March 16, 2021

The Perfect Team Pairings for NBA Players on the Trade Block

This year's NBA Trade Deadline is quickly approaching. 

While it's not expected to be an incredibly entertaining deadline, there are plenty of players who could get dealt that'll impact the present and future of the league. 

For the most part, though, trades help the franchise and not the player. This isn't free agency, y'know. But what if we took the players' best interest into consideration? We've picked the 10 perfect player-team pairings for players on the trade block. 

Kristaps Porzingis: Golden State Warriors

Perhaps the most surprising name that popped up in trade rumors, Kristaps Porzingis has had two sides to his NBA story. One side is an injury-prone big man who has various knee surgeries in his rearview who gets blown by perimeter players on defense. On the flip side, the Zinger is still a 7-foot-3 unicorn who can block and nail shots.

In February, Porzingis averaged 22.2 points, eight rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 50/40/89 shooting, with the Mavs winning six of their nine outings. Porzingis has four years and over $129 million remaining on his contract, which is fine if he’s healthy, but a potential albatross if he’s unable to stay on the court. Porzingis, of course, has a long list of lower-body injuries that makes him a risky proposition. 

The Warriors are primed to trade for a star and assuming Bradley Beal stays loyal to Washington, Porzingis is potentially the next best option. The Dubs could offer James Wiseman and Kelly Oubre if they desire, and keep their prized Timberwolves draft pick.

Stephen Curry and Porzingis pick-and-pops would be damn near unstoppable to contain.

Lonzo Ball: Dallas Mavericks

Can you imagine Lonzo Ball and Luka Doncic on the same squad? Just think of the passing.

Just last year, this pairing probably wouldn’t work considering Ball’s broken jump shot. This season has been a complete turnaround for the fourth-year guard, who has drained almost 39% of his three-point attempts.

Ball’s fit in New Orleans has never been perfect, especially since the Pelicans’ current makeup includes two players who struggle to space the floor in Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams. Ball's staunch defense and ability to serve as a secondary playmaker make him the perfect partner for Doncic.

The Mavericks rely so heavily on Doncic to create for them, so it would be nice to bring in a young player on the same timeline to help ease that burden.

Al Horford: Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have to be honest with themselves. Are they really going to be able to sign stars with their salary cap space?

The answer to that question is probably no, so pivoting to acquire Al Horford would be the perfect on-court fit. Charlotte could really use an upgrade in the frontcourt, where the duo of Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo both struggle to space the floor and contain perimeter players on defense. Horford can play center next to P.J. Washington, and provide Charlotte with a veteran frontcourt presence who can play the modern game.

Horford is averaging 14 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists on nearly 36% shooting from deep this season.

The problem with bringing in Horford is his massive contract. Horford has $53.5 million left on his contract after this campaign. 

P.J. Tucker: Brooklyn Nets

P.J. Tucker is a sage veteran role player who will play hard-nosed defense and provide excellent shooting from the corners. His ability to play both frontcourt positions makes him a nice fit for virtually any team — especially the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets are an offensive juggernaut with their three-headed monster in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Tucker's former Rockets teammate James Harden. In their Houston days, when Tucker and Harden shared the court, Houston routinely outscored opponents.

Even though DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are in the mix, Tucker’s complementary skillset is a better fit for the playoffs. He’s the only big man who can both lock in on defense and credibly space the floor other than Jeff Green.

He could give the Nets the defensive edge they desire.

Harrison Barnes: Denver Nuggets

Harrison Barnes has become a trustworthy veteran who can space the floor, defend forwards and tussle with bigs in the post. That versatility makes Barnes a fit for virtually every team, but the Denver Nuggets are a particularly nice pairing as they gear up for another postseason run.

Other than Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets do not have a reliable player to end games since Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton have all dealt with injuries. Barnes could step in and be a rock-solid fourth option who can tackle the difficult opposing defensive assignments so Porter doesn’t have to.

Denver could offer either Harris or Barton, as well as one of their younger prospects. After losing Jerami Grant last offseason, the Nuggets should be on the lookout for a wing upgrade who can slide up a position.

John Collins: Portland Trail Blazers

The writing has been on the wall ever since John Collins and the Atlanta Hawks were unable to come to an extension last offseason. While Collins is a supremely talented offensive player who can thrive in the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop, his defensive shortcomings are hard to overcome, especially since the Hawks play another shaky defender in Trae Young.

Collins can’t anchor a defense, but he wouldn’t have to if he’s playing alongside a human brick wall in Jusuf Nurkic. Collins would be the perfect young, athletic big man to pair with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

While Collins could improve as a playmaker, his ability to get buckets is something Portland hasn’t had at that position since LaMarcus Aldridge.

Victor Oladipo: Miami Heat

We’ve been hearing about this pairing for over a year, but Victor Oladipo would be a great addition to Miami. He’s an incredibly hard-worker who provides some isolation flair that's lacking in South Beach aside from Jimmy Butler.

Oladipo needs to iron out his three-point percentages, but a lot of his recent downfall is because he’s currently in a Houston situation that can best be described as a mess.

Oladipo was shooting 45% on spot-up jumpers before being traded, which ranked in the 87% percentile. With more talent in Miami, Oladipo would surely receive better opportunities to cook.

LaMarcus Aldridge: Boston Celtics

In our ranking of the best landing spots for LaMarcus Aldridge, we had the Boston Celtics as — spoilers — his top fit. 

Here's what we wrote: 

“Aldridge has always been money from midrange, and he finally expanded his jumper to the three-point arc, hitting 39%. And while post-ups are slightly out of fashion these days, they grow more important in the postseason. Over the past two seasons, Aldridge has produced about one point per possession on post-ups, good for the league’s 70th percentile.

If Boston strikes out on their other targets, they should set their eyes on Aldridge.”

The Celtics have a few options at the center position, but none of them provide the offensive firepower Aldridge possesses. Coach Brad Stevens could potentially coax more three-point attempts out of him, which would open up the floor for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. 

He could also be an ideal pick-and-roll partner for Kemba Walker, who is struggling to efficiently produce looks out of that set this season. But Walker is a slithery guard who can score in all areas of the floor, and he ranked in the 92nd percentile out of pick-and-rolls last season.

Aldridge and Walker would likely create magic together, provideing a reliable scoring option outside of Tatum and Brown.

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