The Dreamer’s Guide to the NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA Trade Deadline is fast approaching, which means that fake trade ideas are now littering the Internet. So we figured, why not join in on the fun? But that’s the thing – fake NBA trades are supposed to be fun. No one gets excited when you predict that some contender will trade a 2nd round pick and some mediocre prospect for Reggie Bullock because they need more 3-point shooting. Sure, we all know that a trade like that will realistically be one of the top five most exciting trades to actually take place, but for the moment let’s forget what’s realistic. It’s time to dream big, and so we present the Dreamer’s Guide to the NBA Trade Deadline.

Before we begin, a quick caveat: the trades may be unrealistic, but they still have to make sense for both teams involved. So no, Anthony Davis is not being traded for a bunch of salary filler and a couple of late first round picks (sorry Houston…). Since we’re trying to be a little creative, that’s our only constraint. Now, on to the fake trades!

Update: Apologies to the real NBA for doubting its ability to have blockbuster trades. After the Porzingis deal (you can check out our thoughts on it here), we had to go back to the drawing board and up the ante (and by up the ante, we mean find a way to include John Wall…).

The Kings Go For It

Sacramento Receives: Zach LaVine
Chicago Receives: Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and a 2019 2nd Round Pick

Our first trade isn’t too spicy, but we need to walk before we can run. The Kings currently have the longest playoff drought in the NBA, having not made the postseason since 2006. This year probably isn’t the year where the streak ends, but with their 1st rounder in the hands of either the Sixers or Celtics they might as well go for it. And the cost in this case is pretty minimal – they have plenty of future 2nd rounders, so the only thing they’re really giving up is future cap space. It’s also important to remember that cap space for the Kings isn’t as valuable as it is for other teams. They aren’t going to go out and sign a marquee free agent. Their best bet would be to use it to take on another team’s bad contract in exchange for future assets, but knowing Vlade Divac they’ll overpay some second or third tier free agent instead (they were the team to offer LaVine this contract in the first place…). So really, Sacramento is doing itself a favor by getting LaVine’s contract to help clog their cap space for next season.

For the Bulls, this basically amounts to a salary dump (with the 2nd round pick just included to save face). It would be pretty embarrassing considering they just signed LaVine to this contract in the summer, but clearly their plans to be competitive this season didn’t work out and it’s time to hit the reset button (for real this time). Right now, LaVine isn’t helping Chicago – if anything, he’s hurting them in the race for the #1 pick. And you never know, with LaVine’s contract off their books (plus their deals for Robin Lopez and Jabari Parker), they could be a sneaky player in free agency this summer… or at least we’re betting that the Bulls’ Leadership Council will convince themselves that this is the case.

We should note that LaVine would need to agree to any trade, but since he initially signed his offer sheet with Sacramento he’s clearly not phased by their decade-long ineptitude.

Conley to a Contender I

Utah Receives: Mike Conley and Omri Casspi
Memphis Receives: Derrick Favors, Ricky Rubio, Grayson Allen, and a 2019 1st Round Pick (lottery-protected)

As discussed with the Kings, cap space has different value to different teams. Despite being a much better team and more well-run organization, the Jazz are in a similar situation as the Kings. Big time free agents aren’t going to come to Utah, so they need to resort to the trade market instead. Fortunately, Rubio’s expiring and Favors’ non-guaranteed contracts make this one pretty easy. If Memphis is hoping to get off of some money (so they can pay good old Chandler Parsons!) then this offer would be intriguing. They get the salary relief and two decent assets, plus if they like how Favors looks over the last couple of months they could keep him around for next season (amazingly, despite being in the league for almost a decade, he’s still only 27). We’re not sure that this is enough for Memphis to part with one of their franchise icons, but it should at least get the conversation started.

For Utah, this would be an absolute slam-dunk. Conley would give them a veteran presence, and take pressure off Donovan Mitchell at both ends of the floor. You could definitely do a lot worse than having Mitchell, Gobert, and Conley leading your team for the next few seasons.

Conley to a Contender II

San Antonio Receives: Mike Conley (+ extra bodies to make this work)
Memphis Receives: Pau Gasol, Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, and a 2019 1st Round Pick (from Toronto)

Given that Gasol and Mills are both on bad contracts, the Spurs might have to include their own 2019 first rounder as well, but even at that price it might still be worth it. Conley feels like the quintessential Spur – steady, reliable, doesn’t have a big ego, always under-appreciated. A “Big Three” of DeRozan, Aldridge, and Conley wouldn’t give anyone flashbacks to the 2012 Miami Heat, but with a deep supporting cast they could actually make some noise in the playoffs (assuming DeRozan doesn’t have to face LeBron again…).

As for Memphis, this really comes down to how they view Murray and how willing they are to take back bad contracts. Before he tore his ACL, Murray was a popular breakout candidate pick for this season. As a result of the injury his future is now a lot cloudier, but if the Grizzlies are confident that he can fully recover by next season, they could get their point guard of the future to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr. moving forward (plus one or two extra first rounders, which are currently in short supply in Memphis). We also can’t undersell the possibility of a Gasol brothers reunion in Memphis – let’s just hope that Marc isn’t traded first.

Free Jrue!

Philadelphia Receives: Jrue Holiday
New Orleans Receives: Wilson Chandler, Markelle Fultz, Zhaire Smith, and a 2021 1st Round Pick (from Miami)

Assuming the inevitable Anthony Davis trade happens, poor Jrue Holiday could potentially be stuck on a really bad team. And that’s no fun for anyone. So how about Jrue returns to the team that drafted him in a weird “The Process has come full circle” kind of way. A lineup of Embiid, Butler, Simmons, Reddick, and Holiday would be a little strange in terms of traditional positions, but there would be so much talent (on offense and defense) that we’re sure they could make it work.

As for New Orleans, as we discuss later there is a good chance that this type of package doesn’t appeal to them as they aren’t comfortable tanking. But really, if they trade AD this should be the next logical step. The real prize here for the Pelicans is salary relief and that unprotected 2021 first from Miami. However, this also feels like a perfect spot for the Markelle Fultz Comeback Tour to begin. The constant media scrutiny definitely hasn’t helped matters with Fultz, so why not go to one of the least rabid fanbases in the NBA! In New Orleans he could build back up his confidence and/or mechanics in relative obscurity, which seems like exactly what he needs. Zhaire Smith would be another interesting prospect for the Pelicans, assuming he recovers from a viscous food allergy reaction (yes, you read that right – the Sixers’ injury curse is real…).

Moving the Unmovable Wall

Orlando Receives:  John Wall and a 2019 1st Round Pick (top-10 protected)
New York Receives: Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross

None of the trades that we are proposing are likely to happen… but this one is especially unlikely. Before you start laughing though, hear us out. Sure, John Wall has potentially the worst contract in the league. Yes, he is owed over $47 million for the 2022-2023 season when he’ll be 32. And yes, he relies heavily on his speed and athleticism, so he probably won’t age very well. And yes, he’s injury prone and seems like he doesn’t take the best care of his body. But for Orlando, beggars can’t be choosers. They haven’t had a league-average point guard since 2013 Jameer Nelson, and in the current NBA you need a competent point guard to succeed (unless you are lucky enough to have one of the freaky point forwards). No high-end free agent is going to choose Orlando, which is actually kind of weird since it has no state income tax and has nice weather… but apparently Disney Land isn’t much of a draw for NBA players. The point is, Orlando needs to take a risk if they want to improve their team. Better yet, Wall is out for the year so they can fully enter tank-mode, and they also get Washington’s potential late-lottery pick. Sure by 2023 this deal might look horrendous, but it might at least give Magic fans a brief glimmer of hope.

As for the Wizards, it would be tough to admit that John Wall basically has no trade value at this point, but it’s definitely time to move on. Bradley Beal is the actual franchise cornerstone in Washington, and it’s clear that he plays better when he’s not playing with Wall. This isn’t a pure salary dump by any means – Nikola Vucevic was just named an All-Star and no one can say that it wasn’t deserved. Meanwhile, Terrence Ross is in the middle of a career year, although that might say more about Ross’ career than the season he’s having. If Washington added both of them, they could make a playoff push and if they make it they could actually give a top team in the East a bit of trouble in the first round (by that we mean they would lose to the Bucks in 5). Usually giving up a future 1st just to grab an eighth seed is a terrible idea, but it’s worth it to free themselves of Wall’s onerous contract and generally toxic attitude.

Orlando would probably expect more for Vucevic and Ross than a potentially worthless bad contract and a first round pick, but not a lot of contenders really need another center – or they’re saving their trade chips for a bigger move. But Vucevic is a free agent in the summer and would be wise to move on to a team that actually has NBA-caliber guards, so now is the time for Orlando to strike (okay, we just referred to a John Wall trade as a strike – this article has officially gone off the rails…).

Update: With Wall now tearing his Achilles, the Magic would need a lot more to make this deal happen (even in our dream scenario). We’re talking like two more 1st round picks and adding Mickey Mouse ears to the Washington Monument.

We Can’t Not Have an AD Trade…

Portland Receives: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, and E’Twaun Moore
New Orleans Receives: C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and a 2019 1st Round Pick

There are a lot of Anthony Davis trade ideas floating around, but when you parse through them all, the three most common seem to be:

  1. Davis to the Lakers for all our their young assets.
  2. Davis to the Knicks for either Kristaps Porzingis or their 2019 1st Round Pick, plus whatever salary filler or young assets are required.
  3. Davis to the Sixers for a package involving Ben Simmons.

Then, of course you have every Celtics fan screaming “WAIT FOR THE SUMMER”, when Boston can offer any combo of young assets and draft picks you can imagine. The problem is that despite what we just proposed for Jrue Holiday, we’re not sure New Orleans wants to rebuild. Given the lukewarm interest in the team to begin with, it’s unclear whether they could survive multiple years of being uncompetitive. And in all of those packages, unless a healthy/committed Porzingis or Ben Simmons is coming back, then it basically signals the start of a long and painful rebuild. We also have our doubts that Porzingis would be willing to commit to the Pelicans long-term (really can’t blame him) or that the Sixers would actually be willing to trade Simmons after just a season and a half.

So if we assume that New Orleans wants to remain semi-competitive, we have to get a little creative. Or if nothing else, we have to apply the logic behind the Kawhi-DeRozan deal to this situation. Portland is once again having a strong regular season, but as currently constructed will likely still falter early in the playoffs. Unless they show marked improvement, they are potentially going to be facing their own AD situation with Dame Lillard in a couple years. Now is the time to blow it up, and swing for the fences.

Sure, after this trade they would have very little depth, to the point where E’Twaun Moore would become a key part of their rotation. But they would have two superstars, which should be enough to at least get them out of the first round. And depending on how they do this spring, they can choose their future course – either they decide to roll back out the AD/Dame combo for another run, or they flip Davis to a team like the Celtics for a bunch of quality assets. In a weird way, despite giving up their second and third best players and best young asset, this is a low-risk deal for Portland.

As for New Orleans, this return straddles the line between the present and the future. A core of Holiday (assuming he’s not in Philly by then…), McCollum, Nurkic, Julius Randle, and Nikola Mirotic won’t be competing for championships, but could sniff around at the playoffs a bit. The fit with all the big men would be a little weird, but at least McCollum could finally play with a lockdown defender in the backcourt. Going forward, they would also be able to start amassing valuable young players in Collins and two 1st round picks in June. New Orleans is stuck in a tough situation, but assuming they don’t want to go into full-tank mode, this might be the best lemonade they can make out of their current batch of lemons.

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