Trade Targets to Put NBA Contenders Over the Top
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For NBA teams fortunate enough to search out themselves within the championship race, a little bit greed might be a great thing.
The margin for error on the Association’s apex is either wafer-thin or just nonexistent. Teams have to be over-prepared for anything the basketball gods throw their way, be that an ill-timed injury, a brutal matchup or a team-wide case of the chills.
In other words, even the best-built rosters may very well be improved, in order that’s the target here. Using a batch of six squads recently crowned full-fledged contenders by B/R’s Greg Swartz, we’re identifying the best trade goal each could realistically land.
Boston Celtics: Bojan Bogdanovic
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With Danilo Gallinari lost to a torn ACL, Boston could pivot toward a higher-end version of the identical archetype with Bojan Bogdanovic.
While the 34-year-old Gallinari had perhaps began showing his age of late, there was no such apparent decline with the 33-year-old Bogdanovic. If anything, he appears to be on the aging-like-fine-wine plan. Last season, he hit the second-best marks of his profession in points per game (18.1) and win shares per 48 minutes (0.118).
He’s every bit the surface marksman that Gallinari is, but Bogdanovic offers more as a self-sufficient scorer. He can post up smaller defenders and snake around greater ones. Now, Boston might primarily want catch-and-shoot sniping from him, but he could still nab enough touches so as to add an additional wiggle or two to this attack.
The Utah Jazz, who are actually under the direction of former Celtics decision-maker Danny Ainge, are reportedly searching for a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, per ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The Celtics shouldn’t have much hesitation meeting that price with a possible championship run on the road.
Denver Nuggets: Jonathan Isaac
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Expectations are understandably up in Denver given the anticipated returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. With those two set to rejoin two-time reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets might need the horsepower needed to navigate a chronic playoff run.
Nevertheless, Denver’s defense could have some rough moments, as all three do their best work at the alternative end. The Nuggets have smartly snagged a couple of stoppers to support their high-scoring trio—Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown—but they may very well be out there for more.
Particularly a talent like Jonathan Isaac, who flashed Defensive Player of the 12 months potential before knee and hamstring injuries knocked him out of the past two seasons. Now, there is a joke to be made here about his injury woes fitting right in with this franchise, but when Denver kept him upright, it might need an all-purpose, five-position defensive dynamo.
The Orlando Magic have overcrowded their frontcourt in Isaac’s absence, so perhaps they’d be open to moving him for the proper price. If the Nuggets can afford whatever that’s, they need to pounce. Isaac not only looms as a possible cure for what ails Denver’s Fifteenth-ranked defense, but he could also stabilize their very unstable collection of backup bigs, which is slated to feature DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green and Zeke Nnaji.
While Isaac is signed through 2024-25, all the remaining seasons on his contract are either partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed. Orlando could wait to see what he has left within the tank, but with No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Bamba and Mo Wagner all filling up the frontcourt, the Magic have enough depth to deal Isaac before his trade value falls even further.
Golden State Warriors: Jakob Poeltl
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If the Golden State Warriors sense their roster is not quite able to defend the crown, they’re likely eyeing an upgrade at center. Kevon Looney is rock-solid, but he’ll never be confused for a spectacular talent. James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in 2020, boasts drool-worthy upside, but he might lack the polish to contribute to a championship chase straight away.
If Golden State has its sights set on a middle, then it needs to be fully focused on the Alamo City. That is where the San Antonio Spurs are knee-deep in a rebuilding project that may make it unimaginable to justify retaining Jakob Poeltl, who turns 27 in October and wishes a recent contract by next summer.
Now, to be clear, San Antonio has zero interest in only giving Poeltl away. Word on the road, courtesy of SpursTalk’s LJ Ellis, is the Spurs are searching for a pair of first-round picks for Poeltl. That seems a bit steep, although if the Warriors feel a Poeltl deal would move them significantly closer to a different championship, they may disagree.
Poeltl offers a wealth of two-way talent, and the incontrovertible fact that he has spent 4 seasons under Spurs skipper Gregg Popovich could allow for a swift transition under Steve Kerr, a disciple of Popovich’s. Poeltl shines brightest as an interior anchor, but he has the mobility to handle perimeter switches, is a robust finisher across the rim and sees the ground well enough to search out open teammates out of the short roll.
Los Angeles Clippers: Myles Turner
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The considered Myles Turner joining the Los Angeles Clippers is, in a single word, terrifying.
This club already boasts arguably the Association’s best tandem of wing defenders in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, a pair with 11 All-Defensive selections and two Defensive Player of the 12 months awards between them. Adding Turner, a two-time leader in blocks per game, to the inside might make this defense an actual stone wall.
Perhaps that is why the Clippers reportedly had interest in Turner in 2021, per J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, and it’s why they need to remain interested now. Turner could be too old (27 in March) and too expensive (impending free agent) for the rebuilding Pacers, but he’d be a cosy fit for a win-now L.A. team with championship upside.
Turner’s skill set doesn’t stretch much beyond floor-spacing and paint protection, but that is all of the Clippers would wish from him. Plus, adding him and keeping Ivica Zubac would give L.A. one in all the league’s higher center rotations.
Milwaukee Bucks: Kelly Oubre Jr.
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The Milwaukee Bucks may not have needed greater than a healthy Khris Middleton to successfully defend their championship this past postseason.
Still, his knee injury exposed a skinny wing rotation in Milwaukee and placed a heavier burden on Wesley Matthews and Grayson Allen than they were capable of carry. Matthews has essentially turn out to be a shooting specialist at this stage of his profession, and Allen gets relentlessly targeted on the defensive end.
Kelly Oubre Jr. could give the Bucks a two-way lift on the wings. He is usually a bit streaky, though that is easier to handle on a roster headlined by top-shelf talents like Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. If Oubre bought right into a support role, his athleticism, ending and spot-up shooting could shine.
He is not probably the most obvious trade candidate on this list, but he’s an impending free agent whom the Charlotte Hornets may not wish to pay in the longer term. Charlotte may very well be stepping back without Miles Bridges—and it hadn’t climbed very high to start with—which could make it amenable to flipping a win-now player like Oubre for a long-term asset who could eventually help out 21-year-old franchise face LaMelo Ball.
Philadelphia 76ers: Alec Burks
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It’s possible Philadelphia already did all of the heavy lifting it could this summer when it acquired De’Anthony Melton in a draft-night deal, added P.J. Tucker, Danuel House Jr. and Montrezl Harrell in free agency and still found enough change within the couch cushions to re-sign James Harden.
If 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey hasn’t exhausted his asset supply, though, then a run at Alec Burks may very well be so as.
Philly could use one other playmaker on the second unit, and Burks, a profession wing, just held his own as an emergency point guard for the Latest York Knicks (3.0 assists against 1.1 turnovers). He can manage most defensive matchups on the perimeter, and he has splashed higher than 38 percent of his threes each of the past three seasons.
His skill set is the type most contenders could stand so as to add, which makes it highly unlikely the rebuilding Detroit Pistons will hold on to him for long, particularly when his contract has only a team option remaining after this season.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.