B/R NBA Roundtable: 5 Ridiculous Trades That Could Actually Work
Things have gone quiet throughout the NBA trade landscape.
It's time to speak the next blockbuster deal into existence.
On the surface, the following trades are unlikely, if a tad ridiculous. After all, the Nets trading Kyrie Irving—or even James Harden—is tough to wrap your mind around despite some obvious (and some sneaky-good) advantages.
But that's the point. Red flags and other circumstances can impede opportunities to improve or start over. Deals that would pump newfound life into teams and their stars never get a chance to break the internet because GMs fear that the home-run swing can lead to an embarrassing strike.
Our GMs are swinging for the fences.
Bleacher Report asked NBA writers to step in and boldly go where no general manager themselves may go this season. We built five trades knowing every reason someone says no; but with an even deeper understanding of what could go right, we thought outside the box and let our imaginations run wild.
Ready to hit the trade machine and get a little ridiculous?
Let's have some fun.
Hit the comments in the B/R app and let us know which trade you didn't realize you needed until today.
Spurs Give Kyrie a Chance to Play
The Trade: Derrick White, Thaddeus Young and a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick for Kyrie Irving
Why It Seems Ridiculous: Put simply, any trade involving Irving feels ridiculous right now.
"For the most part, every front office and coaching staff is scared to death of him and doesn't want to touch him," an NBA executive told HoopsHype's Michael Scotto. "... He's a guy that front offices don't trust. Coaches don't want to deal with him. Players like him."
Why It Could Actually Work: For one thing, San Antonio is a far cry from Brooklyn. But Irving could actually play despite being unvaccinated in Texas.
Irving would give San Antonio something it simply doesn't have right now: a star. Building around Kyrie has proven difficult, at best, for multiple teams, but the Spurs' organizational infrastructure and plenty of smart, unselfish complementary players could give them a better chance than some of his previous employers.
For Brooklyn, this is clearly a significant talent downgrade, but Derrick White and Thaddeus Young are both positive contributors who would have no problem moving the ball to stars like Kevin Durant and James Harden. That alone gives the Nets far more than Irving can right now. And for a team with two stars in their 30s, right now is pretty important.
Lakers Help Pistons Go a New Direction
The Trade: Jerami Grant and Rodney McGruder for Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Wayne Ellington
Why It Seems Ridiculous: Jerami Grant seems to take a lot of pride in his role on the developing Pistons. The team is awful, in terms of record (2-9), but Grant is believed to have a strong relationship with general manager Troy Weaver.
Why it Could Actually Work: The Pistons aren't a playoff team and Grant has just one more year left on his deal (earning $21 million for 2022-23). If Detroit doesn't intend to reinvest as the rebuild continues, Weaver could choose to go in a different direction.
Horton-Tucker hasn't played for most of the year (thumb injury), but he's a young, aggressive scoring guard on a friendly contract. Nunn is also a talented young ball-handler who has missed time this season (knee). The deal wouldn't be legal until after January 15, and both Lakers should have time to prove their worth on the court well before then.
The Lakers give up the only two players earning above the minimum, outside of their three stars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook. Ellington is in the deal for salary-matching purposes but could be substituted by another veteran (Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, etc.). McGruder can block a trade (via the NBA's one-year Bird rule), but the Pistons can choose to just cut him instead (along with one additional player for roster space, unless a third team is taking a player like Ellington).
Hawks Upgrade; Wolves Let Ant's Star Shine
The Trade: Karl-Anthony Towns, Taurean Prince and Jake Layman for John Collins, Danilo Gallinari, Cam Reddish and a 2022 first-round pick
Why It Seems Ridiculous: Towns is one of the best scoring bigs in the NBA. He's been the face of the franchise for his entire career. Why would the Timberwolves let him go?
Why It Could Actually Work: Second-year swingman Anthony Edwards can fill that star void. The Timberwolves, despite greater expectations, have started the season slowly once again (4-8). While Collins isn't as consistent as Towns, he's also quite talented. Minnesota would add in a bigger wing in Reddish, who would give the team a lethal core of scorers with D'Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Edwards and Reddish. The Wolves also get another starting-caliber forward in Gallinari and a first-round pick for giving up the best player in the deal.
The Hawks (5-9) are struggling to recapture the magic from last season. Gallinari isn't part of the team's long-term plans and Reddish may be too expensive to retain with investments in Trae Young, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic and eventually De'Andre Hunter. Prince and Layman are salary ballast, though the former could find a bench role in his return to Atlanta. The Hawks upgrade Collins to Towns, who starts next to Capela in a big lineup while also playing significant minutes at center.
Simmons, Sixers Finally Move on
The Trade: Ben Simmons for Jrue Holiday
Why It Seems Ridiculous: The Milwaukee Bucks just won an NBA title with Holiday as the team's starting point guard. He's still a premier defensive guard at age 31 and viewed as one of the best teammates in the league who's contract isn't up until 2024 (with a player option for 2024-25).
Moving Holiday for Simmons could have a terrible effect on team chemistry and risk upsetting Giannis Antetokounmpo. If nothing's broken, why fix it, right?
Why It Could Actually Work: After the initial shock of a Holiday-Simmons swap, the Bucks could have a higher ceiling and become even more devastating defensively with the 25-year-old, three-time All-Star on board.
Pairing Simmons and Antetokounmpo gives Milwaukee perhaps the two most versatile defenders in the league. Both stand at 6'11" and can guard all five positions on the floor. The Bucks have stumbled to 20th defensively this season, with Holiday (who's six years older than Simmons) missing six games with a sprained ankle. Letting a motivated Simmons set the table for Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton while spreading shooters around (Brook Lopez, Grayson Allen, Donte DiVincenzo, George Hill etc) could make the Bucks even more dangerous than last year.
Holiday would be a breath of fresh air if he returned to Philly, as he's ready to win now and can do anything Doc Rivers asks of him. He's already proved capable of thriving next to All-Star big men (Anthony Davis, Antetokounmpo) and would help bring out the best in Joel Embiid.
Nets Sacrifice Star Power for the Right Rotation
The Trade: James Harden and Jevon Carter for CJ McCollum, Robert Covington and Anfernee Simons
Why It Seems Ridiculous: The Nets traded for Harden less than a year ago, and we haven't gotten to see what a healthy Big Three of he, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can accomplish yet. Breaking up Harden and Durant this early would be unnecessary, even with the former getting off to a rough start to the 2021-22 season.
The move could upset Durant as well, given the team may already be without Irving for the entire year if the All-Star point guard remains unvaccinated. McCollum is great, but he's not a future Hall of Fame talent like Harden is.
Why It Could Actually Work: Durant looks like the best player in the NBA, and the Nets should be doing everything to maximize his talent. If Harden, 32, is starting to show some slippage in play heading into unrestricted free agency (if he declines a player option after the two sides failed to agree to an extension), the Nets should be open to exploring other options.
McCollum (20.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 37.6 percent shooting from three) is crafty enough to play either guard position whether Irving returns or not, and Covington takes a lot of defensive pressure off Durant while also spacing the floor (39.1 percent from three). The two sides could then argue about draft compensation or including some of Portland's young talent (Nassir Little or Anfernee Simons).
The thought of pairing Damian Lillard and Harden should be enough for the Blazers to agree to the trade, as the two could make up the most offensively devastating backcourt in the entire NBA.