Connect with us

NBA

Blockbuster NBA Trade Ideas to Move Karl-Anthony Towns and More

Published

on

The 2024 NBA draft is only two weeks away, which means teams around the league are nearing one of the offseason’s first transactional triggers. That means it’s a good time to do some table-setting on the trade front.

We’ll likely see plenty of deals get done on draft night, which is when teams previously hamstrung by the Stepien Rule are allowed to flip their 2024 first-round picks. The weeks before and after the draft can feature more action than you might think, too.

Here, we’ve put together a handful of hypothetical high-end exchanges that send big names to new destinations. Though many of the blockbusters we’ve included may seem far-fetched, just remember that it was around this time last year that Kristaps Porziņģis, Marcus Smart, Chris Paul, Bradley Beal and a whole heap of future first-rounders changed hands.

We’ll soon see if 2024 measures up to the asset-flipping frenzy we saw in 2023.

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Trade: New Orleans Pelicans acquire Karl-Anthony Towns from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. and a 2027 first-round pick (via MIL)

The Minnesota Timberwolves will find it almost impossible to get back equal value for Karl-Anthony Towns, which is just one of the reasons why they shouldn’t trade him. He’s owed $221.1 million over the next four years, which most teams aren’t clamoring to pay a big man with a spotty playoff track record and limited defensive value.

Not only that, but the Wolves can’t justify a high-level deal that merely cuts salary. Ownership groups are justified in pinching pennies on a team that can’t make the playoffs. But one that dethroned the defending champs and reached the Western Conference Finals deserves to take another crack at advancing further next year.

With that said, a KAT deal remains a real possibility this offseason. If not now, certainly by the 2025 trade deadline.

Here, the Wolves would get back Ingram and Nance, who’ll earn $36 million and $11.2 million, respectively, on expiring contracts in 2024-25. For a Minnesota team that struggled to score, Ingram, whose main skill is creating something-from-nothing offense, could address a real need. Ingram could start between Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards, where he’d be shielded from tough defensive matchups.

Minnesota could also start Naz Reid in an ultra-big look that sends Mike Conley to the bench in a sixth-man role, which might not be the worst way to prop up reserve units that struggle to get buckets.

Rim protection has been an issue in New Orleans throughout free-agent-to-be Jonas Valančiūnas’ tenure. Towns wouldn’t help much there, but he’d fill the floor-spacing-5 void, potentially unlocking the most lethal version of Zion Williamson’s downhill game.

Five-out looks featuring Towns, one of the most dangerous shooting bigs in NBA history, could bring out the best in everyone on the Pels roster. New Orleans would give back plenty on D, but Herb Jones might be good enough on his own to ensure that the team still finishes in the top half of the league on that end.

If KAT turned the Pels into a top-five offense, that two-way profile would be good enough for 50-plus wins and a fighting chance against most postseason opponents.

Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trade: Oklahoma City Thunder acquire Lauri Markkanen from the Utah Jazz for Josh Giddey, Cason Wallace and three future first-round picks

Whenever the prospect of OKC adding a star arises, everyone jumps right to long-term payroll concerns, which…way to keep it fun, everybody. Sheesh.

It’s true that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already on a max deal and can add years to his current agreement as soon as the 2025 offseason, right when Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren become eligible for their own extensions. Add a market-rate extension for Markkanen, and the Thunder would get prohibitively expensive.

Here’s the thing, though: OKC will have to pay up—in trade assets and then actual dollars—to improve its roster. There’s no getting around it. And the Thunder’s best opportunity to swing big is right now.

Oklahoma City was the West’s top seed last year, has a very short window to improve itself this summer using cap space and possesses more than enough future draft equity to trade itself out of any down-the-road bind.

It may sound strange considering OKC’s collective youth, but this is the time to strike. The future will sort itself out.

Could Utah ask for more than three of the Thunder’s 15 first-rounders in the next seven drafts? Sure. Should OKC consider adding picks to the pile if that’s what it takes to get a deal over the finish line? Absolutely!

Markkanen would add a terrifying dimension to a five-out offense, dramatically upgrading Giddey’s spot in the first unit—all while adding significant size to a squad that got beat up on the boards.

OKC has faced roster crunches in the last few seasons as is, so moving off some of its picks might be an inevitability regardless. It can’t keep onboarding two or three rookies every year, waiting for them to develop and then extending them. All of those financial issues that everyone is worried about would arise in that “conservative” scenario, too.

Better to consolidate, turn those assets into an All-Star and try to win a title next season.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Trade: Golden State Warriors acquire Kevin Durant from the Phoenix Suns for Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Kevon Looney and a 2025 first-round pick

The Warriors, long among the leaders in skyrocketing payroll figures, actually have more flexibility than the Suns, who are currently being strangled by the second apron. What’s more, the Dubs might have more win-now urgency than Phoenix because of the two years remaining on franchise icon Stephen Curry’s contract.

This deal would give the Suns immediate three-and-D help from Wiggins, a cheaper alternative to Jusuf Nurkić at center, a potential star in Kuminga, cash savings and actual draft equity—all for a player entering his age-36 season.

Phoenix has shown no inclination to diversify, instead opting to build its team around stars and hoping to figure out the rest later. That approach didn’t work out so well last season, and Durant always feels like he’s a few disgruntled weeks away from his next trade demand.

Durant’s shaky personal history with Draymond Green is an obvious concern, but he would give the Warriors one of the few players good enough to *possibly* get them back into the contender class.

The Suns would assuredly ask for the Warriors’ 2027 first-round pick as well, and they might prioritize someone like Gary Payton II (player option) or Moses Moody over Looney. But the above deal is actually legal under the CBA, while one with Moody in Looney’s place wouldn’t quite meet the salary-matching rules.

Would Phoenix admit its mistake in trading for KD and building such a top-heavy roster after just one full year of the experiment? Maybe not, but the Suns are extremely expensive, inflexible and in for a long stretch of ugly seasons whenever their three max players keep declining, get injured or disband.

Trading Durant might be the only way to soften the landing. It’d replenish Phoenix’s stock of young players, picks and depth.

Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Trade: Cleveland Cavaliers acquire Brandon Ingram, Dyson Daniels and Jordan Hawkins from the New Orleans Pelicans for Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen

This trade presumes Donovan Mitchell signs an extension with the Cavs this offseason, triggering the Darius Garland trade request that could follow. That small loss of leverage on Cleveland’s part (trade demands never make things easier) is part of the reason why New Orleans makes out so well in trading Ingram, who’s an iffy fit next to Zion Williamson.

The Pels’ side of this is the easiest to justify. Longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported New Orleans is expected to “aggressively explore” moving Ingram, and this return would address two key needs: the lack of a true floor-general point guard and a paint-protecting center.

Jonas Valančiūnas is a free agent, and New Orleans can’t replace him with an upgrade because of cap constraints. Trading for Allen is the cleanest way to shore up the center spot.

Yes, CJ McCollum likely would have to be routed elsewhere because his fit with Garland would be clunky. But the Pelicans would happily work that deal out if they knew Garland was inbound. It’s hard not to get excited about the potential of Garland, Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Zion and Allen taking the floor together.

Dealing Allen and Garland would fundamentally change Cleveland’s makeup, breaking up its two-big frontcourt and two-small (also too small) backcourt. The reshaped result, which could include Daniels or Caris LeVert next to Mitchell, Ingram slotting in at forward and Evan Mobley manning the 5, is far more balanced than the team we’ve seen over the last two years.

That would put a lot on Mobley’s plate, as he’d be the lone big in most lineups. But because so much of the Cavs’ ceiling depends on the 2021 No. 3 overall pick thriving at center, these added responsibilities were inevitable. It’s not unreasonable to ask more of Mobley in what’ll be his fourth season.

Both squads would address their needs and reshape their identities without blowing the whole thing up. If there’s such a thing as a low-risk blockbuster, this is it.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Trade: Los Angeles Lakers acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Gabe Vincent, 2024 first-round pick, 2029 first-round pick, 2031 first-round pick

If the Cavs moved on from head coach JB Bickerstaff in part to appease Donovan Mitchell, whom he reportedly didn’t always see eye-to-eye with, it seems likelier that Mitchell will ink a four-year, $208.5 million extension this summer. That makes this deal a bit of a long shot, as does the fact that the Lakers may not have the best offer on the market.

The Lakers’ odds of swinging a blockbuster are better now that they can trade up to three future first-rounders starting on draft night. At the 2024 trade deadline, they could only move one.

The outgoing players here, led by Reaves, won’t bowl the Cavs over. With that said, three first-rounders is nothing to sneeze at, and both Reaves and Hachimura could start alongside Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen—assuming Cleveland doesn’t also move on from Allen in a separate deal. The Lakers can also include two first-round swaps and up to five future second-rounders.

Mitchell has leverage to use against the Cavs, as he can decline his extension and threaten to walk for nothing as a free agent in 2025. Cleveland could still trade him anywhere it wanted to, but offers would be few and far between if those suitors knew Mitchell wouldn’t re-sign with them either. That’s the simplest way for Mitchell to get Cleveland to send him where he wants to go, which is Los Angeles in this case.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com, Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass. Salary info via Spotrac.

Grant Hughes covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@gt_hughes), and subscribe to the Hardwood Knocks podcast, where he appears with Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale.

Continue Reading