The playoffs are veering towards the NBA’s final four. Still, the league is chock full of around-the-clock trade rumors. And why not? Over 20 teams are already on vacation, looking for ways to upgrade for next season. Even the eight squads still playing could always strive to improve upon their 2022 success.
It’s never too early to start looking ahead to the offseason and predict which players will be on the move. The summer of 2022 could feature an especially juicy trade season with current All-Stars or former All-Stars Russell Westbrook, Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons, D’Angelo Russell, and Julius Randle running through the rumor mill.
The NBA trade season will pick up around the June 23 draft, and we’re here to offer four realistic blockbuster trades.
The Trail Blazers Add Jerami Grant For Josh Hart And Justise Winslow
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Jerami Grant
Detroit Pistons Receive: Josh Hart, Justise Winslow
Jerami Grant has only one year left on the three-year, $60 million contract he signed with the Pistons in 2020. It’s nearly impossible to envision the 28-year-old wing re-upping with a Detroit team that is at least three years away from competing for a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference after his deal is up. The Pistons should look to trade Grant during the offseason before losing him for nothing.
Josh Hart blew up after he was dealt in a trade deadline swap to the Trail Blazers, averaging 18.7 PPG while shooting 47.6% from the field and playing his typical brand of hard-nosed defense. Justise Winslow was a high draft pick who never found his footing in the league. However, he’s only 26-years-old with the prototypical size and talent to become a top-10 defensive wing. The Pistons could insert both players around Cade Cunningham, adding toughness and defense to the Pistons’ starting unit.
The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, shipped out half of their rotation at the trade deadline, and outside of Damian Lillard and perhaps Anfernee Simons, lack consistent two-way players who can defend and add a little bit of shot creation to the offense. Jerami Grant would slip in nicely next to Damian Lillard in Portland’s starting lineup as a solid two-way wing who can handle the opposing squad’s most talented scorer, shoot at a high clip from deep, and drive to the rack.
The Nets Give Up On Ben Simmons For Jason Collins And Onyeka Okongwu
Brooklyn Nets Receive: John Collins, Onyeka Okongwu
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Ben Simmons
If you haven’t been on an eight-month camel trip through the Sahara Desert without a cell phone (yes, there is cell phone service in the Sahara), you know about the Ben Simmons saga. He sat out the entire season due to mental health and back issues. And even though Simmons, again, didn’t play basketball for the entire season, he recently went under the knife to alleviate back pain from a herniated disk.
Ben Simmons’s back problems could be real. Or they could be phantom pains created by his anxiety about playing basketball in front of the world again (I’m not criticizing Simmons, mental health issues are a very real problem for many people and can be debilitating). Hell, he could have consulted 20 surgeons before one agreed to go in and have a look at his lower back. We just don’t know. And that’s a problem.
The Nets are set on a championship-or-bust course for next season with perennial MVP candidate Kevin Durant and presumably Kyrie Irving (player option) on the squad. A considerable unknown like Ben Simmons is a risk the Nets can’t take. Brooklyn would be wise to trade Simmons during the offseason for John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu, two players who are less talented but more dependable.
The Nets finished the season with the 19th-rated defense during the 2021-22 season, primarily behind their inability to protect the paint. Brooklyn needs size in the middle. John Collins isn’t known as a defensive anchor, but he finished the year ranked 21st in the NBA in block percentage (3.0), one spot below Karl-Anthony Towns and miles ahead of anybody on the Nets. Collins would slide into Brooklyn’s starting unit as a floor-spreading big man who rolls hard to the rim and offers above-average backline defense.
Onyeka Okongwu isn’t merely a throw-in to make the money work for this trade. He was the Hawks best defender last season, a 6-8 center with a 7-1 wingspan who allowed opposing players to shoot only 57.0% at the rim in 2021-22, a top-50 mark among 270 players who defended at least 150 shots from within six feet of the basket. Okongwu could start alongside Collins and Durant giving them excellent frontcourt length to match up with the long and talented Heat, Celtics, 76ers, and Bucks.
As for the Hawks, their defense was atrocious last season (26th in the NBA), and it’s difficult to imagine them getting enough stops to advance beyond the First Round of the playoffs next year and beyond in a suddenly deep Eastern Conference. That is, unless they make a major change. Ben Simmons would give them a top-5 defender, a 6-11 point guard who can stifle positions 1 through 5.
Sure, there’d be risks for Atlanta. Ben Simmons could go on strike again next season or miss time with more back pains. None of that matters. The Hawks would have to take a chance on Simmons because he’d transform them from an offense-only play-in squad to a genuine two-way playoff team with top-10 offense and defense potential.
The Lakers Trade Russell Westbrook For Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield
Indiana Pacers Receive: Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook’s 2021-22 season was historically disastrous. He played 2,678 minutes of basketball (7th in the NBA) yet accounted for only 1.7 of the Lakers’ 33 wins, a Win Shares figure that was far less than the Purple and Gold’s Dwight Howard (971 total minutes), Stanley Johnson (1,094 total minutes), and Austin Reaves (1,418 minutes).
Russell Westbrook apologists will tell you that he was a terrible fit with the Lakers. They’ll tell you he’s a former MVP and a triple-double machine who was put into a cage by LeBron James and Frank Vogel. They’ll tell you he’s still got it. And next year, if he's released from his cage and given the primary ball-handling duties again for a new squad, you’ll see the real Russell Westbrook, the one who averaged a triple-double for the Wizards previous season and helped them reach the playoffs.
I’m not a Russell Westbrook apologist. Last season, I saw a player who lost his first step along with his ability to finish at the rim. I saw a player build a Three Little Pigs brick house from deep and continue on with his career-long boycott on the less glamorous end.
The Lakers need to find a team willing to take on Russell Westbrook’s massive $50 million-ish player option next season. The Pacers would be wise to acquire Brodie while unloading Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield during the offseason.
The Pacers finished the 2021-22 season with a 25-57 record, and even after they shook things up at the trade deadline, bringing in Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield for a package centered around Domantas Sabonis, they looked dreadful, hemorrhaging points on the less fun end. The Pacers need to hit the restart button around Haliburton.
Indiana should offload Brogdon and Hield, two negative defenders, for Westbrook. To avoid hindering Haliburton’s development, the Pacers would have to give Brodie the John Wall treatment, threatening to send him home if he doesn’t agree to a buyout. Indiana would bottom out during 2022-23, entering the offseason with a high draft pick and massive space as Westbrook’s contract came off the books to chase a max free agent or several high-end role players.
As for the Lakers, at first glance, this trade seems like a massive coup. However, once you get past the fact that the Purple and Gold managed to swap out Westbrook and really consider what Brogdon and Hield bring to the court, the shine of this deal wears off fast. The modern version of the NBA is a league where it is essential to have at least one perimeter ballhawk — Marcus Smart, Mikal Bridges, Jrue Holiday, Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, Desmond Bane, and Jimmy Butler — in your starting lineup to advance deep in the playoffs. Brogdon and Hield are far from premier defenders. Both players have struggled throughout their careers to contain their men, rotate on the perimeter, and fight through screens.
Despite Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield’s defensive deficiencies, both athletes are excellent offensive weapons, and they'd be a massive upgrade over the Lakers’ previous starting backcourt, Russell Westbrook and Malik Monk. The Purple and Gold might find it challenging to fend off the Warriors, Suns, and Grizzlies in next year’s playoffs without a top-30 backcourt defender, but at least they’d almost certainly make the NBA’s second season.
The Heat Land Donovan Mitchell For Tyler Herro And Duncan Robinson
Miami Heat Receive: Donovan Mitchell
Utah Jazz Receive: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, 2023 First-Round Pick
This proposed trade seems like an absolute steal for the Miami Heat. They receive Donovan Mitchell, a three-time All-Star, for the less heralded tandem of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. Still, are we sure Donovan Mitchell is better than Tyler Herro? They’re closer than you think.
Donovan Mitchell averaged 25.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, and 35.5% from deep with a 32.9 USG% during the 2021-22 season.
Tyler Herro averaged 20.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, and 39.9% from deep with a 28.8 USG% during the 2021-22 season.
Both players' numbers are eerily similar, with Mitchell scoring roughly five points more per game, albeit with a higher usage rate, while Herro is the better three-point marksman. Mitchell enthusiasts will certainly scream out, “Donovan Mitchell is the Jazz’s primary shot creator, a player who drives their offense with the ball in his hands, and Herro is mainly a spot-up shooter who plays off Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry.”
For those who don’t focus on the Heat or Jazz throughout the season, only catching them in a couple of nationally televised games, it might seem like they are vastly different players. It might seem like Mitchell is a playmaking genius while Herro is an ancillary shooter. However, that assessment is simply untrue.
Here’s a breakdown of Donovan Mitchell and Tyler Herro’s 2021-22 playmaking statistics:
Donovan Mitchell: 4.76 average dribbles per touch (2nd on the Jazz), 17.7% of two-point field goals assisted, 14.5 assist points created per game
Tyler Herro: 3.83 average dribbles per touch (1st on the Heat), 33.4% of two-point field goals assisted, 10.6 assist points created per game
Tyler Herro led the Heat in average dribbles per touch, a far cry from a player who merely hangs out behind the arc waiting for spot-up opportunities. At the same time, Herro created roughly 70% of his own two-point looks throughout the season, and he wasn’t a tunnel-vision chucker either, creating 10.6 points nightly with his passing skills.
Donovan Mitchell is a top-5 pick and roll initiator who gets to the rack with ease during stalled-out half-court possessions. Still, Tyler Herro has an excellent off-the-dribble mid-range game, and while he doesn’t explode down the lane like Mitchell, he’s no JV scrub. Herro also has a solid first step, and he finished 68.8% of his shots at the rim during the 2021-22 season.
Donovan Mitchell’s ability to work as the ball handler in pick and roll situations coupled with his one-on-one prowess makes him the better offensive weapon than Tyler Herro, but not by much. And we haven’t talked about defense. Mitchell is a notoriously lousy perimeter defender who routinely takes plays off on the less fun end and gets lost on rotations. Tyler Herro isn’t the next coming of Tony Allen, but he gives 100% on the less fun end and is an above-average lockdown artist.
We also haven’t mentioned the other player involved in our trade, Duncan Robinson, a sweet-shooting wing who has a 40.6% career mark from a distance while acting as a solid defender capable of guarding positions 1 through 3.
This is a rare win-win trade. Donovan Mitchell reportedly hates playing with Rudy Gobert and wants out of small-market Utah. He’d form a Big-3 with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in Miami, creating one of the premier championship cores in the NBA. Tyler Herro would land in Utah as their number one option with a chance to prove he’s more than a Sixth Man of the Year Award winner. Herro would slide in nicely next to Mike Conley, Duncan Robinson, Royce O’Neal (he’s the Jazz’s most talented perimeter defender and should start), and Rudy Gobert forming an excellent playoff squad.
The 2022 Offseason Will Be A Juicy Tradefest
Donovan Mitchell and the Utah Jazz have been eliminated early from the postseason five seasons in a row. They’re due for a change. Donovan Mitchell could find his way to the Heat in exchange for Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.
The Brooklyn Nets would love to keep Ben Simmons and his defensive potential. Unfortunately, they don’t have time to wait for him to work his way out of his mental problems. The Nets should trade Simmons for two excellent frontcourt players, John Collins and Onyeka Okongwu.
The Lakers would give their left arm to trade Russell Westbrook, and the Pacers could be the one team with the motivation to take on Brodie. The Lakers would land Malcolm Brogdon and Buddy Hield, two players who’d fit nicely next to LeBron and AD. At the same time, the Pacers would clear their cap sheet for the summer of 2023.
Jerami Grant is as good as gone from Detroit after his contract expires at the end of next season. The Pistons should trade him this summer for two solid young role players, Josh Hart and Justise Winslow. The Trail Blazers would land a potential second star in the transaction in Grant to pair with Damian Lillard.