7 NBA Trades That Need to Happen Before Training Camp
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It’s a good time to talk NBA trades.
And not just because it’s always a good time to talk NBA trades.
With the 2021 offseason essentially complete, rosters have taken shape and started revealing teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Rather than waiting to address those in-season, we have fired up the trade machines to fix them right now.
The following seven swaps probably won’t happen between now and the start of training camp on September 28, but they should.
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Chicago Bulls receive: Cam Reddish
Atlanta Hawks receive: Coby White
The Hawks may not have enough minutes on the wing to properly develop Cam Reddish. The Bulls may lack the backcourt chances and touches to bring Coby White along.
Could these two Eastern Conference clubs come together for a win-win swap?
It seems possible. Atlanta has long tried to solve its non-Trae Young minutes, and White could represent the most interesting solution to date. Right now, the Hawks either have to sacrifice scoring and volume shooting with Delon Wright or size with 6’1″, 180-pound rookie Sharife Cooper.
White might give Atlanta the best of both worlds as a 6’5″, 195-pounder who can hunt for his own shots, create them for others or spot up off the ball. If the Hawks hit big on his development, he could become someone who can both spell Young and suit up alongside him.
As for Chicago, this roster is screaming for reinforcements at small forward. Patrick Williams’ long-term home seems to be power forward, which might explain why Lauri Markkanen no longer resides in the Windy City. Troy Brown Jr. hasn’t proved he can consistently contribute at this level. Stanley Johnson is still most notable for being a top-10 pick six years ago.
In other words, the Bulls can clear the runway for the Reddish like the wing-heavy Hawks cannot. His name surfaced in trade rumors near the draft, and Chicago would be wise to pounce. He has struggled with injuries and inconsistency so far, but you can see the outline of a three-and-D wing who also helps with shot-creation.
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Phoenix Suns receive: Thaddeus Young
San Antonio Spurs receive: Dario Saric and Jalen Smith
The Spurs still haven’t fully shifted into the rebuild initially necessitated by Kawhi Leonard’s departure in 2018, but this is easily the closest they’ve come. They split with LaMarcus Aldridge in March and then let DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay walk in free agency.
In this new environment, Thaddeus Young looks out of place. San Antonio acquired him in the DeRozan sign-and-trade with the Chicago Bulls, but Young always felt like the means to an end. The Spurs’ biggest prize in that exchange was a 2025 first-round pick. Assuming Young’s stay in the Alamo City is brief, San Antonio should also get an asset or two back from him in a trade.
Win-now vultures are already eyeing a Young deal, with the Suns among them, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. Phoenix should have minutes available for a role-playing forward, and Young could even soak up a little floor time as a small-ball center.
He’s worth the investment as the Suns look to sustain their success from last season’s Western Conference championship. Plugging him into the same frontcourt as Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson should give Phoenix a forward group for any situation. All four are two-way contributors who can fill supporting roles as Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton share the spotlight.
The Spurs have assembled a decent amount of youth on the perimeter, but they could use more on the interior. If they are believers in Jalen Smith, last year’s 10th overall pick, this might do the trick. He barely saw the floor for the win-now Suns, but if the Spurs are more patient, they could uncover the unicorn combination of rim protection and floor spacing.
While Dario Saric faces a lengthy rehab after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during the Finals, he still has two seasons left on his contract. That means the Spurs would have time to get him back to full strength and potentially ship him out later in another future-focused trade like this.
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Houston Rockets receive: Marvin Bagley III
Sacramento Kings receive: D.J. Augustin, Danuel House Jr. and 2024 second-round pick
In case there was any confusion about Houston’s short- and long-term plans for the post-James Harden era, the Rockets cleared that up this summer. After investing four first-round picks in teenagers, this franchise is clearly comfortable playing the long game.
That approach has its perks, with patience chief among them. Houston should use its lack of urgency as a buying opportunity to take on Marvin Bagley III and see if it can tap into the talents that made him the second overall pick of the 2018 draft.
In Sacramento, Bagley is best known as either the player drafted instead of Luka Doncic or the one whose father tweeted a trade request to the team. In Houston, Bagley would be just another developmental project on a roster full of them. The removal of expectations and excess baggage might let the 22-year-old focus on his craft and potentially play his way into Houston’s future blueprint.
The Kings, meanwhile, are out of patience. Tying the NBA’s all-time record for a playoff drought can do that.
They want to chase a postseason spot and might be dubious about Bagley’s chances to help with that. So, rather than crossing their fingers and hoping he’ll solve his issues with injuries and inconsistency, they could flip him for two established pros and a future second-round pick.
D.J. Augustin has a wealth of experience to share with young Kings guards De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell. Augustin also remains a knockdown shooter who takes care of the basketball. If Danuel House Jr. can avoid the injury issues that plagued his 2020-21 campaign, he could give Sacramento another three-and-D option on the wing.
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New York Knicks receive: Terrence Ross, 2022 second-round pick and 2022 second-round pick (via IND)
Orlando Magic receive: Obi Toppin and Kevin Knox II
Terrence Ross was the lone Magic vet left behind at the trade deadline. It’s well past time someone saves him, and the scoring-starved Knicks are the perfect suitor.
They’ve spent much of this summer trying to fire up their 22nd-ranked offense. Still, free-agency deals with Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker probably won’t fix everything ailing this attack.
Terrence Ross might not either, but he’d be another helpful step in the right direction. He’s a streaky player who vacillates between fiery scoring displays and frigid spells, but he has become more of a consistent asset. Since the start of 2018-19, he has put up 19.8 points and 3.2 triples per 36 minutes while shooting 36.2 percent from three and 86.5 percent at the line.
Barring another big jump from RJ Barrett or a sudden return to health by Walker, the Knicks might not have a steady scoring co-star for Julius Randle. If that’s the case, they’ll want as many temporary fill-ins as possible. Ross can handle that role on certain nights. Maybe the two second-round picks help them get another player who can, too.
As for the Magic, they should be looking for all the young players they can get. After overloading at point guard and center, this trade would help them branch out with a pair of forwards.
The big catch is Obi Toppin, last year’s No. 8 pick. He didn’t get much burn as a rookie, and with Randle still soaking up most of the playing time at power forward, Toppin might need a change of scenery to get his career going. All of Orlando’s bigs have question marks, so Toppin would have a much better chance of earning regular minutes.
Kevin Knox II, the No. 9 pick in 2018, has done little to suggest he’s not a lost cause, but the Magic would have nothing to lose by giving him some floor time and seeing what happens.
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New Orleans Pelicans receive: Kristaps Porzingis
Dallas Mavericks receive: Jonas Valanciunas, Tomas Satoransky, Jaxson Hayes, 2022 second-round pick and 2022 second-round pick (via CLE)
Let’s get the particulars out of the way first. The Pels would need to find one more money-matcher for this deal to work. And it couldn’t actually be brokered before training camp, since Tomas Satoransky can’t be traded with another player until Oct. 8. But that would still get this done before the season, so we’ll allow it—just like we’ll allow the fine front office folks to complete the financial puzzle.
OK, the framework of this exchange is where the fun stuff is, so let’s dissect.
In June, word broke that family members of Pelicans’ franchise face Zion Williamson “want [him] on another team,” per Charania, Joe Vardon and William Guillory of The Athletic. The report’s timing suggested a possible attempt to get the front office to dream big this offseason.
New Orleans went a different route. It kept busy this summer but perhaps made its biggest improvement on the financial front—which is good from an organizational standpoint but doesn’t help Williamson on the court. Turning Steven Adams into Jonas Valanciunas won’t improve the spacing around Williamson enough. Letting go of Lonzo Ball and getting Devonte’ Graham (and not Kyle Lowry) is either a lateral move or an outright downgrade.
The Pels need to do better and could by buying low on Kristaps Porzingis, who may have worn out his welcome in Dallas.
If New Orleans could get Porzingis back to full strength—right knee injuries have limited his mobility—it might have the perfect frontcourt partner for Williamson. Porzingis is both a shot-blocker and shot-maker from the perimeter, meaning he could cover for Williamson’s weaknesses and help accentuate his strengths. With those two and Brandon Ingram, the Pels could be a plucky playoff matchup for anyone.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, could go from owing Porzingis $101.5 million over the next three seasons (the final year is a player option) to having $24 million in expiring salaries between Valanciunas and Tomas Satoransky. They might see Jaxson Hayes as a long-term option at center and would have the two second-rounders to keep or put in future trades.
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Golden State Warriors receive: Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma
Washington Wizards receive: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and 2022 first-round pick (top-five protected)
Before digging into this deal, let’s start with a disclaimer: There’s probably zero chance this happens before the season starts. Bradley Beal has never said a word about wanting out of Washington, and the Wizards just retooled their roster around him. The Warriors have downplayed the likelihood of a James Wiseman deal and are “quite high” on No. 7 pick Jonathan Kuminga, per B/R’s Jake Fischer.
All of that said, this feels like each club is waiting to gather intel their instincts should already see coming. Washington isn’t a championship contender and has no obvious paths to become one during the remainder of Beal’s prime. Golden State owes Stephen Curry a chance to compete for a ring and feels overly reliant on a still recovering Klay Thompson and a batch of unproven prospects.
Why wait to see something that deep down they probably already know? Why not break camp with a roster better headed in the direction each team should take?
Unless the Wizards work a few miracles on the player development front, they might need to take a step back to eventually make the kind of forward progress needed to raise their ceiling. This deal could do it. Wiseman and Kuminga are blue-chippers. Andrew Wiggins is solid and, at 26 years old, still has a chance to grow. Adding a first-round pick gives the franchise another throw at the draft dartboard.
The Warriors need more point-producing punch around Curry, and in Beal, they’d get it from the player who finished second to him in last season’s scoring race. Pair those two with a hopefully healthy Thompson, Draymond Green and a fifth complementary piece—Andre Iguodala, Moses Moody, Otto Porter Jr., Kevon Looney—and that looks like a quintet capable of raising another championship banner.
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Portland Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers receive: CJ McCollum and two future first-round picks
The Sixers want to swing big in a Ben Simmons swap, as Fischer reported they’d like to land a package they could immediately route to Portland for Damian Lillard.
However, that always felt like wishful thinking—at best. While Simmons’ playoff struggles didn’t torpedo his trade value, they took a chunk out of his stock. His recent trade demand and plan to skip training camp without a trade, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, took another bite out of the apple.
Still, Simmons has difference-making upside as a do-it-all defender, transition attacker and, if he buys in, a lethal screen-setter who can create plays out of high pick-and-rolls. That player not only can fit with Lillard, but he might also represent a big enough prize to satisfy the antsy point guard.
CJ McCollum, meanwhile, would address Philly’s longstanding need for an impact shot-creator on the perimeter. Before a foot fracture forced him off the floor for two months, he seemed destined to make his first All-Star appearance. His first 12 contests featured offensive execution at its finest, as he tallied per-game contributions of 27.6 points and 5.3 assists, plus a shiny 47.0/43.4/84.4 shooting slash.
Philly needs an offensive co-star for Joel Embiid. Portland needs an elite stopper to fix its 29th-ranked defense. This trade could finally scratch both itches, with the Sixers gaining a pair of first-round picks—the years of which would be determined by an outstanding lottery-protected pick owed to the Bulls—for the fact Simmons is younger, under contract longer and possesses a higher ceiling.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.
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