Trade Machine SZN: 2020 Offseason Edition

The last NBA trade took place on February 6 (Feb. 7, Philippine time) which seems like a decade ago, given everything that has happened since then. Luckily, with the 2020 Draft set to occur next month, and with the 2020-21 season reportedly kicking off as soon as December, we could be in for an avalanche of deals given some changes in the offseason. Firstly, there’s going to be a shorter training camp period, coupled with a compressed preseason schedule (if there even is one). That means getting everyone together ASAP will be key. Also this free agent class won’t exactly set the world on fire, so if you’re a team looking to boost your roster, it will need to be done via trades.

Here are some of the bigger names that could be wearing another team’s uniform in a few weeks. It must be said though, these trades we’re tossing out are not borne out of any inside information. To quote the blokes over at Cultaholic, “It’s not what we think will happen, it’s what we want to happen.”

That caveat in mind, here are the stars that might shift constellations, and hypothetical deals that would suit them.

Photo from Getty Images

Bradley Beal

In a parallel universe, the Washington Wizard should be on the last year of his deal, but in this timeline, he signed a two-year extension in October 2019, keeping him under team control until 2023. That means the team will be able to reform that one-two punch of him and a returning John Wall come 2020-21.

Unless they trade him, of course.

While it’s true that the former Bullets franchise is curious to see if the pairing can make magic happen again, the (side? main?) benefit of extending Beal would be the ability to demand more when teams come knocking for him, compared to if he was an expiring contract. Should a squad desperate for firepower extend a Godfather-level offer, it could be difficult for Washington brass to say no, especially if said offer gives them the pieces to begin a rebuild.

The Hypothetical Trade:

  • WAS acquires: PG Spencer Dinwiddie, SG/SF Caris LeVert, C Jarrett Allen, and BKN’s 2021 and 2023 first-round picks (top-3 protected)
  • BKN acquires: SG Bradley Beal

The Nets have been coveting Beal since pre-pandemic, as the team has been looking to form a Big Three along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. And while the squad put up a valiant effort minus those guys in the bubble, odds are good they’re not going to shed too many tears if it means they can snatch Beal up (I also like the trend of Brooklyn mortgaging their future once more. It’d be a bad habit they can’t break).

The Wizards do this because they get a trio of young stars at multiple positions of need. Having Beal be a one-man team is not a recipe for success, and you’d be hard-pressed to name another Wizard aside from him, Wall, Rui Hachimura, and maybe Davis Bertans (a free agent), so why not upgrade your talent across the board? And don’t underestimate the potential of those picks either. Yes, Irving, Durant, and DeAndre Jordan are friends, but we’ve yet to really see they play together. It’s a situation that has the ingredients to be volatile, chemistry-wise.

Photo from USA Today

Chris Paul

The 2019-20 Oklahoma City Thunder had their W/L over/under pegged at 32.5. Instead, they captured the fifth seed with 41 victories, and were a three-pointer away from upsetting the Houston Rockets in the first round of the postseason. A lot of the credit for that overachieving run can be placed at the feet of Mr. State Farm Christopher Paul.

But if last season was the Thunder half-in/half-out of a rebuild, you can expect the team to dive deeper into a teardown this upcoming campaign, as foretold by the exit of former head coach Billy Donovan. That means it makes sense to deal Paul (and his big contract) while the memory of his postseason run is still fresh. Now, OKC is already swimming in picks (thanks Clippers and Rockets!) so they don’t have to be too greedy when it comes to a Paul deal. If they can get back some shorter contracts, coupled with young talent or a few assets, they could be in business.

The Hypothetical Trade:

  • OKC acquires: PF Ersan Ilyasova, G George Hill, PG Eric Bledsoe, F DJ Wilson, and the rights to swap first-round picks with MIL in 2023
  • MIL acquires: PG Chris Paul

The Bucks ran into a brick wall during the 2020 Playoffs. The way it played out, the Miami Heat prevented Giannis Antetokounmpo from getting to the rim, and dared the rest of the squad to make outside shots. You can kinda guess how that worked out.

Trading for Chris Paul is a massive gamble. If it doesn’t work, Giannis is out the door most likely, and the team will have to pay CP3 a whopping $44 million in 2021. It’s still a deal they’ll likely make. Despite his age, Paul can still set the table, hit mid-range jumpers, and be pesky on the defensive end, all things Milwaukee lacked. Perhaps the Deer front office can come up with some subtler tweaks to the roster to move this group further, but a deal for Paul is the obvious move, though it’s hardly a guarantee (sorry to depress all of the Bucks fans out there).

The Thunder get to check off all of the previously mentioned boxes – they break up the Paul contract into smaller bits, get a young talent in Wilson (someone whom diehard Bucks fans have wanted to get more minutes), and a pick swap, just in case Giannis does bolt. If they can then spin Bledsoe into more assets, so much the better for them in this scenario.

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Russell Westbrook

♪ Everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same ♪

No more Mike D’Antoni. No more Daryl Morey.

The Houston Rockets gambled on small ball, only to get squashed by the eventual champion LA Lakers’ version of small ball, anchored by their cheat code, Anthony Davis. And with the scheme’s architect and implementer gone, it’s likely that the Rockets will look very, very different next season.

And if they do, where does that leave Russell Westbrook?

Westbrook was already a tenuous fit on Houston in the Moreyball scheme – his lack of a jumper gave defenses an out, and he ate up driving lanes that might have otherwise gone to James Harden. It’s weird to imagine him in a more traditional offense now, especially with Harden still there. So while it might make more sense in the long-term to deal The Beard now, product-on-the-court-wise, it feels more likely that Houston will keep Harden, and try to find any takers for his former OKC teammate instead.

The Hypothetical Trade:

  • NYK acquires: PG Russell Westbrook
  • HOU acquires: SG Wayne Ellington, SF Reggie Bullock, PG Elfrid Payton, C Julius Randle

It’s 2020. That means the New York Knicks will either do something shockingly competent as a basketball organization, OR, reach a new level of self-inflicted Knicks-ian sabotage.

The combination of head coach Tom Thibodeau and Westbrook is obviously, the latter.

Now don’t get me wrong, the idea of Westbrook going full-throttle, no-cupcakes again is a fun one… as long as he can stay upright. That seems even more unlikely now, given his age, and the manner in which Thibodeau coaches. However, New York is so star-starved, you can sort of see how they might talk themselves into it. Better set your notifications for new Stephen A. Smith social media posts. I think you’ll get a lot of them if this trade goes down.

As for Houston they get to address a critical issue of their team – their lack of depth – while also ridding themselves of Westbrook’s onerous contract. Ellington and Bullock can shoot, and should shoot better with Harden generating looks. Payton can put up stats while Harden rests. Randle, especially if whoever his new head coach is can get him to pass more, can be an intriguing second option. While this doesn’t really raise Houston’s ceiling in the postseason, it’s a deal that keeps them relevant in the West, and it helps their salary cap a ton, something their owner would probably appreciate.

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Andrew Wiggins

The Golden State Warriors have said that they have no intention of trading Andrew Wiggins. But then, they said the same thing about D’Angelo Russell, whom they traded to get Andrew Wiggins. So here we are.

To be clear though, this is not so much a “trade Andrew Wiggins” section, as it is a “trade the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft” section. There might have been drafts in the past where the second selection could come right in on day one and contribute to a team with championship aspirations, but most analysts seem to agree that this isn’t one of those. It’s a tricky tightrope the Warriors have to walk – they need to make a move to return to title contention, but they also have an asset that could keep them relevant well past the Curry-Thompson-Green era.

The Hypothetical Trade:

  • GSW acquires: PF Blake Griffin and DET’s 2020 first-round pick (#7)
  • DET acquires: SF Andrew Wiggins, SG Jordan Poole, and GSW’s 2020 first-round pick (#2)

Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons discussed a Blake Griffin to the Golden State Warriors trade recently on The Lowe Post, and it has not left my mind since.

Griffin’s been a bit of a forgotten superstar since becoming a Piston, but he put up ridiculous numbers in 2018-19, earning him Third Team All-NBA honors. Injuries hit him hard in the latter part of the season though, which resulted in him missing the first two of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2019 postseason, and he logged just 18 appearances in 2019-20.

But.

And it’s a big but.

If he’s healthy, Griffin would supercharge Golden State, giving them a versatile offensive weapon (if you think he’s just a dunker still, you haven’t been paying attention) that can shoot three’s, get to the line, and move the ball. Golden State could go small with him and Dray as the bigs, and he would work his ass off on D, especially now that he doesn’t have to carry such a big load on the other side of the court.

But what really helps is that the Warriors take back No. 7 pick in this deal.

If Golden State is not really enamored with any of the projected top three picks, then they should do their best to move down in the draft while still picking up an asset, which is what they do here. It’d be the best of both worlds for them, it’d be… light-years ahead even!

As for Detroit, they take back two younger wings who make less money per season than Griffin, but more importantly, if there’s someone they really think can be a franchise guy at No. 2 (LaMelo Ball?) then they can snap him up as well and make Deeeeeeetroit Bas-ket-ball a thing again.

Photo from USA Today

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers looked like a match made in heaven, but unfortunately, a ruptured quad tendon has put that relationship in doubt. Oladipo got hurt in January 2019, and he didn’t return to an NBA court until February 2020.

And he looked just alright. Far from the superstar level that he was at prior to getting hurt, but of course that’s going to happen.

Now, Oladipo was initially going to sit out the NBA reset in Orlando, but he wound up joining the team, where he looked just alright.

By then though, circumstances had changed. TJ Warren was popping and it seemed like the team’s focal point had shifted from the Masked Singer to the former Phoenix Sun.

We don’t know what Oladipo will look like next season, the last before his current contract expires. What used to be a given, that the Pacers would re-sign him, is now a big question mark, and has led to him tentatively seeking out other trades, including reportedly with the Miami Heat.

The Hypothetical Trade:

  • IND acquires: SG Danny Green and PF Kyle Kuzma
  • LAL acquires: SG Victor Oladipo

In all likelihood the Pacers keep Oladipo and push a decision about him to the trade deadline (who knows? Maybe TJ Warren falls back down to Earth). This is because if they push a trade now, teams will be just as in the fog about his condition as they are, and they’re not going to get any big offers.

Unless you’re the defending champions and are feeling lucky.

In the age of Big Three’s, LeBron James and Anthony Davis proved enough to win a title. GM Rob Pelinka was able to stock the Lakers with enough talent such that the “third guy” role was able to rotate between several players on a per-game basis. Swinging a trade for Oladipo is a high-risk, high-reward roll of the dice. However, if he is even close to his old self, it would be a huge coup for LA, giving them someone who can play off of James on offense, star for stretches with AD when LBJ rests, and lock down the opposing side’s best player.

And if all it takes are the two players that trend on Twitter for all the wrong (in-game) reasons, then why not?

As for the Pacers, getting something for a player halfway out the door is always better than nothing, but Green and Kuzma will likely find nice fits on this roster. Green can occupy that 3-and-D role of Jeremy Lamb while the latter recovers from his torn ACL, while Kuzma should find more shot opportunities here as a 2A guy, instead of as a third option in LA. Who knows? With the spotlight not as bright in Indy, they might just flourish.

(As an aside, if Oladipo was certified 100%, the Pacers would have every right to demand Alex Caruso be in this trade – and I’m not sure if the Lakers would pull the trigger. What a world we live in.)

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Jrue Holiday

When the bubble schedules came out, plenty of people (including myself) thought the New Orleans Pelicans had a clear path towards at least the playoff for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Nope, didn’t happen.

As fun as it is to watch Zion Williamson, there are still question marks regarding his conditioning and his health, making it tough to automatically pencil the Pellies in for the postseason. By that line of thinking, it might make more sense to move some of their veteran players for young guns and draft picks that line up with Zanos’ timeline. That list includes JJ Redick (alas, New Orleans could not save your postseason streak), and this guy right here, Jrue Holiday.

The Hypothetical Trade:

  • DEN acquires: PG Jrue Holiday, SF Darius Miller
  • NOP acquires: SF Will Barton, SG Gary Harris, 2021 lottery protected first-round pick from DEN

The Disneyland kings of comeback, the Denver Nuggets, rode Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray hard, until they ran out of miracles versus the eventual champion Lakers. The duo proved transcendent on offense, but needed to lean on their teammates to fill in the gaps of their D. When the team’s run ended, it was clear they would need to make some upgrades on that side of the ball.

Acquiring Holiday does just that, while not compromising on offense too. Jrue should still get plenty of opportunities courtesy of the attention Jokic and Murray will inevitably attract, while making life difficult on the perimeter for Denver’s opponents. He can play alongside Murray, and back him up as the primary playmaker too, which should give guys like Michael Porter Jr. and PJ Dozier more minutes. Miller is serviceable at the 3 as well, but also has the added benefit of being an expiring contract.

The Pelicans get an additional draft pick to add to their stockpile from the Lakers, as well as two 3-and-D swingmen, who actually fill a need of the team. Last season, the team had a major hole at the position, as once you got past Miller, you’re forced to plug in out-of-position guys like E’Twaun Moore and Nicolo Melli. While the future first is the thing, the Harris-Barton combo could come in handy too, if the Pelicans do in fact find themselves chasing the Playoffs again.