Every time a big name player makes a move, the media explodes. Suddenly, the world heralds the end of his former team, and the birth of his new one. If anyone doesn’t believe me, I’ll put you on a conference call with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, they’ll tell you all about it. In this particular era of basketball, it seems as though stars move a lot more than they used to. Really, the only firm staples of any team in the league are guys like Pierce, Kobe, Tim Duncan, and sort of Dirk. So with every superstar moving around, things sort of balance out, right? Oddly enough, no. Evidence of this is super teams like the Heat or Lakers. (OK, the Lakers in theory.) In fact, I expect this pattern to continue on into the future. There is a steady trend of great players being given up for a number of “meh” players, plus some meaningless draft picks. Usually this is due to locker-room issues created or enflamed by the big name player, with the GM ready to get him out of there. If the star isn’t given up for a few role players, they just sort of stroll out in free agency. (Inspired by fellow BustaSports contributor Ben Pickman) I have composed a number of trades that would eradicate this problem. They must follow the following rules: a) The trade must be a player for player swap, b) Both players involved in the trade must be a major star in the league or their team, c) The trades don’t have to make any sense at all, d) In fact, it is pretty preferable that the trades don’t make any sense at all. Oh, and please don’t hate me Spurs fans.
Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving for Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook
Say what you want about this deal, but it might be the only thing on the face of the planet capable of cracking the code that is Russell Westbrook. Just take a look at what it does. Russell Westbrook needs his own team. I’ve been saying it since I watched him in the finals, and I’m saying it now. Durant and Westbrook get along fine, and I believe that they will have success in the future. But if OKC wanted to get rid of him, Cleveland would be the place to do so. Westbrook could finally be the man. Considering there is next to no talent whatsoever on the Cavs roster, I could see Westbrook average 40 points per night. I’m not kidding. He could fire off all the ill-advised threes he wanted, and still wins games. The thing about Westbrook is that he plays his best basketball when he is taking over. When KD cools off, and someone needs to step up, 9 times out of 10, it’s Westbrook. And he comes up big. Regardless of how much sense this actually makes, you have to admit it would be cool to just turn Westbrook lose on some terrible team with nothing to lose. He could truly play up to his potential in a situation in which he had clearance to do just about whatever he wants. Cleveland would be the place to go. From there, surround him with quick backcourt, and rebounding machines in the paint. Ladies and Gentlemen, Cleveland Cavaliers: 2016 NBA Champions. You’re welcome.
Meanwhile in Oklahoma City, Kyrie Irving would also be having a field day. The young star would fit in perfectly with Kevin Durant, and I believe the two of them would be the best duo in the NBA within their first 5 games together. Westbrook always got a bad reputation for being an infrequent or reckless passer. Regardless if those accusations are true, nobody does it like Kyrie. Irving would be able to get the ball to his teammates better than Westbrook ever did, all while possessing Westbrook’s quality of taking over games when necessary. It’s hard to be anywhere as close to Kevin Durant in the clutch category. Kyrie Irving is among the elite few players that are near him in that regard. Imagine the poor team that has to cover Durant and Irving in crunch time! OKC isn’t exactly known for having an awesome bench, but with Kyrie’s passing and constant desire to involve everybody, the sky is the limit. Just think of a Thunder team in which the front office builds around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. What a scary thought. A move like that could leave the Cavs looking bright for the future, and the Thunder competitive forever.
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love for Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin
I really like the idea of this deal mostly because of the types of the players that Love and Griffin are. Kevin Love is an incredible shooter, and proved it to the world by winning the 3 point contest last year. Blake Griffin is an incredible dunker and proved that to the world by winning the dunk contest. Love lacks an extreme paint presence while defenders brace themselves for a poster every time Griffin comes speeding up the court. That Kia in all of his commercials plays better defense than Blake Griffin, but Kevin Love can lock you down like Fort Knox. The list goes on. Each man has the weaknesses of the other down as strengths. Meanwhile, both of their teams could probably use what the other has to offer. While some teammates would flourish, co-stars may become second fiddles. For example, think of Kevin Love in a Clippers uniform. I could see him and DeAndre Jordan becoming quite a pair. Think of all the rebounds. LA would have the rare pleasure of a big man that can hurt you from three-point land, as well as a monster off the glass and in the paint. This exemplifies how Love would also fit in nicely with Coach Vinny Del Negro’s game plan of shooting a hack of a lot of threes. While these aspects of Love’s game would certainly help the Clippers, what would it do for All-Star point guard Chris Paul? To put it simply, probably not much. After watching him play, I am fully convinced there isn’t a scenario in the NBA that Chris Paul couldn’t help out. That being said, he probably wouldn’t be used to his full potential. His assist total and scoring would go down considerably with Kevin Love hanging around. Blake Griffin is probably the number one reason Chris Paul is known for being the king of assists. An alley-oop is an instant assist. And if there’s one thing the two of them do well together, its alley-oops. While Love isn’t much of a dunker, Paul still be dishing him considerable dimes, just not as many as before. Being as big as he is, combined with surprising speed, and the ability to decently create his own shot, Kevin Love would need to depend less on Paul for the ball and more his own skill. Also, the scoring load would be removed from Chris Paul. In short, Love to the Clippers would result in a basketball game that is less fun to watch, but a far more successful team in the long run.
While Kevin Love and Chris Paul are busy raising a banner out in LA, what’s going on in Minnesota? More than you might think. To be honest, this is a deal in which the Timberwolves got the short end of the stick. I understand that Blake Griffin is an All-Star, but I can’t imagine him being half the player he is in literally any other situation than the one he is in LA. I’m not hating, I just find it hard to understand how a player with minimal shooting ability, lackluster defense, and a free-throw percentage that would make Shaq snicker is as successful as he is. If DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are the “twin towers” of the Clippers, those towers are made of bricks. When you look at Griffin’s stats compared to those of Love’s. they are identical, save for the fact Love averages 6 more rebounds per game than Griffin. Understandable, when you’ve got a gentleman such as Jordan in the paint, yet Griffin has a significantly better Player Efficiency Rating than Love. While there is much talking over this stat and many find it to be bogus, the discrepancy is bizarre. How is Blake Griffin more efficient? Chris Paul. Griffin would be pretty useless if he didn’t have star-caliber point guard by his side at all times. When he does, he is a monster. Thankfully, such a point guard happens to be wearing an incredibly broad smile and a Minnesota jersey: Ricky Rubio. Rubio may not be anybody’s Chris Paul, but the paring of the lightning fast Spaniard and Griffin would be nothing short of explosive to watch. Both men have such a high ceiling talent-wise and could really make any team they are on at least a minor threat. Would this translate to playoff success? Not at all. If this mythical version of the T-Wolves, by some unholy miracle, even saw a playoff seed, they would be done in 5 games. And unfortunately, the blame for this falls completely on Blake Griffin. To put it simply, Kevin Love can do it all and Blake Griffin cannot. Don’t get me wrong, Griffin is an excellent player and has found his niche in the NBA as a highflyer. But when the game is on the line, who do the wolves give the ball to? Rubio? Maybe, but despite his great shooting, he has never had to prove he has the infamous “clutch gene”. As for Griffin, the situations he’s been in are ones in which his team was too horrible to even have to worry about crunch time, or a team in which he could just give the ball to Chris Paul. When it is time to lock down a key possession, it’s got to be Love, and not Griffin. When the game is tight and some gets fouled on a drive (something Griffin does quite frequently), I want that someone to be Kevin Love. When the team is up by 15 and running a fast break? That’s when you want Griffin. It is because of this the Timberwolves and Clippers would become the inverse of one another. The Clippers would less exciting but would be legitimate title contenders. In the meantime, the Wolves could change their name to the Globetrotters, but don’t expect much more out of them.
Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard for San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan
I can assure whoever reads this that I am currently washing my hands after even typing such sinful and putrid words on a keyboard. The keyboard will also be burned shortly after the completion of this paragraph. The other trades on the list might be fun to see just for the sake of ridiculousness, but not this one. This would only be popular because it would be like watching a train wreck. It’s there. It’s terrible. You wish it didn’t happen. Yet you can’t look away. And in San Antonio as the Spurs Express thunders down the track, things could go one of two ways:
Option 1: Dwight Howard realizes he has been acting like a chump, looks at the highly successful franchise he is playing for, takes a gander at the professionalism his new teammates display, then follows suit. Gregg Popovich whips him into shape, and while he doesn’t provide the Spurs with that same reliable old school play style they got out of Tim Duncan, his speed, athleticism, and defensive prowess would make him an at least interesting pairing with Tony Parker. I understand that while Howard is playing like a shell of his former self, a center averaging 16 and 12 isn’t a terrible center. And if anyone knows about the big guys, it’s the man who coached Tim Duncan for the last 15 years. The best part is, we’ve seen Gregg Popovich and Dwight Howard together in action At the All-Star game. We as fans don’t have to imagine what it would be like: a horrible failure. In fact, if I remember correctly, Gregg Popovich weaved a tapestry of infinite profanity so great and complex, it rivaled the Sistine chapel in intricacy and artistic inspiration, and has never been replicated by man or machine since that day. This sailor mouthed symphony was direct at the Lakers big man after he was caught goofing around during a timeout. This entire story is an excellent tangent into…
Option 2: Dwight Howard keeps on having a lousy season and does nothing to change his attitude. His brings his goofy love for glitz and glamour into the San Antonio locker-room. In case you didn’t know, the Spurs are not the Miami Heat. They are not the Los Angeles Clippers. They aren’t even Warriors. And to be honest, they make the Grizzlies look like a bunch of girl scouts. What’s my point? The Spurs are a team based off of grit and toughness. Hard knocks, careful possessions and fundamentals make up basketball in San Antonio. None of those things are major points of Dwight Howards game. Don’t get me wrong, I think of Dwight Howard as a good person and an excellent basketball player, but San Antonio would cramp his style too much for him to be effective. He would butt heads with Coach Pop, which would mark the end of his time in a Spurs uniform immediately.
If you ask me, Option 2 is the most likely scenario here. I just have a hard time seeing a player like Dwight Howard being very effective in an environment like the one in San Antonio. So Spurs fans, just be glad this could never happen in a million years.
While Dwight Howard and the gang are stinking up the AT&T Center, things are going quite differently in Lala Land. Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, and Kobe Bryant have formed the most effective trio in the league, and while the locker-room is starting to look like a nursing home, the vibe in there has never been better. All court action aside, Kobe, Nash, and Duncan are three of the most professional guys left in the league. You aren’t going to hear about fighting going on, there isn’t going to a media explosion every 20 minutes, and trade rumors will be at a minimum. Tim Duncan’s PER currently rests at 24.25, a solid 6 points above Dwight Howards. And while he is out-muscled by Howard, Duncan only brings in 3 less rebounds per game. Finally, Tim Duncan is all about the fundamentals, which is the reason he actually scores more than Howard does in a game. Duncan’s infinite selection of post moves would make up for his lack of pure bulk. In case you don’t believe me, Duncan is 7th in league-wide PER. Dwight Howard is 46th. Add in Kobe with a PER of 23.52 which puts him in 11th in the entire league, followed by Steve Nash, one of the best distributors to ever step on the court, and suddenly you have a Lakers team that is a machine. I expect a group like that to easily exceed 50 wins in a season, and become a real threat to anyone else in the Western conference. Anything besides a top 3 playoff seed would be shocking for this group, and they would go on to make some serious playoff noise.
*Assuming Blake Griffin doesn’t get a hold of me first, Part II coming soon*