The NBA is headed into an offseason with more question marks than any other time in recent NBA history. Two superstars are aggressively being brought up in trade rumors, the whole league is wondering if any team can compete with Golden State and Cleveland, and the two marquee franchises in the league have the #1 and #2 picks in this years draft. There will be no shortage of rumors flying around throughout the NBA’s summer months and here are some of the trades that we could see this offseason.
D’Angelo Russell has been involved in his fair share of trade rumors since the season started and a lot of it can be traced back to Lonzo Ball. Ever since it became apparent to the Lakers and the league that Lonzo might try to force his way to LA so he could be the Lakers point guard, the Russell rumors began to fly. Russell could play shooting guard at 6’5”, but as Colin Cowherd indicated on his show back in January, it might not matter. “I called 2 scout's” Cowherd said. “I got a breakdown, both said the same thing: Lakers would move D’Angelo Russell for the right pieces. They love Brandon Ingram… They’re split on D’Angelo Russell.”
If the Lakers want to move on from Russell, Philly would be a match made in heaven. Philadelphia needs shooting around Ben Simmons and Josh Jackson isn’t that. Jackson had an atrocious year shooting the ball comparable to that of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist when he was in college. His jumper doesn’t look smooth or fluid and on top of that, unlike Lonzo Ball’s funky release, it doesn’t go in. On a Lakers team with Ingram and Ball, Jackson could have plenty of shooting around him to clear driving lanes for himself. As for Russell, he could be a great fit next to Simmons. They could split time taking the ball up and Russell could run the offense when Simmons is of the floor. The 76ers have been looking for a guard to pair with Simmons since the second they drafted him last year, immediately trying to trade back up to take Kris Dunn. If Fultz and Ball are both gone by #3, Russell could be their best option.
Philly might need #28 and potentially something else on top of that to sweeten the deal, but this should be something they explore at the draft this summer.
The Celtics are currently caught in a rare form of NBA limbo, and it’s not the type of NBA limbo you’ve become accustomed to. It’s not like the limbo the Magic or the Pistons are in where they aren’t contenders or tankers, in the Celtics case they’re both. They are simultaneously in tank mode thanks to Brooklyn while also being the #1 seed in the east. The question for them is whether they should trade the Brooklyn picks to win now or keep the young players to have a competitive team for years down the road. The decision became even harder when the Celtics got dismantled by the Cleveland Cavaliers by 44 points. Making it appear like the Celtics are not even close to having a real chance to get past Cleveland with or without someone like Jimmy Butler.
Nevertheless, a trade scenario that allows the Celtics to both keep their number one pick and draft Markelle Fultz and acquire Jimmy Butler might be too good to pass up. The Celtics would likely refuse to trade this year's pick for Butler in any package after it landed at #1 overall, but next years is likely still on the table. Since the C’s would be able to get Fultz in the draft, it would potentially allow them to trade Smart, Brown, Crowder, and Bradley to the Bulls and still put out a stellar starting wing group. On top of that if the Celtics then signed Gordon Hayward in free agency and could trot out Thomas, Butler, and Hayward with Fultz off the bench for next season, then maybe they could have a chance against Cleveland.
For Chicago this gives them a chance to expedite the rebuilding process by bringing in two young players in Smart and Brown who have already developed some in the league, as well as giving them potentially 2 shots (Brooklyn’s and their own) at 2018 top prospects DeAndre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Luka Doncic, and Michael Porter Jr. A core of Brown, Smart, and one or even two of these players could make for a fast rebuild in Chicago. Bradley in all likelihood would leave after next season, but they could move him at the deadline for something of lesser value and Jae Crowder on his team friendly contract could land them some future assets as well. If the Bulls want to trade Jimmy Butler, this is the trade to make.
A) The Lakers for Larry Nance Jr and their own 2020 1st round pick
Look, I don’t enjoy making the Lakers good and I hope Magic Johnson isn’t reading this and getting ideas, but this is a trade that makes tons of sense for LA. The Timofey Mozgov experiment hasn’t gone according to plan and the Lakers could use a center. Getting their 2019 pick back from Orlando after their pick this year landed in the top 3 enables them to trade their 2020 pick which they previously could not unless it was in a pick swap (due to the Stepien Rule). The Lakers could use their 2020 first to entice the Nets into giving them Lopez and maybe even convince their Russian owner to take on the ‘worst contract in the league candidate’ Timofey Mozgov… Ok, maybe not, but the Lakers fans can dream.
B) The Knicks for Joakim Noah and the #8 pick
The Knicks might do this just because they’re the Knicks. Is Joakim Noah’s contract so bad that the Knicks should actually consider this? That’s a loaded question, but the short answer is trading the #8 pick in a really good draft for Brook Lopez shouldn’t be the answer to any problem. Don’t put it past the Knicks to do this though. The Nets could throw in #22 and #27 and make it look more representative and get the Knicks to actually do it. It probably wouldn’t matter anyway. At least it would spare the Knicks fans having to see the team pass on one of Monk, Smith, or Fox to draft Frank Ntilikina. Sorry Knicks fans, I hate to do this to you, but you’re front office is just that horrible. (But not as sorry as I am for what I’m going to do later)
Thibs has said he wants to acquire a veteran presence to add to his group of future superstars and Goran Dragic could be just the man he’s looking for. The Heat we’re supposed to be tanking this season, but after going on a 60 win pace over the last 41 games they had to settle for the #9 seed. It would be understandable if the Heat wanted to bring the whole team back after playing so well in the second half of last season, but if they want to look bigger picture, then bringing in a player like Kris Dunn, who despite a down rookie campaign still has a lot of potential, along with the #7 pick could be the smarter move.
For the Timberwolves Dragic would give them a slightly above average starting point guard and would allow them to fully enter win now mode with Wiggins and Towns and hopefully Zach Lavine if he can return to the team for the stretch run once he’s recovered from his torn ACL.
The Hornets fell off a cliff this season after looking like a serious playoff team just one year ago. They ended the 2015-16 season with 49 wins. Tied with the Celtics, Hawks, and Heat for 3rd place in the east. This season they finished below all of those teams. Although the drop in performance can’t be entirely blamed on any one thing, the loss of Al Jefferson was a major problem. Al was a reliable option for them on offense and when they were in trouble they were able to dump it into Al and Al was able to get them a basket. Not having that this year killed them. Okafor is an Al Jefferson clone in just about every way imaginable and could be just the player to get the Hornets back to the playoffs.
As for the 76ers, they’ve been trying to move on from Okafor for a while now, and the #11 pick is probably the best offer they could hope to get at this point.
(This is what I was talking about before, Knicks fans) If Phil Jackson really wants to trade Carmelo Anthony and Carmelo finally realizes that no one should want to be a Knick at this point (seriously, sorry), then there’s only two places that Carmelo has even been rumored to be interested in going to: The Celtics and the Clippers. The Celtics are becoming more and more unlikely and the Clippers are becoming more and more desperate and when you get desperate, you do something stupid. And when you do something stupid, you trade for Carmelo Anthony. Melo probably won’t get the Clippers past the Warriors, but he might be enough to convince Blake and Chris that LA is the best place for them to be.
As for the Knicks, if they are hell bent on trading Carmelo and he wants to go to LA this is probably what they have to settle for. I doubt the Clippers could be convinced to sign and trade Blake Griffin to them and I’m sure Blake Griffin would faster quit basketball for a career in stand up then sign a contract to play for the Knicks. But hey, you get Jamal Crawford back in a Knicks jersey! That’s…. fun….
To most, this is the bottom line for Indiana: If Paul George won’t sign an extension with you this summer you have to trade him. It won’t be easy since teams would want George to sign an extension with them if they were going to trade for him, but all you’ll be hearing all summer is that they can’t let him walk for nothing. This would be a classic case of history repeating itself. After LeBron left Cleveland for nothing the league freaked out. Any star that was a threat to leave was traded because the perception became “you need to get something, you can’t end up like Cleveland.” Then, the Hornets/Pelicans traded Chris Paul, the Magic traded Dwight Howard, and the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony all right before their deals expired.
After Durant left OKC last year, that same narrative that drove teams to deal their superstars before they could leave on their own began to come back. In reality, it didn’t really work out for any of the 3 teams I just mentioned. The Nuggets got the best deal and it still hasn’t turned out great for them. Regardless, teams will likely fall victim to this again. “You can’t end up like Cleveland” (even though they got Kyrie Irving out of it, a better asset than any of those teams got in their desperation trades).
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