Offseason Trade Ideas for NBA's Most Hopeless Teams
With a little more than a month left in the regular season, reality has set in for many of the NBA's bottom-feeders.
Simply put, it's time to start thinking about the offseason.
While prepping for the draft will be priority No. 1 for most of these lottery-bound teams, a smart summer trade can help to change the trajectory of the franchise as well.
For this exercise, we're classifying the "most hopeless" teams as those that aren't even threats to make the play-in tournament at this point. This includes the Orlando Magic (15-48), Houston Rockets (15-47), Detroit Pistons (16-47), Oklahoma City Thunder (20-42), Indiana Pacers (22-42), Sacramento Kings (24-41) and New York Knicks (25-37), the only seven teams that are three games or more behind the No. 10 seed.
Whether it be addressing a position of need, clearing future salary-cap space, swapping veterans for young talent or throwing a collection of picks at a talented (yet often injured) young star, these are trades all of the NBA's worst teams should be considering.
Detroit Pistons Receive: G/F Kevin Huerter, F De'Andre Hunter
Atlanta Hawks Receive: F Jerami Grant
Although the Pistons chose to hold on to Grant at the trade deadline, keeping him into the 2022-23 season should only lower his trade value on an expiring contract.
Detroit should once again canvas the league, looking for packages that would bring back young players and/or draft picks while moving Grant to a franchise where he can win immediately and still play a big offensive role.
Atlanta would be an intriguing destination. Although the Hawks sit at just 30-32 overall this season, adding a high-level defender and multilevel scorer like Grant to a core of Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Onyeka Okongwu and others would help push Atlanta toward the top of the East.
For Detroit, Hunter and Huerter are both 24 or younger and bring a blend of upside mixed with a few seasons of experience. Hunter is a multipositional defender who's shooting a career-high 37.4 percent from three this season and can start next to Saddiq Bey in the Pistons frontcourt.
Huerter gives Cade Cunningham a 6'7" sniper to play next to in the backcourt, one who can also handle the ball and create for others. A new starting lineup of Cunningham, Huerter, Bey, Hunter and Isaiah Stewart gives Detroit a strong foundation to build upon.
Houston Rockets Receive: G/F Talen Horton-Tucker, PG Russell Westbrook, 2027 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG John Wall, G/F Eric Gordon
While a Westbrook-for-Wall framework was discussed at the trade deadline, the Lakers and Rockets can finally finish the deal this offseason.
If the Lakers are hesitant to include their 2027 first for Wall, the Rockets can appease them by including Gordon. If Houston wants more as well, Los Angeles should be willing to part with Horton-Tucker, provided the 2027 first at least has some sort of protection on it.
The Rockets don't need Westbrook on a rebuilding team, of course, and he'd be a potential buyout candidate now on an expiring $47 million deal. They do this trade to move on from Wall, add a talented young wing in Horton-Tucker and pick up some extra draft capital.
No team is going to call Rob Pelinka's office this summer begging for Westbrook, so moving him for another bad contract like Wall's is likely their only option. Getting Gordon is what makes the trade worth doing, however, as the veteran wing is averaging 14.0 points and 2.9 assists while shooting 41.2 percent from three.
A core four of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Wall and Gordon is far better than what the Lakers are currently rolling out, especially with Westbrook gone.
Indiana Pacers Receive: F/C Al Horford, 2023 second-round pick (via Portland Trail Blazers)
Boston Celtics Receive: SG Buddy Hield
With a backcourt of Malcolm Brogdon, Tyrese Haliburton and Chris Duarte, the Pacers don't really need Hield, who was acquired for salary-matching purposes in the Domantas Sabonis-Haliburton swap.
Moving him to Boston for Horford (who will be on an expiring $26.5 million contract) means getting off the final year of Hield's contract, a savings of $19.3 million heading into the summer of 2023. By doing so, Indiana would have just $43.8 million in total salary committed for the 2023-24 season, with Haliburton still on the final year of his rookie contract.
Horford is still a useful veteran with his defense, passing and floor-spacing ability. Indiana could use him as a starting power forward next to Myles Turner or a backup power forward/center and mentor to promising rookie Isaiah Jackson. Collecting an extra pick in next year's draft should help as well.
Boston could use a shooter to mix into a backcourt of Marcus Smart and Derrick White, as the Celtics rank just 22nd in three-point accuracy (34.5 percent) this season. A new starting lineup of Smart, Hield, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams III with White as a sixth man would feature plenty of scoring, defense and floor-spacing.
New York Knicks and Orlando Magic
New York Knicks Receive: PG Markelle Fultz
Orlando Magic Receive: SF Cam Reddish, PG Kemba Walker
The Knicks are one of the great disappointments of 2021-22, with point guard their biggest area of concern heading into the offseason. New York ranks 29th in assist-to-turnover ratio, 26th in assist percentage and 25th in total offense overall.
Making a run at Dejounte Murray would be a dream scenario for the Knicks, although Fultz represents a far more reasonable consolation prize.
Orlando, owners of the worst record in the NBA at 15-48, now have an excess of ball-handlers with Fultz recently returning from a torn ACL. Cole Anthony has been terrific this season, and Jalen Suggs was the No. 5 overall pick in 2021, and he carries significant upside as well.
This could leave Fultz as the odd man out, and Orlando could move for some help on the wing instead.
Still only 23, Fultz could cement himself as a franchise point guard in New York. He's been far better in Orlando following a rocky start to his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, with averages of 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals and a 46.1 percent shooting mark overall.
New York also gets to move off Walker's expiring $9.2 million contract and shouldn't miss Reddish, who head coach Tom Thibodeau is giving just 13.3 minutes per game off the bench.
Orlando could finally give Reddish the opportunity he deserves as a starter or high-usage sixth man, especially if the Magic end up finally trading Terrence Ross this summer. Walker gives the Magic a veteran to help lead Anthony and Suggs for a year before his contract expires in 2023.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: PF Zion Williamson
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Darius Bazley, 2022 first-round pick (via Los Angeles Clippers), 2023 first-round pick (lottery-protected, via Washington Wizards), 2024 first-round pick (top-four protected, via Houston Rockets)
As much as the Pelicans may not want to give up on Williamson just yet, the Thunder could certainly entice David Griffin by finally cashing in their treasure trove of draft picks.
Adding Williamson to a core of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Lu Dort suddenly makes OKC one of the best young teams in the NBA. It would be a risky move to be sure given his injury history, but no team is more suited to roll the dice than the Thunder.
OKC owns multiple first-round picks in the next five drafts, so even parting with one first each year gives the Thunder at least one to still utilize.
For New Orleans, netting three first-round picks and a good, young player in Bazley for Williamson, who's yet to play this season following foot surgery, is pretty darn good value. Even if they aren't interested in eventually making those picks, this gives the Pelicans a ton of trade assets to go chase another star to pair with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas.
While teams typically don't want to trade players whose stocks have fallen, any further injuries would damage Williamson's value even more. The Thunder bank on the 21-year-old's upside and their own player development program, while the Pelicans get good value back while they still can.
Sacramento Kings Receive: F Kelly Oubre Jr.
Charlotte Hornets Receive: C Richaun Holmes
After trading for Domantas Sabonis at the deadline, the Kings have elected to start their new All-Star at center, meaning a demotion of Holmes to the bench. In his four games playing behind Sabonis, Holmes is averaging just 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 15.3 minutes.
If the plan is to continue with Sabonis at center and not power forward where he played with Indiana, then Sacramento should look to move Holmes for wing help.
A backcourt of De'Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell and Donte DiVincenzo is a nice blend of scoring and defense, so adding a forward such as Oubre who can spread the floor and attack the basket would help balance this offense.
Oubre is averaging 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals for the Hornets this season, primarily as a reserve. A starting five of Fox, Mitchell, Oubre, Harrison Barnes and Sabonis may finally be playoff-worthy for Sacramento, especially with DiVincenzo as a sixth man.
Charlotte desperately needs center help, especially with Montrezl Harrell hitting free agency this summer. Holmes would be a nice upgrade over Mason Plumlee as a solid defender and rim runner who can play the pick-and-roll with LaMelo Ball.