Much like life, NBA rosters need balance to thrive. Balance in diverse skill sets, versatile talent, and large quantities of availability at each position.
That last part however, is tricky. Teams tend to gather as much quality as possible, which is the correct mindset, but get stuck with overloaded positions that need resolving.
Take the Bulls. They have a bazillion power forwards and are short at the guard spot and on the wing. Aaron Brooks is hardly a playmaker, and last season Kirk Hinrich left circles of dust behind him for every step he took, suggesting a need for help to back up the oft-injured Derrick Rose.
Then take the Suns. They have depth on the wing, plenty of guards, and several issues up front with the unsolved Markieff Morris case and the shaky depth of Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer.
On the surface, these two would make interesting trading partners. But team direction, quality of available players, and season aspirations definitely have a say in this.
Even with all that however, I couldn’t help myself. Following is a list of theoretical trading partners that overflow at certain positions, as to create a harmonious balance of rosters throughout the league.
As alluded to before, the Bulls and Suns make solid trade partners. A deal with Taj Gibson and P.J. Tucker as the main pieces would instantly create more balance in both line-ups with Gibson becoming one of Phoenix’s primary bigs who could help Tyson Chandler anchor a defense, and Tucker becoming a rugged three-man for the Bulls who can help stretch the court and create an effective defensive duo with Jimmy Butler.
Additionally, the moves help the kids of both teams to make a move forward. For the Suns, T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin would see their minutes go up, as would be the case for both Nikola Mirotic and rookie Bobby Portis in Chicago.
Note: Tucker makes $3 million less than Gibson, so you’d need to add a few pieces to make the deal legal, and that’s easier said than done. Most of Phoenix’s low-cost players have either been signed recently, making them ineligible for trades before December, or are amongst the Suns’ young core. So while the two teams make great trade partners on the surface, there are some financial stipulations that makes the scenario difficult.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Damian Lillard and the offensive load he has to carry this upcoming season. Lillard’s Blazers are filled to the brink with young big men, but lack the wings to help Lillard out offensively. Fortunately, the Dallas Mavericks are severely lacking big men, and have plenty of perimeter depth to sacrifice. Dallas could re-aquire a former Maverick in Chris Kaman and send out J.J. Barea to help take some ball-handling pressure off Lillard.
Kaman will instantly become, at worst, the third big in Dallas and would offer some much needed stability ,which at this point you can’t count on JaVale McGee to provide. Zaza Pachulia is a fine bench big, but playing him more than a half per game would be overshooting his potential. A Kaman/Pachulia center rotation would be solid, though not spectacular, and allow McGee to find his rhythm before, perhaps, taking over.
Barea might not be an attractive piece generally given his age and size, but he’ll get you some scoring, some ballhandling, and a wicked ability to not turn the ball over.
The Nuggets’ five most expensive players are all forwards, unless you wish to count J.J. Hickson as a center, in which case you’re probably going to run into severe defensive issues. The Nuggets have very little center depth, and their guard rotations are slim. Will Barton will likely be their de facto starter at shooting guard with Randy Foye backing him up, and at the point you have rookie Emmanuel Mudiay and veteran Jameer Nelson. All four should be in the rotation, but there are quite a few question marks surrounding that quartet. If Mudiay struggles, can Nelson take over and play extended minutes? What if Barton’s season last year was just a one-hit wonder? What if both of those concerns become true at the same time?
As such, we turn to Boston, who have too much of everything these days and will have to consolidate in a deal to get under the 15-man roster limit. With 16 guaranteed deals currently on the roster, many of whom are guards, a deal surrounding Avery Bradley and Wilson Chandler would make some sense, even if Chandler did just recently sign an extension.
But keep in mind the Nuggets have extended, or re-signed, a player before without the intention of keeping him. This happened with Nene back in 2011, when Denver re-signed the big man only to have a trade piece for future use. They traded Nene to Washington for JaVale McGee, essentially making McGee their big free agent acquisition. With Danilo Gallinari already in the fold, there is little reason to extend Chandler unless it’s meant as hanging on to a trade chip. As such, I’m considering him one and shipping him to Boston for Bradley who will instantly help bring some balance to Denver’s backcourt, just as Chandler would come in to bring an offensive presence to Boston’s wing rotation.
Lakers/Any team with a spare small forward
It’s pretty crazy, but the Los Angeles Lakers technically don’t have a small forward on their roster. Ryan Kelly is a four, Nick Young is more a two than a three, and Kobe can play the three but who knows how long he’ll last this time? Alright, there is Anthony Brown. But a 2nd round rookie isn’t going to make that position his own.
They’re in trouble in terms of trades, however. There isn’t a huge market for Nick Young, and Lou Williams just signed. Kobe isn’t being moved for several reasons, and neither is D’Angelo Russell. They have very little big man depth, so they can’t afford to give up anything of value in that department, meaning they’re looking at internal re-positionings.