Fixing an NBA franchise is no simple task. No one wants to be stuck on the struggle bus in the slow lane, so Bleacher Report is here to inspire the league’s worst teams from 2019-20 to get back on track.
After reviewing the NBA’s bottom 10 squads this season by record, B/R writers found star trade partners for seven of the franchises in question.
These scenarios won’t overhaul any of the following into instant contention—save for a certain team anxiously awaiting the conclusion of its “gap year”—but if this is truly a make-or-miss league, it just might be make a deal or miss out on flipping the script any time soon.
Chris Paul to the Chicago Bulls
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Playoff expectations swirled through the Windy City in training camp, but these Bulls couldn’t run past the starting gate. They opened with 14 losses in 20 games and never got back on track.
But a new day has dawned with the arrival of executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. He inherits a talented roster, but it needs someone who can fit the puzzle pieces together.
Chris Paul could be that connective tissue. He just helped the Oklahoma City Thunder dramatically outperform preseason expectations, but given his onerous contract ($41.4 million next season, $44.2 million player option for 2021-22), he shouldn’t be too difficult to pry away. Build an offer around Otto Porter Jr. and his $28.5 million player option, and the Thunder could pounce on the savings.
Given how long Chicago has searched for a floor general, Paul would be a godsend.
His 3.13 real plus-minus ranked ninth overall and third among point guards, per ESPN. He could immediately assume top leadership duties, perk up the perimeter defense and ace the primary playmaker role. He has averaged 9.5 assists per game (against only 2.4 turnovers) for his career; no Bull has averaged more than 5.4 this season.
Coby White, last summer’s seventh overall pick, has the size and skill to play the 2, where he has spent 71 percent of his minutes this season. Zach LaVine played more 3 than 2. Paul wouldn’t be stepping on anyone’s toes at the 1, and he’s a good enough shooter to play off the ball when the young Bulls initiate offense.
Land Paul and ace the upcoming lottery pick, and Chicago could make those postseason dreams a reality.
Jrue Holiday to New York Knicks
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Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Quietly, Jrue Holiday is in a strange spot with the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s on a different competitive timeline than their burgeoning young core, he will be marginalized on offense by Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, and his defensive impact could be approximated by a combination of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, E’Twaun Moore and Zion.
It might be time for Jrue to get a change of scenery.
Julius Randle would be welcomed back to New Orleans as a second-unit offensive anchor and general bringer of interior size, while a spot-up gunner like Wayne Ellington is useless for a lottery team but invaluable for a playoff hopeful like New Orleans, especially considering the lack of spacing in the team’s frontcourt.
Throw in the New York Knicks’ presumed top-five pick in this draft—it’s a purportedly weak class, but a top-five pick remains valuable—and two future second-rounders, and New Orleans would retain cap flexibility and a sizable collection of draft picks.
As for the Knicks? Well, Holiday wouldn’t be able to make them competitive on his own, but a player with his sheer two-way competency is necessary for an organization traditionally run by chaos and hubris.
On offense, he’ll be able to create for himself and others while providing important spacing since the Knicks presumably want to start both poor-shooting RJ Barrett and non-shooting Mitchell Robinson. Defensively, New York could also play some incredibly bothersome lineups with Holiday, Robinson and Frank Ntilikina.
It would be surprising if the Knicks competed for anything substantial with Holiday, but his defensive intensity and quiet leadership would make them a tough out on a nightly basis, provide highlights for Madison Square Garden crowds and hopefully set the tone for what new Knicks president Leon Rose hopes to accomplish in this new era of New York basketball.
Aaron Gordon to Golden State Warriors
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Andrew Wiggins isn’t Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala. He’s ill-suited to be a group’s fourth option. His usage rate has never descended below 22.0 percent and has risen above 23.7 percent each of the past three seasons. His primary tool is his mid-range game, and he shot 27.0 percent from the corners in 42 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
The Golden State Warriors need an elite-level role player who can defend, move off the ball, set screens and find separation against opposing defenses. In their quest to rediscover their championship aspirations, they should covet an athlete who is comfortable going long stretches without becoming an on-ball focal point but can still hit the big shot when needed.
The Orlando Magic, specifically Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross, would be an ideal partner.
The Magic are overloaded in the frontcourt and in desperate need of scoring. Wiggins could become an interesting project, especially if added to the Warriors’ 2020 first-round pick or Minnesota’s top-three-protected selection in 2021.
Gordon sits top-10 among forwards in 2019-20 DRPM despite matching up as a primary defender against opponents’ best scoring wings. Given his size and strength, he can adjust to all five positions and could form a dangerous defensive duo with Draymond Green in the Golden State frontcourt.
Inconsistency has been a feature of Gordon’s offensive game throughout his career, sometimes due to the Magic’s overcrowded frontcourt forcing him to the 3. In Golden State, he could move to his natural position and occasionally line up at the 5 in small-ball lineups, something he has rarely done in his Orlando career.
Imagine the easy baskets and backdoor cuts Gordon would provide when you replace Elfrid Payton, Shelvin Mack, DJ Augustin and C.J. Watson with Stephen Curry. Ross, meanwhile, could provide a scoring punch off the bench or be moved to push the Warriors under the luxury tax.
CJ McCollum to Cleveland Cavaliers
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The Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster is a mixture of playoff-tested veterans and first- and second-year guards. While the plan is to develop Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr., this could also be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference next season if it can add another star next to Kevin Love and Andre Drummond.
CJ McCollum grew up an hour south of Cleveland in Canton, Ohio, and would be the perfect fit for his hometown team.
The 28-year-old shooting guard has averaged over 20 points per game for the past five seasons as a second option to Damian Lillard, and he would take over as the primary offensive force for the Cavaliers. When McCollum has been in the game without Lillard this season, he’s averaged 27.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists per 36 minutes.
The trio of McCollum, Love and Drummond averages 29 years in age and would be complemented by high-upside 2019 first-round picks Garland and Porter in the starting lineup to form a playoff-worthy team in the East.
For Portland to even consider giving up McCollum, it would need some serious talent back. As the foundation of the deal, Cleveland would likely have to give up Sexton, a 21-year-old shooting guard who’s averaging 20.8 points per game on 47.2/38.0/84.6 shooting splits in just his second season.
The Cavs could also offer starting small forward Cedi Osman (11.0 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting from three) to the wing-hungry Blazers, giving them two starters to place between Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins.
Cleveland would get to break up its awkward-fitting backcourt of Garland and Sexton while getting another locally born player to lead the franchise. It’s worked out for the organization before.
Rudy Gobert to Washington Wizards
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The Washington Wizards are just one spot out of the Eastern Conference playoffs this season and will be getting All-Star point guard John Wall back from an Achilles injury next year. Bradley Beal is second in the NBA in scoring (30.5 points per game), and the Wizards have put together a top-10 offense for much of the season.
A two-time Defensive Player of the Year would certainly help.
No team in the NBA needs Rudy Gobert more than Washington, especially with Wall’s mobility likely limited when he returns. If the Wizards backcourt can’t stop penetration, Gobert could at least keep opponents out of the paint.
Gobert has the NBA’s highest defensive real plus-minus rating (3.23), per ESPN, is fourth in rebounding (13.7 per game) and is sixth in blocked shots (2.0 per game). If the Wizards can re-sign sharpshooter Davis Bertans to be their starting power forward, the core of Wall, Beal, Bertans and Gobert would definitely be a playoff team in the East.
Utah could get a package of 2019 lottery pick Rui Hachimura, center Thomas Bryant and probably whatever else it wanted off Washington’s roster for Gobert, including additional young players or draft picks.
The team is already just outside the playoff picture, and getting Gobert could completely turn the defense around.
Caris LeVert to Atlanta Hawks
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The Atlanta Hawks have their franchise point guard in Trae Young and appear set up front with John Collins and the newly acquired Clint Capela. They need an upgrade on the wing, and Caris LeVert is probably the best potentially available option out there.
LeVert’s future in Brooklyn is uncertain. He’s made great strides when healthy during his first four seasons, but Kevin Durant is set to make his Nets debut whenever the 2020-21 season begins, which could make LeVert expendable long-term. There could be an opportunity for these teams, which have made several trades with each other in the recent past, to help each other out.
The Hawks have plenty of intriguing, secondary young pieces (Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter) who could be of interest to a Nets organization with a strong record of developing players.
Adding an athletic wing such as LeVert to a strong frontcourt and pairing him with a rising star in Young could be the move that gets the Hawks back to the postseason in the fourth year of this rebuild.
Buddy Hield to Detroit Pistons
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Paul Sancya/Associated Press
The Sacramento Kings waded deep in murky waters when they elected to sign Harrison Barnes and Buddy Hield to deals each worth in excess of $20 million annually.
Now, they face another difficult decision as franchise cornerstone De’Aaron Fox approaches extension eligibility and appears nearly certain to seek the same numbers as Jamal Murray (signed for five years, $170 million last summer).
To make matters even stranger, head coach Luke Walton elected to start Bogdan Bogdanovic over Hield in January rather than deal the pending restricted free agent prior to the deadline. That could mean the Serbian swingman is lining up to receive a richer deal than the one he was offered last summer.
The Kings need to cut salary, and the Detroit Pistons are in the perfect position to lend a hand after jettisoning Andre Drummond.
Hield is a high-volume scorer (19.8 points per game in 2019-20) who can operate on the ball, is shooting 39.5 percent on 9.7 three-point attempts per game and has an assist percentage in the 79th percentile among wings. He could supplement the offense next to Blake Griffin and share the backcourt workload with Derrick Rose.
If the Kings decide to bring back Bogdanovic, they may find themselves desperate enough to move him. The Pistons could then offer a strongly protected first-round pick in an ensuing draft, thereby bringing in a strong offensive threat while still protecting their future.
Article and Photo via: Bleacher Report