The Memphis Grizzlies are finally open for business, and are reportedly preparing to tear their foundation down and part with beloved longtime franchise icons Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
But finding workable deals for those two - who are both on the wrong side of 30, with troubling injury histories and exorbitant salaries - is easier said than done. However, a few front offices should be aggressively working the phones right now and trying to get a deal done.
Here are some teams that have the motive and trade pieces to acquire either Gasol or Conley.
On the surface, the Bucks don't profile as the kind of team that should be looking to make a trade. It seems too risky to upset the carefully calibrated roster of a team that currently holds the best record, best defense, third-best offense, and by far the best net rating in the NBA. The way Milwaukee is deploying its centers this year - as gunslinging spot-up shooters at one end, and deep drop-back defenders at the other - has helped to completely change the team's fortunes. Why mess with success?
Well, because there's still this gnawing feeling that the Bucks could run into matchup problems as they try to navigate the Eastern Conference playoff field.
Though they appear to have found the perfect role for Brook Lopez, teams like the Celtics and Raptors have the personnel to downsize effectively, and they can neutralize the center at one end while exploiting him at the other. Gasol can nearly match Lopez as a floor spacer while also bringing a set of skills - his passing chief among them - that would make the Bucks' offense more dynamic.
He'd also give Milwaukee more defensive malleability. Yes, the Bucks' scheme has produced the league's top-ranked defense, but it's also left them with a blind spot that pull-up 3-point shooters and pick-and-pop bigs - like Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka - can exploit.
Gasol doesn't move like he once did, but he's still more mobile than Lopez and a more intuitive pick-and-roll defender. He'd allow Milwaukee to be a bit more flexible with its coverages. The Bucks also wouldn't trade Lopez in the deal (the Grizzlies have no need for him), so they could continue to use him as a rim-protecting 3-point gunner off the bench.
The biggest roadblock here is that Milwaukee is already without its 2019 and 2021 first-round picks, so the Grizzlies would have to really like the Bucks' middling prospects.
Bucks get: Marc Gasol, Omri Casspi
Grizzlies get: Tony Snell, Ersan Ilyasova, D.J. Wilson, Sterling Brown, lottery protected 2023 1st-round pick
The Magic are a likely lottery team this season, and their best player by far - soon-to-be All-Star center Nikola Vucevic - is a few months from free agency. That's why Orlando has largely been pegged as a deadline seller. But what if the front office went the other way?
It's no secret that the Magic badly need a point guard. If they're reasonably confident about bringing back Vucevic (who's in his prime and having a career year at age 28), pairing him with a pick-and-roll operator like Conley would set them up nicely for the next couple years. They'd finally have a functional offense, and would buy themselves time to keep developing their inscrutable youngsters while actually competing for playoff spots.
The Magic would have to trade at least one of those young players in a deal for Conley, and deciding who to part with would be difficult. Aaron Gordon would make the most sense because of his salary and established value as a versatile scorer and strong multi-positional defender. But Gordon would also fit better around a Vucevic-Conley battery than either Jonathan Isaac or Mo Bamba.
If they decide to keep Vucevic around, Bamba is probably the guy who has to go. And while it might seem too early to ship out the player they drafted fifth overall just seven months ago, Bamba could carry enough value to prevent the Magic from needing to attach any other long-term assets.
Magic get: Mike Conley
Grizzlies get: Mo Bamba, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons
At 23-24, the Hornets are desperate. They've made the playoffs just twice over the last nine years, and haven't won a series since 2002.
Charlotte badly wants to re-sign Kemba Walker this summer, but the team's second-best player right now is Jeremy Lamb. The Hornets need someone who can bolster their leaky defense while also relieving the scoring and playmaking burden from Walker. Gasol, in theory, can do all of those things.
Adding him probably doesn't get Charlotte out of the first round, but it might send a signal to Walker that the team is serious about doing whatever it can to surround him with a worthy supporting cast. Sadly, even an aging Gasol would be the best teammate Walker has played with, aside from Al Jefferson in the 2013-14 season.
The Hornets would have to swallow hard and part with one of the only two decent prospects on their roster (Miles Bridges or Malik Monk), but they could also potentially ditch one of their bad-money contracts.
Gasol's $25-million player option for 2019-20 complicates things. He could play well enough to decline it and bolt, or he could play poorly enough to opt in and make the Hornets rue the financial cost. But for a team that's been purgatorial at best for nearly two decades, this trade is probably still worth a shot.
Hornets get: Marc Gasol
Grizzlies get: Malik Monk, Frank Kaminsky, Bismack Biyombo
The way Detroit is squandering a career year from Blake Griffin is gross freaking negligence. The guard and wing play around him is a train wreck, and the capped-out Pistons don't have the financial flexibility to improve the situation anytime soon unless it's through a trade like this one.
Because their prospect capital is so underwhelming, and the contracts they'd be sending back are so unsavory, the Pistons would almost certainly have to include multiple first-round picks to beat other offers for Conley. That's a terrifying thought considering how bleak their long-term future already looks. However, it still feels necessary.
Conley is everything Reggie Jackson isn't: A rugged defender, a dangerous off-the-dribble shooter, a conscientious floor general, and above all, a great leader. If anyone can help smooth out the awkward frontcourt fit of Griffin and Andre Drummond, it's probably the guy who has an internal clock for when his teammates need the ball.
Conley would provide the Pistons with major on-court and culture upgrades. He and Dwane Casey are made for each other, and Detroit should do whatever it can to get him.
Pistons get: Mike Conley
Grizzlies get: Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, 2019 1st-round pick, 2021 1st-round pick