Clippers

The NBA’s Best Trade Piece Right Now is Being… Forgotten?

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With the constant murmurs, if not shouts, of Zach LaVine and Pascal Siakam being on the trade block, we’ve forgotten about the most valuable piece available right now. In late September, Shams announced that “After contract extension negotiations stalled out, Buddy Hield and the Indiana Pacers started dialogue to work on finding a potential trade.”

It’s no secret that Buddy Hield is one of the best long-range scorers ever. What is the most valuable asset in the modern game? Shooting. Plain and simple. The ability to draw out defenders, stretch the floor, and allow better looks for your best players will remain an integral part of the game for the foreseeable future. No-one in the league does this better than Buddy Hield right now.

According the Basketball Reference, Buddy Hield holds the record for most three-pointers made by a player in their first 100 games. He also holds the record for most three-pointers made in their first 200 games. And 300. He also happens to own the same record for 400. And 500. He’s well on his way to achieving that same mark for every set  of 100 games he plays for the rest of his career.

Unsurprisingly, there is an innate need for that type of three-point scoring, on that volume. Teams like the Lakers, Nuggets, and Timberwolves, seeds 8, 3, and 1 respectively, all place in the bottom 10 teams for three-point field goals made. Other contenders such as the Clippers and 76ers also sit below average in three-point field goals made.

Since the 2014-15 season, the beginning of the three-point and analytics era, seven of the nine eventual winners of the championship were top 10 in this stat. Only once in this era has a team won a championship whilst being a bottom 10 three-point field goals made team. That was the 2019-20 Lakers. However, that same Lakers team was SECOND in the Playoffs with 254 total made. The Heat, their competition in that finals run? They were first.

With this key statistical evidence in mind, the true contenders NEED to make a move if they are serious about contending.

Philadelphia 76ers

With their newly-acquired assets from the James Harden trade, the 76ers have been involved in numerous rumors for NBA stars– including Zach LaVine. Personally, I don’t believe LaVine fits what the 76ers are trying to do. Tyrese Maxey‘s emergence as an all-NBA caliber player has made it clear they need the ball in his hands as much as possible. They also have the reigning MVP, I think he’s pretty decent. His names Joel Embiid.

Their squad is rounded out with solid 3&D players such as Tobias Harris, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum and Kelly Oubre Jr. The final piece is to add an all-time knockdown shooter, allowing Embiid and Maxey all the room they want, inside and out. The most shocking part is, it’s not even going to cost them one of their key players or major draft capital. Its a low risk, high reward deal that they need to seek out immediately.

Here’s what i’m thinking:

76ers Receive:

Buddy Hield (1yr/$19.2M)

Jordan Nwora (1yr/$3.0M)

 

Pacers Receive:

Marcus Morris Sr. (1yr/$17.1M)

Kenyon Martin Jr (1yr/$1.9M)

Paul Reed (3yrs/$22.8M)

2026 1st Round Pick (via 76ers, unprotected)

2024 2nd Round Pick (Best of Jazz, Pacers, Raptors, Cavaliers)

2027 2nd Round Pick (via 76ers, unprotected)

 

For the 76ers, they add the final piece for this years championship run, whilst maintaining the cap-space that allows them to re-sign Hield long term, and still have a max spot available for the summer. Imagine a lineup of Tyrese Maxey, Buddy Hield, Kelly Oubre, Nicolas Batum, and Joel Embiid on the offensive end. Sounds enthralling right? What about on defense? Well, what about a Patrick Beverly, De’anthony Melton, Robert Covington, Mo Bamba, Joel Embiid.

The Pacers get additional draft capital. They can either elect to further round out their impressive young core, or flip it to buy another piece. They also receive a solid young player on a great value-for-production deal in Paul Reed. They also add the youthful Kenyon Martin Jr, who perfectly fir their run and gun offensive philosophy, with great defensive upside with his length is athletic gifts.

 

Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis was meant to receive the torch from LeBron James three years ago. After his performance in the teams’ historic 2020 NBA playoffs run, culminating in a championship, the NBA world thought he was no doubt ready for whenever father time caught up to LeBron. Sure, LeBron has lost a half step or so in the last two seasons, but he is still arguably a top 10 player in the league at 39. In this time, Davis has struggled to stay on the floor, and when he does his inconsistency has plagued any hope of him being the true 1st option on a perennial contender.

The Lakers don’t have much longer left with LeBron. They need to capitalize on his greatness right now. They showed their willingness to do that last trade deadline, mortgaging their future draft capital in a number of trades that lead them on a remarkable run post-trade-deadline.

But, with the team failing to reach the expectations of a fantastic offseason, Pelinka needs to try again. And they can’t make a mistake this time.

All of LeBron James’ championship teams have been surrounded by lethal outside shooters. This is the time tested recipe for LeBron, and it has been for over a decade now. Think Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mathew Dellavadova, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. After their championship run in 2020, the Lakers seemed to forget what got them to the top; outside shooting. They allowed Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroeder to walk in free agency. Eek. They traded Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma for Russell Westbrook. Even bigger eek.

They made some strides towards the return of their championship formula, signing Cameron Reddish, Christian Wood, Gabe Vincent, Tau’rean Prince. They re-upped Austin Reaves and trade deadline acquisitions (Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell) on long term deals. But so far, none of these guys have been shooting from downtown with the volume and marksmanship necessary to be a reliable playoff option.

You would think the Lakers (who have used all their tradeable first round picks until 2030) would have no running in the Buddy Hield sweepstakes, right? Wrong. In the recent NBA draft, the Lakers picked up an exciting, young, high-ceiling talent. Indiana’s very own Jalen Hood-Schifino with the 17th overall pick.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

 

Lakers Receive:

Buddy Hield (1yr/$19.2M)

 

Pacers Receive:

Gabe Vincent (3yrs/$31.5M)

Jalen Hood-Schifino (4yrs/$15.4M) ) (+TO)

2024 2nd Round Pick (via Clippers, unprotected)

2025 2nd Round Pick (via Lakers, unprotected)

 

Again, The Pacers add a fantastic young piece to join their foundational core. They also get a great backup point guard who can stretch the floor and do a little playmaking. On top of that, they also add some much-needed championship experience and veteran presence to their young locker room.

This trade, put simply, addresses the Lakers dire need of outside scoring and floor stretching. They already have two All-NBA (and All-Defensive) caliber players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Now they add arguably the greatest outside scorer ever? Wow.

 

Minnesota Timberwolves

As of the time of writing, the Timberwolves have finally hit their much-anticipated ‘groove’.  Their combination of size, length, defense, playmaking and selfless culture has proven versatile and elite through their first 20+ games of the season.

Most importantly, what looked like one of the worst trades in NBA history according to experts, is not looking so bad anymore. Rudy Gobert is back his to DPOY self from Utah. This is undoubtedly thanks to his teammates, who have fully bought in on the defensive end. For the first time in his career, Rudy Gobert only has to play HIS role on the defensive end.

Anthony Edwards has taken that all-NBA jump many experts predicted. Mike Conley‘s cool, calm and reliable playmaking has shone through in the clutch seemingly without fail.

The only thing they are missing? Outside scoring. Sure, Karl-Anthony Towns is probably the best three-point shooting big in the history of the league, and Anthony Edwards is an above-average shooter now. But outside of that? They don’t have much. This is further compounded by the two-big lineup they run, allowing defenders to double-team shooters due to the non-existent shooting of Rudy Gobert. That isn’t a knock on Rudy; we knew this as a fact in the lead up to his trade. We never expected an outside presence from him. BUT, the fact remains: he is a non-threat from outside the paint.

Similarly to the aforementioned teams, Buddy Hield looms as the perfect addition for the Timberwolves. He may be the difference-maker for them being ‘pretenders’ or ‘contenders’. Right now, they are the number one ranked defense in basketball, and the 19th ranked offense. Time has proven that to be crowned champions in June, you almost always have to be ranked top 10 in offense AND defense. The defense if there, but theoffense is missing something: Shooting.

Here’s a mock:

Timberwolves Receive:

Buddy Hield (1yr/$19.2M)

 

Pacers Receive:

Kyle Anderson (1yr/$9.2M)

Shake Milton (2yrs/$10M)

Leonard Miller (4yrs/$7.2M) (+TO)

2024 1st Round Pick Swap (Best of Pacers/Timberwolves)

2028 1st Round Pick Swap (Best of Pacers/Timberwolves)

2030 1st Round Pick Swap (Best of Pacers/Timberwolves)

 

The Pacers receive a great, do-it-all role playing piece off the bench in Kyle Anderson. As part of the deal, they receive a solid backup PG to stretch the floor in Shake Milton. They also add an underrated, high ceiling young player in Leonard Miller, someone whom I was extremely high on in the recent draft. They also get three first-round pick swaps over the next 6 years. Right now the Timberwolves are significantly better than the Pacers in the standings. It appears they will just keep their own pick, at least for this year.

However, the swaps in 2028 and 2030 could prove incredible value. That’s over 4 and 6 years away. Think about it this way: six years ago, Russell Westbrook won his first MVP alongside Paul George in Oklahoma City. Hassan Whiteside was being touted as the future of the league. Yeah, that long ago. The fact remains that so much can change. Extremely fast too, as tragically learnt by the Nets in the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts.

With an aging Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, and Karl-Anthony Towns the center of trade talksthis past offseason, now is go time. Let’s say Mike Conley leaves this year in free agency. The offense could revert back to its clanky, ugly past self. Karl-Anthony Towns grows tired of not winning after nearly a decade in the cold of Minnesota, and asks out. Father time catches up with Rudy Gobert, and his regression paired with his contract prohibit the teams from making improvements. Anthony Edwards is hailed the future, but after another few years without success, he leaves at the end of his contract to go to a real contender.

I’m not saying this is going to happen, i’m just saying it could. There’s an infinite number of possibilities, and a lot can change very fast.

For the Timberwolves, despite the risks of the future, you need to buy in, and fast. This teams aging core and lack of any draft capital means their championship window is small and ever-shrinking. Worst part is, they possess little to no way to improve their roster. They have over $674 million tied into their core. It’s time to capitalize on this success NOW rather than wait and regret it down the line.

 

Check out more stories from The Lead, available now!

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About Nic Thomas

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