The NBA’s trade deadline (Feb. 10) is approaching quickly, and it feels like most of the league is still jockeying for position in what should be one of the most egalitarian title chases in years. The East feels wide open, and even the red-hot Suns could be caught in the West if the right team makes the right move. With all that in mind, here are five trades worth talking about ahead of the deadline…
Clippers receive: Goran Dragic
Raptors receive: Eric Bledsoe, two second-round picks
The Clippers are a little bit of a stealth contender, though what degree depends entirely on the health of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. If even one of those players returns, the Clips could be dangerous in the West, as they were last season when Kawhi went down and PG almost led them to the Finals. For now, Los Angeles is one game under .500 and looks to be firmly entrenched in at least the play-in, thanks in large part to its top-10 defense. Where the Clippers could use help, and where they’ve been poking around according to The Ringeris in the backcourt, which could use another natural ballhandler in the absence of Kawhi and PG.
Dragić, who has played in only five games this season and none since Nov. 13, could be a perfect fit. He can score, play off the ball, and he’s a better playmaker than Bledsoe or Luke Kennard. That is, if he’s healthy and in game shape. At 36 years old, it’s unclear just how much Dragić has left in the tank, though even last season’s version of him would be a great fit both next to the current group of Clippers and for when the team’s stars return.
Toronto would be doing this trade for the picks, essentially adding those onto the haul they got for Kyle Lowry, who was leaving as a free agent, anyway. Bledsoe’s contract is not fully guaranteed next season, making him a candidate to move in the offseason. Perhaps the Raptors can get a better return for Dragić, though it’s unclear at the moment how many teams are truly lining up to part with a first-round pick for someone who hasn’t played in nearly three months.
Jazz receive: Patrick Beverley
Timberwolves receive: Joe Ingles, a protected first that probably turns into two future seconds
The Jazz have been rumored to be interested in upgrading their perimeter defense all season, and Beverley reportedly could be available due to his upcoming free agency. Ingles’s ACL tear was a gut punch; Utah probably can’t afford to be sentimental if it wants to be a title contender this year. Beverley would immediately give them a perimeter defender who can hound opposing backcourt players while playing off Donovan Mitchell or Mike Conley. What the Jazz give up in size they make up for in tenacity.
Is this enough for the Wolves? They don’t have to deal Pat Bev, and Minnesota has played great with him in certain lineups. Maybe that first has to become a real first to get this deal done, because Ingles is simply an expiring contract at this point (though we’re all hoping for a return to form next season). Sweetening the pot may be worth it for the Jazz, who both need an upgrade and don’t have many avenues to acquiring one.
Bulls receive: Jerami Grant
Pistons receive: Derrick Jones Jr., Patrick Williams
This is probably the riskiest move being discussed in this space. The Pistons have seemingly been shopping Grant or at least taking calls for months, and it’s hard to imagine them getting a better prospect than Williams in return. The Bulls would be acquiring Grant and hoping he would be content playing a smaller role similar to the one he played in Denver, though he seemed to leave the Nuggets for that exact reason. Chicago would also be making a short-term upgrade while giving up on a blue-chipper in Williams, a high-upside player who is significantly more affordable than Grant for the next few seasons.
The Bulls only do this if they feel as if they are legit title contenders. Should Chicago do it? I think I lean 51% yes. The East is wide open, and the Bulls—currently in first place!—desperately need size in the frontcourt, particularly defensively. Who knows whether DeMar DeRozan can stay at this MVP level every year? This would be an incredibly gutsy move, but it would undoubtedly bring the Bulls closer to a championship this year, and there’s no guarantee Williams (currently injured) capitalizes on his full potential.
Lakers receive: Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, Kemba Walker, Luka Šamanić
Knicks receive: Russell Westbrook, Wayne Ellington
ESPN’s Bobby Marks recently floated the Knicks as a possible Westbrook landing spot, and it’s actually an intriguing idea. The Lakers would do this deal because Westbrook is still a messy fit The trio of Fournier, Burks and Walker could all contribute during the regular season, and Burks and Walker turn into expiring deals next season, which means they could be moved again. (The last year of Fournier’s contract is also a club option, which means it could expire in 2024.) LeBron would have to move back to point guard full time for this to work, though, he has the ball in his hands on every possession , anyway. Burks would probably become one of the better two-way options on the roster, and Kemba could come off the bench.
Would the Knicks really do this? That one is more tricky. New York could definitely use an injection of energy in its plodding offense. The Julius Randle isos have had diminishing returns, and perhaps pairing him with a determined guard to push the pace could help out his efficiency. And if anyone could work with a player giving maximum effort on every possession, it’s Tom Thibodeau, who also seems to draw the best out of any point guard. The biggest issue for the Knicks is Westbrook would still be in the way of young players like Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, who need playing time to develop, not to mention the recently acquired Cam Reddish. Still, Westbrook should immediately become a better fit as soon as he’s not playing next to LeBron. And with the Knicks fighting to even make the play-in, maybe a major shakeup is exactly what they need. Giving the Westbrook experiment a chance wouldn’t necessarily stop them from ultimately committing to the youth in the event it doesn’t work.
Sixers receive: Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, two future first-round picks
Kings receive: Ben Simmons, Furkan Korkmaz
OK, this is the big one. First, a couple of reasons why this framework seems to make the most sense. Would Kings really give up on Tyrese Haliburton—who looks like their best guard—for who is becoming an unknown player in Simmons? And would Philly ask for De’Aaron Fox when Tyrese Maxey is blossoming into a star in his own right? I think this trade splits the difference between win-now and asset accumulation for the Sixers, the latter of which is obviously important to GMs when making this kind of trade.
The Kings get Simmons, who theoretically will be less of a ballhandler in his next spot, and can play off Haliburton and possibly grow into the star nearly everyone thought he would be. Sacramento also holds on to Fox and Marvin Bagley III, with a chance to further develop them or use them in another big roster shakeup.
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Is this enough for the Sixers? I can’t stress enough that Simmons is literally giving them nothing right now. A warm body who is willing to shoot in the fourth quarter would be an upgrade right now. Barnes is a 40% shooter who can hold his own on the wing defensively. Hield is another feared shooter who could feast off doubles generated by Embiid. And those two firsts either go into the war chest for another trade or become useful rotation pieces as the roster becomes more expensive. Barnes and Hield would give the Sixers lots of flexibility. Play them next to Tobias Harris for space and size. Or slide Barnes to the four and put three guards next to Embiid for a faster lineup. This also bolsters the bench, which now gets Seth Curry next to Danny Green. Does this make Philly a title contender? Considering the Sixers are already talented enough to get out of the East, Embiid is playing at an MVP level and Simmons hasn’t played a minute, I don’t see how this trade doesn’t bump them up.
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