1 Offseason Trade Idea for Every NBA Team
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Steve Dykes/Associated Press
With all but three NBA teams officially in offseason mode, now feels like a good time to put back on our general manager hats and cobble together some hypothetical trades.
For. Every. Single. Squad.
Each deal is being proposed from that specific team’s perspective. That doesn’t mean they’re one-sided; it means they’re the party making the call.
Assume every deal will be completed during the new league year, even if terms are agreed upon before or during the draft. This allows teams to use picks as actual salary and, in certain situations, flip 2021 and 2022 selections without violating the Stepien Rule.
It also permits us to make use of impending cap space and suggest sign-and-trade scenarios. All packages with player options are contingent upon those options being exercised. Non-guaranteed salaries must be guaranteed, as well.
Many people were polled during the imagineering process in an attempt to construct packages that at least ensure a dialogue between both organizations. None of these proposals are presented as deliberate troll jobs. Keep that in mind before going full Twitter-egg avatar in the comment section.
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Marta Lavandier/Associated Press
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Avery Bradley (team option), Danuel House
Houston Rockets Receive: Kris Dunn (player option), Oklahoma City’s 2022 first-round pick (lottery protection; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)
Bigger transactions are in play for the Hawks. They have Onyeka Okongwu, Clint Capela, young wings and all of their own firsts to go prowling for blockbusters. John Collins sign-and-trade scenarios are theoretically on the table, too. But a seismic shakeup doesn’t sit right for a team in the conference finals, even if it comes during a postseason drowning in injuries. (Atlanta, for the record, is banged up itself.)
Avery Bradley and Danuel House deepen a perimeter rotation that sort of needs it. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish have been injured enough to worry about season-long availability, and having two more bodies to pitch in at the 2-3-4 spots allows the Hawks to explore splashier mid-year trade scenarios while dangling some combination of their young wings—all of whom are inching closer to their second contracts and the raises that come with them.
A healthy House is a quality pickup regardless of Atlanta’s future plans. He will hit more of his trees catching passes from Trae Young and should give them an upgrade over the Solomon Hill-Tony Snell minutes.
Houston is in the infancy of its rebuild and seems to be favoring gritty defensive presences. Kris Dunn is 27 and a question-mark shooter, but fits within that model and comes with zero long-term obligations. The Oklahoma City pick probably isn’t conveying, but it’s a worthwhile dice roll.
Maybe the Thunder keep Kemba Walker all season and party crash the playoff race. Failing that, two second-rounders and a guard-wing who can flirt with All-Defense status when healthy is fair compensation for a pair of players who don’t figure into the Rockets’ bigger picture.
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Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Boston Celtics Receive: Taurean Prince
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Carsen Edwards, Tristan Thompson, No. 45
Cutting costs is clearly a priority for the Celtics given how they structured the Al Horford trade. This deal adds $1.5 million to their bottom line, giving them less wiggle room under the luxury tax.
Whatever. They still have the runway to re-sign Evan Fournier and aren’t in position to keep him and use the bigger mid-level exception without cannonballing into the tax anyway.
Cleaning up a congested center rotation is more important. Boston messed up burning its MLE on Tristan Thompson last year. This remedies that move and lets head coach Ime Udoka build the 5 carousel around Horford, Moses Brown and Robert Williams III.
Taurean Prince’s $13 million salary won’t make team president Brad Stevens feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, but he comes off the books next summer, and the Celtics need true wings beyond Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Boston is in position to streamline Prince’s offensive role—i.e. fewer dribbling escapades—and he’s a career 37 percent shooter from deep. His defense is better in theory than practice, but he’s a body to roll out against 2s, 3s and 4s.
Cleveland has little use for floating a Thompson reunion. That shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. He immediately becomes a buyout candidate, and the Cavs are saving a couple bucks while getting a flier on Carson and picking up a second-rounder from a draft in which they have none.
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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Montrezl Harrell (player option), Kyle Kuzma
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie (sign-and-trade)
Signing and trading Spencer Dinwiddie is the Nets’ best—and, realistically, only—path to making a significant addition. They should attract ring-chasers with their mini mid-level exception and can build packages around Nicolas Claxton, No. 27, Landry Shamet and DeAndre Jordan’s money. But Dinwiddie is a fringe All-Star who retains his appeal even after missing most of the year with a torn right ACL.
Going that route does leave Brooklyn at the behest of its point guard’s wishes. He must want to sign where the Nets are sending him.
Enter the Lakers.
Dinwiddie apparently wants to go “home,” which means Los Angeles, according to the New York Daily News‘ Kristian Winfield. The Lakers should be amenable. Dinwiddie is better equipped to lead LeBron James-less lineups than Dennis Schroder. His outside shooting leaves much to be desired, but he puts consistent pressure on set defenses and profiles as the better setup man.
Acquiring Dinwiddie by sign-and-trade hard caps the Lakers. That could be an issue with Schroder, Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker (restricted) hitting the open market. But Dinwiddie should embolden them to let Schroder walk or work with him on sign-and-trade possibilities. Subbing out Montrezl Harrell’s expiring deal for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope opens up more breathing room, but Dinwiddie shouldn’t be getting enough money for Brooklyn to bring back $26 million.
The Nets shouldn’t need much convincing to accept this package. Losing Dinwiddie for nothing is a waste, and Kuzma is under contract at a reasonable price and has improved as positional defender. Harrell’s expiring deal can be a good matching anchor in other trades, and he becomes functionally useful if they lose some combination of Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin and Jeff Green to free agency.
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Troy Taormina/Associated Press
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Christian Wood
Houston Rockets Receive: P.J. Washington, No. 11, Boston’s 2022 second-round pick
This hypothetical is being recycled from our post-lottery GM-ing, with a slight tweak after speaking with people vested in the outcome.
Charlotte might be content use its $20-plus million in cap space to shore up the center spot. But opening that much room requires renouncing Malik Monk (restricted). Scoping out the trade market is super useful if retaining him—and also Devonte’ Graham (restricted)—registers as a priority.
Christian Wood is also reaaally good. His 21.0 points per game came on 58.1 shooting on twos and a 37.4 percent clip from beyond the arc. He is comfortable fanning out in transition, finding seams in the middle and from the outside after setting screens and has a mismatch-inducing floor game.
Surrendering No. 11 and P.J. Washington, the 12th overall pick in 2019, is steep. It’s not an overpay. Wood will still only be 26 when next season tips off and is on an extremely team-friendly deal (two years, $28 million). He is so cheap the Hornets only burn slightly over $5 million of cap space in this trade and can actually complete it after using their spending power if the Rockets take on one of their sub-$2 million players.
Houston should pounce. Wood will be up for massive raise by the time the Rockets are ready to be good again, and that’s assuming the team is operating on two-year rebuilding timeline. Washington is plug-and-play and can soak up reps at the 5, and a fourth first-round pick won’t be superfluous if it’s in the lottery. General manager Rafael Stone can try moving up the ladder using Nos. 11, 23 and 24.
One hangup: The Rockets might want more, or the Hornets could argue they’re giving up too much. Boston’s 2022 second should represent the middle ground. If Houston wants more—say, Vernon Carey Jr.—then it can send Danuel House to Charlotte.
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Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
Chicago Bulls Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie (sign-and-trade)
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Thaddeus Young (partially guaranteed), 2022 second-round pick
Rival teams should view the Bulls as ripe for some selling. They missed the play-in tournament after surrendering a small ransom to get Nikola Vucevic, and Zach LaVine’s pending free agency puts them in a precarious position.
Chicago, on the other hand, must act like a buyer if it intends to keep LaVine beyond this season. And that’s presumably the plan, otherwise why make the Vooch trade at all?
Beefing up the point guard spot is a must. LaVine and Coby White are “just fine” passers—LaVine has improved a great deal—but “just fine” doesn’t cut the mustard. Running sets through Vooch, a viable playmaking hub, isn’t enough on its own.
Bringing in Spencer Dinwiddie does the trick. His vision on the move is underappreciated, and the pressure he puts on the rim should endure another torn-ACL recovery. He conducts surgical drives through changes of pace rather than explosion.
Dinwiddie may prefer Los Angeles, but he’s also open to just getting “the bag,” per the New York Daily News‘ Kristian Winfield. The Bulls will have to pay him enough to outstrip other potential suitors but can do worse things than inflate the salary of starting-caliber quarterback for three years.
Thaddeus Young’s own contract ($14.2 million) should be large enough to match Dinwiddie’s next pay grade. Chicago has other smaller deals to include if it’s not. Brooklyn might want more back in a Dinwiddie sign-and-trade, but this presupposes more will be available. First-round picks aren’t as valuable to a win-now superteam, and Young is the ideal defensive presence and decision-maker for small-ball 5 lineups.
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Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Goran Dragic (team option), Andre Iguodala (team option), Tyler Herro
Miami Heat Receive: Kevin Love, Collin Sexton, Houston’s 2022 second-round pick
The general view of Collin Sexton entering an extension-eligible offseason intimates that 24.3 points and 4.4 assists isn’t what it used to be.
Conversely: Sexton averaged 24.3 points and 4.4 assists while hitting 50.8 percent of his twos and 37.1 percent of his threes. Jayson Tatum is the only other player to hit those benchmarks before his age-23 season.
Critics zero in on Sexton’s thorny playmaking, which is better but not at all point guardy. The Heat needn’t care. They don’t need him to initiate when they have Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, as Nekias Duncan astutely outlined for Basketball News.
Taking the two years and $60.2 million left on Kevin Love’s deal might make Miami cringe. He can work beside Adebayo on offense and will play like he cares on a team headed somewhere. However, the Heat would have to pay him maxish money in 2022-23 on top of max price points for Adebayo and Butler and whatever Sexton commands.
Getting Sexton would seem to elevate the team’s immediate ceiling—the primary concern given Butler is entering his age-32 season—for them to play along. Figuring out what to send the Cavaliers is less complicated. They get Tyler Herro, who has two more years left on his rookie scale and still has mystery-box appeal with the ball in his hands, and two expiring contracts for veterans who might give back serious money in buyout talks. Cleveland shouldn’t quibble about sending Miami a second when it gets off Love’s entire 2022-23 salary.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Will Barton (player option)
Denver Nuggets Receive: Josh Richardson (player option), Tyrell Terry, 2022 second-round pick
Assuming both Will Barton and Josh Richardson pick up their player options, this deal sees the Mavericks kind of, sort of, undo last offseason’s Seth Curry-for-Richardson swap.
Dallas’ quest for defense came at the expense of floor spacing and some shot creation. It seemed like a fair-weather idea. Richardson, in theory, is a good three-point shooter. And he, in theory, provides a dab of off-the-dribble authorship.
In all actuality, Richardson gave the Mavericks neither. Barton offers more of both, in bankable doses. He isn’t the snazziest off-the-dribble shooter, but he can put pressure on defenses with the ball in his hands. He canned a respectable 34.8 percent of his pull-up treys this season and brings more secondary passing.
Glitzing up the package with understated sweeteners like Tyrell Terry and a 2022 second-round pick isn’t ideal, but it projects as necessary. Barton is the best player in this deal—currently by a mile—and the Nuggets are taking a modest-sized risk by exchanging a reliable scorer for a defensive upgrade when Jamal Murray is recovering from a torn left ACL.
Stepping out on that limb is justifiable. Denver needs sturdier individual wing defenders beyond Aaron Gordon, and Richardson can guard 1s through just about 4s. A healthy Michael Porter Jr. and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic arm the offense with enough firepower to get by without Barton and Murray, and the Nuggets make out quite well if Richardson claws his way back from this year’s regression on both sides of the floor.
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David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Denver Nuggets Receive: Marcus Smart, 2023 second-round pick (most favorable via Dallas, Houston or Miami)
Boston Celtics Receive: PJ Dozier, Monte Morris, No. 26 pick
Similar framework was presented on behalf of the Nuggets after they were first eliminated from the playoffs. This hypothetical is still floating my boat, so it’s making a comeback—with a small-yet-meaningful alteration.
Zeke Nnaji was originally headed to Boston. But the Celtics are since plus-two bodies at the center position after acquiring Moses Brown and Al Horford. Giving them another is excessive.
PJ Dozier is being subbed in for Nnaji, and Boston should be thrilled. He strengthens an unspectacular secondary wing rotation with solid defense across most perimeter spots and complimentary offensive usage. Monte Morris is one of the league’s best backup floor generals and is slated to start a three-year, $27.4 million deal next season the Celtics should love. A first-round pick’s salary is hyper valuable to a team that’s trying to field a fringe-title threat without, apparently, going into the tax.
The Nuggets could be the side that flinches. They would potentially have Gordon, Smart and Will Barton (player option this summer) all entering free agency at the same time, with Michael Porter Jr.’s second contract set to take effect in 2022-23, as well.
That’s not ideal. But Smart is a defensive powerhouse spanning nearly four positions who can run aspects of the offense, and who has shot a reasonable 34.8 percent from deep over the past three years on real off-the-dribble volume. He’s worth the sticker price.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Detroit Pistons Receive: D.J. Augustin, No. 23
Houston Rockets Receive: Josh Jackson, No. 37
Coming up with deals for the Pistons skews boring unless you think they’ll shop the No. 1 pick (eh) or Jerami Grant (also eh). Those aren’t calls they’re making themselves.
Attempting to snag another first-rounder is more their speed. Josh Jackson and No. 37 might give them the sway to do it if they find the right team.
Houston is a good fit. It has three first-round picks and can get off the final guaranteed year of D.J. Augustin’s deal in the process. Dropping 14 spots in the draft isn’t the end of the world when the Rockets have three firsts, and Josh Jackson continues to tantalize as a playmaking wing who has shown growth on defense—he takes gambles but is more disciplined—and remains a set jumper away from consistent NBA minutes.
Detroit might view the cost of Augustin’s deal as too steep. Counterpoint: It shouldn’t. He is effectively an expiring contract ($333,333 guarnateed in 2022-23), and the Pistons will have use for backup point guard minutes if, as expected, they waive Cory Joseph. Scooping up a second first-rounder trounces any downside here—mostly because there is none.
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Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press
Golden State Warriors Receive: Zach LaVine
Chicago Bulls Receive: Kelly Oubre. Jr. (sign-and-trade), No. 7, No. 14, 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), 2023 first-round pick swap (top-one protection), 2026 first-round pick (top-10 protection, pending 2024 obligation to Memphis)
Golden State is obligated to go blockbuster shopping with its No. 7 and No. 14 picks and shouldn’t be opposed to including James Wiseman on top of both in the right deal. What the right deal is remains to be seen.
Bradley Beal? Definitely. Fred VanVleet? Probably not. Pascal Siakam? I mean, is Draymond Green still on the Warriors in that scenario? Damian Lillard? Yes, but also: Good luck. Karl-Anthony Towns? Yes, but not happening.
Zach LaVine is the hypothetical happy medium—an All-Star shot-creator and -maker who isn’t a superstar, and whose team doesn’t have the leverage to demand the moon as he enters a contract year.
Engaging the Bulls on this package is, of course, a potential problem. They just traded for Nikola Vucevic to maximize LaVine’s stay. They need to believe he’s a flight risk ahead of 2022 free agency. Golden State also needs Kelly Oubre Jr. to board the sign-and-trade train. That’s not a given. Nor is Chicago’s interest in him. But he’s a sound fit for a roster that isn’t teeming with wings, and a quick survey of the league yields no obvious big-money offers from cap-space teams.
Striking a deal without Wiseman’s inclusion is the next obstacle. The Bulls don’t have an immediate need for him with Vucevic in the fold, but Vucevic won’t be their long-term solution if they’re trading LaVine. Bagging two lottery picks in this year’s draft, plus control over three more Warriors firsts, softens the exclusion.
To be clear: Wiseman shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for Golden State. Unless Chicago believes he’s a future All-Star, though, there’s more value in shorting the Warriors’ bigger picture with the 2023 swap and 2026 pick. Their core is older, and LaVine, while 26, won’t be the bridge to contention in a post-prime-Stephen Curry era without a Wiseman explosion.
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Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Houston Rockets Receive: Kevin Knox, No. 32
New York Knicks Receive: Avery Bradley (team option), Danuel House
This is a sad trade for the Knicks. They drafted Kevin Knox ninth overall in 2018, ahead of Mikal Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. He then hinted at a world of upside during 2018 summer league.
It isn’t 2018 anymore. Knox is entering his fourth NBA season and has seen his role on the team diminish with each passing year. He is valuable only to teams angling for mystery-box intrigue on a beggar’s dime.
That mostly describes the Rockets. Next year will be the first full season of their post-James Harden rebuild. They have the No. 2 pick, plus two other firsts, in this year’s draft but still need to mine low-risk, high-reward propositions—a la their Kevin Porter Jr. trade.
Rolling the dice on Knox is worth two expiring contracts on wings who don’t factor into the long-term outlook. He will be just 22 in August, hit 39.3 percent of his triples last season and has the size at 6’7″ to play the 2, 3 or 4.
Whether the Knicks can withstand the memes that come with selling low on a top-10 pick is a separate matter. They shouldn’t have an issue sucking it up. Bradley and House are three-and-D type contributors when fully healthy, and their expiring contracts won’t interfere with free-agency aspirations beyond 2021-22.
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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Indiana Pacers Receive: Detroit’s 2023 second-round pick
New York Knicks Receive: Jeremy Lamb
Jeremy Lamb isn’t the type of player teams typically dump. He missed half of this season while recovering from a torn left ACL, and then his year ended due to soreness in that same left knee, but he’s not that much of a risk at $10.5 million.
What Lamb showed through 36 games with the Pacers implies just the contrary. He still moseyed his way to his in-between spots but traded in most of his long twos for threes, on which he shot a career-best 40.6 percent.
Outlier accuracy is iffy in an abbreviated season, and Lamb won’t boost anyone’s defense. But the Knicks just need bucket-getters, period. Lamb qualifies—and costs virtually nothing. Gobbling up his $12.7 million salary isn’t an issue. New York has all the cap space in the world and, given the shallow free-agent market, is better off saving some of its powder for future offseasons.
Indiana shouldn’t walk away from the table if the Knicks insist on sending back a lesser second-round pick. It enters the offseason within $15 million of the luxury tax before factoring in new deals for T.J. McConnell and Doug McDermott.
If the Pacers want to keep both and won’t enter the tax to do it, offloading Lamb into someone else’s cap space is the way to go.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Kemba Walker, Kenrich Williams
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Serge Ibaka (player option), Luke Kennard, Rajon Rondo, No. 30, Detroit’s 2024 second-round pick, Detroit’s 2025 second-round pick
Adding another star with injury concerns isn’t infallible logic for the Clippers. They just bowed out of the conference finals at least in part because of Kawhi Leonard’s absence (right knee), and Boston needed to include the No. 16 pick in a deal that wiped the final two years and $73.7 million on Kemba Walker’s deal off the ledger.
On the flip side, the Clippers would be securing another star without giving up one of their own. That matters. Walker is among the league’s best point guards when healthy and outfits the offense with the conventional pick-and-roll, shot-making maestro it has lacked since Chris Paul’s exit many moons ago.
Walker is also in many ways a safeguard against absences from Leonard (or Paul George). The Clippers are less likely to run out of star power later in the season with three offensive hubs from which to choose.
Conceding what little draft equity they have left is non-negotiable. Luke Kennard is a nice fit in Oklahoma City beside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but he has a history of knee issues and begins a four-year, $56 million extension next season (2024-25 team option). Giving up No. 30 and two semi-interesting Detroit second-rounders ensures the Thunder get their usual draft-pick fix while also acquiring a player, in Kennard, whose value they can try to rehabilitate.
Jettisoning veterans to rebuilding squads is always awkward. Serge Ibaka might not even pick up his player option—it seems fairly likely given his back injury—if he thinks the Clippers are trading him. But the Thunder have so far done right by all their stopgap vets. Rajon Rondo should become a buyout candidate, and Ibaka might enjoy a one-season return to Oklahoma City.
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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Buddy Hield
Sacramento Kings Receive: Montrezl Harrell (player option), Kyle Kuzma
Nearly everyone yours truly polled on this liked the deal for both teams while agreeing it would be lampooned and loathed by both fanbases. Sounds like an idea worth discussing to me.
Kyle Kuzma will no doubt be at the root of reaction from both sides. He shouldn’t be that divisive anymore. He is not a future fringe star, but he’s made serious strides on defense while becoming lower-maintenance on offense.
Sacramento shouldn’t have an issue with his three-year, $39 million extension (2023-24 player option) set to kick in next season. Its roster is short on wings, and he promises better standstill shooting than Maurice Harkless.
Montrezl Harrell’s inclusion won’t make the Kings giddy, but they will need frontline depth even if they figure out a way to re-sign Richaun Holmes (Early Bird rights), and he can keep pace with the team’s fastest offensive lineups. His $9.7 million salary also comes off the books next summer, and he can be used to match money in future trades.
The Lakers, meanwhile, need to glitter up their offense. Buddy Hield doesn’t provide a ton of self-creation, but he’s one of the best shooters alive. Since entering the league, he is one of just 17 players putting down more than 40 percent of their triples on at least 1,000 total attempts.
Footing the bill on his contract balance—three years, $62.5 million guaranteed—isn’t a mindless decision. But he is the perfect complement to an offense that seems married to playing two bigs, and his salary falls short of back-breaking when it’s on a declining scale.
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Brandon Dill/Associated Press
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Zach LaVine
Chicago Bulls Receive: Grayson Allen, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, No. 17, 2023 first-round pick (top-three protection), 2024 first-round pick (more favorable from Golden State and Memphis)
Non-glamour markets don’t usually unload the asset clip to nab a star entering a contract year. But the risk can be worth the reward.
Oklahoma City convinced Paul George to stay beyond his free agency. He wanted out later, but the Thunder got a haul for his services. Toronto won a title with Kawhi Leonard in 2019. Phoenix just made the Finals with Chris Paul—and might be the favorite to win it all.
Prying Zach LaVine from the Bulls isn’t on the same scale. He doesn’t transform the Grizzlies into contenders. They need to know he’ll stick around in free agency and then be willing to pay him. He is worth the cost of admission if he’s open to remaining in Memphis.
At 26, LaVine aligns with the best years of Ja Morant (22 in August) and Jaren Jackson (22 in September). He also happens to be just what the Grizzlies offense needs: an off-the-bounce shot-making whizz who can take on tertiary initiation.
Access to him isn’t coming cheap. Including Desmond Bane is akin to giving up four first-rounders, and De’Anthony Melton, when healthy, is a defensive tycoon who just shot 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. But the Grizzlies aren’t snagging LaVine when he hits the open market in 2022, and their offer must be sexy enough to grab the attention of a Bulls team that, as of last trade deadline, was trying to accelerate its rebuild.
Chicago might even push for a 2022 first-round pick, of which Memphis has two: Utah’s (top-six protection) and its own. That’s a touch too far unless the Bulls can send something else back in return or is willing to accept a salary alternative to Bane. Those picks also underscore how pretty Memphis is sitting: Even after ponying up for LaVine, its asset chest is far from empty.
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Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Precious Achiuwa, Andre Iguodala (team option)
Miami Heat Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie (sign-and-trade)
Brokering a sign-and-trade for Spencer Dinwiddie needn’t be the Heat’s goal. They will have plenty of cap space to work with over the summer…if they decline team options on Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala, and renounce the rights to Victor Oladipo, along with everyone else other than Kendrick Nunn (restricted) and Duncan Robinson (restricted).
The Heat are better off trying keep some of their own free agents beyond just Robinson and Nunn. Bigger expiring salaries can be valuable at the trade deadline, and re-signing Oladipo to a flier deal could pay off if and when he recovers from his latest right quad injury.
Acquiring Spencer Dinwiddie comes with some risk. He missed most of this season with a torn ACL in his right knee and will be looking for a major payday if he declines his player option. But Miami can do much worse if it misses out on the virtually nonexistent bigger fish on the market. A healthy Dinwiddie puts pressure on defenses at every level—even though he’s a career 31.8 percent three-point shooter—and can initiate the offense.
Brooklyn doesn’t accept a 37-year-old Iguodala as primary compensation under normal circumstances. These aren’t normal circumstances. The alternative is losing Dinwiddie for nothing. Iguodala can still provide stretches of quality wing defense, his salary could prove useful at the trade deadline, and getting a look a the high-energy Precious Achiuwa is a rock-solid carrot—particularly if the 21-year-old improves his jumper.
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Jonathan Isaac, Terrence Ross
Orlando Magic Receive: Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver, Jaden McDaniels, Jake Layman, 2023 first-round pick (top-eight protection)
Moving Jonathan Isaac is not a blasphemous idea for the Magic. Yes, he’s coming back from a torn left ACL, which no doubt compromises market value. And yes, his four-year, $80 million extension starts next season. And yes, he is the closest they come to a North Star.
That’s the entire point. The Magic aren’t getting anywhere special with Isaac as their best player. His offensive game is too undefined. They have a better shot at finding their directional cornerstone at No. 5 and No. 8 in this year’s draft. That doesn’t mean they have to deal Isaac, but keeping him increases the likelihood they fast track themselves back to the sub-middle of the Eastern Conference.
Asking for everything and then some from interested parties is the way to go. Isaac is more play-finisher than creator and a below-average outside shooter, but he is a defensive system unto himself and has the bandwidth to sponge up minutes at three positions.
Minnesota should be intrigued. Isaac isn’t Ben Simmons, but he pairs nicely with Karl-Anthony Towns up front and shouldn’t cost D’Angelo Russell—KAT’s best friend and one of the team’s top-two from-scratch shot-makers (Anthony Edwards).
This feels like a lot for the Timberwolves to give up at first glance. It’s not. Jarrett Culver hasn’t shown enough to still be treated as a top-six prospect, and Minnesota no longer has the gradual timeline to let him try working through the motions. Losing Malik Beasley stings, but Edwards’ emergence helps assuage his departure, as does Terrence Ross, who does a lot of the same things on a smaller scale.
Maybe Minnesota can finagle a package that doesn’t include Jaden McDaniels, someone who can guard pretty much every position, power his way to the rim and knock down open threes. Removing protections on the 2023 pick might do it. But the Magic should absolutely want a 20-year-old like him on a cheap contract. Between him, Beasley, the 2023 first and a chance to rehabilitate Culver’s value, they’re getting enough to move off Isaac.
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Aaron Gash/Associated Press
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Harrison Barnes
Sacramento Kings Receive: Brook Lopez, Donte DiVincenzo, No. 31
Small-ball seems like the optimal way for the Bucks to play moving forward. That doesn’t render Brook Lopez useless, but if they can acquire a bigger wing and plan to re-sign P.J. Tucker, adding a truer big from the bargain bin is probably the way to go.
This package becomes an even easier call if Milwaukee doesn’t lose Bobby Portis, who is overwhelmingly likely to decline his $3.8 million player option. Barnes can line up at the 3 or 4 in Giannis Antetokounmpo-as-the-lone-big arrangements, and the Bucks might be able to get away with some Harry B-at-the-5 combos during certain matchups.
Milwaukee’s tax bill goes through the roof if everything we’re talking about comes to fruition. That’s not our problem. Continuing to spend should be the mandate. Giannis didn’t stick around for the Bucks to pinch pennies, and failing to double-down on what could be the reigning champion is a tuh-errible look.
The Kings’ end of this deal is marginally tougher to grapple. They viewed DiVincenzo as the centerpiece in a Bogdan Bogdanovic sign-and-trade once upon a time. He is now entering a contract year and working his way back from a season-ending ankle injury.
Sacramento’s interest should persist. DiVincenzo doesn’t turn 25 until January and is a high-energy defensive chaser across the 1, 2 and 3 slots who does just enough shot-making and passing off the bounce to earn spot ball-handling reps.
Taking on Lopez’s two years and $27.2 million shouldn’t be a hangup. The Kings will need a starting big if Richaun Holmes gets the bag elsewhere. Lopez can still stretch defenses—hooray for Marvin Bagley III—and put the ball on the floor, and he remains valuable as a rim protector when he doesn’t need to play too high.
The No. 32 pick might be an unnecessary buffer depending on how much Sactown still loves DiVincenzo and likes Lopez. His Game 5 performance in the Eastern Conference Finals was, uh, pretty convincing. Milwaukee can pull it bac, but shouldn’t harp on its inclusion.
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Michael Conroy/Associated Press
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Myles Turner
Indiana Pacers Receive: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, No. 10
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Steven Adams, No. 35, 2022 first-round pick (least favorable from L.A. Lakers and New Orleans)
Myles Turner is someone the Pelicans should’ve pushed harder to acquire last offseason. They’d be smart to attempt a mulligan now.
The Pacers have some incentive to flip Turner for a cost-controlled, big-picture return. They’re within $15 million of the tax entering free agency before working in potential deals for T.J. McConnell and Doug McDermott, two players they shouldn’t just let walk. They have alternatives for cutting salary—Jeremy Lamb’s expiring deal, for instance—but moving Turner opens up more minutes for Domantas Sabonis at the 5.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker isn’t an established initiator by any stretch, but he gives Indiana’s offense more downhill juice and appears to have a higher shot-making peak than Aaron Holiday. The No. 10 selection leaves the Pacers with two lottery picks (No. 13)—cost-controlled prospects they can groom while still competing in the East, or assets to flip in other deals.
It could take more than No. 35 and a 2022 first-rounder for the Spurs to guzzle down the two years and $35 million on Steven Adams’ contract. But he still provides a modicum of (slower) defensive toughness and tons of basketball IQ, and they don’t have a ton of money invested in the center spot. Drew Eubanks and Jakob Poeltl will earn under $12 million between them next year.
Parting with two first-rounders and Walker is not an easy decision for the Pelicans. It’d be less if they didn’t have to get off Adams’ deal. Partnering Turner with Zion Williamson in the frontcourt makes this a digestible cost. Turner isn’t the most lethal three-point shooter, but he stretches the floor more than Adams or Jaxson Hayes, and his rim protection should assure New Orleans a league-average defense without having to make other wholesale changes.
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Steve Dykes/Associated Press
New York Knicks Receive: Damian Lillard
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Immanuel Quickley, Obi Toppin, No. 19, No. 21, 2022 first-round pick (unprotected), Dallas’ 2023 first-round pick (unprotected), 2024 first-round pick (unprotected), 2026 first-round pick (top-three protection)
Disclaimer: The Blazers are not actively shopping Damian Lillard. He is verging on unhappy in Portland, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, but they have every reason in the world to try making it work. Lillard could request a trade five seconds from now, and the Blazers still wouldn’t face real urgency. He has four years left on his contract (2024-25 player option).
The Knicks, among other teams, might as well call anyway. They have gobs of cap space this summer and no gettable superstar on which to spend it. Offering a continent’s worth of picks and flexibility in exchange for a top-10 player under a long-term contract is the best use of their assets and flexibility. They’re more likely to conserve spending power for 2022 or 2023 free agency if they don’t trade for a marquee name.
Building a package without RJ Barrett can come off as disingenuous. This isn’t an attempt to swindle the Blazers. Two years of his rookie-scale deal are in the books, and though he shouldn’t be a non-starter for the Knicks, his inclusion will cost Portland at least one of those future firsts. A team in the infant stages of what would be a total overhaul is better off with the draft equity.
This deal saves the Blazers more than $25 million right off the bat and cuts nine figures worth of contract costs over the long term. That’s financial plasticity they can use to start over. They’re also getting six first-round picks, two of which (2024 and 2026) likely post-date Lillard’s heyday.
Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin essentially count as first-rounders themselves. They’re both only a year into their NBA tenures, and they remain intriguing. Quickley made All-Rookie second team, and Toppin flashed nifty shooting, attacking and passing as the season wore on.
Portland can also try to extract first-round swaps or Mitchell Robinson (team option) from New York. But mixing in control of seven to eight total first-rounders probably demands Robert Covington be sent to The Big Apple. For the Knicks’ part, they not only getting Lillard but do so without having to renounce free-agent rights on Reggie Bullock, Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel.
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Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell, 2025 first-round swap (top-six protection, pending Dallas’ obligation to New York)
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Kemba Walker
This construction is being repopulated from our post-lottery shindig with a small adjustment. People polled on the initial framework suggested the Thunder wouldn’t get two first-round swaps—emphasis on swaps—for taking on Kristaps Porzingis (three years, $101.5 million) and Dwight Powell (two years, $22.2 million). Some wonder whether they’d even need one.
I’m sticking with one. Porzingis’ checkered health bill is a concern. He is cheaper than Kemba Walker per year and, at 25, can be part of the Thunder’s future. But his contract spans an extra season, and his birth date means only so much when his defensive mobility was shot by the end of 2020-21.
Oklahoma City is also saddling itself with Powell’s money. The pick swap feels at once necessary and like a bonus. For all his health concerns, Porzingis at his absolute zenith forecasts as a devastating floor-spacer and game-changing rim protector.
Dallas’ side of this trade is more straightforward. It sheds $6.5 million off this offseason’s cap sheet, $7.3 million in 2022-23 and $36 million in 2023-24 while bringing back a high-end shot-creating partner for Luka Doncic.
Indeed, the state of Kemba’s knees is a red flag, but he’s an All-Star scorer when healthy. This was the first time he converted under 35 percent of his off-the-dribble threes since 2015-16—and he still put them down at a 34.7 percent clip. He is, in all likelihood, a better partner for Doncic than anyone the Mavs can plausibly sign during free agency.
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John Raoux/Associated Press
Orlando Magic Receive: Tyus Jones, John Konchar, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protection; more favorable from Memphis or Utah’s top-six-protected pick)
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Terrence Ross
The Magic should view capitalizing on the value of their veterans as obligatory. They are at the beginning of what should be a thorough restart, and integrating two top-10 prospects next season—along with a healthy Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac—threatens to leave them in no-man’s land: too good to secure another top pick, yet not nearly good enough to cause a ruckus in the Eastern Conference.
Netting any first-round pick for Terrence Ross that doesn’t project to fall in the bottom seven qualifies as a win. It might also be difficult after he canned 33.7 percent of his threes last season. But that’s mostly owed to his playing for the G League version of the Magic after the trade deadline, during which time he saw his efficiency crater. He converted 37.3 percent of his treys over the previous six years.
Memphis’ offense perked up down the stretch of the 2020-21 and is about to have a full season of Jaren Jackson Jr. uncorking threes. It can still use a microwave scorer who occasionally goes unconscious from the floor.
Aiming for a bigger acquisition might be the Grizzlies’ prerogative after obliterating expectations for years running. But that requires forfeiting more value. Landing Ross, in this scenario, costs only the least favorable of two first-rounders, the expiring contract of a feisty-but-expendable backup point guard (Tyus Jones) and useful sniper (John Konchar) who will forever get limited run so long as Desmond Bane and Grayson Allen are hitting their threes.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Eric Gordon
Houston Rockets Receive: George Hill (non-guaranteed), Mike Scott (sign-and-trade), 2023 second-round pick (most favorable from Atlanta, Brooklyn and Charlotte)
Expecting to see some sort of Ben Simmons megadeal? Don’t worry. It’s coming.
From the Sixers’ perspective, though, now isn’t the ideal time to work the phones on Simmons. His value is at its nadir following a postseason vanishing act against the Atlanta Hawks. They’re better off trying to buoy his value ahead of the trade deadline rather than accepting what would’ve been considered no-go proposals last summer.
This shouldn’t be confused with the green light to do nothing. The Sixers cannot afford to remain idle, and team president Daryl Morey isn’t one to twiddle his thumbs. Philly needs a face-up scoring threat who can put more pressure on set defenses than Simmons, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris.
Eric Gordon is not the name most Sixers fans will want to hear. He is guaranteed $37.6 million over the next two seasons and missed most of last year with left knee and right groin issues.
Still, he should be gettable without conceding core assets. The Rockets have little need for a high-priced 32-year-old this early into their rebuild, and he addresses some of what ails Philly. His familiarity jacking ultra-long threes will open up pockets of space, and he shot 58.2 percent on drives last season—a top-six mark among 143 players who averaged at least five downhill attacks per game, behind only Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Joe Ingles, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Houston shouldn’t have any qualms with this return. It gets out from under Gordon’s multiyear commitment and might save more money if (read: when) Hill requests a buyout. Convincing Mike Scott to accept a sign-and-trade to the Rockets looms as the largest roadblock, and it shouldn’t be that hard to offer enough money in the short term to get him aboard.
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Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Phoenix Suns Receive: Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Jalen Smith, Dario Saric, No. 29
Sweet mother of ickiness. The Suns are in the Finals. They could be on their way to a title. And yet, here we are already making changes to next year’s roster.
To be fair, Phoenix’s nucleus isn’t set in stone beyond this season. Chris Paul has a player option. Cameron Payne (Early Bird rights) may price himself out of town. Torrey Craig has earned himself more than a one-year, league-minimum contract.
Going after Larry Nance Jr. touches upon exactly…none of those issues. But it noticeably spices up the Suns’ frontcourt rotation.
Deandre Ayton has validated himself as a viable defensive anchor who is difficult to play off the floor. When they did need to downsize, the Suns received A-plus small-ball-5 minutes from Dario Saric for most of the regular season. But that role didn’t perfectly translate to the playoffs. Saric saw his minutes and effectiveness plunge.
Larry Nance Jr. packs a more diverse punch. He canned 36 percent of his threes this year, flings crafty passes on the move and is mostly switch-proof. Using him at the 5 has proven defensively fragile, but Phoenix’s rotation includes more stopping power around him, and he is much better suited to logging minutes in tandem with Ayton.
Poaching Nance from the Cavaliers will be a challenge. It gets a little easier knowing he’s entering his age-29 season and they could select Evan Mobley at No. 3, but he’s a friggin’ steal at two years and $20.4 million. Jalen Smith has the cachet of being selected 10th overall, but he and Saric won’t do it on their own. Baking in the No. 29 pick will help, and the Suns can sell the Cavaliers on eating the final guaranteed year on Cedi Osman’s deal.
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Steve Dykes/Associated Press
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Ben Simmons, Anthony Tolliver (non-guaranteed)
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Robert Covington, CJ McCollum
Drastic measures are not the Blazers’ style. They futz. They fiddle. They don’t really overhaul. The Robert Covington and Norman Powell trades are the most noteworthy on-court transactions made by general manager Neil Olshey since he spent Portland into cap-sheet hell during 2016 free agency.
Trying for a smaller move that doesn’t upend the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum partnership is fine. Perhaps the Blazers can finagle a Larry Nance Jr. or Jonathan Isaac deal. But they lack expendable salaries to hit doubles unless a team is dying to land Jusuf Nurkic’s expiring contract. They are almost forced to chase triples and home runs.
Ben Simmons counts as the latter. His offensive passivity—to put it kindly—is a problem, but Lillard can ferry the Blazers to a top-10 attack while working within the confines of a crimped half-court. Simmons is a transcendent defensive talent, and lineups that surround him with enough shooting will reap the benefits of his preternatural vision.
McCollum has also technically never been more expendable if Portland wants to re-sign Powell and believes in Anfernee Simons. Neither matches McCollum’s shot-making, but the Blazers aren’t going to pay all three and Lillard. If they can keep Powell and Simons for roughly the cost of McCollum ($30.9 million), they have to at least think about it.
Philly’s side of the equation is more tenuous. This amounts to selling medium-low on Simmons. But McCollum injects the offense with the exact genre of bucket-getting it needs, and a Robert Covington reunion limits the defensive talent drain inherent to Simmons’ exit.
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Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Harrison Barnes, Delon Wright
Sacramento Kings Receive: Derrick Jones Jr. (player option), Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons, 2023 first-round pick (lottery protection)
Richaun Holmes’ free agency puts the Kings in a bind. They either need to open up cap space to keep him or figure out what to do in his absence.
As an advocate of “Push the blockbuster-trade button or lean into a full-scale rebuild” when it comes to Sacramento’s situation, this trade tilts a little too far toward treading water in the middle. Push comes to shove, though, it does an OK job of prioritizing the bigger picture.
Jusuf Nurkic isn’t the quintessential center for an offense that should play at warp speed, but his short roll decision-making will be a boon in the halfcourt, and he has provided glimpes at expanded range. Anfernee Simons is a fantastic off-the-dribble-scoring flier who might not cost a ton to extend or re-sign during 2022 restricted free agency.
Derrick Jones Jr. will outrun everyone in the open floor and is disruptive enough on defense to be part of the rotation. Sacramento would do well to experiment with him as a small-ball center. Any Blazers first-round pick that extends beyond 2022 is worth a stab in the dark. Who knows where Damian Lillard will be in 2023? Lottery protection safeguards Portland against disaster, but that selection has a chance to convey in the teens.
The Blazers would be awfully small after shipping out Nurkic without getting another 5 back in return. That’s not a huge deal. Serviceable centers can be signed on the cheap, and they could test out pocket-sized arrangements with Harrison Barnes and Robert Covington in the frontcourt. Mostly, they do this to up their defensive workability. Barnes is an upgrade at both the 3 and 4 spots, and Delon Wright can pester both guard spots in addition to certain wings.
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Ashley Landis/Associated Press
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, No. 22
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: DeMar DeRozan (sign-and-trade)
Will this be the year San Antonio embraces starting anew? It should be. DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are all free agents, and the roster is otherwise brimming with players on the right side of 25.
The Spurs might decide to re-sign their vets on short-term deals and make the most of 72-year-old Gregg Popovich’s time at the head coaching helm. This scenario does more for their long-term viability.
Kyle Kuzma has improved his defense enough to be viewed as an asset on a three-year, $39 million pact (2023-24 player option). His standstill three-point shooting isn’t knockdown, but it’s good enough. The Spurs should have the runway to plumb the depths of his an on-ball offense, an opportunity he hasn’t enjoyed since his rookie season.
Also: Pop hearts Kuz.
Montrezl Harrell doesn’t fit the San Antonio big-man mold, but he’s on an expiring contract and could use some rim-running pressure at the 5 spot. The value of No. 22 is self-explanatory: It’s another first-round prospect for a team that should want as many bites at the first-round apple as possible.
A DeRozan sign-and-trade doesn’t do anything to help the Lakers’ spacing. It does a whole lot to improve their non-LeBron James playmaking. DeRozan has long been San Antonio’s initiation engine, and Anthony Davis-at-the-5 lineups should offer just enough shooting to mitigate any claustrophobia.
Los Angeles would be hard-capped by a DeRozan sign-and-trade. That likely costs Dennis Schroder, if not also one of Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker. The Lakers can hang. They can send Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to San Antonio in lieu of Harrell to save some extra cash, but the former would be too important to their offensive spacing around DeRozan-and-Davis lineups.
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Mark Black/Associated Press
Toronto Raptors Receive: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kenrich Williams, No. 16
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: No. 4, OG Anunoby
Public service announcement: The Thunder should not be hocking Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on the auction block. He is a max-extension lock, but bankrolling the next deal doesn’t harsh their timeline. Going on 23, SGA is their timeline.
If the Raptors come calling with the No. 4 pick and OG Anunoby, wouldn’t the Thunder have to listen? They’d be left with two top-six selections, in addition to an almost-24-year-old wing who ranks as one of the best on-ball defenders alive and has shown the ability to stroke threes and attack open spaces. That Anunoby is just starting a four-year, $72 million extension only makes him more attractive.
Sending out this much for SGA feels like a slight overpay on the Raptors’ part. Getting back No. 16 and Kenrich Williams—a leigitimate rotation player this year—ensures it’s easier to stomach.
Plus, SGA might be worth all this on his own. He will be on a max deal in 2022-23 and missed about half of this season with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, but he looked the part of a tent-pole star before ending up on the shelf.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are the only other players who averaged over 20 points and five assists per game while shooting as efficiently on twos (54.7 percent) and threes (41.8 percent). And SGA joined this club while subsisting on almost exclusively self-manufactured looks. Just over 87 percent of his made buckets went unassisted—the highest share among 439 players who appeared in at least 20 games. The Raptors reopen their contention window if they place him beside Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
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Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
Utah Jazz Receive: Maxi Kleber, Josh Richardson (player option)
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Jordan Clarkson, Derrick Favors, No. 30
Serious sweat went into this deal. Gauging Jordan Clarkson’s value outside of Utah remains difficult. There is still a stigma attached to the three years and $40 million left on his deal.
There shouldn’t be. He cooled off down the stretch of this past season but still averaged 18.4 points while downing 52.3 percent of his twos. He immediately becomes Dallas’ second-best shot creator, and $13 millionish per year is more than reasonable for someone taking on that role.
Parting with Clarkson will be tough for the Jazz after he won Sixth Man of the Year. It gets a little easier if they know Mike Conley, an unrestricted free agent, isn’t going anywhere. Utah carves out enough shot creation between him, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles.
Josh Richardson brings a dash of that, as well—if he’s the player who was traded from Miami to land Jimmy Butler in 2019. There’s no guarantee he’ll ever be that again, which is a serious draft on his trade value. He is still useful to the Jazz as a four-position wing defender they don’t currently employ. Their offense also generates enough high-quality looks to extract better three-point shooting from just about anyone.
Maxi Kleber would be a huge get for the Jazz—a big who has shown he can rumble with Kawhi Leonard and gives them a pathway to playing smaller at the 5 during (select) moments in which Rudy Gobert becomes mismatched.
Sending him to Utah might actually be a non-starter for Dallas. He has just two years and $18.9 million left on his deal, and Derrick Favors (two years, $19.9) is a measurable downgrade. But the Mavericks are getting the best player in this deal and flipping Richardson at rock bottom. Clarkson’s shot creation and the No. 30 pick are, at the bare minimum, a viable starting point, and Favors has some value with Kleber gone and Boban Marjanovic hitting free agency.
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Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press
Washington Wizards Receive: No. 11
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Thomas Bryant, No. 15, 2022 second-round pick (most favorable from Chicago, Detroit or L.A. Lakers)
Best of luck to anyone workshopping Wizards trades. They are the rare team not built to complete any mid-sized moves. They do have the assets to make bigger swings if they include No. 15, Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura, but going down the all-in rabbit hole borders on unforgivable if Bradley Beal hasn’t committed to staying put.
Daniel Gafford’s emergence after coming over from Chicago does give Washington the license to gauge Thomas Bryant’s value. He missed most of this past season with a torn left ACL and cannot anchor a top-tier defense, but he spaces the floor, can finish off rim dives and crashes the glass. He remains a bargain at $8.7 million.
Imagining his fit in Charlotte isn’t difficult. The Hornets favored smaller, spacier lineups for much of this season. Bryant allows them to follow a similar blueprint without sacrificing a ton of size. They’ll have to reconcile his future in free agency next summer, but given their ambiguous position in the East, they should be content to kick the can on a steeper center investment until they have a better idea of where their core stands.
Perhaps Bryant and what should be a top-45 second-round pick in 2022 doesn’t get the Hornets to drop down four spots in the draft. It should at least be a good launching point, and Washington has the incentive to entertain counters. This deal saves the Wizards some money by sending Bryant into Charlotte’s cap space while giving them a crack at a higher-end pick who is more likely to contribute alongside Beal and also a potential building block should he leave or request a trade before then.
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