Many NBA personnel love this time of year because there are no games, free agency is pretty much over, Summer League just ended, and it’s finally time for that summer vacation with their family that they’ve been looking forward to. Before training camp in late September, there really isn’t much going on around the league.
Trade rumors surrounding Damian Lillard, James Harden and some others continue to surface, but there is really no traction on any deals being made right now. That can change at any time, as can who is available on the NBA trade market.
At this point, teams are figuring out the last few roster spots they have open and are ready to begin their preparations for the 2023-24 season with the team they built this offseason. However, competing for a championship is all that matters, and for some organizations, change is already on the horizon.
They may not happen today, they may not happen tomorrow, and they may not happen at all. These three hypothetical NBA blockbuster trades, seen below, could really shake things up ahead of training camp, especially since they involve All-Stars who aren’t necessarily hearing their names in daily trade news right now.
The Pelicans are pushing for a championship with Towns
Pelicans receive: C Karl-Anthony Towns, G Jordan McLaughlin
The Timberwolves receive: C Jonas Valanciunas, F Trey Murphy III, F Larry Nance Jr., G Kira Lewis Jr., NOP/MIL 2024 first round pick (better of two picks), LAL 2024 first round pick (option to trade 2024 or 2025), MIL 2025 first round pick (protected first round)
The Minnesota Timberwolves look unlikely to move on from Karl-Anthony Towns this offseason. But the idea of trading Towns has certainly been on the minds of this organization ever since last offseason, when they gave up way too much to get three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. The thing is, the Timberwolves are now Anthony Edwards’ team, and they should want to build around the 21-year-old for the foreseeable future.
Towns is and could be a great player going forward as he’s still only 27 years old, but Minnesota can’t afford to keep him around for long, especially with the new CBA rules coming into effect and Edwards getting a massive extension this offseason.
Several teams would likely pursue Towns if he became available. One team that seems to be lurking in the shadows for a big move is the New Orleans Pelicans. Already with Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum as their NBA All-Star-like trio, the Pelicans actually have the financial flexibility and assets to make a trade for a player like the Timberwolves big man.
Long-term cost would be a concern, as Towns has a four-year, $234 million extension that starts prior to the 2024-25 season, but this move would certainly make the Pelicans the best team in the Western Conference at full strength. They would essentially have four All-Star-like players on the field at the same time and would still have depth with Herb Jones, Dyson Daniels, Jose Alvarado, Naji Marshall and first-round pick Jordan Hawkins.
For the Timberwolves, Jonas Valanciunas is entering the final year of his contract and will free up cap flexibility next summer. Not to mention, moving Towns allows Naz Reid, who the team just extended for three more seasons, to play more minutes. Larry Nance Jr. and Kira Lewis Jr. both give the Timberwolves some much-needed depth, while Trey Murphy III has a chance to be a star out on the wing.
Pairing him with Edwards creates a strong offensive duo on the perimeter, and suddenly Minnesota would become much more athletic and deadly in transition. This trade also gives the Wolves the chance to flip Valanciunas and a player like Nance at the NBA trade deadline for more value, potentially allowing them to regain some lost assets from the Rudy Gobert deal they made last NBA offseason.
Keep an eye on Towns’ status with the Timberwolves, as it wouldn’t be shocking if he’s representing another team in a year.
Atlanta forms a “Big 3”
Hawks receive: G Zach LaVine
Mavericks receive: C Clint Capela
Tyres receive: G/F Tim Hardaway Jr., F De’Andre Hunter, SAC 2024 first-round pick (top-14 protected, via ATL), DAL 2026 first-round pick (top-10 protected, via DAL), GSW 2026 second-round pick (via ATL), ATL 2028 first-round pick (trade, more favorable)
Who knows what is going to happen with the Chicago Bulls at this point. Based on the moves they made this offseason in keeping Nikola Vucevic and Coby White, as well as bringing in backcourt help with Jevon Carter, it appears the Bulls will be shut down until they see what this team can do in the 2023-24 season.
That said, it’s hard to fathom a scenario where Chicago doesn’t move one of its three All-Star talents to undergo some sort of retooling over the next few months. DeMar DeRozan is in the final year of his contract, and Zach LaVine’s frustrations continue to be the number one topic of discussion when talking about the Bulls. If the Atlanta Hawks really want to make themselves real contenders in the East, they need to sign another star. LaVine is certainly the type of offensive talent they need next to Trae Young.
This trade would make the Hawks a very small team as they already dealt John Collins in the offseason and would now lose even more length with Clint Capela and De’Andre Hunter being moved. On the other side of things, a trio of Dejounte Murray, Young and LaVine are explosive and difficult to guard in one-on-one scenarios.
Capela’s name has come up in NBA trade rumors recently, with the Dallas Mavericks being a team interested in him as they have been lacking frontcourt talent for a while. Surrendering Tim Hardaway Jr. and a future first-round pick protected for the Hawks’ big man shouldn’t be a problem from Dallas’ perspective, as Capela could help them win in the Western Conference right now.
Looking at the Bulls, they would have future draft picks to play with as they restructure their roster. Hunter is a 25-year-old wing who still has potential to grow in if he can stay healthy. As for Hardaway, he would give Chicago shooting depth on the perimeter that is desperately needed.
Perhaps the Bulls would be looking for more value if they were to trade LaVine right now, but his contract isn’t that favorable, so it would be hard for them to demand a first-round pick move.
Blazers keep Ladies, add All-Star wing
Blazers receive: F DeMar DeRozan
Tyres receive: G Anfernee Simons, G Keon Johnson, POR 2026 first round pick (2024 first round pick already due to CHI going unprotected), POR 2027 first round pick swap (more beneficial to CHI)
Everything surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason has revolved around Damian Lillard and whether he will have his trade request to the Miami Heat granted. As things stand, there is no momentum towards a deal being completed. The Blazers have not ruled out the possibility of keeping Dame as GM Joe Cronin stated in June that the team remains “committed” to building around their star, according to Bill Oram of The Oregonian.
This situation could really go either way, as a trade to Miami seems just as likely as staying in Portland at this point for Lillard. If the Blazers are willing to sacrifice assets to acquire another All-Star talent, Lillard may well give them another chance and hold off on wanting a trade to a team that has proven they can make the NBA Finals.
After drafting Scoot Henderson third overall this offseason, and with Shaedon Sharpe emerging as a young, athletic shooting guard on their roster, Anfernee Simons has suddenly become useless for the Blazers. Still only 24, Simons can provide a lot of upside to any team he’s on. If there’s one team in the league that needs help in their backcourt, it’s the Chicago Bulls, and making this kind of trade after also making the above trade involving Zach LaVine would be an interesting re-tool.
Sending Simons, Keon Johnson and some draft capital to the Bulls in exchange for DeMar DeRozan isn’t as crazy of a deal as it might seem. Maybe the Bulls wouldn’t, but they’d get younger, they’d add backcourt depth, and they’d have draft picks to revamp their roster with. DeRozan is in the final year of his contract, and there’s no telling if he’ll stick around in Chicago next season. Getting something for him now that the team is coming off a lackluster season might not be crazy after all, especially since he turns 34 in August.
As far as draft compensation going to Chicago, the Blazers already owe the Bulls their 2024 first-round pick, which is lottery-protected and carries other designated protections through the 2028 NBA Draft. This pick could easily be changed to be unprotected in 2024, allowing Portland to send a 2026 first-round pick and a 2027 trade to the Bulls for DeRozan.
The Blazers would prefer to keep Lillard instead of giving in to his trade request. If they can land a high-level talent like DeRozan, Portland can reverse their recent woes and become a playoff threat once again. Everything for the Blazers hinges on whether Lillard’s time is over or not.