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Making the best of a tough situation is no way for an NBA star to spend his career.
Even top talents need the right environment to thrive.
Some players get stranded on squads that age themselves out of competitiveness but can’t bring themselves to hit the reset button. Others are traded to teams operating on different timelines.
All of them could use a life raft, and there’s what we’re here to throw out.
For one reason or another, Andre Iguodala, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Love are all going nowhere fast with their current clubs. We’re hoping to change that by rerouting them to pastures that are either greener now or will be sooner than later.
The Athletic’s Michael Lee joins “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to discuss the proposed changes to the NBA schedule, the in-play tournament, reseeding for the Finals, Jimmy Butler, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
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Toronto Raptors Receive: Andre Iguodala
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, 2020 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
With no Kawhi Leonard and a handful of key veterans entering the final year of their respective contracts, the Raptors entered the 2019-20 season as potential sellers.
However, they might be just as good as last year’s championship-winning group.
If they have a legitimate shot at defending their crown, why not make an aggressive move to assist that effort? Buying big on Andre Iguodala—while other contenders wait for a buyout agreement that may never come—could make this long, versatile, intelligent group even longer, more versatile and more intelligent. They couldn’t make this move before Dec. 15, so they should have a clearer view of their ceiling by then.
The Raptors already have the league’s ninth-best defense without Iguodala, but his razor-sharp instincts could give them serious growth potential. Slotting him alongside Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby might be the creation of the proverbial immovable object, especially in this increasingly positionless game.
Toronto sits eighth in assist percentage, but that ranking similarly could rise with Iguodala in the fold. His vision and selflessness would add yet another capable shot-creator to an offense already featuring four different players averaging three or mor assists.
As for the Grizzlies, they finally find the first-round pick they’ve been seeking in exchange for Iguodala since his arrival, per Marc Stein of the New York Times. That’s no small victory for a front office overseeing a substantial overhaul, not to mention a feather in the cap of the patience-is-a-virtue crowd.
There’s a chance that both Norman Powell and Patrick McCaw are more than throw-ins, no matter whether Memphis plans to keep them or flip them in separate transactions. Powell is a helpful perimeter piece and more than that when his three-ball is falling. And if McCaw can ever get healthy—he had knee surgery in early November—he offers an interesting mix of length, defense and playmaking.
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Orlando Magic Receive: DeMar DeRozan
San Antonio Spurs Receive: Evan Fournier, Mo Bamba, Wes Iwundu, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected), 2020 second-round pick (from Los Angeles Lakers)
Qualifying the Spurs as a bad situation feels like we’re plunging into the end times. San Antonio is about as far removed from a toxic environment as a team can get. But if the on-court results look borderline hopeless, is that any better?
The Spurs have been brutal on defense, and this former model of consistency now looks consistently abysmal. The 6-11 record underwhelms on its own, but alarm sirens start blaring upon the realization that San Antonio has played the second-easiest schedule to date, per ESPN. The Spurs are one of only three teams that has yet to defeat a .500-or-better opponent.
This franchise needs a fresh start. Parting ways with DeMar DeRozan before he potentially leaves on his own in 2020 free agency gets the ball rolling on that process. Plus, the Spurs get some long-term addition-by-subtraction assistance, as DeRozan’s exit frees up more developmental minutes for the likes of Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson.
The Magic are sort of the Spurs’ inverse. Orlando’s defense is in the top half, but its offense can’t escape the basement. Unlike the Spurs, though, the Magic have enough in-prime and ascending talent to justify making a buy-now move. In fact, they’ve “already expressed interest” in DeRozan, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.
DeRozan could walk into the Magic Kingdom tomorrow and be the team’s top scorer and distributor. He’d give this group a late-game closer, and in turn, their rangy, long-limbed defenders would help mask his deficiencies on that end. He wouldn’t make Orlando a contender, but he might nudge the team into the East’s second tier, which would be both instantly gratifying and a beneficial experience for its youth.
San Antonio takes the long view in this trade, as Evan Fournier and Wes Iwundu are mainly money-matchers, though both could prove to be useful puzzle pieces. The upcoming first-rounder is the primary draw, while Mo Bamba is a 21-year-old, 7-foot wild card. He’s had an anemic start to his career, but with the aid of the Spurs’ famed developmental system, he might be the Alamo City’s anchor for years to come.
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Charlotte Hornets Receive: Andre Drummond
Detroit Pistons Receive: Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Malik Monk, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
It’s reality-check time for the Pistons. However high their hopes were entering the season, their sluggish start has surely deflated them.
At one point, they could blame their stumbles on the absence of Blake Griffin. However, they’re only 1-3 when they’ve had him, and they have a minus-2.2 net rating over the 83 minutes he’s played alongside Andre Drummond.
Detroit must accept that the plan isn’t working. Provided the Pistons are finally ready to sell, Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney reports the Hornets are more than ready to pounce on Drummond.
“He’ll be a priority there,” an executive told Deveney. “It’s just a matter of whether they make him a priority now and give up something to get him or try to make the move later. … But they might want to get this guy into the fold sooner rather than later.”
While the standings might paint relocating from Detroit to Charlotte as a lateral move, the Hornets are quietly collecting the kind of high-ceiling prospects that give them a much brighter outlook. P.J. Washington has sprinted out of the gate, Miles Bridges is making his sophomore leap and Devonte’ Graham is suddenly on a short list of Most Improved Player candidates.
Absent from that group—or Charlotte’s roster altogether—is a difference-making big man of Drummond’s caliber. He’s the best rebounder in the business, a powerful above-the-rim finisher, a disruptive defender and an improved passer and free-throw shooter. He’s also a likely free-agent-to-be, and it’s hard to see Buzz City securing his services without trading for him to familiarize him with the franchise.
The Pistons insist they want to keep Drummond, but this is quite the return for a player with limited offensive range and an uncertain future.
Malik Monk has chased consistency for the better part of two seasons, but watch out if he ever finds it. He’s shifty off the dribble, ignitable from distance and electric at the rim. The pick gives the Pistons another throw at the dartboard as they scramble to up their prospect count. They can try to flip Marvin Williams for more assets, and perhaps a change of scenery will do wonders for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
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Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Danilo Gallinari, Nerlens Noel
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: Hassan Whiteside, Gary Trent Jr., 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
The Trail Blazers have long needed a third scorer to relieve some pressure on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and more shooting in the frontcourt. Expecting Carmelo Anthony to address either need—let alone both—without the assistance of a time machine is probably asking too much.
But making a bold, aggressive move for Danilo Gallinari might do the trick. As long as he’s healthy, the combo forward has been a steady source of scoring, spacing and a pinch of secondary playmaking.
Get him to the Pacific Northwest, and if teams pay too much attention to Lillard and McCollum, they’ll have to take their chances with someone averaging 19.6 points on 45.9/42.7/90.8 shooting since the start of last season.
“He would be a perfect fit with those guys,” ESPN’s Tracy McGrady said on The Jump. “… He can rebound, he can shoot. He spreads the floor for them, opens up for the two guys that are mainly their base scorers. What Gallo provides I think can elevate them.”
While Gallinari wouldn’t do much to help Portland’s bottom-third defense, the inclusion of Nerlens Noel would. The nimble, agile anchor has the hand speed to clog passing lanes and the hops to protect the rim. Opponents are shooting only 48.6 percent within three feet against him, the ninth-lowest mark among qualified defenders. If he approved this deal, which couldn’t go down before Dec. 15, he could help launch the Blazers into conference contention.
Meanwhile, OKC adds to what’s already a ridiculous collection of incoming draft picks. It also gets a flier on Gary Trent Jr., a 20-year-old flamethrower from deep who could give some breathing room to the team’s long-term plans. Hassan Whiteside might only be involved to make the money work, but maybe someone emerges with an unexpected hole in the middle and gives up something for him to fill it ahead of the February trade deadline.
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Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Hassan Whiteside, Nassir Little, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
No trade discussion is complete if there isn’t some iteration of Kevin Love going home to Oregon, right?
This theoretical swap gets discussed ad nauseam for a reason. Or several reasons. Love grew up in Oregon, and who doesn’t love a good homecoming story? He has won on a bigger level than this Blazers core has experienced, and he might help them get over the hump.
Plus, his offensive skill set is more or less Portland’s ideal third wheel.
“If you put a playmaking screen-setter who can shoot next to Dame and CJ, that’s a problem,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said, via The Oregonian‘s Tim Brown.
Love has even more to offer. His post scoring would give Portland’s offense a safety valve when the guards can’t create. His outlet passes could get the Blazers easy buckets before opposing defenses get set. While he wouldn’t do much for the defense, at least his rebounding would improve the team’s ability to close out possessions (they’re 30th in defensive rebound percentage).
Armed with picks, prospects and expiring salaries, Portland is one of the few teams positioned to add an impact player without completely disrupting its rotation. After following the Lillard-McCollum model for this long, why not see what this nucleus could do with a legitimate third scorer?
While the Cavs clearly aren’t rushing to move Love, they surely know their timeline doesn’t mesh with Love’s. With his numbers trending up, they might have a chance to nab multiple assets for someone who league executives doubted could bring back a single one.
Nassir Little comes loaded with potential, and even if he needs plenty of polish, he’s already establishing the floor of a hyper-athletic energy guy. Every team needs one of those, and his defensive versatility would help fill out Cleveland’s long-term picture. The pick sweetens the pot for Cleveland, while Whiteside’s expiring deal provides substantial financial relief.
Without question, this is a heavy price for Portland to pay. But if the Blazers see Love as their key to major postseason success, then it’s a risk worth taking.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.