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1 Risk Every NBA Team Should Take This Season

Zach Buckley

Risk-takers can wind up being trendsetters in the NBA.

Remember when people thought jump-shooting teams couldn't win the title? Well, that notion was buried beneath the Golden State Warriors' mountain of titles. Nowadays, even having two non-shooters on the floor at one time can cause an offense to completely malfunction.

Daring teams may not always be rewarded in this fashion, but those that are overly risk-averse can miss out on opportunities and potentially stagnate.

From trade options to lineup decisions, we're laying out one risk worth taking for every team during the upcoming 2023-24 season.

Atlanta Hawks: Find 30-Plus Minutes for Jalen Johnson

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While everyone seemingly awaits Atlanta's inevitable change at center from Clint Capela to Onyeka Okongwu, there is another path to making this frontcourt more dynamic. Finding starter-level minutes (if not a starting spot altogether) for springy third-year swingman Jalen Johnson would do the trick.

The 6'9", 220-pounder boasts unfair explosion for his size and a sneaky-good eye for passing that could take this offense to the next level. While it sometimes appears he's playing too fast for his own good, that extra gear will be wildly beneficial once he becomes polished to the point of knowing exactly when, where and how to engage it.

The Hawks have a slew of three-and-D forwards—De'Andre Hunter, AJ Griffin and Saddiq Bey—and it feels like a safe option to rely on them to support star guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. But those players won't change Atlanta's fortunes, for better or worse.

There would be some risk involved in throwing major minutes at Johnson and hoping he can develop on the fly, but the potential reward of having a do-it-all defender who can drive, dish and finish on the move might justify it.

Boston Celtics: Trading Malcolm Brogdon for Frontcourt Depth

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When the Celtics pursued a Kristaps Porziņģis trade this summer, they first offered up Malcolm Brogdon as their backcourt sacrifice. But his injury issues torpedoed those talks, and Boston wound up using defensive dynamo and emotional leader Marcus Smart instead.

The Shamrocks should still be poking around for ways to flip Brogdon for more frontcourt help, though. There are, after all, reasons they initially deemed him expendable.

His $22.5 million salary is tough to stomach for a sixth man with a rocky health history, and Boston could lean on Derrick White, Payton Pritchard and Dalano Banton to handle the available minutes at point guard.

Boston, in turn, could then focus on improving its depth at other areas. Given the previous health woes of Porziņģis and Robert Williams III, plus the fact that Al Horford turned 37 this summer, the Celtics might understandably want some insurance behind that trio. They've also long lacked significant depth at the wing spots.

Acquiring a player who could fill in both spots or adding multiple players to cover those voids could give this group a bigger lift than a sometimes-available Brogdon can.

Brooklyn Nets: Betting Large on a Damian Lillard Deal

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The Nets seemingly have a rising star in swingman Mikal Bridges, but where does that get them on the hoops hierarchy? Surely not in a position to contend for the crown, since nearly every team has at least two stars on the roster.

Since even the most bullish Brooklyn backer might have trouble identifying a second-star candidate on the roster, the Nets might need to look outside the organization to scratch that itch. Why not bully their way to the front of the line in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes?

Sure, Brooklyn isn't his preferred destination, but the idea he can simply handpick his next destination when he still has four years (and an absurd amount of money) left on his contract feels incredibly ambitious on his part, even in this era of player empowerment.

Does anyone seriously think Lillard would never come around to a future in Brooklyn? He has a "strong relationship" with Bridges, per B/R's Eric Pincus, and the Nets have enough trade assets to satisfy the Portland Trail Blazers' wishes without depleting their roster.

Rather than committing to placement in the Eastern Conference's second tier with Bridges and a bunch of role players, Brooklyn should dream bigger with a Lillard-Bridges tandem potentially positioning this team to contend.

Charlotte Hornets: 25-and-Under Starters Only

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The Hornets, who last made the playoffs in 2016 and last won a postseason series in 2002, should be fully committed to building a young, sustainable core around 22-year-old centerpiece LaMelo Ball.

Step one of that process—and, yes, Charlotte is somehow still stuck on the first step—should involve investing as many minutes into player development as possible.

That means clearing a starting path for Brandon Miller while burying Gordon Hayward and his $31.5 million expiring salary on the bench. It means granting Nick Smith Jr., once regarded as the top recruit in his high school class, the inside track on a potential camp battle with veteran Terry Rozier. It means returning Mark Williams to the starting spot he filled late last season and expanding it to the point he's seeing nearly 30 minutes per night.

The Hornets haven't found nearly enough blue-chip prospects to pair with Ball. That must change now. So, ditch whatever play-in tournament dreams might exist in Buzz City and dive head-first into a youth movement that should have gotten rolling already.

Chicago Bulls: Probe for Win-Now Trades with Patrick Williams

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The Bulls have made several significant commitments to this core, but they've stopped short of going all-in on the present.

If you don't envision a high ceiling for the Zach LaVine-DeMar DeRozan-Nikola Vučević trio, then maybe that's the right move to make. But if Chicago isn't trying to win as big as possible, then what is the end game exactly?

If the Bulls want to give this group the best possible odds of competing, then they have to explore what Patrick Williams' potential would bring back on the trade market. He has had a solid start to his career, but moments of special play have been few and far between for the 2020 draft's No. 4 pick.

If teams out there still envision the 22-year-old as Kawhi Leonard 2.0, then he might anchor the kind of offer that could fetch an impact player who could dramatically change this franchise's fortune.

If teams see Williams as more of a trade sweetener and wouldn't deliver a difference-maker in a deal built around him, then Chicago is better off keeping him around and hoping he can maximize his potential sooner than later.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Find a Standard Contract—and Rotation Minutes—for Emoni Bates

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The Cavs could throw caution to the wind and try trading Jarrett Allen for a wing, but that feels premature. Yes, pairing two non-shooting bigs (Allen and Evan Mobley) looked disastrous in the postseason, but greatly altering a young, ascending roster due to one rough playoff series isn't the step to take.

If anything, Cleveland should try getting even more young players into the mix, and it doesn't have a bigger wild card than Emoni Bates.

A decorated hooper during his high school career, his stock has taken several hits since, but it's still easy to let imaginations run wild over what the 19-year-old may yet become.

He has a lot of holes in his game—defense and distributing atop the list—but he's still a 6'9" shot-maker with handles to free himself and three-level scoring. That's always going to be a tantalizing talent-plus-tools package, no matter how rough the rest of the picture looks.

The Cavs should be investing serious developmental minutes into Bates now, and if he exceeds expectations, maybe he'll be the one who finally becomes the two-way wing needed to complete this roster.

Dallas Mavericks: Cash In Remaining Assets for High-End Center

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The Mavericks had an eventful, productive summer, but the one box that's still unchecked is—literally—a big one. Their center rotation remains entirely uninspiring, as Dereck Lively II may not be ready to contribute, while Dwight Powell and Richaun Holmes have never been confused for difference-making talents.

That's why any time a notable center hits the trade rumor mill, Dallas almost always gets mentioned as a suitor. This summer alone, the Mavs have surfaced in whispers about Deandre Ayton and Clint Capela. Should someone like Myles Turner or Jakob Poeltl hit the trade block, they would surely be listed among their potential landing spots, too.

While this roster has a clear need at center, a trade would carry risks for a lot of reasons. The Mavs might think they can be really good with Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving leading the way, but they rarely flashed high-end potential together last season.

Plus, a deal might deplete what few assets Dallas has left. Still, if the hope is to give Dončić and Irving a chance to compete, then upgrading at the 5 spot is a must.

Denver Nuggets: Give Backup PG Minutes to Jalen Pickett, Not Reggie Jackson

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While the Nuggets lost veterans Bruce Brown and Jeff Green to free agency, they did find the funds needed to keep Reggie Jackson.

In fact, they might have committed more money than needed, as they gave him a two-year, $10.3 million contract despite having just watched him fail to lock down a role in their playoff rotation.

Clearly, they wanted some kind of veteran leadership on what's looking like a super young second unit, but there were reasons they moved away from Jackson in the postseason. He's a score-first point guard who sometimes struggles with efficiency and doesn't bring much to the defensive end.

Denver, which needs a new Swiss Army knife with Brown out of the equation, should opt for versatility and plug in rookie Jalen Pickett as the backup point guard.

The 23-year-old has the handles and bully-ball game to work on either side of a pick-and-roll, and, much like Brown, his length, motor and physicality allow him to play bigger than his size.

Detroit Pistons: Put Bojan Bogdanović on the Trade Block Immediately

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The idea of a future-focused rebuilder trading away a 34-year-old non-star doesn't feel risky in the slightest. It would, however, perhaps torpedo the Pistons' hope of taking a mini-leap next season.

As The Athletic's James L. Edwards III relayed, Detroit "wants to be a team that is in the race for the Play-In Tournament."

Two thoughts come to mind immediately. First, that's a pretty depressing objective. Maybe the young players would appreciate having something to play for, but adding another high lottery pick to this nucleus could be much more beneficial down the line.

Second, if the Pistons are going to be competitive during the 2023-24 campaign, it will have much less to do with Bogdanović's presence than it will the maturation of the Motor City's youth.

If Detroit is getting leap years out of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, while Ausar Thompson hits the ground running, it might make that jump with or without Bogdanović.

Golden State Warriors: Find 25-Plus Minutes for Jonathan Kuminga or Trade Him

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Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 7 pick of the 2021 draft, has flashed star-caliber qualities at times, but he's been confined to those flashes by Golden State's win-now objectives.

The 6'7" swingman has averaged just 18.8 minutes per night over his first two seasons and barely hit the hardwood during the Dubs' latest postseason run.

Back in May, The Athletic's Shams Charania and Anthony Slater reported that Kuminga's camp would discuss his role with the team moving forward and "could seek a trade" if not guaranteed more minutes this season.

But a small bump isn't enough. Kuminga needs his sink-or-swim opportunity in Golden State or elsewhere. If that can't mesh with the club's championship plans, then it's time to flip the 20-year-old for someone who better aligns with this core's timeline.

Houston Rockets: Trade Kevin Porter Jr.

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The idea of Houston trading away Porter should, on the surface at least, be wholly outlandish.

The Rockets remain a rebuilder—despite their aggressive spending this summer—and he just spent his age-22 season posting per-game averages of 19.2 points, 5.7 assists and 5.3 rebounds. Those seem like cornerstone stats.

But Porter played a big part in Houston's lack of passing and defensive deficiencies—two areas the Rockets directly tried to improve this summer. He may have been their starting point guard the past two seasons, but that clearly isn't the plan any longer, as the team just invested $128.5 million (Fred VanVleet) and the No. 4 pick (Amen Thompson) in a pair of primary playmakers.

Theoretically, the Rockets could slide Porter into a sixth-man role, but if the same issues with lack of passing and defensive breakdowns simply carry over into the second unit, what good would that do for Houston's young second-teamers?

The Rockets needed Porter's offense the past few seasons, so they lived with his limitations. That may not be the case any more, so they can let someone else try to tackle turning his obvious talent into winning traits.

Indiana Pacers: Move Buddy Hield to Start Ben Sheppard

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A long-distance marksman like Hield demands constant defensive attention, which opens the floor for everyone else.

For a young Pacers team perhaps ready to start ascending in the Eastern Conference—they went 26-22 when Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner both suited up last season—they could get good mileage out of a knockdown shooter like Hield.

But they might brighten their short- and long-term outlooks even more by trading the 30-year-old for extra help (be that players, draft picks or both) and clearing a starting spot for Sheppard, this summer's No. 26 pick.

As a 22-year-old rookie, he might have the poise and polish needed to make an instant impact. And if he maxes out his development, he could impact the game in more ways than Hield, while perhaps having an elite outside shot of his own (41.5 percent splash rate on high volume last season).

Sheppard shows an advanced feel for the game, which helps him contribute as a secondary playmaker and solid team defender.

Los Angeles Clippers: Pay Whatever It Takes to Land James Harden

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Recent history suggests the Clippers would be taking on a massive amount of risk by pouring every available resource into constructing a contender around oft-injured wings Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

But if they aren't exhaustively trying to win a title with these 30-something stars, then what are they doing?

That's why it makes sense to try reigniting the dead-for-now trade talks with the Philadelphia 76ers regarding Harden. L.A. has long needed an impact lead guard to bring the best out of this roster, and the Beard, who just paced the Association in assists, seems more than qualified for the job.

Harden, George and Leonard are reportedly "kind of on the same page" already, per Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill, so there's reason to believe this trio could make it work.

By taking a decent amount of the shot-creation duties off the shoulders of George and Leonard, maybe that will prove to be the fix that finally keeps them healthy when it matters most.

Los Angeles Lakers: Deal D'Angelo Russell

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The Lakers could have moved on from Russell in free agency, but they brought him back on a two-year, $36 million contract instead. That shows they like him—and they should.

You could argue he's the best point guard on the roster, and if you just went by the numbers, there wouldn't be much of an argument for anyone else.

However, L.A. could soon discover that it doesn't need him. If Gabe Vincent's shooting holds up—33.9 percent for his career, but 37.8 percent in the 2023 playoffs—he's a better on-paper fit with the Lakers' stars, since he doesn't dominate the ball and adds considerably more value on defense.

L.A. also plans to up Austin Reaves' offensive involvement, which could take more touches away from Russell.

Throw in James' many on-ball responsibilities and the chance that first-round rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino proves a quick study, and the Lakers could be well-stocked with ball-handlers without Russell. So, they could wind up increasing their championship chances by dealing him for wing depth.

Memphis Grizzlies: Find Meaningful Minutes for Ziaire Williams

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The Grizzlies previously poked around for impact two-way wings before essentially abandoning the search with this summer's trade for Marcus Smart.

Once Ja Morant gets back from his 25-game suspension, Memphis seemingly plans to play a ton of three-guard lineups with him, Smart and Desmond Bane.

There is plenty of playmaking and quite a scoring punch coming from that trio, but it's light on size and not exactly loaded with shooting. That's a long-winded way of saying that while this group could work, it's hard to imagine this is the answer to the franchise's wing problem.

That's why the Grizzlies should give Williams a real shot to show whether he can be the solution. Granted, he hasn't moved the needle much since arriving as the No. 10 pick of the 2021 draft, but his tools remain enticing, and this will only be his age-22 season.

The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor once wrote that Williams had "go-to-scorer potential" with a "dynamic handle" and "playmaking upside," so Memphis would be wise to take a longer look at his potential.

Miami Heat: Get a Damian Lillard Deal Done

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Two-plus months have passed since Lillard requested a trade away from the Portland Trail Blazers and to the Heat. Yet, he's still stuck in the Pacific Northwest, while Miami remains without the perimeter shot-creator who could take the team to a championship level.

Even worse, it sounds like trade talks between the teams are merely cricket chirps. That means whatever Miami has put on the table thus far hasn't been enough to sway Portland. That needs to change.

The Heat, who don't have a ton of time to win a title with Jimmy Butler in his prime, should be at the whatever-you-need stage of negotiation. Beyond Butler and Bam Adebayo, they should be open to discussing any and all available assets.

Miami might deplete its depth in the process, but it would be worth it to build basketball's next Big Three.

Plus, history suggests this coaching staff and front office could uncover a new batch of hidden gems and mold them into playoff-ready rotation players by season's end.

Milwaukee Bucks: Trade MarJon Beauchamp's Potential for 2023-24 Production

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The Bucks need more athleticism and could use a jolt of youthful energy to help power them through the upcoming marathon.

Beauchamp, last summer's No. 24 pick, is a 22-year-old who just so happens to count athleticism and energy as his two greatest strengths.

So, why would Milwaukee be better off trading him away? Because his shooting limitations are so severe that they could prevent him from ever logging serious minutes alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. And since the Bucks lean on their perennial MVP candidate as much as they can, there's only so much a player can do if he can't share the court with the Greek Freak.

The Bucks, whose urgency should be off the charts after Antetokounmpo said he's not ready to commit to the organization long-term, have too much at stake to hope the light bulb suddenly clicks for Beauchamp's shooting.

They should capitalize on whatever his trade value is and send him packing for someone they know will fit with the franchise face.

Minnesota Timberwolves: Get Leonard Miller into the Rotation

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With both Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels on the roster, Minnesota's future should appear blindingly bright. The fact that it doesn't is the latest damage done by last summer's disastrous Rudy Gobert trade.

The Timberwolves lack both the talent needed to contend for the crown and the roster-building resources to acquire it. This club is going nowhere fast—it might be good next season, but it won't be great—so it should focus on developing what little young talent it has.

Leonard Miller, this summer's No. 33 pick, should be front and center of this development plan. Most areas of his game lack seasoning, but the Wolves should be ready, willing and eager to apply it.

His upside is drool-worthy—a 6'10" do-it-all forward—and Minnesota should give him every opportunity to become a long-term building block.

New Orleans Pelicans: Find a New Center

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Jonas Valančiūnas is a rock-solid center in a vacuum. In New Orleans, though, he is far from the ideal fit with Zion Williamson.

The best big to pair with Williamson is one who can protect the paint, defend on the perimeter and consistently make outside shots. Valančiūnas plays a more traditional style built around brute force and back-to-the-basket scoring. He doesn't have much explosion, lacks the lateral quickness to defend in space and shoots too low of a volume from three to pull defenders out of the paint.

New Orleans needs to find an alternative, since the answer almost certainly isn't squeezing 30-plus minutes per outing out of Larry Nance Jr.

Myles Turner would be ideal, but if he's off the market, the Pelicans could settle for a non-spacer like Clint Capela, who would be enough of a defensive upgrade to offset his offensive limitations.

New York Knicks: Trade a Frontcourt Starter

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The Knicks don't necessarily need to risk anything, as they've built a competitive roster and remain positioned to trade for a difference-maker should the right star reach the market.

Then again, New York might have too much overlap in its frontcourt to maximize the players it already has.

RJ Barrett and Julius Randle are both inside-the-arc scorers. Mitchell Robinson's scoring range doesn't stretch far beyond the restricted area. Simply seeing those three operate together is enough to make you feel a little claustrophobic.

With little reason to believe any of them will suddenly morph into a quantity-plus-quality marksman from distance, the Knicks could dangle one in hopes of better balancing the roster. Subtract any one for a better fit, and the two left behind could benefit immensely.

Barrett's creation could level up with more room to attack, Randle might be a nightmare matchup in a well-spaced offense, and Robinson could be unguardable at the basket if he's taking off from a clean runway.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Cash In Some Trade Chips for an Impact Player

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At some point in the near future, the Thunder will finally hit the fast-forward button and move into the accelerated phase of their rebuild. There have been no indications that time is now, but why couldn't it be?

Oklahoma City made significant strides this past season, and the arrow is still pointing up. Between the addition of a healthy Chet Holmgren, the arrival of yet another lottery pick (Cason Wallace) and the further refinement of the returning roster, it could have all the pieces in place to compete for a low-end playoff spot.

The Thunder could dare to dream bigger, though. They are so loaded with picks and prospects that they could cobble together a handful to acquire a plug-and-play star and still have one of the league's richest asset collections.

They probably also know they won't be able to pay all of these young players when they eventually graduate out of their rookie contracts, so consolidating some could help balance the budget and improve the on-court product.

Orlando Magic: Give the Lottery Picks Major Minutes

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After playing .500 basketball over last season's final four months, the Magic might have some ambitions on climbing the Eastern Conference ladder this time around. That could make them a touch hesitant to lean heavily on lottery picks Anthony Black and Jett Howard, especially since each has at least one reliable veteran presumably ahead of them on the depth chart.

Orlando should ignore that hesitation. Maybe it means taking a half-step backward now—though, if Black and Howard are quick learners, it might not—but it would still be worth it for the two (or more) steps forward in the future.

Black's two-way playmaking and Howard's lights-out shooting sure look like need-fillers with this roster. And if the Magic are comfortable playing both heavy minutes from the start, then they could dangle some more established players at their positions (Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Gary Harris) for assets that will help bulk up other areas of the roster down the line.

Philadelphia 76ers: Risk It All for Damian Lillard

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Joel Embiid being laser-locked on a championship quest is objectively a great thing for the 76ers. Here's what isn't, though: His admission that said title run could take place "in Philly or anywhere else."

That comment should have put this front office on notice. If the Sixers aren't fully committed to building a championship roster around him, then maybe he won't be fully committed to them moving forward.

That's why Philly should try emptying its asset stash—yes, even if that means losing Tyrese Maxey—for the chance to win the Damian Lillard sweepstakes. With his pick-and-roll prowess and proven ability to perform in the playoffs, he should be an even better fit with Embiid than James Harden has been.

Phoenix Suns: Start Yuta Watanabe

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It's tricky to find a specific risk for the Suns, thanks in no small part to the many risks they've already taken.

Pinning their championship hopes on Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal staying healthy is no small gamble. Neither is holding onto Deandre Ayton when it has so often appeared as if his days in the desert were done.

But Phoenix has placed its bets already, so there aren't many more wagers to take. One that could have some legs, though, is clearing a starting spot for Yuta Watanabe, even if Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop might seem like more obvious choices for the first five.

Watanabe could be the cleanest fit with the Suns stars, though, as the things he does well—defense, hustle and corner-three splashing—should perfectly complement Phoenix's best players.

Portland Trail Blazers: Send Damian Lillard Somewhere Other Than South Beach

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Because Lillard has given the Blazers 11 years of a Hall of Fame career, they might feel some sense of obligation to send him where he wants to go.

They shouldn't. This is a business, after all, and Portland owes itself to make the best business decision possible. If the Blazers really wanted what the Miami Heat have to offer, they'd surely have it by now.

Portland apparently seeks something different, though, which is a totally reasonable stance. Who could argue with the notion that a seven-time All-Star who just netted a career-high 32.2 points per game should be worth more than Tyler Herro, Nikola Jović and a couple draft picks from a franchise that perpetually chases maximum competitiveness?

The Blazers seem confident a better offer is out there, and if that hunch is correct, their future will be better off for them having waited for it.

Sacramento Kings: Package Davion Mitchell and Harrison Barnes for a Two-Way Wing

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When the Kings were trapped in their 16-year playoff drought, they too often sought out quick fixes that predictably never amounted to much. Having finally leveled up a playoff team—and the West's No. 3 seed at that—Sacramento should borrow a page from its old playbook and seek out one of those instant-gratification swaps.

Unless Keegan Murray suddenly skyrockets into stardom, it's hard to see the Kings dramatically lifting their ceiling this season without making a major move. Most of their key contributors are in the heart of their primes, and they may have benefited from some incredible (and maybe not sustainable) fortune on the injury front last season, when all five of their starters topped the 70-game mark.

A daring deal could change everything, though. If the Kings could package something like Mitchell, Barnes and a first-rounder for O.G. Anunoby, that's the kind of swap that just might nudge this club into contention.

Sacramento would add a lockdown defender and secondary scorer to the mix, while also potentially positioning Murray for greater success by moving him to his more natural 4 spot.

San Antonio Spurs: Trade for a Solid-or-Better Point Guard

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The Spurs might have one of the league's youngest, least proven rosters, but they also have All-Universe prospect Victor Wembanyama. That alone gives them legitimate breakout potential, especially if they can coax leap years out of players such as Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham.

But how high can they realistically climb with Tre Jones, Cameron Payne and Devonte' Graham handling the point guard position? Jones isn't a scoring threat or a shooter, Payne is best used as a spark-plug scorer, and Graham's lack of size and athleticism limits him at both ends. This is about as underwhelming as an NBA point guard group can get.

San Antonio doesn't have to aim for the stars. Tyus Jones, Tre's older brother, could be enough of an upgrade to really help connect this club. If the Spurs wanted a bigger return, though, they could pursue it.

They would make for a fascinating Damian Lillard destination if they could sell him on their vision and might want to have a substantial trade package at the ready should the Atlanta Hawks ever decide to take phone calls on Trae Young.

Toronto Raptors: Reset the Roster

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This offseason, the Raptors moved on from former coach Nick Nurse and let Fred VanVleet walk in free agency. Still, they haven't gone head-first into a rebuild, as they've held onto Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby so far.

What's the holdup? Does Toronto picture this team, which went 41-41 with Nurse and VanVleet last season, suddenly getting on the championship track? And if the answer is not now, then when are the stars supposed to align? Siakam is 29, Anunoby is 26 and both could hit unrestricted free agency next summer. (Anunoby has a player option for 2024-25.) The clock has been ticking for a while now.

With Scottie Barnes already in place as a long-term cornerstone, the Raptors should shift their focus forward and find young players who can slot alongside him. Toronto had a chance to flip VanVleet for assets at the last trade deadline, let it go by, was knocked out of the play-in tournament and watched him leave for nothing.

Maybe the biggest risk, then, would be keeping Siakam and Anunoby and seeing the sequel play out.

Utah Jazz: Get Keyonte George into the Starting 5

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While you never want to place too much stock into summer league play, George's sizzling play this summer felt like a sign of things to come. It's not simply that he looked good, but rather that he looked good in areas that could greatly grow his game.

When he left Baylor, the 19-year-old was prone to bouts of tunnel vision and not the most efficient shooter. Then in summer league—where cases of tunnel vision can skyrocket—he looked to get his teammates involved and took the shots available to him. Over six outings, he averaged 18.7 points and 5.3 assists in 26.4 minutes while shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three.

If he's going to be a standout contributor as a scorer, passer and shot-maker, then he should be an easy choice for Utah's starting point guard spot. Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton have score-first tendencies that make them less than ideal fits for the role, Talen Horton-Tucker is consistently inconsistent, and Kris Dunn has rarely shot the three-ball at a solid clip and never attempted it at a high volume.

Washington Wizards: Give Johnny Davis a Chance at Redemption

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Davis, last summer's 10th overall pick, showed next to nothing as a rookie—and that might be a generous way of putting it.

Among all top-10 picks who logged 400-plus minutes in their first season, he had the 11th-lowest player efficiency rating (7.2) and second-worst box plus/minus (minus-7.4).

While the statistical company he's keeping offers little optimism for recovery, the idea of abandoning hope this early is preposterous. He might one day wear the dreaded bust label, but it's way too early to make that assessment.

Washington has to give him a chance to right the ship. There is so little at stake this season—the first of potentially several rebuilding years in the District—that the Wizards need to see what (if anything) they have in Davis.

If Davis winds up stuck on the bench behind place-holding veterans like Landry Shamet and Delon Wright, that's just the wrong way to handle a rebuilding roster.


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