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NBA AM: Summer Trades Are Coming

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It’s been a full four days since the NBA trade deadline came and went, and many fans are still left wondering why certain moves that should have happened did not happen. While there wasn’t a lot of marquee shakeup outside of DeMarcus Cousins and Serge Ibaka, there was plenty of smoke for big trades that suggest bigger things that could be on tap this summer. Plenty of big names shopped at the deadline almost certainly will be shopped again once the Finals wrap up in June, meaning the groundwork for even more big trades this summer may already have been laid.

Here’s a look at a handful of trades that didn’t happen at the deadline but very well could happen this offseason:

Jimmy Butler to the Boston Celtics

There are some things we’ll never know, but it’s hard to believe that the Boston Celtics couldn’t have landed Butler or Paul George this past trade deadline had they really built promising packages around the 2017 Brooklyn Nets’ pick available, as rumored, but by the time June rolls around that pick could potentially be even more valuable once its actual draft slot has been revealed.

As it stands, the Nets have the worst record in the NBA with a nine-game cushion, meaning they will have the best odds of landing the first overall selection in this summer’s draft. Of course, due to the nature of the lottery, that pick could be as low as fourth, which alters its value considerably. That’s the difference between having your pick between Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith and Josh Jackson, or simply taking whomever is left over.

If Chicago is going to trade Jimmy Butler and rebuild, they’re going to need a very good player to use as the centerpiece of that rebuild. Fultz or Ball would clearly qualify, and a couple of other Boston rotational players could go even further to change Chicago’s mind. Jae Crowder feels like an inevitable inclusion, and there are other players like Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and/or Terry Rozier that could appeal to the Bulls, as well.

The finished trade would have to be something built around that pick and a handful of other serviceable young-ish players. DeMarcus Cousins clearance-rack trades don’t happen for All-Stars without the reputation for being surly. Boston didn’t pull the trigger because they didn’t like the value that was out there for them, but superstars typically aren’t bargain buys. Boston is going to have to pony up if they want to land their big fish.

Paul George to the L.A. Lakers

The Celtics also could make another run at Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George for a similar package, but one of the most interesting rumors to spill forth from this year’s trade deadline was that George is itching for an opportunity to play for the Lakers, particularly if the Pacers are unable to build a contender around him in Indy.

The Pacers only are guaranteed one more full season out of George, as he possesses a player option in the summer of 2018, so if Larry Bird is feeling as though he’ll lose his franchise cornerstone on the free agency market, he could decide to preemptively trade him to the place he wants to be.

It’s not as though L.A. doesn’t have the assets to generate an interesting offer for George. Bird’s rivalry with Magic Johnson is well-established and well-recorded, so negotiations likely would be fairly intense, but L.A has the youth to put together something intriguing. Starting with D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram would be a great place to start, with sweeteners like Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle at least keeping the Indiana front office at the table. The Lakers have a history of playing fast and loose with first-round draft picks, but George could require one of those, too.

This offer may not be as desirable as the one that Boston could make, but if Danny Ainge acquires Butler or simply refuses to deal that Brooklyn pick, L.A.’s offer could conceivably be one of the better ones on the table, especially considering other teams wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed that George wouldn’t just leave them the following summer for the Lakers, anyway.

Los Angeles can be patient, save their assets, and just try to sign him outright in 2018, but the quicker, more guaranteed path would be making a deal for him, which they almost certainly will try to do once again this summer.

Denver Nuggets Consolidation Trade

The Nuggets have a ton of talented guys under contract next season. Kenneth Faried, Emmanuel Mudiay, Wilson Chandler, Mason Plumlee, Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jamal Murray and Wilson Chandler all will be under contract. Danillo Gallinari has a $16.1 million player option, and Darrell Arthur’s $7.5 million and Jameer Nelson’s $4.7 million deals are on the books for next season, as well. They’ve got the players, the cap-filling contracts and the draft picks to make some sort of consolidation trade.

Frankly, there’s little reason that Denver also shouldn’t go after Butler and George, if only because they could put together one of the more attractive packages in the league. Jokic is a burgeoning star, but he needs another stud to help him with the scoring load. Some of these pieces could get it done.

Jokic’s need for a running mate aside, there’s too much young talent in Denver and not enough minutes to go around to develop that talent. Even the kids with big potential won’t get the run they need to thrive on a roster so loaded. Something’s gotta give in Denver this summer, and it seems probable that something will. If nothing else, consolidating some of those players frees up those minutes. Adding some talent in the process only makes it better.

Minnesota Clears the Way for Dunn, Jones

There will be no Ricky Rubio trade for Derrick Rose. That particular flower has wilted with Rose headed for free agency, but that doesn’t mean Tom Thibodeau won’t explore other landing spots for his starting point guard. With two years and just under $30 million left on his deal, Rubio is good enough and expensive enough to play Minnesota’s two talented rookie point guards out of the minutes they need to take the next step. Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones both have shown how good they are, but they’re never going to live up to their full potential until Rubio has been shipped off and all his minutes have opened up for the kids.

There aren’t any obvious suitors at the moment, but they’ll arise once free agency settles and teams without point guards look to the trade market to fill those holes. Rubio’s contract is fair in the new CBA, especially considering he dishes and defends incredibly well.

Unfortunately, the Timberwolves just don’t need him anymore, but there are likely to be plenty of teams interested before the summer is over. Thibs will have a move to make if he wants to make one.

Philadelphia Lowers Asking Price for Okafor

Jahlil Okafor still could be a very good pro, but it probably isn’t going to happen for him in Philadelphia. On the one hand, the trade of Nerlens Noel opened up some minutes in Philadelphia’s frontcourt, but Okafor still plays the same position as the franchise’s only untradeable player in Joel Embiid, except he doesn’t defend or rebound anywhere near as well.

Okafor is an incredibly polished offensive post player, and some team is certain to make better use of him than his current team has. He reportedly wasn’t moved at the deadline because the asking price was too high, but it’s hard to demand a king’s ransom for a player the team doesn’t play and clearly doesn’t value. Eventually, Philly’s asking price will come down, Brett Brown will turn the frontcourt minutes over to Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons, and Okafor will move on to greener pastures.

Whoever gets him is staring at a bargain. He may never be an All-Star, but he’s still an incredible talent with better days ahead.

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This year’s trade deadline reminded us how thrilling a big trade can be, and for those who like such things, even bigger deals could be on the way. Trading season is done for the spring, but by the time the draft rolls around, expect all of this to start bubbling once again.

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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.