NBA Trade Ideas to Create the Next Superteams

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2021

NBA Trade Ideas to Create the Next Superteams

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The first and most refreshing rule as we conjure new superteam-creating trades from deep within the imagination: No Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal allowed. Made-up trades involving those three have been done to death, and we're all tired of them.

    Removing them adds to the degree of difficulty, but maybe the struggle will force some fresh thinking.

    The trick with a superteam trade is that the club bringing in the most talent has to have a ton in place to begin with—and then not give up too much in the process. In each case here, we will pull in (at least) a third team to work around that issue, broadening the field of assets to increase transactional options.

    Be warned: Some of these will get complicated and stretch the bounds of credulity. But then, that's really the only way to take a very good team and make it great.

The Warriors Land KAT

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    Craig Lassig/Associated Press

    Golden State Warriors Receive: Karl-Anthony Towns, 2025 second-round pick (top-50-protected, via Thunder)

    Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Luguentz Dort, 2026 first-round pick (via Warriors, top-eight-protected)

    Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Andrew Wiggins, unprotected 2022 first-round pick (top-eight-protected, via Warriors), 2022 first-round pick (lottery-protected, via Timberwolves)

    The Warriors land the biggest prize, adding Karl-Anthony Towns to a closing lineup that would also include Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. This would have been a much more tantalizing trade in 2018 or so, when all the incumbent Dubs were younger and, in Thompson's case, not coming off two major surgeries. But it still adds a ridiculously potent offensive weapon in Towns at a position of need, bringing almost unfathomable spacing by pairing him with Curry and Thompson.

    Golden State strips the cupboard bare to do it, surrendering every young and promising player not named Jordan Poole plus a pair of future firsts, one of which goes to the Thunder as incentive to take on Andrew Wiggins' salary. In return, it fields a fearsome amount of shooting.

    OKC also adds a lottery-protected first by sending Luguentz Dort to the Wolves, which sounds like an insufficient return for one of the league's better young defenders. But when you consider the Thunder's haul in its entirety—Dort and a future second that will never convey for Wiggins and two firsts—it's a solid deal.

    Minnesota loads up on young talent, which would only appeal if Towns angles for a trade. Let's just assume for the sake of argument that's what happens, and that the Dubs' resistance to giving up their youth for a veteran applies to Ben Simmons and not Towns.

The Hawks Consolidate

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    Tami Chappell/Associated Press

    Atlanta Hawks Receive: OG Anunoby, Dillon Brooks

    Toronto Raptors Receive: De'Andre Hunter, Onyeka Okongwu, Brandon Clarke, 2023 first-round pick (via Hawks, top-eight protected)

    Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, Chris Boucher, 2025 first-round pick (via Hawks, top-10 protected)


    The Hawks can't keep all their young wings, especially as they begin to line up for more expensive second contracts. So they're packaging them in this deal to land, in my opinion, a transformative potential superstar in OG Anunoby plus even more defensive punch in Dillon Brooks.

    Both Anunoby and Brooks have inked their post-rookie contracts, which locks in cost certainty while rounding out a roster led by Trae Young that already has ample shot-creation. In this scenario, the Hawks can close with a lineup of Young, Brooks, Anunoby, John Collins and Clint Capela. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Delon Wright would give them a formidable eight-man playoff rotation, one made even more dangerous by the small-ball options available with Collins or Anunoby at the 5.

    Plus, the Hawks' youth corps won't be totally depleted with rookies Jalen Johnson and Sharife Cooper still in the developmental pipeline.

    It's hard to imagine the Raptors ever parting with Anunoby, so we had to bowl them over. They land De'Andre Hunter, who appeared on a breakout path before a right meniscus injury derailed his second season. Onyeka Okongwu brings immensely promising defensive upside. He wasn't the sixth pick in 2020 for no reason, but his injury struggles—foot, Achilles, adductor, shoulder, etc.—and a frontcourt already manned by Collins and Capela make him expendable from Atlanta's perspective. The Raps also collect a first-rounder that should convey in 2023 and Canadian Brandon Clarke.

    That's three players from the first round of the last three drafts plus another first. I wouldn't move Anunoby for this package because I think he has All-NBA upside if his offensive game improves, but it's not beyond the realm of the reasonable.

    Finally, the ever-patient Grizzlies slide in to facilitate by moving Brooks and Clarke for Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, Chris Boucher and a 2025 top-10 protected pick from the Hawks. Both Huerter and Reddish have a chance to equal Brooks' production, albeit more with their offensive potential than anything quite like Brooks' straightjacket defense, and both are two-plus years younger. Boucher adds more stretch behind Jaren Jackson Jr., who might always be a 4 anyway and whose health remains a question mark.

    Whether this makes the Hawks a superteam depends on your valuation of Anunoby. Mine's as high as they come.

The Mavericks Make a Splash

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    Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Dallas Mavericks Receive: Klay Thompson, Terrence Ross, Chuma Okeke

    Golden State Warriors Receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Gary Harris, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson

    Orlando Magic Receive: Kevon Looney, Boban Marjanovic, Josh Green, 2022 first-round pick (via Warriors, lottery-protected in 2022, top-10 protected in 2023, top-five protected in 2024)


    For a deal like this to ever get past an initial phone call, two unrealistic conditions must be met. First, the Warriors and Mavericks would need to have vastly different opinions of Klay Thompson's ability to play up to his contract after two full seasons spent rehabbing serious injuries. Second, the Dubs would have to reach a point of such financial stress that they'd even consider moving a universally beloved mainstay in the interest of tax relief.

    In reality, neither of those conditions are likely to arise. But supposing they did, you can see a half-sensible argument for the Mavs to add perhaps the best three-and-D wing in league history to complement Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

    If Thompson returns to something like 80 percent of his peak level, he will be a major upgrade over Tim Hardaway Jr., a fine player in his own right. The longtime Warrior's off-ball impact on a defense may only be matched by Stephen Curry's. It's a five-alarm fire at all times when Thompson is sprinting around screens, and the attention he draws during that endless emergency opens avenues for teammates to score.

    Doncic would feast with added space and defensive attention diverted elsewhere. And that's to say nothing of Dallas gaining a switchable wing defender who early in his career wrangled everyone from Tony Parker to Kevin Love. That's not to say Thompson remains such an elite force on D, but he'd be a clear improvement.

    Terrence Ross would replace Hardaway's microwave scoring, and Chuma Okeke is a tantalizing young piece who figures to outproduce Dwight Powell going forward.

    Golden State splits up Thompson's salary into more manageable chunks, adding depth across its rotation. Gary Harris' stock has plummeted, but he's functional perimeter defense laced with conceptual offense. Jalen Brunson is a capable backup floor general who provides a dab of much-needed secondary creation, at least during the regular season. If the Warriors want to add another superstar to replace Thompson, they would have several packageable salaries, not to mention their full stable of young players, to pursue that option.

    Orlando slides in as a facilitator, greasing the skids by throwing the Mavs Ross and Okeke while taking back cheap salaries in Kevon Looney and Boban Marjanovic, a young prospect in Josh Green and a first-rounder.

    Maybe Thompson wouldn't turn Dallas into an indomitable juggernaut, but he'd represent a much more meaningful acquisition (at a perfect position) than the Mavericks have managed during so many ill-fated attempts to find such a player in free agency.

The Blazers Finally Diversify

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Portland Trail Blazers

    Receive: Jaylen Brown, Myles Turner, Garrett Temple, Torrey Craig

    Lose: CJ McCollum, Robert Covington, Anfernee Simons, 2024 first-round pick


    Indiana Pacers

    Receive: Brandon Ingram, Robert Covington, Payton Pritchard, future second-round pick (via Celtics)

    Lose: Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, Torrey Craig, 2022 first-round pick, future second-round pick


    Boston Celtics

    Receive: CJ McCollum, future second-round pick (via Pacers), future second-round pick (via Pelicans)

    Lose: Jaylen Brown, Payton Pritchard, two future second-round picks


    New Orleans Pelicans

    Receive: Malcolm Brogdon, Anfernee Simons, 2022 first-round pick (via Pacers), 2024 first-round pick (via Trail Blazers), future second-round pick (via Celtics)

    Lose: Brandon Ingram, Garrett Temple, future second-round pick


    This is a massive four-teamer that required the more detailed breakdown above. Your mileage may vary as to the reasonableness of each party's involvement, but all four teams address roster balance and fit issues in ways that at least approximate what they might consider doing in reality.

    The Blazers are the purported superteam, so we'll start with their side of things in a deal that finally breaks up the duplicative Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum pairing in the interest of adding a top-notch wing and the kind of reliable frontcourt spacing the franchise has long been missing.

    Jaylen Brown and Myles Turner transform Portland, with the former an All-Star just entering his prime and the latter a floor-stretching, rim-protecting force. The Blazers could field a five-man unit of Lillard, Brown, Turner, Norman Powell and Larry Nance Jr. with Jusuf Nurkic, Garrett Temple, Torrey Craig and Tony Snell rounding things out. They need a backup point guard now, and they might have to surrender another first to make up the value difference between Brown and McCollum, but it'd be hard to view them as anything short of contenders in this rebuilt form.

    Indy gets younger with Brandon Ingram headlining its side of the deal, and it adds another wing in Robert Covington to replace T.J. Warren, who's set to miss time while he recovers from a left foot injury. Payton Pritchard helps offset the Malcolm Brogdon loss at roughly one-tenth of the veteran combo guard's annual salary. And finally, the Turner-Domantas Sabonis pairing gets the divorce many have long deemed necessary.

    The Celtics might need that aforementioned extra first for parting with a player as valuable as Brown, but McCollum would address a backcourt creation need more substantially than bargain signing Dennis Schroder. He could take the playmaking load off Jayson Tatum in ways Brown, for all his versatile skills, can't.

    Finally, the Pelicans jump in to land a pair of guards in Brogdon and Anfernee Simons plus two unprotected first-rounders from Indiana and Portland. The second-round pick exchange between them and the Celtics is only there to fulfill the "touching" requirement, as are the second-rounders changing hands between Indy and Boston. (All teams have to transact directly in this sort of deal.) Considering Ingram's uncertain fit with Zion Williamson, two firsts, a starting-caliber point guard and a young flier is a decent return.

    This is...a lot. But the Blazers come out with more of a modern look and the best young star in the trade. That gets them pretty close to super status.


    Stats courtesy of, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Salary info via Spotrac.