I wasn’t going to do this, but at the last minute I decided to take one last trip to the trade machine (before NBA Draft season). This article will include trades with playoff teams, but the primary focus will be the squads on the outside of the playoff picture (plus a short bit about the .500 Philadelphia 76ers).
Los Angeles Clippers (26-25)
The Clippers just collected what’s likely to be a mid-first round pick (top-four protected) from Detroit. Can DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams help them acquire some more future draft selections? Jordan is approaching 30 and seeking a max contract despite questions surrounding his value and fit going forward in the modern-day NBA. The fact that DeAndre has a player option ($24.1 million) for 2018-19 further obfuscates this already cloudy picture. Williams (31) is in the final year of his current deal, and he may be inclined to follow the money this summer after posting his best season. I’m legitimately curious as to which of these borderline All-Stars is more highly-coveted heading into the trade deadline.
My guess: given the contract complications, it’s Sweet Lou who most teams are calling the Clippers about. Of course, it’s also possible that L.A. doesn’t receive the right offers, keeps these key cogs and sneaks into the playoffs. As of this writing, the Clippers are only 2.5 games behind the fifth-placed Oklahoma City Thunder (30-24). Moreover, New Orleans (28-24) recently lost DeMarcus Cousins to injury, Portland (29-24) hasn’t been unstoppable by any stretch of the imagination and Denver (28-25) has been unpredictable as well. A Clipper playoff push remains within the realm of possibility.
Here’s what I’ve got: DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams for Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick. AND in a separate deal, due to the fact that Avery Bradley can’t be combined in a deal with other players, Bradley for Channing Frye and Cleveland’s 2018 first-round pick. To sum up, Williams and Bradley would bolster the backcourt rotation. The Cavaliers would restore their status as Eastern Conference frontrunners, adding three proven veteran contributors in Jordan, Williams and Bradley. But the Clippers would still win this deal. Jordan may struggle to stay on the court in another potential rematch with the Warriors, and both Clipper guards are due for raises this summer. This is simply too much of a gamble for the Cavaliers, and it wouldn’t provide any assurance that LeBron James re-signs. I’d be absolutely shocked if this blockbuster trade goes down. More likely: L.A. is done wheeling and dealing (for now).
Philadelphia 76ers (25-25)
A Lou Williams reunion would be fun. Local star Tyreke Evans, though much-improved, is not a fit. A couple weeks ago I suggested Kent Bazemore as an option. But Philly should probably just chill and let the chips fall where they may this year. Preserving cap space and targeting a 3-and-D wing in the mid-first round of the 2018 NBA Draft is a prudent plan.
Detroit Pistons (25-26)
The Pistons and Clippers nearly broke NBA Twitter already, and the early returns have been pretty promising (read: fun) for Detroit. Pardon me for thinking that Stan Van Gundy is out of moves here.
Utah Jazz (24-28)
Utah is currently 3.5 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Without any introduction, I’m going to throw out a couple trade scenarios, one lukewarm, the other scalding hot. Brace yourselves.
First the fire: Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Joe Johnson for Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and two first round-picks (Brooklyn 2018, Cleveland 2018). Utah abandons its race for the playoffs and takes on two sticky contracts (Thompson, Shumpert) in exchange for a pair of picks. Thompson and Shumpert are both on bad deals, but at least they are gritty veterans who fit the Jazz’s culture. Nabbing the Nets’ pick would be such a splash that I don’t see how Utah could say no to this. It’s a similar situation to the Clippers, where the Jazz just don’t appear all that eager to shell out big money to their soon-to-be free agents. Building for the future might make more sense for both.
For the other guys, Cleveland adds four players who can contribute and improve the club’s championship odds right away, and three of those four (Favors, Hood, Johnson) will be free agents this summer. Favors would be the best center James has played with since Chris Bosh. He’d provide the Cavaliers with a real rim protector worth paying in the offseason. Favors is less valuable alongside Rudy Gobert (or operating as a backup), so this is one of those situations where I think both sides stand to benefit. For the record, I think Favors is a much better fit (DeAndre than Jordan is) for Cleveland.
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Hood, Burks and Johnson would bolster a weak wing rotation, with Hood and Burks being potential long-term additions. This would be another all-in move for the Cavs, and one that would make them vulnerable if LeBron leaves Cleveland behind once again. Nevertheless, this package is more enticing (to me) than the aforementioned Clippers concoction.
Now the mild, which is probably closer to frigid following the last one: Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson for Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes and Abdel Nader. The Celtics might believe they can re-sign Hood for cheaper than they’d be able to retain Smart, and they might feel Rodney is a better fit as well. Baynes has been solid, but if Boston can’t find a better deal for Smart, they might appreciate additional depth along the wing (without any future contract obligations).
For the Jazz, Smart might be a questionable offensive fit next to Donovan Mitchell, but defensively that duo would really be something. Two pit-bulls biting opposing backcourts’ heads off: sign me up. If Ricky Rubio sticks too, that’s a heck of a defensive trio. The fact that the Jazz still have Dante Exum in waiting and would probably need to back up the Brink’s truck to re-sign Smart makes this unlikely, but it’s still fun to imagine.
Charlotte Hornets (23-29)
I’m not necessarily on board with the idea of Charlotte trading Kemba Walker unless Nic Batum and Dwight Howard are included. And so, here’s what I’ve got: Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Cedi Osman and two first-round picks (Brooklyn 2018, Cleveland 2018) for Walker, Batum and Howard. The main reason this won’t happen is it adds over seven million in salary to Cleveland’s payroll, which would add $14 million to Dan Gilbert’s tax bill.
New York Knicks (23-31)
For Knicks fans hoping to see me trade Joakim Noah, you’re out of luck. And no, I don’t think New York should try to trade Noah and Frank Ntilikina for Kemba Walker.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-31)
If the Lakers want to chase free agents this summer, they need to shed some salary. Jordan Clarkson is the most movable player with a large contract, and Julius Randle’s bird rights could sweeten the potential pot. The Lakers could offer Randle and Clarkson to the Grizzlies in exchange for Ben McLemore and Brandan Wright. That would save L.A. a nice chunk of change going forward, and perhaps Memphis would be willing to part with a second-rounder as well.
Brooklyn Nets (19-35)
I’ve got three fake trades for veteran 3-and-D forward DeMarre Carroll: Carroll will be coveted by playoff contenders looking for depth along the wing. And there’s no such thing as too much wing depth, so the Nets could be receiving a lot of calls these days. It’s unlikely that the Nets would settle for less than a first round pick, as DeMarre has been a big part of Brooklyn’s turnaround in 2017-18. Cleveland, Minnesota and Portland would be thrilled to get their hands on Carroll.
DeMarre Carroll for Cedi Osman, Iman Shumpert and a first round pick (Cleveland 2018)
DeMarre Carroll for Cole Aldrich, Shabazz Muhammad, Marcus-Georges Hunt and a first round pick (OKC 2018)
DeMarre Carroll for Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh and a first round pick (Portland 2018)
Memphis Grizzlies (18-34)
Memphis has been holding out for a first round pick in exchange for Tyreke Evans. He’s on an expiring contract though, and there might not be as many teams bidding for Evans as we are being told. Do you believe half the league is after him? Anyways, the Wizards have hung tough minus John Wall, with Tomas Satoransky stepping up to the challenge. Still, Evans would ease the burden on Wall, Bradley Beal and Satoransky, and he could be had for a pick plus peanuts.
Tyreke Evans for Tim Frazier, Sheldon Mac and a first round pick (Washington 2018)
Chicago Bulls (18-34)
The Bulls are still doing too much winning, that is unless they get lucky. It happened once upon a time with Derrick Rose, but rather than relying on winning the lottery with the seventh-best odds, dealing the team’s two most productive veterans would surely slow Chicago down. And if the Bulls were willing to take on the contracts of Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert, thus allowing Cleveland to shed $10 million in salary, they could snatch up Brooklyn’s first-rounder.
Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday for Mo Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman and a first round pick (Portland 2018)
Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday for Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Cedi Osman and a first round pick (Brooklyn 2018)
Phoenix Suns (18-36)
Chandler and Dudley can still play a role in the league, and Washington might be desperate enough to go all-in. Dudley has only spoken fondly of John Wall, whom he credited for his latest paycheck on a podcast with Zach Lowe. Chandler would be an upgrade over Gortat, while Dudley would allow the Wizards the choice to play smaller sometimes.
Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley for Marcin Gortat, Jason Smith, Tim Frazier and a first round pick (Washington 2018)
Dallas Mavericks (17-36)
Matthews is still making it rain from beyond the arc and defending at a decent level. If the Mavericks really want a first round pick in return for him though, they’ll probably have to take on a contract that’s less than stellar, and they’ll need to call a contender. Here are three trades that fit those qualifications:
Wesley Matthews for Iman Shumpert, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic and a first round pick (Cleveland 2018)
Wesley Matthews for Gorgui Dieng and a first round pick (OKC 2018)
Wesley Matthews for Meyers Leonard, Noah Vonleh, Jake Layman and a first round pick (Portland 2018)
Sacramento Kings (16-36)
Did that deal with Cleveland fall through? It sure seems like it. Could it be resurrected this week? Of course.
Let’s go down a different rabbit hole. The Trail Blazers and Kings both made mistakes, but Sacramento’s is less serious given that they stink (sorry Kings fans) and don’t need to appease a star like Damian Lillard. Portland would play Hill as the starting small forward with Al-Faruq Aminu at the 4 and Jusuf Nurkic at the 5. Hill has enough length and strength to survive at the 3 on defense, and he can provide similar playmaking to Turner without the inability to shoot threes. But everything comes at a price. With a lack of leverage themselves, it’s hard to see the Kings making out like bandits. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what they do in this world:
George Hill for Evan Turner and two first round picks (Portland 2018, 2020)
Atlanta Hawks (16-37)
Bazemore is having his best season, prospering despite being on the other team’s scouting report on a nightly basis. A player boasting his 3-and-D skills, leadership and camaraderie with teammates, Kent would be a critical addition to several teams hoping to taste some success in the playoffs. Portland wouldn’t be foolish for coughing up two first-rounders if they could snag Bazemore and ditch Turner. Cleveland probably won’t do somersaults for him since it would increase their payroll, but he’d be an immediate upgrade as a starting wing for Portland, Cleveland and Washington.
Kent Bazemore for Evan Turner and two first round picks (Portland 2018, 2020)
Kent Bazemore and Luke Babbit for Iman Shumpert, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic and a first round pick (Brooklyn 2018)
Kent Bazemore for Marcin Gortat, Sheldon Mac and a first round pick (Washington 2018)
Orlando Magic (15-36)
Orlando need not do a thing. Whatever they are doing is working. Let the losses continue to pile up. Allow some time to pass before giving up another player who will break out as soon as he is traded. Keep Aaron Gordon. Keep Evan Fournier. Keep Nik Vucevic. For the love of everything (or anything) sacred, do not trade Jonathan Isaac. Take a couple deep breaths and then focus your attention on scouting. The NBA Draft is today, and everyday from now until late June.