We have entered the “quiet” part of the offseason. Nearly every free agent who will be playing in the league this season has signed on with a team, even if it’s only a non-guaranteed training camp deal. It was a flurry of activity the likes of which we have never seen (even though we expected it or something like it with the salary cap jump). Durant is a Warrior, Wade is a Bull, and dozens of others have found a new NBA home somewhere else.
But that certainly doesn’t mean player movement is done until next summer. A general manager’s work is never done. There are still holes that need to be filled on contenders. There are still veterans that need to be shipped off for prospects due to a youth movement. There are still redundancies that need to be rectified. There are still players that can’t stand their situation, coaches that can’t stand their player, and situations so toxic that a hazmat suit and a flamethrower are the only things that can sort them out.
For this article, we are focusing on realistic trades; that is to say that they conform to the rules of the league governing trade, firstly. Secondly, and more importantly, they involve players that are either on record as being on the trading block, having requested a trade, or are reported to be in that situation. Thirdly, these trades would further either the goals of the front office for the team, or would take them in a direction that is conceivable.
A couple last little notes about all this: trades are really tough to pull off. Our last trade article focused on 2-team trades because they are easier to finalize. Some of the deals contained herein will be nigh on impossible to consummate simply because too many teams would be involved… and too many cooks spoil the broth. Some of these trades are also interlinked; individually they might not make much sense or might not make a dramatic impact. Also some of these trades are expanded versions of other trade scenarios. In either instance, it will be noted.
Without further ado, 15 Blockbuster Trades We Could See This Season.
15 Deck Chairs On The Titanic
To the Los Angeles Clippers: Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross
To the Toronto Raptors: Chris Paul, Jeff Ayres
The Toronto Raptors had an up-and-down summer. They were able to keep Derozan (at a very hefty price), but they lost Bismack Biyombo to Orlando. They did, however, manage to upgrade the 4 spot with Jared Sullinger replacing Luis Scola. In all, however, it is safe to say that the Raps did not make themselves a substantially better team this offseason. The general consensus outside of Ontario is that the Raptors reached above their ceiling last season, and can’t be expected to hit the same heights this year. Chris Paul is a little older than Lowry, but is a better shooter and distributor and ball thief. Chris Paul is more of a natural leader, and his presence might be enough to elevate the games of chronic underperformers like Jonas Valanciunas. While this might not be enough to beat Cleveland and Boston, it is a dramatic change that won’t make the team any worse… and that is sometimes all you need.
The logic behind this trade for Los Angeles is simple: The Big 3 of Paul, Griffin, and Jordan has not worked. It is no secret that Chris Paul isn’t exactly every Clippers’ friend, either. Chris Paul is a phenomenal talent and it is because of this that the Clippers would be able to extract a promising, if enigmatic, wing like Terrence Ross on top of Lowry. While this doesn’t vault Los Angeles over Golden State or San Antonio on paper, it does add some depth at a minimal expense of talent… while also injecting the aging core with more youth.
14 A Gay Time In Denver
To the Denver Nuggets: Rudy Gay
To the Sacramento Kings: Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson
Rudy Gay recently spoke to Blake Ellington of Sactown Royalty. The main takeaway from the interview is that Rudy Gay is not a happy man in Sacramento. He is so vocal about his discontent that any sane front office (read: possibly not Sacramento) would absolutely move him for whatever they can, as soon as possible, before his trade value tanks even more. The bad news is that despite a contract that looks eminently reasonable in light of the new salary cap at $13.3m per year (for emphasis, Mozgov makes $3m more than Gay per year, and Mo Harkless just signed a deal for nearly as much money as Gay), Gay seems to have lost his luster with every team that has even one analytics person on staff.
That said, Gay still has some real actual basketball value. He is a career 18 point per game scorer who also averages 6 rebounds. He is still just 29. Despite never having won anything or being elected to an all-star team he seems to have name cache. In Denver, he would be expected to mentor up-and-comer Gary Harris, provide scoring and a veteran presence, and team with Gallinari as a high-scoring forward tandem.
Wilson Chandler is another forward who is 29 (but is almost a year younger than Gay). Chandler is more respected as a defensive presence and, despite battling recent injuries, is expected to be a contributing force in the league this coming season. He is also locked into more years than Gay, and at $2 million less per year. Jameer Nelson’s best days are well in the rearview mirror… but he is still a capable ballhandler; something needed greatly in Sacramento, who will be starting the immortal Darren Collison at point. All told, this is about as good a haul for Gay as Sacramento is likely to see.
13 Bullish For Millsap
To the Atlanta Hawks: Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson
To the Chicago Bulls: Paul Millsap, Tiago Splitter, Kirk Hinrich, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Apropos of nothing, we’d just like the opportunity here to say that no player is more in need of a nickname for branding purposes than Paul Millsap. We are confident that if he had a good nickname (none of that P-Mill malarky or something involving his initials and jersey number) he would go from perpetually underappreciated to properly-rated and beloved by the public the way that he deserves to be. Suggestions are welcome.
Pau Gasol bolted for greener pastures in San Antonio. Taj Gibson is slated to start for Chicago, and is more than capable of that task, but Millsap is undeniably an upgrade. Millsap’s workman-like ethos on defense and his diverse offensive game would play very well off of Rondo and Wade carving up the floor. Splitter would make for a great 6th man and back-up center (provided he’s healthy). Hardaway hasn’t lived up to the expectations he set for himself in New York, but a new home in Chicago might prove to be the cure to what ails him. Kirk Hinrich is an all-time favorite Bull who seems to just be traded every season back-and-forth between the Hawks and Chicago… so we’re just helping Gar Forman and Buds get that done for this season.
Jimmy Butler never cottoned to new Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg, who very clearly has the backing of the Bulls front office. Now that Wade and Rondo are in Chicago, Butler’s talent will never be maximized as a Bull and his greatest value would be in getting traded for another all-star. For Atlanta, the tandem of Butler and Howard has some potential playing beside Schroder and Korver. Taj Gibson, as we said earlier, is very capable of playing as a full-time starter. A starting lineup like that isn’t really lacking anywhere, and would compete for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
12 Boogie Down In Boston
To the Boston Celtics: DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Omri Casspi, Eric Moreland
To the Sacramento Kings: Isaiah Thomas, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, James Young, Jordan Mickey
Boston has been linked to Boogie Cousins for a long time now. With a new arena in Sacramento and a new braintrust wheeling and dealing under Vlade Divacs, it might be high time to work on closing this dark chapter of Kings history by sending out its cornerstone and poster child. Boston’s plan of attack has been to load up on assets to get some name talent in Celtics green. Ironically, it would be former King (and Cousins nemesis) Isaiah Thomas that would headline the package going to Sacramento. The diminutive dynamo is only 27 and has added ‘All-Star’ to his high-scoring resume. Thomas’ contract is also a paltry $6.5m this year. Amir Johnson is a scrappy and serviceable big that will be a fan favorite… and can teach the young giants in Sacto a thing or two. Jerebko is high character and not useless. Young and Mickey are young prospects who may or may not pan out.
Cousins and Gay seem to get along well. That’s good, because they’d both be heading to Boston together in this scenario. Teamed with Al Horford and Avery Bradley, they would need only a small leap from point guard Marcus Smart to be a very dangerous out in the playoffs. Omri Casspi is gritty and gutsy and would probably carve out time in the Celtics rotation (and in the hearts of Bostonians). Eric Moreland is young, but inconsequential (sorry Eric).
11 Russ and Brow
To the New Orleans Pelicans: Russell Westbrook
To the Oklahoma City Thunder: Jrue Holiday, Quincy Pondexter, Buddy Hield, Philadelphia’s 2017 2nd round pick (from New Orleans), 2017 1st round pick (top 7 protected)
Russell Westbrook, despite being a ball dominant guard, would make a terrific partner with nearly any other star in the league. New Orleans has been looking for the magic tandem that would drive the Pelicans deep into the playoffs. Given the devastating talent of both Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook on both ends of the floor, there perhaps isn’t a better starting point twosome in the league for the recipe to playoff success. Alvin Gentry’s offensive schemes would likely get some very creative plays out of the Westbrook-to-Davis combination.
Jrue Holiday has been labeled as injury-prone. That might be an appropriate accusation considering he’s averaged just 46 games in each of the three years he’s been a Pelican. His 4 seasons in Philadelphia prior to that would indicate he has maybe just hit a rough patch that he will overcome. Holiday is also just 26, and has one all-star season under his belt. Buddy Hield is a well-regarded rookie who broke the record for 3-pointers made in a drill run by the Boston Celtics. Quincy Pondexter is a decent 3-and-D wing bench option. In this scenario, OKC would also wind up with Philly’s 2nd rounder in next year’s draft… which will essentially be a 1st rounder since Philadelphia will likely perform poorly. New Orleans would also give up their 1st round pick in next year’s draft, which is seen as one of the best in recent memory. Unprotected picks, however, are few and far between… and given the injury issues that faced New Orleans last season they would likely insist on a minimum of Top 7 protection (the draft is seen as having 5 potential franchise players before the talent level dips).
10 Monta Moo-ves To Sactown
To the Indiana Pacers: Rudy Gay
To the Sacramento Kings: Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis and Rudy Gay are both players who are very much known quantities. Both are volume scorers that aren’t quite good enough or versatile enough or defensive enough to be considered stars. They are both, however, (somewhat) competent starters who pack a punch in the points department. Adding Gay to Indiana means shifting Gay, George, or Stuckey slightly out of position to play the 2 (which is something each of them has done before in their careers)... but would wind up creating a long and imposing trio in Gay, Paul George, and Thaddeus Young to run alongside newly acquired Jeff Teague and young sensation Myles Turner (or plod alongside Big Al Jefferson).
Ellis comes cheaper than Gay, and is locked up for longer. Monta could run the point more ably than Collison, and could allow McLemore and Afflalo to start together. Although Ellis is not a prototypical point guard, he is a definite talent upgrade… and he might be able to either jump start McLemore’s potential or prove him a project best moved on from.
9 Miami Goes Young
To the Detroit Pistons: Josh McRoberts, 2023 1st round pick
To the Miami Heat: Stanley Johnson, Ray McCallum
Before you say anything, we understand this isn’t exactly a blockbuster trade. You’re right; it’s not. It is, however, the first trade in a series of trades that the Heat could make in order to go young and reload for the future. Already featuring a young core of Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, and Josh Richardson, the departure of Dwyane Wade and the uncertain health of Chris Bosh has made it even more clear that Miami should be focusing on the future and not competing in the present. McRoberts represents, perhaps more than any player, the ‘old’ Heat… as he was brought in as the centerpiece to bolster the Miami roster as a way of convincing LeBron to stay (it didn’t work). Although he missed half the season last year due to injury, his playmaking from the 4 and his steady presence in the locker room will be a welcome addition to a young, talented Detroit team looking to take another leap. The pick the Heat would convey wouldn’t be until 2023 because Pat Riley has a habit of not holding onto his own picks.
Stanley Johnson is a promising young player who can play the 3 or the 4. He was originally linked to Miami in the 2015 draft and is known to be a favorite of Riley’s. This would allow Riley to team Johnson with his actual 2015 pick in Winslow. McCallum has shown flashes, but also hasn’t been able to stick in either Sacramento or San Antonio, despite being just 25 years old. His salary is low enough, however, to be worth a flier.
8 Western Conference Shuffle
To the Denver Nuggets: Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler
To the Oklahoma City Thunder: Dragan Bender/Marquese Chriss, Alex Len, Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris
To the Phoenix Suns: Enes Kanter, Kenneth Faried
Much has been written about Westbrook’s recent commitment to Oklahoma via his contract extension. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe helpfully points out, it also increases Russ’s trade value, should the Thunder decide to go in a different direction. Let us suppose that they do punt this season and attempt to reload the team with young and cheap talent. What would be the ideal haul for a future Hall of Famer in his terrifying, triple-double amassing prime? Unless you were getting a blue chip young’in in exchange, you’d want to load up on high potential talent with reasonably high floors so that more than one position is likely filled for several years to come. This trade with Phoenix and Denver is likely as good as OKC would be able to find.
In this trade, OKC would get to pick (or let Phoenix pick) between the promising rookie power forwards that Phoenix drafted this past lottery… Bender representing more a sure thing and Chris representing more boom-bust potential. Alex Len has been hurt much of his short career, but appears to be a legitimate two-way threat of a center who can platoon with Adams since Kanter will have been moved in this deal, Gary Harris appears to be a solid high-scoring wing in a league bereft of them, and Mudiay is still a relative unknown after just one season… but has major star potential provided he can get his turnovers and shot selection in check.
Denver has long been criticized as a roster full of good players missing a star to lead them. There is perhaps no star more confident of his ability to lead a team than Westbrook. Jamal Murray would also be a beneficiary of the trade, as he could be brought along slowly in minutes both behind and beside Westbrook. Denver has a glut of young centers, but no clear starter and no clear veteran presence to teach them. The Nuggets would likely have to parlay one of their international big men in a separate trade to ease position congestion, but Chandler would make a terrific partner for Westbrook; likely regaining some of that lob pass magic he had with Chris Paul in New Orleans.
Phoenix in this trade takes two young unproven players and one center whose advanced age doesn’t jibe with the rest of the roster and transforms them into two very talented bigs with their best years likely ahead of them (Faried just turned 26 and Kanter is 24). Provided Devin Booker makes the leap he’s expected to and Phoenix finds a good deal for Knight or Bledsoe, Phoenix would boast a starting five just about as good as any of the projected playoff teams in the West.
7 Miami Goes Young Part 2: Bye-Bye Bosh
To the Miami Heat: Brandon Knight
To the Phoenix Suns: Chris Bosh
Like the title of the trade says, this is the second trade to thrust Miami into a full-on youth movement. Future Hall of Famer Chris Bosh has endured a serious health scare the past couple seasons in regards to his heart. It is currently unknown whether or not Bosh will be able to play again in the league. Provided he is able to without jeopardizing his life (which is something we all hope for), no team is better equipped to bring him back along than Phoenix. It is true that Phoenix is far from contending for even a playoff spot in the West; but their training and rehab staff are the stuff of legends. No other team can offer Bosh the ability to extend his career and make it as close to his former talent level. In Bosh, Phoenix will have an immense talent that can slide between the two big positions and teach their young cadre of power forwards and centers in the process.
It is something of an open secret that Phoenix is looking to divest itself of yet another prized point guard (previously it had been Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas). Knight has had his fair share of injury issues during his stops in Detroit, Milwaukee, and Phoenix, but is still just 24 years old and has shown the potential to be an all-star at point guard.
6 Brooklyn’s Last Chip
To the Brooklyn Nets: Enes Kanter, Josh Huestis
To the Oklahoma City Thunder: Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic, Elton Brand
To the Philadelphia 76ers: Kyle Singler, Oklahoma’s 2017 2nd round pick
The marching orders for new Brooklyn GM Sean Marks seem to be to re-stock the youth on the roster, take on no bad long-term contracts on older players, and take low-risk gambles. With their draft picks tied up in the disastrous Boston trade that netted Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and with Thaddeus Young traded for a pair of picks, the only true asset Brooklyn has at its disposal is their center, Brook Lopez. Lopez is a talented player who would not have any real purpose on a rebuilding Brooklyn team at 28. While he has never been an all-star, he does have that level of talent when healthy (both offensively and defensively)… which he finally has been for the 2nd season in a row. Bogdanovic, too, is just the wrong age for a rebuilding team, and should be draining 3s and contributing elsewhere.
Enes Kanter is an offensively gifted center who has been maligned by analytics folk for his deficiencies at the defensive end. He is, however, just 24 years old and is locked in for a couple more years at about $4m less per season than Lopez. Huestis, recipient of a strange deal from OKC that guaranteed money in exchange for the promise of playing in the D-League, is an unknown quantity in the NBA… but a young and cheap unknown quantity.
To make the money work, Philadelphia has to get involved… by signing and trading veteran Elton Brand and taking on Kyle Singler (who might actually prove useful as a shooter if Nik Stauskas never finds his groove). For their trouble, they would wind up with a 2nd round pick from Oklahoma City.
5 Miami Goes Young Part 3: Goran Goes North
To the Miami Heat: Jahlil Okafor
To the Philadelphia 76ers: Goran Dragic
The final move we can see Miami making in order to completely overhaul the team would be trading a redundancy made with the Brandon Knight trade (Knight and Dragic would not be complimentary players and would likely not be able to share the court at the same time) for a high-caliber prospect seen as one of the best low-post scorers in the league over the next ten years.
Philly has a surplus of young, promising bigs, and is known to be shopping either of Okafor or Nerlens Noel. Noel replicates many of the core strengths of Whiteside, who would be the highest paid player on the roster. Okafor, however, is a scoring machine whose liability on the defensive end would be mitigated by Whiteside’s ability to block and alter shots. While playing Noel and Okafor in tandem in Philly didn’t pan out, the logic was sound and the results might be better in South Beach with Hassan. Miami then, would have its ‘first six’ of the future lined up with Knight at the point, and some combination of Tyler Johnson, Winslow, Stanley Johnson, Okafor, and Whiteside… depending on how Coach Spoelstra was looking to play.
For Philly, they have been looking to turn one of their young centers into a proven point guard; effectively putting an end to Sam Hinkie’s “Process” (read: tanking on a massive scale). Dragic would be a great get considering their goals. He is only 30, so he should have at least a couple good years left in him… and he is only three years removed from an All-NBA 3rd Team slot. Dragic is also locked in for several years on a reasonable contract in light of the contracts signed this summer.
4 Netting a Buck (Version 1)
To the Brooklyn Nets: Greg Monroe, Michael Carter-Williams
To the Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez, Shane Larkin (Sign & Trade)
As we said earlier, Brooklyn only has one asset left to spend (unless they want to ship out one of their youngsters despite none of them having any real value around the league). Milwaukee has two players that they very openly are looking to move in Monroe and Carter-Williams. In Milwaukee, Lopez will fit much better than Monroe because he will help protect the paint. Shane Larkin might not be a real NBA player, but he is still young enough that he warrants another look (this would be his 4th team in his four seasons)... especially because Milwaukee hasn’t figured out their point guard situation yet.
MCW is only three years removed from having won the Rookie of the Year award. While he will have to figure out how to shoot (especially from deep) to stick as a starter in the league, he would immediately become the highest upside player on the Nets. The risk, apart from him being a career non-shooter, is that his contract expires after this season and might need to receive a huge contract to stick around. While that would likely be an issue if Carter-Williams was 32, the fact that he’s only 24 makes this a complete non-issue in Brooklyn… as they are youth- and talent-starved. Greg Monroe will never be the defensive anchor of a team, but he is a talented scorer and decent passer. His Player Efficiency Rating last season was all-star caliber, and he is 2 years younger and $8m cheaper over the duration of his contract than Brook.
3 The Prodigal Son Returns
To the Los Angeles Clippers: Russell Westbrook, Omer Asik
To the Milwaukee Bucks: Tyreke Evans
To the New Orleans Pelicans: Chris Paul, Greg Monroe, Paul Pierce
To the Oklahoma City Thunder: Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield, Philadelphia’s 2017 2nd round pick (from New Orleans), 2019 2nd round pick (from Los Angeles Clippers)
Oklahoma’s haul for Westbrook is nearly the same as the simpler New Orleans/OKC trade mentioned earlier. It is arguable whether Pondexter is more desirable than a 2nd round pick that is 3 years away (and could be anywhere from pick 31-60).
In this scenario, Chris Paul makes his return to New Orleans (albeit for the Pelicans and not the Hornets). Alongside Anthony Davis and Greg Monroe, it could be argued that this would be one of the most talented teams top-to-bottom that Paul has played with. Paul Pierce, provided he does not retire, would have another shot at playoff relevancy as he winds his way to yet another team in his twilight years.
Milwaukee doesn’t want Greg Monroe and needs a point guard. Though not a natural point guard, Tyreke Evans is more than capable of running the team and is just 26. By the time that this trade can be consummated (a player who signs an extension must wait 6 months before being traded), Evans should be good to go… as he is currently recovering from surgery.
The Clippers’ Big 3 of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan have been knocking on the door of the finals for several years but haven’t been able to cross the threshold. Paul is 31 and, by some accounts, is not exactly the most popular player in the locker room in Los Angeles. Westbrook has been rumored to want to play in his hometown of L.A. for years. For the Clippers, Russ would give the team a different, and younger look… and in the process they’d be able to take a chance on Asik regaining some of what made him special in the past as a back-up center.
2 Netting a Buck (Version 2)
To the Brooklyn Nets: John Henson, Cody Zeller, Tyler Ennis
To the Charlotte Hornets: Greg Monroe
To the Milwaukee Bucks: Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lamb
To the Utah Jazz: Spencer Hawes
Let us suppose that desperate though the Nets are (and need to be), they just aren’t fans of Monroe or MCW. Perhaps, too, they just want more young bodies than the first version of this trade would afford. There is a way of expanding the trade to more players and more teams to give Milwaukee Lopez still, and get Brooklyn more youngsters with promise. As we said in the intro, multi-team trades are tough to pull off, but they do happen.
In this version, Brooklyn gets John Henson, a darling of advanced metrics on a reasonable salary who just hasn’t gotten enough playing time in Milwaukee to prove much of anything. Tyler Ennis looks to be what we thought he was… a career back-up; but at least he is a young career back-up. Cody Zeller, who’d be coming from the Hornets in this scenario, seems to have hit his ceiling in the league as a bottom-half-of-the-league starter (but a starter nonetheless at 23).
Milwaukee would get Brook, who we’ve addressed before. They would also be getting Jeremy Lamb from Charlotte. Lamb will never be a star, but he’s a solid reserve wing who would more than replace the now-banned OJ Mayo. And at 24, he would fit right in with all the young Bucks (how’s that for wordplay?).
The Hornets would snag Monroe from Milwaukee, where he and Roy Hibbert would presumably be an upgrade over the combo of Zeller and recently departed Al Jefferson. Monroe, like Zeller, is a versatile frontcourt option, as he can switch between power forward and center.
To make the dollars work, Charlotte would have to send Spencer Hawes into Utah’s cap space. Hawes has been a fairly large flop/non-factor the past couple seasons, but would have a likely last chance to regain some former mojo with the Jazz. In Utah, Hawes would likely be a 4th big, and would be expected to stretch the floor in situations where he played alongside a more defensive presence like Gobert or Favors.
1 The Champs Take A Chance
To the Boston Celtics: Kevin Love
To the Cleveland Cavaliers: Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Brooklyn’s 2018 1st round pick, Memphis’ 2019 1st round pick
Danny Ainge has been stockpiling talent and draft picks for years in the hopes of cashing them in for a superstar. Kevin Love’s name has been associated with the Celtics for quite some time. Despite his contributions in the finals, he still appears to be the odd man out in Cleveland (compounded by the fact that mid-season acquisition Channing Frye played so well in the Kevin Love role). While it would be a shocking and gutsy move to ship off a debatable Top 20 player in the league from a team that just won the championship, this deal would deepen and strengthen the Cavs in multiple ways. Cleveland would have Frye to play the stretch forward role that Love had occupied. Should Frye not pan out again, or should they want to change their playing style, Amir Johnson is a rugged and dependable power forward. Jae Crowder is a defensive ace who could immediately replace all of Shumpert’s minutes (making Shumpert expendable for the right deal). Avery Bradley is another stopper with a solid 3-point stroke who could more than make up for the free agent loss of Matthew Dellavedova. The draft picks figure to likely be high given the trajectory of the Nets and the ageing core of the Grizzlies… and can be used to re-stock the Cavs on the cheap or work as trade chips for more depth or upgraded talent.
Kevin Love’s reputation has tumbled far more than his talent. With a fresh start in Boston, and a frontcourt-mate to do most of the defensive heavy lifting in Al Horford, he has a chance to rebuild both his self-confidence and his reputation. The two all-star bigs would have 2016 all-star Isaiah Thomas and a bevvy of young talent backing them up… making Boston a very tough out in the playoffs, and a legitimate threat to meet with Cleveland in the conference finals for years to come.