With the NBA season currently in hiatus, uncertainty surrounds the continuation of this season. Uncertainty will be the keyword within many franchises at the moment, particularly those who were competing for a championship this season.
Here is one trade that each of the top five teams in the NBA could make to increase their odds at the title next year.
The Trade: Donte DiVincenzo and a 2025 Second Round Pick (Via Indiana) for Dillon Brooks
Giannis Antetokounmpo is an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 NBA season unless he signs an extension. Given this uncertainty, the Bucks will be in win-now mode next season. DiVincenzo has shown a lot of potential in his first two seasons but still is benched in favor of Wesley Matthews. Meanwhile, Brooks is having a terrific year on the underdog Grizzlies, averaging nearly 16 points per game on an efficient 37% from the arc. Although Brooks may be better now, DiVincenzo offers more upside and potential to be elite in the future. As the Grizzlies are not aiming for a championship in the next couple of years, this trade would smoothly suit their timeline.
From the Bucks’ point of view, this trade would end up surrounding Giannis with Eric Bledsoe, Dillon Brooks, Kris Middleton, and Brook Lopez. Even without the move, Milwaukee is a favorite to win the East. The addition only further solidifies their title aspirations.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Trade: Kyle Kuzma for Devonte’ Graham and Cody Martin
Devonte’ Graham has been one of the stories of the season this year. After a rookie season where he put up less than 5 points a night, Graham’s future in the NBA was looking bleak. However, this year he soared to 18.2 points and 7.5 assists per game. Due to this jump, he is one of the legitimate contenders for the NBA Most Improved Player award this year. With fellow guard Terry Rozier still having two years left on his $58 million deal, the Hornets trading Graham could make sense. Without Graham in the picture, Rozier will be able to run the offense on his terms, and Kyle Kuzma would be a solid complement. For the Lakers, Graham brings in an offensive threat to strengthen the Lakers’ already elite lineup. Defenders won’t be able to play as much help defense on Davis and James with Graham roaming the perimeter. Graham would take some of the scoring load off of the two superstars, allowing them to conserve their energy for the postseason.
The Trade: Serge Ibaka, 2020 First Round Pick, 2021 First Round Pick, 2023 Second Round Pick for Nikola Vucevic
Ever since trading away Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic have consistently been finishing around the lower end of the Eastern Conference. It is time for the Magic to rebuild for real (finally), and the first step in that is trading away their franchise player Nikola Vucevic. The Raptors could be the perfect fit for him in a swap deal with forward Serge Ibaka. This deal is assuming Ibaka opts in this offseason. Ibaka would then have an expiring contract for the Magic, meaning Orlando could rebuild with increased cap space. The draft picks would benefit them throughout this rebuild.
While Ibaka has played well for the Raptors this year, the team’s net rating takes a major hit when he is on the floor. Vucevic is an All-Star who could add another dimension to the Raptor offense. Toronto is already bordering on being a contender for the East; the addition of Vucevic could push them over the edge. Alongside Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, and Pascal Siakam, the Raptors could deal serious damage in the East.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Trade: Ivica Zubac for Trey Lyles
The Clippers are in a great situation. They have surrounded their two superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with shooters as well as versatile, switchable defenders. Ivica Zubac may not be a good fit for their rotation anymore. The Croatian big man was a starter for the Clippers this season, but only averaged 18 minutes per game. This is in part due to his nature as an old school, one-dimensional center who cannot defend more than one position.
Trey Lyles could be the answer. Lyles is a much more versatile player, who can defend both in the paint and outside the perimeter. Offensively, he contributes to the floor spacing as a 38.7% shooter from outside the arc. Lyles could take the floor when Montrezl Harrell sits, as the surrounding players play off their respective strengths. While Lyles may not be the biggest name, role players like him are valuable for a team competing for a championship.
For the Spurs, they would be receiving a bright young player in Zubac with a potential to be worth much more in the coming years.
The Trade: Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis, Romeo Langford, and a 2020 first round pick (Via Milwaukee) for Rudy Gobert
With a surplus of talented guards, the Celtics’ only real need is a star center. Daniel Theis has been solid for them, but he does not look strong enough to be on a Celtics team that can get past the Bucks or Lakers. With Boston’s perimeter shooting, a paint anchor like Rudy Gobert fits perfectly. His rebounding, scoring around the rim, and exceptional defensive prowess could take Boston to the next level.
After a recent rumor that the relationship between Gobert and teammate Donavon Mitchel may be unsalvagable, Utah may have no choice but to move Gobert. Fortunately for Utah, even aside from Gobert, they have a deep pinup. Gordon Hayward would return to his old team and look to complement veterans Mike Conley, Bogdan Bogdonavic, and Joe Ingles. Langford still has tons of potential, and along with the 2020 first-rounder, the Jazz would be receiving a great deal for their big man. Utah would still have the roster to be a high seed in the Western Conference and even compete in the playoffs.