Thursday's 3 p.m. ET NBA trade deadline is fast approaching, and Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer has us covered on the latest chatter from around the league, so I am here to churn this rumor mill into action.
Here are a handful of trades I'd like to see, with a couple caveats: 1) Each deal must forge a true contender, and 2) These are trades I would like to see, not that might happen (or that you think will benefit your team).
One of them — Memphis Grizzlies big man Xavier Tillman to the Boston Celtics — happened before we hit publish, so at least we know I'm not entirely off-base (at least when it comes to NBA trades). Here goes ...
Lakers add 3-and-D specialists
To TOR: D'Angelo Russell, 2029 first-round pick (Lakers) • Dariq Whitehead (Nets)
To BKN: Gabe Vincent, Jalen Hood-Schifino, 2028 first-round pick swap (Lakers) • 2024 first-round pick (least favorable of Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, L.A. Clippers or Utah Jazz via Raptors)
The Lakers are the contender furthest on the fringes, unless you still believe in the Golden State Warriors, so you might think they need the most help even though they have two All-Stars, one of whom is LeBron James.
There are real questions about how heavy a burden Anthony Davis and a 39-year-old James can carry through four playoff rounds, so let's give them some help, and who better than two of the best 3-and-D role players in the game. Finney-Smith is back to shooting better than 38% from 3-point range this season, and Brown's ability to both handle the ball and move without it makes up for his two-year decline from distance.
As much as Brown and Finney-Smith might open the floor for James and Austin Reaves to work around Davis in the pick-and-roll, the existing trio of untouchable Lakers would create as many wide-open shots for a pair of players with proven playoff mettle. Brown was a key to the Denver Nuggets' title run last season, and Finney-Smith was a flamethrower on the Dallas Mavericks' trip to the 2022 Western Conference finals.
And imagine a defense anchored by Davis that features Brown and Finney-Smith on the perimeter and James roaming on full tilt. That is enough to restore the Lakers to elite status, even if Reaves is a target.
Are the Raptors and Nets getting enough in return?
Toronto gets Russell, who might still hold some value next season, an unprotected first-round pick from the Lakers in 2029 (the crown jewel) and Whitehead, Brooklyn's 19-year-old first-round pick, who recently underwent season-ending surgery on his left shin. Flipping Russell for another pick at some point could expand the return for Pascal Siakam to four first-rounders, the best of which could come from the Lakers.
Brooklyn, meanwhile, flips its struggling 2023 first-round pick (Whitehead) for another (Hood-Schifino) and adds something close to the two first-round picks the team covets for Finney-Smith — a lottery-protected swap with the Lakers in 2028 and a late first-round pick, likely from the Clippers or Thunder, via the Raptors. Vincent is an added bonus, the kind of gritty two-way guard who might fit nicely alongside Mikal Bridges.
Knicks make blockbuster deal for Butler
Pat Riley might rather sell his soul than complete this deal, but the Knicks are one star short of serious title contention, and in order to get them there, I'm leaning harder into head coach Tom Thibodeau's maniacal mission and delivering him a favorite son — Butler, a bully who followed Thibs from Chicago to Minnesota.
I cannot even fathom how frightened opponents might be walking into Madison Square Garden, getting hit with a wave of Butler, Jalen Brunson, OG Anunoby, Josh Hart and every other dog protecting Thibodeau's backyard. This is a New York fever dream and maybe Boston's nightmare. Engage Butler in that building without the proper amount of fear, and you're going to lose even worse than if you came in scared as s***.
Why would the Heat do this deal? Butler has led them to three straight Eastern Conference finals, including two NBA Finals, but he is 34 years old, and they are hovering around .500 again. There is a cliff ahead, and Miami might want to get off it before Butler picks up his $52.4 million player option on the 2025-26 season.
In the process, the Heat would get all they need to chase Miami's next superstar — the unprotected rights to four straight first-round picks, plus Randle, who, need we remind you, is a two-time All-NBA performer.
Thunder get a big man for playoff push
To WAS: Dāvis Bertāns, two second-round picks and cash (Oklahoma City)
I don't want to mess with the Thunder too much, since their young core is prepared to contend for years to come. Chet Holmgren is every bit as good as Oklahoma City projected him to be. Jalen Williams is so much better than you thought he would be. And Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is as incredible as you ever imagined.
They are deep as hell, too. Lu Dort is a defensive stalwart at the point of attack. Cason Wallace looks like another draft gem. Josh Giddey's high usage and low efficiency are a bit misfit, but he has value. Isaiah Joe is a weapon from deep. Tre Mann barely even plays, and he is good. Oklahoma City just needs more size.
The addition of Gafford wouldn't rock the boat. He is averaging a double-double per 36 minutes, finishing 70% of his attempts from a severely limited range for his career. More importantly, he is stacking a career-high 2.1 blocks per game on top of those statistics, contesting eight shots around the rim per game in the process. Gafford has experience as a starter and reserve; he could pair with Holmgren's size or spell him.
The Wizards are tanking, so saving several million and adding two of OKC's 10,000 picks is easy work.
To PHI: DeMar DeRozan (Chicago Bulls)
To CHI: Marcus Morris Sr., Robert Covington (Philadelphia) • Richaun Holmes, 2026 first-round pick (Dallas) • 2026 first-round pick (least favorable of Houston, Oklahoma City or the Clippers via Philadelphia) • 2025 second-round pick (Toronto via Philadelphia)
This might generate two contenders, depending on the health of Joel Embiid and the ceiling in Dallas.
The Bulls need to stop treading water and trade their dudes. Who are they kidding? Zach LaVine is injured for the season, taking him off the table and (theoretically) limiting Chicago's upside, if there ever was any. Treading water only delays the inevitable teardown and possibly risks a worse return further down the line.
DeRozan can be a free agent at season's end. That is bad for the Bulls, who could lose him for nothing, and good for the Sixers, who must maintain salary cap flexibility this summer. Toss two picks in the 25-45 range and a couple expiring contracts Chicago's way, and Philadelphia lands a third star-caliber scorer, assuming Embiid rehabs his knee for the playoffs. DeRozan can cause some spacing and defensive issues — nothing Tyrese Maxey and a healthy Embiid can't cover up — but he's averaging a 22-4-5 on his lowest usage in a decade. DeRozan is a criminally underrated 34-year-old basketball professional, especially on the cheap.
That actually undersells Caruso, who might be the most coveted role player at the deadline. He is a defensive stopper who is shooting better than 40% on more than four 3-point attempts a night. 3. And. D.
Dosunmu showed exceptional promise as a rookie, lost his confidence last season and is beginning to regain it this year. He is averaging a 15-3-3 on 56/42/71 shooting splits in eight games since LaVine went down for the season. The Bulls have always pushed him to the back burner, and he might be had at just the right time in his career. He tries on defense, and he can hit open shots, which should come from Dončić.
For their trouble, the Bulls land Hardy, two first-round picks, including limited protections from Dallas, and what should be a high-end second-rounder — all for a few players that may not be in any longterm plans.
Chicago probably waives Morris, too, leaving room for an always-fun twin reunion in Dallas.
Suns snag a sleeper
To PHX: Kris Dunn (Utah Jazz)
You have surely been sleeping on Dunn.
The former top-10 pick was essentially out of the league for the past three seasons, playing 40 games in that span, when he was traded twice, waived once and signed to five 10-day contracts. In March 2023, he earned a rest-of-season deal in Utah, where in 66 games over 12 months he has averaged 7.9 points (on 51/43/75 splits), 4.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 combined steals and blocks in 20.5 minutes per game.
His playmaking and shooting are as improved as the numbers illustrate. He has learned to cut better without the ball. And his defense is as good as ever — an absolute terror on opposing ball-handlers.
There are no better cheap fits for the Suns, who need nothing more from Dunn than dirty work. They have Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal to do the rest. They also have nothing to offer but a minimum contract and two second-round picks, which may be enough, unless the league stopped sleeping on Dunn.