No other league is as inundated with rumors, off-the-field stories and social media intrigue as the NBA, and this time of year is when that shines. This is technically the offseason, but the NBA, unlike other leagues, is just as interesting in the offseason as the regular season.
Two blockbuster trades — the Philadelphia 76ers acquiring the first overall pick in Thursday’s draft from the Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets acquiring D’Angelo Russell (and Timofey Mozgov’s contract) from the Los Angeles Lakers — have already occurred. At this rate, a third may have happened by the time you’re reading this. (Dwight Howard was traded to Charlotte in a salary-dump move by Atlanta almost immediately after this sentence was written, by the way).
Naturally, rumor season means it’s time to fire up the trade machine. We’re going to find new homes for George, Butler, Kristaps Porzingis, and others. Sure, we’ll probably be wrong, but who cares? The trade machine doesn’t grade on accuracy.
Paul George to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luol Deng, Julius Randle, the 27th and 28th picks in the draft, and a 2020 top-five protected first-round pick
Here’s what we know about this situation, in no particular order: Paul George wants to leave Indiana, preferably for the Lakers. George only has a year left on his contract, meaning that any non-Lakers team that trades for him will likely only be getting him for that long. The Lakers reportedly offered Randle, the 27th and 28th picks for George today, after acquiring the 27th pick from Brooklyn in the D’Angelo Russell trade. The Lakers gave up Timofey Mozgov in the Brooklyn trade, clearing important cap space for George both next year and in a potential extension.
With all that in mind, the package being offered to Indiana may still not be enough. If the Cleveland Cavaliers decide to take a massive chance in giving up Kevin Love, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard could decide to take that deal instead. In short, Lakers currently have leverage, but that leverage isn’t infinite.
So, this is a compromise. The Pacers get a first rounder down the line (Los Angeles has already given up their 2018 pick and can’t move their 2019 pick without getting a first rounder back due to the Ted Stepien rule) that, even with a top-five protection, will likely convey. For that, they take Luol Deng’s contract, giving the Lakers even more cap space heading into a massive summer for the franchise. This also puts Indiana in a position to tank and rebuild around Myles Turner and whomever they draft next season.
This is likely as good a deal as the Pacers will get, at least in terms of long term outlook. It also puts them on a clear path to contention, even if that path starts with tanking. It makes sense for everyone.
Jimmy Butler to the Boston Celtics for Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, Ante Zizic’s rights, the third pick in the draft, and the Memphis Grizzlies’ 2019 first-round pick
At some point, the Celtics have to face the fact that they can’t acquire a superstar without giving up some of their wings. If Danny Ainge ever pulls the trigger, it means that at least two of the following players will need to depart: Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart.
It’s simply the cost of doing business.
This scenario allows the Celtics to keep Smart, the youngest of the three — a victory in its own right. Zizic is an awesome prospect, but it will be easier for the Bulls to wait for him to come over than the Celtics. If it means keeping Smart, then giving up the rights to Zizic is a no-brainer.
As for the draft picks, again, this is the cost of doing business. If the Bulls are giving up Butler — their best player — you better believe they’re getting back the third pick in this year’s draft. Josh Jackson can be Butler’s successor and is a potential future star in his own right. Memphis’ 2019 pick (top-eight protected), is the cherry on top. There’s a decent chance it doesn’t convey until 2020 or 2021, but when it does, it could end up at least in the lottery.
This is a king’s ransom for Butler that could kickstart Chicago’s rebuild. The Bulls should be happy to get that type of return, and the Celtics have their partner for Isaiah Thomas without losing Brooklyn’s 2018 pick. Win-win.
Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony to the Denver Nuggets for Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Juan Hernangomez, the 13th pick in the draft, and swap rights in 2018 and 2020
The Knicks reportedly want a king’s ransom for Kristaps Porzingis, and rightly so. If they’re serious about trading him, and if any team is willing to cede to their asking price, this seems realistic.
Jamal Murray is the centerpiece and would be the Knicks’ shooting guard of the future. The sharpshooting Kentucky product had an impressive rookie year, though expectations in New York would be massive. Hernangomez would be reuniting with his brother, Willy, in New York, but he’d also be a potential long-term rotation player. Barton, Chandler and Faried are all solid rotation guys, though their fit in the triangle offense may not be great.
The picks — potentially three in total — add serious risk to this for Denver. But it’s tough to see how things go wrong with Porzingis and Nikola Jokic at the big man spots. It’s possible that the only pick that conveys is this year’s, which could give the Knicks Luke Kennard or Donovan Mitchell.
Anthony’s inclusion in the trade is more a product of the Knicks simply not wanting him than anything else. This gives them a chance to offload his contract, and we assume the Nuggets would be receptive to his return. Not to mention that he could be a part of what would likely be one of the better teams in the Western Conference.
Just to be clear, this is still not enough of a haul for a rational general manager to trade Kristaps Porzingis. Phil Jackson isn’t a rational GM, however, so this may do it. Who knows? At this point, anything’s possible.
DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers to the Suns for Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler, Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ullis
The NBA’s newest rumor is DeAndre Jordan going to the Phoenix Suns. The Los Angeles Clippers proposed trading Jordan for Chandler and the fourth pick in this year’s draft, which the Suns said no to, according to a report by ESPN’s Chris Haynes. This variation of the deal being proposed here won’t ever happen because nepotism is a thing that exists and Doc Rivers is never trading his son, but it makes the most sense for both sides. Here’s why.
The Suns get what they want (Jordan), plus Rivers, who has been made fun of so much on Twitter he’s become underrated. Rivers shot 37.1 percent from 3 last season and was a strong defender at two-guard, which is especially important for Phoenix because Devin Booker is not a good defender on the perimeter whatsoever. All they have to give up is Bledsoe (who they can replace with De’Aaron Fox at the draft), Chandler (a bloated contract), Chriss (the eighth pick in last year’s draft who would be lucky to go in the top-20 this year and will take a while to develop) and Ullis (an intriguing prospect who isn’t a key part of their plans moving forward).
As for the Clippers, if they’re making this trade, it means they aren’t particularly confident about Chris Paul’s chances of re-signing in free agency. It may even mean they aren’t particularly confident about Blake Griffin’s chances of re-signing in free agency. In other words, this trade would be the start of a rebuild.
Chriss and Ullis, while flawed, are both young guys with talent who would get minutes in the wake of Paul and Griffin’s departures. Bledsoe could step into the starting role at point guard immediately, as could Chandler at center. These guys would keep the Clippers competitive while they begin their rebuild and gives them potential assets to trade if they decide to completely tear it down.
Whether the Clippers decide to pull the trigger on something like this will be a great barometer for how they feel about Paul and Griffin. Because if they think those guys are coming back, there isn’t much logic to this deal. But if they think the days of Lob City are over, this is step one to putting the pieces back together.
Andre Drummond to the Washington Wizards for Kelly Oubre, Ian Mahinmi, swap rights in 2018 and a 2019 unprotected first-round pick
This deal would amount to the Detroit Pistons admitting they made a mistake in giving Drummond a five-year, $127 million deal last summer after a rocky 2016-17. They would also be taking on Ian Mahinmi’s albatross of a contract, which is a tough sell, even with Oubre and potentially two first-round picks coming their way.
If a third team got involved to take Reggie Jackson’s contract off their hands, this deal becomes much more palatable. But for now, Detroit would have to sell it based on Oubre’s future and the picks. The nature of that sell — admitting failure in the team’s current iteration — makes it tough to believe that Stan Van Gundy would consider something like this.
That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t. This iteration of the Pistons has failed. The team won 37 games and failed to make the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, and there isn’t enough cap space to think about adding another big piece in free agency without doing it via sign-and-trade so a player could be acquired via Bird Rights and not count against the cap.
Sure, it’s possible they figure out something, but it isn’t likely. Better to admit defeat now then trudge along for another three years pretending victory is coming.
As for Washington, it’s easy to see the appeal. They get rid of Mahinmi’s contract, add a capable center who would likely do well as a fourth option and defensive anchor and move Marcin Gortat to the bench, where he can bolster a unit that arguably cost the Wizards a shot at the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Giving up the picks means just one first rounder in three years, which is tough to swallow. But if they’re competing for a conference title, and by extension a championship, then it doesn’t matter quite as much.
Patrick Beverley and Willie Cauley-Stein to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio to the Sacramento Kings, Zach LaVine to the Houston Rockets
Before we get to analysis, a technical note: this trade can only be completed after July 1 for salary-matching purposes as Sacramento would only have room after some contracts expire.
Our final trade is slightly less grand than the others and is our first (and only) three-team deal. The Rockets are actively shopping Beverley, according to recent reports, and the Timberwolves make sense as a destination. The hard-nosed veteran could be a defensive anchor for Tom Thibodeau’s young squad, while Cauley-Stein is an intriguing, young complement off the bench.
However, moving Rubio — a non-shooter who is relatively ineffective off the ball — to Houston does not make sense, thus the Kings get involved. Sacramento does make sense as a destination for Rubio, if for no other reason then it literally does not have a starting point guard for next season as of now.
Chances are, the Kings will draft somebody, whether De’Aaron Fox falls to them at five or it ends up being Dennis Smith or Frank Ntilikina at ten. But even if that were to happen, they would be without a backup point guard.
Rubio may be a stopgap, but he’s at least capable and his passing will help develop Sacramento’s young guys. Trading Cauley-Stein for him is a no-brainer, especially given how many young big men the Kings have.
If the Rockets are shopping Beverley, it may mean they have other plans in mind at the point guard position (cough*Chris Paul*cough). It’s tough to judge this for them until we know what those plans are and if they come to fruition.
LaVine is obviously a massive downgrade defensively for a team that already employs James Harden, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams. But if there’s more help, like Paul, coming, that likely mitigates it. LaVine is raw, bad defensively and coming off a major injury, but he’s still a ball of athleticism that could be molded into a star by the right coach. If that coach exists, there’s a good chance he’s named Mike D’Antoni.