This NBA season has been as competitive as any we’ve seen in recent history. That should lead to numerous title contenders looking to improve their rosters ahead of February’s trade deadline.
From the Los Angeles Lakers looking to add a championship-caliber bench player to the Boston Celtics finally pulling off that blockbuster trade, here’s a look at one trade each title contender could make to put them over the top.
Los Angeles Lakers: Trade for Andre Iguodala
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A move of this ilk would likely require Los Angeles trading Kyle Kuzma to the Grizzlies. The Lakers don’t have draft picks to entice Memphis. Instead, moving a youngster of Kuzma’s ilk makes the most sense.
Already boasting a dominant defense, the Lakers would add a veteran wing with vast playoff experience to come off the bench. Iggy proved last season with the Warriors that he can still guard elite offensive talent out on the perimeter. This is a match made in heaven.
Milwaukee Bucks: Make bold move for Chris Paul
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It’s not yet known whether the Thunder would even consider moving Paul during the season. Recent reports suggest that might not be the case. Given Oklahoma City’s status as an also-ran, we’re not sure why the team would be opposed to trading the All-Star.
If he were put on the block, Milwaukee makes the most sense. Still playing at an elite level, Paul would be a major upgrade over Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt. He’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists on 47 percent shooting from the field. A package including Bledsoe, Donte DiVincenzo, cap fillers and a first-round pick could move the needle here.
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The Clippers pretty much have the perfect mix: two star players in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard who can both score and play defense and a bench consisting of two players, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, who could both end up averaging 20 points.
However, toughness in the frontcourt is one area the Clippers are missing. A tough veteran with an ability to bang the boards, Gibson would be a tremendous addition. Could they bite the bullet and offer up youngster Landry Shamet and cap fillers to the Knicks? It’s a win-now move Doc Rivers and Co. need to seriously consider making.
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Josh Richardson and youngster Furkan Korkmaz have helped make up for the loss of outside shooting threat JJ Redick. Even then, Philadelphia needs to make a move for a perimeter shooter in order to be taken seriously as a legit title contender.
That’s where Bertans comes into play. The former second-round pick is in the midst of a career season. He’s shooting 46 percent from distance and average nearly 16 points. A stretch four in the truest sense of the term, Bertans would be a perfect fit next to Joel Embiid and Al Horford up front for Philadelphia. Maybe offer up youngsters Zhaire Smith or Matisse Thybulle and see if the Wizards bite.
Dallas Mavericks: Go for the gauntlet with Blake Griffin
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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has made it clear that the team is looking for another big man to team up with Kristaps Porzingis, someone who can bang the boards and get tough inside while still stretching the court.
There’s no better buy-low option than Griffin potentially on the market ahead of February’s trade deadline. Impacted by injury over the past couple seasons, Griffin is still playing at a high level. Dallas could make this work by offering cap fillers in Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee while sweetening the pot with draft picks as well as big man Maxi Kleber.
Boston Celtics: Add C.J. McCollum in blockbuster
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At 12-16, it appears that the Blazers are going nowhere fast. At some point soon, general manager Neil Olshey and Co. are going to have to bite the bullet and break up the backcourt duo of McCollum and Damian Lillard. What better time than now with contending teams desperate in a season that has been as competitive as we’ve ever seen?
The idea from Boston’s perspective would be to finally move rising star Jaylen Brown after pushing back against trading him in the past. This trade would also enable the Celtics to unload the bloated contract of injury-plagued wing Gordon Hayward. It would be a win-now move for general manager Danny Ainge. Now, will he do it? We’re highly skeptical.
Denver Nuggets: Redefine the core with Zach LaVine
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The likes of Will Barton and Gary Harris are nice role players. However, neither is going to become that third star to go with Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. In order for Denver to have a chance in the Western Conference, it must get creative to add that type of player.
In LaVine, the Nuggets would add a player who is averaging north of 23 points since the start of last season. Still only 24 years old, he boasts a ton of upside. Denver should maybe consider moving Harris and Michael Porter Jr. as part of the package for the Bulls star.
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It needs to be all about Fred VanVleet in Toronto. This is nothing against Lowry, who has been an important part of the team’s championship core over the years. But at some point, the new guard must take hold. That point is now.
Given the injuries these Raptors are dealing with, Lowry’s salary would be beneficial in bringing in a couple rotational players in return. The cost would come in the form of multiple draft picks to move the remainder of the $33.3 million he’s owed this season. Could adding Knicks veterans Julius Randle and Marcus Morris potentially be in the cards? It’s possible.
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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey went all in by trading for Russell Westbrook this past summer. It has brought mixed results. What we do know is that the respected front office head is not afraid to make that bold move.
In acquiring Love from the Cavaliers, Houston would get a stretch four who fits in well with Westbrook and James Harden. He likely wouldn’t cost a whole bunch in terms of compensation, either. Something to the tune of cap fillers and Clint Capela could get it done.