Fresh NBA Trade Ideas from Latest News and Rumors
The first half-day of 2021 NBA free agency brought an avalanche of action. More than 50 players agreed to contract terms, which is pretty incredible when you consider they weren't allowed to—and definitely, without question, 100 percent didn't—speak with teams prior to 6 p.m. Eastern Time Monday.
Anyway, while the initial wave of breaking news is starting to taper off, the rumor mill is only just getting fired up. Plenty of different scenarios continue to be discussed, and beyond that, the trade market never sleeps.
That holds doubly true for the hypothetical-trade market. Imagineering fake deals based off the latest rumblings and tea-leaf-reading is a 24/7/365 gig. Let's embrace it with open arms and a fresh batch of ideas.
Goran Dragic to Dallas
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Goran Dragic
Toronto Raptors Receive: Jalen Brunson, Josh Green, Dwight Powell
Anybody hoping Dragic gets to Big D by way of a buyout with the Raptors should slow their roll. Toronto has no incentive to give him away for free. Dragic can help drive their offense in the absence of Lowry, and his $19.4 million expiring contract is a useful trade chip. Buyout scenarios shouldn't be broached until the middle of the season, at the absolute earliest.
If the Mavericks want Dragic—which they should—they'll have to trade for him. They can go a number of different routes to do it. Willie Cauley-Stein (one year, $4.1 million), Maxi Kleber (two years, $17.8 million) and Dwight Powell (two years, $22.2 million) give them a handful of step-ladder salaries to send out the requisite money, and they have a couple of middish-end sweeteners to throw Toronto's way.
Tossing Powell into any Dragic trade would be ideal. He is the most expensive among the Mavs' expendable players, and it gets his $11.1 million salary off next year's books. The thing is, he's not a plus-player at his current price point. The Raptors should need more than an afterthought buffer to take him.
Jalen Brunson and Josh Green might seem like overkill. But Brunson is headed for free agency next summer, and Dallas doesn't forecast to have the wing minutes necessary to give Green experimental reps after signing Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown. The former also becomes more expendable if Dragic is en route.
Subbing out Green for Trey Burke or Tyrell Terry and a 2024 second-rounder is a potential alternative should the proposed opportunity cost go too far. The Raptors should push for Brunson in whatever permutation they accept. They need another ball-handler in the backcourt who puts pressure on defenses aside from Fred VanVleet.
Gobbling Powell's contract isn't a home-run by any stretch, but Toronto does seem to be traveling a more gradual path and remains in the market for second-string bigs. If it means nabbing a fringe Sixth Man of the Year candidate from this past season and a wing prospect, they shouldn't have a huge issue with paying Powell.
Larry Nance Jr. to Minnesota
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Jarrett Culver, Jaden McDaniels, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protection in 2022 and 2023; turns into two second-round picks in 2023 and 2025 if not conveyed)
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Larry Nance Jr.
Larry Nance Jr.'s name isn't floating around the rumor mill, per se. This is more about reading between the lines.
Cleveland just signed Jarrett Allen to a five-year, $100 million deal and drafted Evan Mobley. Kevin Love is also allegedly still on the roster. To top it all off, the Cavs still need wings. Short of dangling one of their own future first-rounders, Nance represents the asset most likely to bring back some.
Acquiring Jarrett Culver is very much a second-draft-type gamble. Some of us still believe. He is an overall net negative but has the defensive portability to be moved around the 2 through 4 spots and flashed intermittent glimpses of workable set shooting and, prior to his sophomore campaign, secondary playmaking. Maybe he's a bust. Or maybe he's 22 years old and worth dice-roll reps. Cleveland has those to spare.
Jaden McDaniels is an equally, if not more, intriguing get for the Cavaliers. He is working off a rookie season in which he defended across multiple positions like his life depended on it and drilled 36.8 percent of his spot-up treys. He will probably never hone a from-scratch floor game but has the know-how to put the ball on deck and maneuver open spaces. He is a friggin' steal—and worth more than your run-of-the-mill first-round pick—with two years and $4.3 million left on his deal (2022-23 team option).
Perhaps Culver and McDaniels alone is enough to get Cleveland thinking. I lean no. Culver isn't an asset so much as a stab in the dark. A lottery protected first-rounder seems like nice middle ground. The Timberwolves won't have to send one if they don't escape the lottery in one of the next two seasons, and the Cavs can, in the meantime, tout it as an additional first-rounder.
Minnesota should be all over any Nance sweepstakes. He is an idealistic frontline running mate for Karl-Anthony Towns. He doesn't boast the beefiest rim-protection chops, but he is switch-proof, spaces the floor (35.5 percent on threes the past two years) and can pass the hell out of the ball on the move. Minnesota might be able to get some backup 5 minutes from him, and the $20.4 million he's owed over the next two years is a darn bargain.
Ben Simmons to San Antonio
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), 2024 first-round pick (top-five protection)
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia has kind of, sort of, not really lowered its asking price on Ben Simmons. As The Athletic's David Aldridge wrote:
"Multiple league sources maintain that Philly’s asking price for Ben Simmons on the eve of free agency remains sky-high. At minimum, the Sixers are seeking control of at least four future first-round picks via direct trade or pick swaps, along with an All-Star-level player in most (but not all) scenarios."
It's the "but not all" scenarios for me. This implies, maybe, Philly is open to discussing returns that don't include four first-rounders and an All-Star. Possibly.
Dejounte Murray doesn't satisfy the "All-Star-level player" criteria. He is, however, ridiculously good and offsets much of Philly's lineup thorniness. He doesn't have the same defensive range as Simmons, but he is better equipped to harass smaller, quicker, slippery guards like Trae Young and can cover some wings. His shooting isn't breaking any records, but he does, you know, actually shoot—from both mid-range and beyond the arc. He will open up the Sixers offense by default.
Devin Vassell is more long-term prospect than insta-help. That's fine. He is already a defensive workaholic and canned 41.3 percent of his triples—on modest volume—before the trade deadline.
Snagging two future first-rounders is whatever when operating on a win-now timeline. But the Sixers can use both selections to glitter up packages in additional trades. Figuring out the point guard spot in the aftermath of Simmons' departure is the bigger concern. Murray has improved as a setup man but calling him a floor general stretches the boundaries of his utility.
Attempting to bake in a Patty Mills sign-and-trade is theoretically in play. Regardless, this isn't a problem unique to the proposed package. The Sixers are going to need another table-setter no matter where they send Simmons, and as one of the few teams still working with cap space, San Antonio helps them get a little more flexible over the bigger picture.
Consolidating so much of their future into another team's player is out of character for the Spurs. They seem to view trades as taboo unless their hand is forced. (See: Leonard, Kawhi.) But Simmons enables San Antonio to straddle two timelines. He is ridiculous enough on defense and as a playmaker to prop up win-now hopes, but he's young enough, at 25, and under contract for long enough, with four years remaining, to help headline a total overhaul if the Spurs eventually opt for one.
Ben Simmons to Portland
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: CJ McCollum, 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), 2023 first-round swap, 2024 first-round pick (top-three protection)
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Ben Simmons
Trying for a smaller move that doesn't upend the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum partnership is fine. Perhaps the Blazers can finagle a Larry Nance Jr. or Jonathan Isaac deal. But they lack expendable salaries to hit doubles unless a team is dying to land Jusuf Nurkic's expiring contract. They are almost forced to chase triples and home runs.
Ben Simmons counts as the latter. His offensive passivity—to put it kindly—is a problem, but Lillard can ferry the Blazers to a top-10 attack while working within the confines of a crimped half-court. Simmons is a transcendent defensive talent, and lineups that surround him with enough shooting will reap the benefits of his preternatural vision.
McCollum has also technically never been more expendable. Portland just re-signed Norman Powell on a five-year, $90 million deal and still seems to believe in Anfernee Simons. Neither matches McCollum's shot-making, but the Blazers can only have so much money invested in three dudes under 6'4" over the long term...right?
Simmons does more to elevate the team's ceiling by filling a larger need. Portland is also escaping this version of CJ-for-Ben without including Robert Covington. Surrendering picks and swaps instead of him while erasing a Lillard-trade vulture from existence significantly moves their immediate needle.
Philly's side of the equation is more tenuous. This amounts to selling medium-low on Simmons while forfeiting the Lillard dream. But McCollum injects the offense with the exact genre of bucket-getting it needs, and securing two picks and a swap can help team president Daryl Morey make subsequent moves.
Whether the Sixers have the stomach to compromise their defense this starkly is a separate matter. Shipping out Simmons puts a ton of pressure on Joel Embiid to carry them at the less-glamorous end. That's an issue when he needs to be penciled in for, like, 15 to 20-plus absences every season.
But they can still re-sign Danny Green and have Matisse Thybulle. McCollum's offensive ingenuity addresses the more dire void. While holding on to Simmons until the trade deadline might yield a bigger return down the line, this is a justifiable return if Philly wants to shake up its roster before training camp.