Blockbuster NBA Trades That Can Still Happen This Offseason

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2021

Blockbuster NBA Trades That Can Still Happen This Offseason

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    After recent summers that have featured tons of star movement throughout the NBA, the 2021 offseason felt relatively quiet.

    There were certainly some notable trades and free-agent signings, but plenty of those came in the form of sign-and-trades. Also, minimum deals and cap exceptions popped up left and right.

    There's still time for the volume of player movement to increase, though. Some stars (or near stars) could get dealt between now and the start of the regular season.

    Trades involving a handful of those players can be found below.

Another Pick-and-Pop Threat for the Mavs

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    Thomas Shea/Associated Press

    The Trade: Christian Wood for Dwight Powell and a 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected)

    If the Dallas Mavericks get the version of Kristaps Porzingis that closed out the 2019-20 campaign, the need for another weapon alongside Luka Doncic might not feel quite as drastic.

    From February 3 of that season till the playoffs, KP averaged 26.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 threes and 2.2 blocks while shooting 37.1 percent from three.

    He struggled with health, consistency and defense throughout 2020-21, though, and for most of the season, it felt like there was simply too much responsibility for Doncic.

    Adding Christian Wood gives Doncic another pick-and-pop threat to pull big defenders out of the paint. Over the last two seasons, Wood has averaged 16.2 points and 1.3 threes while shooting 37.9 percent from three.

    And moving Dwight Powell for Wood probably wouldn't cost Dallas its lob and rim-running attack. In 2019-20, Wood's points per possession as a roll man ranked in the 95th percentile.

    For the Houston Rockets, this move would be all about the rebuild they're in. Wood turns 26 this month, but he still somehow seems a little beyond the timeline centered around Jalen Green. And if they want to accumulate any more assets, Wood might be the only veteran who can land them a first-rounder.

    The contracts of John Wall and Eric Gordon are two of the most onerous in the league. Houston will almost certainly have to wait those out. More shots at lottery talent with which to surround Green probably have to be acquired through other players.

    As for Dwight Powell, he doesn't fit Houston's timeline either, but his annual salary is slightly less than Wood's, and paying him may just be the price of landing that first.

Indiana Unclogs Its Frontcourt

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Trade: Myles Turner for Davis Bertans and a 2024 first-round pick

    In terms of pure talent, this deal probably represents a downgrade for the Indiana Pacers. Myles Turner is three years younger than Davis Bertans and is tied for 83rd in box plus/minus over the last three years compared to Bertans' 112th.

    (BPM is a "...basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player's contribution to the team when that player is on the court," according to Basketball Reference).

    But the fit with Turner and Domantas Sabonis in Indiana simply might not work. Over that same three-year run, the Pacers were comfortably better when either Sabonis or Turner played alone than they were when both were on the floor. They're both centers, and in today's highly mobile and often positionless NBA, that means it's almost impossible to play them together.

    After a deal like this, Sabonis would be the undisputed center, and surrounding the playmaking 5 who averaged 6.7 assists last season with as much shooting as possible makes sense.

    Turner is a decent outside threat himself, but he's nowhere near as potent as Bertans out there. Since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, Turner has averaged 4.4 three-point attempts per 75 possessions and shot 35.4 percent from three. In the same stretch, Bertans has averaged 9.4 three-point attempts per 75 possessions with a 41.5 three-point percentage.

    In that might not even do Bertans' floor spacing justice. His catch-and-shoot release is about as quick as any in the league, and he often sets up shop several feet outside the line. He doesn't just pull defenders away from the paint—he pulls them well beyond the three-point line.

    For the Washington Wizards, this frees up some minutes for younger combo forwards like Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma and Corey Kispert.

    Acquiring Turner also gives them a win-now version of Thomas Bryant to play with Bradley Beal, who'll almost certainly be hoping to remain competitive in the wake of Russell Westbrook's departure.

    Last season, Washington was dead last in blocks per 100 possessions. Turner can effectively anchor a defense that will send the team flying up that leaderboard.

Sacramento Finally Unloads Buddy

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    The Trade: Buddy Hield for Thaddeus Young and Lonnie Walker IV

    Gregg Popovich will enter the 2021-22 season just 25 wins shy of the all-time record for regular-season victories (and one behind second for playoff wins).

    Even if the San Antonio Spurs were tanking, they'd probably back into those 25 wins, but Popovich has never embraced that philosophy. Even after the departure of Kawhi Leonard, Pop and the front office strived toward competitiveness.

    Sliding in to take advantage of the friction between Buddy Hield and the Sacramento Kings could help the Spurs stay on that track.

    Last season, San Antonio was 29th in threes per 100 possessions. The addition of Doug McDermott might help a bit on that front, but Hield would truly be a game-changer.

    Along with Stephen Curry and Duncan Robinson, Buddy Hield is one of just three players in NBA history to attempt at least seven threes per game and shoot at least 40 percent from deep (minimum 500 total attempts).

    With Hield, McDermott and Keldon Johnson spacing on the wings, slashers like Dejounte Murray and Derrick White would have significantly more room inside.

    Thaddeus Young is a solid, experienced complementary player who showed playmaking chops he hadn't before in 2020-21, but he doesn't help on the shooting front.

    In Sacramento, his interior passing could lead to plenty of Richaun Holmes' runners or finishes inside, and his kick outs would lead to open threes for Harrison Barnes or Tyrese Haliburton.

    He'd also make the Kings more switchable on defense, as he and Barnes could sort of shapeshift between the 3 and 4 in lineups. In a pinch, Young can even play some small-ball 5.

    As for Lonnie Walker IV, he's failed to reach a BPM above replacement level in each of his three seasons. At 22, he's still young enough to turn it around, but this deal requires some salary-matching fodder. And Hield's shooting is probably worth whatever potential remains untapped in Walker.

    Sending the youngest player in the swap to Sacramento also feels appropriate, given that Hield is over four years younger than Young and possesses significantly higher scoring upside.

The End of the Simmons Saga

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Trade: Ben Simmons for CJ McCollum, a 2023 first-round pick swap and a 2024 first-round pick

    The Ben Simmons saga took quite a turn at the end of August when news broke that he told team brass that he would hold himself out of training camp until he's traded.

    Daryl Morey may be willing to allow things to grow uncomfortable, but he's still not likely to get the kind of trade package he's after with Simmons' demand looming over the process.

    Even with that potential leverage killer out there, the Portland Trail Blazers are likely a team that could justify including some draft consideration for Simmons.

    They have their own precarious situation with face-of-the-franchise Damian Lillard, who was reportedly considering pushing his way out back in June. If they don't make some progress toward title contention, the 31-year-old guard may start wondering if any other organizations could get him closer.

    Simmons is the kind of talent who could push that kind of progress, and Twitter sleuths recently discovered that Lillard liked a tweet in which Simmons has a Blazers jersey photoshopped onto him.

    As a bigger, younger and hyperathletic version of Draymond Green, Simmons would allow Lillard to lean even further into a game that sometimes looks a bit like Stephen Curry's. More off-ball opportunities for Lillard would diversify Portland's attack and get the superstar a handful of easier looks each game.

    Simmons would also add instant credibility to the Blazers' lackluster defense. He can defend all five positions, including guards, which would spare Lillard from difficult assignments on the outside.

    For Philadelphia, McCollum is older, smaller and perhaps has a lower talent ceiling. However, his fit alongside Joel Embiid would be worlds better.

    Over the last two seasons (and postseasons), McCollum has put up 26.5 points, 6.9 assists and 2.9 threes per 75 possessions when playing without Lillard. He's shown he can dominate as a No. 1 ballhandler, and his outside shooting ability would keep defenders away from Embiid's post-ups.

    Such a move would certainly put more defensive pressure on Embiid and Matisse Thybulle, but the potential improvement on the other end would be worth it.

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