NBA Trade Ideas That Could Reshape the League in 2022April 15, 2022
NBA Trade Ideas That Could Reshape the League in 2022
The divide between the NBA's haves and have-nots crystallized over the course of the 2021-22 campaign.
That doesn't mean it's built to last, though.
Franchise fortunes can change in a hurry during the offseason, and for teams angling for that type of turnaround, they'll likely look to the trade market to spark those transformations. Few clubs are projected to have significant cap space this summer, and there aren't many high-level hoopers slated for free agency, so that option is off the table for a big chunk of the league—in terms of adding a difference-maker, at least.
If that happens to spark a flurry of trade activity, here's an early look at the landscape-shifting deals that could go down. Since there are plenty of unknowns on the financial front, these are framework ideas for trades, not necessarily ones that can meet the money-matching criteria.
Hornets Find Their 5, Pacers Gain Assets
Charlotte Hornets receive: Myles Turner and T.J. McConnell
Indiana Pacers receive: Gordon Hayward, James Bouknight and 2022 first-round pick (lottery protected, via NOP)
The Hornets had a longstanding need to upgrade the center spot, so in the past 12 months they traded for both Mason Plumlee and Montrezl Harrell.
Neither addition scratched that itch. What Charlotte really needs—and what Plumlee and Harrell can't provide—is an interior anchor capable of fixing the club's 22nd-ranked defense.
Turner, who has twice led the league in blocks (and would have again this season if he played enough games to qualify), could be up to the task. He has the length and timing to erase shots at the rim, the intimidation needed to alter countless others and enough mobility to survive most switches onto the perimeter.
As an added bonus, his career 34.9 three-point percentage should be threatening enough to pull opposing defenders away from the basket and keep the attack lanes open for LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier. If the Hornets see Turner as a two-way talent and think the plucky McConnell would further improve the defense, they could be incentivized to pounce.
As for the Pacers, it's unclear whether the deadline subtraction of Domantas Sabonis removed Turner from his long-held perch on the trade block. But before Turner injured his foot in January, the Pacers were "asking for two first-round picks, or one first-rounder and a promising rookie-scale contract player" in exchange for Turner, per B/R's Jake Fischer.
If the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, then the first-round pick would convey. (If it doesn't, it becomes 2022 and 2024 second-round picks, so maybe that's a deal-breaker for Indy.) If the Pacers view Bouknight, last year's No. 11 pick, as that "promising rookie-scale contract player," then they would check both items off of their wish list.
But this deal would also deliver Hayward, a potential gate draw as an Indianapolis native and, more importantly, someone who could make Tyrese Haliburton's life easier as a support scorer, table-setter and sharpshooter. Hayward is 32, owed $61.6 million over the next two seasons and on a three-year run of playing fewer than 55 games, so there's some risk, but maybe Indy sees enough long-term reward to do the deal anyway.
Thunder Start Their Acceleration, Hawks Find Flexibility
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: John Collins
Atlanta Hawks receive: Darius Bazley, Kenrich Williams, Derrick Favors, 2022 first-round pick (via PHO) and 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected, via DEN)
The Thunder won't keep chasing prospects and picks forever. At some point, they'll need to start turning these assets into actual contributors, and one could argue this summer is as good a time as any to get going.
Next season will be the first of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's five-year, $172 million max deal. Lu Dort has already made the leap from defensive specialist to lockdown stopper who also happens to average 17 points per game. Josh Giddey hit the ground running as a stat-sheet-stuffing rookie. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl seamlessly slid into a glue-guy roll. Tre Mann flashed a powerful scoring punch.
The young nucleus is rapidly expanding, and another lottery pick—perhaps a really good one—will soon be added to the core. OKC has ample reason to be excited about the future, but why not bring that future into focus now?
"We understand where we're at now as a young group," Giddey said, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. "But I think everyone wants to win, and I think the sooner that can start the better."
Splurging on just any established talent wouldn't make sense, but Collins is both young enough to fit with this nucleus (24) and skilled enough to help elevate it. He could be a punishing finisher on the back end of lob passes from Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey, and Collins' career 37.6 percent splash rate would help unclog the interior.
While the Hawks gave Collins a five-year, $125 million deal just last summer, his name started floating in trade talks by January. Maybe they don't see him as the ideal co-star for Trae Young. Perhaps they're just worried about the fact that he's one of their six players owed more than $14 million next season.
Either way, they don't seem particularly keen on keeping Collins, and this would present an option to escape his contract. Do this deal, and Atlanta grabs: a three-and-D forward in Williams, a serviceable center in Favors, an athletic 21-year-old with upside in Bazley and a pair of first-round picks. That's a significant haul for someone Atlanta doesn't appear enamored with.
Lakers Add Spacers, Pacers Continue Reset
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield
Indiana Pacers receive: Russell Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, 2027 first-round pick and 2029 first-round pick
We have to start with a Brodie blockbuster, right?
Westbrook's first season with the Lakers was so rough that there doesn't need to be a second. His ball-dominance and brick-laying (51.2 true shooting percentage, 10th-worst among the 149 players to average 25-plus minutes in 50-plus games) always made for an awkward fit with LeBron James on paper. In practice, it fared no better, as the duo was outscored by 1.5 points per 100 possessions across 1,389 minutes.
L.A. needs to find an escape hatch out of Westbrook's $47.1 million player option in the worst way, and this would deliver it while also providing James with a pair of complementary running mates.
Hield makes the short list of the league's top shooters (3.6 threes per game at a 39.4 percent clip since 2018-19), and he could feast on kick-out chances from James and Anthony Davis. Brogdon, a career 37.6 percent shooter from range, checks a slew of James-friendly boxes when healthy, as he can defend, drive, distribute and knock down catch-and-shoot triples.
There are health risks with Brogdon, who played 36 games all season, and the financial hit is rather heavy. He's owed $67.6 million over the next three seasons, while Hield will cost another $39.1 million over the next two. Still, though, this turns an on-court negative in Westbrook into two potential positives, and that might be enticing enough for the Lakers to go ring-chasing with James (at least) one more time.
The Pacers, meanwhile, shifted their focus forward at the deadline when they swapped out Sabonis for Tyrese Haliburton. This would be another step in that direction.
Indiana could buy out Westbrook, shed the future financial obligations to the outgoing players, clear the backcourt for Haliburton and Chris Duarte, plus pick up a promising 21-year-old in Horton-Tucker and two future firsts from a franchise with no clear long-term direction. It might mean taking a small step back for now, but if it delivers a huge step forward down the line, that should be what really matters to this team.
Blazers Go Big (Literally), Jazz Start Over
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Rudy Gobert
Utah Jazz receive: Nassir Little, Greg Brown III, Eric Bledsoe, 2022 first-round pick (1-4 and 15-30 protected, via NOP) and 2024 first-round pick (top-three protected)
Portland may have (willingly) bottomed out late this season, but it doesn't plan on being down for long.
"This, theoretically is a really quick step backward," interim general manager Joe Cronin said, per Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. "We're not looking at two, three, four years of this."
The Blazers don't have that kind of time. Not as long as 31-year-old, six-time All-Star Damian Lillard remains on the roster.
If Portland really wants to climb the Western Conference ladder, it should consider cashing out a good chunk of its asset collection for Gobert. He's the best rim protector of his generation, which would have to excite Blazers fans who watched spotty defense undo this team year after year. Gobert is also a strong screen-setter and reliable roll man (83rd percentile), making him an intriguing dance partner for Dame.
The Blazers would have more holes to fill around them, but a fiery scorer in Lillard and stone-wall stopper in Gobert would give them a strong, two-way foundation to build around.
This would, obviously, be a massive change of direction for the Jazz, but that certainly seems possible depending how the postseason plays out in Salt Lake City. Utah is more than a decade removed from its last Western Conference Finals trip and is running out of time to make it happen with this veteran-heavy core. The constant dialogue around Gobert's relationship with Donovan Mitchell only heightens the pressure on this team to perform.
If the Jazz fall short this postseason and don't see that changing in the future, they could reach for the reset button. Maybe they'd keep the 25-year-old Mitchell around in an attempt to rebuild on the fly, but the soon-to-be 30-year-old Gobert probably wouldn't last through such a massive pivot.
Should the Jazz deem Gobert expendable, this deal nets them several opportunities to add building blocks, either by drafting and developing the prospects or flipping these assets for more immediate help. Little and Brown are loaded with physical tools, and the incoming picks could prove really valuable. Bledsoe, meanwhile, would help the money line up once his (expiring) $19.4 million salary is guaranteed.
Statistics courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Salary information via Spotrac.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.