Trades to Save NBA Free-Agency's Biggest Losers
NBA free agency is finally beginning to cool down, with most of the top names (Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, John Collins, Lonzo Ball, Jarrett Allen and Mike Conley) having found new homes or signed new deals with their existing teams.
This means it's safe to identify the winners and losers of free agency, especially those who have messed up the process or haven't done enough to appease the fanbase just yet.
While it may be too late for these franchises to replenish the roster in free agency, the trade market is still there to act as one big Band-Aid to slap over any mistakes.
For the following five free-agency losers, these trades would help salvage the offseason.
Celtics Get Some Point Guard Help with Cole Anthony
Boston Celtics Receive: PG Cole Anthony
Orlando Magic Receive: G/F Romeo Langford, 2022 first-round pick (lottery-protected)
Boston spent a pair of draft picks and the majority of its $28.5 million trade exception on Evan Fournier at the 2021 trade deadline only to see him leave for the New York Knicks in free agency five months later.
The Celtics' biggest signing has been backup center Enes Kanter, who will likely bounce between second and third on the depth chart with Al Horford and Robert Williams III already on the roster.
Even if the Celtics somehow land a discounted Dennis Schroder before the season begins, trading for a young floor general like Anthony would help balance out the roster.
Anthony, 21, averaged 12.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 0.6 steals in 27.1 minutes as a rookie for the Magic last season, starting 34 of his 47 games. He could step right into the starting job in Boston, sharing the floor with young All-Stars in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who would help share ball-handling duties.
While Anthony looked like a building block in Orlando, the Magic now have an overflow of point guards. They took Jalen Suggs with the fifth overall pick, and Markelle Fultz is due to return from a torn ACL. Suggs is big enough at 6'4" to play either guard position, but he will be the primary initiator of the offense no matter where he lines up.
The Magic would get the Celtics' first-round pick next season (as long as Boston makes the playoffs) and a 6'4" wing in Langford who better fits their roster.
Lauri Markkanen Gives Pelicans Some Spacing
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: F/C Lauri Markkanen (via sign-and-trade)
Chicago Bulls Receive: 2022 second-round pick (via Cleveland Cavaliers), 2022 second-round pick (via Utah Jazz)
After opening up cap space to make a mega offer for Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry in free agency, the Pelicans somehow ended up with Devonte' Graham and Tomas Satoransky as their floor generals. Keeping Lonzo Ball would have even been better, but New Orleans opted to send him to the Bulls in a sign-and-trade that didn't even bring back a first-round pick.
With Zion Williamson extension-eligible next summer, the Pelicans have done nothing to encourage their superstar to stick around.
While New Orleans could go for a Hail Mary with a Damian Lillard trade proposal, going into damage control mode is the only realistic option.
As NBA writer Marc Stein reported, the Pelicans have expressed interest in Bulls big man Lauri Markkanen, a sharp-shooting 7-footer who would give them some much-needed spacing.
New Orleans has a $17 million trade exception it can absorb a new contract into, and the 24-year-old has already stated his desire to leave Chicago. He'd make a really good reserve power forward/center for the Pelicans, able to pair with either Williamson or new center Jonas Valanciunas after shooting a career-high 40.2 percent from three last season.
If the Bulls don't want to lose Markkanen for nothing but also don't want to pay him after giving Ball and DeMar DeRozan big deals, moving him for a pair of draft picks and creating a trade exception would be a nice alternative.
Timberwolves Give Marvin Bagley III a Fresh Start
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: PF Marvin Bagley III
Sacramento Kings Receive: G/F Jarrett Culver, PF Juancho Hernangomez, 2022 second-round pick (via Washington Wizards)
Overdue to make the playoffs, the Wolves have been non-factors in free agency, only signing a pair of two-way players (Nathan Knight, McKinley Wright IV).
Bagley would be a terrific buy-low option, as the 2018 No. 2 overall pick has battled injuries, which have contributed to him not reaching his potential.
Minnesota also has an opening at the starting power forward position, currently a contest between Taurean Prince and Jaden McDaniels.
Bagley, 22, is on the final year of his rookie deal and averaged 14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 blocks and shot 50.4 percent last year while showing off improved three-point range (34.3 percent on 2.5 attempts per game). With plenty of scorers around him (Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley, D'Angelo Russell) to take the pressure off, Bagley would get plenty of open looks. The key for him would be focusing on becoming a better defender and a more willing passer.
In this scenario, the Kings wouldn't have to worry about an extension for Bagley and they'd get Culver, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019 with two years left on his rookie deal. The 6'6" wing could learn under Harrison Barnes while showing off his two-way potential.
Hernangomez would give Sacramento some depth at power forward, and adding a pick next year would get the deal done.
Cavaliers Add a Wing Shooter in Joe Ingles
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: F Joe Ingles, C Udoka Azubuike
Utah Jazz Receive: F Cedi Osman, 2022 second-round pick (via San Antonio Spurs)
While the Cavs retained starting center Jarrett Allen on a five-year, $100 million deal, they haven't signed anyone who wasn't on the roster last year despite having the entire $9.5 million mid-level exception at their disposal.
Cleveland needs shooters after finishing dead last in three-point accuracy (33.6 percent) last season, and few players have been as good as Ingles over the past five years.
Ingles, 33, put up 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists and shot 45.1 percent from three last year, good for fifth-best in the NBA. He'd be the perfect veteran to put around the Cavs young core, giving them a far better chance at making the play-in tournament in the East. With a projected starting lineup (Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Allen) that doesn't even average 22 years in age, Cleveland could use some experience off the bench.
As much as Utah would hate to part with Ingles, the Jazz are looking at a luxury tax bill of over $35 million, even after attaching a first-round pick to dump Derrick Favors' contract on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
By swapping Ingles and Azubuike for Osman, Utah would shave $6.3 million of salary and greatly reduce its tax bill.
Osman, 26, would be a good bench piece for the Jazz and is only owed $22.3 million over the next three years.
Pascal Siakam Joins Lillard, McCollum in Portland
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: PF Pascal Siakam
Toronto Raptors Receive: G Anfernee Simons, F Nassir Little, F Robert Covington, SF Derrick Jones Jr., 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected), 2024 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
If the Blazers were planning on wowing Damian Lillard this offseason, signing Cody Zeller, Ben McLemore and Tony Snell won't get it done.
Portland did re-sign Norman Powell to a five-year, $90 million deal, but even that just meant keeping one of its own. The Blazers lost Carmelo Anthony (13.4 PPG) and Enes Kanter (their best rebounder) in free agency as well.
Pascal Siakam, 27, would be an excellent target, someone who the Blazers have already talked about trading for, per Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer:
"There has also been an intriguing CJ McCollum-Pascal Siakam trade framework discussed between Portland and Toronto, though talks between the teams have yet to generate significant momentum, sources said. Rival executives believe the Raptors' selection of Scottie Barnes seemingly reinforces Siakam's availability for trade."
The Blazers should make an offer that doesn't involve McCollum at first, even if it involves all their young talent and some future firsts. A lineup of Lillard, McCollum, Powell, Siakam and Jusuf Nurkic could make some serious noise, even in the West.
Simons and Little are good, young players for Toronto to get back in return, Covington and Jones would help them compete now, and a pair of first-round picks may convince the Raptors to move Siakam, even without McCollum coming back.
Salary information via Spotrac.