SI.com periodically panels its NBA experts to ask a pressing question about the league. Today, we examine which trade we would like to see, whether at the benefit of a player, team or both.
Ben Golliver: Joe Johnson to Clippers
Johnson’s massive $24.9 million salary makes trading him incredibly difficult, and the Nets would probably prefer to start fresh next summer rather than take money back in a deal. So, rather than trying to piece together a direct trade, let’s envision an indirect trade whereby Johnson gives back a little money in a contract buyout in exchange for the freedom to sign with a team that’s actually going somewhere. Can’t you picture Doc Rivers barreling over people to get to the front of the line to pitch Johnson?
What a clean marriage of convenience. In Johnson, you have a past-his-prime, pseudo-star stuck on a dead-end Nets team and dreaming of one more shot at relevance. In the Clippers, you have a wannabe contender with a long track record of chasing ghosts of playoffs past and a gigantic hole at the small forward position. Although Johnson looks pretty lifeless in Brooklyn—shooting just 34% overall and posting a career-low 10.5 PER—his size, length and experience make him a more natural option than Lance Stephenson or Wesley Johnson at the three. Adding Johnson would also allow Rivers to use Paul Pierce in a reserve role, which is a better fit at this stage of his career. Is the 34-year-old Johnson an ideal matchup for Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard? Not by any means, but he’s probably better than any of the other short-term fixes available to the Clippers, who are fully engaged in “win now” mode and lacking in quality trade chips.
Rob Mahoney: Taj Gibson to Raptors
Fun as it is to watch Luis Scola drop 20 on some unsuspecting defense, the power forward spot in Toronto’s rotation seems ripe for improvement. Consider Gibson. The physical Chicago forward would only further the team’s personnel shift since last season, echoing the defense and edge brought in by DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph. I’d worry some about the spacing of a Gibson/Valanciunas frontcourt, though the Raptors could feel out their frontcourt combinations to find the best possible fit. More important is that Gibson could start to give Toronto another capable defender, come off the bench if need be, and better complement Scola or Patrick Patterson than they do one another. It wouldn’t be a home run acquisition, but Gibson could be a nice, modest addition for a Raptors team that’s still a bit shy of realistic contention.
Matt Dollinger: Carmelo for Pau Gasol
Both the Bulls and Knicks are inching toward reincarnation, but they have yet to fully reinvent themselves. That changes if their two front offices pull the trigger on this trade, which would clear up Chicago's frontcourt logjam and expedite New York's rebuilding process. The Bulls have one too many post players and a scorer like Melo would not only allow Fred Hoiberg to spread the floor and play more small-ball lineups, but it would also take pressure off Derrick Rose and lessen the Atlas-like burden on his shoulders.
For the Knicks, Carmelo's departure signals the official start of the Porzingis Era in Manhattan. The 7'3" rookie would benefit mightily from having Gasol as a mentor. Pau might be the most skilled Euro to ever play in the NBA outside of Dirk Nowitzki and Porzingis has a chance to be in that discussion if he reaches his vast potential. Gasol's contract could also come off the books next season (he has a player option), giving Phil Jackson even more financial freedom to rebuild the team. Carmelo missed out on an opportunity to join a contending Bulls team in 2014 when he was a free agent, but a few years in the Eastern Conference cellar may have changed his mind on living in Chicago.
DeAntae Prince: Eric Gordon to Grizz
The New Orleans Pelicans are a mess through 12 games. They've only compiled one win and can't keep their best players on the court. The Pelicans' adoption of a fast-paced offense has left them dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. On the other side of the spectrum, the Grizzlies have grinded out games and sit near the bottom of the league in pace. Rooted in the post, the Grizzlies need outside shooters to make their halfcourt attack whole. Both teams would be better off if New Orleans sent Eric Gordon to Memphis for Tony Allen and Courtney Lee.
The one bright spot in New Orleans, Gordon, is also the most likely trade chip. Gordon is on the last year of a max deal, averaging 19 points, shooting 34.3% from three-point line and looking as healthy as he has since he averaged 22.3 points for the Clippers in 2010-11. Conversely, Tony Allen has never seen an outside shot he wanted to take, but he could be a perimeter stopper for a team filled with rim protectors. Lee has had his own trouble knocking down outside shots, but could benefit from a faster approach.
Jeremy Woo: DeMarcus Cousins to Wizards
Give Boogie a change of scenery, give John Wall a real big man to play with, reunite two college pals early in their careers and see what happens. Send Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter back, and give the Wizards Ben McLemore. Washington throws in a future first. The Wizards can sell Kevin Durant on creating what would instantly be the NBA’s strongest triumvirate, and if he doesn’t bite, they have two marquee stars to build around and perhaps the East’s best set of teammates outside of Cleveland.
The Kings get to start over (again), but in Beal and Porter they get two valuable pieces and can add by subtracting. You get the sense it’s not going to be a storybook ending for Cousins in Sacramento. The Kings can figure out what type of team they’re going to be, get more guys shots and move on. 75 cents on the superstar dollar is always rough, but if Beal continues to break out and Porter becomes a starting-caliber player, the overall core may not be badly off in a newly-uncertain Western Conference. Throw in Vivek’s new security robot and the rights to Hedo Turkoglu as a front-office exec and you’ve got a deal.