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Trade Season is Upon Us!

Bad Men, Bad Takes – Season 1

With December 15th just one day away, the NBA’s trade season is about to swing into action.

Once tomorrow comes, the vast majority of players signed this past off-season become eligible to be traded and although teams may still be evaluating their rosters, you can bet there are teams who have already been in dialogue about potential deals.

There are teams who have failed to live up to their pre-season expectations and are ready to cash in on assets and embrace a rebuilding path, and there are teams who find themselves higher up the standings than they thought and want to tinker with the roster to hopefully assist in making a deep post-season run.

I’ve cast my eye over the league and come up with three trades I think could help both teams. While I don’t necessarily believe these deals WILL be done, I believe that these are deals teams SHOULD look to do in the near future.

Without further ado, let’s fire up the trade machine and take a look at three trades I think teams should pull the trigger on.

Boston Celtics trade Jaylen Brown and a future first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers for Domantas Sabonis and TJ McConnell.

There are strong rumours that the Pacers are looking to capitalise on their assets following an underwhelming start to the season under second-time around Coach Rick Carlisle, and I don’t know that they will find a better single player than Jaylen Brown in return for a package centred around Sabonis.

Brown is a phenomenal two-way wing in a league where that role is arguably the most important for contending teams. He brings a healthy ability to score the ball in addition to his ability to lock up opposition perimeter players, and made the All-Star team last season on the back of a career highs in points, rebounds, steals, assists and three-point shooting.

While his statistics have dropped slightly in most areas this season compared to last, he spent time in the off-season recovering from a wrist injury. Since recovering from that injury, Brown spent time in the leagues Health and Safety Protocols in early October, missing a large chunk of the Celtics pre-season schedule, and has since missed time with a persistent hamstring injury, meaning his dip in production is likely due to simply to not being healthy for long enough to establish a groove on-court.

From a Celtics point of view, the season has seen the team fail to find consistency and a lack of play-making is making the offense look clunky and in-effective. While Boston would likely be resistant to breaking up Brown and Tatum, it’s worth noting that there are 47 players who have isolated at least 300 times in the last two seasons. Brown ranks 40th in points scored per isolation out of those players, and Tatum ranks 36th. Neither of them are elite isolation players, but are forced to isolate so often due to a lack of play-making from the rest of the roster, which brings us to what they get in return from Indiana.

Jaylen Brown shoots over Domantas Sabonis – should Boston and Indiana swing a trade which sees them swap teams? Credit: CelticsBlog

The Pacers would give up arguably their crown jewel in Sabonis, who has made the All-Star team in each of the last two-seasons. He’s still young at just 25 years old, meaning offers great value as he can have an immediate impact this season, as well as remain paired with Tatum for years to come due to the three years remaining on his contract.

Sabonis brings a solid passing game from the mid-post which would help the Celtics move the ball and hopefully get Tatum, Smart and the rest of the roster some easier shots when he is doubled down low. If teams opt not to double him, he’s capable of taking his defender one-on-one and scoring down-low, or positioning himself to hit the glass, adding force to an area the Celtics already excel in.

The other piece in this trade is TJ McConnell, and while he is currently nursing a wrist injury and is believed to be out for ‘a while’ because of it, he is someone that could be worth the wait for the Celtics. TJ is a consummate professional who can play a role for any team due to his low shot attempts and high IQ.

He shoots over 50% from the field for his career, and is shooting 80% from the line this season. While these numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, it shows that McConnell is a player who can adjust to and play off of those around him in an efficient manner. While his three-point shooting has been shaky this season so far, his career average of five assists per-game is where his true value may be felt for the Celtics.

As mentioned above, the Celtics could benefit from some play-making, and with Sabonis and McConnell coming in, they shape as increasing their assist totals by around seven per game, which would see them rise from 22nd in the league in that category to around the top-5 if those averages held true.

Overall, while I suspect the Celtics would be hesitant to move on from Brown, he is older and has less guaranteed years on his deal that Tatum does, and is worse as an isolation scorer. Bringing in Sabonis and McConnell to help with playmaking for Tatum would likely help the team’s ball movement on offense and deliver more easy baskets for the rest of the roster. Sabonis also brings an interior scoring threat to compliment the outside scoring of Schroeder and Tatum.

For the Pacers, they receive a draft pick to sweeten the deal, in addition to a genuine two-way star who they could fast-track a rebuild around if they chose given he is only 25. Alternatively, they can look to move Brown during the up-coming off-season and build a treasure-trove of assets to lean into their own version of ‘The Process’.

Detroit Pistons trade Jerami Grant to the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Jones Jr, Patrick Williams and a future first-round pick swap

This is a hard one to figure out, mainly because the Bulls have traded so many assets to assemble the roster they currently have, but there is still scope for them to allow a pick-swap in the first round of 2024 if they are able to give Portland their first round pick this season (likely as they will finish outside of the lottery) and ship their 2023 pick to Orlando as part of the Vucevic deal (again, likely given that pick is only protected 1-4).

After we sort through the draft swap situation, this essentially becomes a Grant for Williams and Jones Jr swap, with the key piece Jerami Grant to the Bulls, and the Pistons getting young-stud Patrick Williams, and Derrick Jones included to help match salaries.

As mentioned above, the Bulls have decided to go all-in on this version of the team, and thus far, it’s working. They sit second in the Eastern Conference despite ongoing issues with players entering the league’s Health and Safety Protocols in the last few weeks, resulting in their next two games being postponed. Adding Jeremi Grant would require them to wait for him to recover from a thumb injury which will likely see him sidelined until late-January at the earliest, but even if he returns in late February or early March, it gives the team plenty of time to integrate him prior to their post-season run.

Once back on the floor, Grant gives the Bulls a versatile defender who excelled in that role during the Nuggets run to the Western Conference Finals in the bubble. He can guard the opposition’s best wing player, freeing up Ball and Caruso to focus on stopping their guards, and can also help out as a four if needed due to his ability to rebound and his 7’2”wing-span allowing him to challenge shots from those who are taller than he is.

His versatility on the offensive end means he can be a viable scoring option should the Bulls need him to be, and he can stretch the floor well enough to create space for DeRozan to penetrate and Vucevic to operate down low. He has proven during his time with the Nuggets he can also be extremely effective without the ball, adding to his value as it means the Bulls won’t need to remove the ball from DeRozan or Lavine’s hands for him to contribute.

As for what the Bulls are giving up, Patrick Williams may loom as a high price to pay, but the time to strike is now for the Bulls, and given he is out for the season, cashing in on his value now might be their best bet.

Jeremi Grant and Patrick WIlliams are both currently injured, but could help the Bulls and Pistons achieve their goals if traded for one another. Credit: Gregory Shamus – Getty Images

For the Pistons, they receive a veteran presence in Jones Jr, but the key piece is obviously Williams.

While I’ve been on record on the podcast as saying I don’t rate Williams as highly as some others, I’ll also point out that Detroit’s recent draft record, Cunningham notwithstanding, has been poor. In the preceding four drafts, the team has used their first round picks on Killian Hayes who has failed to fire any sort of a shot, Sekou Doumbouya who has also barely made any noise, Luke Kennard who is not even with the team anymore, Henry Ellenson who is no longer in the NBA, and Stanley Johnson who was playing in the G-League until he signed a 10-day contract with the Bulls last week.

Acquiring Williams, even if he is out for the remainder of the season, is probably the best young talent they will have acquired in the past five seasons, and he fits the time-line along with Cunningham as the team begins to rebuild. It’s also convenient that they can move on from a guy who scores 20ppg in Grant and replace him with a player who won’t be able to take the floor, meaning they can continue to embrace being bad in the hope of landing another top-3 draft pick come June.

The pick-swap in 2024 will likely not become relevant unless the Bulls have an epic collapse, but even without that, this is a trade that should help both teams get closer to their immediate goals: The Bulls to genuinely contend, and the Pistons to continue to tank in the hopes of a slow and meaningful rebuild.

Philadelphia 76ers trade Ben Simmons to the Sacramento Kings for De’Aaron Fox and a future first-round pick.

Make no mistake – this is a downgrade for Philadelphia on paper, but what it does provide them is an upgrade in reality, as Fox is actually willing to step on the court and contribute to the team.

What Fox brings is a heap of talent to a roster already bristling with it. His speed down the floor has long been marvelled at, and while he is not the defender Simmons is (few people are), he holds his own with over a steal per game and this ability to force the turnover and get out on the break would help the Sixers likely break into the top-10 for fast-breaks points.

He also brings a legitimate scoring threat at the point guard slot. Tyrese Maxey has been filling in ably with Simmons on the sidelines, but he is more suited to a defense-oriented role as opposed to being a primary ball-handler going forward. Fox can not only score from the guard slot, but he averaged 7.2 assists per game last season, a number I feel could grow given the increase in talent he’d be playing with in Philadelphia compared to Sacramento.

For Philadelphia, Fox represents a good return for a player who won’t even step on the court and whose value could arguably not be lower than it is right now, which is part of the reason Sacramento may be inclined to pull the trigger on this deal.

Ben Simmons (left) would be the best player to play for the Kings in some time, while De’Aaron Fox (right) would help the Sixers make a post-season run. Credit NBC Sports

The Kings as a shamble as a franchise. It’s been this way for an extended period, frankly. They have recently fired Luke Walton, their 10th Head Coach in 10 years, and the roster is a weird mis-match of over-paid veterans and promising young players who need someone who can help unlock their talents and play to their strengths. Enter Simmons.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that Simmons is a great example for young players to learn from, on or off the court. He has seemingly failed to integrate any new elements to his game since joining the league in 2016 and his recent antics in Philadelphia make it clear he is not willing to put the team above himself, even when it may benefit him in the long run. But the one thing he does do as well as anyone in the league is make those around him better.

Career averages of 16 points, 8 rebounds and close to 8 assists mean he is a jack of all trades, and while his fit around Joel Embiid has long been a topic of conversation, I firmly believe his ability to do nearly everything apart from shoot at an above average rate means he can fit around almost any combination of players and help elevate their games.

The Kings should be willing to buy low on Simmons given his upside and the potential he has to unlock the games of Haliburton and Davion Mitchell. He’s a three time All-Star, was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2020 and has made the ALL-Defensive First Team in both of the past two seasons.

In addition to this, Alvin Gentry is one of the best offensive minds the NBA has to offer and it would be worth seeing if he could put Simmons in positions to be even more effective on offense without needing to have him shoot. If things all go sour with Gentry as interim Coach for the remainder of this campaign, the Kings can also bring in another Coach in the off-season knowing they have Simmons under contract until the end of the 2024/2025 season.

As part of this trade, the Sixers would get a future first-round pick in addition to Fox. While it’s not the kings ransom Daryl Morey has been asking for, it gives the Sixers another asset to play with in addition to all of their own first-round selections going forward.

Above all else, this would bring the Simmons saga to a close for the Sixers, leaving them to be able to concentrate on integrating Fox and building towards another post-season run. For the Kings, they get a player they would’ve otherwise had no hope of acquiring through free agency and their track record of drafting players who develop into players of Simmons calibre is almost non-existent.

While the Kings would likely say no to this trade because it involves Fox, they shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking Fox won’t ask out in the coming years if they can’t put a winning team around him. Speaking of winning teams in Sacramento, the Kings haven’t had one since the 2005-2006 season.

C’mon Kings – pull the trigger. You’re not getting better return for Fox than Ben Simmons, and by buying low, if he actually suits up at all, you can cash in and move him on if it doesn’t result in more wins.

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