Let’s consider one trade for each team that could possibly make the postseason.
Fantasy players should be aware of all trade targets’ backups. If someone like DeAndre Jordan gets traded, for example, then Boban Marjanovic will probably see increased playing time.
We’ll begin with the West.
Golden State, 41-13
The Warriors are still the best team in the NBA even though they’ve looked less than dominant recently. They don’t need to make a trade. But, let’s think of one, anyway. Were I the Warriors, I would want a guard who can (try to) contain Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, and/or Isaiah Thomas. I think that guard is Avery Bradley. Golden State doesn’t need shooting, and the Nick Young signing hasn’t really done much, so let’s send him back to LA with Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, and a 1st this year or next. Avery Bradley’s postseason defense is much better than his regular season defense, and being able to field him as your 6th or 7th defender against some of the best guards in the league will be vital, and will allow Steve Kerr to stretch his small ball rotations.
Houston Rockets, 39-13
Rockets get: Zach Randolph, Vince Carter
Kings get: Ryan Anderson, Zhou Qi
The Rockets really hurt themselves with Ryan Anderson. He’s not an ideal player for the postseason, even though he fits the Rockets’ style perfectly. Houston also tends to toss their picks around in order to get established players, so they don’t have any attractive picks that they could combine with Anderson to trade for an upgrade. Let’s be honest, Houston has enough shooting, but if you could upgrade any area of their team, it would be their front court, no? So, if you can’t do something smart, do something crazy! Let’s trade Ryan Anderson to SACRAMENTO for ZZZZZZZBO!
Let’s add some toughness to this finesse Houston team and put a founding member of the Grit n Grind Memphis Grizzlies into their starting lineup. I promise you this will look better than starting Ryan Anderson in the playoffs. Plus, ZBo’s been cool with coming off the bench, so he won’t cause any waves. Plus plus, ZBo is AN ABSOLUTE MANIMAL AND DESERVES A SHOT AT A TITLE! Lemme ask you a question: Does anyone, anywhere, want to see Warrior Poet Zachary Randolph in a playoff game? The answer is Eff Nah, And I’m Leaving Because Your Question Unsettled Me So.
San Antonio Spurs, 34-21
Spurs get: Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier
Magic get: Danny Green, Patty Mills, a 1st and a 2nd
This is kinda uncomfortable to ask but what do the Spurs do if Kawhi doesn’t return soon? I don’t mean about trading him or anything, I mean what kind of player could they, should they target to trade for so as to lessen the brutal absence of one of the league’s best players? Because, you can’t just sit this playoffs out and not try your best, y’know? The Spurs are in 3rd place in the West and have the 5th best record overall in the NBA, so they’re a damn good team and Yeah, The Spurs Have A Legit Shot At The Finals. They always do.
But, what do they need? Scoring, mostly. They score at a lower level per game than ALL of the other Western conference playoff teams. They’re 27th overall in scoring in the NBA, right behind the Mavericks. Now, some of that is a function of their style of play, but get real, you’d like to be able to trade shots back and forth when it comes to the postseason. So, can you grab a perimeter player who can score in bunches? The Spurs have all their picks this year and next year, so they can attach a sweetener.
Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon to San Antonio for Danny Green’s expiring contract, Patty Mills, and a first round pick and a second round pick. Is that enough for Orlando? Would they need two 1sts? If this trade happened, then San Antonio would be able to field a playoff roster that looks like this:
Dejounte Murray/Tony Parker
Evan Fournier/Manu Ginobili
Aaron Gordon/Kyle Anderson
LaMarcus Aldridge/Pau Gasol
If I’m Kawhi, I like that team, and I’m satisfied that the front office brought in stars to help us win. Aaron Gordon can be DAMN good, and he’s only 22. Plus, Manu & Parker may not return next season, so their money may be available. Are you really going to do better in the offseason than Gordon and Fournier?
The Spurs don’t need their picks, but they DO need to make Kawhi happy. Losing Kawhi is like losing LeBron. You can’t expect to recover from a devastating loss like that.
Minnesota Timberwolves, 34-22
Timberwolves get: Wesley Matthews, JJ Barea, Nerlens Noel
Mavericks get: Andrew Wiggins
The TWolves are dead last in three pointers made, so let’s get them some outside shooting. Minnesota may have draft picks, depending on certain protections for their OKC pick, and their own. So, let’s try to do this without draft picks. A team that shoots a lotta threes but doesn’t necessarily need the players? Dallas! The Mavericks are 5th overall in 3PM, so let’s transfer some of their outside shooting to Minnie.
Dallas send Wesley Matthews, JJ Barea, and the invisible Nerlens Noel to Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is set to make around $25 million next year, but he’s a good, young player, and Dallas could pair him with Harrison Barnes and Dennis Smith, Jr. as their future. This gets Minnesota some shooting and some depth, and it lets Dallas get something for the Nerlens fiasco. Minnesota needs to be able to shoot threes if they want a realistic chance of advancing in the postseason, otherwise they’ll probably exit in the first round (they’d play the OKC Thunder if the playoffs started today).
Oklahoma City Thunder, 31-24
Thunder get: Avery Bradley
Clippers get: Andre Roberson and a 2nd
This is easy, the Thunder need a replacement for Andre Roberson. The obvious choice is to make their strength even stronger, which means going after a defensive minded guard. Avery Bradley fits the bill! Avery is a smart pickup for any playoff team, but he’d mesh instantly with this Thunder squad. They play ferociously. Roberson and a 2nd round pick for Avery Bradley makes sense to me, unless the Clippers are convinced they can get a 1st for him. Honestly, were I the Thunder, I’d try to get Avery AND Lou Williams. Send a 1st if you have to, but get some better scoring, get some better defense, and make a trade that lets you have a trio of defensive players that can actually try and legit contain the elites in the Western conference. Westbrook, Avery Bradley, and PG13 is some tough basketballing for opponents.
Tyreke Evans or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would also look nice on this team. Joe Harris or DeMarre Carroll wouldn’t cost you too much. The Thunder have to do something, though, otherwise Paul George might use their inaction as another reason to leave in the offseason. You want to convince him to STAY. That’s worth a draft pick or two.
Denver Nuggets, 29-25
Nuggets get: Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams
Hornets get: some combo of Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jamal Murray etc, and two 1sts
Denver has too many guys, man. They need to distill this roster into better players. You have to build around Jokic since he’s an absolute stud. They have Paul Millsap coming back, so that’s a dominant duo if Millsap returns to form. Then, you have Golden Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. But, everyone else is moveable, no? Emmanuel Mudiay is Elfrid Payton West; Will Barton is having a great year, but would you let Will Barton stop you from making a substantive upgrade? Let’s say everyone is healthy for the postseason, so your starters are Jamal Murray, Golden Gary, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic. Do you want Will Barton to be your wing? Your sixth man? Denver has their picks, so they could make something real happen. Would you do Tyreke for Mudiay and a pick? I think that makes both teams better, especially since Memphis needs a backup point guard.
But, let’s go even bigger than that. Go big or go home, right?
Let’s go get Kemba!
Denver sends TWO FIRST ROUND PICKS! And, salaries*. For Kemba Walker, Kid Christ, and Uncle Marvin Williams!
Denver’s rotation would be:
Golden Gary Harris/Will barton
Paul Millsap/Uncle Marv
I like that a helluva lot more than what Denver has now. A trio of Kemba, Gary, and Joker is enough to entice free agents to come play in Colorado. Meanwhile, Charlotte goes all in on rebooting, but now with a good, young point guard and picks.
*The salaries would be some combination of Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jamal Murray, Richard Jefferson, etc. Like I said, Denver has mucho guys (as does Charlotte), so the money can be worked out, no problemo.
Portland Trail Blazers, 29-25
Trail Blazers get: Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert
Cavaliers get: Shabazz Napier, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, a 1st and a 2nd
Portland is 18th in scoring, but top 10 in defense, so let’s get them a forward who can help out their elite guards. Mirotic would’ve been perfect for Portland, but alas, the Pelicans pounced. (Good for them, though!)
But, I think Portland should do something different. Don’t trade for this season, trade for next season. The odds of Portland advancing to the Finals are looooooow. But! If you add another star to the dynamic duo of Maestro Lillard and CJ McCollum, then you may have something that can go the distance. Portland has their picks, too. And, if we’re doing something different, then why not do something unexpected, at the same time?
Portland sends Shabazz Napier, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, and a 1st and a 2nd round pick to…
CLEVELAND! FOR KEVIN LOVE! And, Iman Shumpert.
This trade does a few things. It gets KLove the hell out of Cleveland, which seems to be in everyone’s best interest right now. Love goes back to his home base, and he partners up with one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Portland doesn’t usually get star free agents, so this sets them up for an actual run. Shump, when healthy, is a better defender than anyone else on Portland, so that’s an upgrade, too.
Meanwhile, Cleveland fixes their KLove problem, they amass more draft picks (which may be used to get even BETTER players), they get better defenders than the crap they have right now, and they get a smart big who knows what he’s doing. Aminu, whose name means “The Chief Has Arrived,” will fit in next to the King (better than Jae Crowder has, anyway), and the Cavs get to keep I.T. to see if his rust is played off by the postseason. If not, then they won’t resign him in the offseason, they’ll have multiple first round picks, including Brooklyn’s, and they’ll have money to spend on free agent(s).
This is a crazy trade, but both these teams are running out of reasons to not make big changes. This helps them both.
New Orleans Pelicans, 28-25
Nawlins already made their trade by dealing for Nikola Mirotic. I’m doubtful they’d make another one. But! Just out of curiosity, what would happen if they traded Boogie?
Boogie’s going to be an unrestricted free agent, so his $18 milion is an expiring contract.
The Pelicans rotation is now Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, E’Lite E’Twaun Moore, Mirotic and Anthony Davis. Ideally, you’d want a wing so you can move Holiday back to PG, even though he’s done very well this year as a combo guard. Meanwhile, Nawlins has no idea what to do with DeMarcus Cousins because of his Achilles injury.
You know who has a lot of cap room? The Brooklyn Nets.
If you’re Brooklyn, would you buy low on Boogie’s return to form and do a trade for him and a pick(s) for DeMarre Carroll, Jahlil Okafor, and Joe Harris? DeMarre helps your playoff rotation now as he’s played better this season than at any time since leaving Atlanta. Plus, you replace Boogie’s presence in the interior with another big who can score and maybe needs some team desperate for production from a backup. And, Joe Harris helps your shooting and your spacing for your playoff run.
I honestly have no idea what happens with Boogie this year, but I do know that a Nets team with Professor Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, and Boogie Cousins on a (probably) undermarket contract is a team that has MUCHO upside AND incredibly affordable contracts. That’s a team that can convince a superstar to join them for a max contract, so long as you time it right.
The Clippers are above .500 but they already traded Blake, and they may trade DeAndre Jordan, too. Hell, they may trade everyone, who knows. Regardless, they ain’t in the playoffs right now, so I don’t really care about coming up with trades for them to make a run.
Ditto the Utah Jazz. Rubio and Favors probably need to go, but I don’t think you need to force it this season. If you can get good assets or picks for everyone except Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, then good on ya, Utahns.
And now, here’s the Eastern Conference:
Boston Celtics, 39-16
Boston may get Gordon Hayward back, soooo that’s nice. And, they just picked up Greg Monroe to be a backup big. Boston’s pretty flush. Would you make a big trade if you were them? You have picks and players, but unless you get a superstar in return, I think you’d prefer to stand pat. Would you trade some combination of Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, and pick(s) for Devin Booker and Tyson Chandler? Would you want Lou Williams? Could you possibly get Anthony Davis, thus allowing Nawlins to reset with Boogie and all of the picks? Kyrie, Hayward, Horford, Davis: that’s a team that can make the Finals. The eternal question is, though, would you rather have the flexibility or the stars?
Boston will see how far Kyrie, Hayward, Horford, and their young guys get them this season. It wouldn’t be a shock to see them add another elite in the offseason, though.
Toronto Raptors, 37-16
Raptors get: Enes Kanter, Michael Beasley
Knicks get: Jonas Valanciunas and a pick
The Raptors are a great team. They’re third in scoring and top 10 in defense. DeMar DeChozan is the MVP. They are a legit contender to make the Finals. But, they could use some extra oomph and some more muscle. Let’s get them Enes Kanter and Michael Beasley from the NY Knicks. Now that the Unicorn is down for the season, there’s no reason for the Knicks not to sell off everything else. Sending Kanter and Beasley for Valanciunas and a pick is a fine, fair deal. Valanciunas is still just 25, and has room to improve. Perhaps starting for the Knicks for the rest of the season and having a much higher usage rate will help him reach his potential? Courtly Courtney Lee should also be available, and he’s been great this year.
Cleveland Cavaliers, 30-22
I went over Cleveland’s options earlier in the week and I listed a Blazers trade above, so I really don’t want to do another one. Y’know what? Cleveland deserves this. This is what happens when you habitually fire your general managers and your coaches and you trade away draft picks and you draft Anthony Bennett (lol) and you let your players dictate the practice schedule. Like, not one goddamn thing is done properly in Cleveland. They have LeBron, and so they are mighty, but this is not a playoff team without the King. It might be one of the worst teams in the league, honestly. If they had no LBJ, whose pick would you rather have: Cleveland’s or Brooklyn’s?
If I were the vile Dan Gilbert, and thank God Almighty that I am not, and I had NOT given LBJ a no-trade clause, I think I probably would’ve traded him the day after KLove got injured. Like, I’ve seen enough, y’know? It’s time to cash out. I’d holler at the Spurs, and I’d holler at Washington, and I’d holler at Philly, and Boston, and LA(s), and Houston. I might even holler at Chicago. I would NOT holler at Orlando or Sacramento, though. That’s how bad their teams are, I think. Nothing they could send me would be worth LeBron, and there is no way in hell that he would ever consider resigning in either city. I feel like every other franchise has at least something they could offer to LeBron to make him stay, though. Even Charlotte, since he’d get to play for MJ.
Washington Wizards, 31-23
Wizards get: A big
Other team gets: Whatever they want that isn’t Wall, Beal, Porter & Oubre
This team COULD be incredible. I’ve said it before in this space, the idea of a Dr. Wall, Bradley Kind of a Big Beal, Otto Porter, Jr., Kelly Oubre, Jr., and a good big is SEDUCTION INCARNATE. I think that team would be money in all banks, everywhere. How about Marc Gasol with that group? Or, Horford? Or, Boogie or the Brow? Or, DJ? Hell, Vucevic might even make that look nice! I’m strangely excited for the future of the Wizards, even as the drama that always seems to float around them gets thick and foggy and noxious. If you think they’re a better team without John Wall, then please exit the planet Earth forever and don’t tell us where you’re going.
I kind of like Brook Lopez here, but...would the Lakers want to take back Gortat? Dwight Howard makes sense, in a sickening Wizards kind of way.
But, I dunno, I think the Mahinmi contract is what’s really holding them back. If you could drop that contract for a pick, would you do it? Then Gortat is an expiring next year, maybe you trade for some cheap, young bigs… Gortat and Mahinmi cost $29 million this season. That’s suboptimal. Could you send Mahinmi and a pick for someone like Frank Kaminsky? Or, Dewayne Dedmon?
D.C. won’t succeed if they don’t have a strong center. That goes for most things in Washington, D.C., actually.
Milwaukee Bucks, 30-23
The Bucks have already made a trade, and fired their coach. They’ll send a 1st round pick to Phoenix either this year or next year. Malcolm Brogdon is out for the season. The Bucks are middle of the pack in offense and defense. Their playoff rotation is Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and John Henson or Thon Maker. Not bad!
Were I Milwaukee, I would want a cheap scorer. How about Joe Harris for DJ Wilson? Or, Marco Belinelli?
Or, how about go get Nic Batum? He’s expensive, but that probably makes him cheaper to acquire, if you savvy. He’d be a salary dump for Charlotte. Hell, you might even be able to get a pick out of them for it.
And, they should call Cleveland and LeBron and ask if they’d take Jabari and Brogdon for the King.
Indiana Pacers, 30-25
Pacers get: Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, Elfrid Payton
Magic get: Thad Young, salary and a pick
The Pacers have a bottom 5 payroll. Is this a sleeper destination for Boogie Cousins?
Regardless, they score as much as the Thunder and defend as well as the Timberwolves. This team is awesome, but they need another big time scorer. Myles Turner hasn’t bloomed this season the way people thought he would, so it’s time to go get Victor Oladipo some help.
They have their picks, so they could make something happen. Something like Kemba is not out of the question. Indiana could absorb his contract, and their rotation of the future is based on Kemba and Dipo, a backcourt that would be one of the five best in the NBA. I feel like Kemba and Dipo would work GREAT together.
Or, how about Indiana as the landing spot for Aaron Gordon?!
To he honest, though, I think the Pacers should stand pat (unless they can actually do something like Kemba). Their books will be much cleaner in the offseason, their team is young, they were NOT supposed to be a playoff team this year, and you don’t want to ruin this team’s fresh start by making an overly excited panic trade before the postseason.
I would also like to point out that Dipo in Philly would look sensational. If Philly sends back Fultz and picks, would that be enough to get one of the best two-way players in the game? Remember, JJ Redick is only on a one year deal. Philly will have an open roster spot next year.
Miami Heat, 29-25
And, once again, Los Heat are weird. Miami owes a protected pick to Phoenix. Miami has players that play well for them, but it’s questionable whether they play well outside of Miami’s infamous conditioning culture. Plus, Spoelstra’s just a damn good coach. Just like with Stevens in Boston, sometimes good coaches make players look better than they really are.
Miami has a top 5 payroll this year. Um. Jumping Jehoshaphat. Actually, it’s more like WTF. How could that team have such a high payroll?? Especially since Josh Richardson is on a RIDICULOUSLY cheap contract?
Anyway, they’re in the mix, but I have no faith in this team to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. I’d be selling Wayne Ellington, Goran Dragic, Dion Waiters, everyone. Except...they’ve tried to...and failed...multiple times…
Here’s the thing: this is a good team that’s coached well. OF COURSE, they’re “overperforming.” Y’know what they really are? They’re respectable. They play hard, they try their best, and Spo puts his players in positions to succeed. You can’t ask for more than that.
But, these guys aren’t stars. For this team to write their names in the sky, they’d have to gel like the mid-00’s Pistons and become more than their parts. They have an elite defense, but they don’t score well. Is an intra-Florida trade possible, wherein the Heat send assets for Aaron Gordon or Fournier? Would the Lakers want Hassan Whiteside?
Miami’s a weird team, and it’s difficult to chart a path forward for them. They’re competent everywhere, so unless they make a massive upgrade, any move feels lateral. Could you see John Wall in Miami? Or, CJ McCollum?
I think Miami will stand pat until they know what LeBron’s going to do. Then, all the dominos in the universe are going to start falling, and the clever teams will be ready for it. LeBron’s decision affects the entire future history of the NBA. The only team he seemingly can’t improve is his own. It’s like a Greek tragedy, or a sura from the Quran. He that reigns in his own country holds not the reins of power, or some such. Lo, beware of the superstar’s touch! For while his fire warms and his light exposes paths to glory, it can also burn and blind you.
Philadelphia 76ers, 26-25
76ers get: Victory Oladipo
Pacers get: Markelle Fultz and picks
I, um, rillyrillyrilly want Victor Oladipo on this team now. Or, Kawhi. Who I DON’T want is a point guard who will take the ball out of Ben Simmons’s hand. What’s the point of hindering the Chosen One’s development again?
Man, trade Fultz and Saric, trade picks, do anything that allows your team to reach their next level. Old Man Redick is nice, but you need an elite wing defender if you’re going to be for real. OG Anunoby would’ve been a really nice draft pick for Philly, in retrospect. Does someone like Tyreke Evans or MKG make sense on this team?
Strangely, this seems like a better free agent destination for Paul George than the Lakers. I know that sounds crazy, but just think about this team with him added to it, and it doesn’t cost you any assets other than money.
On the other hand, there’s no guarantee that Ben Simmons will ever gain a jump shot, which would be as limiting as Andrew Wiggins’ refusal to shoot from outside. It doesn’t kill you as a player, but it does severely limit your team’s capabilities. Every player in the NBA should be able to shoot threes now. There’s no excuse not to. When Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol started shooting from outside, the league changed. Did you see Embiid the other night knocking down threes? Get real. He’s wow.
Detroit Pistons, 26-26
Ohhhhhh, Detroit. RJax is (maybe) coming back soon. You have a top 10 defense, but a bottom 10 offense. You just traded for Blake Griffin and everyone now thinks you’re stupid and he’s too expensive. But, what cost freedom, y’know? What wounds do I regret when I wear dressings of eternal glory?
Having said that, it would be nice to have some effective players around Blake and Drum, and that means shooting. Professor Dinwiddie is available and MAGNIFICENTLY cheap, but Dinwiddie doesn’t have a great past with Detroit or SVG (siiiiiiiiiigh). I liked Kemba on the Pistons before we obtained Blake; now, I don’t know if it’s possible, unless Charlotte just full on salary dumps him.
Luke Kennard and StanJohn have come on and performed better recently, so maybe the Pistons don’t need to make a move? If Reggie comes back and can mesh well with the new twin tower regime, then right on. Reggie needs to improve his outside shooting, but who the hell doesn’t? (Well, several players on Golden State and Houston, but whatever.)
I think the Pistons will make the playoffs, but I don’t know if they need to make a trade.
For what it’s worth, though, the Pistons play the Nets tonight. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Harris, and Spence are all very affordable options for a team looking to improve their roster. Stan Van Gundy will have an opportunity to see them up close.
Regardless, I know one thing for certain: Detroit is NOT where Boogie Cousins will sign this summer. But, that’s all I know.