There is a pretty clear-cut hierarchy in the NBA. Golden State is undisputedly at the very top of the totem pole. San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Cleveland are the most respectable contenders to the Warriors crown. Los Angeles (the Clippers variety), Toronto and maybe Boston are on that third tier down of what we can call fringe contenders. And then, for all intents and purposes, the rest of the league is looking at the title picture like it’s sitting inside of some sort of bulletproof display at an art museum.
My guess is that next week’s Trade Deadline will come and go without much of a bang. There are teams that are rumored to be on the hunt to make a big move or two, but the overall landscape of the league likely won’t come close to being altered in a major way. The reality of the situation doesn’t make the alternative any less fun to think about though, and today I’d like you to join me in an exercise of the NBA fans imagination.
I’ll be taking it upon myself to find trades for all thirty teams; trades that could theoretically happen at the deadline and ones that make sense from a monetary and philosophical standpoint. No team can be featured twice, and it’s also a priority to ensure that there is at least one four team trade and a few three teamers as well. Let’s call this the 1st Annual 30 Team NBA Trade Deadline Challenge!
There isn’t a three-team deal that I came across that is more logical than this one. Atlanta is having a yard sale because they know they can’t win a title with their core. Boston is looking to move some of the assets in their asset treasure chest so they can finally acquire a blue chipper. Utah is a capable point guard away from being the fifth best team in the Western Conference this year. Bada bing, bada boom, we have a trade that makes three teams (reasonably) happy!
In Horford Boston gets an unselfish big man who can defend the rim, make teammates better and stretch the floor. An Isaiah Thomas/Al Horford high screen and roll is a legitimate crunch time play, and if Boston can get their hands on Horford for only David Lee and Brooklyn’s unprotected 1st Rounder (which might not even end up being a top five pick), then they’re officially a full-blown, not fucking around contender to win the East.
Teague to Utah makes an equal amount of sense as Horford to Boston does, even if it means the Jazz have to part ways with Rodney Hood, who looks like a legitimate NBA wing, as well as a 1st Rounder this year. The key here is Atlanta, who apparently has a hefty asking price for their former All-Stars. Is David Lee, Rodney Hood and two 2016 first rounders, one of which has a good chance of landing in the top five enough to persuade Atlanta to pull the trigger? If they don’t want to keep or don’t think they can keep Horford over the summer now would be the time to deal him, and this would be the deal to make.
Ever since the NBA screwed the Kings the Lakers defeated the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Sacramento is a place where basketball dreams turn to nightmares. Just ask the eight guys who have been a head coach for the Kings since 2006, or even better, ask DeMarcus Cousins, who has had to suffer through five of those coaches, multiple owners and General Managers and a hodge-podge of shithead teammates since 2010.
By all accounts Boogie Cousins isn’t the easiest dude to deal with, but his prime years are likely going to be wasted as he continues to reside in Sacramento. The Kings would be nuts to deal Boogie unless they were getting a huge haul back for him. Now there are two questions you need to ask here:
First, would the Kings succumb to this reasonable offer from Orlando and cut ties with the most talented Center in the NBA? Vucevic is a fine Center, someone who can get you somewhere between 16 and 20 points and 8 to 10 rebounds a night, but alone he’s not moving the needle. Oladipo is still a mystery. Some nights he looks like he’ll only ever top out as a league average shooting guard. Other nights he looks like the poor man’s Dwyane Wade. Two unprotected 1st Rounders would make the Kings have to look hard at the deal, especially since they know firsthand that Cousins’ presence doesn’t automatically equate to postseason contention.
The Raptors have their sights set on an upgrade at power forward and a certain Manimal in Denver is apparently on their radar. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has been fond of Kenneth Faried since his days as the Nuggets GM, so there’s a legitimate chance we could see a trade centered around Faried materialize in the next few days. The Raptors might need to throw in a 2017 Lottery Protected 1st Round Pick coming to them from the Clippers to seal the deal since it’s unlikely that the Raps would be eager to give up any young assets like Jonas Valanciunas or Terrence Ross.
This is LA’s move to make if they think that Kevin Durant is in play over the summer. And I don’t mean in play like “Today on First Take Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless debated where Kevin Durant would go in Free Agency and Skip said the Spurs would be the best choice and Stephen A. mentioned that Durant to the Lakers is in play.” I mean in play like “Feelers have been discretely sent out by both sides and there is mutual interest and the Lakers can probably bring in another max player in free agency too.” If the latter is the case, flipping Russell and a filler like Bass for a proven veteran point guard the caliber of Mike Conley would only increase the allure of LA for Durant.
With that said, it’s tough to gauge Memphis’ mindset. The Grizzlies have been reluctant to make large-scale changes ever since the Rudy Gay trade a few years back, even though it’s been clear to everybody but them that they wouldn’t be able to break through to the next level with their team as currently constructed. Marc Gasol is locked in for five years but he’s on the shelf with a broken foot. Zach Randolph is only getting older and wider (aren’t we all?) and then there’s Conley, the last remaining cog on a Memphis team that has been a postseason fixture since 2011, yet only once has made the Western Conference Finals.
It might be time for Memphis to reconsider whether the current model can work (it can’t … you can’t win playing big all the time) and take a chance on a rookie point guard that hasn’t been given the metaphorical keys to the metaphorical car yet. If the Grizzlies can turn Conley into Russell they’ll at least have a jump start on their inevitable youth movement.
–C.J. McCollum and Adreian Payne to OKC … Kevin Martin, Steven Adams, Cameron Payne, Charlotte’s 2016 2nd Round Pick (OKC) and Memphis’ 2017 2nd Round Pick (OKC) to Portland … Dion Waiters and Chris Kaman to Minnesota
I’ll shoot you guys straight on this one … these were the last three teams I had left to find a trade for and this was the best I could come up with. Would Portland be likely to give up C.J. McCollum for anything but a possible number two option? No, it’s very unlikely. Is Oklahoma City likely to give up Steven Adams AND Cameron Payne AND two second rounders? No, not likely, but I guess if they were getting a shooter/third scoring option like McCollum back it has to at least be considered a possibility. Is it likely that Minnesota gives up Kevin Martin and Adreian Payne to gain some expiring contracts? Actually, that’s likely. Eh, let’s move on.
San Antonio/Golden State
–2019 2nd Round Pick and Cash Considerations to San Antonio … The rights to Livio Jean-Charles to Golden State
The two best teams in the league aren’t partaking in any of this Trade Deadline garbage. Even though the defending champs beat up on the Spurs a couple of weeks back, it wouldn’t be Spursy at all for San Antonio to make any sort of panic move at the deadline. Cash, future picks and a lanky Frenchman that won’t step foot on an NBA court any time soon are the only things that would change hands between these two teams.
Let’s be frank, Dwight has always been a guy that rubs people the wrong way. He’s gotten coaches and GM’s fired, he’s feuded with teammates and he’s never totally fit in from a personality or X’s and O’s standpoint anywhere he’s been (and just so it doesn’t sound like I’m getting off on bashing Dwight, let it be known that I think over the past couple of seasons he’s become criminally underrated, he absolutely should have won the 2011 MVP Award and 80 percent of the reason why I hate Dwight Howard is because he really hurt my feelings in 2009 when the Magic beat the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals).
Thursday when Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Houston was taking calls for Dwight, I can’t say it came as a tremendous shock. The Rockets don’t owe it to Dwight to trade him to a contender, but it does feel like he’s bound to make his way to a team that could benefit in April and May by having him along for the ride.
Miami is a team that could actually use Dwight in the postseason. As fun as the Hassan Whiteside story has been (and it’s been double the fun for me since I built the Hassan Whiteside bandwagon way back in 2010), Miami probably won’t want to fork over the kind of money Whiteside will demand this summer; not to mention, for all of the “Dwight’s past his prime” talk we’ve heard over the last three years, he’s still plodding his way to 15 points and 12 boards a night and I would take Dwight over Whiteside in a playoff series 100 times out of 100. Losing Deng is a hit for a Heat squad that lacks a ton of wing depth, but on the bright side it’s a move that unlocks more minutes for rookie Justise Winslow.
I dialed up this deal right from jump street, and to be honest I still don’t have the slightest idea if it helps, hurts or does anything for all three of these fringe Eastern Conference Playoff teams. I just know that all three franchises need a makeover in some way, shape or form and this accomplishes just that. Here’s my logic: Marvin Williams is having an underrated season playing stretch four for Charlotte and he’d step in a fill that role nicely in Indy. Nic Batum is a lanky positionless shooter and it seems like that’s the kind of roster Milwaukee is trying to build. Greg Monroe fills the void that Al Jefferson will leave if and when he bolts this summer in free agency. And what am I doing wasting words on the Pacers, Hornets and Bucks?
Stan Van Gundy is one player like Ryan Anderson and one more Andre Drummond breakout season from turning the Detroit Pistons into the 2009 Orlando Magic, and as I voiced earlier, the 2009 Orlando Magic really hurt my feelings. I like Ilyasova quite a bit, but he’s not Ryan Anderson, and if giving up a protected 1st Rounder down the road is what it takes for the Pistons to jump a tier in the Eastern Conference then so be it.
–Deron Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Joel Embiid to Chicago … Pau Gasol, Carl Landry, Ish Smith to Dallas … Derrick Rose, Dallas’ 2018 1st Round Pick (1-5 protection), and Chicago’s 2016 1st Round Pick to Philadelphia
This one is pretty ambitious, way too out of left-field and it isn’t going to happen, but it’s fun to think about, isn’t it? And truth be told, hasn’t crazier, out of further left-field shit happened at the Trade Deadline? The Gasol acquisition changes Dallas’ ceiling this year and gives us the opportunity to marvel at the Gasol/Nowitzki pairing. Anybody who has actually watched the Philadelphia 76ers this year knows that Ish Smith is an actual NBA starting point guard, not just a throw-in on the deal.
Deron Williams and Zaza Pachulia have been good enough this year to keep Chicago in the Playoff hunt in the East, and the cherry on top of the sundae for the Bulls is the appeal of a healthy Joel Embiid finding his way into the lineup sometime, well, ever. And if you look at things from a different vantage point, this move would allow the Bulls to finally sever ties with the embattled Derrick Rose, and give them a chance to get something for Pau Gasol before he walks in free agency this summer.
As was the case with some of the earlier mentioned moves, we’d have to be concerned with whether or not Philly would move Embiid just yet. He hasn’t played a game, hasn’t really been close to playing in one and there isn’t any solidified time-table for when he might. There’s a chance he could eventually step on the floor and be the terror we all expected him to be in the Spring of 2014. Or he could be Philly’s third best big guy behind Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, and his trade value plummets. If I’m Philly I’m looking to move Embiid now, acquire a few more picks if possible and hope to strike gold in the Draft Lottery this summer.
–Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker to Cleveland … J.R. Smith, Jared Dudley, Drew Gooden and Cleveland’s 2018 1st Round Pick to Phoenix … Brook Lopez and Timofey Mozgov to Washington … Nene Hilario and Jared Cunningham to Brooklyn
Cleveland isn’t dealing Kevin Love at the trade deadline. It’s just not happening. I’d bet a ton of money on that. At least $15. But I do think the Cavaliers want to make a move, and they might need to in order to hang with the Warriors in the NBA Finals (ya know, assuming we’re on a collision course for a Finals rematch in June). New Cavaliers Head Coach Ty Lue wants his team to play a more up tempo style and Suns forwards Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker are plenty comfortable doing just that. Though, it’s hard to imagine that the Cavaliers won’t be slowing it down and limiting possessions, or in other words, playing LeBron-ball, once the Playoffs begin.
The three other teams involved in this massive four-teamer are all in some sort of odd limbo where the notion of improvement are hard to come by. Phoenix has went from league-wide surprise to league-wide bummer in less than two years thanks to a ton of shaky, and borderline unnecessary moves. The Nets packaged away their chance at a future when they traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson in a 12 month span. They bubble wrapped it and tossed the packing peanuts in there and everything. Awfully considerate.
Washington is a more curious case of a team that is in a state of flux. Their coach is possibly inept, one half of their promising backcourt duo hasn’t held up his end of the bargain (see Beal, Bradley) and their future is largely dependent on the fading belief that Kevin Durant might decide he wants to go back to his hometown to play this summer. They’re best bet might be to make a move for Brook Lopez (an overqualified third option), fire Randy Wittman, hire Scott Brooks and try to sell Durant on the idea that Wall could give him everything that Westbrook did, only they’d be much closer to a title in the Eastern Conference than he would out West.
This move is sitting there, staring both of these teams right in the face and neither franchise is going to have the balls to initiate the move. It’s admirable that the Clips don’t want to panic trade Blake, but at this point aren’t we like 98 percent sure that the Clips can’t win the West as currently constructed? Isn’t there enough of a body of work to show that DeAndre is better off playing with a power forward that can stretch the floor? Don’t we have many years of proof that suggests whenever a player punches a team employee it’s probably time for a change of scenery for said player?
Naturally, the Clips would be hesitant to trade Blake Griffin, the same guy we all agreed was the best power forward in the NBA just nine months ago. If you told me in July that I’d be pushing for a deal centered around Blake Griffin I would have said you were insane, but if LA can get Carmelo Anthony in return, plus another closer in Arron Afflalo AND two future draft picks, don’t they have to look at their early postseason exits and think “Damn, maybe Melo gives us something we’ve fundamentally lacked with Blake Griffin?” As nutty as it might sound, if this trade were to go through I’d be more afraid of the Clippers than I was before the deal.
If the Knicks aren’t trying to talk with the Clippers 24/7 then they’re not doing it right. Melo only has a couple of years left in the tank, and that tank is going to start leaking gas if he isn’t playing for a team that could contend for a title. You trade him now for Griffin and at the very worst you’re going into the next half of a decade with Griffin and Latvian rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis. Best case scenario: Griffin, Porzingis and Durant terrorizing the Eastern Conference and making the Knicks relevant again. Or Phil Jackson can just twiddle his thumbs and figure out what coach would be best to implement the Triangle Offense.