Trades to Replace the NBA's Most Disappointing Starters

Greg Swartz@@GregSwartzBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterMay 2, 2022

Trades to Replace the NBA's Most Disappointing Starters

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    When trying to predict future NBA trades, look no further than players who disappointed their teams the most in 2021-22.

    Whether they haven't played up to their contracts, failed to meet a coach or general manager's expectations or have gotten bit by the injury bug over and over again, a number of NBA starters could be moved this offseason.

    This list includes Russell Westbrook, Julius Randle, Ben Simmons, Gordon Hayward, Duncan Robinson and Kemba Walker, with all but Walker set to make $16.9 million or more next season.

    While moving them may seem difficult, no contract is untradeable. These are deals the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat should already be thinking about to replace their most disappointing starters from the past year.

Miami Heat Get a Shooting Upgrade

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    Miami Heat Receive: F Doug McDermott

    San Antonio Spurs Receive: F Duncan Robinson, 2022 first-round pick (No. 27 overall)

    Robinson has recently been replaced in Miami's starting lineup by Max Strus, although he did open 68 of his 79 games this season for the Heat.

    This recent demotion isn't a good sign for a player who still has four years and over $74 million remaining on his contract. Miami should use its late 2022 first-round pick to attach to Robinson with the intent of finding a cheaper, and frankly better, floor-spacer.

    A career 42.3 percent marksman from deep entering the season, Robinson connected on just 37.2 percent of his threes. Following an 8-of-9 performance from beyond the arc in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Robinson has gone just 2-of-10 in the four games since, averaging 2.3 points in 10.7 minutes.

    McDermott, on the other hand, was brilliant for the Spurs this season. His 42.2 percent mark from three ranked seventh overall in the NBA (minimum of 50 games played), and he averaged 11.3 points in 51 starts.

    Adding McDermott to Miami's starting lineup gives it a better version of Robinson, and McDermott is owed only $27.5 million over the next two years.

    San Antonio should only be interested if it gets Miami's first-round pick to help add more young talent to its roster, and Robinson is two years younger than McDermott. Also, a player named Duncan Robinson should have to play for the Spurs at some point in his career, right?

Hornets Move Gordon Hayward for Wing, Center Help

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    Charlotte Hornets Receive: F/C John Collins, G/F Kevin Huerter

    Atlanta Hawks Receive: F Gordon Hayward, F/C P.J. Washington, 2022 first-round pick (No. 15 overall, via New Orleans Pelicans)

    Hayward is a terrific player when healthy, but durability continues to be an issue for the 32-year-old, as he's played in more than 52 games just once over the past five years. Owed nearly $62 million over the next two years, the Hornets should be exploring trade options, especially with Kelly Oubre Jr. available to step in off the bench in Hayward's place.

    The Hornets need help in the froncourt, especially at the center position. While not a true center, Collins has spent a fair amount of time playing the 5 for Atlanta and is a terrific athlete who can keep the floor spread.

    On a Hawks team that's continued to add talent the past few years, Collins' shot attempts and scoring have decreased each of the last three seasons. He would be a dream fit as a pick-and-roll lob threat playing next to LaMelo Ball and could start at center over Mason Plumlee. Even in a smaller role, the 24-year-old still averaged 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and hit 36.4 percent of his threes for Atlanta.

    Huerter could start at shooting guard for the Hornets in a supersized 6'7" backcourt next to Ball or become the team's sixth man.

    For Atlanta, adding Hayward gives the team a much-needed ball-handler outside of Trae Young to draw some defensive attention. His injuries are a concern, of course, meaning Charlotte would have to sweeten the deal. Washington, 23, would become the Hawks' new starter at power forward and has averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks and 37.3 percent shooting from three in 146 career starts.

    The Hornets send a 2022 first owed from the Pelicans (15th overall) to complete the trade, relieving them of Hayward's salary and helping improve the frontcourt.

Knicks End Kemba Walker Experiment

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    New York Knicks Receive: F Cedi Osman

    Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: PG Kemba Walker

    Walker was a starter in all 37 of the games he played in for the Knicks, although it quickly became clear his best role in the league is that of a backup now. The 31-year-old's mobility is limited, and his defensive deficiencies outweigh his offensive production.

    The Knicks won't find a robust trade market for the four-time All-Star and should be happy to get an expiring contract in return while not having to give up any draft picks in the process.

    This is where a Walker-Osman swap makes sense.

    Osman, 27, is a solid reserve who averaged 10.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.8 steals in 22.2 minutes as a backup for the Cavs last season and can play and defend multiple positions. He's owed $7.4 million in 2022-23, and his $6.7 million salary for 2023-24 is completely non-guaranteed. The Knicks could use Osman for a year and then have financial control over him for the next season, choosing to keep him on at a reasonable rate or opt for the extra cap space.

    Playmaking was an issue for the Cavaliers ever since Ricky Rubio tore his ACL on Dec. 28, so having Walker as a backup to Darius Garland would give Cleveland some insurance, especially with Rajon Rondo becoming a free agent this summer. Walker's veteran presence would also be welcomed on a young team looking to break through in the East.

    While Osman has been a consistent rotation piece for the Cavs, they have a lot of wing depth with Lauri Markkanen as the starting small forward along with Caris LeVert, Isaac Okoro, Lamar Stevens, Dean Wade and Dylan Windler.

    Moving off Walker is a start, but the Knicks should still explore one more big trade...

The Lakers, Nets and Knicks Blockbuster

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    Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG Ben Simmons, G/F Evan Fournier

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: PF Julius Randle, C Nerlens Noel, 2027 first-round pick (lottery-protected, via Los Angeles Lakers)

    New York Knicks Receive: PG Kendrick Nunn, G/F Talen Horton-Tucker, PG Russell Westbrook (to be bought out), 2023 second-round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers)

    Let the fireworks fly.

    In this blockbuster full of disappointing stars in need of some new scenery, the Lakers and Nets boost their championship chances while the Knicks use Westbrook's expiring deal to reset their finances.

    Let's start in L.A., as the Lakers get to move off Westbrook's remaining $47.1 million contract while getting back two quality starters in return. Simmons would become the newest Lakers point guard, and he now has a whole offseason to rest his ailing back and would get to train and rebuild his confidence next to fellow Klutch client LeBron James. The two have shared a relationship going back to Simmons' LSU days when he would sit courtside at Cleveland Cavaliers games to watch James, and the four-time MVP would take the 25-year-old three-time All-Star under his wing.

    A lineup featuring Simmons, James and Anthony Davis would require a good amount of shooting around them, however, and Fournier averaged 14.1 points per game for the Knicks last season while hitting nearly 40 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes. Getting rid of Westbrook while adding Simmons and Fournier is worth giving up young talent and future picks for, especially if it helps convince James to sign an extension or re-sign with the franchise in 2023. The move also saves the Lakers $9.1 million this year.

    The Nets got nothing out of Simmons following a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers and should be more than willing to move him this summer for more reliable help around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn has a fair amount of talent returning in the backcourt and on the wing (Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Cam Thomas) but could use some frontcourt help.

    Randle isn't a No. 1 option, and that's OK. Instead, he'd be the starting power forward for a Nets team that could use him more as a playmaking big, one who'd have a lot less defensive attention paid to him on a loaded Brooklyn squad. While his efficiency dropped this season, the 27-year-old still averaged 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in his 35.3 minutes.

    With Nic Claxton (restricted), LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin all hitting free agency, the Nets could use Noel for some center depth. He'd be a great fit as a defensive-minded big who doesn't need to touch the ball on offense to make an impact overall. Brooklyn also gets the Lakers' next available first-round pick in 2027.

    The Knicks should have no interest in Westbrook, but they'd use his expiring deal to help shed the long-term contracts of Randle and Fournier. They aren't ready to win now and should be prioritizing the growth of RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and others while freeing up future cap space and adding picks.

    Westbrook would be an immediate buyout candidate, with the Knicks looking to shave off whatever they can from his $47.1 million contract. The deal opens up $36 million in cap space ($47 million if Horton-Tucker declines his player option) for New York in the summer of 2023, when James, Zion Williamson, James Harden, Khris Middleton, Fred VanVleet, Jerami Grant, Myles Turner and others could be available.

    The Knicks also get Horton-Tucker (21) and Nunn (26) to help with their rebuild, as well as a second-rounder from the Lakers in 2023 in addition to massive salary relief.


    Stats via unless otherwise noted.