“This isn’t 2K.”
It’s a common refrain we’ve heard from the NBA internet’s realism police when off-the-wall trade ideas are proposed. Their warning, as dour as it may be, has some real value in the midst of the NBA season, when games and rumors are aplenty and brain power has no shortage of outlets to which it can be applied.
But this is late-August, the quietest of NBA doldrums, so we’re abandoning caution and entertaining the absurd. Below you will find four “2K trade ideas” that are meant to simulate unconventional thinking in the hopes of finding something instructive. Along with each idea you will find a logic behind them and an explanation of why the trade won’t ever happen.
All of the proposed trades should work financially, though some would require waiting until later in the year or even the trade deadline for CBA purposes. They do not account for attempting to stay out of the luxury or other monetary considerations beyond whether or not they could be executed. Feel free to apply pick protections as you see fit.
Trade #1 – A Ben Simmons Trifecta
Celtics Receive: Ben Simmons
Sixers Receive: Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Aaron Nesmith, Boston 2024 1st Round Pick
Jazz Receive: Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Romeo Langford, Boston 2022 1st Round Pick
The Logic: Everyone gets something they need. Boston adds a third young star to Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Simmons has plenty of scary warts, but opportunities to add 6’11” super athletes who are incredibly versatile defensively and have no interest in taking shots away from your two precocious wing scorers don’t come along all that often.
The Celtics aren’t likely to have all that many shots to bring in a player of Simmons caliber. Pushing all your chips in for big money star who can’t shoot is a dangerous game in the modern age, but playing him at center as part of a Simmons/Jaylen Brown/Jayson Tatum frontcourt is unendingly intriguing.
The Sixers would lose this trade on value, but they’d add three top-notch shooters, and finally bring in someone capable of running a pick-and-roll at a high level in Conley, and another player who can do it at an above average level in Ingles. Philly would be making a bet that Joel Embiid is good enough that surrounding him with shooting makes more sense than hoarding talent regardless of fit.
Utah adds some desperately needed perimeter defense, picks up a better backup for Rudy Gobert than Hassan Whiteside, and rolls the dice on Langford.
Why it Would Never Happen: The Sixers want an insane return for Simmons. Anything less than Damian Lillard appears to be off the table at the moment, and the trade proposed above is A LOT less than Damian Lillard, even if it might set Philly up to function more coherently. The Jazz aren’t likely to have much interest in shipping out Conley either. Sprinkle in the fact that this trade would have to wait until the deadline and Simmons wants out before the start of the season, and your odds of this thing happening drop to zero (maybe lower).
Trade #2 – A Redistribution of Resources
Celtics Receive: Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa
Raptors Receive: Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn (aka salary flotsam), Carsen Edwards (aka salary jetsam)
The Logic: The Celtics make this trade if they think Brown’s strengths are too duplicative of Tatum’s. Brown has the tools to be a monster defensively, which should pair perfectly alongside Boston’s other star wing, but he’s never quite locked into that role consistently. Last year his biggest contribution came in the form of efficient scoring. Moving him for the package above would essentially be reallocating his salary to multiple high-level role players in VanVleet and Anunoby who can do more of the dirty work needed to support Tatum as the team’s alpha. A flyer on Achiuwa is a bonus.
This logic intensifies if you buy into the idea that Boston has interest in acquiring Bradley Beal (presumably via sign in trade in this scenario), whose greatest strength is also scoring, next summer. The appeal for the Raptors is simple enough. Brown is clearly the best player in the deal.
We should note that a similar style of deal may be constructed elsewhere with other teams chock full of good players but lacking a star to organize them (looking at you, Spurs). Feel free to daydream of your own iterations.
Why it Would Never Happen: Brown is too damn good, and has too many of the tools needed to be a perfect fit next to Tatum to give up on, especially if one of the motivators is a hypothetical Beal pursuit that may never materialize.
Trade #3 – Throwing Bad Money after Worse
Celtics Receive: Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr.
Cavaliers Receive: Al Horford, Romeo Langford, Kris Dunn
The Logic: Boston gives up a bad contract in Horford for a disaster of a contract in Love, who may not contribute meaningfully to an NBA basketball game again, commands a higher salary, and doesn’t have a partial guarantee next year like Horford. They get Nance as compensation for it. The Cavs are happy to clean up their books a bit. The Celtics get a big forward they need badly. Everyone wins.
Why it Would Never Happen: There has to be an easier way to acquire Larry Nance Jr.
Trade #4 – Something Truly Insane
Celtics Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Juan Toscano-Anderson
Warriors Receive: Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Kris Dunn
The Logic: This is like if Trade #2 were on drugs. The same general thinking applies, but instead of swapping Brown for reliable high-level rotation pieces the Celtics would be taking a swing on some higher variance options. Wiggins can replace a portion of what Brown does on both ends, and the Celtics take a risk on the development of Kuminga and Moody. JTA is a nice throw in to eat minutes as a high energy forward off the bench.
The Warriors pull the trigger on this thing in a heartbeat. They’d have to find a way to fill out the roster a bit, but adding Brown to the Curry/Thompson/Green core would be a hell of a way to make one more run at a title, and Horford would fit in nicely in a system that prizes smart ball movers with good defensive instincts.
Why it Would Never Happen: Golden State is praying that Kuminga develop into a player like Brown one day. Wiggins is a much worse, overpaid version of him. This really only makes sense if you are very down on Brown, very very high on Kuminga, or perhaps a Warriors fan.