As the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers continue to square off in the NBA Finals, other teams around the Association have moved on to full-fledged off-season mode.
Once the Finals conclude, the NBA’s summer will get into action big time, starting with this month’s draft. That will be followed by free agency and trades. It’s one of the most exciting times around the Association.
This summer promises to present us with a ton of big-name veterans moving in trades. With the cap set to increase a great deal and teams attempting to position themselves in the ever-changing landscape of the NBA, there’s no reason to believe some major stars won’t be dealt.
From a recent top-five pick in Philadelphia to an enigmatic All-Star center in Sacramento, some youngsters will also likely be on the move.
Here are four big NBA trades that simply make too much sense not to happen.
No. 2 overall pick from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington
Lakers fans may criticize this hypothetical trade. After all, the idea of giving up the second pick and potentially Brandon Ingram might be a hard pill to swallow.
To those fans, we ask this simple question. Does Ingram boast the same floor as fellow Duke product Jahlil Okafor? If the answer to that question is a no, you might want to reconsider questioning this possibility.
The idea is rather simple. Team Okafor up with Julius Randle in the Lakers frontcourt to create a dynamic young tandem for years to come. Add in D’Angelo Russell as well as Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt, and there’s something solid for first-year head coach Luke Walton to build with.
This move also wouldn’t limit the Lakers ability to hit the free-agent market and find a top-end player. Imagine the team being able to potentially add a Harrison Barnes to the mix at small forward to go along with this core group of four players. It would be a darn nice start.
This deal would also make a ton of sense for Philadelphia if that organization is indeed looking into trading either Okafor or Nerlens Noel — something that has been reported in recent weeks (more on that here).
With Joel Embiid seemingly ready to return healthy after missing the first two seasons of his career due to a foot injury, Philadelphia is suddenly incredibly deep in the low post. Add in the likely emergence of former lottery pick Dario Saric from overseas, and there really is a logjam here.
Let’s assume for a second Philadelphia takes the 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons at No. 1 overall in the upcoming draft. That would give the team a small forward to work with moving forward. Saric’s game translates more to the four with both Embiid and Noel being able to play multiple front-court positions.
If the Sixers were to pull off this trade, it would enable the team to add reported franchise favorite Jamal Murray with the second pick.
That’s four of the five positions in the starting lineup filled with high-upside lottery picks. The only move from here on out would be to find a point guard worth a hill of beans.
Mario Hezonja, Nikola Vucevic and 11th pick from the Orlando Magic to the Sacramento Kings for DeMarcus Cousins
Sacramento seems to want to go up-tempo under new head coach Dave Joerger. If that’s the case, the team is going to have to add that athletic wing to the mix. No, Rudy Gay won’t cut it from this perspective.
We also know Cousins’ tenure in Sacramento has been nothing short of a drama made for day-time soap operas. Even with George Karl out of the mix, we have no idea how the All-Star center will respond moving forward.
His immaturity and enigmatic personality could continue to bring this organization down. In this, there have continued to be rumblings that he might be moved during the summer.
If the Kings aren’t completely sold on Cousins maturing, this might be the best opportunity for the team to get maximum value for him before things go further south.
In this hypothetical trade, Sacramento acquires a forward in Hezonja who fits that bill as an athletic wing.
The former No. 5 overall pick played sparingly as a rookie, though most of that had to do with ex-Magic head coach Scott Skiles refusing to let his game grow. We already know the talent that Super Mario brings to the table. If given the opportunity, he will be a breakout performer as a sophomore.
Though, the biggest key to this trade would be the acquisition of one of the most-skilled true centers in the entire NBA. Vucevic, 25, averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field in 2015-16.
This came on the heels of him putting up three consecutive seasons of averaging a double-double, including a 2014-15 campaign that saw the 7-foot big average 19.3 points per game. Add in a lottery pick from Orlando, and this would be a solid bounty for Cousins.
Fresh off hiring former Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to replace Skiles, the Magic have already improved from a disappointing 2015-16 campaign.
With a ton of money to spend in free agency and assets to be sold on the roster, there’s no reason to believe Orlando won’t be able to compete for a playoff spot next season.
Why not add the single best center in the entire NBA with the surplus of assets they have on the roster? Bringing Cousins in would give the Magic a dynamic young core that already includes Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon.
We know how good Cousins is when his head is in the game. A change of scenery is exactly what could be needed here.
If he brings it every night with the talent on Orlando’s roster and the potential the team can add another top-end player in free agency, we would be looking at one of the best young squads in the Eastern Conference.
Avery Bradley from the Boston Celtics to the Utah Jazz for Alec Burks and the 12th pick
Bradley is coming off the best season of his career. He averaged 15.2 points while shooting 45 percent from the field, including 36 percent from distance. The former top-round pick was also voted as one of the top-five defenders in the entire Association.
Bradley’s success might have been foreshadowed by his move from point guard to the two after Boston added Isaiah Thomas to the mix last season. Though, there’s very little reason to believe he can’t run an offense while still playing elite-level defense.
This is where the Jazz come into play. Shelvin Mack might have performed at a high level in Utah following a mid-season trade from the Atlanta Hawks. In fact, he did average 12.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in 28 games (27 starts).
Adding Bradley to the mix wouldn’t necessarily mean that Mack’s career in Utah would come to a short-lived end. Instead, it’s all about building a stronger backcourt with players that bring different things to the table.
As of right now, Utah has multiple two guards that can bring the scoring punch in Alec Burks, Dante Exum and Rodney Hood. Why not move one of these players for a combo guard that can bring more to the table on the defensive end of the court?
Much like the Jazz, this trade would also make a ton of sense for Boston. Thomas is entrenched in stone as team’s starting point guard. Outside of that, this team doesn’t have that consistent scoring option on the roster.
Burks have averaged 13-plus points per game in each of the past three seasons. He’s also shooting at a career 37 percent clip from three-point range.
With more minutes (averaging just 23 per game in his career), there’s no reason to believe this 24-year-old former lottery pick couldn’t put up 20-plus per outing. That would give Boston a lethal scoring duo at the guard positions.
Harrison Barnes from the Golden State Warriors to the Denver Nuggets for seventh pick
Listen, some team will end up giving Barnes a max contract offer in free agency. We just don’t see that team being the Warriors.
While he’s performed at a much higher clip in the postseason, Golden State isn’t simply going to toss around money for the sake of continuity. That’s not how the finances work in today’s NBA.
The defending champs may also look to upgrade from Barnes during the summer. Enter into the equation all the Kevin Durant rumors from the past several months (more on that here).
All this seems to be an indication that Golden State is fully prepared to move on from Barnes.
Though, the team also knows it has an asset in the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Why not capitalize on that while engaging in sign-and-trade possibilities?
Like most teams around the association, Denver is going to have the necessary cash to add a max-contract player. That won’t necessarily matter when it comes to restricted free agency and Barnes, as Golden State could easily match said offer as a way to force another squad into giving it an asset.
This is where the seventh pick heading to the Warriors for Barnes would make sense. Short of adding Durant, they could go the young route while giving the starting job back to reigning NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.
Picking in the top 10, Golden State might be able to add local star and CAL product Jaylen Brown as the team’s small forward of the future.
This trade also makes a ton of sense for Denver, a team that performed at a much higher clip when forced to play its youngsters this past season.
With Wilson Chandler lost for the year and fellow small forward Danilo Gallinari missing the final 29 games, the team’s young core stepped up.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic all showed that they have the ability to be big-time players on a good team.
Barnes would bring that great all-around play from the three to go with a group of young stars that includes a point guard and two off guards.
It would also enable head coach Michael Malone to play Barnes at the stretch four as a way to mimic Golden State’s small-ball lineup, allowing the Nuggets to play four tremendous wing players together at times.
We fully expect Denver to move on from Danilo Gallinari, Chandler and Kenneth Faried this summer. Those three veterans should bring back some nice assets.
Why not add Barnes to the mix in order to keep the team’s late-season momentum going? The seventh pick isn’t too steep of a price to guarantee this happens.