Never before have so many NBA players been in one place like they are now in Orlando. Such little proximity will inevitably include conversations between players about joining forces, and it’s unclear if the league will try to stop any tampering that might occur.
If players, especially stars, do talk about playing together in the future, this offseason could produce some interesting trades. In the spirit of wishing for ongoing NBA offseason pandemonium, here are five potential superteams for next season stemming from players’ time in the bubble.
Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Joel Embiid
If both the Celtics and 76ers fall short of at least the Eastern Conference Finals in Orlando, each team may want to make a blockbuster trade to re-tool for next season. Philadelphia’s pairing of Ben Simmons and Embiid is constantly questioned and hasn’t proven to be effective in the playoffs, so another failure this year might warrant splitting the two up, especially if Embiid decides he’s not happy and wants out. Boston has a deep and young core but lacks size and a true superstar, so Embiid would be the perfect addition to that group.
The price for Embiid would be hefty regardless of if he explicitly requests a trade or not. Boston has three 2020 first-round picks, though, so it could reasonably acquire the 76ers center for those picks, Gordon Hayward’s expiring contract and maybe Marcus Smart. Philadelphia might want Brown included instead of Hayward and Smart, but either way, Embiid would vault the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Trade Package 1: Joel Embiid for three 2020 first-round picks, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart
Trade Package 2: Joel Embiid for three 2020 first-round picks, Jaylen Brown
Kyrie Irving, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant
Booker signed a max extension with Phoenix in the summer of 2018 despite the organization never surrounding him with substantial talent. No one would blame him for wanting a fresh situation, and Brooklyn is a perfect spot for him to go. The Nets are talented and led by two stars with something to prove, much like Booker, so he may see it as an attractive destination if he requests a trade.
Although Irving and Durant aren’t physically in the bubble to persuade Booker to join forces, the Suns guard is playing and, depending on how the Suns perform, his frustration might be evident even to those watching at home. If so, the Nets could offer the Suns a package of two first-round picks, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. Jarrett Allen is on a cheap contract and could be included as well if needed.
Booker, Durant and Irving are all versatile offensive players who complement one another’s skill sets in theory. A championship from this core might feed Durant’s haters who say he needs a superteam to win it all, but it’d be exciting nonetheless.
Trade Package: Devin Booker for two first-round picks, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie/Jarrett Allen
Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Chris Paul, Steven Adams
The Clippers salary cap is mostly set for next season as they have almost all of their roster signed for the near future. Who they’ll lose is Sixth Man of the Year candidate Montrezl Harrell. They have his Bird rights but can’t afford to keep him, so the team’s best bet is to organize a sign-and-trade.
Los Angeles did a blockbuster deal last summer with the Thunder for George and dealing with that organization again would be the most beneficial avenue for them. Harrell would have to agree to a sign-and-trade for the deal to work, so George, Leonard, Paul and Adams would all have to be on board. Trading Harrell, Lou Williams, Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley, Rodney McGruder and one of two young assets in Mfiondu Kabengele or Terance Mann for Paul and Adams would create a formidable foursome on the Clippers. The issue would be that those four would put the team over the salary cap.
Luckily, Clippers owner Steve Balmer has deep pockets and is willing to spend extra money to win, so they could sign veteran free agents like Marc Gasol, Carmelo Anthony, Kent Bazemore and others to minimum deals to complete the roster. If executed, this deal would likely ensure the first Clippers parade in L.A.
Trade Package: Chris Paul, Steven Adams for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell (sign-and-trade), Ivica Zubac, Rodney McGruder, Mfiondu Kabengele/Terance Mann
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam
This trade wouldn’t feature a big-three but pairs two of the most unique players in the league in Siakam and Antetokounmpo. Siakam already proved he can win alongside another superstar and would be the most talented player to play with Antetokounmpo, so if the team could keep a solid roster around them, there’s no reason they can’t compete with any other team in the NBA.
The Raptors would need to offer Milwaukee a substantial package to acquire Antetokounmpo, as well as the Bucks superstar wanting out after once after another playoff exit. An offer of Kyle Lowry — who will be on an expiring contract — Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Terence Davis and a sign-and-trade of Serge Ibaka should be enough to acquire Antetokounmpo and George Hill. The only hindrance would be Ibaka and Antetokounmpo’s cooperation.
Toronto fans would hate to see Lowry and the bulk of their championship team go, but Antetokounmpo is worth the price. Milwaukee needs to lose embarrassingly for Antetokounmpo to want out so soon, but you can’t rule anything out in the bubble.
Trade Package: Giannis Antetokounmpo, George Hill for Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka (sign-and-trade), Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Terence Davis
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard
Lillard doesn’t want to leave Portland as of now, but everyone knows James tends to recruit players when the opportunity arises. If the Trailblazers falter once again in the postseason or don’t even make the playoffs, Lillard could be convinced to want a new opportunity.
Los Angeles could offer two first-round picks, one in 2020 and another in 2022, as well as Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, and one of Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook and Alex Caruso to Portland in exchange for the franchise point guard. This haul gives the Trailblazers assets to work with for the future while making the Lakers immediate title favorites with one of the best big-threes in recent NBA history.
It’s unlikely this would go through, but you can’t underestimate James’ influence on his team’s construction and his ability to convince fellow stars to join forces.
Trade Package: Damian Lillard for two first-round picks, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Avery Bradley/Quinn Cook/Alex Caruso