The Most Likely, Remaining (Underrated) Trades

By: Avi Tyagi

The offseason chatter (rightfully) was dominated by Mitchell and Durant. Under the cover of darkness, however, there are other trades that may bolster many teams’ ambitions. As such, this piece examines several of those possibilities, purposefully excluding all mentions of Nets and Jazz players, while also excluding Russell Westbrook, Myles Turner, and Buddy Hield for the time being.

Let’s start with what feel like the most obvious moves. Moe Harkless and Korkmaz (much like Didi Louzada with the Blazers) will almost definitely be sent to a cap space destination to allow their teams to duck the luxury tax. Barring any other trades by the Hawks or 76ers (respectively), these moves feel like guarantees. With Moe Harkless’ meager contract culminating at the end of the upcoming campaign, I could easily see him sent to one of the bottom-feeders with cash or a protected second for a similar replacement. The simplest idea: Harkless, cash considerations, and a Miami 2024 2nd round pick (if between 51-55) for Keita Bates-Diop. The Spurs get a vet, the Hawks duck the tax and acquire a younger player who’s more equipped to playing the 4 or small-ball 5 if needed. Seems like a fit.

Korkmaz has one clear fit: the Pacers. They are literally the only team with available cap space and roster spots who can absorb Korkmaz’s remaining 2-year contract. Korkmaz has an abundant amount of experience as a small-ball 3 in certain bench 6ers bench lineups over the year and the Pacers have a gaping crevice at the small forward spot. A simple exchange of 2nd round picks between the two sides with another appearance by cash considerations might do the trick. The proposed deal: Korkmaz and the 2023 76ers top 44 protected 2nd round pick for the Spurs 2023 2nd round pick (only if within 56-60) from the Pacers. The 76ers could evade the tax and open up a spot for Trevelin Queen as a tertiary ball handler or for 3rd year pick Isaiah Joe to be the 3-point launcher off the bench on a team otherwise devoid of that player type.

Another bit of housekeeping: Ish Smith will likely be dealt once again. The Nuggets prioritization of KCP to complete their starting lineup came at the cost of Monte Morris’ phenomenal backup point guard play. After the trade, I considered it more likely than not that the Nuggets would stay pat with the intent to sneakily handoff Ish and once again dodge the tax. The Bruce Brown signing changes things. While the Nuggets might still be able to deal several players to narrowly skirt the fees, it would appear to be thoroughly unfruitful for the roster. Backup 5 is a problem that may be solved by committee and more backup small-ball units. If the team is truly searching for a sturdy defensive backup point guard with spacing skills who can play off of Hyland and Jokic in certain bench configurations, Ish Smith and a 2nd for Cory Joseph feels like the perfect move. Adding one extra bench option potentially capable of providing reliable playoff minutes can make all the difference for a team with title aspirations.

Now we get to the bigger names. I think Wiseman is a lock to be dealt. The Big 3, Looney, Wiggins, and Poole have been considered the foundational core 6 for the Warriors. With impending extensions for Poole, Wiggins, and Draymond (once he declines his player option), the Warriors face financial regulations hitherto unseen. Even based on my relatively meager calculations for potential extensions, the Dubs’ total payroll (with luxury tax payments included) will easily exceed 490 million if they choose to keep the group together. The reported budget for the Warriors appears to be capped at around 400 million. Klay’s extension in 2024 and the rising salary cap appear to offer a reprieve in the future, especially with Kuminga and Moody still on rookie deals. The odd man out in this two timelines approach appears to be Wiseman. On the court, he would easily be 4th in the pecking order among the young developmental pieces, with Poole, Moody, and Kuminga superseding him. His developmental needs appear to be the greatest, which appears most at odds with the Warriors championship aspirations. Off the court, due to his 4th year rookie option being 12 million as the 2nd overall pick and the Warriors overall tax concerns, the Dubs would save over 90 million in cash in 2023-24 just by trading Wiseman. That difference would be enough to keep the team right around their 400-million-dollar limit. That feels like unassailable evidence.

The next question is What would the Warriors trade for, and correspondingly where might he generate interest? As per my calculations, I consider it extremely unlikely that the Dubs would attempt to add another even semi-expensive contract to this mix for the long-term. A two-timeline model would indicate a desire to move him for draft pick compensation. With that in mind, 3 locations stand out to me as potential Wiseman destinations. In increasing order of likelihood, those 3 teams would be the Kings, Celtics and Pacers. Mike Brown and the new coaching staff have familiarity with Wiseman and could seek to develop him behind Sabonis. Holmes may be on the move for more wing help and adding a young prospect as a backup center may be of interest. Because of the Warriors pick limitations and the unlikely nature that the Kings deal a first rounder before establishing themselves as a perennial playoff team far from the lottery, a deal became hard to construct. The best I could do: Wiseman and a 2028 top 6 protected 1st round pick for Alex Len, Trey Lyles, and the Kings 2023 top 3 protected 1st rounder. It’s a really risky trade for both sides. The Kings would be hoping that the Warriors plateau significantly by 2028 but not enough to be a bottom 5 team, while the Warriors would be placing the same bet against the Kings this season. Because of the moving pieces and the high-stakes nature of the deal, I consider this situation unlikely though worth mentioning.

The Grizzlies developmental focus loves experimenting with bringing in recent lottery picks cast out from their teams for a trial run. With the Memphis connection in tow, might the Grizzlies be interested in using their cap space to attain Wiseman? The first deal I’ve concocted is Wiseman for Danny Green and the 2023 Timberwolves pick. An alternative: the same rearrangement but with the 2024 Warriors 1st rounder returning home instead. When the Grizz trade for prospects, most of their big swings are typically with wings, and with Jaren as a keystone and a supporting cast filled to the brim with 4s and 5s, I’m not sure it’s on brand.

The most likely trade partner feels like the Pacers. Specifically, I would expect a deal for Wiseman to the Pacers for a Boston 2023 1st rounder. The Pacers appear to be in full rebuild mode. Wiseman would earn plenty of developmental reps as an alternative to Isaiah Jackson, to complement the primary core of Tyrese Haliburton and Ben Mathurin. Depending on how the Cavaliers perform and what return the Pacers receive for Turner and Hield, the Pacers could potentially add 3 first round picks next season, even if they deal the Celtics pick. With so much cap space and plenty of rotational minutes available for any incoming prospect, this feels like a perfect fit.

I would mention Duncan Robinson here, but the most attainable deal and most natural fit for a Robinson trade seems likely to be constructed around Jarred Vanderbilt. With the Jazz in a holding pattern, I’m not going to dive too deep into that possibility just yet. Phoenix is in a similar position. While any or all of Shamet, Craig, Saric, or Cam Payne may be dealt, it seems highly unlikely at this point.

Even when the Pelicans were 10 games under .500 in the middle of the season, I’ve been a believer in reasons for optimism. TLDR; their play with CJ and BI was incredibly enticing, and last draft’s young core has really shown out. Even without Zion, and with CJ only being added to the equation late in the season, the Pelicans had a 29-26 record and +1.5 net rating with Brandon Ingram last season. With Zion now locked into a long-term extension, all of a sudden, this roster is deeper and more star-studded than expected. With the right moves, I could envision this team taking the leap to contention status faster than expected. There are a couple of odd fits, specifically the centers surrounding Zion. The most likely underrated trade remaining is a move involving Devonte’ Graham. He played 5 minutes in an elimination game, relegated to viewing duties behind Grand Theft Alvarado. Adding Dyson Daniels to the mix projects to strip him of even further opportunities. Finding a trade partner is difficult. I don’t think the Pelicans should be throwing around firsts for short-term contracts that might not re-up with the roster. Eric Gordon’s market doesn’t feel in line with what the Pelicans should spend. My proposal: Josh Richardson for Graham, Kira Lewis, and a 2024 Chicago 2nd rounder. It might not win any awards, but Richardson is just a solid reliable depth wing who can soak up playoff minutes as needed. Additionally, his contract comes off the books one year earlier than Graham. For the Spurs, this depends on their evaluation of Kira Lewis and his fit with the roster. The Spurs backcourt is an amalgam of traditional 2 guards. If they would be willing to allocate some developmental minutes at the 1 to Kira and believe in him as a former first round pick, this might be in their wheelhouse.
The Eric Gordon team: Milwaukee. The Rockets have traded a key piece to a Bucks’ title run once before; it’s time to go back to the well. I would hassle over the price, but if Grayson Allen, George Hill, Serge Ibaka, and MarJon Beauchamp earns Garrison Mathews and Eric Gordon, I think the deal must be done. This deal can’t be completed until mid-October, but presents tangible gains for both sides. Depending on the Rockets’ evaluation of Beauchamp, they could add another wing prospect to their young collective for a veteran on a one-year contract. That would appear to meet the asking price they had hoped for. For the Bucks, Mathews can replicate Grayson Allen to a prominent extent and Eric Gordon would instantly slot in as a backcourt starter alongside Jrue Holiday. All of a sudden, opponents can’t discern any weak links within the Bucks’ starting lineup. It’s a championship or bust roster, and it has the potential to be the singular greatest move of the offseason.