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Tony Avelar/Associated Press
As the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks tussle for an NBA title, the other 28 teams are busy building their blueprints for championship contention.
Whether they’re aiming to contend next season or years down the road, they all have a plan for eventually improving their roster.
We donned our salary-cap wizard’s hat, fired up the trade machine and found a swap to move each club closer to its presumed offseason goal.
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Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Boston Celtics receive: John Collins (sign-and-trade)
Atlanta Hawks receive: Marcus Smart and Romeo Langford
The Celtics need a third scorer to replace Kemba Walker’s production, and the Hawks need a perimeter stopper to help Trae Young from getting overexposed. The puzzle pieces could align for a win-win swap.
John Collins needs a new deal, and Atlanta seems less than committal about paying it. Hawks governor Tony Ressler said the team hopes to reach a “fair agreement” with Collins, per The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, which makes it sound like there’s a walk-away price point for Atlanta.
The Celtics could be more willing to meet that number since Collins is on the same timeline as star wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. With these three leading the offense, Boston could have the backbone of a top-10 attack.
As for Atlanta, Smart would help balance this offense-leaning roster as a two-time All-Defensive first-team honoree. Romeo Langford, meanwhile, should still have time to tap into the talent that made him the 14th overall pick in 2019.
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Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Brooklyn Nets receive: Myles Turner
Indiana Pacers receive: Joe Harris, Nicolas Claxton, No. 44 pick and No. 49 pick
Had James Harden and Kyrie Irving stayed healthy, maybe the Nets would’ve had enough scoring to capture a championship at the offensive end. But Brooklyn could increase its margin for error by paying some attention to the defensive end.
Adding an interior anchor like Myles Turner could clean up a lot of this team’s issues. He has paced the Association in blocks per game during two of the past three seasons, and he has the third-most total blocks since entering the league in 2015 (866). As an added bonus, his career 35.2 percent splash rate from three means he could provide that defensive protection without spoiling the offense’s spacing.
If Indiana is ready to break apart its jumbo frontcourt combo of Turner and Domantas Sabonis, this might be the package that gets it done.
Joe Harris has a legitimate argument as the NBA’s top outside shooter, Nicolas Claxton offers enviable versatility at the 5, and the two picks could help grease the gears of a separate exchange.
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New York Knicks receive: Collin Sexton
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Kevin Knox II, No. 19 pick and No. 32 pick
The Cavaliers sound ready for life after Collin Sexton. The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd reported Sexton is “very available,” with the franchise apparently unwilling to pay what the extension-eligible scoring guard will seek.
This is when New York’s spidey senses should be tingling.
The Knicks need a point guard, a scorer and a shot creator to bulk up their roster and take some pressure off Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. Sexton checks every box, and his shortcomings as a playmaker would be easier to manage since Randle and Barrett are already ball-movers. Sexton, who averaged 24.3 points this season, would provide quite the counterpunch for defenses that throw the kitchen sink at Randle.
Cleveland’s return may not seem to measure up with Sexton’s stat sheet, but he has question marks (or outright concerns) in most areas other than scoring. Tack on the cost of his next contract, and the Cavs could easily see more value in a mid-first rounder, an early second and a flier on Kevin Knox II, who has disappointed so far but was the ninth pick in 2018 and is still only 21 years old.
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Charlotte Hornets receive: Christian Wood
Houston Rockets receive: P.J. Washington and No. 11 pick
If the Rockets are realistic about the size, scope and schedule of their post-James Harden rebuild, they might admit Christian Wood isn’t the ideal player to lead it. He turns 26 this offseason, meaning he’ll be playing his best basketball—assuming he isn’t already—long before the rest of this roster is ready.
Houston might want to cash in this trade chip now, especially for this type of return. P.J. Washington offers enough two-way versatility to fit whatever blueprint the Rockets choose to follow. Having a second lottery pick and fourth first-rounder—Houston already owns picks No. 2, 23 and 24—could allow the franchise to lay down a big chunk of its next-chapter foundation.
The Hornets, meanwhile, could use this season’s surprising success—they were a game under .500 when LaMelo Ball fractured his wrist on March 20—as a reason to aggressively attack the trade market.
Wood, one of four players to average 20 points, nine rebounds, one block and one triple, would offer a dynamic solution to this club’s long-term questions at the center spot. Between him, Ball, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward, Charlotte could have enough near-stars to piece together a top-10 offense with an egalitarian approach.
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Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Chicago Bulls receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Lauri Markkanen (sign-and-trade), Coby White, Tomas Satoransky and 2025 first-round pick (top-three protected)
While the Sixers could decide Ben Simmons’ stock fell too far to trade him now, his public playoff flop and the team’s reactions to it felt like a point of no return. They shouldn’t give him away for 25 cents on the dollar, obviously, but they could see value in converting him into multiple players who better fit their roster.
The Bulls should be ready to pounce if that happens.
Their deadline deal for Nikola Vucevic showed a desire to win sooner than later, and if they’re planning to give Zach LaVine the max (or something close to it), they need to get his supporting cast up to speed. Simmons offers elite defensive versatility and a special combination of size and vision. His inability to shoot is a worry, but it could be less concerning in Chicago since Vooch maximizes the spacing as a stretch 5.
This trade only works if Philadelphia believes in Lauri Markkanen and Coby White, but that could definitely happen. Markkanen is a sweet-shooting 7-footer who has shown an ability to score in bunches, and White would answer Philly’s call for an off-the-dribble perimeter scorer. Throw in Tomas Satoransky as a ball-moving glue guy and a future first to spend in a separate swap, and the Sixers could bite.
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Sam Hodde/Associated Press
Dallas Mavericks receive: Kemba Walker
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Josh Richardson and 2026 first-round swap (top-five protected)
Kemba Walker might not want to move his belongings to the Sooner State. While he was just traded to the Thunder this offseason, a trade away from OKC is “imminent,” per Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.
The rebuilding Thunder have little use for the 31-year-old Walker, but his scoring punch and shot-creation could be sought after by the Mavericks.
They clearly need a more reliable sidekick for Luka Doncic than Kristaps Porzingis, who flatlined this postseason. The 7’3″ center is frustrated with his role in Dallas, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, but there is “minimal” trade interest in Porzingis, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, due to his playoff struggles, injury history and sizable salary ($65.5 million the next two seasons with a $36 million player option for 2023-24).
A healthy Walker could boost Dallas’ offense and relieve some of the pressure on Doncic. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, would have time to try developing Porzingis into either a long-term keeper or a more valuable trade chip. Josh Richardson would need to pick up his $11.6 million player option for this to work, making him a potentially attractive three-and-D rental at the trade deadline.
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Jack Dempsey/Associated Press
Denver Nuggets receive: Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards receive: Michael Porter Jr., Will Barton, Monte Morris, Zeke Nnaji, No. 26 pick and 2026 first-round pick swap
The Nuggets are right on the cusp of championship contention. But they might need one more move to take them over the top.
Getting Bradley Beal, a player they’ve targeted before, could be the trade that puts this team on a title track. He and Nikola Jokic would work two-man magic together, and when Jamal Murray returns from the ACL tear in his left knee, this offense could be impossible to stop.
All rumblings about a Beal deal are speculation stemming from outside of Washington, which could mean one of two things. Either the Wizards really aren’t interested in trading him or the right offer hasn’t hit the table yet. If it’s the latter, a blue-chip prospect like Michael Porter Jr. could be the trade chip that finally pries Beal loose.
Porter is a 6’10”, three-level scorer. At 23 years old, he has already flashed the potential of a future scoring champ and has a number of possible avenues to improvement. Washington would also net a veteran scoring wing in Will Barton, a solid floor general in Monte Morris, an energetic young forward with range in Zeke Nnaji and draft considerations to help navigate the inevitable rebuild.
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Brandon Dill/Associated Press
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Jerami Grant
Detroit Pistons receive: Jaren Jackson Jr., Justise Winslow and No. 17 pick
The Pistons slugged a home run when they inked Jerami Grant to a three-year, $60 million pact last offseason. They could send another one over the fence by flipping the 27-year-old for building blocks to assemble around this summer’s No. 1 pick.
A healthy Jaren Jackson Jr. could be a cornerstone in the Motor City. He’s a 6’11”, 21-year-old combo big who can splash triples, finish at the rim, protect the paint and defend away from the basket. If promised good health—he has yet to play 60 games in a season and lost all but 11 games of the 2020-21 campaign to a torn meniscus in his left knee—he would never come close to the trade market.
But Jackson has those injury concerns and an unsettled future with his rookie contract up after next season. The Grizzlies might want to have more of a sure thing alongside ascending star point guard Ja Morant. The Pistons could be more willing to gamble, knowing their young talent, plus Jackson, the draft picks and maybe even 2015 top-10 selection Justise Winslow could form a powerful core down the line.
Memphis, meanwhile, might be open to making a win-now move after the show Morant put on this postseason. In his first career playoff series, he erupted for 30.2 points and 8.2 assists per outing. He didn’t have enough help for the Grizzlies to make major noise, but a two-way, Swiss Army knife like Grant would considerably strengthen the supporting cast.
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Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press
Golden State Warriors receive: Damian Lillard and Robert Covington
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, Jordan Poole, Eric Paschall, No. 7 pick, No. 14 pick and 2026 first-round pick
The idea of Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry being on the same roster outside of an All-Star Game setting is fascinating. So much so that Golden State’s decision-makers “have already internally discussed the idea,” per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater.
There might be questions of offensive fit and defensive…well, everything, but the skill level and scoring upside would be incredible. Having either Lillard or Curry initiate offense while the other races around off the ball for catch-and-launch triples could be what makes the Dubs unfairly dominant again. Pairing Robert Covington with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson might even help keep the defense above water.
If the Blazers ever reached the point of trading Lillard, their first phone call should be to the Warriors. Golden State is perhaps the only team that has a strong collection of rebuilding assets and the willingness to cash them in for immediate upgrades.
Without Lillard, Portland should lean fully into a top-to-bottom overhaul, and it would start on the right foot with this package. James Wiseman, last year’s No. 2 pick, is the centerpiece as an athletic 7-footer with flashes of shooting range. Andrew Wiggins works as a keeper or future trade chip, Jordan Poole and Eric Paschall are natural scorers, and the three draft picks could all bring back impact talent.
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Darren Abate/Associated Press
Los Angeles Clippers receive: DeMar DeRozan (sign-and-trade)
San Antonio Spurs receive: Ivica Zubac and Luke Kennard
The Clippers could use one more shot creator to ease the pressure on Paul George and Kawhi Leonard (assuming he stays in free agency) and provide protection should either be lost to injury.
They could find that player in another L.A. native, DeMar DeRozan. The 31-year-old reached the end of his contract with the San Antonio Spurs, and he seems likely to seek out greener pastures on a team better positioned to win now.
He’d get that chance with the Clippers, who reached the Western Conference Finals despite losing Leonard to a right knee injury. L.A. could surround DeRozan with shooters, freeing him to attack from his preferred spots in the mid-range and around the basket.
If San Antonio is ready to move on from DeRozan—fellow veterans Rudy Gay and Patty Mills are free agents, too—the team should welcome the chance to get something on his way out. Ivica Zubac is 24 years old and good enough to hold down the starting center spot, and Luke Kennard is a 2017 lottery pick with a 41.3 percent three-point splash rate across four NBA seasons.
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Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press
Los Angeles Lakers receive: Harrison Barnes
Sacramento Kings receive: Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell
Even if the Lakers blame injuries for at least part of their struggles, it’s hard to imagine their offseason plan is running it back. For one, they need upgrades to their supporting cast around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Plus, most of this roster is ticketed for free agency, so even if L.A. wanted everyone back, it probably wouldn’t happen.
But some level of shake-up feels likely, and this could do the trick.
Harrison Barnes is just about perfect in a supporting role on a contender. He stays in his lane on offense, buries open shots (career 37.7 percent from deep), has enough in his bag to exploit a mismatch and capably defends either forward spot (and some small-ball bigs). He’s someone the club could trust on both ends of the floor, and the Lakers didn’t have enough of those players this season.
Sacramento, though, isn’t close enough to contention to make the most of Barnes’ complementary skills. That’s why the Kings could prefer Kyle Kuzma, who’s three years younger and more dynamic on the ball. Montrezl Harrell could boost their bench scoring or even step into a starting gig should Richaun Holmes head elsewhere in free agency.
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Miami Heat receive: Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba
Orlando Magic receive: Andre Iguodala, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala
As the Heat go searching for roster reinforcements this summer, they should devote most (if not all) of their time to the offensive end.
They had this season’s sixth-worst scoring average (108.1), and when the playoffs tipped, that number dropped more than 10 points per game (98.0). Their lack of self-sufficient shot creators was glaring, as 35-year-old Goran Dragic actually paced them in playoff points with just 16.0 per outing.
They need someone who can perk up this offense, and Terrence Ross might be the answer. He’s streaky, but when he’s on, he is electric. He played 46 games this season and finished 15 of them with 20-plus points. Getting his scoring punch and Mo Bamba’s unique blend of length, shot-blocking and flashes of floor-spacing could help the 2020 finalists get back on track.
The Magic, meanwhile, are seemingly just waiting out the right return for Ross to complete the liquidation portion of their rebuild. While they aren’t getting draft picks here, they would walk away with last year’s 20th overall pick in Precious Achiuwa and 2019’s 32nd pick in KZ Okpala. Both are potential keepers, and the trade market might offer a chance to convert Andre Iguodala into another long-term keeper or two.
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Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Chris Boucher
Toronto Raptors receive: Jaxson Hayes, No. 35 pick and No. 40 pick
The Pelicans are still searching for the right frontcourt partner for Zion Williamson.
Chris Boucher would be an interesting attempt to scratch that itch.
His production and playing time ebbed and flowed this season, but he still finished it as one of only three players to average at least 1.5 blocks and 1.5 threes. That means he could help open the floor for Williamson and Brandon Ingram to attack while also providing protection behind them at the defensive end.
Boucher is 28 years old and approaching the final season on his contract, though, so the Raptors might be open to change. If they move on from Kyle Lowry and take the long road this offseason, they could see value in turning Boucher into bouncy 21-year-old big man Jaxson Hayes and a pair of early second-round picks in a deep draft.
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Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Minnesota Timberwolves receive: 2025 second-round pick and 2026 second-round pick
Utah Jazz receive: Josh Okogie
The Jazz just posted their fifth-highest winning percentage in franchise history and best ever outside of the Karl Malone-John Stockton era. Unless someone on the roster forces his way out, Utah is almost certainly not rocking the boat this offseason.
But the Jazz do have a $5 million trade exception to put to use, and the Timberwolves might be hunting for flexibility since they don’t have a draft pick, cap space or many open roster spots.
Utah could use another perimeter defender to deploy when Royce O’Neale needs a breather. Josh Okogie is among the stingier stoppers in the league. His issue is he provides virtually zero offensive value, lacking handles, vision or any kind of jump shot. But a deeper, more talented team like the Jazz might be better able to handle his shortcomings than the Timberwolves.
If Minnesota has given up on Okogie’s offensive development, it might prefer the open roster spot, the draft considerations and the trade exception this would create.
Stats courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted. Contract information via Basketball Insiders.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.