Chaos. That’s what last Thursday was for all of the National Basketball Association. Thursday was the annual regular season trade deadline for the NBA and this year’s edition did not disappoint. In the end, thirty-seven different players and eleven future draft picks were traded between eleven different teams in the span of about three hours. That number of players was high enough to make last Thursday the busiest trade deadline in league history. To put this in perspective, over the last five years, the average number of players traded at the deadline has been just twenty-four. Not only was this year’s shopping spree more significant in terms of quantity of players dealt, it was also more significant in terms of the quality of players and teams involved. Traditionally, the trade deadline is a chance for bad teams with lots of financial flexibility, think Philadelphia 76ers, to take on hefty contracts dumped by other teams in exchange for draft picks. One or two teams who believe they are in contention for the title may make a gamble on a good player they think can push them over the top. Most of the players moved are not especially significant to championship contenders or even to playoff teams. For example, half of the players moved at last season’s trade deadline are no longer on NBA rosters this year, meaning they were not exactly integral parts of any team. This year however, NBA fans were treated to a dizzying flurry of trades involving potential playoff teams dealing impact players. Now its time to take on the equally dizzying task of sorting out the winners and losers of all of this.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder turned disgruntled point guard Reggie Jackson and veteran Kendrick Perkins into Kyle Singler, DJ Augustin, Steve Novak, and Enes Kanter. This gives them some perimeter shooting and depth in the post, two things they greatly needed. The Thunder are locked in a death-struggle with Phoenix and New Orleans for the final playoff spot in the West, and this should be the little boost they need to sneak into the playoff hunt.
The Heat recognized that the Suns were backed into corner without many options. Pat Riley pressured the Suns into a swap of two first round picks plus Danny Granger for frustrated star point guard Goran Dragic and his brother Zoran. If the Heat can get healthy in time for the playoffs, this makes them a threat in the up-for-grabs Eastern Conference.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers needed depth at the wing position and they missed out on Jeff Green earlier this year. They were able to soften that blow by picking up Arron Afflalo from the Nuggets in an exchange that included Will Barton and Thomas Robinson. In the wild Western Conference, anything can happen, but the Blazers have assured that they will be right in the middle of it.
The sneakiest winner here was the Rockets. Houston quietly added KJ McDaniels to their already talented squad, allowing them to keep pace in the Western Conference arms race.
The Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans all added what they needed, which, coincidentally, was the same thing for each: a point guard. The Pelicans and Pistons each have a chance to make a run at a playoff spot, but it won’t be easy.
The poor Nets. The combination of a bad team with no draft picks, a bunch of overpaid players, and no cap space to sign new ones is not the ideal formula for success in the NBA. This was a chance for them to make some moves and get themselves out of this mess. The Nets were involved in as many trade rumors as any other team in the league. All of their stars were mentioned as trade pieces: Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and even Jarrett Jack. However, in the end, general manager Billy King got faked out by the Thunder and the only move the Nets made was a swap of aging Kevin Garnett for the T-Wolves’ Thad Young. A decent start, but the Nets have a long way to go.
The Suns were definitely in an uneviable position as the trade deadline approached. Star Goran Dragic had made it clear he wanted out, leaving the Suns without much leverage. Losing Dragic was a foregone conclusion, but Phoenix surprised everyone by shipping out Isaiah Thomas as well. Phoenix ended up with Brandon Knight, Danny Granger, Marcus Thornton, and two first-round picks. Phoenix tried to make the best of a tough situation and they still have a solid team. However, its tough to see how this one will work out well for the Suns, especially in the bloodbath that is the Western Conference.
Remains to be Seen:
The Bucks took a gamble in trading away starting point guard Brandon Knight for Philly’s Michael Carter-Williams. Milwaukee has overachieved so far this year and is solidly in the playoffs right now. Adding Carter-Williams and a couple of other young players could pay off for the Bucks, but there is no way of knowing right now.
Sam Hinkie and the Sixers continue to take tanking and the rebuilding process to a whole new level. The Sixers now have only one player remaining from the roster Sam Hinkie started with when he became general manager less than two years ago. Philly traded away their two most promising young players, Carter-Williams and McDaniels, and finished the day with a handful of new draft picks. It fits with their plan, but at some point those picks have to turn into actual players that can produce, and Carter-Williams and McDaniels were producing. Only time will tell if the Sixers bold, unapologetic strategy yields success.