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Despite having advanced to the conference finals, the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat should all have concerns about the current state of their rosters.
Whether it be potentially missing a key player because of injury, finding a defensive stopper to contain the other team’s superstar or merely fixing roster holes that have already been exposed during the first two rounds, all four squads should already be thinking about offseason trades.
Given that these teams may well face off again in future postseasons, these are the deals every front office wishes it could make now and should explore immediately when the season ends.
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Primary concern: Robert Williams III’s knee issues
Trade Idea: Boston Celtics acquire C Mike Muscala and F Kenrich Williams from the Oklahoma City Thunder for F Aaron Nesmith, 2022 second-round pick and 2023 second-round pick (via Orlando Magic)
Williams missed the last four contests of Boston’s second-round series versus the Milwaukee Bucks after suffering a bone bruise following a Game 3 collision with Giannis Antetokounmpo. While he was available to play in Game 7, he stayed on the bench while the Celtics closed out the Bucks and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Even if he suits up for Game 1 against Miami, Williams will be far from 100 percent and previously missed nearly a month after undergoing meniscus surgery in late March.
As well as Al HorfordGrant Williams and Daniel Theis have held the fort down in his absence, Boston could use another versatile big who can offer some rim protection while also spacing the floor.
Muscala held opponents to a stingy 47.8 percent shooting at the rim this season, a mark even lower than that of Williams (50.7 percent). While he’s not nearly the overall defender that Williams is, Muscala is one of the NBA‘s best three-point shooting big men, knocking down 42.9 percent of his outside looks for the Thunder this season.
With Williams continuing to have knee problems and Horford set to turn 36 in a few weeks, Muscala would be a terrific rotation big to mix in.
The Celtics should push for Kenrich Williams in the deal as well, as he’d help as a switchable defender who can line up against Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and others.
OKC would have more minutes available for Nesmith, the 22-year-old No. 14 overall pick in 2020. Boston also needs to throw in some second-round picks for good measure, starting with its own in this summer’s draft.
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Primary concern: Offense from non-guards
Trade Idea: Dallas Mavericks acquire C Christian Wood from the Houston Rockets for C Dwight Powell, SG Josh Green and 2022 first-round pick
While Luka Doncic has continued to obliterate postseason opponents (31.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.9 steals), the Mavs have become extremely guard-heavy (along with Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie) and could use a post presence who can create his own offense.
Maxi Kleber is the highest-scoring center option the Mavericks have (10.1 points per game), although 86.7 percent of his twos and 100 percent of his threes have come off an assist this postseason.
While Dallas clearly made the right move by trading Kristaps Porzingis, adding a different big man who can space the floor, pick-and-pop and create for himself in the post would be a huge addition to this Mavs team, especially against a defense as good as the one these Golden State Warriors employ.
Wood (17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 blocks) would be an ideal option at center, especially surrounded by two defensive-minded forwards in Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock. Having Wood would help keep Draymond Green away from Doncic, and Wood’s 39.7 percent mark on catch-and-shoot threes gives the All-Star guard another great option to kick out to.
For Houston, Powell is an incredible teammate and community leaders who would be a great mentor for Alperen Sengun, the Rockets’ center of the future. Green, 21, gives Houston another young player with upside on the wing, and the Rockets pick up Dallas’ first-round pick in the 2022 draft.
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Primary concern: Stopping Luka Doncic
Trade Idea: Golden State Warriors acquire F De’Andre Hunter, Charlotte Hornets acquire C James Wiseman and Atlanta Hawks acquire F/C PJ Washington and SG Moses Moody
With Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green on the roster, the Warriors have some good defensive options to use on Doncic in the West Finals.
When going against a rising superstar of this magnitude, however, you can never have enough bodies to throw at him to try to make life difficult.
Of the 34 players this season who Doncic attempted at least 12 shots or more against, no player was more successful than Hunter.
The 24-year-old forward hero Doncic to 23.5 percent shooting (4-of-17) as the primary defender during the regular season, per NBA tracking datausing his combination of size (6’8″, 225 lbs) and athleticism to challenge shots and keep him out of the paint.
Hunter would be a huge asset to have now and should be a trade target this offseason if he and the Hawks can’t agree to a new contract. With Wiggins heading into the final year of his deal before becoming an unrestricted free agent, getting Hunter (who can sign an extension this summer or become a restricted free agent in 2023) gives the warriors some insurance on the wing in case Wiggins leaves.
While giving up both Wiseman and Moody cuts into the team’s overall potential, Golden State retains Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga while adding arguably the best Luka-stopper in the league.
The Hornets, desperate for a franchise center, should be willing to take a risk on the oft-injured Wiseman and his massive potential, while the Hawks add a versatile forward/center in Washington and a young 6’6″ guard with strong upside in moody
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Primary concern: Kyle Lowry’s hamstring injury
Trade Idea: Miami Heat acquire G Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers for F Max Strus, F Duncan Robinson and 2022 first-round pick
Lowry, Miami’s starting point guard and 2019 championship-winning floor general with the Toronto Raptors, has already been ruled out for Game 1 against the Boston Celtics. Not having Lowry for parts (all?) of the series is going to be asking a lot out of backup Gabe Vincent, especially when going up against Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Jaylen Brown and others.
The Heat could use another ball-handler in the rotation, especially if the 36-year-old Lowry continues to show his age.
Brogdon fits in Miami as a large guard (6’5″) who can play on or off the ball, defends at a high level and consistently makes smart, winning plays. A new starting lineup of Lowry, Brogdon, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker and Bam Adebayo would be even more devastating than the unit that earned Miami the No. 1 seed in the East this year and would allow Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro to remain in his reserve role.
After averaging 19.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 33.5 minutes for the Pacers this season, Brogdon would be a huge lift for a Miami team missing Lowry now.
For Indiana, moving Brogdon (who’s had his own durability issues in the past) opens up more ball-handling opportunities for Tyrese Haliburton, while Strus and Robinson help beef up the wing. The Pacers also pick up Miami’s first-round pick this summer, adding more young talent to a roster that won’t stay out of the playoffs for long.