Continuing on from the last article, the West saw some shakeups at the Trade Deadline that will likely impact the playoff race in the West.
3 contenders got a bit better via trade and look better positioned to make a deep run in the playoffs. We’re going to grade each team’s trade deadline actions as well as looking at how this will impact them moving forward.
The Mavs are proving everyone wrong each and every game this season as they continue to win games with two of their stars missing considerable amount of time. However they took a bit hit on January 21st when Dwight Powell went down with a season ending Achilles injury. They needed another big man desperately to fill the void and found him when they traded a second round pick for Willie Cauley-Stein. Although it’s not a like for like replacement, Rick Carlisle should be able to slot Cauley-Stein into starting line-up to help give the Mavs some length.
The emergence of Michael Porter Jr has created a crowded rotation for the Nuggets, so letting go of Malik Beasley likely won’t sting as much as people think it should. Denver did manage to nab a first-round draft pick for Beasley which could be good if they look to add another star alongside Nikola Jokic in the future.
Keita Bates-Diop is another great addition to the Nuggets with his 7-foot-3 wingspan and habit for 3-point shooting shoring up the Nuggets perimeter offence.
Golden State Warriors
I think I’m finally ready to admit that it worries me how good this team is going to be moving forward. Not only did they give up D’Angelo Russell who had more than past his usage on this team, they managed to get Minnesota’s first round pick and escape the repeater luxury tax next season. Wiggins may be a downgrade in some people’s eyes but he’s a much easier fit in a Harrison Barnes kind of role alongside Curry and Thompson.
The Warriors managed to snag a top 3 protected pick and four second-round picks at the trade deadline which could prove to be pivotal as ammo to trade for another established star in the offseason. Too be honest, I think this was their post-Durant departure plan that they had from the start.
Darryl Morey has a habit for going all in on idea crusades and he is fully leaning into the identity that best suits his two superstar players and all-star head coach. The Rockets have been a lot more dangerous with Capela off the court this season and if needed the Rockets may be able to find a Capela replacement in the buyout market towards the backend of the year.
The void left by Trevor Ariza’s departure has finally been filled by adding Covington, the 3 and D forward they’ve been missing. Without Capela clogging the paint, the Rockets will have more space on the floor which will support their three point shooting. The Rockets desperately needed a change without giving up on one of their key starters and the addition of Covington did just that.
Los Angeles Clippers
Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Marcus Morris were all linked with the Lakers over the course of last year, all three now play for their cross-town rival. The Clippers managed to grab one of the best players on the trading block as well as keeping him away from their greatest Western threat in the postseason by grabbing Morris during the Trade Deadline. Morris currently has the second best three-point percentage in the league with players over 280 attempts.
Montrez Harrell’s pending free agency decision will mean Doc Rivers might have to rely on Ivica Zubac a lot more moving forward. With Morris, the Clippers now have another option to defend (or rather get under the skin) of super star players like Giannis and AD in the playoffs. The Clippers were already strong title favourites, this just consolidates that theory.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers missed out on an opportunity to strengthen their depth at the deadline by not capitalising on available players on the market. However keeping Kyle Kuzma might prove to be the right decision as they rely on his continuing development moving forward.
However by not dealing during the trade season, they allowed their nearest rivals in the west (Nuggets and Clippers) to get better. This could be a bad thing come playoff time and only time will tell whether this is the case.
The Grizzlies were able to get rid of a player who wasn’t prepared to play for their team, along with Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill and turn them into Justise Winslow and a protected first-round pick. That is a very impressive haul for Memphis who could win big if the punt on the 23 year old Winslow pays off.
It’s hard to see a downside here, Winslow has struggled to stay healthy but there isn’t much risk on them taking a chance on a player like him in their rebuilding process. The Grizzlies won the trade deadline in incredible fashion and it wasn’t very close.
The Wolves finally landed their guy in the biggest move at the trade deadline. Though it was a steep price to pay for D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota had to pair Karl Anthony-Towns with a player that he actually wanted to play with. It was clear the Wiggins-Towns fit wasn’t working and it was time to move on from that.
The Wiggins era has been painful for most people involved, but Minnesota still appears to be a few moves away from potentially contending for a championship. Russell is a perennial pick and roll player who can finally make Minnesota’s offence fun to watch again. Even if they had to sacrifice a first-round pick for this deal, the risk of taking on Russell could out way the reward of having a potential high draft pick in the future.
New Orleans Pelicans
Before Zion arrived, The Pelicans look disgruntled and out of sync with a roster that was clearly not clicking well together. Now they are only six games out of the 8 seed and within striking distance of playoff contention. Zion is already pretty good and he’s only played a handful of games this season. The worst case for the Pelicans is that they fall just short of the postseason and roll things over for next year.
New Orleans need to use the next couple months to develop Zion and work out the role players that work around him. If they can find the right formula and squad rotation, they are going to be incredibly good for the next couple of years at least.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder looked set to be a lottery team at the start of the season and would likely ship veteran players Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams before the trade deadline. Now they sit comfortably in the top-7 in the West and will likely feature in the postseason. Letting this group of players play out the rest of the season might not be the worst idea as the trade value of their stars likely won’t diminish that much.
OKC managed to pick up an incredible young talent in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during the offseason that might become the player they build around for the future. The Thunder can wait to trade with teams in the offseason and are smart to not move things around too much until then.
Phoenix desperately needed to give Devin Booker another star to play with. The Suns should have maximised the value of Aron Baynes and shipped him off to a contender (especially because he is on an expiring contract).
Phoenix had a hot start to their season but that is dwindling fast, they don’t want to find themselves in an Anthony Davis situation where Devin Booker will want to walk and go play with his best friends in Minnesota. Phoenix will want to make room this offseason as they look to continue their momentum moving forward.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland simply just created cap space, a practical option moving into next season. Portland will likely struggle to get past the first round in the postseason and will look to strengthen their rotation behind CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. They’ve also done a fine job in bringing Carmelo Anthony back from the dead.
The Trail Blazers will get Zach Collins back in a couple weeks and still have Damian Lillard a perennial all star to help them contend in the future, but it looks like this year just wasn’t the right fit. Preparing for the offseason with a bunch of salary cap to work with can help them moving forward.
The Kings were right in getting rid of Dewayne Dedmon who desperately wanted out of Sacramento as soon as he could. They traded him in for Jabari Parker who is under contract for one more season and Alex Len who is on an expiring deal.
Parker is a scorer with plenty of time to improve, but he’s moving on to his fifth team in three years and has already missed multiple games this season with injury. There is a chance Parker turns it around in Sacramento but it’s a big ask to say that he will return to the form he once had. They currently sit 6 games outside the 8th seed and have an outside chance at playing in the postseason.
San Antonio Spurs
This roster is aging quickly and they’re now an outside chance at the 8-seed. Their core of LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay are all over 30 and a bit past their prime. Dejounte Murray may be the best option to build around moving forward but that will be up to the front office to blow it up and move one of their stars.
It’s unclear what Popovich and the front office have in mind for their long-term plans. At the moment they’re stuck in mediocre territory with no clear direction going into next season.
Utah sit comfortably at 4th in a stacked Western Conference, with a strong start to the season catapulting them towards the top. The Jazz have locked up their core for at least the next two seasons and have no addressable needs at the moment.
The Jazz will hope that veteran point guard Mike Conley will be able to handle some of the best guards in the game during the postseason.