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As the NBA continues to work toward a planned restart at the end of July, one thing seems relatively clear: The 2019-20 season is over for at least eight teams.
Each squad that is not currently within six games of eighth place in its respective conference—the Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and New York Knicks—is already in the middle of its offseason.
That means a focus on team-building, whether through the draft, free agency or trades.
For our purposes today, we’ll look at that last avenue for shaking up a roster. Are there potential deals out there that make sense for the eight NBA teams that won’t be heading to Orlando, Florida?
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The Trade: Clint Capela for Terry Rozier and a second-round pick
Capela hasn’t had a chance to play a single game for the Atlanta Hawks, and this deal would obviously prevent him from ever doing so. But feel free to scan Atlanta’s 2020-21 cap sheet and try to find movable contracts.
Dewayne Dedmon is probably the next-most-likely trade chip, but he’s set to make $13.3 million next season and would be a backup 5 wherever he went. Plus, the market for centers remains saturated. In today’s game, it isn’t easy to find homes for these guys, even one like Dedmon who can shoot and protect the rim a little.
So, the idea here is to move Capela and transition John Collins to a full-time 5. That would allow the Hawks to play more of a spread offense in which Collins can be the screener in pick-and-roll sets or space the floor.
This season, the 22-year-old big man shot 40.1 percent from deep on 3.6 attempts per game. As a center, he opens up five-out offensive possibilities that just don’t exist with Capela on the floor.
Getting Rozier back doesn’t dramatically change Atlanta’s cap situation. But his contract does expire one year sooner than Capela’s (2022, compared to 2023), and he can take on the opposition’s primary ball-handler on defense, sparing Trae Young from those assignments and saving his legs for offense.
For the Charlotte Hornets, this would be a quick about-face after signing Rozier just last summer, but the emergence of Devonte’ Graham as a borderline All-Star changes the situation.
With Graham and Capela in place, Charlotte would have the makings of a solid pick-and-roll-based attack. If it could add just one more difference-maker (more on that in the next slide), it could challenge for a return to the postseason.
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The Trade: Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller and a first-round pick for Chris Paul
The organizational history here is a little confusing. Do the current Hornets claim the background of the Charlotte Bobcats or the original Charlotte Hornets? Where do the New Orleans Hornets, a team Chris Paul once piloted, fit in?
Long story short, Paul, a native of North Carolina, was once a Hornet. And alongside Graham and Capela, he could carry his home-state team back to relevance.
When he was first traded from the Houston Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder, many wondered whether he’d ever play a game there. Another trade to one of the teams then considered a contender seemed like a foregone conclusion. But OKC held onto the future Hall of Famer, and he sped up its rebuilding timeline.
The Thunder are currently fifth in the West and just a game behind the Utah Jazz for home-court advantage. in the opening round of the playoffs. They have Paul, whose plus-13.4 net rating swing ranks in the 98th percentile, to thank for that.
But OKC still isn’t a title contender, and it should be open to proposals that continue to add to its stockpile of picks or open up cap flexibility.
This deal would accomplish both.
Batum and Zeller will both be on expiring contracts next season (it would be shocking to see Batum opt out of his $27.1 million player option). Paul is set to make $44.2 million if he picks up his own option for the 2021-22 campaign. Shaving that off the books would be huge for the rebuilding Thunder.
And the Hornets are one of the only teams in the league that can justify giving up a first-round pick for a 35-year-old point guard who will be making that kind of money.
They’ve been mired in mediocrity for years, and drafting hasn’t been the ticket out. In his last few pre-twilight years, Paul could re-energize the organization and get it back to the playoffs.
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The Trade: Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. for Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin
This deal would undoubtedly be a gamble on the part of the Chicago Bulls.
In 2018-19, Griffin had perhaps the best offensive season of his career. But he managed just 512 minutes in 2019-20, and he has a fairly robust injury history and a $39 million player option in 2021-22. If he can’t come back to around 85-90 percent of the player he was before his latest health-related setback, having his deal on the books is a killer.
But if he can be close to the floor-spacing, playmaking 4 he was in 2018-19, he would raise Chicago’s ceiling quite a bit. An attack built around him and Zach LaVine would be tough to stop.
And the shooting ability of both would open up slashing lanes for Rose, whose offensive production in 2019-20 wasn’t far off what he did as the 2010-11 MVP.
This deal, of course, has the added sentimental bonus of sending Rose back to his hometown, where he first entered the league as the No. 1 pick of the 2008 draft.
For Detroit, this is almost entirely about continuing the teardown it triggered by trading Andre Drummond for John Henson and Brandon Knight. The Pistons wouldn’t get off scot-free here thanks to the $14.2 million owed to Young in 2021-22, but that guarantee is nearly $25 million less than Griffin’s.
Porter, meanwhile, will be on an expiring contract (assuming he picks up his option) in 2020-21. That means significantly more cap flexibility for Detroit in the summer of 2021.
There’s probably a solid argument that he makes more sense for Chicago in today’s NBA than an injury-riddled Griffin, but he managed even fewer minutes in 2019-20.
And though the move comes with risks, the Bulls’ ceiling would likely be higher with Griffin.
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The Trade: Kevin Love for LaMarcus Aldridge and Chimezie Metu
The San Antonio Spurs have been hanging on to relevance by a thread ever since they traded Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl.
There’s a strong argument that they should merely let the contracts of DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge expire and then build around Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and any other youngsters they might pick up in the next couple of years.
But if they want to keep the window for playoff contention cracked open just a bit longer, they could offer Aldridge’s expiring contract for Love, who is three years younger, the better passer and rebounder and a more experienced floor spacer.
And perhaps the Spurs’ once-storied ability to preserve the careers of veterans could give Love a better post-prime run than he would’ve experienced with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The contracts of the stars here don’t quite align, so Chimezie Metu would go along as both a salary-matcher and a young-ish prospect with some untapped potential.
For Cleveland, this deal would get it out of Love’s contract, which runs through 2022-23. Aldridge’s is up in 2021. That’s the main selling point.
Love’s timeline is obviously much different than those of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and the rest of the Cavs’ young core. This would open up some flexibility for Cleveland to add players closer to their youngsters’ ages as early as next summer.
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The Trade: Draymond Green for Trevor Ariza, Rodney Hood and a first-round pick
Finding a deal for the cap-strapped Golden State Warriors isn’t easy. So, let’s go into this slide under the caveat that this team isn’t likely to make any major moves this summer.
If they did want to further shake things up, though, the likeliest candidates for trades may be Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. The latter’s contract would be exponentially more difficult to move, though, and while Green was, in many ways, the engine of this team during its dynasty, his contract could be parlayed into more depth for a team that desperately needs it.
Ariza is four years older than Draymond, not as good a defender and certainly nowhere near the passer the Warriors point forward is. But his three-point percentage since Green’s career started (36.2) is significantly better than Draymond’s 31.9. And though he won’t contend for Defensive Player of the Year, Ariza has been known as a solid multi-positional defender throughout his career.
Then there’s Hood, who may be a question mark thanks to an Achilles tear this season.
“The initial thought is like, ‘Damn. Most guys used to retire after the Achilles injury,'” he told ESPN’s Eric Woodyard. “Nobody really but Dominique Wilkins has come back to be the same person as he used to be or better; but now, more and more guys come back and they’re healthy.”
If Hood could follow the Wesley Matthews post-Achilles trajectory, he would at least offer more size and shooting on the wing for the Warriors. With $107.9 million committed to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Wiggins next season, it won’t be easy for Golden State to fill out its roster.
Turning Green’s contract into multiple rotation members could be a shortcut toward that (albeit a potentially painful one).
For Portland, Green would seamlessly slot in next to Jusuf Nurkic, another big with some passing chops. His role would likely be similar to the one he enjoyed with the Warriors. He can guard 1 through 5 on defense and engineer possessions that would give Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum more catch-and-shoot opportunities.
The Trail Blazers could have their own issues with depth in 2020-21, but the last few years may be evidence that Lillard and McCollum need at least one more star (even if it’s one on the wrong side of his prime) to contend for a championship.
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The Trade: James Johnson for Eric Gordon
Malik Beasley went off over the course of his 14 post-trade games with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The former Denver Nugget averaged 20.7 points and 3.5 threes while shooting 42.6 percent from deep.
That may have been just enough to make the Wolves sweat his restricted free agency. If some team throws a massive offer Beasley’s way, Minnesota could be torn on whether to match it. With Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell both on long-term deals, the cap situation is already a little tight.
Perhaps the Timberwolves could get similar floor spacing and more experience in the trade market.
Eric Gordon is set to make an average of $18.9 million over the next four seasons, a mark that could be eclipsed by the starting salary on Beasley’s next deal. Maybe Minnesota would be willing to pay the extra for Beasley’s potential to develop, but acquiring Gordon might be the more economical move.
For the Houston Rockets, with so many possessions controlled by James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the need for Gordon may not be quite as clear as it was before Russ was acquired. And in their new micro-ball era, Johnson could join P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington as another new-school “center.”
In fact, he may fit the role better than both.
His contract expires in 2021, as well (assuming he picks up his player option, which is what would make this deal possible in the first place). That would mean flexibility Houston would not have had otherwise.
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The Trade: Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Dennis Smith Jr., Reggie Bullock and a first-round pick for Chris Paul
The New York Knicks are another team that can justify trading for CP3. And, according to SiriusXM NBA’s Frank Isola, they’re thinking about it.
In 2019-20, Paul proved he has plenty left in the tank.
He’s currently 16th in box plus/minus and as lethal as ever from the mid-range, and the three-guard lineup he leads in OKC is one of the NBA’s best. When Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder are all on the floor, the Thunder are plus-31.4 points per 100 possessions (100th percentile).
It’s not hard to see why the Knicks are interested despite Paul’s age and massive contract.
They can offer OKC four expiring contracts and a first-round pick (or more if they get desperate) to take on Paul. Such a trade would obviously open up tons of flexibility for the Thunder while allowing New York to keep intriguing youngsters such as RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina.
Of course, if Paul is said to be back on the market, a bidding war could ensue. That might force New York to replace one of the expiring contracts above with at least one or two of the aforementioned young guys. But if it can maintain most of the core while adding Paul, it should probably go for it.