In lieu of the annual NBA All-Star Game, we frothed at the mouth at the possible partnerships of NBA’s elite. Russell Westbrook laying up to LeBron, a magical backcourt of Steph Curry and James Harden.. there were too many partnerships that appeared too good to be true.
But the word ‘Fantasy’ is a trendy word these days, and fantasy line-ups are now popular amongst fans across numerous sports. Fantasy teams give us an opportunity to pretend that superstars can play together, in fact, why not stick 5 max-contracts together on the same team. It isn’t real, after all.
But having said that, there were a lot of rumours surrounding All-Star Weekend about possible big moves. LeBron to ___. Kawhi to ___. There are a lot of realistic trades out there for star players that could happen this off-season.
So, stepping out of fantasy, and in to reality a little, let’s take a look at 5 semi-realistic trades that could bring NBA teams from contender to champion over time.
PHOTO CREDIT – YARDBARKER
5. The NBA are forced to ‘Trust the Process’
Trade – Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Phildaelphia 76ers
Ins and Outs – Milwaukee acquire Dario Saric, 2018 1st Round Draft Pick via Lakers, 2019 1st Round Draft Pick via Sacramento
Realistic Grade – C+
The Financials – Acquiring Giannis could lead to JJ Reddick moving on, as remarkably, they are on a similar 22 mil salary. Reddick is on a one year contract, but is still an important part of their rotation. I’d probably part ways with Amir Johnson and ship Jerryd Bayless to a team in need of three pointers. Dropping Saric with that combination will leave enough room for Antetokounmpo financially.
The Fit – What team wouldn’t give an arm and a leg for ‘The Greek Freak’? Philly have as bright of a future as any in the NBA and already have shown strides of improvement with a healthy Ben Simmons at the forefront.
Joel Embiid bosses the rim currently for the 76ers, but imagine adding Giannis Antetokounmpo to the mix? You could argue that Simmons and Embiid are enough of a threat offensively at the rim but there is no doubt that Giannis would bring them to another level. If they manage to get injury plagued Markelle Fultz healthy, and look for more three point output from the bench, there is no doubt this can be a dominant team for the future.
Also, you can’t help but feel Giannis would have some fun with the ‘Trust the Process’ moniker. And with Embiid.
Future starting lineup – Ben Simmons (PG) Markelle Fultz (SG) Robert Covington (SF) Giannis Antetokounmpo (PF) Joel Embiid (C)
Championship Odds – Philly are a pass-heavy team, so Giannis won’t have much trouble looking for looks among ball sharing players. It may take a year or so to gel, but with Giannis’ constant improvement and an ageing Warriors/Rockets I reckon they could work towards back to back titles given their potential and youth.
Championship Tally – Three times (2021, 2022, 2023)
PHOTO CREDIT – GIVE ME SPORT
4. Washington round out with the ultimate big man
Trade – Anthony Davis to the Washington Wizards
Ins and Outs – New Orleans acquire John Wall and Marcin Gortat.
Realistic Grade – D+
The Financials – Freeing up John Wall’s 18 mil contract and adding in a 12 mil Gortat leaves the Wizards with some room to play around at PG, if they are placing their faith away from Thomas Satoransky. Without any future draft picks at their peril, the Wizards have to give up big to get big.
The Fit – You’re probably wondering, why on earth would the Wizards trade John Wall? Never mind Washington getting ‘AD’.
John Wall missed three weeks before the new year, the Wizards went 9-3. Most recently, in the month of February without John Wall, the Wizards have went 7-3. Playoff John Wall will surely be missed, but the Wizards have shown they can survive without him.
Having said that, the Wizards have suffered from the declining Marcin Gortat and his general rim protection/attack combo. Adding a trending Anthony Davis is a huge jump for any team. AD can provide the big man goodness that the Wizards have been crying out for. Averaging 3rd in PPG and 8th in rebounds in the NBA, Davis’ ceiling is skyhigh right now.
Future starting lineup – Thomas Satoransky (PG) Bradley Beal (SG) Kelly Oubre Jr (SF) Otto Porter Jr (PF) Anthony Davis (C)
Championship Odds – You’d have to think the Wizards should have to make the much needed jump in improving their bench before we talk about an NBA Championship. With that in mind, and maybe another acquisition, I think they could be an 04′ Detroit Pistons and capitalise in a transitioning period.
Championship Tally – One time (2021)
PHOTO CREDIT – BUSINESS INSIDER
3. LA welcomes a future dynasty
Trade – Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Lakers
Ins and Outs – San Antonio receive Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and 2018 first round pick via Cleveland.
Realistic Grade – B+
The Financials – Assuming the Lakers move on from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the summer, that frees up the majority of Kawhi’s contract. Add in Hart and Ingram’s departure and that gives room for LA to take on a bench piece or two.
The Fit – This is a trade I’ve given a high realistic grade, and for semi-good reason.
Kawhi has always been the ultimate under the radar guy. He plays for the ultimate under the radar team with no imminent proof of being anything other than a solid playoff team for the next couple of years. The Spurs are always going to be good. That’s just what they do. Sometimes they step it up and win a championship here or there.
If he’s feeling bold, LA is the perfect fit for Kawhi. The last thing LA needs is a big personality to come and boss the locker room. Kawhi can set the perfect example for LA’s youngsters. Throw in an improvement of Isaiah Thomas, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball developing, and Brook Lopez being Brook Lopez, and they have themselves a shot.
Future starting lineup – Isaiah Thomas (PG) Lonzo Ball (SG) Kawhi Leonard (SF) Kyle Kuzma (PF) Brook Lopez (C)
Championship Odds – This is a tough one. You can credit a lot of Kawhi’s success in San Antonio to Greg Poppovich, the mastermind. Could a guy like Luke Walton get the best out of Kawhi? We’re writing a lot of this on assumptions. The visible, talented youth in the Lakers set up have quite a high ceiling. It wasn’t easy choosing Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart for this trade, but business and business. And if LA can get down to business with Kawhi at the forefront, it could bring a ring or two to LA.
Championship Tally – One time (2022)
PHOTO CREDIT – SILVER SCREEN AND ROLL
2. Paul George heads up north
Trade – Paul George to the Toronto Raptors
Ins and Outs – Oklahoma City Thunder receive OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka.
Realistic Grade – D-
The Financials – It’s basically a straight swap, George for OG and Ibaka.
The Fit – It’s one of the most talked about topics in the NBA, and feels like it has been for years. Where is Paul George going to go in free agency?
The likelihood is he going to LA, or sticking with the Big Three in OKC. But what if Toronto were able to provide one of the best guard/small forward trios in the league? Would that finally push them in to championship odds?
Losing starters in Ibaka and Anunoby won’t be easy, but George has looked great this season. Defensively, he is a candidate for DPOY and his fit with other Alpha’s in OKC has been one of the smoothest we’ve seen in recent trade history. Playing with DeRozan and Lowry will provide an offensive monster, that could be Championship material sometime soon.
Future starting lineup – Kyle Lowry (PG) DeMar DeRozan (SG) Paul George (SF) Jakob Poeltl (PF) Jonas Valanciunas (C)
Championship Odds – Similarly to Kawhi with the Lakers, it all depends on how George can fit the Raptors system. Given the fact they’ve adapted well enough to Ibaka and Anunoby, you’d hope it could be another smooth transition for George. The Raptors are title contenders this season, without George, so their ceiling may not be high for too long like the other fantasy trades – which have been centered towards the future and development of the young guys. But this team could be a force to be reckoned with if they find their rhythm.
Championship Tally – One time (2020)
PHOTO CREDIT – BLEACHER REPORT
1. LeBron brings ‘Mile High’ to the top
Trade – Denver Nuggets receive LeBron James
Ins and Outs – Cleveland acquires Paul Millsap, Trey Lyles, 2018 2nd round pick via Golden State, 2019 2nd round pick via Washington
Realistic Grade – F
The Financials – Remarkably, Millsap and LeBron are not far away in salary, so adding in Trey Lyles evens the balance.
The Fit – Can we not just have a bit of a fun every now and again? Damn.
The Denver Nuggets may be one of the most suprising teams in terms of high upside this side of Philly. The growth of the backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris over the course of the season has given a new shine to Denver. Throw in do-it-all bigman Nikola Jokic and they have themselves a future.
What are they missing? A savy veteran that can still get it done.
Who is the best savy veteran in the league that can still get it done? Why, LeBron James!
It’s not complete madness to think LeBron could negotiate with a team like Denver. Given his last move to Cleveland, an up and coming team in 2014-2015, too many people are giving him the label of chasing the big guns. The already established. Denver are crying out for someone like LeBron as guys like Wilson Chandler fail to keep up with their improvements. Let’s face it, who isn’t crying out for someone like LeBron?
Another worthy note – Richard Jefferson mentioned in his podcast ‘Road Trippin” the fact that the Nuggets locker room was ‘boring’. A good boring, he added. But guys like Jokic and Jamal Murray are not proven leaders. LeBron can automatically walk in to a team and assume the role of Alpha. We all remember the last time he had trouble with that.
Future starting lineup – Jamal Murray (PG) Gary Harris (SG) LeBron James (PF) Kenneth Faried (PF) Nikola Jokic (C)
Championship Odds – It’s not as easy as acquiring LeBron leads to Championships, but we can pretty much assume that we can almost rely on that assumption. Hoping Denver continue their improvement, and Jokic can steadily make his way as a Top 3 big man in the league, Denver’s potential is very very high. They have a decent bench that could be bolstered. I like their chances.
Championship Tally – Two time (2020, 2021)