The NBA Draft brings excitement not only because of the picks that are made, but because there is always the possibility of crazy, league-altering trades. Stars -- like Jimmy Butler last year -- get traded on draft day, and the lead-up to the draft always features so many rumors and reports about teams trying to move up and down that it's hard to keep track of everything.
With that in mind, here's a (purely speculative!) look at five (theoretical!) trades that make sense.
We have to start with Leonard, by far the best player on the trade market (excluding LeBron James, who could opt in for next season and force a trade, Chris Paul-style). In this scenario, Philadelphia would be trading two above-average starters and a lottery pick for a genuine superstar. It could also perhaps pair the No. 26 pick with Jerryd Bayless in order to clear salary and chase James or Paul George in free agency. Unless touches are an issue, the addition of Leonard would presumably make the Sixers more attractive to those guys. Another superteam!
Would this be enough for the Spurs? That might depend on how much the Los Angeles Lakers are willing to give up in a potential trade. I like this deal better than one that is dependent on San Antonio eating Luol Deng's contract, and I'm not sure Los Angeles will be willing to offer a deal without Deng in it. With the roster constructed the way it is today, that would require the Lakers to part with Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, not just one of them.
The key here might be what the Spurs think of the No. 10 pick. Does the front office think anybody in that range -- Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges, Robert Williams, Lonnie Walker -- can be a building block? If so, something like this could benefit both teams.
(Note: ESPN suggested a version of this without Saric, and with Markelle Fultz and Dejounte Murray included. I'm not opposed to this one; I'm just not sure how anybody is supposed to assess Fultz's trade value right now.)
2. The old 2-for-1
- Mavericks get: No. 12 pick, No. 13 pick
- Clippers get: No. 5 pick
If the Dallas Mavericks' rumored interest in centers DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus Cousins is legitimate, then they're in an awkward spot in this draft. Most of the players expected to be available at No. 5 are big men, and if they're not in love with point guard Trae Young or forward Michael Porter Jr., they should at least explore the idea of trading down. Their most natural trade partner: the team with consecutive lottery picks.
For the Clippers, there is obvious risk in rolling the dice once instead of twice. There is also logic to it: If they are going to let Jordan -- and maybe Montrezl Harrell -- walk in free agency, they have a big hole in the frontcourt. The fifth pick gives them a chance to fill it with Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba or Marvin Bagley III.
(Note: The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported last month that the Clippers had their eyes on Porter. If they really want him, they can either hope that he slides due to injury concerns or make a bold move like this.)
3. The Chandler Parsons Project
- Grizzlies get: No. 9 pick, Frank Ntilikina, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas
- Knicks get: No. 4 pick, Chandler Parsons
This is based on the report from The Athletic's Michael Scotto that the Memphis Grizzlies have looked into the possibility of , and the fact that Grizzlies owner Robert Pera said they should win 50-plus games next season. If these things are true, then you can make an argument for this type of move: Lee and Thomas provide two-way help immediately, and Ntilikina is a capable defender who could one day be a core part of the team if developed properly. Moving down five spots in the draft is not ideal, but the degree to which that hurts really depends on their draft board.
For New York, this is an opportunity to draft the kind of cornerstone player that probably won't be available at the ninth spot. There appears to be a non-zero possibility that Luka Doncic could fall to this spot. If not, there will be at least a couple of high-ceiling players -- like Jackson, Bagley and Bamba -- for the taking.
The big variable is how much the Knicks' front office believes in Ntilikina becoming a star. They selected him No. 8 last year, before Phil Jackson was fired, and he doesn't even turn 20 until late July.
4. The PLEASE STAY swap
- Cavaliers get: Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams
- Hornets get: Kevin Love, George Hill, No. 8 pick
I know this looks kind of bonkers, but let's say that Cleveland wants to do something to show LeBron it is serious about improving the team and surrounding him with high-IQ players. Wouldn't something like this illustrate that the front office means business? Walker and Batum can take some of James' playmaking burden away, and Williams is a smart, veteran stretch 4. The Cavs would surely prefer not to part with the No. 8 pick unless they knew James was staying, but at least they would acquire one star-level player in this deal.
For Charlotte, this is about starting fresh and moving on from the Walker era. Hill's contract isn't friendly, but it expires a year before Batum's and he solves the problem of finding a new starting point guard. There are much worse ways to start a rebuild than having the eighth and 11th picks in this year's draft.
As for Love, this would be an opportunity to reestablish himself as a No. 1 scoring option. If he plays too well for the Hornets to tank properly, they could look to flip him.
(Note: If Cleveland wants to be could just take whoever it thinks is the best player available at No. 8 and then pursue a deal with a similar framework after the draft, with the goal being that it could present numerous trade options to James in a meeting.)
- Nets get: No. 16 pick
- Suns get: D'Angelo Russell, No. 40 pick
Could Russell be traded near draft day for a second year in a row? Given that the Nets have a logjam with him, Jeremy Lin and Spencer Dinwiddie, it seems possible. The 22-year-old still has plenty of upside, but he's no longer seen through the same prism he was when he went No. 2 in the 2015 draft. If Brooklyn's front office doesn't think he's the long-term answer at point guard, then it could try to use him to get another first-round selection to go with the No. 29 pick it acquired from the Toronto Raptors last year.
Phoenix is a sensible landing spot for Russell because it is in desperate need of a point guard and everybody expects the front office to take DeAndre Ayton with the No. 1 pick. Pairing Russell with Devin Booker in the backcourt could be an absolute disaster defensively, especially in the short term, but it would take pressure off Booker offensively and give the Suns a ton of young talent.