The trade deadline is like an anthropological dive into early world commodity bartering. Much as the Inuit might need furs to best the cold of the Arctic while the Dakota prefer arrowheads to hunt the forest’s diversity – the Suns might want to rid themselves of locker-room cancer Markieff Morris while the Celtics simply want to add a legit rim-protector to their rotation. Teams are our tribes and players or draft picks comprise our furs and ores, and the trade deadline is the last chance organizations have to switch up their futures. Typically, in the last few weeks before the deadline, team execs are making calls, players are deflecting rumors, Josh Smith is packing his bags (just in case), and then all of the moves happen on the day of the deadline. Last year eleven deals went through on the fateful day, with current all-stars like Isaiah Thomas, starters like Goran Dragic, and expensive rotation guys like Javale McGee all getting a change of scenery on the fateful day.
It's always difficult to predict trades, especially now with the salary cap's increase skewing players' relative values – but in some cases, a team's needs are pressing enough to warrant a trade's immediacy, or a swap might be a fun enough concept to warrant consideration. We'll be principally concerned with the latter: imagining 15 trade possibilities where salaries balance out and each team comes out of its trade deadline cocoon with a brand new set of exciting wings (or centers, or guards). While typically grounded by the feng-shui of rosters, I will be generally ignoring the trade sweetening of draft picks and concerning myself mostly with trades where the salaries balance out. These are the 15 boldest and most amusing moves that could be possible within the CBA if teams were willing to go that far. All these trades were made using ESPN's NBA Trade Machine. It's to show that even in a salary cap world, teams can drastically alter the course of their team. Unfortunately, these may very much remain in our fantasies.
15 The West's Worst Change Course
Suns get: Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Alexis Ajinca
Pelicans get: Tyson Chandler, Markieff Morris, PJ Tucker, Archie Goodwin
The Suns are primed to rebuild: Eric Bledsoe is out for the year, and their star-in-training, Markieff “Air Aggravated Assault” Morris, has been vying for a trade ever since his brother split. The Pelicans came into the season hot and have cooled out of the playoff picture. Here, the Suns get to move Tyson Chandler’s exorbitant contract, Markieff Morris’ attitude, and can afford to lose rotation talents Archie Goodwin (who might not want to travel with ‘Kieff) and P.J. Tucker in favor of the gunner Ryan Anderson, bettering their draft picks while letting Alex Len develop and waiting on Gordon and Bledsoe’s returns from injury.
The Pelicans get to take advantage of ‘Kieff’s bottomless value, absorbing a wealth of talent for cheap. Organizational culture shifts with tough wings like P.J. Tucker, Archie is a good fit to grow into the newly-vacated SG spot, and the front-court rotational flexibility of Tyson, ‘Kieff, and Anthony Davis is actually pretty legit.
14 The Hawks and Rockets Go Captain Ginyu
Hawks get: Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza
Rockets get: Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Mike Scott, and Shelvin Mack
The Rockets are the year’s biggest disappointment as of mid-February, and the Hawks are stuck in some weird sort of still-talented-yet-stagnant limbo. Here, the Rockets get character and system guys and the Hawks shake up their talent. A five of Teague, Harden, Korver, Terrence Jones, and Al Horford (alternatively, Horf at the 4 and Clint Capela at the 5) might fix chemistry issues while doing damage, their offense proliferating and the possibility of some team defense.
The Hawks end up with Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Ariza, Paul Millsap, and Dwight, with defensive juggernaut Beverley shoring up the bench unit. They already wanted to give Schroder a chance at the helm, Baze outperforms Korver, Ariza is legit, and interior defense skyrockets with Budenholzer possibly getting the most out of Dwight.
13 Ibaka Heads North
Raptors: Serge Ibaka, Mitch McGary
Thunder: DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo
A lot of this depends on DeMarre Carroll’s injury time-table, but the Thunder are good enough to weather the storm in his absence – and if their playoff seed drops a little, but it means a better playoffs squad, then screw it, they were going to have to play the good teams anyway. The Raptors are looking for a stretch-4 to balance out the Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan front-court, and Serge Ibaka would be a great fit. While certainly huge for the Thunder, Serge hasn’t made waves against the best (combined 18 in two games against the Spurs and Warriors) and, in this small-ball world, the taller Reaper Kevin Durant could easily man the 4 spot. Carroll is a large wing with range and defensive versatility – so both the Thunder’s offensive spacing and defensive options open up.
The McGary/Biyombo swap gives the Thunder more flexibility to run Enes Kanter at the 4 and the Raptors get a young, heretofore underutilized, piece to jostle things up.
12 Ty Lawson to Brooklyn
Nets get: Ty Lawson, Donatas Motiejunas
Rockets get: Thaddeus Young, Donald Sloan
No team is desperate enough to take on the Tywon Lawson, who is battling issues with alcohol, but the Nets aren’t just any team. They got rid of “franchise” point-guard Deron Williams, subsequent starter Jarrett Jack succumbed to season-ending injury, and they are now run by Shane “Baby Hands” Larkin. Thaddeus Young is a great player, and being such, the Nets should probably trade him before Brook Lopez gets used to such luxury.
The Rockets can turn the key over to the less-drunk Patrick Beverley and throw in the versatile Thad Young between Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza, a lineup with enough maturity to maybe counteract Terrence Jones. Meanwhile, Donatas is a great young piece for the Nets to grow at the 4 and Lawson gets a fresh start.
11 Sacramento Gets Even Weirder
Kings get: Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, and Hassan Whiteside
Heat get: Rudy Gay, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Caron Butler
The Kings are an odd bunch. Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins are noted lunatics, disappointing Marco Bellinelli is Italian, George Karl seems like he’s too old for this baloney, and Rudy Gay is… Rudy Gay. Whiteside is a certified beast, but the Heat often look better with Bosh at center and emotional Hassan on the bench. Assuming Bosh is healthy for the playoffs, the Heat’s lineup could be Dragic, Wade, Justise Winslow, Rudy, and Bosh – a versatile squad, an upgrade at wing for Wade and Bosh’s farewell tour, and defensive rotational flexibility in Trilly Cauley-Stein.
The Kings get a super exciting makeover: Rondo, Bellinelli, Deng, Cousins, and Whiteside. They get a consistent wing and locker-room guy in Deng and the most ridiculous frontcourt with skilled Gargantua DeMarcus getting to boogie down to the 4 spot and Rondo getting to bask in his paradise of assisted dunks and open jumpers.
10 Rick Comes to Nueva York
Timberwolves get: Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young
Nets get: Ricky Rubio, Adreian Payne
Ricky Rubio finally reaches the big city, is quickly adopted by the effervescent Hispanic community, and leads the Mecca(s) to the championship promised land (one can dream, right?). Zach Lavine is super exciting, and if the Timberwolves want to be fun and progressive while missing the playoffs, Lavine needs more playing time, Pekovic needs to rest, and Kevin Martin and his salary might need to go.
The Nets can send versatile Thaddeus Young to round out an exciting front-court with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with awkward young shooter Bojan Bogdanovic an interesting prospective scorer for the juvenile squad.
9 Boston Wants a Man With Some Size
Boston gets: Kevin Love, Richard Jefferson
Cleveland gets: David Lee, Jae Crowder, and Kelly Olynyk
Boston gets: Al Horford, Justin Holiday
Atlanta gets: Evan Turner, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk
Boston wants a big fella, and they have an assortment of pieces to get one. If the Celtics want to commit to the big shooter path then getting Kevin Love to play alongside Jared Sullinger is glory road. The Cavaliers benefit because, while sacrificing post-game and rebounds, Jae Crowder, a versatile defender with range on offense, is sort of the East’s Draymond Green, Kelly Olynyk might be Kevin Love’s secret protégé, and we all know they want a piece of David Lee ever since he led the Warriors to a championship.
For a different direction, the Celtics can move Sullinger to the 4, grab Horford for the 5, and enjoy having a pretty legit lineup. The deal isn’t too hot for Atlanta, but they get youth in Olynyk and Zeller, the front-court shooting dream of Millsap and Olynyk, and (probably) an upgrade over Korver with Evan Turner.
8 The Thunder Find Out if Monta Has it All
Pacers: Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Cameron Payne, Mitch McGary
Thunder: Monta Ellis, Rakeem Christmas, Joe Young
The Thunder, one of the four remaining championship favorites, have a dismal bench unit and SG rotation. If they give up enough rotation assets, they might be able to snag the Pacers’ aging Monta Ellis – where Paul George has probably grown weary of having his shots stolen. Cameron Payne is a nice point-guard project, Dion Waiters has been on the cusp of serviceable for eons, Warriors legend Anthony Morrow can space Indiana’s offense, and Mitch McGary is an exciting young big to pair with Myles Turner.
Meanwhile, the Thunder are ecstatic. Nobody cares about half of your rotation guys if they’ve been replaced with the scoring proliferation that is Monta Ellis. A hard-nosed scorer with attitude and grit on defense, he’s essentially a smaller and older body’s version of the Durant and Westbrook mindset.
7 Size or Shooting: the Miami Heat Conundrum
Heat get: Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley, K.J. McDaniels
Rockets get: Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Hassan Whiteside
Heat get: C.J. McCollum
Trail Blazers get: Beno Udrih and Hassan Whiteside
Two trade scenarios for the Heat here: move Bosh to PF and commit to defense and Bosh/Wade shot-creation with a move for Dwight Howard, or, move Bosh to C and boost overall gunnery with a move for CJ McCollum. People complained that Dwight was soft and had less post-game than an e-mail, now he’s a beast for the only team more dysfunctional than the Phoenix Suns or the Republican Primaries – a great chance for the Heat to send over their younger dysfunction Whiteside, mature Luol Deng, and the talented Goran Dragic for a package of Patrick Beverley, Dwight Howard, and KJ.
The Heat end up starting Beverley, Wade, Justise Winslow, Bosh, and Dwight – a beastly defensive team with shots aplenty for aging stars Bosh and Wade. Alternatively, they commit to ball-movement by acquiring C.J. and enjoying a Goran/CJ backcourt. Either way, Whiteside benefits his destination and Wade/Bosh deserve better.
6 The Nuggets Get Blake
Nuggets get: Blake Griffin, Luc Mbah a Moute
Clippers get: Kenneth Faried, Will Barton, Jusuf Nurkic
The Clippers are contenders with wily floor generals Chris Paul and Paul Pierce short on time, making a big swap risky. On the other hand, Blake Griffin used one of his more riskily: punching a team associate and breaking his own hand. Maybe Blake's genius was to remove himself in order to boost his team's chemistry by upping their playing time in his absence, but probably not. The Nuggets are in no position to make postseason noise. Barton, Faried, and Gallinari are their only legitimate threats with Emmanuel Mudiay and their assorted European bigs all younger than Dwight Howard’s tinder matches, so a star with a low price-tag would be a great investment.
While Doc Rivers has claimed “Blake’s ours and he’s going to stay ours,” getting the Barton and Faried’s talents, and Nurkic’s potential, in the mix would be pretty huge for a team with short-term aims.
5 Jeremy Lin's PR Team Goes In
Hornets get: D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young
Lakers get: Jeremy Lin, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Chinese NBA fans love the Lakers because of Kobe, the Rockets because of Yao, and Jeremy Lin because of his heritage. If the messy Lakers and Rockets want a bump in sales while aiming, respectively, the tank and their team chemistry experiments, then adding Jeremy Lin would be a great idea. D’Angelo Russell is probably too good for the Lakers’ five year tank. Grabbing MKG’s currently injured self promises defensive grit for the future and a comfortable tank, while the Hornets get an exciting bucketeer to pair with Kemba Walker.
4 Joe Cool Chooses Championships
Nets: Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Anderson Varejao
Cavaliers: Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young
Joe “Slow Jesus” Johnson wants to leave Brooklyn. In his words: “This isn’t the ideal situation, obviously.” While the Nets will probably just buy him out, let’s see what moves their absence-of-a-GM could trigger for. In this deal the Cavs get a beastly scorer in Joe to ease LeBron’s load with the versatile Thaddeus Young giving them some flexibility to move Kevin Love for a more legit big than Mozgov. The Nets get TT, a young and traditional PF to couple with Brook Lopez.
3 The Knicks-Hawks-Kings Megatrade: NY Gets a Curry
Knicks: Jeff Teague, Rudy Gay, Kyle Korver, Seth Curry
Hawks: Aaron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Willie Cauley-Stein
Kings: Carmelo Anthony, Jerian Grant, Mike Muscala
A three-team trade?! Who do I think I am… ‘Melo has a no-trade clause, but if we get on LaLa’s good side then anything is possible. The Knicks have few assets to trade, and Phil Jackson wishes Melo could be one of them: when asked about trading Carmelo, Phil quickly rebutted: “it is a known fact that Melo has a no-trade, and we like Kris [Prozingis],” and Zen Master has mentioned liking the team’s ball movement in Melo’s absence.
In this trade, the Hawks get to let Dennis Schroder loose, receive an upgrade over Korver in Afflalo, and a young prospect in Trilly Stein. The Knicks get an incredibly well-rounded lineup: Teague, Korver, Rudy, Kristaps Porzingis, and Robin Lopez, as well as their own personal member of the Curry family. And Kings fans get to watch Rondo, Boogie, and Melo all play at the same time.
2 The Cavaliers Commit to Buckets
Cavaliers: Danilo Gallinari, Will Barton, Randy Foye
Nuggets: Kevin Love, J.R. Smith
Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Danilo Gallinari are all excellent scorers and defensive liabilities. Will “The Thrill” Barton is an increasingly excellent scorer without J.R’s defensive faults. Randy Foye is okay. In making this move, the Cavs get to fully commit to scoring buckets – moving LeBron to the 4 spot while benefiting from the offensive panache delivered in Gallo and Barton and finally reaching the heights of team defense by replacing J.R. with Will the Thrill.
The Nuggets get to build around a legitimate star in Kevin Love, get some flexibility in being able to move the great, but limited Kenneth Faried, and bring back their illustrious scorer, JR Smith to bide the time until Mudiay matures. While the Cavs might be hesitant to break up their awkward core trio of Love, Kyrie, and LeBron, nightmares of the Warriors’ small-ball lineup might be enough to convince Tyronn Lue’s boys.
1 The Warriors Win the World
Golden State gets: Pau Gasol
Chicago gets: Jason Thompson
GS gets: Dirk Nowitzki
Dallas gets: Jason Thompson
GS gets: Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan
San Antonio gets: Jason Thompson, James Michael McAdoo
The no.1 biggest trade scenario? The Golden State Warriors take advantage of all of these darn loyal players giving contract discounts to inviting organizations. The Warriors lost backup center and Andrew-Bogut-insurance, Festus Ezeli, to injury for the foreseeable future – and while Jason Thompson is probably a nice guy, he is not the large-and-in-charge force of nature the Warriors need in rotation. But J.T. is making $7 million and that means that if the Bulls wanted to, they could trade Pau for him, or if the Mavericks wanted to, they could trade Dirk for him, or… best yet, if the Spurs wanted to, they could trade Timmy and Manu for him and McAdoo.
If these teams really love their players as much as they say they do, why not send them over to GS to win a championship during the twilight stages of their career?