Anyone can mess around on a trade machine and send Steph Curry to the Bucks to pair him with Giannis. It takes a true masochist to try to find appropriate role players to fill the weaknesses of playoff teams. Hi, that’s me.
First, I went through the top six teams in the Eastern Conference and examined possible upgrades in their mid-tier talent. The top six are the guaranteed playoff teams under the new play in-game rules for the seventh and eighth spots. I did go through and add some more impactful moves when I could find a gem. The usual caveats exist that I’m not a cap genius or a talent scout and I am a sleep-deprived father.
I used both ESPN and tradeNBA.com’s trade machine to confirm the validity of the deals. The pick’s options are purely subjective.
Philadelphia is the top seed in the East. How do you get better than that? Sure, maybe you don’t need to. Not a great first entry in a trade column if they don’t make a trade. The first option is to do a move on the fringes. Right now, Mike Scott is getting 19 minutes a game and shooting 25% from three.
He’s supposed to be stretchy, yet that number is more like frozen taffy. Thus, the 76ers could look to improve that spot. One target I liked for that would be Jamychal Green from Denver. The two players have similar profiles except that the ball goes in the hoop for Green. Since Denver is also very much in contention, Philly will have to give up some young assets like Terrance Ferguson or Isaiah Joe with Scott, and some picks.
The other possibility is that you swing big. The 76ers could trade Tobias Harris for CJ McCollum. CJ is out right now with a foot injury. It seems to be nagging as he’s passed his initial timetable. I think if you place CJ in the two spot alongside Simmons and Embiid that team becomes very interesting.
Would the Blazers do it? At some point, they will have to shake up this backcourt if they continue to get dropped in the playoffs. The wing has always been their weakness (see: they are still relying on Carmelo Anthony for a lot). Harris is a very good player having a very good year. Pair him with one superstar instead of two and maybe he expands his game even more.
The Bucks took a couple swings this summer and went 1 for 2. Getting Jrue Holiday has been a nice move for them. If they had gotten Bogdanovic, I would have liked it even more. Instead, they are starting Divincenzo, who is fine, but also knows he was essentially traded.
I would look to shore up that other guard spot. Again, I know this team is the number two seed and is playing well. Still, the players I would target would be someone like Jeremy Lamb or Norman Powell. I love that Powell has showed up in the playoffs. Divincenzo looked like a baby deer last year. A deer that was playing really hard, to be fair. I think the Bucks can sacrifice DJ Wilson to get that type of player.
Most huge moves are stifled by Bucks cap situation and whether they would be willing to give up Brook Lopez. Not that Norman Powell for DJ Willson, Torey Craig, and two second-round picks is not a blockbuster.
You might have heard that the Brooklyn Nets already pulled off a pretty big trade this season. I still think they could make another move to get better. As every single person has noted, defense is going to be an issue for the rest of the season for this squad.
One player isn’t going to make the difference. However, a couple of extra deflections can swing a game when you can essentially outscore any opponent. Following that logic, the Nets should go out and grab Delon Wright from the Detroit Pistons.
He is top ten in deflections. Have them throw in sweet-shooting and unspellable Svi Mykhailiuk as well as a pick and you can feel good shipping out Spencer Dinwiddie who might not fit with this team post-Harden anyway.
As for the Pistons, Dinwiddie and Grant would be a fun duo and he could play with Killian Hayes if Hayes ever turns out to be worth the pick the Pistons spent on him. It’s hard to know what Dinwiddie’s value will be when he does come back from his injury.
As far as megadeal-type transactions, the Nets already did that so they should trade Kyrie for Russell Westbrook and some picks. This makes the Nets worse, but the poetry would be beautiful to reunite the 2012 Thunder. Also, Kyrie and Bradley Beal would be an insane backcourt.
If I’m the Celtics, I’m going straight for the big swing. Smaller moves be damned. Nothing says big swing like going after the second-best Nikola in the league. Nikola Vucevic is a multitier scorer who also happens to be 6’11”.
The Celtics require more size if they are not to get bullied by the Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis types and also shooting to space the floor for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Vucevic technically fits under the Hayward exception. They would have to do some cap shenanigans to make it work, I think.
You have to be the lead in the popular 2001 film A Beautiful Mind to understand it all, but that’s why actual NBA General Managers get paid the big bucks. Give away several of the young prospects like Romeo Langford and Grant Williams and get the deal done, however you can.
The runner-up deal is courtesy of fellow MMH contributor Josh Motenko. He says, “Give away any young guys and picks to go get DeMar DeRozan.” I also like that deal. I’m just of the opinion that the Celtics need some size. I’m tired of 6’9” centers hanging on to real big men’s shorts. Four of the top teams in the league, the Lakers, Nuggets, 76ers, and Jazz, have giant men anchoring their team.
The Pacers have had a fascinating season already. They have two dynamic players in Malcolm Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis. Both are excellent playmakers and scorers. They have a truly modern five in Myles Turner, who’s blocking 3.5 shots per game while hitting 34% from three.
They also traded Victor Oladipo in the Harden deal. Before his injury, he was their best player. They brought in Caris LeVert in that deal, which was a move I was really interested in seeing play out. Oladipo wasn’t quite fitting in and LeVert would have been a fun wrinkle. Both unfortunately and fortunately, a potentially cancerous mass was discovered in the trade process sidelining, but potentially saving Levert’s life.
With all of that, I’m now more invested in this team for next year as I don’t think they have the firepower with just two guys. However, they don’t have a first-round pick this year, either. I think they can offer T.J. Warren to someone who wants his offense and get an asset back.
His bubble MVP run is still fresh in people’s minds. Plus, they already have a T.J. with McConnell and he’s cheaper. Whom to target? I’m thinking something like T.J. Warren to the Bulls for Chandler Hutchinson and a pick. The Bulls probably have to throw in Garrett Temple to balance the cap. Another option would be to go to a contender and try to pry a first-round pick from them in exchange for Warren adding bench scoring depth.
I would guess the Hornets feel like they are right where they should be. Most of the public probably thinks they are ahead of schedule. Either way, they are sitting in the sixth seed currently. LaMelo Ball has made a difference, helping players like Miles Bridges really come alive. They also might have won the Kemba Walker deal, which is insane. One area I think they could improve is the center position.
Cody Zeller, despite the best first name in the game, is an average center. Bismack Biyombo is a very rich, below average big for where the game is now. The Hornets have a glut of wings, I suggest using one of those assets, probably Malik Monk, to get a better stretch four or small ball five.
I’ve always enjoyed the game of Nemanja Bjelica of the Sacramento Kings. If the appropriate deal was struck, I’d also take Richaun Holmes as an alternative, but I assume he’s played his way out of trade availability. Bjelica can shoot and always steps up when given the minutes. He’s not so much of a cap hit that he limits your options as your team develops too.
There you have it. A who’s who of players you have probably streamed on fantasy basketball waivers. I would love to hear your own possible deals. Hit us up on the MMH social media feeds. Also, come back next week when I go insane doing the same exercise for the Western Conference.