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NBA trade deadline deals I want to see: Alex Caruso to Lakers, Darius Garland teams up with Victor Wembanyama

The NBA’s Feb. 8 trade deadline is quickly approaching, and there are sure to be some moves made. 

There aren’t many sellers out there — the race for the championship is as wide open as it’s been in recent history, making most teams hang on to their assets. But there are a handful of swaps that would make sense for both teams involved.

Here are three trades that I’d like to see happen. 

MORE: Ranking best players available at trade deadline

Three NBA trade deadline deals I want to see

Lakers reunite with Alex Caruso 

  • Lakers get: Alex Caruso, Torrey Craig
  • Bulls get: Gabe Vincent, Max Christie, 2029 first-round pick, 2024 second-round pick (via Clippers), 2025 second-round pick (via Clippers)

Why the Lakers do it

The Lakers made a huge mistake letting Caruso walk in free agency in the summer of 2021. They get a chance to rectify their mistake and bring back a player with a proven track record of working well next to the Lakers’ core. 

Caruso has gotten better since helping Los Angeles win a championship in 2020. Already a great defender back then, he’s now the best perimeter defender in the league. His ability to shut down stars one-on-one late in games while having Anthony Davis as a last line of defense would make the team’s defense unstoppable. 

Caruso has also gotten a lot better on the offensive end. He’s a true two-way player now, hitting 40.5 percent from deep while almost doubling his attempts from last season. He’s not much of an advantage creator, but he can spread the floor and run some pick-and-rolls in a pinch. 

This is all that the Lakers have to offer in a trade, with the exception of Jalen Hood-Schifino. It’s worth it for Caruso, who is the most impactful player that could be potentially available. Dejounte Murray is a better player in a vacuum, but Caruso fits this team’s needs better.  

MORE: Lakers trade deadline primer: Can Los Angeles strike gold again?

Why the Bulls do it

Caruso is the type of player who is way more valuable in the playoffs. He’s a ceiling-raiser rather than a floor-raiser. The issue for the Bulls is that their ceiling is extremely low with their current core. They’re destined to make the Play-In Tournament, where they will be fodder for the Bucks or Celtics in the first round if they’re lucky. 

This is the highest that Caruso’s value is going to get. He’s on one of the best contracts in the league and locked in for two more playoff runs. He’s also healthy, which the team can’t always count on. 

The Bulls already made a mistake in not trading some of their main guys last season. The value for players like Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic has plummeted. They can’t make the same mistake for Caruso.

This is a good offer from the Lakers, who could be lottery-bound by 2029. That first-round pick could be near the top of the draft. Christie is an intriguing young wing who was a great scorer and defender in Summer League and preseason. 

The Bulls are in a second-round pick deficit. Acquiring two more picks replenishes their store. 

MORE: Why Lakers, Bulls are among most interesting trade deadline teams

Darius Garland

Darius Garland gives Victor Wembanyama some help

  • Spurs get: Darius Garland, Ty Jerome 
  • Cavaliers get: Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott, 2025 first-round pick, 2027 first-round pick, 2029 first-round pick

Why the Cavaliers do it

The ugly secret in Cleveland is that the Cavaliers have played better when Garland has been out with injury.

Over the past two seasons, Cleveland is 55-38 during the regular season in games that Garland plays. Contrast that to the team’s 28-9 record in games that he’s missed, and you start to see a problem developing. 

That winning percentage isn’t a knock on Garland, but rather an observation that he and Donovan Mitchell don’t make the best pairing. Their skills overlap somewhat, diminishing Garland’s strengths. 

This is a great problem for the Cavs to have. Garland is too good of a player to not eventually help them win, but it’s going to be difficult to fully utilize his underrated passing and playmaking given how much Mitchell controls the ball.

To be clear, the Cavs shouldn’t trade Garland just to trade him. They should be open to moving him for an offer that blows them away, which the Spurs are capable of doing. Three first-round picks would allow them to make a trade for a superstar down the line who fits better. McDermott and Johnson could also keep them competitive this season. 

The Cavs have become the hottest team in the Eastern Conference by changing their shot profile and leaning heavily into bombing 3s. They can continue that trend by trading for McDermott, one of the best shooters in the league who is hitting 44.1 percent of his 3s, and Johnson, a career 35.9 percent shooter from deep. Neither McDermott nor Johnson is a stellar defender, but the Cavs already have a great infrastructure to hide their weaknesses given their No. 2 defensive ranking.

The Cavs have a lot of talent, but they need to rearrange the pieces to fit Mitchell better. This gives them that opportunity. 

MORE: How Victor Wembanyama escapes pressure of being NBA’s next superstar

Why the Spurs do it

Three first-round picks and a good young player is a hefty price, but the Spurs are going to need a great point guard to pair with Wembanyama. The team’s lack of quality playmakers is stunting his development.

Garland is one of the best young point guards in the league. He can actually throw a lob pass to Wembanyama. That’s a skill that is missing from everyone on the Spurs roster sans Tre Jones, who projects better as a backup.

Garland was showing star potential before Mitchell arrived in Cleveland, averaging 21.7 points and 8.6 assists for a solid Cavs team during the 2021-22 season in which he was named an All-Star. He’s a career 38.4 percent 3-point shooter who can pull up from anywhere and run a very solid pick-and-roll. He and Wembanyama would be unstoppable together. 

The Spurs have the issue of what they’re going to do with all of their surplus picks coming up. They have 12 first-round picks over the next seven drafts, including four potential picks in 2025. They’re not going to be able to roster that many players.

Some sort of trade is coming, whether it be to move up in a draft or bring some help in. Garland is one of the best available guards who matches up with Wembanyama’s timeline. 

MORE: These Victor Wembanyama plays will blow your mind

Matisse Thybulle (Portland Trail Blazers)

Matisse Thybulle bolsters Bucks’ defense

  • Bucks get: Matisse Thybulle
  • Blazers get: Pat Connaughton, Cameron Payne, 2024 second-round pick, 2027 second-round pick

Why the Bucks do it

The Bucks desperately need to bolster their perimeter defense. They’re ranked 19th on that end of the floor.

Thybulle, who has made two All-Defensive teams, is elite in that area. He’s earning just $10.5 million this season, which is important because the Bucks can only trade for a mid-tier salary if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton together. 

Thybulle has had issues in the playoffs when teams sag way off him on offense. He seems to have fixed that problem, turning into a 36.8 percent shooter since being traded to the Blazers last season. 

There are some other plus defenders available, such as Bruce Brown Jr., Dennis Smith Jr., Royce O’Neale or a Jevon Carter reunion. Thybulle is more impactful defensively than all of them.

If Milwaukee is serious about winning a championship, then it needs the best defender that it can afford. Thybulle is that guy. 

MORE: Why the Bucks decided to hire Doc Rivers as Adrian Griffin’s replacement

Why the Blazers do it 

This is the best offer that the Bucks can give, so there’s no squeezing out any more juice from them. 

That second-round pick in 2024 is going to be a good one, and the Blazers know it. It’s their own pick that they traded back in 2020. The pick in 2027 also has a chance to be very good given how the Bucks’ roster is aging.

Connaughton hasn’t had a great year this season, but he’s a solid player that Portland could flip down the line, and the Blazers are well-accustomed to his game given that he spent the first three years of his career there. Payne is on an expiring contract and would be in the deal for salary-matching purposes. 

An important caveat: Thybulle does have veto rights over any trade this season, as pointed out by Rose Garden Report’s Sean Highkin. He’d need to want to go to Milwaukee and reunite with Doc Rivers. 

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