Serge Ibaka is in Toronto, Mason Plumlee is in Denver and Carmelo Anthony is still in New York. That means trade season is officially open in the NBA, so what better way to celebrate than looking at six fits that make too much sense not to happen.
Lou Williams to Oklahoma City
Williams’ deal—with 2-years, $14 million left on it—is an absolute bargain in this market. He’s a bad defender, but a volume scorer off the bench who shoots 38.2 percent from 3 with a 23.4 PER has value.
However, the Lakers desperately need to tank. Not only is their pick for this season only top-3 protected, but if it conveys then Orlando gets their 2019 unprotected first rounder. If they tank and keep the pick, they only owe Orlando their 2017 and ’18 second rounders. They have to trade Williams and the Thunder needs his scoring.
Russell Westbrook is their only player averaging more than 20 per game—his 41.8 percent usage is as alarming as it is astounding. Someone has to carry the load when Westbrook sits—a time during which OKC has a 97.3 offensive rating and -10.9 net rating. Throw in the fact that Williams’ salary fits right into Ersan Ilyasova’s trade exception and the bevy of OKC young guys the Lakers would be interested in—Jerami Grant, Cameron Payne, Domantas Sabonis—and this makes perfect sense for both sides.
Jahlil Okafor to Dallas
With the Mavericks’ season having turned into a dumpster fire and Dirk Nowitzki’s retirement looming, the team needs to get younger. I’m no fan of Okafor, but he’s only 21 and has immense skill as a post player. He may have to come off the bench for the rest of the year if the Mavericks can’t unload Andrew Bogut, but Okafor could be a long-term solution at center.
If Philly isn’t interested in any of Dallas’ point guards then this deal could hit a road bump, but the Mavericks have all of their first rounders. A top-5 protected 2018 first and a veteran point guard like Deron Williams or Devin Harris could get the job done.
Jrue Holiday to Philadelphia
Come on, who doesn’t want to see this? The Sixers’ trade of Holiday to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first rounder (which became Elfrid Payton, whom the Sixers immediately traded for Dario Saric, a 2015 second rounder which became Wily Hernangomez and a 2017 first rounder) kickstarted The Process.
Now that the end of The Process is in sight—especially if the Lakers relinquish that pick to the Sixers—bringing Holiday back to the Wells Fargo Center is only fitting. New Orleans could get back one of the Sixers’ bigs—Okafor, Noel or Saric—to play alongside Anthony Davis for the long term. If the right pieces are involved, maybe they could even persuade Bryan Colangelo to take on Omer Asik’s disastrous contract. The Sixers have the cap room and could use the stretch provision immediately, providing cap relief to New Orleans to help sweeten the deal for themselves.
Ricky Rubio to Milwaukee
With Minnesota’s season lost and Kris Dunn waiting in the wings for a starting job, trading Ricky Rubio is only logical for the Timberwolves. Milwaukee is one of few teams that aren’t set at point guard—they’re currently starting Matthew Dellavedova and, after Jabari Parker’s devastating injury, need a spark to keep them in the playoff race. Rubio won’t help the Bucks’ already-cramped spacing, but he’ll make the players around him better just as he has for his entire career. He’ll help young players like Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker develop, be a creator the Bucks haven’t had at point guard and play respectable defense.
This gets interesting when you consider what Milwaukee may send back. Could Tom Thibodeau decide he can remake Greg Monroe into a respectable defender and take his contract? Does he want Tony Snell back? Can he redeem Rashad Vaughn? What if a third team gets involved? There are an endless number of permutations to this, which is what makes it so fascinating.
Goran Dragic to Chicago
This made more sense before the Heat ripped off an improbable win-streak that vaulted them back into the playoff conversation, but hear me out. The 2017 Draft is stacked and the Heat still don’t have much talent on their roster. If they somehow make the playoffs, they’re getting swept in the first round anyway and they’re not too far out of the #4 lottery spot.
The Bulls need to save face on this awful season and if they swap Rajon Rondo, Doug McDermott and the better of Sacramento’s top-10 protected first rounder and their first rounder for Dragic, they could compete in the playoffs. Dragic has gone scorched earth the past month with a 67.6 true shooting percentage—including 59.3 percent from 3—and an absurd +7.8 net rating. That’s unsustainable, but he would add spacing to Chicago, which they desperately need.
Trading for Rondo, on the other hand, is the perfect stealth-tanking move for Miami. There are only two years on his contract—Miami could release him over the summer with a relatively small hit—and putting Rondo on the floor with Dion Waiters would be must-see on League Pass for all the wrong reasons. This would reverse all of the damage the win streak has done to Miami’s long-term outlook and allow the Bulls to put a happy face on their front office failures.
Brook Lopez to Portland
The Nets are in desperate need of assets. They don’t have first round picks and they don’t have good players, which is a bad combination. Lopez may be their only trade asset with Jeremy Lin injured and the Blazers need a big man. New acquisition Jusuf Nurkic won’t carry the load, Meyers Leonard can’t defend, Festus Ezeli is injured and Ed Davis can’t play center. Flip Leonard and Memphis’ first round pick—maybe even throw in Evan Turner’s contract if Brooklyn will take it—for Lopez and Portland’s playoff chances improve dramatically.
Because he plays for Brooklyn, Lopez has become massively underrated. He averages 1.01 points per possession on post-ups—more than Marc Gasol, Joel Embiid, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. He’s shooting 33.3 percent from 3—respectable for a 7-footer—ranks 10th in blocks per game and plays respectable defense at the rim. If the Nets get Leonard and—for the sake of conversation—Turner in return, those are two more assets they can flip in a year or two for picks. Throw in the first rounder—which probably turns into another Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or Caris LeVert—and this is an easy decision for both teams.
All stats are from basketball-reference.com or NBA.com unless otherwise noted