Which Teams are Best Positioned to Pull off a Blockbuster Trade?
The 2019-2020 NBA season should be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory; there is no clear favorite to win it all. There are also lots of teams who have the necessary resources to pull off a blockbuster trade that could change the landscape of the league. Here are the teams best positioned to pull it off:
Atlanta has the necessary firepower to make a big-time trade that would shake up the East. They could use Allen Crabbe’s large expiring contract as salary filler, they have an extra pick in this upcoming draft, and they have plenty of young players. But I don’t see them making any big time moves. They have shown they want to grow their young core, so I doubt they would be willing to include any of them in a trade. They’re also unlikely to be good enough to think that one big move would put them over the top.
Portland will rightly see themselves as contenders this year after making the conference finals last year, and despite a busy offseason, may not be done making moves. Unlike some other teams on this list, they probably don’t have the ammo to pull off a trade for a Top-10 talent, but they do have the chips to get a fringe All-Star level player. They have big expiring contracts in Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside, and they have intriguing young players in Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, and Gary Trent Jr. I think they’re more intrigued in those youngsters than they are in making a trade though. Their reluctance to include Collins or Simons means I do not think it is likely they make a big move.
Milwaukee is a team that is in a sneaky-good position for a trade. Eric Bledsoe is a high-end starter on a very reasonable salary, which would help both for salary-matching and quality: the other team wouldn’t just be taking on bad money with Bledsoe. Milwaukee also has medium-sized short-term deals in George Hill and Ersan Ilyasova, as well as Robin Lopez on a very matchable contract of $5 million a year. Donte DiVencenzo and D.J. Wilson, furthermore, are prospects that are interesting enough to incentivize teams. Milwaukee is similar to Portland’s situation, though, in that their most likely scenario is probably trading for a fringe All-Star level player.
On Blockbuster Watch
Sacramento has two players in contract years at the same position in Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic, both of whom are very good players, with Bogdan big enough to slide to the three some. If they decide they only want to keep one of the two, the other immediately becomes a great trade chip. They also have quality veterans who are on tradeable contracts that can be both salary filler and a solid addition to the right team in Trevor Ariza, Cory Joseph, and Nemanja Bjelica. In addition, they have all of their picks going forward, plus a litany of second round picks owed to them. A package of Bogdanovic, Ariza, and two future first round picks puts them into the conversation to land a superstar.
The Clippers were very strategic in the Paul George trade this summer; they made sure they retained the ability to trade their 2020 first round pick. They are also loaded with quality veterans who are on team friendly contracts. They have an elite young prospect in Landry Shamet, plus recent first-rounder Jerome Robinson. They can easily put together a package of Montrezl Harrell, Robinson or Shamet (depending on who they’re trading for), a veteran like Mo Harkless or Patrick Beverley and their 2020 first round pick to get in the conversation for just about anyone who hits the trade market.
Orlando might be in the best position team of any team in the league. They have all of their picks going forward, a fringe all-star player who is on a declining contract and still has not reached his ceiling in Aaron Gordon, some very exciting prospects in Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, and some decent veterans on big enough contracts to match with available stars in Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Fournier, D.J. Augustine, and Terrence Ross. One could even call 16th pick Chuma Okeke the cherry on top. There are innumerable combinations of veterans and prospects that put them in the running for any level of player that hits the market. I wouldn’t expect them to make Aaron Gordon available, but he might be in play if they’re trying to bring a superstar back. I think the most realistic combo is Mo Bamba, one of the vets, and picks. That package should still be enough to bring in a quality contributor, if not an All-Star.
Denver’s case depends on the health of Gary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. Harris is a high-end starter whose contract is sizeable enough to help facilitate a trade. MPJ was viewed as the best player in his high school class two years ago, before injuries robbed him of his first season in the NBA. He has looked great this preseason, and has shown he can still be the centerpiece of a big trade. But either (or both) are only desirable if they can stay on the floor. Another possibility is Will Barton, whose contract is probably considered a bit of an overpay by most, but can still be an integral piece of a winning team. Bol Bol is also very intriguing on a two-way contract; he would be a great throw-in to any trade.
San Antonio rarely makes any moves during the season, especially any sort of blockbuster trade. This year could be different: they check all the boxes when it comes to the necessary assets to pull off a blockbuster trade. They have vets who have short-term, medium-sized contracts in Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, DeMarre Carroll, and Marco Belinelli. They have intriguing young players in Lonnie Walker, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, and Luka Samanic. They also have DeMar DeRozan, who could be used in a trade similar to the one that brought him to the Spurs: the main trade chip resulting in going from an all-star to superstar. After a great summer league and no real path to minutes, Lonnie Walker could end up being a great asset in the trade market. San Antonio is similar to the Kings as they have a little bit of positional overlap in Murray and White, and they might decide to only keep one. They’re also like the Magic and Clippers in that they can combine quality vets, young players, and picks in basically any combination to appeal to their trade partner.