NBA Trade Ideas to Save Lottery Teams from Another Playoff Whiff
Whether they were rebuilding or had legit playoff aspirations heading into the season, no NBA franchise wants to end up in the lottery.
Sometimes a rebuild just needs some fast forwarding. Take the Atlanta Hawks, for example. After years of collecting high lottery picks, a trade for Clint Capela and the signings of Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic have now pushed them not just into the postseason, but into the second round.
Many of the lottery-bound teams should have the same goal for next year, making the leap to the playoffs while shaking off the bad vibes of a poor 2020-21 season.
While it may be best for some squads to continue a slow and oftentimes painful rebuild, these trades would be the best quick fix to avoid another lottery trip.
Charlotte Hornets Receive: F/C Kristaps Porzingis
Dallas Mavericks Receive: F/C P.J. Washington, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Porzingis would bring size and scoring to the frontcourt in Charlotte, combining with LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges to form a dangerous starting five.
Making 38.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes this season, Porzingis would make a nice pick-and-pop partner for Ball. Charlotte's 23rd-ranked offense this season should easily jump into the top-10 with the All-Star big man.
For Dallas, the trade would clear $27.4 million in cap space this summer, giving them the shot at two max contracts if Josh Richardson doesn't pick up his player option.
Washington, 22, averaged 12.9 rebounds, 6.5 rebounds and shot 38.6 percent from deep in his second pro season, giving the Mavs a good, young power forward.
In addition to the added cap space and Washington, the Mavs also pick up the Hornets first-rounder next season.
Chicago Bulls Receive: PG Kemba Walker
Boston Celtics Receive: G Coby White, PG Tomas Satoransky, F Al-Farouq Aminu
By trading for Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls signaled they're clearly trying to win now. After still missing out on the 2021 postseason, adding Walker would make the Bulls a playoff lock next year.
Although he battled knee issues throughout the year, Walker looked like his All-Star self during the second half of the season. Over his nine regular season games, the 31-year-old averaged 25.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.1 steals and shot 42.7 percent from three.
A starting unit of Walker, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Thaddeus Young and Vucevic could compete for homecourt advantage in the East, and the addition of Walker would help convince LaVine to re-sign next offseason.
A first-round playoff exit means the Celtics clearly aren't ready to compete for a title yet, so swapping Walker for White resets the timeline.
White, 21, averaged 16.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and made 37.4 percent of his threes in 54 starts. Boston saves about $10 million in the trade and gets them off Walker's contract, one that could look really bad if his knee continues to get worse.
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SG CJ McCollum, SF Derrick Jones Jr.
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: G Collin Sexton, PF Kevin Love, 2022 second-round pick (via San Antonio Spurs)
The Cavs bring McCollum, a Northeast Ohio native, back home while letting him finally serve as a No. 1 scoring option on a team.
With the jump Darius Garland made last season, a backcourt of him and McCollum would be one of the best in the East, both able to score and facilitate for others as needed.
Jones gives the Cavs an athletic lob target on the wing, and getting off Love's contract is a huge bonus here as well. The combination of Larry Nance Jr. and Taurean Prince is more than capable of soaking up all the power forward minutes with Love gone.
With Portland clearly not good enough to win a title as currently constructed, Sexton and Love raise the team's ceiling around Damian Lillard. Sexton, 22, averaged 24.3 points and 4.4 assists in his third year while Love finally looked like his old self near the end of the season (17.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 51.4 percent from three over his final five games).
Detroit Pistons Receive: G Fred VanVleet
Toronto Raptors Receive: PG Killian Hayes, C Mason Plumlee
With Hayes battling injuries all season and finishing the year with just 6.8 points per game on 35.3 percent shooting, the 19-year-old has a long way to go before he looks like a franchise point guard.
Head coach Dwane Casey could speed up the process with a trade for his former guard in VanVleet, one who averaged a career-high 19.6 points and 6.3 assists this season.
With the other Pistons rookies looking like hits (e.g. Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart), adding VanVleet to run an offense led by Jerami Grant would put Detroit's rebuild on the fast track.
If Toronto can re-sign Lowry, the 35-year-old would be the perfect mentor for Hayes before handing the keys to the franchise over in a year or two. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 draft still carries a ton of upside but clearly needs a lot of development.
Plumlee gives the Raptors some depth at center, their weakest position this past season.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State Warriors Receive: C Jonas Valanciunas, F Kyle Anderson, G/F Justise Winslow
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: C James Wiseman, SF Andrew Wiggins
Big men typically take years to develop, meaning the Warriors should seriously consider trading Wiseman for some win-now help with Klay Thompson set to return next year.
Valanciunas, 29, is coming off the best season of his career (17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 59.2 percent shooting) while helping lead the Grizzlies to the final spot in the West playoffs over the Warriors.
Anderson is the perfect versatile forward off the bench, and Winslow flashed his potential when healthy with 25 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four three-pointers against the Sacramento Kings in his final regular season game.
Losing Valanciunas and Anderson would hurt the Grizzlies' present, but both will become free agents in 2022. Wiseman has All-Star potential as a franchise center, and the core of Wiseman, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. would be truly special.
Wiggins, 26, was terrific this season for the Warriors with 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and a career-high 56.8 true shooting percentage. He showed real defensive skills as well and would become the new starting small forward in Memphis.
Houston Rockets Receive: C Karl-Anthony Towns
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: C Christian Wood, PG D.J. Augustin, 2021 first-round pick (via Portland Trail Blazers), 2021 first-round pick (via Milwaukee Bucks), 2022 first-round pick
Towns probably isn't going anywhere unless he forces his way out of Minnesota. If this ever comes to fruition, the Rockets are one of the few teams loaded with picks that could make a competitive offer for the All-Star center.
Towns, 25, once again filled up the stat sheet this season (24.8 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.1 blocks) while flashing his long-range game.
A lineup of John Wall, Kevin Porter Jr., Eric Gordon, Jae'Sean Tate and Towns could compete for the West playoffs, especially if Porter starts to reach his incredible potential. The Rockets are owed picks from several franchises after trading James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Robert Covington and others, so shipping three first-rounders only puts a small dent in their collection.
If the Wolves were forced to trade Towns, getting Wood back to take his place would be a great start. The 25-year-old center put up 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and hit on 37.4 percent of his threes for the Rockets this season.
Getting an unprotected pick from Houston in 2022 is the highlight here, but picking up a pair of firsts in the 2021 draft helps add talent around Anthony Edwards, D'Angelo Russell, Wood, Jarrett Culver, Malik Beasley and others.
Indiana Pacers Receive: C Tristan Thompson, G Carsen Edwards
Boston Celtics Receive: G/F Jeremy Lamb, C Goga Bitadze
Unlike some of the teams on this list, the Pacers really don't need to do much to make it back to the playoffs next year.
Finishing just one game short of the postseason could easily be fixed by a full season of Caris LeVert and a healthy T.J. Warren. Indiana needs some help on the glass, however, finishing 29th in rebounding percentage this season (47.6 percent).
Thompson is good enough to start but would also be the perfect backup center to Myles Turner. The 30-year-old is fourth among all active players in offensive rebound percentage (13.7 percent) and would bring some added toughness to the Pacers frontcourt.
Edwards gives Indiana a spark plug scoring guard off the bench.
Boston should be ready to hand the starting center job to Robert Williams III, making this trade possible. Lamb gives the Celtics some scoring on the perimeter, something they may really need if Evan Fournier walks in free agency.
Bitadze was a first-round pick in 2019 and is still just 21, giving the Celtics a solid young backup behind Williams.
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: PF Pascal Siakam
Toronto Raptors Receive: G D'Angelo Russell, G/F Jarrett Culver, PF Jaden McDaniels
The Wolves had assembled a nice collection of young talent, and are perhaps just one quality power forward away from becoming a staple in the West playoffs.
Siakam is a former All-Star starter who should be entering his prime now at age 27. He's a winning distributor and defender who can space the floor and brings championship experience.
If the Raptors lose Kyle Lowry in free agency, they could use another ball-handler in the backcourt to pair with Fred VanVleet. Russell, 25, averaged 19.2 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 39.7 percent from three as a starter this season.
Culver was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 draft who is able to play both wing positions, and McDaniels showed terrific defensive potential as a rookie this past year.
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: C Myles Turner, F T.J. Warren, G/F Jeremy Lamb
Indiana Pacers Receive: C Steven Adams, G Eric Bledsoe, 2022 first-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers), 2025 first-round pick (via Milwaukee Bucks)
Turner is exactly what the Pelicans need; a defense-first, floor-spacing center to place next to Zion Williamson. Still only 25, Turner blocked 3.4 shots per game this season and is a career 35.2 percent shooter from three.
Warren and Lamb are both terrific rotation pieces who also bring outside shooting to New Orleans, a team that needs to start making the playoffs to keep both Williamson and Brandon Ingram happy.
Adams is good enough to start at center for the Pacers and Bledsoe fills the sixth man role in case T.J. McConnell leaves in free agency. Indiana gets to remain competitive while also collecting a pair of first-round picks, with neither holding any kind of protection.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: SG Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards Receive: G Theo Maledon, F Aleksej Pokusevski, 2021 first-round pick (top-3 protected), 2022 first-round pick (via Phoenix Suns, protected 1-12)
The Thunder have perhaps the brightest future of any franchise, given the amount of young talent on the roster and the incredible collection of draft picks owed to them.
If Beal finally asks out of Washington, why shouldn't the Thunder go for him?
A backcourt of Beal and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be among the best in the West, with a starting five filled out by Al Horford, Lu Dort and Darius Bazley.
For Washington, let the first-round picks come flowing in before Beal leaves for nothing next summer. Maledon and Pokusevski both showed a lot of potential as rookies, or the Wizards could ask for Dort or Bazley in return instead.
Getting a potential top-five pick is the main prize here for Washington, meaning the franchise gets a shot at Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes.
Orlando Magic Receive: PG Russell Westbrook
Washington Wizards Receive: PG Markelle Fultz, SG Gary Harris
If the Wizards end up trading Bradley Beal, there's no reason to keep Westbrook on the roster, either.
After playing with a torn quad early in the season, a healthy Westbrook averaged a whopping 24.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, 14.7 assists, 1.5 steals and shot 45.3 percent over the final 14 games.
Although the Magic just traded away Nikola Vucevic, the return of Jonathan Isaac next season combined with Terrence Ross, Wendell Carter Jr., Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba and R.J. Hampton could mean a quick return to the playoffs with Westbrook on board.
The Wizards get off the remaining two years and $91 million left on Westbrook's contract while picking up Fultz and Harris.
Fultz is coming off a torn ACL but showed good potential (12.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals) in his eight games this season. Harris is mainly used for salary filler, but is still just 26 and could carve out a role with the Wizards moving forward.
Sacramento Kings Receive: C Ivica Zubac, G/F Luke Kennard
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: SG Buddy Hield, 2021 second-round pick
The Kings have talent, but need a better roster balance to be able to break through the bottom of the West.
Hield is no longer the shooting guard of the future with Tyrese Haliburton on board, meaning the Kings should look to move him for some better fitting pieces.
Zubac, 24, gives the Kings a good, young starting center in case Richaun Holmes leaves in free agency. He's owed just $15 million over the next two seasons.
Kennard, 24, has fallen out of the Clippers playoff rotation but is one of the better three-point shooters in the NBA. He shot a career-high 44.6 percent from three during the regular season and could become Sacramento's starting small forward.
A lineup of De'Aaron Fox, Haliburton, Kennard, Harrison Barnes and Zubac would fit together nicely, allowing the backcourt to shine.
For the Clippers, Hield could serve as the shooting guard in small lineups or be the team's microwave scorer off the bench.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs Receive: F/C Domantas Sabonis, PG Malcolm Brogdon
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Dejounte Murray, F Keldon Johnson, G Derrick White, PF Luka Samanic, 2021 first-round pick
If the Spurs don't want to go full rebuild in their final years (year?) with Gregg Popovich at the helm, the Pacers offer a pair of vets who could help get San Antonio back into the postseason.
Sabonis is one of the most skilled big men in the league, a two-time All-Star who can spend time at both power forward and center. He averaged 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in his fifth pro season.
Brogdon, 28, put up 21.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and shot 38.8 percent from three. He's a strong defender who would help bring shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV along.
A Spurs starting five of Brogdon, Walker, Devin Vassell, Sabonis and Jakob Poeltl coached by Popovich would be good now and for years to come.
This would be a complete tear down for a Pacers team that underachieved this season.
Murray and White are already proven NBA starters, however, while Johnson and Samanic are high-upside forwards. Getting the Spurs pick in the first round (projected No. 12 overall) could net the Pacers a player like Moses Moody, Davion Mitchell or Franz Wagner.
Toronto Raptors Receive: SF Brandon Ingram, C Steven Adams
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: SF OG Anunoby, C Chris Boucher, SG Rodney Hood, C Aron Baynes, 2021 first-round pick, 2023 first-round pick (top-five protected)
Getting Ingram would be a dream acquisition for the Raptors, especially considering he's a player the Pelicans would have to receive a massive offer for to even consider dealing.
Still, New Orleans has to prioritize putting the best possible team around Zion Williamson, and that means defenders and floor spacers.
Pairing Ingram with Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. (and possibly Kyle Lowry) would immediately put the Raptors back in the East playoffs, especially with adding Adams as the team's starting center.
For New Orleans, Anunoby is the perfect small forward for Williamson to play next to, a lock-down defender who shot 39.8 percent from three and is only 23. Boucher is a much better fit than Adams at center, a floor-spacing big who can protect the rim.
Getting two more first-round picks gives New Orleans a collection that almost rivals the Oklahoma City Thunder, putting them in position to land the next disgruntled star.