I hate to break it to everyone, but this season’s trade deadline is going to be a huge let down. The truth is there won’t be that many total trades. Blake Griffin will be the only star traded (definitely not Kawhi Leonard), and a majority of the trades that actually do happen will be moving around somewhat boring expiring contracts. There will be no five team, 13 player trades like the one in 2005 that set the Miami Heat up to win a championship. Too many NBA teams signed too many terrible contracts in the summer of 2016 when G.M.’s thought the salary cap would keep going up. After the salary cap went down, many teams were left in such a tough bind that swapping contracts isn’t as easy as the days of our youth. Here, I’ll include some of the slightly boring trades that could possibly happen in the real world.
That being said, we can still dream. I’m not so colossally arrogant that I would give myself a nickname like “The Picasso Of The Trade Machine” (shots fired). However, I do have some pretty artistic trade ideas to share.
To start with a dose of reality, let’s get the Cavs out of the way first. The team that’s on everyone’s minds this trade deadline. In last year’s finals, the Cavs had the offensive firepower to have some cute moments with the Warriors. Their downfall was clearly on the defensive end, allowing the Warriors to average 122 PPG in the five games of the finals. In response to this crater in their game, the Cavs have gotten even worse on the defensive end. The Cavs at this very moment sit third to last in the league in defensive rating with the most optimistic grasping for reasons the rating will rise much higher than the Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, and the Phoenix Suns.
If they want a roster that can contend with the Warriors for real or even the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals for that matter, they are going to have to have a serious roster revolution. One trade for Lou Williams, or one trade for Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris, or one trade for Jesus of Nazareth won’t cut it. Even if they trade Kevin Love for solid defensive role players (which they should try) and also separately trade Isaiah Thomas for solid defensive role players (which they absolutely should try) it would not be enough. How many trades will it take to give them the defense and depth needed to win a title? Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…
Mix and Match
With our feet and consciousness still grounded in reality, here are some simple and realistic swaps to consider. There’s a list of scoring wing players whose names have been bouncing around the rumor mill for various reasons. Below that is a list of teams who just might be buyers looking to add depth to their team for a playoff run. Mix and match as you please.
Players: Rodney Hood, Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Evan Fournier, Kent Bazemore.
Teams: Bucks, Thunder, Pistons, Cavaliers, Rockets, Nuggets, Timberwolves.
When Gordon Hayward bounced to Boston last summer, there was plenty of talk about Rodney Hood taking up a lot more responsibility in Utah especially on the offensive end. He does seem to be inconsistent and slightly injury prone but to his credit, he did actually improve his overall numbers. His FG% went up along with his PPG, from 12 to 16. Hood has an expiring contract this summer and will be looking for a paycheck that the Jazz might not want to offer. They will be looking for some value back for Hood so that they are not left with nothing if the Nets offer him a $75 million dollar contract like they did with Allen Crabbe in the summer of 2016. Plus, with rookie Donavan Mitchell’s performance thus far, getting rid of Hood doesn’t necessarily hurt the Jazz if they still want to make a playoff run this year. Besides, Utah should want to make as much room on the court for rookie phenom Donavan Mitchell to spread his wings and soar.
Spontaneous song break:
What team might be eyeing Mr. Hood? A previous trade partner of Utah might give them a call. OKC’s bench is third lowest in scoring in the league. They will want a bucket getter who is less of a defensive liability than Lou Williams to continue to maintain their defensive culture.
|Utah Jazz||OKC Thunder|
|T. Ferguson – $1,785,000 (4 years)
D. Johnson – $813,615
|Rodney Hood – $2,386,864 (1 year)|
Utah doesn’t mind Terrence Ferguson being a young project and they like his potential to be a tough three & D role player (a player archetype growing more and more valuable in today’s league).
OKC is hesitant because they don’t want to go even farther into the luxury tax. But they agree to it anyways since maybe they’re still trying to please Paul George with some further team success. Hood can come off the bench and be an offensive driver. Or he can be a part of a solid starting five of Westbrook, Hood, George, Carmelo, and Adams.
What Dreams Are Made Of
If you’re looking for a more fun trade scenario that still involves the Jazz – here’s a shot in the dark:
|Cleveland Cavaliers||Utah Jazz|
|R. Rubio – $14,275,000 (2 years)||Kevin Love $22,642,350 (3 years)|
|D. Favors – $12,000,000 (1 year)||I. Thomas – $6,261,395 (1 year)|
|Rodney Hood – $2,386,864 (1 year)|
|Acquiring – $28,661,864||$28,903,745|
Why do the Cavs do it? If we’re being honest, Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas are the Cavs biggest defensive liabilities. J.R. Smith is a close third on that list. If the Cavs want to make an overall defensive improvement it totes makes sense to get rid of them. Why would they do that for the likes of Ricky Rubio? Maybe the Cavs took the hint from LeBron last year about needing another playmaker. There’s no arguing Ricky Rubio isn’t a playmaker (that’s about all he is). They might also be interested in Derrick Favors as a player who can do what Tristan Thompson is supposed to be doing but on a slightly better contract ($4 million less per year).
Why does Utah do it? Rudy “The Stifle Tower” Gobert, who arguably should have received the defensive player of the year award last season might be the best defensive team anchor in the league. Maybe Utah believes he can make up for Love and Thomas’ defensive deficiencies. Gobert and Love would be an amazing frontcourt duo. Gobert could utilize his length deep in the post while Love drains threes and mid-rangers as he is doing so efficiently this season. Rubio doesn’t quite fit with the Jazz offense long-term but Thomas could step in and thrive in Coach Snyder’s motion offense that so often has guards get space at the wing coming off pin-down or curl-around screens. The biggest problem with this trade idea is that Donavan Mitchell and Isaiah Thomas’ skillsets likely overlap too much for Utah’s comfort. If the Jazz truly believe Thomas is hampering Mitchell’s growth they could just let Thomas walk in the off-season, or they more simply won’t agree to the trade.
Let’s pull a Leo and dive deeper into dream world.
|Charlotte Hornets||Portland Trail Blazers||Denver Nuggets|
|CJ McCollum – $24.0M (4 years)||M. Kidd-Gilchrist – $13.0M (3 years)||Kemba Walker – $12M (2 years)|
|D. Arthur – $7.5M (2 years)||P. Connaughton – $1.5M (1 year)|
|Will Barton – $3.5M (2 years)|
|E. Mudiay – $3.4M (2 years)|
|Malik Monk – $2.9M (4 years)|
In The Washington Post, Tim Bontemps wrote on how Portland might need to risk breaking up the Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum backcourt. Besides Oakland’s splash brothers, Lillard and McCollum are the most offensively dynamic and un-guardable backcourt in the league. But Bontemps explains that the dark side is that they are both undersized guards without any other personnel on the roster to take off the duo’s defensive load. Damian Lillard is a more valuable player than McCollum and has adopted Portland’s obnoxiously hipster fashion sense too quickly to be traded to a new city.
In this trade scenario, Portland gets rid of McCollum and takes a risk on Kidd-Gilchrist that could pay off with a defensive boost. Will Barton would take McCollum’s starting spot and provide some scoring and Mudiay (21 years old) with Malik Monk (19 years old) could put the trailblazer’s minds at ease looking to the future. Monk was often compared to McCollum as a draft prospect and could be groomed as such.
Just a couple days after it came out that the Hornets were shopping Kemba Walker, majority owner Michael Jordan explained in an interview that it would only be for star talent. McCollum has reached that threshold. With today’s NBA valuing a fast pace, spread the floor, three-point shooting style, C.J. McCollum could certainly run his own team as a star. The Bobcats do make an upgrade but they would still be a middle of the pack, 8th seed-ish team. Looking at the franchise’s track record, it doesn’t seem like they would have a problem with that.
The final team involved in the trade, the Denver Nuggets finally fill the point guard void they desperately need. The Nuggets signed Paul Millsap in offseason free agency hopeful he would help them get over the 8th seed hump and into the playoffs after missing it for the last five seasons. Walker fits with the team perfectly. The Nuggets have built their team using the Warriors championship model with three-pointers and fast breaks galore. Walker could show up on his first day in Denver running and gunning in sync with the squad.
Back To Reality
At the end of some fun day-dreamy trade scenarios I’ll leave you with this 89’ dance classic.