February brings us many wonderful things in life but for NBA fans it is finally time to start getting serious about the back end of the season.
The trade deadline always promises some of the most exciting drama every NBA season. Teams look to add that final piece to their championship contending team or give up all hope and hope for a new 19 or 20 year old to arrive in June.
We are going to grade each team’s trade deadline action as well as looking at how this will impact them moving forward.*
*We have only analysed the biggest moves from the deadline to save some time.
Acquiring Clint Capela from the Houston Rockets may accelerate the slow and steady rebuilding project that is the Atlanta Hawks and finally gives the frustrated Trae Young some help that he’s desperately needed. Atlanta ranks third last in defence, so the move to bring in a rim protector, who can actually play defense makes sense.
However, if it’s not the right fit the Hawks are looking at $51.3 million in cap to be taken up by their new centre. Dewayne Dedmon is back in Atlanta after a brief stint with the Kings and adds a solid backup to Capela and may provide some more defensive support. Unfortunately, the risk may out way the reward in Atlanta’s Trade Deadline moves.
A quiet trade deadline has become somewhat of a rarity for Danny Ainge. It seems this year that Ainge would much rather hang on to a player like Marcus Smart then risk a deal that isn’t a sure thing.
Sitting comfortably at 36-15 the Celtics will hopefully not regret their inability to address the glaring need for a viable starting centre in their line-up. In the playoffs when you’re up against an all-star calibre centre in Joel Embiid, Daniel Theis may find himself a little challenged.
Sitting lower in the playoff seedings, the Net’s rightly stayed put and hung onto Joe Harris. It seems they are waiting to see how Durant fits before making any major moves. The front office however will have a busy offseason as they look to retain their unrestricted free agents for a potential championship winning run next season.
Charlotte has lived in salary cap hell for the last couple of years and weren’t likely to get any interest for their overpaid vets. Monk, Washington and Bridges could prove to be a valuable young core moving forward, so it might be time to unload some assets and look to build around these young players for the future.
Chicago weren’t likely to give up their star player in Zach LaVine, but they need to surround him with some more effective role players if they want to hold onto him in 2022. I can understand them not finding a viable trade partner for players like Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr, who are a bit past their prime. However, doing nothing once more at the trade deadline leaves the Bulls in the realm of mediocrity once again.
In what was the most bizarre move in the last couple of years, the Cavs traded for another expensive centre in Andre Drummond who has a big player option decision this coming summer.
Along with that, they traded Tristan Thompson for basically nothing and hung onto Kevin Love, who still has $91 million in salary to be paid out over the next 3 and a half years. This team is clearly made for lottery season and somehow, they managed to give up more assets then they had when they started.
Finally, Detroit’s front office took a leap of faith and avoided a scenario where Drummond takes his player option for next season. Detroit are sitting at 11th in the East and were likely not going to make the playoffs, with their only hopes for a successful offseason tied to a late lottery pick. At the same time, they avoided having to pay Drummond $29 million next season, showing how much his market value has shrunk in the last two seasons.
Detroit looks ready to commit to a fresh youth movement centred around potential star Luke Kennard. They will eventually have to find a new home for Blake Griffin at the next possible opportunity.
Victor Oladipo returning to the starting line-up is the best addition that the Pacers could pull off at the deadline. Indiana already has impressive depth and didn’t really need to add more pieces at the deadline that would just complicate things further.
A core of Sabonis, Turner and Oladipo could contend in the East for the next couple years. If Oladipo is able to return to his old form and Sabonis and Turner continue the form they’ve had this season so far, the Pacers could be looking at making a deep postseason run.
The Heat were real outsiders in the Andre Iguodala sweep stakes, but were able to get him without giving up too many assets. However, trading for a 36 year old wing who hasn’t played a minute since last season requires some real ambition. Ultimately, it fixes past mistakes they’ve made and improves the roster immediately. Johnson and Waiters are older and without much upside, while Winslow is a constant injury concern.
This team has a solid young nucleus that will only improve going forward, as well as a solid combination of veterans that now include Iguodala. The Heat sit at 4th in the East and have the potential to make a deep postseason run with this roster.
When your team is 45-7 and sit comfortably at the top of the conference, there isn’t a real urgency to address any glaring needs. Milwaukee currently have the league’s best defence and a strong starting line-up that features the reigning MVP and solid players at each position. It’ll be up to Giannis and the rest of his squad to prove they’re worth with a finals trip and potential championship in the postseason.
New York Knicks
The Knicks achieved the best possible outcome out of a situation that could have troubled them moving forward. They managed to score a first-round pick without taking on any unwanted salary.
The reality was that Morris wasn’t enough to entice a team to give up a young player that could help with their rebuilding process. The Lakers and Clippers were never going to give up young talents in Landry Shamet and Kyle Kuzma. For the Knicks it turned out better that they got something small than nothing at all.
I was surprised the Magic didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline. They sit in a very interesting position of having an almost identical roster to last season when they were nothing more than mediocre.
However, refusing to trade Aaron Gordon will likely see them just missing out on the playoffs. The best case scenario for Magic it seems is that they make the playoffs win two games and get nothing out of this season. They would be much better off blowing it up and building their stock for next season. James Ennis doesn’t really seem like a great trade either, nor does the impact he is not going to have.
Simply put, Joel Embiid and Al Horford don’t click and are not going to work long term.
However, the Sixers were only one win away (or rather one bounce) from the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 and it made sense to not drastically trade any of their stars in order to have another crack at the Championship. The Sixers do find themselves in the uncomfortable position of being in the luxury tax threshold next season, due to 4 of their starters being on contracts of $25 million or more.
The Sixers did add Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III who both address their short-term need of bench scoring. However, both players are on expiring contracts and will likely walk in the offseason. The silver lining is that the Sixers managed to nab these players without sacrificing any core pieces, which is what every contender aims for at this stage of the season.
Well, well, well. Toronto lost their Finals MVP and starting Shooting Guard, but have a better record then they did at this point last season. Besides Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the Raptors kept basically the same roster for this season and its paid off well so far.
Coach Nick Nurse and the Raptors front office have a habit of finding and developing undrafted talent. With a veteran roster and championship winning experience on their side, the Raptors were right in staying put at the trade deadline.
Jerome Robinson was never a good fit for the Clippers, so it makes sense for the Wizards to gamble on a late lottery pick. Along with this trade, the Wizards snagged Shabazz Napier from the Nuggets for next to nothing (Jordan McRae).
After years of head-scratching moves by the Washington Wizards front office at this time of the year, I’m looking at you John Wall, Tom Sheppard managed to avoid public scrutiny and add proven talent to the roster