The NBA’s Dec. 15 trade non-deadline is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s basically the day when players who signed contracts in the offseason can finally be moved in trades. Every year people pretend as if this opens the floodgates of player movement in some kind of second offseason moment. In reality, trades are almost never made on Dec. 15, and we’re almost certainly still likely to be in something of a holding pattern until the actual trade deadline in February. Is that going to stop me from conjuring up some fake trades? Absolutely not! Onward!
Lakers get: Kyle Kuzma, Delon Wright
Wizards get: Patrick Beverley, Kendrick Nunn, 2029 First Round Pick (Top 3 protected), A Future Second
Let’s get started in Los Angeles, which has been rumored to be interested in a reunion with Kyle Kuzma. The Kuz can be a free agent this summer thanks to an opt out, which makes him a prime candidate to be traded from a Wizards team in free fall. (Washington has lost 11 of its last 12 games and Bradley Beal is injured.)
The Lakers make this move because Russell Westbrook off the bench has actually gone well, and now they can split up their tradeable first-round picks in separate moves to try to add as many quality rotation pieces as possible. Does this trade make the Lakers a title contender? No, they would need to do more. But! Kuzma has experience playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and now AD is actually playing center, which should help Kuzma stay on the floor for longer. Wright is a bit of a steal here and probably even wishful thinking on my part. Though he has been injured for most of this season, Wright brought a steady hand to the Hawks last year. He can play both on and off the ball in bench lineups, and he would be a massive offensive upgrade over Beverley.
Is a protected first enough for Washington? The Lakers pick is appealing because of the team’s boom or bust nature and LeBron’s age. The Wiz may not get a more attractive pick offered if teams think Kuzma is leaving anyway. Meanwhile, Wright has barely been a part of this season and by the time he gets back it could be practically lost already. I don’t imagine he’ll fetch a first. Bev and Nunn most likely become buyout candidates, though it’s not inconceivable one or both could be moved for another second-round pick if a contender gets desperate.
Warriors Get: Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr.
Bulls Get: James Wiseman, Ryan Rollins
Look, I have no idea how to gauge James Wiseman’s trade value. Do teams see him as a talented big caught in the worst possible situation? Or do teams see him as a faltering prospect who can’t make it work next to Stephen Curry? If the Bulls believe the former, this fake trade could have some legs.
Caruso would be incredibly fun on Golden State. He’s a do-everything glue guy. He can shoot well enough to stay on the floor, he’s smart enough to work within the motion offense, and he’ll bring back some of the defensive tenacity the team lost with Gary Payton II’s departure in the offseason. He’s a no-brainer fit. And don’t sleep on DJJ! Jones Jr. is basically a rim-running big trapped in a small forward’s body. He won’t fix the struggling backup frontcourt, and it could be tricky to fit him into lineups at times, but his athleticism is begging to be unlocked by the right team.
Wiseman is obviously the prize for Chicago here. With Nikola Vucevic on an expiring deal and a trade candidate in his own right, Wiseman could finally get a chance to grow in a consistent starting role. Perhaps playing out of the spotlight and without the pressure of a championship chase is what Wiseman needs to realize his potential. With Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and maybe even Zach LaVine on the trade block, Chicago has an opportunity to kickstart a rebuild with both picks, and a lottery talent in Wiseman. If the Bulls are ready to take a wrecking ball to their underachieving roster, they could do worse than moving somewhat longer-term money in Caruso for a former No. 2 pick.
Suns get: Cedi Osman, Dylan Windler
Cavaliers get: Jae Crowder
Let’s just end the Jae Crowder saga once and for all. I’m going to be honest, could Phoenix do better? Almost certainly. The point I want to make here is I want to see Cleveland get Crowder or a Crowder type. The Cavs are very good and, if things break right, could find themselves in the conference finals. They are still searching for the right fifth piece to put around their young core. Crowder may not be a perfect fit or a long-term option. Yet his playoff experience and veteran savvy could give Cleveland a much needed bump.