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.
Last week, I went through the top six seeds in the Eastern Conference. This week we set our sights out West. As with last week, 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. 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 options are purely subjective.
When you are on the streak that the Jazz are on, you probably should not tinker with that chemistry. They are white-hot right now. They’ve got playmaking scattered around the floor, a dominant defense, and they get enough scoring from enough people. Come playoff time, I still need some proof that they can use this strategy to make a deep run. In that case, I think that they need to play to their strengths.
Get a player who makes your defense better, can also chip in some scoring on certain nights, and won’t take away from the chemistry. The Jazz should look to scoop up Rudy Gay from the San Antonio Spurs. An underrated guy the last several years, Gay is an upgrade in that Royce O’Neal spot. So you trade O’Neal and a couple of young guys like Udoke Azubuike and Miye Oni to get back Gay and maybe another player like Tre Jones. This pick fits both billings as a solid move and a bigger move. Also, there are more developments on this deal below.
Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis and LeBron James could drag a rake, a lawnmower, and a bag of birdseed to the playoffs. Fortunately for the defending champs, this team is actually better than the team that won it last year. Markieff Morris is their 11th man in terms of minutes and he started for them at times last year. He’s still finishing some games, I’m simply highlighting their minute’s diversity.
For the rich to get richer, I have a very fun option. Trade Montrezl Harrell (and Aaron McKinnie) for P.J. Tucker and DeMarcus Cousins of the Houston Rockets. Not only does this deal send Harrell and Cousins back to teams they’ve already played for, but it also satisfies the two Rockets’ desires to play for a different team.
The Rockets get back a good player that fits their desire to go smaller and younger (Harrell is just 27) and he is already locked under contract. Does this deal make the Lakers better? Can you win a championship with ACL-recovered-Cousins and old-man-Gasol as your center rotation? What does Tucker have left in the tank? I don’t know. But I like the idea of Tucker being able to replicate some of what Harrell does while also playing that corner spot-up role he perfected. Plus, we get to reunite Cousins and Davis from their short-lived experiment in New Orleans. If this submarines the Lakers, I’m still OK with it. I just want to see this happen.
The Clippers have a couple of needs. I do not believe they have enough size to face a healthy Lakers squad. Their chemistry fell apart like Walter White’s lesson plans must-have. Lou Williams was a disaster in the playoffs. I am choosing to address the latter. Ship out Lou Will and bring in George Hill from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He’s not the same shot creator, but he won’t get run over on defense, he can space the floor, and personally, I prefer guys who lead social justice movements to guys who have wings named after them at strip clubs. At least when it comes to basketball teams that blew 3-1 leads that is. Under normal circumstances, I’ve got no issues with delicious strip club wings.
If they want to address size, just play Zubac more. I actually like the guy. As for making a trade, I love sending Williams to Detroit for Mason Plumlee. Plumlee has flashed some playmaking skills and overall versatility this year and I can’t imagine he’s in Detroit’s long-term plans after they drafted Isaiah Stewart and Jerami Grant has turned into a star. If the Clippers want to match up with the Lakers, adding size may be the way to go.
The Blazers are the Maverick from Top Gun of the NBA. Brash, talented, and a wingman short. Yes, that’s a reference to a 35-year-old movie, but the sequel is coming soon. Anyway, the Blazers, when healthy, have solid big men and an incredible backcourt. They’ve just struggled with their wing talent, cycling through players like Al-Farouq Aminu, Mo Harkless, and now Jones Jr.
Melo, the real Melo, can still get buckets, but he was never the defender they need. The Blazers could target OG Anunoby of the Toronto Raptors. I think with Zach Collins and the right picks, both teams would go for it. The Blazers are someone holding onto 4th place in the west with Nurkic and McCollum hurt. This would vault them into true elite status.
The big move for them would be the one I outlined in the Philadelphia section last week. The Tobias Harris deal gives them a real scoring wing threat. In this hypothetical, snagging OG might make them better even if he isn’t as good of a player as Harris because they aren’t giving up CJ.
The Phoenix Suns have been very good this year. The addition of Chris Paul has helped to solidify the potential they showed in the bubble. They are in the bottom three in the traditional defensive stats, but their advanced metrics are up in the top third. To me, that is the sign of a well-coached team playing together. As a target for them, I would go out and get another player they can add to their depth.
The weak spot in their rotation is at the backup center, in my opinion. Frank Kaminsky adds a smidge of shooting, but Frank the Tank is more like Frank the Midsize station wagon. I can’t see him being that helpful in a playoff series. Thus, you go and get the type of player that people hoped Kaminsky could be. Lauri Markannen of the Chicago Bulls is sitting there for them to go snatch.
He’s the Finnish Ferrari in this extended analogy. Trade Cam Johnson for him and the money works. The benefit for the Bulls is that they get another sweet shooter whom they don’t have to pay for three more years versus Markkanen who is up soon. They also release some of their positional questions. For the Suns, I love the high-low potential with Ayton and the pick and pop with Chris Paul. I didn’t even make up another move for them because I love this one so much.
The Spurs are in a very interesting position. They have a fleet of talented wings/guards. DeMar DeRozan has moved to power forward and transformed how his athleticism and midrange game can be used as he enters his thirties. Then there is 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge. He has adjusted his play a bit, now taking almost four threes a game and hitting 35%, but he’s not on the same timeline as everyone else.
These guys are young and fast. I want to see this team fly. With an assist from the MMH founder, Sasha, I am suggesting the Spurs target Marvin Bagley of the Sacramento Kings. He is sixth in minutes played for them and often not closing games. He’s got talent and I think the Spurs could unlock him. The Kings deserve to get some decent assets for him.
One way to make this work is to combine this deal with the Utah Jazz deal I started with. Trade Gay to the Jazz, Bagley to the Spurs with Azubuike thrown in, and O’Neal to the Kings with Oni, Tre Jones, and picks. There it is, my first successful three-team trade in the history of my trade machine life! I will now run around my living room like Rocky in the ring.
Mission accomplished! We have now gone through the top six seeds in each conference and addressed some of their issues. The trade deadline is March 25th this year so we are a month away from seeing if any of these moves actually come true. Come on, NBA, make me look like a prophet! If you have some other deals or you think I’m crazy, hit us up on social media and let me know. Have a great day.