With the NBA trade season opening up after the changes to the CBA were freshly inked, a lot of names have been thrown around in possible trades. The thing is, this isn’t a fantasy league and there are very specific rules with regards to how trades are permited in the NBA. As such, I took a moment to break down some of the rumoured trades and talked about how they could occur (rather than if they would or would not). Chasing the transaction has become a sport within itself in the NBA and so here are the 5 most rumored NBA trades and how I think they may become reality.
(Editor’s note: this article was mostly written prior to Chris Paul being traded to the Suns and has been subsequently edited to reflect that. Additionally, it takes into account the pending trade that sent Dennis Shroder to the LA Lakers)
DeMar DeRozan to the Lakers
This trade may be somewhat complicated. Trading in the NBA requires an understanding of a very difficult collective bargaining agreement. Coupled with that is the age of player empowerment and an increasing salary cap that has seen players on the move in a way that is common place.
It is clear that Lebron James is painfully aware of his mortality. He’s a player who’s rarely been injured and looks incredible at the age of 35 years old. What’s even more impressive is that he’s totaled more than 3 additional regular seasons worth of playoff games. Given that LBJ knows he can’t do this forever, he knows that he’ll likely need to add another star to the reigning champions in order to extend his championship window. This was clear when he courted Kawhi Leonard before he went on to join the crosstown rival Clippers.
DeRozan is a solid player but not ultimately a great fit, he’s not a proficient 3 point shooter and his best work takes place at the top of the key, this is also, the area typically worked by the King himself. I also thought that Rajon Rondo wouldn’t fit with the team and he put together a solid set of games in the NBA finals.It is clear that whoever they target, Lebron will find a way to work them into the offense. DeRozan’s play in transition is also strong which does play to the Lakers strengths.
The only issue with this type of acquisition is that the Lakers do not have the salary capital to acquire him at the moment. They seem to have traded for Dennis Schroder who occupies yet another similar skill set. He may be an interesting player that may be on the move to acquire a big piece for the Lakers come trade deadline. Look to see if they can work a sign and trade deal involving Kyle Kuzma who would likely look forward to getting paid earlier and adding some long term security as well as having the opportunity to move on from a team that does not seem committed to him.
James Harden to the Nets
On the surface this trade seems to be a little too good to be true for Brooklyn fans. However, the Nets salary table is set up to make a big move. Harden seems to be looking for a way out of Houston. The Nets made some big acquisitions leading into the 2019-2020 season when they acquired Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. If Durant can recover from his injury and return to even 80% of the player he was, the Nets will already be an instant contender.
The move makes sense for the Nets as Harden has a good relationship with Durant and was traded from the Thunder by GM Sam Presti who didn’t want to risk losing him for nothing. Houston looks desperate to move on from the Daryl Morey era. Durant and Kyrie are both players who operate well with the ball in their hand but also play well in space and have played well with ball dominant players (Westbrook and Lebron respectively).
The Nets have a lot of salary equity and some pieces that may be interesting. Taurean Prince has a contract that is set to expire in two years and can be used as a trade piece next season as the NBA values expiring contracts greatly, Spencer Dinwidee is a talented player who will likely opt out of his player deal after next season and this would give them a year to decide if he fits into their plans otherwise, the Rockets can shed the cap hit easily. Deandre Jordan is still a solid rim protector and may still be an interesting prospect for a team that famously went small under previous administration. Finally, Caris Lavert is a fun player to watch but he definitely seems like the kind of player who can be moved in order to return a top tier talent, what makes this even more likely is his salary shoots up to $16 million next season.
Russell Westbrook to the Knicks
Russ is another player who seems like he may no longer want to stay with the Rockets. The Knicks have set themselves up with the ability to clear cap space for the 2021-22 whale that is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Recentcy bias would indicate that the Mecca is no longer a free agent destination for A grade superstars as they failed to lure Lebron, KD and Kawhi in previous off seasons. Given that track record they may look toward trading to being in talent that will excite their fan base.
The names being linked in trades are Julius Randle and Dennis Smith. However, they would likely need to add some draft capital and an expiring contract such as Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson or Wayne Ellington to make the trade work. The trade would make the Knicks watchable which is a definite improvement over what we’ve seen for most of the decade. However, building around Russell Westbrook has proven to be difficult. I can’t think of an organization less equipped to handle such a difficult roster construction. As far as the Knicks go, that makes a lot of sense.
Chris Paul to the Suns
This annoyed me to no end. Not because I didn’t like the move. On the contrary I think this is a move that fit the player and the team really well. It annoyed me because I had written up my piece on this trade, why it would make sense and then the story broke that this trade was being finalized. Sure it’s not final but when the Woj bomb hits, the Woj bomb detonates.
So the trade sent Chris Paul to the Suns and in exchange the Oklahoma City Thunder sent Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome and Jalen Leceque with a 2022 draft pick. This seems like a win for the Suns for me. They do give up a protected 2022 pick (likely to turn into two picks if the Suns improve as they’re expected to). What they’re giving up in draft capital is mitigated by the return of a future hall of fame point guard and they gave up some heavy salaried pieces that while complimentary, are not enough to take this rising team to the next level.
The Dynamic backcourt of booker and Paul with Ayton in the middle isn’t even the end of it. They were able to hold onto Mikal Bridges. Both Ayton and Bridges are still on their rookie deals until after the 2021-22 seasons and as such the team can still acquire another max salary player (with some cap manipulation).
Victor Oladipo to the Heat
The Heat were a Cinderella story last year. In an early season podcast I told my cohost Terry Tam (please remember to watch, listen, like and subscribe to Hot Sauce Sports) that the Heat were built to make a run because their athleticism made the lives of everyone they played against very difficult. They have some nice fun pieces, Tyler Herro’s snarl went viral, Duncan Robinson’s shooting was remarkable, and Kendrick Nunn was runner up for Rookie of the Year. Heat fans, this was fun. Heat fans, the run to the finals was impressive. Heat Fans, don’t fall in love.
Pat Riley is always looking to improve his team. He is a legendary NBA executive for a reason, he is great at finding ways to land talent. After being buried in some pretty terrible contracts (that, in fairness he did sign), Pat Riley found himself with not only the cap space to go after the Greek Freak in the 2021/22 off season but also got himself Jimmy Butler and so many interesting pieces to help them land a whale.
Victor Oladipo may not seem sexy but in reality, the last we saw him, he was not healthy and it is a player that fits the Heat really well. He has ties to Heat star Bam Adebayo and is reportedly close with Heat legend Dwayne Wade. That said, that’s all narrative. The main reason that the Pacers may make this move is that they will almost certainly have to take on the salary of Kelly Olynyk, but it may help them land a piece like Tyler Herro or Kendrick Nunn who we saw be successful at their remarkably young ages.