Culture of Hoops

The Winners and Losers of the NBA Trade Deadline

The 2017 NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone, and despite the general lack of last minute fireworks we’ve become accustomed to seeing over the past few years, it’s still easy to identify the winners and losers of the last week or so. Did anything happen that is likely to alter the ultimate end game of the 2016-17 season? No, not necessarily. But did some stuff go down that will make the next four months more interesting, and certainly more competitive? I’d guess yes.

Winner: The New Orleans Pelicans 

If you have the opportunity to employ the two most productive big men in the NBA, you have to do just about whatever it takes to do so. It just so happens that all the Pelicans had to do was give up Tyreke Evans (making a triumphant return to Sacramento), Langston Galloway (his contract will eventually be bought out), Buddy Hield (Vivek Ranadive’s Valentine), a 2017 1st Round Pick that is Top Three protected (it will likely end up somewhere 13 and 16) and a 2017 2nd Round Pick (blah). And that’s it. No future picks. No guys who are legitimate NBA starters right now. Nothing else.

Do we know for sure how the DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis partnership will work? Nope, and we also don’t know with complete certainty that Cousins, a free agent in 2018, will re-sign in New Orleans. But it’s safe to assume that Cousins and Davis will present a wholly unique problem for many teams in the league. The Pelicans should own the glass every single game, yet Cousins and Davis are fine playing away from the basket offensively. Davis is well-equipped to fire away from mid-range (he’s shooting 47% from 10 to 16 feet, and 41% from 16 feet to the three-point line this season, per Basketball Reference), and Cousins is hitting nearly two three’s per game at a 35% clip. Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I can’t imagine New Orleans, only 2.5 games out of the 8th seed right now, not snagging that last spot by mid-April.

Winner: Vivek Ranadive 

Vivek got his hands on the guy that he and the Kings tried so hard to trade up for during the 2016 NBA Draft. This feels like it goes beyond an owner or a GM coveting an opposing player. This feels like a borderline creepy fascination on Vivek’s part. After the trade went through Hield said that during Kings/Pelicans games this year Vivek would tell him “We’re still gonna get you.” I think that was the tagline for one of the Purge movies.

Loser: Buddy Hield 

At some point, something like this will happen when Buddy Hield is invited into Vivek’s office:

Loser: The Sacramento Kings 

Just when it was looking like the Knicks were going to run away with the “Most Dysfunctional Team in the League” crown for 2017, Vlade and Vivek came in like bats out of hell, flipped Cousins for 30 cents on the dollar (just hours after assuring Boogie he wasn’t going to be traded), and then Vlade proceeded to tell the media he had a better offer for Cousins just days earlier, because if you have a chance to remind everyone how ill-equipped you are to be making personnel decisions for an NBA team, you just have to do it.

Winner: The Philadelphia 76ers 

I don’t totally understand Philly’s decision to give up Nerlens Noel for essentially nothing, but Philly was undoubtedly one of the bigger winners of the last week, all thanks to Sacramento’s blunder. The 76ers have the right to swap draft picks with Sacramento this year, and in 2019 they possess the Kings unprotected 1st Round pick, now they biggest draft related trade chip out there aside from the two Nets picks that the Celtics still own.

Even: The Boston Celtics 

So about a day before the trade deadline I told a couple people who asked me about the chances of a big Celtics trade that I didn’t think it was smart for Boston to make a huge deal at the deadline just because they have the assets to do so. There were three reasons why I felt this way:

1: Any move involving one or both of the Brooklyn picks would be a move that would drastically change the Celtics roster, because in all likelihood, those picks would have been traded in tandem with two or three rotation players. As appetizing as Paul George or Jimmy Butler looked at the deadline, I’m convinced that the Celtics are (for now) better off standing pat, rolling with their current roster, and re-visiting all of this in June. Boston is currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference and playing great ball recently. This isn’t a slumping team in need of a jolt.

2: The odds that the 2017 Brooklyn pick decreases in value in a major way between now and June is unlikely. All we know now is that most likely, in mid-May, the Nets will have a 25% chance of obtaining the #1 pick in the NBA draft. If Brooklyn finishes the regular season with the worst record in the league, the worst that the pick could be is 4th. There is a 65% chance the pick will be in the Top 3. If the lottery balls bounce the way it’s favored to, the Nets will hand over the #1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft to Boston, and a known commodity like that, the 1st overall pick, then carries more weight than the unknown does now.

3: Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and any other player worthy of handing over those two Brooklyn picks will still be available the week before the NBA Draft. The Celtics weren’t competing against anyone else for either of those two. As far as we know, the Celts were the only serious bidders for George or Butler. If they re-visit those talks in June I’m guessing they’ll get further than they did at the deadline.

With all of that said, I understand the frustration that any Celtics fans would have. Danny Ainge is sitting on a gold mine, and has been for a couple of years now, and the Celtics haven’t taken full advantage of it yet. Cleveland appears to be at least a little bit vulnerable, and there was some sense of “the moment is now” among Celtics fans. Ainge didn’t budge. Was it because he would have to give up too much along with those Nets picks (rumors had it that the Pacers wanted three of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown)? Is it because he feels like the Celts are in a spot where they can contend without making a splashy move? Or is the opposite true; does Ainge feel like Cleveland isn’t as flawed as some think they are. Who knows.

Winner: The Oklahoma City Thunder

Low key, the Thunder flipping Jofferey Lauvergne (I’m like 65 percent sure I spelled his name correctly), Anthony Morrow and Cameron Payne for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott was the Deadline Day Steal of the Day. So here’s what we know: Gibson, a proven warrior and terrific locker room guy, is an upgrade over Lauvergne. McDermott, just waiting to play alongside a Point Guard who draws all kinds of attention and kicks to wide open shooters on the perimeter, is an upgrade over Morrow. If we’re looking at those four pieces right there, this is a colossal win for the Thunder. The inclusion of Cam Payne will deter some people from accepting this as a fantastic trade for Oklahoma City, but just remember that Payne, despite delightful hair, is playing only 16 minutes per game and will forever be nothing more than Russell Westbrook‘s back-up so long as Westbrook is a member of the Thunder. You can find another back-up Point Guard.

Loser: The Golden State Warriors 

The Warriors road to the Finals just got that much tougher. An opening round series against the Pelicans won’t be a cake walk, and even though Golden State has their number, I doubt the Dubs would be psyched to see a healthy Clippers team in Round 2. Once they get through the Clips they would need to likely play the Spurs or the now higher-octane Houston Rockets to get to the NBA Finals for the third straight year. They won’t go untested.

Winner: The Golden State Warriors 

Who am I kidding? This team is a fucking juggernaut, and they’ll surely grab a rotation player once teams start buying out contracts. The Warriors are forever winning.

Loser: Carmelo Anthony 

I know Carmelo has repeatedly stated that he wants to be a Knick and wants to remain in New York, and we know that’s what the old ball-and-chain wants, and that’s fine. With that said, as a basketball fan it bums me out that Melo will spend the rest of his days toiling away for a franchise that is miles away from even the most optimistic view of contention. And it also bums me out that Melo hasn’t seemed to ever want more than that either.

Loser: The Chicago Bulls 

I’ll go on the record and say we’re four months away from Jimmy Butler being traded to Boston and the Bulls grabbing both of those Nets picks as a way to jump-start their full-blown rebuild. Taj Gibson is gone. Doug McDermott is gone. Dwyane Wade might as well be gone, and the same can probably be said for Fred Hoiberg. Jimmy Butler isn’t far behind.

Winner: Magic Johnson 

The Magic Johnson hire has been critiqued a good deal, but I have no complaints about what Magic did in his first couple days as the premiere decision maker in LA. He flipped Lou Williams to Houston for Corey Brewer and a 2017 1st Round pick. That was a brilliant move for three reasons … first, by getting rid of Lou-Will the Lakers took a step towards tanking that they couldn’t have made if Williams’ subtle offensive genius was still around. This is more necessary than most would expect because the Lakers only own their pick if it falls in the Top 3 of the Draft. If their pick is out of the Top 3 it belongs to Philadelphia. Second, they managed to get a 1st Round pick in the deal, and that for right now is the best asset, outside a young blue-chipper, that the Lakers could acquire. And third, Corey Brewer was involved, and that makes my cousin Paul Clark happy because he’s not only a Los Angeles Lakers fan, he’s also a Florida Gators basketball fan.

Winner: The Los Angeles Lakers 

Mentioned separate from Magic Johnson, and here’s why: the biggest “win” for the Lakers at the trade deadline was Indiana’s reluctance to A) Trade Paul George to the Boston Celtics, and B) Make any sort of deal that pushes the Pacers to a higher tier in the Eastern Conference. The only two ways that Paul George doesn’t become a Laker in the Summer of 2018 are if he was traded to the Celtics and contending for an NBA Title there (didn’t happen yet) or if the Pacers make the necessary moves to contend for an NBA Title (didn’t happen yet, and it’s unlikely that they can get there in the next 16 months).

Loser: Tiago Splitter 

He’s still not playing for the San Antonio Spurs, so I can only assume Tiago is upset about that.

Winner: The Houston Rockets 

Not only did the Rockets turn Corey Brewer into the top bench scorer in the NBA, they turned K.J. McDaniels and Tyler Ennis into a veteran buyout acquisition to be named soon. Even if their window isn’t actually open, I give Daryl Morey props … the Rockets are coming for the Warriors with everything they’ve got.

Winners: P.J. Tucker, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors 

Plenty of winners in The 6! The Raptors managed to turn Jared Sullinger and Terrence Ross (and a 1st Round Pick and two 2nd Round picks, but those are imaginary for the moment) into P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka, two competitive gamers who should be playing games into late April and May, who will now get the opportunity to do just that for a Raptors team that has been slumping, but remains hungry to contend in the Eastern Conference and hell-bent on figuring out just how vulnerable the Cleveland Cavaliers are.

My guess as to how this plays out: The Raptors surge past Washington in the standings to overtake the Wizards. Toronto and Boston hook up in Round 2 where the acquisitions the Raptors did make end up making the difference. From there, the Raptors yet again lose to Cleveland in the Conference Finals, proving that despite their best mid-season efforts and contrary to what Drake would have you believe, Everything Was the Same.

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