Last-Minute Trades to Improve Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 15, 2021

Last-Minute Trades to Improve Every NBA Team's Starting Lineup

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    The 2021 NBA offseason lacked some sizzle.

    There was, of course, some activity, because there always is. Russell Westbrook joining the Los Angeles Lakers was the marquee move, the Chicago Bulls grabbed DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball and the Miami Heat lured Kyle Lowry to South Beach, but the basketball landscape wasn't radically reshaped like it has been in summers past.

    We're here to change that—in the hypothetical sense, at least.

    With the 2021-22 campaign bearing down us, we're brokering last-minute moves to improve every team's projected starting lineup. For trades that could improve two teams' starting groups, we'll break down the same deal from each club's perspective on their specific slide.

    As a reminder, free agents who signed this offseason aren't eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 or later, but we're including them here to make the trade pool as deep as possible.

Atlanta Hawks

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    Atlanta Hawks receive: Pascal Siakam

    Toronto Raptors receive: John Collins, Cam Reddish and 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected, via OKC)

    With a single star in Trae Young and a ton of good (but not great) supporting pieces around him, Atlanta's roster is screaming for a consolidation swap. This could be the kind of deal to do it, as it might allow the Hawks to take another step forward after last season's surprising run to the conference finals.

    Siakam might be a bit over his head as a No. 1 option, but he'd be a lethal second scorer in this Young-driven offense. The two could orchestrate actions together, but the fact Siakam can generate his own looks would make him an upgrade over Collins. This would also remove the rim-rolling overlap that exists between Collins and Clint Capela.

    The Hawks have enough wing depth to let Reddish go, and the first-round pick transforms to a pair of future seconds unless the Oklahoma City Thunder botch their tank job and wind up in the postseason. Atlanta can stomach those sacrifices for a frontcourt upgrade and the chance to have two stars lead its squad.

Boston Celtics

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    Boston Celtics receive: Nicolas Batum and 2022 second-round pick

    Los Angeles Clippers receive: Dennis Schroder

    Boston's late addition of Schroder impressed with value—he is much better than a $5.9 million player—but the fit is less than ideal. With Marcus Smart running point and Payton Pritchard piloting the second-team offense, there isn't a nagging need for Schroder's score-first skill set.

    The Shamrocks could get better mileage out of flipping him to the Clippers, who may not be fully convinced by Reggie Jackson's postseason re-emergence, for versatile veteran Batum and another second-round pick to play with.

    Batum's outside shooting (40.4 percent last season) and flexibility at the other end (11th-most versatile defender in 2020-21, per BBall Index), he would effortlessly fit into a supporting role alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That would let Al Horford anchor the bench mob and give Boston better spacing and more mobility with its first five.

Brooklyn Nets

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    Brooklyn Nets receive: Myles Turner and Justin Holiday

    Dallas Mavericks receive: Joe Harris, Nicolas Claxton, 2022 second-round pick and 2024 second-round pick

    With Kyrie Irving out of the Nets' plans for the foreseeable future, it's tempting to suggest a deal that would send Irving out for someone Brooklyn can actually use. But if you can pinpoint Irving's trade value at the moment, you should probably be doing something a lot more important than scrolling through theoretical deals.

    With Irving off the table, Harris becomes the only logical choice to move, since Kevin Durant and James Harden are off-limits, and Brooklyn's bigs wouldn't move the needle. That last part is why it could make sense to dial up the Pacers and pry away Turner, the blocks champion in two of the past three seasons and a career 35.2 percent shooter from deep.

    Upgrading to Turner at center would do wonders for this defense, and starting him wouldn't disrupt the spacing. Holiday, meanwhile, would offset some of the shooting lost without Harris (as would newcomer Patty Mills), and Holiday would immediately become one of the best perimeter stoppers on the roster.

    If Indiana feels it can't go any further with the Turner-Domantas Sabonis combo up front, the Pacers could modernize their frontcourt by removing Turner and sliding T.J. Warren (once he's healthy) up to the 4 spot. Harris would scratch their itch for a knockdown shooter, and Claxton would give them a versatile, 22-year-old big man to develop.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Charlotte Hornets receive: Myles Turner and T.J. Warren

    Indiana Pacers receive: Gordon Hayward

    Charlotte's offseason trade for Mason Plumlee was a step toward fixing its issues at the 5, but it didn't go far enough. He has never been a needle-mover, and at 31 years old, he'll be out of Buzz City long before LaMelo Ball approaches his peak.

    Turner, who turned 25 in March, could make life easier on Ball with his shooting and shot-blocking. The Hornets need to improve their 16th-ranked defense if they want to crack the playoff field, and plugging the middle with last season's (and 2018-19's) blocks leader should make that happen.

    Of course, Charlotte's 23rd-ranked offense also needs work, and that's where T.J. Warren would come in. He hasn't been healthy for nearly a year and still isn't right, but the last time he received extended run, he was busy breaking out in the Orlando bubble. If he returns to form, the 28-year-old's scoring mentality might mean more to this offense than Hayward's balanced skill set since the Hornets have enough ball-movers to survive without Hayward's playmaking.

Chicago Bulls

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    Chicago Bulls receive: OG Anunoby

    Toronto Raptors receive: Patrick Williams, Coby White, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected, via POR) and 2026 second-round pick

    The Bulls have spent the past six months making an almost all-in push to beef up their lineup around Zach LaVine, who might be next summer's most sought-after free agent. Why not go all the way and cash in their remaining trade chips for the two-way star who might be able to balance out this offense-heavy roster?

    Now, this is probably where people will note OG Anunoby isn't a star, but we'd counter that all signs have his arrow pointing that direction. His offense is in a state of perpetual improvement and his defense was just graded as top-30 in the Association last season. He would immediately become Chicago's best perimeter stopper, and his low-maintenance play the other way would complement the Windy City's finest on that end.

    If Anunoby plateaus for some reason, he's enough of an upgrade to still move the Bulls up a few seed lines in the East. If he makes good on the many comparisons to Kawhi Leonard, Chicago could start realistically hoping about conquering the East. That should be a rich enough reward for the Bulls brass to sacrifice recent top-seven picks Patrick Williams and Coby White, plus a future first-rounder.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Dejounte Murray and 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected)

    San Antonio Spurs receive: Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman

    The Cavaliers could be close to taking this option off the table, as there is apparently mutual interest in extending Sexton.

    "We want him here long term. He wants to be here long term," Cavs general manager Koby Altman said, per's Chris Fedor. "We're working with his representation to see that through."

    Saying that, we're barely three months removed from Cleveland reportedly making Sexton "very available" in trades, per The Athletic's Jason Lloyd. Even if the Cavs have warmed up more to Sexton since, they'd have to admit he's an imperfect fit with Darius Garland, as both are 6'1" guards with defensive limitations.

    Swap out Sexton for Murray, a 6'4" guard who snagged an All-Defensive spot in his sophomore season, and Cleveland might be in business. Murray needs to perk up his perimeter shooting, but his 79.1 free-throw percentage gives hope it could happen. He could form a mutually beneficial backcourt with Garland, as Murray could create spot-up chances for Garland, while Garland could find Murray on the move to weaponize his explosiveness.

Dallas Mavericks

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    Dallas Mavericks receive: Terrence Ross

    Orlando Magic receive: Dwight Powell, Josh Green and 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected)

    The Mavericks paid up for perimeter spacers this summer, bringing back Tim Hardaway Jr. while adding Reggie Bullock and Sterling Brown. It makes sense for Dallas to want a properly spaced offense around Luka Doncic, so it did well on that front.

    Still, this attack (like all others) could always use more spacing, and it might need another proven scoring option on the floor. Enter: Ross.

    The 10th-year swingman pairs a fiery three-point stroke with enough bounce to go viral at any moment. Starting him with Doncic, Hardaway, Bullock and Kristaps Porzingis would give the Mavs an explosive small-ball attack that could run opponents off the floor or bury them beneath an avalanche of threes.

    Orlando, meanwhile, has little purpose for the 30-year-old Ross now that it's in rebuilding mode, so it would do well to flip him for Green, last year's No. 18 pick, and a future first-round pick offered, in part, as the concession for taking Dwight Powell's contract off of Dallas' hands.

Denver Nuggets

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    Denver Nuggets receive: Damian Lillard

    Portland Trail Blazers receive: Jamal Murray, Zeke Nnaji, Nah'Shon Hyland and future first-round pick

    The Nuggets seemed on the cusp of a possible championship run last season when Murray suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in April, an injury that immediately dashed those dreams. While Denver could wait out Murray's return for another crack at it, that's risky. If he doesn't return at all this season or isn't the same type of weapon when he does, the Nuggets will have a wasted a full season in the heart of Nikola Jokic's prime.

    Denver might want more certainty since the rest of the roster looks championship-ready. If Lillard gets antsy—he reportedly wants to see how things work with new Blazers coach Chauncey Billups before considering a change, per The Athletic's Sam Amick—the Nuggets should pounce.

    Lillard is basically the upgraded version of Murray's best-case-scenario ceiling. The Nuggets could run everything they do with Murray, only better. Jokic and Lillard alone would net Denver a top-tier offense—never mind the continued growth of Michael Porter Jr.—and quite possibly the franchise's first NBA Finals ticket. That's worth mortgaging the future to get.

Detroit Pistons

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    Detroit Pistons receive: Coby White

    Chicago Bulls receive: Killian Hayes

    Can we promise the Pistons that Hayes won't have a brighter future than White? Of course not. But can we say that White is better positioned to improve this season's starting lineup than Hayes? We can, and we are.

    Hayes' playmaking and shot-creation out of pick-and-rolls lost value as soon as the Pistons snagged Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick. With their new franchise face running the show, they might prefer having a score-first net-shredder in the backcourt with him, and White is built for that role.

    He can splash threes off-the-dribble or off-the-ball, meaning he could complement Cunningham when they're together and pilot the attack when they aren't. The 21-year-old White improved his shooting at every level in his sophomore season, and that stroke (miles better than Hayes' at the moment) would make life easier on Cunningham, Jerami Grant and the rest of this offense.

Golden State Warriors

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    Golden State Warriors receive: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher and Goran Dragic

    Toronto Raptors receive: James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, 2022 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick (via TOR)

    It sounds intriguing for the Warriors to keep improving both their present and their future, but at some point they need to lean harder one way or the other. Since the present includes Stephen Curry playing at an MVP level, this shouldn't be a difficult choice to make.

    Golden State could use another impact player and better depth to support the stars. This swap would check both boxes. Anunoby might be on his way to becoming the next three-and-D wing who leaps to two-way stardom. Boucher would beef up Golden State's shot-blocking and frontcourt floor-spacing. Dragic could help ensure the scoreboard doesn't stop moving when Curry needs a breather.

    If the Raptors accept their rebuilding reality, they might see more value in James Wiseman and an unprotected first than what they're sending away. Bringing Toronto native Andrew Wiggins back home could be a win in the ticket booth, and the Raptors would reap the benefits of the two-way progress he's made with Golden State.

Houston Rockets

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    Houston Rockets receive: Obi Toppin

    New York Knicks receive: Danuel House Jr. and 2023 first-round pick (via BRK)

    The Rockets need more young talent. Sure, they just made acquired four players via the first-round of the 2021 draft, but when you're entering a new chapter without a centerpiece talent, there's no such thing as having too many prospects with potential.

    While the Rockets can't get carried away on the trade market since they need most of their assets, a hidden value like Toppin could be worth a small splurge. Last year's No. 8 pick didn't turn many heads as a rookie, but he never had the opportunity to do so. He was (and still is) buried behind minutes leader Julius Randle, plus New York was too deep at center to explore any small-ball center minutes for Toppin.

    Get him to Houston, though, and he could snag a starting frontcourt spot alongside Christian Wood. The scoring punch these two provide would help ease the pressure on Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green to create, and the Rockets could watch their next core grow organically with one another. New York, meanwhile, should see a much clearer path to playing time for House, and the addition of a future first might make this a no-brainer.

Indiana Pacers

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    Indiana Pacers receive: Gordon Hayward and 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected, via NOP)

    Charlotte Hornets receive: Myles Turner and T.J. Warren

    Last season, the Pacers were as statistically unremarkable as they come. Both the offense and the defense landed 14th in efficiency, and after 72 outings, Indiana wound up a whopping 0.1 points better per 100 possessions than its opponents.

    This roster is begging for a shake-up and arguably has been since the club first experimented with the jumbo frontcourt combo of Turner and Domantas Sabonis. In a single swap, the Pacers could move away from this antiquated look and into the modern era by sliding Circle City native Gordon Hayward into the starting 4 spot.

    The Pacers might wind up with a top-five attack despite not having a top-20 scorer on the roster. Hayward, Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon could all average close to 20 points per contest. Round out the starting unit with Justin Holiday or rookie Chris Duarte, and Indy might finally have the formula to capture its first playoff series victory since 2014.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    Los Angeles Clippers receive: Dennis Schroder

    Boston Celtics receive: Nicolas Batum and 2022 second-round pick

    The Clippers met Reggie Jackson's postseason re-emergence with the proper skepticism. They believed it enough to bring him back, but they didn't shower him with cash (two years, $21.6 million), and they still brokered a deal for Eric Bledsoe.

    L.A. could continue safeguarding the point guard spot by swinging a deal for Schroder, who might challenge Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. for second-scorer status until (or if) Kawhi Leonard returns.

    Schroder is an offensive weapon. His one-and-done run with the Los Angeles Lakers probably goes down as a disappointment, and he still wrapped it with per-game averages of 15.4 points and 5.8 assists.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Los Angeles Lakers receive: Dillon Brooks

    Memphis Grizzlies receive: Talen Horton-Tucker, Trevor Ariza, 2023 second-round pick (via CHI) and 2023 second-round pick

    The Lakers had reasons for re-signing Horton-Tucker this offseason. His wildly intriguing upside was surely among them, but they probably also put value on having a not insignificant salary to put in a trade (once he becomes trade-eligible on Jan. 15).

    Horton-Tucker, who won't turn 21 until late November, might be a half-decade away from playing the best basketball of his career. The Lakers don't have that kind of time, so they could package him with a couple of second-round picks (plus Trevor Ariza as salary-filler) to pry Dillon Brooks away from the Grizzlies.

    Brooks would immediately address L.A.'s lack of defensive stoppers. Memphis tasked him with the NBA's third-highest matchup difficulty last season, per BBall Index, and he'd likely handle the same role for the Lakers. His presence would give some certainty to the Lakers' starting and closing groups, as his defense and shooting should both complement L.A.'s stars.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    Memphis Grizzlies receive: Terrence Ross

    Orlando Magic receive: Brandon Clarke, Jarrett Culver and 2022 first-round pick (via LAL)

    Ross will be a primary target this trade season. The 30-year-old has little left to offer a long-term rebuilding team in Orlando, but his three-ball and athleticism would both immediately help Memphis.

    Get him to the Grizzlies and Ross could slot alongside Dillon Brooks on the wing, allowing sophomore Desmond Bane to continue developing with the second unit. Memphis should be running and gunning with Ja Morant behind the wheel, and Ross has the jets and the steady sniping to do both.

    While Memphis made a few future-focused moves this summer, the Grizzlies shouldn't abandon the playoff chase out West. If anything, they should be eager to see how Morant can follow up such an electric postseason debut, and getting Ross would improve their odds.

Miami Heat

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    Miami Heat receive: Thaddeus Young

    San Antonio Spurs receive: P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris, KZ Okpala and 2022 second-round pick (via PHI or DEN)

    The Heat spent the summer tailoring their roster to their organizational specifications and did so masterfully. There's a reason 47 percent of the league's general managers favored their changes over everyone else's. That makes it tricky to tell where Miami would even consider making a move.

    Still, this trade wouldn't reverse those efforts, but rather reinforce them. Young looks like he'd be yet another strong fit for #HeatCulture, and he brings a more versatile skill set than Tucker. Young would fill a similar three-and-D bucket, although he's not quite the on-ball defender or corner-three splasher that Tucker is.

    The Heat would get the best player in the exchange, though, and the trade cost isn't too steep. If Miami saw more value in scoring versatility and playmaking, then it could sign off on this swap.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Milwaukee Bucks receive: Danny Green

    Philadelphia 76ers receive: Donte DiVincenzo, Rodney Hood and Jordan Nwora

    The Bucks went 50 years between their first and second NBA titles. If they want to trim that wait time between celebrations by 49 years, they could cash in the little young talent they have left for an instant upgrade on the perimeter.

    With Giannis Antetokounmpo as the franchise focal point, Milwaukee can never have too much shooting. That's the basic justification for spending their last big(ish) trade chip in DiVincenzo for the 34-year-old Green.

    The Bucks need fire-ballers around their superstar, and Green just averaged 2.5 triples on 40-plus percent three-point shooting for the second time in three seasons. Throw in his veteran savvy, defensive IQ and ability to hit the ground running after a deal, and he might be the best player who fits Milwaukee's budget.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Ben Simmons

    Philadelphia 76ers receive: D'Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels, 2022 first-round pick (top-three protected), 2023 first-round pick swap and 2024 first-round pick

    The 76ers haven't given up hope with Simmons. They're looking to either patch things over with their disgruntled point guard or trade him "for one of the few players in a tier above Simmons, such as Damian Lillard," per B/R's Jake Fischer.

    The Wolves shouldn't give up hope, either, that the trade market never breaks Philadelphia's way, Simmons still demands a way out and this becomes the best offer on the table. All three things could happen and this is hardly an insulting offer, as Russell is a 25-year-old with an All-Star selection under his belt and McDaniels is a 21-year-old with a wealth of physical tools and a high two-way ceiling.

    Still, Simmons is a different caliber of player, which is why the Wolves should push so hard to get him. He's such an extraordinary stopper that he could improve Minnesota's dreadful defense a good deal on his own, and his vision would weaponize the many scoring threats on this roster.

New Orleans Pelicans

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    New Orleans Pelicans receive: Tyler Herro

    Miami Heat receive: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Herbert Jones, 2022 first-round pick (via LAL) and 2022 second-round pick (via CLE)

    The Pelicans should focus all of their energy on giving Zion Williamson reasons to stay in the Crescent City long term. Beyond Brandon Ingram, this roster simply doesn't have enough of them.

    Would a deal for Herro move the needle for Williamson at all? It should. Both are 21 years old, so they should go through their prime years together. More importantly, their skill sets align like pieces from the same puzzle. Each has the off-the-dribble game to put a gravitational pull on defenders, and both can add value away from the basketball: Herro as a knock-down shooter, Williamson as an explosive roller to the rim.

    Miami would need a premium return for Herro, but this might be close. Alexander-Walker shines as both a shot creator and a scorer, and he brings more defensively than Herro. Speaking of defense, Jones enters his rookie season showing signs he'll play it at a level Erik Spoelstra will love. Finally, the Heat gain a pair of picks to either restock the cupboards or facilitate another deal down the line.

New York Knicks

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    New York Knicks receive: Terrence Ross

    Orlando Magic receive: Obi Toppin and Kevin Knox II

    For everything the Knicks did well last season, point-production was a constant struggle. Julius Randle and RJ Barrett were the only two 'Bockers to clear 15 points per night, and the entire attack checked in at 22nd in efficiency.

    That's why New York added both Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker this offseason, but the club should keep pushing for points. Winning the Ross sweepstakes would be another big lift, as his past three seasons have produced 15.1 points and 2.5 threes per night.

    While some might say this is too early to cut bait with Toppin, the Knicks need to really think about where and how he can fit with this club. There aren't major minutes available at the 4 and 5 spots now, and the congestion won't clear up any time soon. Rather than slowly developing Toppin with 15 minute-ish workloads, the Knicks could let Orlando tackle that project and bring back Ross to challenge Fournier for a starting spot.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Oklahoma City Thunder receive: James Wiseman

    Golden State Warriors receive: Derrick Favors, 2022 first-round pick (via LAC) and 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected, via MIA)

    Improvements are hard to gauge for the Thunder since they might be measuring 2021-22 success differently than everyone else. While they're sitting atop a mountain of incoming draft picks, the best selections of the bunch are their own. They need to keep their pick in the blue-chip range, so while most other clubs go chasing wins, they'll be hunting for the best available draft lottery odds.

    Given the state of this franchise, turning Favors and a few first-rounders into Wiseman, last year's No. 2 pick, would be a massive win. The Thunder have nothing but time to wait for Wiseman's game to mature, and if he never puts all of the pieces together, they won't be out too much for the experiment.

    Golden State's impatience might make it more inclined to play the polished Favors over Wiseman, especially since the draft picks would give its front office more ammunition on the trade market. OKC, meanwhile, will know it has splurged wisely, since the whole purpose of piling up picks is to add prospects with star potential, which Wiseman absolutely offers.

Orlando Magic

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    Orlando Magic receive: Luke Kennard, Keon Johnson and Brandon Boston Jr.

    Los Angeles Clippers receive: Terrence Ross

    The Magic should have three goals for this season, all of near equal importance. First, they need to get Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz back on the floor so they can see what they have in their foundational players. Second, they need to develop all of the young talent they've collected since leaning into a youth movement at the trade deadline. Third, they have to nail the Ross trade that will inevitably happen.

    He's on the short list of the season's most obvious trade candidates, and he's a non-star, so the bidding won't get too wild. But his ability to upgrade a win-now offense is something most shoppers will be after, so the Magic should demand a healthy return. This package might not improve Orlando's starting lineup on opening night, but the Magic aren't playing the short game with this roster.

    Instead, they'd be hoping to eventually hit big on one (or both) of rookies Johnson and Boston, either of whom could become a fixture on Orlando's wings for years to come. Kennard is young enough for the Magic to keep him (25), but in a perfect world, he splashes a ton of triples the next year or two until Orlando ships him out for even more long-term assets.

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Philadelphia 76ers receive: Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren and Chris Duarte

    Indiana Pacers receive: Ben Simmons and Furkan Korkmaz

    The Sixers are hoping one of two things happens with Simmons: either he walks back his trade demand and helps them compete for a title, or he becomes the trade chip needed to reel in a whale like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal.

    Color me skeptical on both fronts. Things were said in Philadelphia that can't be taken back, and Simmons' on-court fit with Joel Embiid hasn't grown any less awkward. As a trade chip, Simmons is just flawed enough to not expect any suitor to throw the kitchen sink at the Sixers, and it's possible trade offers will worsen with time as executives focus more fully on their own teams.

    That's a long-winded way of saying that, in my humble opinion, this is the best the Sixers can do.

    Brogdon checks every offensive box, doesn't dominate the basketball, shoots it well enough to pull defenses away from Embiid and plays both ends of the court. A healthy Warren—he continues fighting the left foot injury that effectively erased his 2020-21 season—is a matchup nightmare and could form an interchangeable forward group with Tobias Harris. Duarte, a rookie, has the three-and-D chops to log big minutes right out of the gate.

    The Sixers could improve in enough areas to finally make good on their championship potential, while the Pacers might view Simmons as the All-Star talent they typically don't have access to.

Phoenix Suns

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    Phoenix Suns receive: Karl-Anthony Towns

    Minnesota Timberwolves receive: Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, Dario Saric and 2024 first-round pick (top-three protected)

    The Suns could have followed their surprise run to the NBA Finals with a max extension for Ayton. They haven't yet, and now the big fella is getting frustrated.

    "I love Phoenix, but I'm really disappointed that we haven't really gotten a deal done yet," Ayton told reporters. "I mean, we were two wins from a championship. I just really wanted to be respected, to be honest, to be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams."

    It seems like the Suns don't see Ayton as an automatic max player, so maybe they'd consider moving him from an already established elite. Towns, who shoots like a super-sized Splash Brother and dances around the post like he's trained in ballet, could qualify as a two-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA honoree.

    Towns also happens to be a college teammate of Devin Booker, and Towns' scoring versatility would open even more options in Chris Paul's pick-and-roll game. Swing this deal, and Phoenix might go from being part of the Western Conference race to leading it.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    Portland Trail Blazers receive: Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb

    Indiana Pacers receive: CJ McCollum

    The Blazers have partially acknowledged a need for more defense with trades for Larry Nance Jr. and Robert Covington before him. But as long as Damian Lillard and McCollum share the backcourt, this defense is going to bleed in a way these Band-Aid deals can't control.

    Portland could get right to the heart of its issue in this trade by switching out McCollum for the bigger, more defensive-minded Brogdon. Indiana, meanwhile, might bite if it seeks a more powerful scoring punch than Brogdon can pack.

    The Blazers would still have someone to handle their non-Lillard shot-creation, and Brogdon might be more comfortable in an off-ball support role. Lamb mostly serves to match salary in this theoretical swap, but if he could stay healthy, he would lengthen Portland's often underwhelming wing rotation as a fairly reliable shot-maker.

Sacramento Kings

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    Sacramento Kings receive: Ben Simmons

    Philadelphia 76ers receive: Buddy Hield, Davion Mitchell, Marvin Bagley III, 2022 first-round pick (top-three protected) and 2024 first-round pick

    If the Kings can secure Simmons without parting with either of De'Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton, they should close the deal as soon as it's offered. This is far from a discount—Hield has a laser sight from long range, Mitchell might be a two-way star one day, Bagley can grow every aspect of his game and only one pick is even lightly protected—but it's worth it for Sacramento.

    The Kings have spent the past 15 seasons wandering aimlessly outside of playoff contention. They need a coherent vision to follow, and having Simmons zip up and down the floor with Fox and Haliburton could be the identity that snaps their record-tying drought.

    If Simmons embraces a frontcourt gig, he could be an explosive pick-and-roll partner for Sacramento's young guards. If Fox improves his jumper, he could add enough off-ball value to let Simmons his share of offensive sets. If Haliburton settles in between as the consummate glue guy, the Kings could have a playoff-caliber core that's young enough to grow into something even greater.

San Antonio Spurs

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    San Antonio Spurs receive: Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman

    Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Dejounte Murray

    Most teams know where they'll look for offense this season. The Spurs are among the few exceptions after running just about everything through DeMar DeRozan in 2020-21, allowing the four-time All-Star to pace them in points, assists and shots.

    In theory, San Antonio could wait and see which of its young players can prove himself as a No. 1 option, but what if the answer is no one? The Spurs lack star potential on their roster, and they would surprise exactly no one if they failed to roster a 20-point scorer this season.

    Sexton would change that. He's three years into his career and already has two seasons of 20-plus points per night under his belt. He has exceeded expectations as a shooter since entering the league, and his playmaking and inside-the-arc finishing are in a perpetual state of improvement. He is potent enough to lead the Spurs' offense into its next era, and Osman is versatile enough to find his fit.

Toronto Raptors

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Toronto Raptors receive: Monte Morris, JaMychal Green and Bol Bol

    Denver Nuggets receive: Goran Dragic

    Assuming the Raptors agree with everyone else who thinks Dragic's stay north of the border won't be long, they should work the phones to bring back whatever they can get for the 35-year-old. While the Dallas Mavericks are a logical trade partner given his connection with fellow Slovenian Luka Doncic, the puzzle pieces are tricky to line up for a possible deal.

    Dialing up Denver might be the better route.

    The Nuggets need someone to hold things over until Jamal Murray returns, and the Raptors could use that need to their advantage. Morris is rock-solid and could operate alongside or behind Fred VanVleet. Green offers plug-and-play ability up front or a good amount of trade value if Toronto eventually opts for a rebuild. Bol continues to fascinate as a 7'2" shot-blocker and floor-spacer.

Utah Jazz

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Utah Jazz receive: Andrew Wiggins

    Golden State Warriors receive: Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale

    This might seem too dramatic for a Jazz team that just took the West's No. 1 seed with its first .700-plus winning percentage since John Stockton was running pick-and-rolls with Karl Malone. When Utah was seeking to free up money to pay Mike Conley this summer, it made Joe Ingles, Bogdanovic and O'Neale available in trades, per B/R's Jake Fischer.

    The Jazz need to make good on their championship potential, as they have just a single playoff series victory (over the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies) to show for their past three postseason trips. Betting big on Wiggins would be a fascinating attempt to raise the roof, as he could potentially scratch their itch for a big-wing stopper while adding explosion alongside Donovan Mitchell.

    Wiggins' season-plus stay in Golden State sharpened his defense and, if last season can be trusted, wildly improved his outside shot (2.0 triples per night at a 38.0 percent clip). He has a deep enough bag to serve as the second scorer to Mitchell, or Wiggins could share those duties with Conley and Jordan Clarkson.

    If Utah is worried it might have reached its peak with the current core, this shakeup might be the key to further elevation.

Washington Wizards

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Washington Wizards receive: Jerami Grant

    Detroit Pistons receive: Rui Hachimura, Kyle Kuzma and 2025 first-round pick (top-10 protected)

    The Wizards might be backed into a rebuilding corner with a Bradley Beal trade as their only option for escape. However, if that is their fate, they haven't accepted it yet. They're continuing to try to build something substantial around the scoring guard.

    Washington doesn't have the trade chips to land a top-tier target, but the combination of Hachimura, Kuzma and a future first might get it into the near-star range. Grant wouldn't be a game-changer for the Wizards, but like Spencer Dinwiddie, he could fill a significant role in support of Beal and help him chase at least a playoff berth, if not a spot in the second round.

    Grant got to spread his wings in Detroit last season and used the freedom to flash more shot-creation than ever before. He wouldn't be the No. 1 option on a good team or the No. 2 on a great one, but if Beal went bananas again this season while both Grant and Dinwiddie exceeded expectations, Washington could make a surprise appearance in the fight for a top-four seed in the stacked Eastern Conference.


    Stats courtesy of and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.


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