5 Blockbuster Trades to Blow Up 2021 NBA Free Agency
With the 2021 NBA draft wrapped up, it's time for the league to set its sights on free agency.
If the Russell Westbrook-to-the Los Angeles Lakers trade is any indication, we may see some deals along the way as well.
This year's free-agent class is heavy with restricted players coming off rookie deals—guys such as Jarrett Allen, John Collins, Lonzo Ball, Duncan Robinson, Gary Trent Jr., Talen Horton-Tucker and others. This could lead to a few sign-and-trades between incumbent teams that don't want to overpay their own players and outside franchises that are interested but don't have the necessary cap space.
There's also a handful of veterans (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dennis Schroder, etc.) who are unlikely to return to their own teams either for salary reasons or their positions having already been filled via trade.
The following five trade ideas would all have a big impact on 2021 free agency.
DeMar DeRozan Completes Clippers' Big 3
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: F DeMar DeRozan (via sign-and-trade)
San Antonio Spurs Receive: G/F Luke Kennard, PG Patrick Beverley, SG Terance Mann
Getting DeRozan to Los Angeles will be tricky but not impossible.
The Southern California native would likely agree to a sign-and-trade if it means coming to the Clippers, a spot where he has a chance to win a championship alongside Kawhi Leonard (assuming he re-signs) and Paul George. With Leonard set to miss a large portion of the regular season following surgery to fix a partial ACL tear, the Clippers will need DeRozan's scoring as well.
Los Angeles would be hard-capped if it receives a player via sign-and-trade, meaning the total team salary couldn't exceed $138,928,000. A lot of factors will go into the final number, including the deal that DeRozan signs, how much salary the Clippers send back to the Spurs, Leonard's new contract versus his $36 million player option, Serge Ibaka's $9.7 million player option and filling out the rest of the roster with free agents.
DeRozan may be willing to take a discount if it means coming home to California and joining a team with title hopes, although anything too far under $20 million per year may be asking too much of the four-time All-Star.
The Clippers can match salaries using players such as Marcus Morris, Kennard, Beverley, Rajon Rondo, Ivica Zubac and even Ibaka if he opts in, using some combination to match (or exceed) DeRozan's new deal.
If the Spurs don't want to lose DeRozan for nothing, this is their chance to get some good starters and rotation players back in return.
Lonzo Ball Lands in Chicago
Chicago Bulls Receive: PG Lonzo Ball (via sign-and-trade)
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: G Coby White, PG Tomas Satoransky
The Bulls were interested in Ball at the trade deadline and once again will be pursuing the restricted free agent, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
Chicago may not have enough cap space to sign him outright, however, as Charania noted that Ball could command as high as $22 million annually in free agency.
This makes a sign-and-trade far more likely, although it will cost the Bulls some rotation pieces.
Ball, 23, is coming off the best season of his career after averaging 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.5 steals and showing off a strong three-point shot (37.8 percent on 8.3 attempts per game). He has the size (6'6") and defensive ability to give Chicago one of the best backcourts in the conference alongside Zach LaVine.
New Orleans isn't losing Ball for nothing, so getting back one veteran point guard in Satoransky and a young scoring guard in White is good value.
White, 21, still has two more years on his rookie deal, so the Pelicans don't have to worry about paying him. He averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists and shot 35.9 percent from three this past season, showing the ability to play on or off the ball.
Kings Give John Collins the Max in Sign-and-Trade
Sacramento Kings Receive: PF John Collins (via sign-and-trade)
Atlanta Hawks Receive: G Tyrese Haliburton, PF Marvin Bagley III
Collins has worked himself into max-deal territory after back-to-back strong seasons, and it's a contract the Hawks may be hesitant to give him with so many other mouths to feed on the roster.
Trae Young can sign a max extension this summer. De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter and Onyeka Okongwu will need to be paid over the next few years as well. Taking Jalen Johnson with the 20th overall pick has given them some added depth at forward too.
If the Hawks don't want to max out Collins, finding a trade partner would be best.
The Kings are even more guard-heavy after taking Baylor point guard Davion Mitchell with the ninth overall pick and missing out on trading Buddy Hield to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell.
Collins would be the perfect power forward, able to play pick-and-roll with De'Aaron Fox while spacing the floor and catching lobs from the young star.
For Atlanta, Haliburton also makes sense as a starting shooting guard next to Young with his size (6'5") and shooting ability (40.9 percent from thee). He also has three years left on his rookie deal, a plus for a Hawks team that's suddenly getting expensive.
Bagley gets to show off any potential he has left in a fresh start, and joining a talented Hawks team may help him unlock it before going into restricted free agency next year.
Ben Simmons Joins LaMelo Ball in Charlotte
Charlotte Hornets Receive: G/F Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: G Terry Rozier, F/C PJ Washington, PG Devonte' Graham (via sign-and-trade), 2024 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
One giant playmaker is fun, but have you tried two?
The ball would be flying around in Charlotte's new offense, one that features 6'6" LaMelo Ball and the 6'10" Simmons in the backcourt. Add in Gordon Hayward's playmaking ability and there's no reason why the Hornets shouldn't finish first in all assist-related stats next season.
Miles Bridges would be in lob heaven catching passes from both Ball and Simmons, and putting Ball in the pick-and-roll with Simmons crashing hard to the rim would be a deadly weapon to unleash on defenses.
The Sixers could get a nice package of players and picks in return, headlined by Rozier. The 27-year-old averaged 20.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists and hit 38.9 percent of his threes for Charlotte this past season, and Graham gives them another young ball-handler who should be had on a reasonable contract.
Washington, 22, gave the Hornets 12.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks and shot 38.6 percent from outside the arc. The Sixers could start him and Tobias Harris at the forward spots or use Washington as a sixth man who can play both power forward and center.
Kyle Lowry Takes Over Point Guard Duties in Boston
Boston Celtics Receive: PG Kyle Lowry (via sign-and-trade)
Toronto Raptors Receive: PG Marcus Smart, PF Grant Williams, G/F Romeo Langford
The Celtics should be in the market for a point guard after trading Kemba Walker, and Lowry would be an upgrade as a veteran running Boston's offense.
The 35-year-old is still playing at a high level after averaging 17.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.0 steals and shooting 39.6 percent from three last season. He brings the championship experience that this still mostly young Celtics team needs and would help push them back toward the top of the East following a disappointing 2020-21 season.
A starting five of Lowry, Jaylen Brown, Evan Fournier (if he re-signs), Jayson Tatum and Al Horford would be one of the best in the conference, and the bench wouldn't be completely gutted, either.
Toronto doesn't have a lot of leverage since Lowry is an unrestricted free agent, so it should be thrilled with getting back a premier defender and two prospects.
Smart is still one of the best defensive guards in basketball, and he'd join a Raptors backcourt featuring Fred VanVleet and restricted free agent Gary Trent Jr. Meanwhile, Langford and Williams could develop as sparks off the bench.