New Blockbuster NBA Trades You've Never Thought Of
The 2021 NBA offseason might be remembered as the summer of swaps.
With the free-agent market lacking both stars and spenders, trades might be the only way for most teams to add difference-makers.
While speculation has already started on certain possible moves, we're putting the creativity sliders up on the trade machine to bring some new blockbuster ideas to the table.
Kings Chase Playoffs, Rockets Continue Rebuild
Sacramento Kings receive: Christian Wood
Houston Rockets receive: Marvin Bagley III, Jahmi'us Ramsey, No. 9 pick and 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected)
While the Kings are trapped in a record-tying playoff drought, they also appear one player away from being pretty interesting. De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton might enter the best-backcourt discussion sooner than later, Buddy Hield is an elite net-shredder, and Harrison Barnes connects plenty of dots as a versatile two-way player.
Now, imagine dropping a star center into the mix. Sacramento might take off faster than Fox in the open court.
Even if Christian Wood's numbers are padded a tad by handling featured roles on less than competitive teams, the skills are obvious and immense. His scoring range reaches from the rim to the perimeter, and when he is dialed in defensively, he is equally comfortable blocking shots, cleaning the glass and handling switches.
Fox looks ready to lead a playoff charge. The Kings just need to give him the right co-star to get him there. Wood should be up to the challenge now, and since he's only two years older than Fox, the pair can grow and mature together.
While the Rockets probably aren't rushing to trade Wood, they should certainly be open to the idea. They need a full reset to recover from James Harden's departure, and their attempt to circumvent the process proved disastrous (getting Victor Oladipo in the Harden deal instead of Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert).
If Houston believes in Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in 2018 with career per-36-minutes averages of 20.5 points and 10.6 rebounds, this might be an offer the franchise can't refuse. Jahmi'us Ramsey is an athletic 20-year-old with three-and-D potential, and the picks can aid in the Rockets' search for their next centerpiece.
Pelicans Make Push, Raptors Prioritize Future
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Fred VanVleet, Chris Boucher and Rodney Hood
Toronto Raptors receive: Lonzo Ball (sign-and-trade), Eric Bledsoe, No. 35 pick, No. 40 pick and 2022 first-round pick (top-seven protected)
The Pelicans can't wait too long to build a winner around Zion Williamson, who reportedly has family members who already want him on another team, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and William Guillory.
Hiring head coach Stan Van Gundy didn't work. Newcomers Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams failed to move the needle. New Orleans was basically the same team this season as it was last year, despite an obvious and overpowering leap forward from Zion.
The Pels need better players around their 21-year-old centerpiece, and this deal could net a couple.
Fred VanVleet pairs championship experience with a fiery three-point shot (career 38.4 percent), reliable decision-making (6.3 assists against 1.8 turnovers) and relentless, disruptive defense. Chris Boucher has the shot-blocking and floor-spacing combo that should fit best with Williamson up front. Rodney Hood hasn't been the same since rupturing his left Achilles in Dec. 2019, but he offers three-level scoring when he's right.
Combine these newcomers with New Orleans' many avenues to internal improvement, and the Pels should expect to be playoff participants next season.
Conversely, the Raptors might see Kyle Lowry's free agency as a reason to reset on the fly. Toronto doesn't have to tear everything to the studs if it doesn't, but flipping some win-now talent for long-term potential could brighten the franchise's future.
Lonzo Ball can be a building block in either backcourt spot. This trade would give Toronto four second-round picks in the upcoming draft, more than enough ammunition to climb the board for a prospect or two it really likes. The Raptors would take two first-round picks into next year's draft, and they might be able to generate trade interest in Bledsoe, who only has a partially guaranteed contract for 2022-23.
Pacers (Finally) Get Hayward, Hornets Add Center and Scorer
Indiana Pacers receive: Gordon Hayward and No. 11 pick
Charlotte Hornets receive: Myles Turner and Caris LeVert
When Gordon Hayward hit the free-agent market last offseason, the Pacers were eager to bring the Indianapolis native back home.
"We pushed as hard as we possibly could," Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard told reporters, via NBC Sports Boston. "... The feedback was he wanted to be here."
Hayward, of course, wound up taking the money—all $120 million of it—and bolting to Buzz City. Despite losing the final month-plus to a right foot sprain, he was everything the Hornets could've wanted and more when healthy. He was one of 20 players to average 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, and he complemented his counting categories with an efficient 47.3/41.5/84.3 shooting slash.
He could be just as productive for the Pacers, who have more scoring threats (Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren) but no one too ball-dominant for Hayward to work alongside.
After this exchange, Indy would hold picks Nos. 11 and 13. That means the Pacers could add a pair of lottery prospects to their roster or consolidate the selections for an earlier pick or an established NBA player. This is the kind of go-for-it move that could help Indiana escape the Association's dreaded midsection.
Charlotte, meanwhile, would make the move to put LaMelo Ball in the best position for success, which should be the Hornets' primary objective moving forward. Instead of having 31-year-old Hayward as a co-star, the 19-year-old Ball could work with 26-year-old Caris LeVert, an effortlessly smooth shot-creator, and 25-year-old Myles Turner, the rim-protecting, outside-shooting solution to Charlotte's problem at center.
If the Hornets view a healthy LeVert in the same tier as Hayward, they can justify turning the lottery pick into Turner.
Simmons to the Sooner State in 3-Teamer
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Ben Simmons and Shake Milton
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Kemba Walker, Eric Gordon, Kenrich Williams, No. 16 pick (from OKC), No. 18 pick (from OKC, via MIA), No. 34 pick (from OKC), 2024 first-round pick (from OKC, via LAC) and 2025 first-round pick (top-six protected, from OKC, via PHI)
Houston Rockets receive: George Hill and No. 55 pick (from OKC)
The Sixers have started the Ben Simmons sweepstakes, per The Athletic's Shams Charania, and it's just as tough to figure out as you'd expect.
Simmons is 24 years old, a former No. 1 overall pick, a three-time All-Star, a two-time All-Defensive first-teamer and a one-time All-NBA selection. He's also coming off a disastrous playoff run in which he couldn't shake the yips at the free-throw line (25-of-73) and torpedoed his aggressiveness to the point of passing up open dunks.
What's the trade market for someone like that? The Sixers hope it's "an All-Star-caliber player," per Charania, but that could be a hair ambitious given his postseason flop and offensive limitations. This package might be more reasonable.
Kemba Walker is technically a four-time All-Star, though he's injury-discounted for now after fighting a left knee problem for the past year-plus. When he's right, though, he can be the perimeter scorer, shooter and shot-creator Philly's offense needs.
Here, the Sixers would fetch a second backcourt scorer in Eric Gordon, who's had his own injury issues of late but is a proven shot-maker and attacker when healthy. Kenrich Williams is a 26-year-old glue guy who played all five positions this season. The incoming picks would become extra trade chips for president of basketball operations Daryl Morey to go seek out more win-now deals.
Why would the Thunder agree to this? Because they wouldn't otherwise have access to a talent like Simmons without drafting him. He's a brilliant defender, a natural playmaker, a locomotive in the open court and still working toward his prime. With four years left on his contract, he could form the long-term foundation with 23-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Shake Milton, another 24-year-old, could be coveted for his shot-making.
As for the Rockets, they'd probably pounce on this exchange as soon as it was offered. They would not only get out of Gordon's remaining contract ($37.8 million over the next two seasons), they'd get a second-round flier for doing so, plus have between now and the trade deadline to get a contending team to bite on George Hill as a plug-and-play rental.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.