Five NBA Draft-Day Trades That Should Happen

The NBA draft presents NBA teams with the opportunity to pick players who will define their future, but it also features a lot of wheeling and dealing, with big-name players often changing locations. The Front Office presents the draft-day trades you should consider this year.
By Rohan Nadkarni ,

It’s draft day, which means we will either be begging the Woj gods for mercy because of the insane number of trades, or we will go to sleep in tears, drowning in crushing disappointment because nobody did anything exciting. That’s the draft every year, and it’s never anything in between. So with that in mind, here are five trades I would like to see go down during the NBA draft, ranging in plausibility from “assuring head nod” to “we need to get this man away from the trade machine.”

Note: My editors (and apparently Rob Pelinka!) refuse to consider how absurd salary cap rules are at this time of year when tasking me with this assignment, so if the particulars of a certain trade violate the Ed Flopalopalous Rule Under-29 Rule, please assume the transaction can be worked out in the margins. This is more of a thought experiment.

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Love goes home to Oregon?

Blazers Get: Kevin Love, Re-Acquire 2021, 2023 Second-Round Picks
Cavaliers Get: Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard, 2020 First-Round Pick, 2022 First-Round Pick

I have no idea what the market is for Love, but ESPN’s Zach Lowe mentioned Portland as a destination for him this summer. This trade would lock the Blazers into an expensive Lillard-CJ-Nurkic-Love core, but maybe that could be good enough for a Finals trip next year? It’s unclear what the West will look like by opening night, but Portland is close. Is this too much for the Blazers to give up? The way I look at it is that one of the first-round picks is for Love, while the other is for dumping the two contracts. Cleveland gets some long-term assets in return for Love, while Harkless and Leonard neatly come off the books at the same time as the rest of the Cavs’ veterans.

More D in Dallas

Thunder Get: Courtney Lee
Mavericks Get: Steven Adams

OKC is looking to shed salary, according to our very own Jake Fischer. Adams has been a foundational piece for the organization, but he notably wasn’t on the court during the Thunder’s season-deciding final minutes against the Blazers in the playoffs. The Mavericks have cap space, and the reason they make this trade is basically as a safe play because of the apparently hot Al Horford market. Dallas gets a defensive-minded center to ease Kristaps Porzingis’s load in the frontcourt (and the Mavs can still shift KP to center to close.) Meanwhile, the Thunder get something they’ve always needed, a 3-and-D guy to slot in next to Russ and PG. Maybe then OKC can use Denis Schroder to acquire a replacement big.

Mark Sobhani/Getty Images

Can Charlotte land Kemba insurance?

Rockets Get: Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo
Hornets Get: Chris Paul, Clint Capela, 2021 First-Round Pick, 2023 Second-Round Pick

Does either team really want to do this trade? I’m not sure how I ended up here, but let me try to argue for it. The Paul situation is untenable in Houston, and the Rockets have to move his massive contract however they can. The Hornets do this deal if they fear losing Kemba in free agency, and Michael Jordan doesn’t want to sit through rebuilding years in an empty arena. The trade keeps Houston competitive by giving it another 3-and-D body and rim-running type. Paul and Capela bring their pick-and-roll expertise to Charlotte, while the Hornets also receive some future considerations. Charlotte would almost definitely have to shed salary in a different move if it does this trade, but it also (most likely) finally puts the Hornets back into the postseason.

Denver keeps climbing

Nuggets Get: 2022 Second-Round Pick
Knicks Get: Mason Plumlee, 2021 First-Round Pick

Denver has shown a willingness to use first-round picks to shed contracts, and that’s what is happening here. The Knicks basically have no one on the books and need bodies for next season as their free-agent options dwindle. Plumlee is a one-year holdover and the Nuggets’ pick adds to the New York’s 2021 war chest, which also includes a Dallas pick. The Nuggets get some cap flexibility with this move. If Plumlee is shipped away and Denver can convince Paul Millsap to come back to the team at a lower number, the Nugs can open up some cap space this summer—a critical time to sign another contributor (maybe Danny Green somehow?) before the likes of Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley need to get paid.

The Heat end the Whiteside era

Heat Get: Nothing or Literally Anything
Kings Get: Hassan Whiteside, However Many Draft Picks It Takes

The Heat need to start Bam Adebayo at center. The Kings have a ton of cap space, especially if Harrison Barnes walks. If there’s a world in which Sacramento does this, it’s if the front office doesn’t want to commit to Willie Cauley-Stein long term. In this scenario, the Kings get Whiteside’s bloated contract for one year, then can figure out the center position moving forward next summer. (Marvin Bagley may make the most sense there anyway.) The Heat do this to rid themselves of a headache, clear up their cap sheet, and finally hand over the keys to Bam.

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