A Mid-Season Trade to Improve Every Team (3/15)


The trade deadline is approaching fast, and every team is examining their strengths and weaknesses, their long-term outlook, and which players are more expendable than others.

As such, NBA Genius has come up with one trade for every team that improves their long-term outlook, or short-term realistic championship aspirations. Here is the trade:

Utah Receives: George Hill, Kosta Koufos

Sacramento Receives: Ricky Rubio, Joe Johnson

These are two teams that are only five games apart in the standings, but they should be 15-20. Sacramento is tanking for high lottery talent, Utah is experiencing decay from the absence of Gordon Hayward and George Hill. Their acquisitions Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Thabo Sefalosha, Jonas Jerebko, Epke Udoh, and the return of Alec Burks were supposed to offset these absences, but the team has struggled mightily both in health and sickness (injury).


Getting Hill back is essential. The point guard play for Utah has been shaky to say the least. Here’s a comparison of Rubio’s current season as Utah’s starting point vs. Hill’s season on Utah last year:

Player PPG APG FG% 3P% Offensive Rtg Defensive Rtg Win Shares / 48 minutes
Hill 16-17 16.9 4.2 0.477 0.403 119 107 0.182
Rubio 17-18 11.3 4.8 0.391 0.297 96 107 0.032

Needless to say, the narrative for Utah this season would be completely different if Hill was their point man instead of Rubio. The fact that two players can play the same role, and Hill accounts for 23 more points per 100 possessions, and six times as many wins per 48 minutes is showing.

Koufos would provide stability at back-up center, which is important for Utah because Rudy Gobert has only played 19 of Utah’s 45 games this season. Ekpe Udoh has performed decently in his highly limited role, but is only playing 16.4 minutes per game with Gobert hurt for the majority of the season. That goes to show Quin Snyder’s limited confidence in Udoh alone. Koufos has started 219 career games, and would hedge the losses of a Gobert injury or minutes restriction.

Sacramento does this deal to get worse to get better through the draft. I’ve already talked about the ways Hill to Rubio is a down grade, but there is one thing Rubio has done better than Hill throughout their careers: distribute. Rubio’s 4.8 assists per game this season is considerably lower than both his previous career low 7.3 per game in 2012-13 and his career average: 8.1 per game. Rubio thrived as a distributor for Minnesota, so much so that the team was 6.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court over his six seasons there.

Russ Isabella / USA TODAY Sports

Rubio setting up De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, and Zach Randolph for easier buckets could be beneficial to those guys’ (excluding Randolph, who is well past his prime) development.

Joe Johnson simply serves as another veteran to help guide the rebuild and mature the young talent. His contract expires after this season, which allows for the Kings to chase talent in free agency or force teams into signing massive offer sheets for restricted free agents.

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