Trades to Replace the NBA's Most Disappointing Starters
From Ben Simmons, to Kristaps Porzingis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, there have been plenty of disappointing starters in this year's NBA playoffs.
Joining them from the regular season are players like Eric Bledsoe and Kevin Love, guys who either aren't performing up to their contracts, have been hit hard by injuries, or both.
No matter the reason, these players' current teams simply need more from them, with an offseason trade perhaps the best option moving forward.
Malik Beasley In, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out for Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: SG Malik Beasley
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 2021 first-round pick (No. 22 overall)
While he put up a decent enough regular season as the Lakers starting shooting guard (9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 43.1 percent shooting), Caldwell-Pope was dreadful in the playoffs when the team needed him the most.
An average of 6.2 points on 37.9 percent shooting (and 21.1 percent from three) against the Phoenix Suns was brutal, as Caldwell-Pope looked unwilling to shoot even before suffering a knee injury. With the Lakers' title window likely only open a few more years, they need an upgrade at shooting guard ASAP.
Beasley, 24, put up 19.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 0.8 steals on 39.9 percent shooting from three this season, and would immediately become the third-best player on the Lakers. The Wolves may be willing to deal him with the emergence of rookie shooting guard Anthony Edwards, who looks like a perennial All-Star in the making.
Beasley gives the Lakers the scoring punch they need when LeBron James and Anthony Davis need a breather, and he's a terrific floor-spacer and off-ball threat (41.3 percent on catch-and-shoot threes).
Caldwell-Pope is good enough to become Minnesota's starting small forward, a three-and-D wing between Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Wolves agree to this deal to pick up a 2021 first-round pick, however, especially after trading both their selections to the Golden State Warriors in the Andrew Wiggins-D'Angelo Russell swap.
Power forward is a need for Minnesota, and both Kentucky's Isaiah Jackson and Texas' Greg Brown could be available at No. 22 overall.
The Lakers improve immediately, while the Wolves better balance out the roster and get back into the 2021 first round.
Given their number of future first-round picks already going out, L.A. would have to agree to the trade before the draft and select on Minnesota's behalf before making the deal official.
Kevin Love Out, Harrison Barnes in for Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: F Harrison Barnes, PF Marvin Bagley III
Sacramento Kings Receive: PF Kevin Love, SF Cedi Osman, 2022 first-round pick (top-five protected in 2022, 2023 and 2024)
While Love looked great in his final game of the season (30 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals, 6-of-9 on three-pointers), he's struggled to stay healthy in two of the past three seasons and is owed $60.2 million over the next two years. While he can still be a good floor-spacer and rebounder on a playoff team, Love hasn't fit this Cavs rebuild for the past three years.
Barnes doesn't have a great contract, either (two years, $38.7 million), and Bagley's played just 53 games over the past two seasons, but both are younger than Love and make more sense for Cleveland.
The 6'8", 225-pound Barnes would likely get Love's old starting power forward spot with the Cavs, as he's been a good floor-spacer (39.1 percent from three), willing passer and solid defender. Cleveland gets a year left on Bagley's rookie deal to see if a change of scenery helps jump start his career before hitting restricted free agency next summer.
Sacramento can use Love's playoff experience and three-point shooting to help keep lanes open for De'Aaron Fox, and a move back to the West Coast where he grew up should be welcomed by the 13-year vet. Osman is a solid rotation player who can shoot and pass, but this deal is ultimately about getting Cleveland's first-round pick next season.
While the Cavs have to give up a good asset to move on from Love, they do get a solid veteran in return in Barnes and a shot at some upside with Bagley. If the season completely bottoms out and the pick falls in the top-five overall, Cleveland retains its pick in 2022. The pick—and its protections—would then roll over for the next two years.
Pascal Siakam In, Kristaps Porzingis out for Dallas Mavericks
Dallas Mavericks Receive: PF Pascal Siakam
Toronto Raptors Receive: PF Kristaps Porzingis, PG Jalen Brunson, 2025 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
The Mavs have already turned over the coaching staff and front office, signaling a trade of Porzingis could be the next major shakeup in an effort to keep Luka Doncic happy.
Averages of just 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds along with a 29.6 percent shooting mark from three during the first round made Porzingis look more like a disappointing role player rather than a max-contract No. 2—something the Mavs need him to be.
Siakam, on the other hand, has already been the second-leading scorer on a title team and at 27 should be entering the prime of his career. He's a far better passer than Porzingis who can move more fluidly on defense while still putting up over 20 points per game.
While the Raptors shouldn't be shopping Siakam, the thought of what a healthy Porzingis could do under Nick Nurse plus the extras Dallas is throwing in could definitely be worth it.
Brunson, 24, was one of the best backup point guards in the league this season and gives Toronto some insurance in case Kyle Lowry leaves in free agency. The 2025 draft pick is the first Dallas can send out due to the Stepien Rule and gives the Raptors some added trade bait in future deals.
Collin Sexton In, Eric Bledsoe out for New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: G Collin Sexton, F Taurean Prince
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: G Eric Bledsoe, 2021 first-round pick (No. 10 overall), 2022 first-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers)
Bledsoe doesn't fit a young Pelicans backcourt, especially after he averaged just 12.2 points on 42.1 percent shooting this season. His defense took a step back, and the 2020-21 season was the first time since 2012-13 that Bledsoe didn't register a positive on/off rating (minus-1.9).
Looking for a team with cap space to salary dump Bledsoe into would work fine for New Orleans, although even that could mean giving up a first-round pick. If the Pelicans are giving up draft capital to move on from Bledsoe, they should at least look for a young guard in return to take his place.
Sexton has gotten noticeably better in each of his three seasons, and at age 22 averaged 24.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.0 steals as the Cavs' starting shooting guard. He can play on or off the ball, giving the Pelicans some insurance in case Lonzo Ball gets a crazy offer from a team like the New York Knicks or Oklahoma City Thunder with max cap space.
Prince gives the Pelicans a good three-point shooter and defender who can play either forward position behind Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
Cleveland probably only agrees to this deal if they really like Jalen Green or Jalen Suggs, one of which is guaranteed to fall to them at No. 3 in the draft. It also prevents them from having to give Sexton a big extension this offseason or in free agency next year if they don't view him as a max or near-max player.
Bledsoe could be the Cavs backup point guard with Matthew Dellavedova entering free agency, and getting the No. 10 overall pick in this good draft might land Cleveland a player like Duke's Jalen Johnson or Baylor's Davion Mitchell. The Cavs get the Lakers' pick next year for agreeing to take on Bledsoe's contract.
Malcolm Brogdon In, Ben Simmons Out for Philadelphia 76ers
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: PG Malcolm Brogdon, G/F Jeremy Lamb
Indiana Pacers Receive: PG Ben Simmons
Following his disastrous showing against the Atlanta Hawks, Simmons' days in Philly should be numbered. The Sixers just can't go through another playoff run with him, especially with Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris playing some of the best basketball of their careers.
Brogdon, 28, fits the timeline in Philadelphia perfectly. He averaged 21.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists and hit 38.8 percent of his three-pointers for the Pacers this season. Brogdon is also one of the NBA's best free-throw shooters, leading the league in 2018-19 (92.8 percent) and would rank 12th in basketball history (88.7 percent) if he had enough attempts to qualify.
While intentionally fouling Simmons became a popular defensive strategy, it's nearly an automatic two points when Brogdon goes to the line. At 6'5", Brogdon can play either guard position, is a strong defender and should be an easy fit next to the Sixers core. He doesn't have the potential of Simmons, but is a good and willing outside shooter who's as reliable as they come at the free-throw line.
Lamb, 29, helps match up salaries but would be a useful rotation piece in Philly. He put up 10.1 points on 40.6 percent shooting from three this season.
For a Pacers team stuck in the middle of the East, Simmons gives them a three-time All-Star who could significantly raise the team's ceiling alongside Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis. Getting Simmons into a smaller market could be good for his development, and new head coach Rick Carlisle has plenty of experience working with talented point guards (Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Luka Doncic).