Breaking Down Most Realistic Potential Trades of NBA Offseason
Trade machine magicians can cook up some delectable deals that, if they ever transpired in real life, would break the internet.
But the reality of NBA trading is more grounded than this imaginary version of the marketplace.
Blockbusters still happen, of course, and every now and then a big trade seemingly surfaces out of thin air (The Chicago Bulls adding All-Star center Nikola Vucevic comes to mind). It's just that NBA executives operate under real-world circumstances that digital wheelers-and-dealers don't always take into account.
So, rather than letting our imaginations run wild, we're trying to keep as realistic as possible with the following four potential offseason swaps. Since so much future payroll is undecided, we'll put together the foundations of these deals and let the pro cap-crunchers figure out the minute financial details down the road.
Warriors Gain Firepower; Magic Get Younger
Golden State Warriors receive: Terrence Ross
Orlando Magic receive: Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall and 2026 first-round pick (top-five protected)
There are a million different ways to process Stephen Curry's record-setting scoring binge. The one not being talked about enough is the one that could shape this offseason: Wow, the Warriors really need more weaponry around him so he doesn't have to do this much on his own.
It's not a fun take, and Curry transforming the hardwood into a magic show is very fun, so it makes sense this wouldn't be most people's top takeaway.
Saying that, though, Golden State has a generational great who is still very much at the peak of his power. The Warriors must take that into consideration when plotting their offseason path, and that doesn't have to mean trading away one (or both) of James Wiseman or the juicy first-rounder owed to them by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Here, the Dubs would keep both assets and still add an electric scorer who could support Curry with a barrage of long-range buckets and highlight-reel rim-rockers.
Terrence Ross, the last vet standing in Orlando, should pique the interest of any team in the market for offense. He's on course to average more than 14 points per game for the third straight season and shows both quality (36.7 percent) and quantity (1.9 makes per game) in his career as a three-point shooter.
He also shouldn't be particularly cost-prohibitive as a trade target. This exchange needs some fleshing out to make the money work—perhaps including a sign-and-traded Kelly Oubre Jr., or maybe even Andrew Wiggins going to Orlando with Gary Harris joining Ross in Golden State—but the basic idea is turning long-term assets into immediate offensive relief.
For a Warriors team hoping to contend for next season's crown with Curry, Draymond Green and a hopefully healthy Klay Thompson, the sting of these sacrifices would be nothing next to the potential reward.
The Magic, meanwhile, would lean further into the youth movement they kicked off at the deadline when they traded away Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. Jordan Poole is a slick scorer off the dribble. Eric Paschall can bully his way to buckets in an instant-offense bench role. The first-round pick is far off in the future, but that could be a good thing with Curry, Thompson and Green all on the wrong side of 30.
Hornets Land Center; Pacers Gain Frontcourt Flexibility
Charlotte Hornets receive: Myles Turner
Indiana Pacers receive: P.J. Washington, Cody Martin and 2021 first-round pick (top-five protected)
Kemba Walker's departure in 2019 threatened to send Charlotte into years of silence. But not even two years later, the Hornets have their buzz back. Between acing the third overall selection on LaMelo Ball and smartly spending on Gordon Hayward, this franchise suddenly has the foundation to build something pretty interesting.
But the glaring void at the center spot needs addressing sooner than later, and with both Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo ticketed for free agency this summer, that time is probably now.
Swinging big for Myles Turner, a top shot-blocker with three-point touch, would be a fascinating way to finish the puzzle.
His paint presence alone might be enough to get Charlotte's 14th-ranked defense into the top 10. At the other end, his soft shooting touch (career 35.2 percent from deep) would help spread the floor and keep attack lanes open for Ball, Hayward, Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges. Rozier would be the second-oldest member of that quintet at 27, meaning the Hornets could be formidable now and potentially scary in the future.
The Pacers need to sign off on the swap, obviously, but could be open to change after backtracking to their worst winning percentage since 2010-11 (.456).
Indy's twin-towers model with Turner and Domantas Sabonis is losing steam—minus-2.3 net rating across 1,058 minutes—and the Pacers can modernize their frontcourt twice in one transaction. First, they'd be getting a pliable player in P.J. Washington, whose glue-guy game works at the 4 and 5 spots. Second, this would clear a path for bubble breakout star T.J. Warren to return to the starting lineup after effectively losing this season to a left foot injury.
Throw in a first-round pick and a scrappy defender who can make things happen with the ball in his hands in Cody Martin, and there might be enough for the Pacers to bite.
Wolves Find Power Forward; Pistons Add Assets
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Jerami Grant
Detroit Pistons receive: Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver, Jaden McDaniels and 2023 first-round pick (top-seven protected)
Karl-Anthony Towns is close to completing his sixth NBA season in Minnesota. This will be the fifth in which the club fails to qualify for postseason play and possibly second consecutive with a sub-.300 winning percentage.
This isn't how KAT's prime years are supposed to play out. Last season's deadline deal for D'Angelo Russell was about upgrading the supporting cast, but more work is needed—particularly at the power forward spot.
That's where Jerami Grant could make his mark as a switchable defender with significantly more point-production in his arsenal than anyone imagined. In his first season with the Pistons, he's shattering his previous personal-best of 13.6 points per game with 22.4 a night. He's also hitting a new high mark with 2.2 triples while outperforming his career rate from distance (35.4 percent this season, 34.8 for his career).
As a 27-year-old with nearly seven NBA seasons under his belt, Grant is smack dab in the middle of his prime. That should mean a lot to a Minnesota team eager to build a winner with Towns, who otherwise could get antsy for a scenery change between now and when his contract expires in 2024.
"What can I do to build on my legacy?" Towns said, per Jace Frederick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "What can I do? The legacy is not about stats anymore. I've proven myself. Now it's more about can I get us to win?"
The Wolves need to give him more help for that to happen. Getting Grant would be a huge step in that direction.
The Pistons resisted trade calls on Grant at the deadline, per The Athletic's James L. Edwards III, but Detroit is playing the long game with the rest of its roster, so making a 27-year-old non-star untouchable would seem a strange sense.
Instead, the Pistons could pivot here to an under-25 trio of players and a lightly protected future first.
Malik Beasley has basically been a 20-point scorer during his year-plus Timberwolves tenure and is a fiery shooter from range. Jarrett Culver, the No. 6 pick in 2019, has underwhelmed so far but might be a relocation away from tapping into his two-way potential. Finally, rookie Jaden McDaniels is the type of toolsy young project the rebuilding Pistons should be eager to tackle.
Heat Build Big Three; Wizards Reset
Miami Heat receive: Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards receive: Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa, Andre Iguodala, KZ Okpala, 2025 first-round pick (top-three protected) and 2027 first-round pick
The Heat have long been connected to Bradley Beal, with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald most recently reporting Miami has "high" interest in the prolific scoring guard. Given the club's obvious need for a go-to scorer—the Heat rank 24th in offensive efficiency—Beal, the league's second-leading scorer at 31.1 points per game, couldn't be a more obvious target.
He's a fan of the franchise's centerpieces, too. Ahead of an early February matchup in Miami, Beal touted Bam Adebayo's ability to "guard 1 through 5" and called Jimmy Butler "a star in our league, a true leader," per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Get those three on the same roster, and Miami would immediately vault into the Eastern Conference's top tier.
The question is whether the Wizards would be willing dance partners here, and so far there's a resounding "No!" coming out of the District. But the fact Washington's best-case scenario for this season is a ticket to the play-in tournament might be enough for Beal or the Wizards (or both) to reconsider their stance on staying together.
Should Washington opt for a reset, this is the kind of rebuilding starting kit it should covet.
Tyler Herro has star potential who might one day resemble a rough sketch of Beal as an elite shooter who can create off the dribble and find shots for teammates. Precious Achiuwa pairs explosive athleticism with an elite motor. KZ Okpala aces the eye test with size length and athleticism. The picks—which could be movable if the Oklahoma City Thunder agree to remove protections on earlier draft debts—are long-term dart throws.
Add in Andre Iguodala (and a little more) to make the money work, and this could make Miami title contenders while providing Washington with a more focused direction for the future.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.