This was supposed to be a happy article, friends. I wanted to investigate which teams could make trades that might threaten the supremacy of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
After hours of research and toying with the Trade Machine, one thing became very clear: There are no such moves out there. No realistic trades exist, anyway, that would take teams from the cusp of championship contention to real title threats.
But there are still a number of moves teams can make to improve this year — and more importantly, trades that will make the NBA even more entertaining. Here are five teams we'd love to see make a change ASAP.
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The 76ers have a logjam at center, and with Joel Embiid looking like the NBA's next great big man, it's obvious that this team needs to make a move. Conventional wisdom holds that of Philly's three big men, Nerlens Noel is the one who will likely end up elsewhere. While he might be the easiest one to trade, if I were the Sixers, I'd be shopping Jahlil Okafor to any team interested in the former Duke standout's traditional offensive game. Give me Noel and Joel Embiid as my frontcourt duo over any combination that includes Okafor.
New York Knicks
The Knicks need to get rid of Derrick Rose, and it has nothing to do with the awful fact that the point guard is currently defending himself in a civil rape case. Strictly in a basketball sense, he is not good. New York has a much better starting point guard option in Brandon Jennings; in fact, if Jennings starts, this team could be one of the most fun and entertaining squads in the Eastern Conference, even a playoff contender.
But with Rose starting, the Knicks will end up becoming the same old Big Apple embarrassment we've known in years past, wasting another year of Kristaps Porzingis' career. Tell a team like the Kings that Rose is available and let them take on his expiring deal in return for an asset or two. And speaking of Sacramento ...
The logic behind this one is simple — and best stated in hashtag form: #FreeBoogie.
DeMarcus Cousins has toiled in Sacramento for far too long, playing for one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports with nothing to show for it. Worse than that, Boogie doesn't seem to have the support of his organization. Vlade Divac seems to view Cousins with about as much patience as George Karl did.
While I've previously expressed optimism that Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade can somehow make their backcourt situation work in Chicago next year, that sense of hope is fading quickly this preseason. Really, it's time for the Bulls to embrace a rebuild and completely move on from the team's current era.
That means trading Butler, the one player on the roster who could actually command a decent return in a trade. Hand the team over to Rondo and Wade (and Robin Lopez!) and let them try to carry the team to the postseason and reinvigorate the fanbase. Either way, you're probably destined for failure this season.
Getty ImagesStreeter Lecka
Los Angeles Lakers
Obviously, moving Nick Young for anything of value would be an absolute coup for GM Mitch Kupchak. Other than sending Swaggy P packing, though, there's another forward-thinking move the Lakers should make:
Trade Julius Randle.
Maybe not right this second; you'd want to showcase the third-year forward first in new coach Luke Walton's system. So give him a month or two to build up some stock around the league, then make a move.
Is it too soon to abandon the young forward? Maybe. He clearly has a ton of potential as a gifted scorer, and he's a better passer than you think. But his game just doesn't fit in the modern NBA; unfortunately, there's no reason to think he'll change into the kind of defense-first player he needs to be.
Moving Randle gets Larry Nance Jr. into the starting lineup and saves the Lakers from throwing good money after bad. There's only so much attention to go around with L.A.'s young core. The team would be much better off focusing on the development of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Nance, rather than trying to turn Randle into something he's not.