Just about every off season for the last decade, we as fans have been able to pretty much predict the NBA Finals winner before the season even started. Lebron James brought upon us the advent of the super team when he took his talents to South Beach, Kevin Durant followed suit after getting wooed in the Hamptons, and now as we near the end of the 2010’s we are fully in the player empowerment era.
If you asked most NBA fans if they enjoyed the super team era, I’d wager they’d mostly say no. It isn’t very fun knowing the ending of the movie before you’ve seen it. It can be fun to root against the Evil Empire, but at the end of the day we all knew the bad guys were mostly going to win.
As we usher in the roaring 20’s we finally saw a shift in team building strategy. Suddenly, star players no longer wanted to take on the Kevin Love/Chris Bosh third wheel role, instead preferring to pair up in duos. The league has turned into a buddy cop movie.
This shift in the balance of powers has given fans a new-found sense of excitement heading into the season. For the first time since the 2010 off season we don’t know who will make the NBA Finals or who the clear cut favorite is. Is it Paul George and Kawhi or Lebron and AD? Is it Giannis and the Bucks or the new look 76ers? The NBA internet can’t come to a consensus and it is freaking awesome.
As awesome as this season could and should be, I want to make it even more awesome, so I came up with three fake trades that would push the pretenders into contenders. Creating an even more competitive field of teams ready to battle to the death come April.
The first trade finally frees Bradley Beal from the confines of our nation’s capital and partners him with Gotham’s biggest villain. At some point the Wizards are going to have to be proactive and find an attractive enough package to get max value for Beal. Wall’s contract is simply too awful to build a contender with and I don’t want to see Beal waste away on mediocre to bad teams. With this package the Wizards get Gary Harris on a value deal for three years to replace Beal at the two. They’ll also receive Michael Porter Jr, a young prospect who was once highly touted for his shooting and scoring prowess before some injuries. Add in a few draft picks and Mason Plumlee to make salaries work and the Wizards might have a package that makes them relent on holding their star hostage.
With Beal, Denver lands a star wing who can create off the bounce or thrive moving off the ball. He gives Nikola Jokic the most sophisticated offensive weapon he has ever played with in his time in the NBA. Jamal Murray may cede some touches and become an overqualified third option, but that seems to be his optimal role for this season if Denver wants to make it out of the West. A trio of Beal, Jokic, Murray alongside Denver’s deep roster is enough to make them legit contenders. Call this bad boy in.
Trade two brings Kevin Love home to Oregon as we send him to the Blazers and reunite him with fellow Hoopers family member Dame Lillard. Love is still on the books for another four years at $120 million. Taking him on means a commitment to the Luxury Tax for this year and possibly beyond, but the league is as wide open as its been for the Lillard and McCollum pairing; the time for going all in is now.
Cleveland does this trade for the simple reason that Whiteside is expiring after this year and they get off of the Love contract while he still has some on court value. Swapping out Love for Whiteside and letting Thompson and Knight expire clears their books of any bad long-term money and allows them to build around Sexton, Garland, Porter Jr, Windler, and whatever lottery pick they end up with after their inevitable lottery season.
Ok everyone, buckle up because this last trade is a doozy. It involves some conference rivals, a lot of moving parts, and it needs the right circumstances to even be plausible; but it’s the off season, so screw it, lets get crazy.
I still believe the East goes through Giannis. The Sixers could be scary and if they gel could make the Finals, but until I see it, the Bucks are the class of the conference. The one tiny problem is that point guard spot. Bledsoe has simply underperformed in the playoffs and it’s a real issue for the team. Spreading the court and letting Giannis go to work sounds great in theory, but when the guys who were hitting shots in the regular season stop hitting those same shots when the bright lights of the playoffs come on, it’s um less than ideal. So, what can we do to push the Bucks over the top? How about bringing in a Finals tested point guard that is coming off a championship. Let’s bring Kyle Lowry to Milwaukee. Lowry is on the last year of his deal and while I’m sure Toronto isn’t necessarily looking to get rid of him, as we saw with some off-season rumors, they aren’t afraid to put him in a trade. If Toronto starts out slow after adjusting to life without Kawhi, I could see a scenario where Masai looks to get some value out of Kyle before he expires, conference rival or not.
In this crazy three teamer, we bring Orlando in the mix as the third team. Toronto gets the opportunity to pair Aaron Gordon with Pascal Siakam in the frontcourt and can jumpstart their rebuild. A rebuild that Masai has been rumored to want to start for years. Now I’m sure Orlando isn’t exactly looking to give Gordon up, but if Fultz doesn’t work out as they’re hoping, they’re going to need to upgrade the point guard spot. I love DJ Augustine, but he can only get you so far in the playoffs. The frontcourt is crowded as is with Vucevic, Bamba, and Isaac. Moving Gordon for a piece who can better balance the team and accelerate the development of the young guys, all while receiving a draft pick, could prove worthwhile. We know that Bledsoe isn’t pushing Orlando into championship contention, but he could be a guy who gets you to that next tier that Indiana and Boston currently sit in.
Getting a guy like Lowry has to be Milwaukee’s dream scenario. A championship level vet who can come in right away and fit in with both their culture and schemes. They don’t lose much of anything on the defensive side of the ball and they gain someone who isn’t afraid of the moment, is a much more consistent shooter, and can take on a leadership role as the respected vet with a ring who can finally push the team to the next level.
Trades with this many moving parts typically aren’t very realistic, but hey man sometimes you just have to get creative with the trade machine and have some fun. I want all three of these trades to happen for everyone involved. They’d make this already exciting NBA season even more exciting. It would create three more legit contenders in an already stacked NBA. Let’s get the season started already. My body is ready.