Early Season NBA Trades: Four Logical Moves To Boost Contenders

Although teams have only played around 15 games, it’s never too early for a general manager to identify and fix flaws. The NBA is extremely balanced this season with no single team separating from the pack, so it’s reasonable for franchises to pursue short-term upgrades. With that in mind, here are four logical trades that would boost contenders and aid, rebuilding teams.

Suns Move Jae Crowder

Rockets Receive:

  • Jae Crowder
  • Dario Saric
  • 2023 1st (lottery protected; becomes 2023 2nd & 2024 2nd) 

Suns Receive:

  • Eric Gordon

Why Rockets Accepts: At 33-years-old, Eric Gordon does not fit Houston’s timeline in the slightest. Kevin Porter Jr (22) and Jalen Green (20) compose a starting backcourt brimming with potential, while Washington, Nix, and Christopher are intriguing young pieces off the bench. Gordon is only hurting the Rockets by stealing valuable minutes from developing players.

The benefits are immense for Houston. They open up playing time, acquire a lottery protected 1st that is exceptionally likely to convey, and receive two flippable veterans. If the Rockets cannot find a trade partner, then they will simply allow them to walk this summer as free agents and save plenty of cap space from not paying Gordon nearly twenty million next season.

Why Suns Accepts: Crowder has played his last game with the Suns, and they are seeking a rotation piece in return. Although a forward would be ideal, Gordon is by no means a consolation prize. The veteran sharpshooter is producing 12.2 PPG and 3.1 APG in 30.2 MPG. He’s shooting 36.1% on 5.1 3PA per game, so his impact on spacing would be immediate. Phoenix’s bench is their weakness, and Gordon injects a burst of offense and leadership into that unit. He’s also a former teammate of Chris Paul, so the chemistry is there.

Sending the 1st stings, but now is not the time to be stingy with Chris Paul at 37-years-old. Phoenix doesn’t lose any significant rotation pieces because Crowder can be thought of as already off the roster anyways. Overall, the Suns are essentially sending a late 1st for a reliable bench piece that could swing multiple playoff games with his three-point shooting.

Dallas Adds Shooting

Rockets Receive:

  • Frank Ntilikina
  • Davis Bertans
  • 2025 1st (top 8 protected; becomes 2025 and 2027 2nd)

Mavericks Receive:

  • Eric Gordon

Why Rockets Accept: The Rockets reap the same benefits as the first trade in terms of playing time. The 1st rounder isn’t until 2025, but the protections are far less extensive. Frank Ntilikina is still just 24-years-old, so Houston receives a risk-free chance to potentially recalibrate the former 8th overall pick’s trajectory. Bertans isn’t ideal due to age and contract (owed a total of 33 million across next two seasons), but it’s not terrible when considering his contract would only run one more year than Gordon’s at a slightly smaller price.

Why Mavericks Accept: Luka Doncic is a ball-dominant guard who elevates shot quality to perhaps the highest level in the NBA. Placing shooters around Luka will force defenders to stay glued to the three-point line, which allows him to play 1v1 and drive to the basket. Gordon can start at shooting guard and become Luka’s best perimeter outlet. Dallas arguably could have beaten the Warriors if they shot three-pointers at their normal rate, so Gordon provides a needed consistent presence.

This move would push Dinwiddie to the bench and allow him to lead that unit as a scorer and playmaker. Dallas’ bench would subsequently contribute a significant edge. In addition to Gordon, the Mavericks would be free of Bertans’ contract.

Raptors Boost Guard Rotation

Jazz Receive:

  • Malachi Flynn
  • DJ Wilson
  • Khem Birch
  • 2023 1st (top 10 protected; becomes 2023 and 2025 2nd)

Raptors Receive:

  • Jordan Clarkson

Why Jazz Accept: Utah is a nice story at 10-5, but they are realistically light years away from winning a championship. Danny Ainge remains obsessed with hoarding draft capital, and Toronto is willing to oblige. The Jazz receive a 2023 1st that is highly probable to convey, along with three fringe rotation pieces. The void left by 30-year-old Jordan Clarkson would be filled by 23-year-old Collin Sexton, who is producing 14 PPG off the bench.

Clarkson and Sexton possess similar strengths and weaknesses, although Sexton’s ceiling is assuredly higher than Clarkson. Overall, the Jazz create space for Sexton as a long-term piece and pick up a 1st rounder for their troubles.

Why Raptors Accept: Toronto owns a stable of high quality wings, and rookie 7’1” Christian Koloko has rejuvenated the center rotation. Outside of VanVleet and Trent Jr though, the guard rotation is severely lacking. Banton and Flynn are capable of soaking up 10-15 minutes during the regular season, but trusting them with vital playoff minutes is unwise.

Clarkson (18.1 PPG) would be a microwave scorer off the bench who could add ball handling and playmaking to the forward-heavy bench. A bench lineup of Clarkson, Otto Porter Jr, Thaddeus Young, Chris Boucher, and Koloko would give opponents fits. It is never easy parting with a 1st, but this move significantly upgrades their roster. Plus, the Raptors own all of their other future 1st rounders and don’t necessarily need the 2023 pick because their roster is young.

Heat Acquire Former All-Star In Three Team Trade

Suns Receive:

  • Evan Fournier

Heat Receive:

  • Julius Randle

Knicks Receive:

  • Nikola Jovic
  • Duncan Robinson
  • Jae Crowder
  • Dario Saric
  • 2023 unprotected 1st via Miami
  • 2028 1st via Miami (lottery protected; becomes 2028 2nd)
  • 2023 2nd via Phoenix

Why Suns Accept: As discussed earlier, Jae Crowder is 100% on the trading block. Phoenix moves Crowder, Saric, and a 2023 2nd for Evan Fournier, who provides scoring and secondary playmaking. As an on or off-ball threat, he fits seamlessly into Phoenix’s bench, which would now be Payne, Lee, Fournier, Craig, and Biyombo/Landale. Considering that Fournier produced 14.1 PPG and 2.1 APG on a 38.9 3PT% last season before his minutes were cut this season, it’s a bargain for the Suns. 

Why Heat Accept: Jimmy Butler is 33-years-old, and Miami was one game away from the NBA Finals last season – now is the time to go all in. The offense appears to be dysfunctional and frequently ineffective; as a result, they rank 17th in Offensive Rating. Julius Randle (20.8 PPG) has his faults, but the former All-Star adds a huge spark as a player who can create his own shots. Randle would also add size, rebounding (9.1 RPG) and playmaking (3.4 APG) to the undersized Heat.

Since Randle would be the power forward, Jimmy Butler could relocate to his more natural small forward position. A lineup of Lowry, Herro, Butler, Randle, and Adebayo combined with a deep bench and exceptional coach would position Miami for a Finals run. Losing Jovic and draft capital hurts, but they at least get off of Robinson’s horrendous contract. For an all in move, Miami isn’t actually losing a ton of vital assets.

Why Knicks Accept: Even the most optimistic Knicks fan cannot feel confident about this squad’s playoff chances. They signed Jalen Brunson, but New York shouldn’t feel pressured to immediately contend since he is still just 26-years-old. Obi Toppin is obliterating opponents off the bench, and trading Randle would open the starting power forward spot to him. Fournier and Robinson’s contracts basically cancel each other out, and the Knicks can either flip the Suns duo or let them walk this summer.

Rookie Nikola Jovic, who ranked 16th on my draft Big Board, is the prize of this trade. The 6’10” forward possesses the ball handling and fluidity of a 6’7” wing. His shooting is smooth, and he has serious upside as a secondary playmaker. At 19-years-old, New York would receive a potential cornerstone along with an unprotected 2023 1st, a lottery protected 2028 1st, and a 2023 2nd. In addition, the Knicks would clear a significant amount of cap space. They can use the multitude of 1st rounders acquired from the Thunder during the draft and pair them with this haul if they wanted to go big game hunting for a star above Randle’s level too. The amount of flexibility and long-term upside this trade provides is immense.

Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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