Kyrie, Dame, Beal, Simmons, Fox in 1 Trade? Imagining Absurd 5-Team Blockbuster
We didn't see many blockbuster trades, there wasn't a ton of cap space out there, and this free-agency class was relatively light on star power.
So, on the eve of the regular season, let's put our imagination caps on and look at a five-team blockbuster that would shake up five teams, both conferences and multiple All-Stars.
Rest assured, we're aware of the unlikelihood of something similar to the following deal actually happening. Beyond the complexity of any five-team deal, teams like the Portland Trail Blazers or Washington Wizards may understandably be eager to see how adjusted rosters perform in 2021-22.
Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, might just call it a career if he's traded. At least that's what Fox Sports' Nick Wright reported.
"There are a handful of Kyrie trades that potentially make sense for the Nets," Wright tweeted in September. "Kyrie’s agents have made it known that Kyrie would simply *retire from the NBA* if Brooklyn were to trade him."
Of course, Irving responded to that post by calling Wright "A Puppet," but that report and potential issues of availability could certainly affect Irving's trade value.
Still, even with reality operating as the ultimate caveat, we dove headfirst into the trade machine, future drafts and the absurdity of moving Kyrie, Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Simmons and De'Aaron Fox in a single trade.
Without further ado, here are the details of this behemoth. And don't worry, we'll break down what it means for every star in the slides that follow this one.
- Philadelphia 76ers receive: Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal
- Brooklyn Nets receive: De'Aaron Fox, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a 2023 second-round pick from Philadelphia
- Portland Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons, Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, a 2022 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2023 first-round pick swap from Philadelphia
- Washington Wizards receive: CJ McCollum, Buddy Hield, Tyrese Maxey, a 2024 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2024 first-round pick from Sacramento
- Sacramento Kings receive: Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris, Nassir Little, a 2026 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2022 second-round pick from Brooklyn
Before we move onto the justifications, here are the details in what may be a more digestible format.
The 76ers' New Superteam
76ers Receive: Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal
76ers Lose: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick swap, a 2024 first-round pick, a 2026 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick
The original intent of this project was not to send Lillard and Beal to Philadelphia to form a superteam. It just sort of happened.
Of the teams involved, the Sixers probably had the most trade ammo for a superstar package. Tons of picks and young talent in Simmons and Maxey led to Philadelphia more or less headlining the deal (though Kyrie may have something to say about that distinction).
Yes, this is a lot to give up, but the resulting roster would absolutely be worth it. The starting five would probably go Lillard, Beal, Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle (or Georges Niang) and Joel Embiid.
That is, again, a superteam.
Every possession would be a pick-your-poison dilemma on the perimeter. And doubling Embiid would be beyond perilous, which would of course allow him to attack more single coverage.
Even if some team in this mix insisted on Thybulle being involved in the deal, it would be worth it for Philadelphia to sign off. Depth wins in the regular season, but this is the kind of star trio that could dominate a postseason.
The Nets Opt for Availability with De'Aaron Fox
Nets Receive: De'Aaron Fox, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a 2023 second-round pick from Philadelphia
Nets Lose: Kyrie Irving and a 2022 second-round
In terms of pure talent and productivity, the Nets are losing this deal. Local government mandates in New York dramatically change the calculus, though.
Unless or until Irving decides to take a COVID-19 vaccine, local restrictions will bar him from participating in home practices and games. Even if he avoids injury all season (never a given with Kyrie), that means a max of 41 regular-season appearances.
Brooklyn could probably justify keeping him, since availability was always up in the air last season, but missing a starting guard for half the season is far from ideal.
So, even if Fox's ceiling may not be quite as high as Irving's, knowing you have him for the bulk of the season and all of the playoffs (again, barring injury) might be preferable.
Last season, on a team that was 19th in the league in threes per 100 possessions and 16th in three-point percentage, Fox shot an outrageous 76.2 percent on shots within three feet of the rim (sixth among all players with at least as many attempts).
Defenses would be nowhere near as comfortable collapsing on Fox's lightning-quick drives to the paint with Brooklyn. And if they did, he'd have plenty of high-end kickout options.
As an added bonus, the Nets would get a bit of depth from a Finals-tested wing in KCP. He probably doesn't quite make up for the talent lost by dealing Kyrie, but Caldwell-Pope can defend a variety of wings and guards and hit open threes. In lineups with ball-dominant offensive stars, you really can't ask for much more from a role player.
The Trail Blazers Start Over
Trail Blazers Receive: Ben Simmons, Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, a 2022 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2023 first-round pick swap from Philadelphia
Trail Blazers Lose: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Nassir Little
This is a full organizational reset, and despite Simmons' age and long-term potential, Portland could very well insist on more draft compensation from the other teams involved.
Perhaps finding a way to get Thybulle to the Blazers would help, but whatever team lands Simmons should be looking for as much shooting as possible to put around him. Thybulle shot just 30.1 percent from three last season.
If Philly could sell Portland on Simmons, though, this is exactly the kind of situation his team at Klutch Sports is after. Simmons would be the undisputed focal point, and if the Blazers could locate a stretch 5 (or maybe even play Simmons as a playmaking 5), he'd be free to drive, draw and kick his way to monster numbers.
In the short term, a deal like this almost certainly eliminates the team's title chances, but those probably weren't high to begin with. One could reasonably argue the Lillard-McCollum pairing has already peaked.
If the organization committed to building a roster suited to Simmons over the next few years (which simply means scouring the earth for as many shooters as possible), it could reemerge as a contender.
The most important (and often most difficult) step in any rebuild is finding the cornerstone-level talent. Simmons, even with his aversion to jump shots, fits the bill.
The Wizards Lean into a Two-Track Rebuild
Wizards Receive: CJ McCollum, Buddy Hield, Tyrese Maxey, a 2024 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2024 first-round pick from Sacramento
Wizards Lose: Bradley Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The thinking here is similar to the Portland slide. Washington has reason for optimism heading into 2021-22, but if the Wizards chose to reset, moving Beal would probably make its way to the table.
Other teams around the league would likely ante up more for Beal in a straight-up swap (ditto for Lillard), and that would obviously nuke this whole scenario. In a vacuum, though, two first-round picks, a young talent like Maxey and two vets who can help the team remain competitive in the short-term isn't a terrible haul.
This would set Washington up for one of those so-called two-track rebuilds. Lineups with some combination of Spencer Dinwiddie, McCollum, Hield, Kyle Kuzma, Davis Bertans and Montrezl Harrell would present plenty of problems for defenses. Harrell is one of the game's better rim-runners, and surrounding him with shooting would be the foundation of a strong attack.
Defense would be an issue, but that was always going to be the case. In this scenario, at least that issue comes with more bites at the draft apple and the addition of Maxey to a young core that already includes Thomas Bryant, Daniel Gafford, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert.
The Kings, Well...
Kings Receive: Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris, Nassir Little, a 2026 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2022 second-round pick from Brooklyn
Kings Lose: De'Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield and a 2024 first-round pick
This is probably the biggest gamble of the entire exercise. If there really is a threat of Irving's retirement, it's hard to imagine many teams around the league calling that bluff. And that's especially true of Sacramento, which has a promising young point guard who signed a long-term extension just under a year ago.
This would also put Sacramento in a situation similar to the one Brooklyn faces with Irving now. Due to local restrictions in California, Kyrie could be held out of home games. The difference might be the timelines of each franchise.
The Nets are ready to compete for titles right now. Even with Irving, the Kings are years away, at best. And by the time they can get the right pieces around a new core, restrictions might look a little different.
For Irving, going from the title-contending Nets, where he plays alongside KD and Harden, to a rebooted Sacramento squad might lead to thoughts of retirement even if they weren't there already.
The Kings haven't made the playoffs since 2006, and the team created by this deal might compete for a play-in spot.
Kyrie would have plenty of opportunities to cook, though. He'd be the team's first bona fide superstar since DeMarcus Cousins? Peja Stojakovic?
In the end, this is maybe the toughest part of the deal to justify. There's a reason five-team trades are rare (even though the recent Westbrook trade was one). They're a house of cards, especially if multiple stars are involved. If one bit is wrong, the whole thing can come tumbling down.