Mock NBA Trades — Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Zion Williamson, Deandre Ayton, & More (5/21/2022)

Mock NBA Trades (5/21/2022)

Key: PO = Player Option, TO = Team Option, PGS = Partially Guaranteed Salary

Chicago Bulls acquire: PF Julius Randle ($23.7 M, $25.6 M, $27.5 M, $29.4 M (PO), FA: 2026, Age: 27), №42 overall pick 2022, SG Quentin Grimes ($2.2 M, $2.3 M (TO), $4.3 M (TO), FA: 2025, Age: 22)

New York Knicks acquire: SG Zach LaVine (UFA, Age: 27)

*Projected sign-and-trade for SG Zach LaVine with 5-year, $35 M average annual salary contract

Analysis: The Bulls pivot off of Zach LaVine through the acquisitions of distressed asset Julius Randle, along with a decently intriguing young player in Quentin Grimes and a mid-2nd round pick. The Knicks add a fringe-all-star guard to their team.

New York Knicks acquire: PG Damian Lillard ($42.5 M, $45.6 M, $48.8 M, FA: 2025, Age: 31)

Portland Trail Blazers acquire: PF Julius Randle ($23.7 M, $25.6 M, $27.5 M, $29.4 M (PO), FA: 2026, Age: 27), №11 overall pick 2022, PG/SG Immanuel Quickley ($2.3 M (TO), $4.1 M (TO), FA: 2024, Age: 22), PF Obi Toppin ($5.3 M (TO), $6.8 M (TO), FA: 2024, Age: 24), PG Kemba Walker ($9.1 M, FA: 2023, Age: 32)

Analysis: After Portland’s disastrous 2021–2022 season, Damian Lillard’s contract falls somewhere in between valuable and unpalatable, but the Knicks are desperate to make a splash for some starpower. The Trail Blazers’ front office has done a remarkably poor job of collecting future assets for all of the quality players they’ve recently traded away (CJ McCollum, Robert Covington, Norman Powell), so the Knicks’ pile of misfit toys might be enough to close a deal. Ultimately, Damian Lillard’s desire to leave Portland and play in New York will stimulate trade discussions.

Memphis Grizzlies acquire: PF Zion Williamson ($13.5 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 21), №52 overall pick 2022

New Orleans Pelicans acquire: SF Ziaire Williams ($4.5 M, $4.8 M (TO), $6.1 M (TO), FA: 2025, Age: 20), SG De’Anthony Melton ($9 M, $9.6 M, FA: 2024, Age: 23), №22 overall pick 2022

Analysis: Zion doesn’t seem to want to play in New Orleans, so the Pelicans’ front office has an interesting dilemma: to stick with or move off of Zion Williamson — who has had highly volatile reporting regarding his current physical condition. The Grizzlies are one of the few NBA teams that have both the young, expendable pieces to trade away and an appetite for risk to elevate their team. How ironic that Zion Williamson and Ja Morant end up on the same team after going 1st and 2nd overall, respectively, in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Oklahoma City Thunder acquire: PF Zion Williamson ($13.5 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 21)

New Orleans Pelicans acquire: №12 overall pick 2022, 2024 1st round pick (HOU, Top-4 protected; becomes 2024 & 2025 2nd round picks if protection is used), 2024 1st round pick (LAC, Unprotected), PF Derrick Favors ($10.1 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 30), SF Luguentz Dort ($1.9 M (PGS), FA: 2023, Age: 23)

Analysis: If Oklahoma City wants to start moving forward with some building-block players, they have more than enough assets to acquire Zion Williamson without giving up the №2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Zion may not love the small market of Oklahoma City, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey would be ideal guard teammates for him to thrive. New Orleans may also be intrigued by this deal, as they acquire three decent draft picks, Derrick Favors (again), and Lu Dort — a player who would fit in well with the quietly competitive squad David Griffin and company have built.

Los Angeles Lakers acquire: SG Eric Gordon ($19.5 M, $20.9 M (PGS), FA: 2024, Age: 33)

Houston Rockets acquire: SG Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.2 M, $11 M (PO), FA: 2024, Age: 21), PG Kendrick Nunn ($5.25 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 26)

Analysis: He’s a bit pricey, but Eric Gordon’s shooting would help the Lakers a lot. Talen Horton-Tucker is an obvious player to trade away for Los Angeles, because he’s very young and under a reasonable contract, but I don’t think he’s very good (short-term or long-term).

Los Angeles Lakers acquire: PF JaMychal Green ($8.7 M, FA: 2023, Age: 31), PF Jeff Green ($4.5 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 35)

Denver Nuggets acquire: SG Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.2 M, $11 M (PO), FA: 2024, Age: 21)

Analysis: Another potential THT-based Lakers trade. In this scenario, LA acquires two veterans who can serve as rotational wings.

Phoenix Suns acquire: №6 overall pick 2022, C Myles Turner ($18 M, FA: 2023, Age: 26), PG TJ McConnell ($8.1 M, $8.7 M, $9.3 M (PGS), FA: 2025, Age: 30)

Indiana Pacers acquire: C Deandre Ayton (RFA, Age: 23)

*Projected sign-and-trade for C Deandre Ayton with 4-year, $27 M average annual salary contract

Analysis: There have been a lot of clues laid out by Phoenix, implying that they’re willing to move off of Deandre Ayton, and this year’s playoff collapse makes it even more likely. Indiana’s interest in Ayton has been rumored since the past trade deadline. This is probably slightly too high of a price-tag for Indiana to pay for Ayton, but a framework of this type of trade would make sense for Phoenix.

Phoenix Suns acquire: PG Russell Westbrook ($47 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 33), PF/C Anthony Davis ($37.9 M, $40.6 M, $43.2 M (PO), FA: 2025, Age: 29), 2027 1st round pick (LAL, Top-4 protected; becomes unprotected in 2028)

Los Angeles Lakers acquire: C Deandre Ayton (RFA, Age: 23), PG Chris Paul ($28.4 M, $30.8 M (PGS), $30 M (PGS), FA: 2025, Age: 37), PF Dario Saric ($9.67 M, FA: 2023, Age: 28)

*Projected sign-and-trade for C Deandre Ayton with 4-year, $27 M average annual salary contract

Analysis: This fake trade is bordering on being absurd, but it actually makes sense for both of the franchises involved. The Lakers, after a disastrous 2021–2022 season, pick up two quality players, including LeBron’s friend, Chris Paul, and a bench player to get out of the Westbrook-Davis era. The Lakers have pressure to make an impact move soon because of LeBron’s age and the franchise’s lack of future prospects, and the Lakers’ 2020 Title makes it easier for them to treat the previous Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook acquisitions as sunk costs. The Lakers would have to stomach giving up yet another valuable draft pick asset to get the deal done, though.

So, why would Phoenix do this deal? Firstly, Suns’ Owner Robert Sarver doesn’t seem to want to pay Deandre Ayton an expensive contract to avoid long-term luxury tax bills. This trade would create an expensive 2022–2023 roster, but Westbrook’s contract expires after next season. The other incentive Phoenix has is that they just blew their last great chance at a title in an absurd game-7 collapse. Chris Paul is 37 years old and the Western Conference is going to be better next season with teams like the Clippers and Nuggets returning at full strength.

I don’t expect a deal like this to happen, but it would be entertaining to see the reactions. Either way, I’ll have fun looking back at this fake trade two years from now wondering how I thought this was possible.

Washington Wizards acquire: PG Russell Westbrook ($47 M (PO), FA: 2023, Age: 33), 2027 1st round pick (LAL, Top-8 protected; becomes top-4 protected in 2028; becomes unprotected in 2029), cash

Los Angeles Lakers acquire: PF Kristaps Porzingis ($33.8 M, $36 M (PO), FA: 2024, Age: 26), PG Ish Smith ($4.7 M (PGS), FA: 2023, Age: 33)

Analysis: Here’s another Lakers trade pivoting off of Russell Westbrook’s contract. Washington may be the only NBA team that wouldn’t mind having Westbrook as their ball-dominant point guard for the upcoming season, because Westbrook and Beal played well together two years ago and the franchise could use a spark. Perhaps Washington looks at Dallas’ playoff success with Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie and pivots off of the injury-plagued Kristaps Porzingis. Interestingly, I think that the Lakers would reject this deal more so than Washington because of the involvement of the 2027 1st round pick.

Citations

release, O. (2022, May 19). 2022 NBA draft order. NBA.com. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.nba.com/news/2022-nba-draft-order

Oklahoma City Thunder Team Payroll. Basketball. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.basketball-reference.com/contracts/OKC.html

NBA future drafts detailed. RealGM. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://basketball.realgm.com/nba/draft/future_drafts/detailed

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