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NBA trade ideas: How to get the banana boat crew (sans LeBron) to Houston

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A whole bunch of excellent trade ideas.

Getty Images/USA TODAY Sports/Peter Rogers Illustrations

Saturday marked the first day that NBA teams can trade players signed in the offseason. We already saw it happen with Trevor Ariza getting sent to the Wizards and not the Lakers. Let’s look around the NBA and see if we can come up with some good trade ideas to help teams, whether to succeed or to fail (so that they can draft high and succeed later).

A few guidelines: let’s not go crazy. Teams that are tanking or that suck (or, teams that don’t want to do well this season) should be the teams that sell; we’re not going to think up trades for Golden State to trade Klay Thompson. Second, let’s try to be realistic and assume that Western conference teams that hate each other, like the Spurs and the Lakers, aren’t going to make a trade. In fact, let’s try to confine ourselves to non-Conference trades only. And, third, the salaries have to work, but let’s not go too deep into draft pick protections and all that stuff (I really don’t like protections; I think they needlessly complicate things and are designed to make GMs look smart).

So, without further ado, let’s go Full Crazy in Trade Town:

How about a LeBron-less Banana Boat Crew in Houston?

The Houston Rockets are 13-14, and currently out of the playoff picture. The Sacramento Kings are in the 8th seed. Their record is 15-12. The #1 team in the West, the Denver Nuggets, are 18-9. So, Houston’s 5 games back of the 1 seed, and the Kings are one of the teams in their way (no disrespect to Sac fans, but get real: you have a negative point differential and you’re about to go through a blender: the Kings next games are Warriors, Dallas, Minnesota, OKC, Memphis, New Orleans, Clippers, Lakers twice, Portland, Denver, Golden State; that could be a ton of losses). Does a 5 game deficit really seem insurmountable for Houston?

Houston’s in a tough spot with their salaries, but there’s no reason to sacrifice a season with Harden in his prime (and, CP3 at the tail end of his). So, let’s assume that Daryl Morey’s offer of FOUR draft picks for Jimmy Butler earlier this season is indicative of a larger truth: the Rockets are willing to go ALL IN to compete this year.

That will take Brandon Knight’s $14 million contract. It’s basically Houston’s only trade chip, aside from draft picks. Knight and a 1st round pick might be able to get you players like DeMarre Carroll and/or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson from the Brooklyn Nets. Or how about Terrence Ross from Orlando? Iman Shumpert and/or Bogdan Bogdanovic from Sacramento? Would the Knicks trade Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Frank Ntilikina for draft picks and salary dumps?

There are definitely options out there: first round draft picks are still valuable to teams, even if they’re late in the first round. But, there’s one team out there that might value draft picks, and the inexpensive players they represent, a little bit more than others: the team with the highest payroll in the NBA (and, the third highest next year), and an 11-16 record, the Miami Heat.

Miami stinks this year. Who cares if it’s because of injuries or bad luck? They’re 24th in the entire NBA in points per game. They have a negative net rating (22nd overall), they have a negative point differential in the East (which still sucks, despite LeBron leaving, and a few teams improving), and Jesus Christ, they have the second worst true shooting percentage in the NBA.

So, let’s assume that Miami doesn’t want to pay all this money just to eat a butt salad and miss the playoffs or get swept in the first round. Could we make a trade that helps both Houston and Miami get what they want?

Sending Knight to the Heat, plus draft picks, would allow Houston to try to upgrade their wing and their front court. I don’t think trading for Goran Dragic is a good idea, lol, so let’s concentrate on players like power forward James Johnson, who can spread the floor a little bit, and Small Forward Justise Winslow, and Shooting Guard Wayne Ellington, to help guard the perimeter. Johnson and Winslow for Brandon Knight works, salary-wise. Ellington might be a little difficult, unless Houston was willing to send back Eric Gordon or PJ Tucker (doubtful).

But, what about adding Flash, Dwyane Wade? Would Old Man Wade want one more crack at a title? With his buddies Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony? Adding Wade to the Johnson and Winslow trade would cost $1.5 million more. Guess who sucks on the Rockets and costs $1.5 million? Michael Carter-Williams! A disaster of a signing for Houston, and a player that Miami won’t have on their books next year if they traded for him. Win-win!

James Johnson, Justise Winslow, and DWade for Brandon Knight, MCW, and two first round picks. Who says no? Miami sheds salary, acquires draft assets, and Houston improves their team without breaking the bank. If Wade were amenable to coming to Houston for ONE LAST SHOT, then one imagines that perhaps Melo could be coaxed back to the team, too, and he could run as Wade’s second banana on the second unit? Maybe? Especially if he gets an apology for being thrown under the bus as the scapegoat for Houston’s early season struggles?

I don’t know if that’s a team that can compete with the best teams in the West, but I do know that Houston’s offense can be elite when James Harden is playing like an MVP. Plus, how cool would it be for the Banana Boat Crew to face off against LeBron and the Lakers??

All of this would be dependent on Wade’s approval, obviously, to be traded (and, his desire for one last score), Carmelo’s acceptance to return, and everyone’s ability to be maximized by the power of FRIENDSHIP (awwww!). Sometimes, sports is about the narrative more than anything else. I would positively LOVE seeing Flash and Melo get one more chance, and I would love to see another 7 games series in the WCF between Golden State and Houston (damn, that was awesome last year). I want to see LeBron fall to his friends, but be happy for them. I want to see Chris Paul hold a trophy. Hell, I wanna see MELO hold a trophy! I want to see vintage Wade in the playoffs one more time.

But, most of all, I want a good story. Watching friends beat the overwhelming odds is the basis for every awesome movie ever made, right? Let’s get the Banana Boat Rebel Alliance together so they can take out the Golden State Death Star.

Here are a few other trade ideas:

Blake Griffin to the Lakers

Hear me out! There are rumblings that elite NBA players might not necessarily want to sign with the Lakers because of LeBron’s shadow and uber-presence. Fair enough. So, if the Lakers think they might strike out in free agency, how about a trade for an elite player instead? Blake’s having his BEST season ever. He’s also similar to Kevin Love, and we’ve seen that work in the playoffs (so long as you also have a guard who can score and create).

Because the Lakers have so many middle class salaries (Rondo at $9 million, KCP at $12 million, Lance Stephenson at $4.5 million), they’re primed to be able to trade for an expensive player. Detroit would probably/absolutely trade Blake for Brandon Ingram, no? Cheaper, younger, maybe, one day, better (even though, again, Blake Griffin is positively dominant this season)? You can definitely get all the salaries to work, if you mess around with the trade machine enough, but the trade itself would be about three things:

  • The Lakers becoming convinced that they’ll whiff in free agency and that no elite FAs will sign to be LeBron’s sidekick.
  • The Pistons becoming convinced that they can’t compete with good teams in the East, and they need to get younger, cheaper, better.
  • LeBron becoming convinced that Ingram won’t fit in with him, and that he needs a better guard with a better shot than either Lonzo or Rondo. (Basically, that he needs to reconstruct the Heatles with Wade and Bosh, and the Cavs with Kyrie and KLove, or as close as he can approximate.)

And, Blake returns to LA! So, it’s a spit in the eye to the Clippers, too. The Lakers suddenly have two Point Forwards, and Blake’s the 15th best three point shooter (out of players who average at least 6 3PA per game) at 36.7 3PT%. Dame Lillard is 14th at 36.8 3PT%, and James Harden is 13th at 37.1 3PT%. Blake’s also averaging 5 assists per game, which puts him on par with Lonzo Ball at 4.9 APG (Lonzo’s shooting 30% from three, and 38% from the field, both subpar). So, you’re kind of combining LeBron’s two needs: a big who can space the floor and a distributor who can create.

Otto Porter, Jr. to the Pelicans

This probably wouldn’t happen because both teams are trying to compete, but if the Wizzle-Wazzles, who are barely competent, decided they wanted to shed some contract, they could send Otto to the Pelicans for Mirotic and Solomon Hill. AD would have to sign off, but it would secure a 3-and-D player who can run with the Brow and Jrue Holiday, and it would get Otto’s contract off Washington’s books (and, perhaps please Wall and Beal).

Kent Bazemore and Vince Carter to the Mavericks

I believe in the Mavericks and I believe in Luka Doncic and I believe this team could actually compete in the playoffs with a few moves. One of those moves includes trading Wesley Matthews and his expiring contract. Atlanta is a team that should want to sell, and Vinsanity combining with Dirk Nowitzki would be THE story of the playoffs (if they made it). The Mavs are a well-coached team, Luka is better than anyone predicted, and Rick Carlisle loves his old players. Let’s get him some more competent vets in Bazemore (who should start shooting better) and Old Man Vince.

Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, and Elie Okobo to the Knicks

Frank Ntilikina and Courtney Lee both need a change of scenery. So do Jackson, Bender, and Okobo. This move helps both teams shuffle their lineups and spend some superfluous players for help in weaker positions. Devin Booker gets an elite defender to pair with in the backcourt.

Nikola Vucevic to the Hornets

Let’s try to help Kemba! Vucevic is keeping Mo Bamba from playing, AND he’s an expiring contract. Let’s trade him to Charlotte say that they can upgrade their Center from Cody Zeller to Vooch. Kemba, Jeremy Lamb, Batum, Uncle Marv/Miles Bridges, and Vucevic is better than what the Hornets have now. Trading Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and maybe even Malik Monk for some extra scoring (maybe Terrence Ross, too?) from the front court would help Kemba Walker succeed, and maybe convince him to stay in Charlotte when he’s a free agent.

Kevin Love to the Trail Blazers

Did you know that the Trail Blazers are currently out of the playoffs? They’re 15-13 overall, and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They need help. Let’s send them some players with championship pedigree!

We’re sure to see a lot of action in the next few weeks in the NBA. We’ll see which teams think they can actually compete and which would rather sit it out. (There will be some good teams in the West who decide it’s wiser to tank and get a higher pick, but they’ll realllly have some fierce competition from teams like the Bulls, Hawks, and Suns. Bad teams are baaaaaaad this year.) Honestly, the only teams I can think of that don’t really need to make serious upgrades are the Warriors and the Raptors. Is that the favorite matchup for the Finals right now?