3-Team NBA Trades Where Everybody Wins
Nothing's trickier than finding a perfectly balanced NBA trade that benefits both teams. Well, nothing except the even more daunting challenge of constructing an equitable deal that involves a third organization.
Don't worry, this is still doable.
In rare cases, that third team streamlines the process, facilitating an exchange of draft picks or additional talent that fits specific needs. The added complexity is tough, but the deeper pool of assets from which to draw can ease the strain. We're looking for deals that wouldn't work as cleanly (or at all) without bringing in a third party.
Let's crank up the trade machine and concoct some three-teamers—ones that hopefully make sense for all involved.
The Sixers, Nets and Heat Connect on a Blockbuster
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Ben Simmons, Victor Oladipo
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Kyle Lowry, Cam Thomas, 2025 first-round pick (via MIA), 2027 first-round pick (via MIA)
Miami Heat Receive: Kyrie Irving, 2023 second-round pick (via PHI)
According to The Athletic's Sam Amick: "While an Irving trade for Ben Simmons with Philadelphia is seen by some as an easy solution to both teams' problems, sources with knowledge of the 76ers' view said there is no interest in Irving at the moment."
OK, fine. No Kyrie Irving to Philly. But we're not giving up on such an obvious and necessary exchange of distressed assets. We've got to get Simmons out of Philadelphia, and Irving is basically useless to the Nets unless his vaccination stance changes. This is the rare double "gots to go" situation.
So let's haul the Heat, who always love to hunt stars, into the mix.
Brooklyn is the biggest winner here, if only because it's trading someone who might literally be value-less to its efforts this season. Irving is ineligible to play home games (plus two road contests in Madison Square Garden), and the Nets essentially determined they weren't into what would have been a complex part-time arrangement. Until he's vaccinated, Irving won't be on the floor for Brooklyn regardless of where its games take place.
Simmons might have his flaws, but he's better than a guy who's not going to play at all. And for a Nets team that happily slots Blake Griffin at center in big moments, Simmons shouldn't have an issue manning the 5 and playing to his strengths. His shooting limitations could pose playoff problems (Griffin is a much more threatening and willing three-point gunner), but again: Irving currently can't play at all. In a very real sense, this is a something-for-nothing exchange from Brooklyn's perspective.
And when "something" is a three-time All-Star whose five-position switchability directly addresses the Nets' suspect defense, that's a quality move. Victor Oladipo, recovering from quad surgery, is a throw-in to help the hard-capped Heat trim enough salary to make this move legal.
Miami just inked Kyle Lowry over the summer, but a massive, opportunistic swing for a superior talent in Irving feels on-brand for the ambitious franchise. Irving wouldn't be subject to the same local mandates in Florida, and he could provide a downhill, shot-creating element the Heat—a defense-first outfit as presently constructed—need.
Whether Irving's flightiness and checkered history of commitment to his team would fly with the laser-focused Heat is a legitimate question. But talent is king in the league, and Miami upgrades significantly by turning the declining Lowry (35) into Irving, who's coming off a wildly efficient 50-40-90 All-Star season.
The 76ers don't get the young cornerstone or 47 future first-rounders they seem to want for Simmons, but they, like Brooklyn, offload a guy who either won't play for the team or whose presence will create such strange vibes as to submarine the season. Lowry, who also happens to be from the City of Brotherly Love, has been a Philly target for some time because he fits perfectly as a gritty defender with championship experience and no Simmons-esque fear of the moment.
Brooklyn tosses in rookie scoring stud Cam Thomas, and the Heat have to include a pair of future firsts. Those would hopefully satisfy Philly's thirst for draft equity, and Miami shouldn't hesitate to part with them in the Lowry-to-Irving talent upgrade.
This would all be a lot simpler if the Nets and Sixers could just agree to exchange problems directly. But until that becomes a possibility, we can stew on this fanciful three-teamer between clubs that all have designs on winning the East.
The Warriors Burn Down the Bridge
Golden State Warriors Receive: Bradley Beal, Chris Boucher
Toronto Raptors Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Corey Kispert, 2022 first-round pick (via GSW), swap rights on 2023 first-round pick (via GSW)
Washington Wizards Receive: Pascal Siakam, James Wiseman, Moses Moody, 2025 first-round pick (via GSW)
The Golden State Warriors have been unwilling to dismantle their bridge to the future for short-term help, but maybe Jordan Poole's emergence will make them reconsider. Poole is 22 and playing like a guy whose floor might be CJ McCollum's ceiling, so the Dubs can make this move and still retain their most projectable future piece.
Bradley Beal is the best player in this deal by a considerable margin, but Chris Boucher's stretch skills make him a great fit in a Warriors offense that will include an ungodly amount of three-point shots this season. A downsized closing lineup of Stephen Curry, Poole, Beal, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would be unstoppable—perhaps even worth the price of giving up on James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and two firsts. Andrew Wiggins' defense would be missed, but not enough to make Golden State think twice about upgrading his salary slot by giving it to Beal.
Toronto's goals are tough to peg, but Masai Ujiri's new contract and the stability it brings could make the franchise more open to long-term planning. Pascal Siakam isn't old by any normal measure, but at 27 he's not a young asset by NBA standards anymore. The Raps net several building blocks with Kuminga, Corey Kispert, an unprotected 2022 first-rounder from the Warriors and swap rights on a 2023 first-rounder. Wiggins is just matching salary, but he's also Canadian. And yes, that's exactly the kind of tidbit you cling to as justification for one of these far-fetched three-teamers.
Washington adds Siakam to its core alongside Spencer Dinwiddie, grabbing a 2025 first-rounder and potential lottery ticket James Wiseman in the process. Moody, 19, already looks like a rotation-worthy three-and-D wing. That 2025 selection could be exceptionally valuable, as it'll come in the draft following Curry's age-36 season. Golden State could be in the high lottery by then.
The Wizards clean up here, but that's only right. They're surrendering the top asset in Beal.
Summing up, the Warriors add another All-Star for an all-in push, parting ways with nearly every one of their young pieces. Toronto gets younger (and more Canadian) while shifting focus to the future. Washington nets a lesser All-Star for Beal in Siakam, plus a 20-year-old who was the No. 2 pick in the draft less than one year ago—all for a guy in Beal who might walk in free agency after this season.
All three teams would have to grit their teeth before agreeing, but you can see how this wild exchange helps each pursue specific goals.
The Kings and Sixers Get Down to Business with an Assist from the Spurs
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Derrick White, Thaddeus Young
Sacramento Kings Receive: Ben Simmons, Danny Green, Lonnie Walker IV, Joshua Primo, 2023 first-round pick (via SAS, lottery protected)
San Antonio Spurs Receive: De'Aaron Fox, Seth Curry, Shake Milton
Yep, we're going to move Simmons again. This time, the Sacramento Kings bring him aboard, which means they've got to part with their own suspect-shooting primary ball-handler, De'Aaron Fox, to balance out the roster.
But wait, there's (so much) more!
The Sixers might not have interest in Fox because of his potentially clunky fit with Joel Embiid, which forces the Kings to send Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield to Philly. Hield is a one-dimensional player, but that one dimension, which has earned him recognition as one of the best pure three-point shooters of all time, will play perfectly in Philly. He's one of three shooters in league history to average over 7.0 long-range attempts per game for his career with at least a 40.0 percent hit rate.
That said, Haliburton is the more tantalizing asset. He showed uncommon anticipation and savvy as a rookie, and he shot a slick 40.9 percent from deep last season. There's a decent chance he'd become the Sixers' main playmaker in short order.
We have to rope the Spurs in so Fox has someplace to go. He'd be an upgrade over Dejounte Murray at the point, particularly on offense.
Fox is a transition attack all on his own, and he cranked out 25.2 points per game last year in his age-23 season. San Antonio could easily bring back value by moving Murray to a fourth team, which we won't dig into here.
Fox is the second-best player in this three-team exchange, which is why the Spurs have to surrender that 2023 first-rounder to the Kings, along with two rotation weapons in Derrick White and Thaddeus Young to the Sixers. Let's take this moment to appreciate that while Philly may not be getting the young superstar and mountain of picks it might prefer for Simmons, it's still receiving no fewer than four starting-caliber players who provide the shooting and defense contenders require.
Sacramento's return package for Fox, Hield and Haliburton didn't quite feel rich enough, even with Simmons as the crown jewel. So the Spurs are sweetening the pot significantly by adding Walker and Primo to the mix.
The Kings could field a balanced first unit of Davion Mitchell, Danny Green, Harrison Barnes, Simmons and Richaun Holmes. If the goal in Sacramento is to end a playoff drought dating back to 2005-06, that group is more likely to do it than the Fox-Haliburton-Hield-Barnes-Holmes quintet that went 31-41 last season. Say what you will about Simmons; he gets his teams to the postseason.
It may feel like San Antonio is giving up too much. But Fox's All-NBA breakout could easily happen this year. Two starters, two prospects and a lottery-protected pick are a fair price for what Fox might become.
The Kings remake themselves here, adding a three-time All-Star and defensive anchor in Simmons. Few teams need a five-position shutdown weapon like Sacramento, the ignominious owner of 2020-21's worst defensive rating.
The Suns Save Some Cash with an Ayton Trade
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Deandre Ayton, Malcolm Brogdon
Indiana Pacers Receive: Terry Rozier, PJ Washington, Jalen Smith, 2023 first-round pick (via CHA)
Phoenix Suns Receive: Myles Turner, James Bouknight, Wes Iwundu
Deandre Ayton's insistence on a max rookie extension, as reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, shouldn't spur immediate action from the Suns. They'll still have match rights in restricted free agency this summer. The bulk of the leverage is still theirs. But if Ayton's disappointment over his contract status intensifies, and if it threatens to sidetrack Phoenix in its attempt to reach the Finals again, a preemptive trade might make sense.
There's also the fact that the Suns haven't paid the luxury tax since 2009-10. With Devin Booker maxed out, Chris Paul re-signed on a hefty deal and Mikal Bridges due his own extension, the Suns' penny-pinching history could influence their decision on Ayton.
So let's send the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 to Charlotte, a squad that could use a future star at center to anchor the defense and catch lobs from LaMelo Ball. Phoenix surrenders the top prize in this exchange, but it is also operating from a position of relative weakness. If this hypothetical arises, it'll be because things have soured badly with Ayton, and that could hurt in trade negotiations. So getting a promising rookie in Bouknight, plus Myles Turner—a dynamic floor-spacing big whose defensive contributions earned him DPOY buzz last year—is a terrific haul.
Turner, 25, will only make $35 million over the next two seasons. Those savings should appeal to Phoenix.
Bringing Ayton aboard will cost the Hornets, who shell out Terry Rozier, P.J. Washington and a first-rounder to the Pacers. Wes Iwundu also finds his way to the Pacers, but only as salary-filler to make the money match up.
Indy helps make the Hornets whole by handing over Malcolm Brogdon, who would defend the toughest backcourt matchup (sparing Ball) and duplicate much of Rozier's perimeter offense. The first-round pick probably needs to be unprotected for the Pacers to have any interest. Then again, Rozier quietly had a better year than Brogdon in 2020-21, seeing the court for 453 more minutes and topping the Pacers guard in true shooting percentage, win shares and Value over Replacement Player.
Charlotte gets a cornerstone, Phoenix adds a high-end starter and a rookie for a player it might not intend to retain, and Indiana walks away with the best guard in the bargain, an intriguing stretch big in Washington to replace Turner and a first-rounder. Don't forget Jalen Smith, either. The second-year big man, picked 10th in 2020, also goes to Indy as a key piece of future-focused compensation, easing the sting of Turner's departure.
Dallas Gets Its True Second Star
Chicago Bulls Receive: Brandon Ingram
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Zach LaVine, Garrett Temple
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Jalen Brunson, Coby White, 2024 first-round pick (via DAL), 2027 first-round pick (via CHI)
This three-teamer is bonkers at first blush, but the contract statuses of the key players involved goes a long way toward making the deal defensible.
Start with the Bulls, who land Brandon Ingram and the security of his four-year contract. Ingram was an All-Star in 2019-20, duplicated the stats that earned him that honor last season and is still young enough at 24 to have another level of growth in him. Zach LaVine's impending free agency could scare the Bulls if he makes an All-NBA team and becomes eligible for a supermax contract worth upward of $235 million.
You could see how the Bulls might prefer the certainty of Ingram's cheaper deal, particularly considering he's two years LaVine's junior.
Dallas gets the best player in the bargain in LaVine, an elite volume-efficiency scorer who averaged 27.4 points per game last season. The Mavericks have long needed a clear second star, and LaVine, though a suspect defender, would be Luka Doncic's best offensive teammate ever. Added bonus: LaVine can handle primary creation duties but is just as useful off the ball as a catch-and-shoot threat and cutter. He'd help Dallas ease the playmaking burden on Doncic while also punishing defenses as a release valve.
Temple, a veteran three-and-D wing, could see rotation minutes with the Mavs.
New Orleans finally adds a true stretch big to space the floor for Zion Williamson while also hoarding two future firsts and a pair of young guards. The Pels backcourt gets a little crowded in the aftermath of this deal, which adds Jalen Brunson and Coby White to a positional group that already has Devonte' Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kira Lewis Jr. and Tomas Satoransky. But neither NAW nor Lewis has proved much to this point; New Orleans isn't in a position to be turning down promising talent.
Ingram nets such a massive return because he's the surest thing here. Locked into a deal and still theoretically getting better, he doesn't come with LaVine's free-agency uncertainty or Kristaps Porzingis' worrisome health history. KP could easily outplay both LaVine and Ingram, elevating the Pels (assuming Williamson's foot heals up) to the playoffs. But he's hardly the safe play.
Meanwhile, Dallas would probably be glad to max out LaVine if he plays as well as he did in 2020-21. And if the marriage doesn't work out, at least the Mavs will have offloaded Porzingis and cleared the books for their next pursuit of a Doncic sidekick.