Realistic Trades That Would Blow Up 2019 NBA Free Agency

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Brooklyn Nets Receive (after Jan. 22): Julius Randle, JR Smith

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Allen Crabbe, Solomon Hill, Frank Jackson, Shabazz Napier, 2019 first-round pick (top-10 protection, via New Orleans), 2019 first-round pick (top-12 protection, from Denver, via Brooklyn), 2020 second-round pick (via New Orleans), 2020 second-round pick (from Denver, via Brooklyn)

New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Rodney Hood (must consent to trade), Kevin Love

New Orleans doesn’t have to reconcile Anthony Davis’ potential departure this season. He hasn’t requested a trade and “has not yet told those close to him that he is dead set on the Lakers or any other specific team should he decide to leave,” according to’s Zach Lowe. Sorry, Lakers fans.

This summer remains the Pelicans’ all-or-nothing crossroads. If Davis signs the designated veteran extension they’ll offer him, then they’re fine. If he rejects it, they have to start shopping him. In the meantime, New Orleans has one job: enticing Davis into staying put.

Cleveland can help. Kevin Love hasn’t played since Oct. 24 after having toe surgery and, at 30, no longer fits the post-LeBron James timeline. He never did, really, but that’s a different story. 

Though the Cavaliers aren’t looking to move him unless they’re “blown away” by an offer, according to’s Chris Fedor, Love’s absence and pending four-year, $120.4 million extension will force them to reimagine what that means. Netting multiple first-round picks is out of the question unless they shrewdly play their salary-absorbing cards.

Brooklyn can help there. Rival teams are getting the sense that the Nets will be buyers at the deadline, per’s Brian Windhorst. This year’s Nuggets pick has to be in play if that’s the case. And while throwing away draft selections is seldom prudent practice for a team still in a rebuilding stage, this package is a nice hedge.

Julius Randle is expected to decline his 2019-20 player option, so he helps this season without butchering next year’s bottom line. And the difference between JR Smith’s partial guarantee ($3.9 million) and Allen Crabbe’s player option ($18.5 million) gives the Nets an extra $14.6 million to fiddle around with over the summer. They’d have a line to more than $35 million in space without renouncing free-agent holds for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson or D’Angelo Russell.

Taking on both Crabbe and Solomon Hill is steep. The Cavaliers shouldn’t care. They’re securing two firsts for their troubles, both players come off the ledger after next season, and getting out from under Love’s extension before it ever kicks in is its own victory. 

The Pelicans will grapple over adding money to their salary-cap outlook without Davis under lock and key. As of now, they could have nearly $25 million to burn this summer. Adding Love derails that flexibility. They’ll have to get over it. 

Cap space isn’t going too far when so many glitzier markets have money to throw around, and the Pelicans need cut bait with both Randle and Nikola Mirotic to meet the top end of their projection. If Love returns from his stay on the sidelines without further issue, New Orleans should be intrigued. Randle is playing like a fringe All-Star, but with Davis’ future hanging in the balance, the chance to buy-low on an actual All-Star cannot be brushed aside.

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