Nothing's trickier than finding a perfectly balanced NBA trade that benefits both teams. Well, nothing except the even more daunting challenge of constructing an equitable deal that involves a third organization.

Don't worry, this is still doable.

In rare cases, that third team streamlines the process, facilitating an exchange of draft picks or additional talent that fits specific needs. The added complexity is tough, but the deeper pool of assets from which to draw can ease the strain. We're looking for deals that wouldn't work as cleanly (or at all) without bringing in a third party.

Let's crank up the trade machine and concoct some three-teamers—ones that hopefully make sense for all involved.

 

The Sixers, Nets and Heat Connect on a Blockbuster

Brooklyn Nets Receive: Ben Simmons, Victor Oladipo

Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Kyle Lowry, Cam Thomas, 2025 first-round pick (via MIA), 2027 first-round pick (via MIA)

Miami Heat Receive: Kyrie Irving, 2023 second-round pick (via PHI)

     

According to The Athletic's Sam Amick: "While an Irving trade for Ben Simmons with Philadelphia is seen by some as an easy solution to both teams' problems, sources with knowledge of the 76ers' view said there is no interest in Irving at the moment."

OK, fine. No Kyrie Irving to Philly. But we're not giving up on such an obvious and necessary exchange of distressed assets. We've got to get Simmons out of Philadelphia, and Irving is basically useless to the Nets unless his vaccination stance changes. This is the rare double "gots to go" situation.

So let's haul the Heat, who always love to hunt stars, into the mix.

Brooklyn is the biggest winner here, if only because it's trading someone who might literally be value-less to its efforts this season. Irving is ineligible to play home games (plus two road contests in Madison Square Garden), and the Nets essentially determined they weren't into what would have been a complex part-time arrangement. Until he's vaccinated, Irving won't be on the floor for Brooklyn regardless of where its games take place.

Simmons might have his flaws, but he's better than a guy who's not going to play at all. And for a Nets team that happily slots Blake Griffin at center in big moments, Simmons shouldn't have an issue manning the 5 and playing to his strengths. His shooting limitations could pose playoff problems (Griffin is a much more threatening and willing three-point gunner), but again: Irving currently can't play at all. In a very real sense, this is a something-for-nothing exchange from Brooklyn's perspective.

And when "something" is a three-time All-Star whose five-position switchability directly addresses the Nets' suspect defense, that's a quality move. Victor Oladipo, recovering from quad surgery, is a throw-in to help the hard-capped Heat trim enough salary to make this move legal.

Miami just inked Kyle Lowry over the summer, but a massive, opportunistic swing for a superior talent in Irving feels on-brand for the ambitious franchise. Irving wouldn't be subject to the same local mandates in Florida, and he could provide a downhill, shot-creating element the Heat—a defense-first outfit as presently constructed—need.

Whether Irving's flightiness and checkered history of commitment to his team would fly with the laser-focused Heat is a legitimate question. But talent is king in the league, and Miami upgrades significantly by turning the declining Lowry (35) into Irving, who's coming off a wildly efficient 50-40-90 All-Star season.

The 76ers don't get the young cornerstone or 47 future first-rounders they seem to want for Simmons, but they, like Brooklyn, offload a guy who either won't play for the team or whose presence will create such strange vibes as to submarine the season. Lowry, who also happens to be from the City of Brotherly Love, has been a Philly target for some time because he fits perfectly as a gritty defender with championship experience and no Simmons-esque fear of the moment.

Brooklyn tosses in rookie scoring stud Cam Thomas, and the Heat have to include a pair of future firsts. Those would hopefully satisfy Philly's thirst for draft equity, and Miami shouldn't hesitate to part with them in the Lowry-to-Irving talent upgrade.

This would all be a lot simpler if the Nets and Sixers could just agree to exchange problems directly. But until that becomes a possibility, we can stew on this fanciful three-teamer between clubs that all have designs on winning the East.

 

The Warriors Burn Down the Bridge

Golden State Warriors Receive: Bradley Beal, Chris Boucher

Toronto Raptors Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Corey Kispert, 2022 first-round pick (via GSW), swap rights on 2023 first-round pick (via GSW)

Washington Wizards Receive: Pascal Siakam, James Wiseman, Moses Moody, 2025 first-round pick (via GSW)

       

The Golden State Warriors have been unwilling to dismantle their bridge to the future for short-term help, but maybe Jordan Poole's emergence will make them reconsider. Poole is 22 and playing like a guy whose floor might be CJ McCollum's ceiling, so the Dubs can make this move and still retain their most projectable future piece.

Bradley Beal is the best player in this deal by a considerable margin, but Chris Boucher's stretch skills make him a great fit in a Warriors offense that will include an ungodly amount of three-point shots this season. A downsized closing lineup of Stephen Curry, Poole, Beal, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would be unstoppable—perhaps even worth the price of giving up on James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody and two firsts. Andrew Wiggins' defense would be missed, but not enough to make Golden State think twice about upgrading his salary slot by giving it to Beal.

Toronto's goals are tough to peg, but Masai Ujiri's new contract and the stability it brings could make the franchise more open to long-term planning. Pascal Siakam isn't old by any normal measure, but at 27 he's not a young asset by NBA standards anymore. The Raps net several building blocks with Kuminga, Corey Kispert, an unprotected 2022 first-rounder from the Warriors and swap rights on a 2023 first-rounder. Wiggins is just matching salary, but he's also Canadian. And yes, that's exactly the kind of tidbit you cling to as justification for one of these far-fetched three-teamers.

Washington adds Siakam to its core alongside Spencer Dinwiddie, grabbing a 2025 first-rounder and potential lottery ticket James Wiseman in the process. Moody, 19, already looks like a rotation-worthy three-and-D wing. That 2025 selection could be exceptionally valuable, as it'll come in the draft following Curry's age-36 season. Golden State could be in the high lottery by then.

The Wizards clean up here, but that's only right. They're surrendering the top asset in Beal.

Summing up, the Warriors add another All-Star for an all-in push, parting ways with nearly every one of their young pieces. Toronto gets younger (and more Canadian) while shifting focus to the future. Washington nets a lesser All-Star for Beal in Siakam, plus a 20-year-old who was the No. 2 pick in the draft less than one year ago—all for a guy in Beal who might walk in free agency after this season.

All three teams would have to grit their teeth before agreeing, but you can see how this wild exchange helps each pursue specific goals.