Now that a championship team has been crowned, NBA franchises are looking to find ways to retool their team to take down the 2021 champion Milwaukee Bucks. Health and depth were key questions during the pandemic-riddled season, but there are ways for franchises to surge towards the top.
With this free agency class looking to be one of the weaker classes in recent memory, the trade market should be one of the most active we have seen in years. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Golden State Warriors were hit pretty hard with injuries last year. Maybe, one more piece could get them over the hump once their key players return.
As we look ahead to the offseason, these are five mock trade ideas we would love to see. Not just because of the star power, each franchise would have, but how the after-effect of teams’ corresponding moves.
Brandon Ingram - New York Knicks
Trade Package: RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickly, Obi Toppin, 2021 No. 19 Pick
It has been speculated that the New Orleans Pelicans are interested in acquiring a superstar to play alongside Zion Williamson. The last two seasons have been disappointing as the team has missed out on the playoffs despite bringing Williamson to town. With the Pelicans firing Stan Van Gundy and bringing in a fresh face in Willie Green, the franchise could look to move on from one of their young, veteran playmakers.
Many believe that Lonzo Ball is likely to be dealt with in a sign-and-trade, but maybe the 2020 Most Improved Player of the Year in Brandon Ingram could be dealt with. Ingram averaged 23.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists last year. The Knicks need a true offensive scoring option, so acquiring Ingram and pairing him with Julius Randle would potentially be the missing piece.
As for New Orleans, pairing Williamson with his former Duke teammate in RJ Barrett would be ideal. The two already have chemistry and could be the cornerstone duo to make New Orleans relevant for the first time since Anthony Davis was in town. Immanuel Quickly is a rising star, while Toppin showed explosiveness at the Slam Dunk Contest. Both would be essential bench pieces.
Zach LaVine - Los Angeles Lakers
Trade Package: Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker, Dennis Schroder, 2021 No. 22 Pick
When Anthony Davis got hurt in the first round of the playoffs, as well as the regular season, the Lakers’ offense looked out of sync. The team was even worse when both LeBron James and Davis were out of the lineup. Do you know who can carry an offensive when surrounded by sub-par offensive pieces? That would be Zach LaVine. Don’t believe us? Look at what he has done with the Chicago Bulls the last three years.
LaVine made his first All-Star appearance in 2021 after averaging 27.4 points per game. LaVine also shot 50.7% from the field and 41.9% from the three-point range. LeBron, at the age of 36, can’t be the offensive load anymore. He needs to go back to point guard, where he led the league in assists in 2020. LaVine would take a huge load off LeBron's shoulders if he was in L.A.
As for Chicago, the Lakers would get their point guard for the next four years in a sign-and-trade with Dennis Schroder. The key piece is 20-year old Talen Horton-Tucker, another sign-and-trade piece, that has many executives buzzing about his skills. Kyle Kuzma can score 18 points per game when asked. Overall, the Bulls would get depth as they continue to search for their identity.
Bradley Beal - Denver Nuggets
Trade Package: Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris, 2021 No. 26 Pick
When Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL, Nikola Jokic had to be thinking about how his offensive load doubled. The MVP did all he could to lead the Nuggets in the postseason, but without a scorer like Murray, it allowed opposing defenses to lock down Jokic. Imagine a big three of Bradley Beal, Murray, and Jokic. That would be one untouchable lineup.
It would come at a cost. Michael Porter Jr. showed strides of becoming a young star in this league. He averaged 19.0 points per game in his first fully healthy season. Aaron Gordon showed promise as a post defender, but his offensive game is limited. Monte Morris is a key bench piece, but that is the price of doing business for a player that averaged 31.3 points per game last season.
The Nuggets are going to have a tough road, again, in the Western Conference. Chris Paul is expected to stay or join the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard will be back and healthy. Anthony Davis will be healthy. The team needs a legit third-scoring option and Beal would be just that.
Joel Embiid - Miami Heat
Trade Package: Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, 2025 First-Round Pick
What if the Philadelphia 76ers said that Ben Simmons wasn’t the problem? We have talked for nearly two years about who the 76ers should keep and who they let go. Is it Simmons or is it Joel Embiid? For this argument, let’s say that the 76ers would rather move on from Embiid and build around Simmons and Tobias Harris.
In this package, the Heat would acquire Embiid, who is coming off a season where he averaged 28.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks. They would pair him with Jimmy Butler, who briefly played with Embiid after being traded by the Timberwolves to the 76ers two years ago. Defensively, this would be one stout Heat team.
As for Philly, they would equally be as competitive by acquiring All-Star Bam Adebayo, coming off a second consecutive season of making the All-Defensive Team. They would get a Sixth Man of the Year contender in Tyler Herro, who averaged over 15 points last year. Kendrick Nunn showed glimpses of offensive power by scoring 14.6 per game but fell out of rotation late in the season.
In this trade, both teams would potentially get better. The combination of Simmons, Harris, and Adebayo would lead to more ball movement. In Miami, the Heat would have one of the best inside-outside threats in the league.
Damian Lillard - Golden State Warriors
Trade Package: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, Jordan Poole, 2021 No. 7 Pick, 2021 No. 14 Pick
It sounds like a broken record here, but until Damian Lillard suits up for Portland on Day 1, we will speculate his whereabouts for the 2021-2022 season. The destination we would love to see Lillard land in is not Los Angeles, Boston, or Miami, but the Golden State Warriors. While this would be a super, super, superteam, one has to appreciate the appeal of three “Splash Brothers.”
Imagine having to guard Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Lillard outside the three-point line. How deep would defenses have to stretch out? Would Draymond Green be the true beneficiary to this because he would have all of the lanes to work with because of how stretched out the defense would be?
In the end, the Trail Blazers would get a player in Andrew Wiggins, who made great strides last season offensively and defensively. James Wiseman could be a key contributor at the center and is just 20 years old. Jordan Poole has potential for a bench role in this league. Not to mention, two first-round picks could help accelerate the rebuild. As for Golden State, it would reboot the dynasty and potentially lead Lillard to his first-ever championship ring.
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