Mon. Jun 27th, 2022

The NBA trade deadline is one day away (3 p.m. ET Thursday), and we’ve already seen a few major moves, such as the Sacramento Kings landing two-time All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis and the New Orleans Pelicans acquiring guard CJ McCollum.

Previously, the LA Clippers traded for Portland Trail Blazers forwards Robert Covington and Norman Powell; the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Indiana Pacers guard Caris LeVert; and the Boston Celtics dealt for Denver Nuggets guard P.J. Dozier and center Bol Bol.

But where is the Ben Simmons trade that gives Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers some help in their title pursuit? The Russell Westbrook move that gives the struggling star a fresh start? The megadeal that shakes up the 2022 playoff chase?

Our NBA Insiders have been busy in ESPN’s Trade Machine, crafting moves to send a disgruntled Sixer to a new home, a former MVP to a new coast and a young Piston to one of the Eastern Conference’s most surprising contenders.

Let’s make some deals.

The Ben Simmons saga ends

Brooklyn Nets receive: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, 2022 first-round pick

Philadelphia 76ers receive: James Harden

Let’s allow these teams and their fan bases to move on from this never-ending saga.

Whether this trade will happen remains to be seen. But, in this world, Philadelphia gets the chance to reunite Harden with president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, and pair him with Joel Embiid, who is arguably playing better than he ever has in his NBA career, while finally bringing the Simmons saga in Philadelphia to a close.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, gets back one of the league’s most versatile defensive players in Simmons — someone who will create open shots for Kyrie Irving (when he’s on the court) and Kevin Durant, and is a perfect fit as a small-ball center when Brooklyn wants to close games that way. Curry is one of the NBA’s best shooters and would allow the Nets to throw some overpowered shooting lineups on the court, even if they would at times struggle defensively.

Ultimately, this allows the NBA world to move forward without drama hanging over two Finals contenders. That is, until the Nets visit the Sixers on March 10.

— Tim Bontemps

Bulls get Grant to bolster their playoff push

Chicago Bulls receive: Jerami Grant

Detroit Pistons receive: Patrick Williams, Derrick Jones Jr.

While the Bulls will be hard-pressed to give up the current front office’s first draft pick in Patrick Williams — selected ahead of Tyrese Haliburton, Devin Vassell and Deni Avdija in 2020 — this deal makes sense for both sides.

A healthy Grant gives coach Billy Donovan the two-way forward this roster is sorely missing, and the 27-year-old fits their surprise championship window far better than the 20-year-old, injury-riddled Williams.

Grant has evolved into more of a volume scorer during his time in Detroit, in part out of necessity. But if I were the Bulls’ front office, I’d look back at his time alongside Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray in Denver to envision his potential role next to DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Co.

Grant was far more efficient during his lone season with the Nuggets, and he’d likely have more suitors long term if he reminds executives of his defensive versatility, energy and improved shooting in more of a complimentary role as opposed to the ball-stopping tendencies we’ve seen with the Pistons.

If you’re the Pistons, this makes a lot of sense as you avoid potentially overpaying Grant, who is extension eligible in the offseason, while giving star rookie Cade Cunningham another 20-year-old player to grow with. Williams was always more of a long-term prospect when the Bulls drafted him No. 4 overall as one of the youngest players in the draft, so there should be optimism that he’ll at least evolve into a valuable starter down the line given his physical tools and shot-creation potential.

A young core of Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Williams, Isaiah Stewart and any of Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero — depending on how the lottery pingpong balls bounce — would have this Pistons organization heading in the right direction going into Year 2 of Cunningham’s career.

— Mike Schmitz

Lakers find a Westbrook trade partner

New York Knicks receive: Russell Westbrook, DeAndre Jordan, Wayne Ellington, 2027 first-round pick (top-14 protected; if not conveyed in 2027, the pick will turn into the Lakers’ 2028 second-round pick and the Washington Wizards‘ 2028 second-round pick)

Los Angeles Lakers receive: Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Alec Burks

On the surface, a Westbrook trade to New York appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to an underachieving season and a move not in line with how Knicks president Leon Rose has patiently constructed his roster. The Knicks would be doing the same thing the Lakers did last offseason: trading away multiple players and ruining their roster flexibility by inheriting Westbrook’s $44.1 million contract this year and $47.2 million salary next season.

But here is why the Knicks’ roster is different than the Lakers. For starters, outside of the $23.8 million owed to Julius Randle next year, the Knicks’ roster is balanced, with nine players earning between $1.5 million and $14.5 million. If a disgruntled superstar became available, a Westbrook trade does not eliminate New York.

Plus, the 2027 first-round pick acquired from the Lakers now adds to the Knicks’ pool of draft assets that includes their own first-rounder over the next seven seasons and a 2023 Mavericks top-10-protected first-rounder. Unlike the Lakers, who are limited with only the $6.2 million tax midlevel and veterans minimum exception in July, the Knicks would have access in the offseason to the $10.1 million midlevel, the $4.0 million biannual, two draft picks and financial flexibility to acquire a player in a sign-and-trade.

On the court, the Knicks have lost their identity from a year ago and have played uninspiring basketball. Does landing Westbrook fix that? Of course not, but if the Lakers’ Jan. 28 loss to the Charlotte Hornets proved anything, it was that Westbrook can still impact the game when he does not have to defer to All-Star teammates (sorry, Julius Randle).

The Lakers would be doing something that no front office likes to do in waving the white flag and admitting they made a mistake last offseason when they agreed to acquire Westbrook. However, trading Westbrook for three role players in Fournier, Burks and Walker likely does not move the needle to put them in the category of Phoenix, Golden State and even Memphis in the Western Conference this season. (You could argue Westbrook is the wild card to the Lakers’ postseason success and moving him all but eliminates any possibility of competing for a championship.)

However, trading Westbrook not only helps balance a roster currently filled with non-playable players (Jordan, Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Ellington) but also gives the front office a restart on how it can improve the roster in the offseason. Instead of having a roster that is top heavy in contracts, the Lakers would now have five tradable contracts ranging from the $18 million owed to Fournier to the $9.1 million to Walker.

There is also a financial benefit for the Lakers. By taking back less money this year and next, the Lakers would save $35 million toward the luxury tax and would land right at the $145 million tax threshold in 2022-23.

— Bobby Marks

Knicks fill a need at guard, deal for Mavs’ Brunson

New York Knicks receive: Jalen Brunson

Dallas Mavericks receive: Immanuel Quickley, 2023 first-round pick (previously traded to New York; top-10 protected)

Brunson, currently averaging career highs of 16.1 PPG and 5.5 APG, will be one of the most interesting players to watch leading up to the deadline. With Brunson scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, the Mavericks face the prospect of either pushing into the luxury tax to re-sign him or losing him outright. As a result, Brunson could be available despite emerging as a starter alongside Luka Doncic this season.

The Knicks are an intriguing fit because Brunson’s ties to the organization run deep. His father, Rick, was team president Leon Rose’s first client and later served as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s staffs in Chicago and Minnesota. New York also has a need at point guard and the combination of picks and players needed to get Brunson.

In this construction, the Knicks send back a combo guard to replace Brunson in the rotation on a value contract. Quickley will make just $6.5 million combined over the next two seasons. In addition, Dallas gets the return of its 2023 first-round pick, sent to New York as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade in 2019. That would give the Mavericks more flexibility to deal a pick going forward, while the Knicks would still have all of their own picks to use.

— Kevin Pelton

Pacers continue rebuild, deal Turner to Toronto

Toronto Raptors receive: Myles Turner, Buddy Hield

Indiana Pacers receive: Goran Dragic, Chris Boucher, Khem Birch, Malachi Flynn, 2022 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick

Note: This deal would need to be split into two separate transactions due to the Pacers recently acquiring Hield via trade.

The Raptors have surprised with how well they’ve played in what was expected to be a rebuilding season after moving on from face of the franchise Kyle Lowry. They currently find themselves only two games out of first place in a division that is wide open with the complicated situations in Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

The addition of Hield would bolser the Raptors’ perimeter game with one of the best 3-point-shooting wings in the league, further stretching the floor for their talented forwards to operate while slotting him next to Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr.

And Turner, if he returns healthy from the stress reaction in his foot, would fill the big man role the Raptors had previously split among three players. Turner would provide optimal shot-blocking, rim protection and 3-point shooting to finish one of the more dynamic frontcourts in the NBA next to Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and rookie Scottie Barnes. This deal would push the Raptors into the luxury tax, but the resulting lineup would be strong at both ends of the court.

The Pacers already appeared poised for a rebuild, with a team full of veterans that was all but fixed at the 13th spot in the Eastern Conference, eight games out of the play-in game. They started that rebuild by dealing both of their leading scorers in separate trades, with Sabonis headed to the Kings and LeVert to the Cavaliers.

The proposed deal gives Indiana two expiring deals and two first-round picks to help them jump-start the rebuilding process this offseason. Boucher is also, in many ways, a younger, developing version of the Turner template as a shot-blocker who likes to shoot 3s. This deal would give the Pacers the chance to try him out, as well as Birch and Flynn, to see if any might be worth retaining as part of their future.

— André Snellings


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Wizadclick | WAC MAG 2022