danuel House, P.J. Tucker
Houston Rockets Receive: Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw, 2021 first-round pick (top-18 protection through 2023; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Junk this trade idea if the Raptors decide to sell. Despite their reported willingness to send Kyle Lowry to a preferred destination, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey, I'm not buying it yet. Toronto is 9-5 since Jan. 31 with a top-10 offense and defense and only now approaching full strength. Its core still has noise to make.
Procuring Danuel House and P.J. Tucker runs counter to the Raptors' most talked about sticking point these days: a lack of reliable size at the center position. Aron Baynes has run mostly cold this year. Chris Boucher-Pascal Siakam pairings aren't intimidating anybody at the rim or on the glass (despite the blocks from Boucher). Toronto seems to have zero interest in deploying Siakam as a 5. OG Anunoby covers a lot of big-man assignments when he's considered the 4.
House and, more specifically, Tucker steer the team deeper into the small-ball structure. That's not a bad thing. Or even a risk. The Raptors are plus-6.0 points per 100 possessions when Anunoby and Siakam make up the frontcourt. Landing Tucker allows them to rely on similar setups more frequently without overextending Boucher or Siakam. House does the same to a lesser extent.
Both he and Tucker will need to shoot better than sub-32 percent from deep for Toronto to come out on top after sending out a protected first-rounder. That's not an unreasonable expectation. House and Tucker each hovered around the league average from long distance last year, and they'll get better looks within the Raptors offense.
Houston can try loosening the protections on the first-rounder to spice up its return. But Tucker is probably yielding only seconds on his own, and House hasn't done enough on offense to make that much of a difference in an aggregate package. Also: The Rockets are getting a partial-season look at Terence Davis and don't have to swallow any longer-term money. This is fair compensation.
Utah Jazz Receive: David Nwaba
Houston Rockets Receive: Juwan Morgan, 2021 second-round pick, 2025 second-round pick
Coming up with trades for the Jazz verges on pointless at the moment. They are setting the league on fire. They have the best record and net rating by a mile. They're not merely squeaking past opponents. They're regularly obliterating them.
Teams can always get better. But they need the dispensable assets to make it happen. The Jazz don't have them—in a good way. They run eight above-replacement-level players deep right now, arguably the most in the NBA. There is zero precedent for breaking up that type of asset base.
Harping on how they'll match up with the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers in a possible playoff series is still fair. They don't have a collection of bigger athletic wings to throw at Anthony Davis, Paul George, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.
Royce O'Neale is undersized. Joe Ingles is 33. Miye Oni has flashed the chops to keep up with these wing archetypes but is a huge question mark on offense. Georges Niang is a sneaky-competent option but not an undeniable answer.
To that end, nobody is the answer. Entirely stopping players like Davis, George, LeBron and Leonard isn't possible. Opponents can only try to make their life more difficult.
Poking around David Nwaba gives the Jazz another defensive body to throw in that discussion. He is only 6'5", but he guards wings like he's 6'9". Even if only situationally, he can help. Utah might be tempted to use him for longer stretches if he's hitting his threes.
The Rockets are playing Nwaba a lot more than the Jazz ever could. But he's a free agent after this season, and they're sort of wandering through the wilderness following the James Harden trade. Two seconds is a good return.
Washington Wizards Receive: Josh Okogie
Minnesota Timberwolves Recieve: Troy Brown, 2022 second-round pick (more favorable of Chicago, Detroit, L.A. Lakers)
Apologies to anyone looking for the Bradley Beal selloff. The reporting on his apparent desire to stay is too strong. If he is moved before the March 25 deadline, the dynamic between star and franchise has either starkly shifted or the Wizards were bowled over by a can't-miss offer. It won't happen because Washington is working the phones hocking him all over the league. Probably. (Relevant: The team has won six of seven.)
Pinpointing a direction for the Wizards remains a challenge even when assuming Beal wants to stay. Their future isn't any less murky. They shouldn't be searching for an explosive buy—not that they have the non-Beal assets to pull off that profound of a move.
Scouring the market for affordable defenders who can bump guys out of their spots on the perimeter is a good default. (Targeting another big also makes sense.) And Josh Okogie-for-Troy Brown profiles as a good challenge trade.
Brown has hinted at some on-ball artistry in the past. He isn't playing a huge role right now, though. Minnesota can put him to better use as it traverses prolonged stretches without D'Angelo Russell (knee) and Malik Beasley (suspension).
Okogie's minutes have similarly cratered this season. He isn't giving the Timberwolves much—which is to say, anything—on offense. The Wizards aren't any more devoted to rolling out any defense-first players (see: Bonga, Isaac). But Okogie can be useful in lineups that feature Beal without Russell Westbrook and has the strength necessary to rumble with bigger wings. He is worth the cost of admission—when that price is Brown and a second.