Most offseasons, teams are trying to get better to prepare to compete in the following season. This offseasons feels a little different. There are a few factors coming into play that are causing teams to rethink their offseason plans.
- Teams realize that for the next couple seasons, the Warriors and Cavs will most likely dominate the NBA so teams are preparing to challenge for the 2020 NBA Championship, not the 2018.
- A deep draft is giving teams hope that they can find multiple pieces that will be under their rookie contracts for the next four seasons and under team control for at least eight seasons due to restricted free agency.
- Not nearly as many teams can reach max cap space as easily as last season with the cap spiking a little less than originally planned.
- Although we cannot call “The Process,” a success quite yet, teams are realizing that a complete rebuild, along with stockpiling draft picks might be the move right now. This goes along with the Cavs-Warriors dominance
- To go along with the success of “The Process,” teams are realizing that if you a middling team, trading first round picks for a non-building block veteran is not the move. Whether the Wizards traded for Bojan Bogdanovic or not, they were not beating the Cavs. Despite having him being a restricted free agent, he may receive an offer too unreasonable to match. The same can be said about the rumor of the Pistons wanting to trade the 12th pick for veteran help. Help with what, losing to LeBron in the first round?
So outside of the Celtics potentially trying to challenge the Cavs for the East next year, teams should be building internally while moving minimal draft assets. That being said, there will still be some trades made that in theory can help both teams. He are a few of those trades.
Any Team With Cap Space Receive: Evan Turner, #20 Pick in 2017 NBA Draft
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: A second round pick
Why Portland Does This Trade: When Portland handed out all the hefty contracts last summer, it was a pretty safe assumption that at least one or two of those players would not see the end of those contracts while still with Portland. At the time it looked like a good move. The team was able to bring some free agents in while having a few restricted free agents they were able to bring back as well. The idea was to just collect as much talent as possible and deal with the financial ramifications later. With C.J. McCollum’s contract kicking in this season at over 23 million this year, it is time to deal with those ramifications. They overpaid for Evan Turner, a player who never lived up to his draft status, and Allen Crabbe, a decent player but who they also had to pay in matching the Nets’ offer to him. Both contracts will be hard to move, but one needs to go. Even after getting rid of Festus Ezeli’s nonguaranteed contract, at least one other, if not two players must go. Turner and Meyers Leonard are the two most likely, but it will be tough to get both in one trade and someone for potentially take Leonard for a second round sweetener. It is a shame to give up the 20th pick in the draft but the Trail Blazers are in for a financial nightmare if they don’t dump a player from this average team. It is easier to do this when you have three first round picks and not three roster spots. #15 is probably too valuable to give up and #26 might not be enough. Use #20 to get rid of some contracts and use #15 and #26 to swing for the fences on some high reward prospects.
Why Any Team With Cap Space Does This Trade: Two or three seasons ago, the 76ers would have been all over this but they need to prepare for chasing free agents and paying their own. They also do not have a ton of roster spots, whereas three years ago they were a D-League team. There are two teams I could see taking on some salary for draft picks; the Nets or Kings. They are arguably the two least talented rosters in basketball currently, each owe at least one unprotected first round pick in the next few years, and neither is likely to bring in a marque free agent. So might as well take on a contract that will be up in three years, which in my opinion is soonest either team could possibly be competitive. The Nets showed interest in Allen Crabbe before as they were the team who put the offer out to Crabbe so maybe they would want him instead. Turner would give either team a veteran who can facilitate while Leonard or Crabbe could offer shooting and someone young enough to still grow if given a larger role.
Denver Nuggets Receive: Isaiah Thomas
Boston Celtics Receive: Jamal Murray, #13 Pick in 2017 NBA Draft
Why Denver Does This Trade: I’m not sure they do. Jamal Murray looks like he can eventually be a 20+ points per game scorer and although the 2017 Draft looks very top heavy, there is still some value in the #13 pick. This is all about Denver getting a star player to pair with Nikola Jokic. By trading for Thomas, the Nuggets would still maintain flexibility to go after a max player in free agency. Denver has been building up assets in the hopes it can make a move for a star. Thomas is not the ideal star, but the asking price is not nearly as high with Thomas as it would be for other free agents. If the Nuggets can lure Paul Millsap or Blake Griffin to the team with Jokic and Thomas, they would immediately challenge in the west for a top 3 draft pick. A starting lineup of Thomas, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Griffin and Jokic would be a pretty scary big three for the rest of the league. This would be mortgaging some of the future to compete right now when it looks like the Warriors are locked into the next four or five Western Conference Championships.
Why Boston Does This Trade: Boston would be throwing in the towel on making the NBA Championship the next few seasons. After seeing the Cavs struggle in the Finals, yet the Cavs destroyed the Celtics, Danny Ainge may realize they need to plan for the future rather than compete right now. The Celtics may be a star away from beating the Cavs, but they are a few stars away from beating the current Warriors. Thomas is going to demand a max contract after the 2017-2018 season and the Celtics may realize it is not worth paying him. Thomas does not possess nearly as much trade value as anyone else who made All-Pro this year due to his size, defense, and contract situation. This may even be more than the Nuggets are willing to offer. The Celtics creating a young core of Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Markelle Fultz, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, the #13 pick along with veterans Avery Bradley and Al Horford, plus all the incoming picks in the next few years sets the Celtics up to be relevant and keep fan interest high, but have as much young potential as anyone else in the NBA. A backcourt of Murray and Fultz may be the best in the NBA in a few seasons.
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: #5 and #10 Picks in the 2017 NBA Draft
Sacramento Kings Receive: #3, #36, and #49 Picks in NBA Draft
Why Philadelphia Does This Trade: The top five picks in the NBA Draft are expected to be Markelle Fultz number one and a combination of De’Aaron Fox, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, and Jayson Tatum picks two through five. All five of these players have the ability to change the future of a franchise, but all but Fultz are not a great fit for the Sixers. The Sixers could decide that adding the additional selection at #10 is more valuable than getting their selection of the top five players. They are still assured of getting one of the five elite talents. There is even the possibility of the Sixers selecting Malik Monk with the #5 pick, who may not have the upside of whoever is remaining out of the five, but is a much better fit than the others. If you have read any of my other pieces on the NBA Draft, you know I think the top ten is significantly better in this draft than the remaining prospects. This would assure the Sixers of two top prospects. My ideal scenario would be Josh Jackson at #5 and whoever is left of the top ten prospects at #10, hopefully Dennis Smith, but any would be a nice addition. The Sixers are going to be short for roster spots as is so getting rid of two second round picks may not be ideal, but they would most likely be draft-and-stash players anyway.
Why Sacramento Does This Trade: Sacramento is competing with Brooklyn for the least talent in the NBA. They should be looking to add as much talent as possible, which two top ten picks would help with, but they also need a star to build around. If they feel strongly enough about whoever is on the board at #3, they have to move up and get them. The rumor is right now that is Fox. Fox and Buddy Hield would give the Kings a backcourt to build around for the next decade. 5 and 10 is a lot to give up in this draft but in a league built around stars, sometimes you have to just go out and get them regardless of what you have to give up. #36 and #49 in a draft this deep could give two role players that they need. In my opinion, prospects 25-50 are all fairly similar in talent. If Sacramento can get the star they need, along with two role players, this will be more than worth it. The Kings and Vlade Divac are also the most dysfunctional and unpredictable front office in sports right now so you never know what is going to happen with them. Most front offices would value the two top ten picks over just #3, especially when they are still guaranteed one of the top five players. The chance that the Kings could potentially hit on two prospects as opposed to one would really jumpstart this rebuild. I would not do this trade, but as a Sixers fan, I really hope the Kings cave and do it.
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: #12 Pick in 2017 NBA Draft
Detroit Pistons Receive: Jordan Clarkson, #28 Pick in 2017 NBA Draft
Why Los Angeles Does This Trade: Personally, I would not do this trade if I were the Lakers. They would have to wait to do this until draft night to see if someone they love falls to them at #12 before executing the trade. But there have been rumors of the team looking at potential Clarkson trades. He is on a great contract that will probably be looked at as one of the biggest bargains in the NBA in years to come. This is more just about the Lakers valuing who is on the board so much at #12 that they will do what is needed to get him. Clarkson is the only piece the team has that looks expendable and also holds value. Personally, I would like to see the team move D’Angelo Russell for picks and players. I think he is a talented player, but a ball hog who makes players around him worse and not who I would want to be building a young team around. If he were to go to a team with a good group of veterans, I can see him becoming a star but I get the feeling he thinks he is “the man,” on L.A. now that Kobe is gone and that should not be the case, especially coming from your point guard. I also don’t see a Ball-Russell backcourt working out.
Why Detroit Does This Trade: With Stan Van Gundy making the decisions, I think he is going to go all out this year, but not sure to which extreme. He could put this team into a complete rebuild by recognizing there are no championship caliber stars on this team, but that they are good enough to be a 7 or 8 seed for the next few years. This might be the smartest move if championship is the ultimate goal, but it does not scream job security. There have been rumors of the team testing the market for Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond but I doubt anyone would trade for their pricey contracts until after the fee agency frenzy. There have been rumors of the team shopping the #12 pick for a veteran who can help the team now. Clarkson is not instantly turning this team into a contender but he gives them one of the better bench players in the league and he should compete for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. His below-market contract that runs through the 2019-2020 season will only become more valuable as it goes on and average contracts go up, which gives the team the flexibility to trade him again if need be. Clarkson is young enough at 25 to still have plenty of room to grow. The #28 pick is a chance to add a high-risk, high-reward player or to be used to acquire another veteran.
Chicago Bulls Receive: Blake Griffin (Sign and Trade), Wesley Johnson
New York Knicks Receive: J.J. Reddick (Sign and Trade), Jamal Crawford
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Bobby Portis, Kyle O’Quinn
Why Chicago Does This Trade: If the Bulls plan on trading Jimmy Butler and going through a complete rebuild, this makes not sense. But the way Butler and the organization are talking right now, they seem to want to be together for the long haul. If a team offers them a massive offer, I think they would trade him but there is no reason to sell low with two years remaining on his contract. Adding Blake Griffin gives Butler another young star in his prime to play with. If they Bulls waive Rajon Rondo’s non-guaranteed contract, they will still have plenty of money to chase other free agents to fill the roster. Wade and Portis for Griffin would favor the Bulls in pure value. Wade does not plan on being much of the future of the Bulls and to get a star for him would be a steal. Portis has shown promise, but nowhere near enough that he would be a holdup in this deal.
Why New York Does This Trade: At this point Phil Jackson will trade Carmelo to anyone that the star forward would waive his no-trade clause for regardless of the return. The Clippers seem like one of the few teams that the forward would go to. Reddick will likely have to be overpaid in this scenario, but he was probably going to anyway. The Knicks will not be pumped taking on Crawford’s contract, but this former Knick will at least excite fans and bring a few highlight plays. He is still one of the best bench options in the NBA. This return for Carmelo would be unimaginable a few years ago but this will be the best they can get. Reddick will be a great floor spacer and any team can use his shooting. The Knicks are such a mess that they will be very unpredictable, but I think we can count on Jackson letting Carmelo go for anything.
Why Los Angeles Does This Trade: I started writing this a few days ago and in the past couple days, these trades make even more sense. If you can get three of the four banana boat brothers on one team and there are rumors of the fourth thinking of moving out to either the Clippers or Lakers, you make it happen. It is not secret that LeBron wants to play with Wade, Anthony and Paul before he retires. Doing it in a large market where LeBron has a home anyway is ideal. These moves as is don’t put the Clippers on the same level as the Warriors but a team of Paul, Anthony, Wade and DeAndre Jordan would be pretty exciting and carry as much star power as any team not in Oakland. They may even be able to push the Warriors to a Game 5 in a series. Whether LeBron goes out west or not, this is a move that shakes up the Clippers and gives them a more balanced team. It would be tough, if not impossible, to keep Austin Rivers and Jordan if they were to chase LeBron, but with Wade’s contract coming off the books after 2017-2018 and perhaps LeBron taking less than the max, they might be able to do this without losing Jordan. This is all extremely farfetched and even just making these proposed trades is close to impossible. Reddick and Griffin would have to want to go to these teams, Carmelo would have to want to be in L.A., and the opposing teams would have to agree. Very slim chance, but exciting to think about.
Charlotte Hornets Receive: Dwight Howard, #19 Pick in 2017 NBA Draft
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Miles Plumlee, Jeremy Lamb, #11 and #41 Picks in 2017 NBA Draft
Why Charlotte Does This Trade: Regardless of the reputation Dwight Howard has picked up over the years, both on and off the court, he is still one of the best rebounders and defensive big men in the league. Supposedly he is working on his three, but with how bad his free throws are, I don’t see him becoming much of a threat. The Finals this year have shown us that the game can be played without a big man, but does not make them invaluable. Charlotte has a decent roster, with a true star in Kemba Walker. I would love to see Kemba and Dwight running the pick and roll. For having a talented roster, they are nowhere near competing with the Celtics and Cavs, yet have no financially wiggle room or incoming assets that will boost them past either of those team. By adding Howard, they will be asserting themselves in the second tier of Eastern Conference teams and will remain relevant. Knowing they are stuck in an awkward spot in terms of their roster and finances, which might be the best they can do. They really aren’t giving up much to acquire him, but they will have to deal with the remaining money on the contract. This will turn the Hornets into an expensive team, especially for not competing for a championship. In today’s NBA, there is only so much the other 28 teams can do and this might be the best move for the Hornets. A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would be considered a huge success for this team and would certainly be a possibility.
Why Atlanta Does This Trade: Atlanta only does this trade if they feel Paul Millsap is about to leave in free agency. If he sticks around, the team will want to remain competitive and Howard helps with that. If Millsap leaves, this is a lottery bound team and having a pricey Dwight Howard is not ideal in that scenario. Having Howard might be the difference between the #10 pick as opposed to top five without him. This is not a great return but the #11 pick gives them a shot at a true building block and that is what they will need for this rebuild. They may decide having a hometown hero is more important to keeping the fans interested and know that the return won’t be much so not worth it. They also may decide to wait and see if Howard can actually make some threes. If Howard could somehow miraculously shoot 30% from three, his trade value would be much more come the trade deadline as opposed to where it is right now.
Indiana Pacers Receive: Brook Lopez
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Monta Ellis, Al Jefferson, #18 and #47 Picks in 2017 NBA Draft
Why Indiana Does This Trade: If Indiana does not trade Paul George this offseason, they are banking on trying to resign him. To do that, they have to give him a reason to stay. Ellis and Jefferson don’t have much of a fit on this team and thee #18 pick will most likely not bring in a player who can contribute immediately. By bringing in Brook Lopez, they will have given George the best player he has ever played with. Having Lopez, along with Myles Turner, will give the team two big men who can space the floor and will most likely be able to play together, with George, hopefully a re-signed Jeff Teague, and a revitalized Lance Stephenson give the Pacers a pretty strong team that will at least be able to compete with Cleveland. George could sign a 1+1 contract after the season to give himself flexibility, but this core of a team gives him hope. If George is set on L.A., this is all irrelevant but the Pacers will have to hope this team is enough to sell him on Indiana long term and that he makes an All-NBA next year so they can offer him the super-max. If both of these things happen it would be tough to leave the money on the table to go to a young L.A. team.
Why Brooklyn Does This Trade: Brook Lopez has been in trade rumors for years and with Lopez entering the final year of his contract, it may be time to move him. Ellis and Jefferson can both potentially come off the books after next year, so it is much more about the draft picks. This will give Brooklyn three picks in the first round. They need all the talent they can get so they could draft three players, all later in the first round and hope to hit big on one, or use the collected assets to try to move up in the draft. Like the other trade I talked about with Brooklyn, this is all about picks and acquiring assets. Their debt to Boston is almost up so getting their picks back, along with all the young players they have been collecting will give them a bright future for the first time in a while. For all the crap Brooklyn gets for the Boston trade, they have done a nice job of moving the pieces they have to try to build towards the future.
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