The NBA is known for having blockbuster trades, with big-name stars switching teams relatively regularly. Players definitely have more freedom of movement in today's basketball era, and it's rare to see a player spend their entire career with one team. There has also been an increase in the number of multi-team trades in recent memory, with teams often getting other franchises involved so that everyone can get what they want. Due to these factors, we often see fans and analysts create crazy trade proposals that they believe would help each team involved.
A crazy 5-team blockbuster trade by Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report features a lot of All-Stars such as Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and Ben Simmons get moved to new destinations. Obviously, there are other non-All-Star players and draft picks involved to make it all work as well. Here is the blockbuster trade in question:
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal
Brooklyn Nets Receive: De'Aaron Fox, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and a 2023 second-round pick from Philadelphia
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Ben Simmons, Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, a 2022 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2023 first-round pick swap from Philadelphia
Washington Wizards Receive: CJ McCollum, Buddy Hield, Tyrese Maxey, a 2024 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2024 first-round pick from Sacramento
Sacramento Kings Receive: Kyrie Irving, Tobias Harris, Nassir Little, a 2026 first-round pick from Philadelphia and a 2022 second-round pick from Brooklyn
A large number of these players have been featured in trade rumors during the summer. We all know about the Ben Simmons saga, and the concerns about Kyrie Irving's availability. While this is certainly a crazy trade, there are certainly ways in which the teams involved can achieve their wider goals.
For example, Bailey's rationale for sending both Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard to the 76ers is due to the fact that they had a lot of potential assets in the trade and it would fulfill their wider goal of creating a contender around Joel Embiid. They would also be able to move 3-time All-Star Ben Simmons, who intends to never play a game for the Philadelphia 76ers again.
Of the teams involved, the Sixers probably had the most trade ammo for a superstar package. Tons of picks and young talent in Simmons and Maxey led to Philadelphia more or less headlining the deal (though Kyrie may have something to say about that distinction).
Yes, this is a lot to give up, but the resulting roster would absolutely be worth it. The starting five would probably go Lillard, Beal, Danny Green and Matisse Thybulle (or Georges Niang) and Joel Embiid.
Even if some team in this mix insisted on Thybulle being involved in the deal, it would be worth it for Philadelphia to sign off. Depth wins in the regular season, but this is the kind of star trio that could dominate a postseason.
As for the Brooklyn Nets, the reason given for them making the trade is the fact that Kyrie Irving could potentially miss 41 home games for the Brooklyn Nets due to his vaccination status. Bailey recognizes that De'Aaron Fox is a downgrade from Kyrie Irving in terms of ability, but that he could still be successful for the Brooklyn Nets while also being able to play in home games.
In terms of pure talent and productivity, the Nets are losing this deal. Local government mandates in New York dramatically change the calculus, though.
Unless or until Irving decides to take a COVID-19 vaccine, local restrictions will bar him from participating in home practices and games. Even if he avoids injury all season (never a given with Kyrie), that means a max of 41 regular-season appearances.
Brooklyn could probably justify keeping him, since availability was always up in the air last season, but missing a starting guard for half the season is far from ideal.
So, even if Fox's ceiling may not be quite as high as Irving's, knowing you have him for the bulk of the season and all of the playoffs (again, barring injury) might be preferable.
In terms of functionality, Fox doesn't space the floor like Irving, but his slashing ability would be devastating when surrounded by James Harden, Kevin Durant, Joe Harris and Blake Griffin.
The Portland Trail Blazers in this scenario would be starting a rebuild centered around Ben Simmons. While the return they're getting does seem low on draft compensation, Bailey mentions that they could potentially ask for more draft picks, and categorizes his proposal as a trade that gives the Trail Blazers an "organizational reset". They'd be sending long-time guard duo in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum away while giving the keys of the franchise to Ben Simmons.
This is a full organizational reset, and despite Simmons' age and long-term potential, Portland could very well insist on more draft compensation from the other teams involved.
Perhaps finding a way to get Thybulle to the Blazers would help, but whatever team lands Simmons should be looking for as much shooting as possible to put around him. Thybulle shot just 30.1 percent from three last season.
If Philly could sell Portland on Simmons, though, this is exactly the kind of situation his team at Klutch Sports is after. Simmons would be the undisputed focal point, and if the Blazers could locate a stretch 5 (or maybe even play Simmons as a playmaking 5), he'd be free to drive, draw and kick his way to monster numbers.
In the short term, a deal like this almost certainly eliminates the team's title chances, but those probably weren't high to begin with. One could reasonably argue the Lillard-McCollum pairing has already peaked.
The Washington Wizards are another team that seems to have stagnated in the last couple of years, and Bailey mentions that the thinking on their return was similar to his reasoning for the Trail Blazers. The Wizards would get a variety of assets in the deal, and they'd be able to be a semi-competitive team while still having a solid young core. Bailey does mention that this whole scenario could be nuked if teams were to offer up bigger packages for Lillard or Beal, but adds that the return for Washington isn't "terrible" when we think about it "in a vacuum".
The thinking here is similar to the Portland slide. Washington has reason for optimism heading into 2021-22, but if the Wizards chose to reset, moving Beal would probably make its way to the table.
Other teams around the league would likely ante up more for Beal in a straight-up swap (ditto for Lillard), and that would obviously nuke this whole scenario. In a vacuum, though, two first-round picks, a young talent like Maxey and two vets who can help the team remain competitive in the short-term isn't a terrible haul.
This would set Washington up for one of those so-called two-track rebuilds. Lineups with some combination of Spencer Dinwiddie, McCollum, Hield, Kyle Kuzma, Davis Bertans and Montrezl Harrell would present plenty of problems for defenses. Harrell is one of the game's better rim-runners, and surrounding him with shooting would be the foundation of a strong attack.
Defense would be an issue, but that was always going to be the case. In this scenario, at least that issue comes with more bites at the draft apple and the addition of Maxey to a young core that already includes Thomas Bryant, Daniel Gafford, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert.
Andy Bailey admits that the Sacramento Kings portion of the trade is the "toughest part of the deal to justify", and it's easy to see why. Amid reports of Kyrie Irving potentially retiring if traded, this deal would be a massive risk for the Sacramento Kings. That being said, Bailey mentions that Kyrie Irving would be the team's "first bona fide superstar" since DeMarcus Cousins, so perhaps it could end up being worth it.
This is probably the biggest gamble of the entire exercise. If there really is a threat of Irving's retirement, it's hard to imagine many teams around the league calling that bluff. And that's especially true of Sacramento, which has a promising young point guard who signed a long-term extension just under a year ago.
This would also put Sacramento in a situation similar to the one Brooklyn faces with Irving now. Due to local restrictions in California, Kyrie could be held out of home games. The difference might be the timelines of each franchise.
For Irving, going from the title-contending Nets, where he plays alongside KD and Harden, to a rebooted Sacramento squad might lead to thoughts of retirement even if they weren't there already.
The Kings haven't made the playoffs since 2006, and the team created by this deal might compete for a play-in spot.
Kyrie would have plenty of opportunities to cook, though. He'd be the team's first bona fide superstar since DeMarcus Cousins? Peja Stojakovic?
In the end, this is maybe the toughest part of the deal to justify. There's a reason five-team trades are rare (even though the recent Westbrook trade was one). They're a house of cards, especially if multiple stars are involved. If one bit is wrong, the whole thing can come tumbling down.
There is no question that a 5-team trade as such has a lot of moving parts, especially because there are a lot of star players involved. Generally, we don't see this many stars move at once, though obviously this hypothetical trade doesn't violate the salary cap, and is thus a possibility.
While it is highly unlikely that this trade or one similar to it ends up happening, it's certainly a fun thought exercise. The James Harden trade to Brooklyn and the Russell Westbrook trade featured multiple teams involved, but this hypothetical would take "multi-team blockbuster" trades to another level. It would definitely be crazy to see something like this happen, and there's a reason that it takes a lot of work to get every party to agree. That being said it's not absolutely impossible, and we've already seen plenty of crazy things happen in the league.