2022 NBA Trade Deadline Deals That Would Actually Shock You
The NBA trade market is buzzing.
Each day bringing us closer to the Feb. 10 trade deadline seems to come equipped with a batch of new rumor rumblings. For those who get their hoops fix from trade talks—likely a healthy portion of the audience here given the hook that reeled you in—this time of year can be intoxicating.
It can also feel a little repetitive. The same names surface over and over (What up, Ben Simmons?), and there are only so many ways to move the same puzzle pieces around.
Our goal here is to throw repetition out the window by drafting up new ideas that would shock the roundball community should any come to fruition during basketball's biggest swap meet.
While these aren't predictions of what will go down, they are bound by reality in terms of trade value and each team's potential willingness to broker a blockbuster.
Hawks Consolidate, Pelicans Add Depth and Assets
Atlanta Hawks receive: Brandon Ingram
New Orleans Pelicans receive: John Collins, De'Andre Hunter and 2022 first-round pick (top-18 protected, via CHO)
The Hawks had hopped to rev forward after their Eastern Conference Finals breakout, but they've been stuck in neutral all season. Their roster is as deep as any, but they can't afford to keep everyone—they already moved on from 2019 No. 10 pick Cam Reddish—and they have long appeared prime for a consolidation deal.
Snatching Brandon Ingram away from the Zion Williamson-less, going-nowhere-fast Pelicans might be the move to make.
Ingram could shine as Atlanta's second star. He could instantly relieve some of Trae Young's heavy scoring and playmaking duties, and his three-ball (38.6 percent over the past two seasons) would help keep the floor open for the Hawks guard to attack and run pick-and-rolls with Clint Capela. Since Young and Ingram are both on the right side of 25, Atlanta would be poised to remain an Eastern Conference threat for years to come.
New Orleans, meanwhile, could covet better depth in preparation of Williamson's eventual return. A Zion-John Collins frontcourt would rank among the bounciest in basketball, and Collins, who desires a bigger role, could have enough shooting and shot-blocking to cover up Williamson's biggest weaknesses. This would put Jonas Valanciunas on the bench (or the trade block), but the 29-year-old never seemed more than a stopgap solution in the Crescent City.
A healthy De'Andre Hunter is the three-and-D wing New Orleans hopes rookie Trey Murphy III eventually becomes. Finally, putting another first-round pick on the Pelicans' pile would give them even more trade chips to throw around in a separate swap.
Cavaliers Push for Deep Playoff Run, Wizards Focus on Future
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans
Washington Wizards receive: Collin Sexton, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, 2022 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick (via HOU)
Cleveland's strong start has sustained long enough to consider the Cavs a full-fledged breakout. Armed with the East's best defense (105.0 defensive rating, third overall) and net rating (plus-5.3, fourth), the Cavaliers arguably should adopt an aggressive mindset and try turning this season into something special.
How about splurging on Bradley Beal?
Cleveland's 13th-ranked offense could use a bit more zip, and Beal, a 30-plus-point scorer each of the past two seasons, is about as zippy as they come. He also shouldn't be completely off-limits since he's unsigned beyond this season and Washington is once again underwhelming (14th in winning percentage and just 22nd in net efficiency).
A Beal-Darius Garland backcourt is overloaded with shooting, distributing and three-level scoring and sure to put opponents into a series of pick-your-poison scenarios. There might not be much defense between them—though Beal was sturdier on that end before having to take on such a massive offensive role—but Cleveland has more than enough on the back line to cover it up.
If Washington senses Beal might head elsewhere this summer—or simply accepts that an overhaul is necessary—this would net both assets and a get-out-of-jail-free card with Davis Bertans' albatross contract. (Cleveland, meanwhile, might be more willing to stomach Bertans' money since key contributors in Garland, Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley are all on their rookie contracts.)
The Wizards must see Collin Sexton as a long-term keeper for this to work, but that doesn't require too much imagination as he's a 23-year-old with a 20-points-per-game career scoring average. Ricky Rubio is an expiring salary, and Kevin Love will be next season. Lastly, the lack of protection on the first-round pick gives Washington a sliver of hope should Cleveland unexpectedly crash-land in the second half.
Grizzlies Go for It, Raptors Reset
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher
Toronto Raptors receive: Dillon Brooks, Steven Adams, Ziaire Williams, Jarrett Culver, 2022 first-round pick (top-five protected) and 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected, via GSW)
The Grizzlies have turned this campaign into their personal fast-forward button and rapidly advanced their timeline. A bold move for a frontcourt difference-maker and stretch-y backup big could further floor the gas pedal and potentially line up Bluff City's finest for a run at the crown.
Siakam could power up the Grizzlies at both ends of the floor. On offense, he'd bring more shot-creation and athleticism, plus a pinch of shooting (at least) while forming a dynamic pick-and-roll (or pick-and-pop) tandem with surging star Ja Morant. A partnership with Jaren Jackson Jr. would give Memphis all the length, limbs and lateral quickness it needs to shut things down at the game's less glamorous end.
A core four of that trio and Desmond Bane has a chance to rapidly rank among the Association's top quartets. Chris Boucher, who's reportedly "considered available," per B/R's Jake Fischer, would give coach Taylor Jenkins even more options with his backup bigs as a rim-protector and floor-spacer.
Would Toronto consider stepping back now to perhaps make progress down the road? Fischer reported that the team's recent six-game win streak "has ended rivals' speculation" about a Raptors' rebuild, but they need to keep the end game in mind. Statistically speaking, this squad is as average as it gets, slotting 15th in both winning percentage (.512) and net rating (plus-0.8).
If Toronto turns the page, this trade would help write the next chapter. The crown jewel is Ziaire Williams, this year's 10th overall pick, who is 20 years old and has a skyscraper's ceiling. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote Williams has "go-to-scorer potential," while B/R's Jonathan Wasserman said scouts were drawn to Williams' "size, shooting stroke, ball skills and defensive tools."
The Raptors would also collect a pair of first-round picks to keep or trade, a plug-and-play, plucky guard in Dillon Brooks, a 22-year-old 2019 lottery pick in Jarrett Culver and rock-solid center Steven Adams, who will become a $17.9 million expiring salary next season.
Longtime Rivals Swap Stars
Boston Celtics receive: Anthony Davis, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kent Bazemore and 2027 first-round pick (top-three protected)
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Aaron Nesmith and 2023 second-round pick (via POR)
The Celtics, essentially a .500 team since the start of last season, have been stuck in the mud long enough to face existential questions about the Jaylen Brown-Jayson Tatum tandem. The Lakers, a preseason favorite seeded seventh in the West, have struggled to the point that coach Frank Vogel "is in serious jeopardy" of losing his job and is being evaluated "on a game-to-game basis," per the Athletic's Bill Oram and Sam Amick.
With the walls closing in on each club, could these storied rivals come together on an internet-breaking blockbuster? Probably not, but for our mental exercise, this wouldn't be the worst place to turn should each team feel trapped by its current predicament.
The Lakers are woefully short on trade chips, but dangling Anthony Davis would open up the tier of elite targets otherwise inaccessible to them. Jaylen Brown looks like he was built to cure their biggest issues, simultaneously scratching itches for shot-creation, three-point shooting and perimeter defense. He is young enough (25) to run the floor with Russell Westbrook and skilled enough to work half-court sets with LeBron James.
Marcus Smart is the point-of-attack stopper the Lakers have missed since splitting from Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the summer. Spacing could get tight with a Smart-Westbrook backcourt, but if Smart gets back to the 34.8 clip he shot over the past three seasons, that could ease some concerns. Sophomore Aaron Nesmith might add a bit of breathing room, too, if he ever lives up to his predraft reputation as a fireballer from range.
The Celtics were linked to Davis back when he wanted out of the Big Easy, and substantial interest could remain. The overlapping concerns of the Brown-Tatum combo would be out the window with Davis, an intimidating paint presence who can finish above the rim and find offense away from it. Having him and Robert Williams III in the same frontcourt would basically put a barricade between opponents and the basket.
Talen Horton-Tucker has hit some road bumps in his third season, but he's still just 21 years old and flashes enough shot-creation to let imaginations run wild about his future. The future pick, which wouldn't convey until James was 42 years old and (presumably) done with the Lakers, could have considerable trade value for Boston to pick up a replacement floor general. Kent Bazemore, added primarily as salary-filler, has shown three-and-D competence in the recent past.
Is this likely? Not at all. But if each franchise feels it is stuck, it's at least feasible to think they'd see this swap as a way to unstick themselves.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.