Cue the slow crescendo music, grab a snack, turn on Twitter alerts for your favorite beat writers and hang on for dear life. The NBA trade deadline is almost here.
A few trades have already gone down—Detroit and Memphis cut nice deals yesterday—but the relative stillness is certainly suspicious. Perhaps (wishfully), it feels like big things are on the way. That’s why everyone loves trade season, right?
In the spirit of dreaming big around the deadline, SI.com is here to get those transactional juices flowing. Here are five fake blockbuster trades that are almost certainly too complicated to ever happen…but they sure would be fun.
(All deals ESPN Trade Machine-approved)
Trade No. 1: Big-man shuffle
Atlanta gets: Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Noah Vonleh, and Boston's 2016 first-round pick
Boston gets: Al Horford and Thabo Sefolosha, Allen Crabbe
Cleveland gets: CJ McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jared Sullinger
Portland gets: Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Tim Hardaway Jr.
You can wipe the sweat off your brow now. The high-profile names are sent flying and four playoff teams might actually all benefit from this deal.
Where to start? Let’s begin our reasoning with Cleveland, the most legitimate Finals contender in the deal, who would in theory renege on its public stance of not trading Love and deal the much-nitpicked power forward with an eye toward more flexible matchups in the postseason.
McCollum’s shooting and combo-guard experience alongside another shoot-first guard in Damian Lillard makes him a solid fit next to Kyrie Irving. He can lead a bench unit as a ballhandler and stretch defenses as a deep threat, letting Irving and LeBron James attack the rim and make plays. Fun fact: McCollum and Sullinger, an able shooter who’s had success in Boston’s small lineups, are natives of Ohio (just trying to win one for the ‘Land). Aminu’s matchup versatility would make him a key rotational cog and take some pressure off LeBron. Wouldn’t an Irving-McCollum-Aminu-James-Sullinger/Tristan Thompson lineup at least make things more interesting against Golden State?
Portland, in turn, brings Love back to his hometown and adds a much-needed inside-outside threat. The Blazers have had success with Meyers Leonard as a stretch big and can use Love all around the floor with Damian Lillard. Both stars are signed to long-term deals and give the Blazers a legitimate core to build around. Shumpert benefits from a more defined role and Hardaway helps replace the shooting they lose here. Perhaps they remain a playoff team, and worst-case scenario, they drop out, keep their first-round pick instead of sending it to the Nuggets, pitch the right free agents and enter next season in solid shape.
It’s hard to believe it took this long to get to Horford, who joins another competitive situation that could be tough to walk away from given Brad Stevens’s wizardry and the number of cost-effective parts in place long-term. The Celtics finally get a star to hold things down, can slot in Crabbe as a three-point shooter in place of Bradley and add Sefolosha as another quality defender (imagine him on the court in switch-friendly lineups with Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart).
As for Atlanta, it gets a chance to reset on the fly while adding young talent and a pick. The Hawks can then move Jeff Teague and/or Kyle Korver in separate deals if they want to. If they hit on the draft pick, the trade serves as a strong reboot option and eliminates the risk of losing Horford for nothing. Now exhale. While we’re on the subject of Teague…
Trade No. 2: Exchanging points
Atlanta gets: Mike Conley, Matt Barnes
Memphis gets: Ricky Rubio, Shabazz Muhammad, Kent Bazemore
Minnesota gets: Jeff Teague, Vince Carter and its own lottery-protected 2018 first
This deal gives three quality point guards changes of scenery. Assume this trade is independent of the first one and Atlanta turns the other direction, thinking it can keep Horford. Barnes brings toughness and playoff experience on an expiring deal. The Hawks send the Wolves back a first-rounder that may not be too valuable if Minny’s budding stars progress quickly.
If the Grizzlies aren’t confident in their ability to keep Conley, they’d better get moving on a deal. This scenario keeps them relevant, reuniting Rubio—a basketball lifer who’s still just 25 years old—with Spanish national teammate Marc Gasol. Muhammad and Bazemore present more aggressive, offensive-minded lineup options for Memphis as it continues to experiment with small ball. It’s a solid haul and mitigates the risk of losing their point guard while also sending him away to the Eastern Conference.
As for the Wolves? They get to see how their wealth of talent plays with a point guard who has experience and, mercifully, can shoot. Teague’s 27 and still well ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine in years, but can also be flipped again if they choose. And in keeping with the M.O. that brought Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller to Minneapolis, who better to mentor those high-flying wing guys than Carter?
Trade No. 3: Pelicans go big
New Orleans gets: Tyson Chandler, Markieff Morris, Cameron Payne
Oklahoma City gets: P.J. Tucker, Norris Cole
Phoenix gets: Eric Gordon, Omer Asik, Dion Waiters, Pelicans' 2018 lottery-protected first-round pick
This deal’s a bit smaller in names but intriguing in its implications. In it, Phoenix could kick-start its rebuild, New Orleans could fortify its front line and Oklahoma City could add tow experienced cogs for its title chase.
It only takes a quick glance to realize there’s tons of risk being taken here, especially by the Pelicans, who get saddled with two possibly ugly long-term contracts but are able to get out from another one (Asik). Rumor has it that New Orleans want to pair Anthony Davis with a tough, physical big, and Chandler, who may have more in the tank than he’s shown much of the season, fits that bill. Morris is a total wild card, but get him out of Phoenix, throw him minutes and you might receive something positive. Adding Payne gives them the flexibility to deal Jrue Holiday should they choose. If it all goes right, they’re in a better place next season.
Phoenix can finally move on from a season defined in part by Morris’s griping and will have ample cap space with Gordon’s $15 million off the books. Waiters will be a restricted free agent, and no, this doesn’t solve the glut of guards, but throw in the pick and it’s a way to shift the franchise’s direction. Again, the Asik contract sucks, but to get rid of Morris, it’s part of the equation.
But this mostly gets me excited for the Thunder, who get a playoff-tested backup guard in Cole, and Tucker, a tough, two-way wing who happens to be close friends with a guy they may want to re-sign in Kevin Durant. The idea of Tucker as a third wing who can spot up off of Durant and Westbrook and guard multiple positions on the other end makes sense, even if he’s beefed with OKC on-court in the past. He’s the kind of guy I’d want on my side when it counts. The Thunder go all in here and hope it’s enough to keep KD in place.
Trade No. 4: Howard for Lopez
Brooklyn gets: Dwight Howard, Ty Lawson, Lance Stephenson
Houston gets: Brook Lopez, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jamal Crawford
L.A. Clippers get: Thaddeus Young, Donald Sloan
This one’s pretty simple (well, at least compared to the others). The Rockets shuffle up a frustrated locker room without losing much from a talent standpoint, the Clippers get their man in Young, who adds depth behind Blake Griffin and becomes a nice option when opponents want to foul DeAndre Jordan. The Nets, strapped for picks for the next few years, add a marketable star in Howard and offer Lawson and Stephenson one last lifeline. They’re in a situation that makes high-risk, high-reward more palatable.
Trade No. 5: Rudy Gay to the Clippers
L.A. Clippers get: Rudy Gay, Caron Butler
Sacramento gets: Patrick Patterson, Delon Wright, Lance Stephenson and Clippers' 2016 first-round pick
Toronto gets: Omri Casspi, Paul Pierce
Here’s a different scenario for the Clippers that brings in Rudy Gay to fill their hole at small forward, in hopes of coaxing the best out of an oft-inconsistent but undeniably talented player. A five of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Gay, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has a puncher’s chance to complete in the postseason and give it one more go with this core, at the expense of Paul Pierce and a first-rounder.
Pierce joins another playoff-bound squad in Toronto, but Casspi is the real coup for the Raptors, giving them a shooter with size and an upgrade on Patterson, who goes to the Kings reunites with former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins in an admittedly weird mishmash of parts. Wright needs a shot at playing time and a late first-round pick sweetens the deal.