There's a long way to go in the 2020-21 NBA season. A lot can change between now and the playoffs. But at the moment, it feels like a Los Angeles Lakers repeat might be the safest prediction for a championship (assuming Anthony Davis is healthy).
So far, L.A. is plus-17.2 points per 100 possessions (99th percentile) when AD is on the floor with LeBron James. The new additions seem to fit well with the Big Two, particularly on the defensive end.
Parity seems as present as it's been in a long time, though. Title runs for several other teams wouldn't be shocking. In the ever-loaded Western Conference, an early upset of the Lakers is even in play.
Some of the candidates to pull off one (or both) of those things are probably a move or two away. Fortunately for them, we have those moves below.
Bradley Beal to the Nuggets
The Trade: Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., Bol Bol, a 2021 first-round pick, a 2022 first-round pick swap and a 2024 first-round pick for Bradley Beal
This deal, or some variation of it, seems to come up any time there's a discussion on Bradley Beal's availability. Unfortunately for the Denver Nuggets, the value of Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol may not be quite as high as it was before the season started.
Still, there's plenty of reason for optimism surrounding MPJ. Despite lackluster defense and an ice-cold February, it's easy to be intrigued by a 6'10" wing who can score around the rim and light it up from the outside. In theory, he's like Davis Bertans with a dribble-drive game.
If he finds a little consistency on offense and becomes anywhere near average on defense, Porter has star potential. And his fit in positionless lineups with Rui Hachimura could work for years to come.
Bol Bol offers a little upside too. He's more raw than MPJ, but he has three-and-D ability waiting to be uncovered. He's only played 152 NBA minutes, but his outside shot looks workable. And he's clearly inherited some of his father's defensive instincts.
As for Gary Harris, he's here mostly for salary-matching purposes. He's steadily declined since his peak in 2017-18 and would likely be on his way to another team in 2022 free agency.
For the Denver Nuggets, the appeal is obvious. As high as they are on MPJ, their uneven play through the first third of the season shows they're at least a star away from contention. And it's not common for small-market teams to be one move away.
Nikola Jokic is the greatest passing big of all time and arguably the NBA's best player to this point of the season. Denver needs to seize this moment.
Imagine Beal moving around off the ball while Jokic is engineering possessions. Imagine how easily Jokic could score in the post if defenses had to worry about Beal outside. Throw Jamal Murray's heat-check moments in there, and this is a terrifying offense.
That's why Denver can justify throwing out this much draft consideration. The Lakers have the league's top defense. At the moment, the Nuggets probably don't have enough firepower to bend it the way they'll need to in a seven-game series. Beal undoubtedly puts them closer.