NBA rumors: Grading blockbuster trades for Joel Embiid, Zion Williamson, Damian Lillard

Joel Embiid, R.J. Barrett, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, R.J. Barrett, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Isaiah Livers, Zion Williamson (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Isaiah Livers, Zion Williamson (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

It’s the NBA offseason, which also means fake trade season. Let’s grade a juicy slate of blockbuster proposals. 

We have arrived at the uncomfortable portion of the NBA offseason when nothing much is happening. Free agency is all but over, the trade chatter has slowed to a maddening crawl, and training camp is still weeks away.

Thankfully, Zach Buckley and Bleacher Report blessed this fine Saturday with a slate of fake trades to keep the blood pumping. Accurately titled ‘Five Trade Ideas to Blow Up the 2023-24 Season,’ Buckley has sent several of the NBA’s biggest stars packing.

Today, we will focus on three names dominating the NBA rumor mill — Zion Williamson, Damian Lillard, and Joel Embiid.

NBA Rumors: Pistons strive to contend with Zion Williamson trade

Zion Williamson’s reputation has never been worse. The former No. 1 pick missed all but 29 games last season and the summer has done him no favors, with more noise than ever about New Orleans potentially considering trades for the beleaguered All-Star. On top of the perpetual hand-wringing about his conditioning, there are now genuine concerns about how deeply Zion wants to be in New Orleans and, conversely, how deeply the Pelicans want him around.

New Orleans balked on potential Zion trades ahead of the NBA Draft and it appears he will begin the season in New Orleans. If the season goes sideways, however, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Williamson get moved. Despite the many, many valid doubts about Zion on and off the court, there should be teams lining up around the block to trade for him.

It’s not often that 23-year-olds under long-term team control with the talent of a top-15 NBA player become available. When healthy, we have seen Williamson look like the next face of professional basketball. It’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever stay on the floor enough to deliver on his massive upside, but Williamson is absolutely capable of being the best player on a championship team.

For Detroit, this is highway robbery. Bojan Bogdanovic only has partially guaranteed money for next season and he’s 34 years old. Killian Hayes and James Wiseman are compelling theoretical prospects, but neither has proven to be much of anything on a consistent basis in the NBA. The Pistons are essentially trading two first-round picks and a bunch of question marks for a potential top-20 player. It doesn’t matter how slim the “potential” may be, that’s a trade any smart franchise makes.

The Pelicans come away from this trade with two more first-round picks. New Orleans already has the biggest cache of draft capital outside of OKC and there’s no way David Griffin can use all those picks. So, it’s trade ammo to maybe get a player who can one day approximate Zion’s value. Bogdanovic doesn’t fit the timeline of Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy and New Orleans’ other core pieces. Depth is not an issue for the Pels; Wiseman is of questionable utility and Hayes would be buried under a mountain of guard talent. New Orleans should avoid this move like the plague.

Pistons Grade: A

Pelicans Grade: D