NBA teams are past the point of being able to beef up their rosters for their upcoming playoff run.
But what if they weren't? What if the trade window never closed, and clubs could keep wheeling and dealing right to the finish line?
That can't happen in real life, of course, but we play by Kevin Garnett's rules in the hypothetical realm, so anything is possible. In this universe, we can plug up roster holes, bring missing stars into the big dance and change championship odds.
Cavs Snag Their Small Forward
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Charlotte Hornets receive: Cedi Osman, Dylan Windler, 2023 second-round pick (via GSW), 2026 second-round pick and 2026 second-round pick (via LAL)
Last offseason, the Cavaliers had six players competing for the small forward spot. That was the same thing as admitting they didn't have a starting-caliber small forward in the mix.
That's what made it curious to see them sit out trade season, especially since the offensively overpowered backcourt (Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland) and defensively dominant frontcourt (Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen) both look ready to contend. But that 3 spot is a sore spot, and it's one they considered filling with Kelly Oubre Jr. before he had hand surgery in January, per NBA reporter Marc Stein.
Oubre is all healed up now, and he actually played some of his best basketball after the operation. In 13 games after the All-Star break, he averaged 20.5 points on 46.2/35.4/85.3 shooting.
Get him to Cleveland, and he would zip atop the depth chart at small forward. He has a much deeper offensive bag than Isaac Okoro and offers more defensive resistance than Caris LeVert.
Oubre does a little of everything other than pass, but Cleveland could live with that weakness, since it already squeezes more than a dozen dimes per night out of the Mitchell-Garland combo. Oubre's athleticism and activity could perk up the Cavs' transition attack, and they could use more pep in their step after finishing 24th in fast-break scoring.
After Charlotte made the baffling decision to not deal Oubre, the Hornets are faced with the real possibility he'll leave for nothing. So, they'd be thrilled to get a mulligan on that non-move and turn him into three picks, plus Cedi Osman and Dylan Windler, assuming they viewed one or both incoming wings as more than salary-filler.
Grizzlies Get an Impact Wing
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Jerami Grant
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Dillon Brooks, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke and 2024 first-round pick (top-four-protected, via GSW)
While the Grizzlies snagged the West's No. 2 seed, expectations for this group aren't enormous. Not externally, at least. FanDuel Sportsbook, for instance, has Memphis at +1800 to win it all, which ranks seventh overall and fourth in the conference.
Why isn't the bar set higher for Beale Street's finest? Is Memphis' market size to blame? Are folks worried about the injury issues up front with centers Steven Adams (knee) and Brandon Clarke (Achilles) both on the shelf? Or could the lack of a high-impact, two-way wing be to blame?
The Grizzlies have difference-makers in the backcourt (Ja Morant, Desmond Bane) and up front (Jaren Jackson Jr.), but the wing spots are a little underwhelming. And they know it. That's why they tried to pry O.G. Anunoby away from the Toronto Raptors at the deadline and would have given up three first-round picks to get him, per ESPN's Zach Lowe (h/t RealGM).
Jerami Grant is a tier or so below Anunoby, but that's why the trade cost would drop. Losing Dillon Brooks might sting a bit, but constructing a quartet of Grant, Morant, Bane and Jackson feels worth it. Get Grant into a support role on offense, and he can focus his energy on defensive disruption while taking advantage of the defensive attention that Morant and Bane command.
Would Memphis emerge from this swap as a clear-cut championship favorite? Probably not, but it could wind up on equal footing as the other favorites in this field.
As for Portland, this trade could be the first of several that finally ushers in the rebuilding project that has felt inevitable for a few years now. There would be no reason to re-sign Grant ahead of a rebuild (for that matter, Brooks would likely be a goner, too), but Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke could both stick around for the long term. Tack on a future first with light protection, and this is a hefty haul for someone Portland may not want to keep anyway.