In addition to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., MVP favorite
Nikola Jokic now has Aaron Gordon flanking him, and the Denver
Nuggets are better than they were a year ago when they went to the
Western Conference Finals.
They got JaVale McGee, too, which means Mike Malone can give The
Joker a breather and not have to hold his breath, and so we put the
Denver Nuggets squarely in the winners column of today's NBA trade
The Portland Trail Blazers did well Thursday, too, acquiring
Norman Powell from the Toronto Raptors as an eventful day went down
without Kyle Lowry or Andre Drummond or Hassan Whiteside being
dealt, although there were teams that were trying.
The Miami Heat kept their cap space for the summer and added
Victor Oladipo and Nemanja Bjelica, and the Atlanta Hawks will be
the newest place where Lou Williams will continue his illustrious
career, joining a young group that has turned things around under
new head coach Nate McMillan.
The Chicago Bulls not only landed Nikola Vucevic, but also
Boston Celtics big man Daniel Theis and Al-Farouq Aminu from the
Orlando Magic, as Arturas Karnisovas aced his first trade deadline.
Even if they stick in 10th place and are a play-in team, Vucevic is
an All-Star who will give them a puncher’s chance should they make
it out of the play-in and go up against one of the top two teams in
the Eastern Conference. Their fans finally have hope.
The Magic basically traded every good player they had on their
roster, but does that necessarily make them losers? Once Markelle
Fultz went down in the first month of the season, that franchise
quickly came to realize it had topped out at the end of last
season. The Jonathan Isaac injury made this year an exercise in
futility, and general manager John Hammond did what he had to do --
get whatever he could for the three best players on his team in
Vucevic (sent to the Bulls), Gordon (sent with Gary Clark to the
Nuggets) and Evan Fournier (sent to the Celtics).
Hammond and Orlando received keepers in return, like Gary
Harris, Wendell Carter and R.J. Hampton, so that grade is
“incomplete" because it was necessary. Perhaps more importantly,
the Magic got a top-five protected 2025 first-round pick from the
Nuggets, two first-round picks from the Bulls ('21 top-four
protected, '23 with light protection) and a pair of second-rounders
from the Celtics.
Boston was dealing from a position of strength because nobody
else had the cap space (via the Gordon Hayward trade exception) to
absorb Fournier’s contract. We shall see if Moritz Wagner and Luke
Kornet in the middle will be better than what they had in Theis. It
could also mean more playing time for Robert Williams III.
Fournier gives the Celtics another player who gets the job done
on both ends of the floor, and the core of his team (Jayson Tatum,
Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart) is a proven commodity -- no matter
what their record says. If Boston can gather a head of steam
heading into the postseason, it will not matter what their seed is.
So Ainge goes into the winners column, tentatively.
The same goes for Mark Cuban, Donnie Nelson and the Dallas
Mavericks, who got themselves a pair of shooters in JJ Redick and
Nicolo Melli, who can knock down threes when Luka Doncic drives and
dishes. Redick is one of the strongest character guys in the league
and a huge locker room voice. This trade is sneaky good.
The Philadelphia 76ers picked up George Hill from the Oklahoma
City Thunder, giving them a veteran point guard to add to a
rotation of a team that has somehow stayed atop the East throughout
Joel Embiid’s injury absence. And Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers did
not have to trade Mike Scott, who was the only rotation player
mentioned in pre-deadline trade possibilities. It appears we are
down to Rivers vs. Monty Williams for Coach of the Year. (Sorry,
We have to have some losers in this, don't we? By default, that
distinction includes the New Orleans Pelicans, who were unable to
find a taker for Lonzo Ball by virtue of the fact that he is going
to be a restricted free agent in the offseason. Once the Bulls were
out of the picture following the Vucevic trade, the team best
equipped to give something up for him -- the New York Knicks --
made the wise decision to wait until free agency to see if they can
get him that way. All that Leon Rose surrendered were spare parts
in Austin Rivers and Ignas Brazdeikis; the Knicks will roll the
dice in the postseason with Julius Randle doing everything in the
meantime and Tom Thibodeau game-planning for whatever opponent they
end up going up against.
It would be easy to throw Toronto into the losers column because
they did not get much for Powell or Matt Thomas (Gary Trent Jr.
could potentially bolt as a free agent, and they did not get
anything for Kyle Lowry, who stayed put. But giving away a player
of that caliber for less than a fair price represents Masai Ujuri
standing his ground in the face of what he felt were subpar offers
from the Heat, Sixers and Los Angeles Lakers. A sign-and-trade
could be an option over the summer, and Lowry may even decide to
stay with the Raptors.
The thing about the trade deadline is that it is only one of
three key transactional periods – draft night being the second, and
the opening days of free agency being the third.
The Blazers have been a sleeper all season and now have Powell,
a 27-year-old averaging nearly 20 points per game, who can continue
to send out Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the years ahead. Neil
Olshey did well. Trent and Rodney Hood were superfluous.
By the end of the season, it’ll be interesting to see whether
Powell to the Blazers or Gordon to the Nuggets ended up being the
better trade. Both of those West contenders got a heck of a lot
better, and the Lakers are clearly on notice with a bunch of teams
gunning for them -- and that includes the Los Angeles Clippers, who
cut bait with Lou Williams and will take their chances with Rajon
New Orleans can still move Ball in a sign-and-trade, so the
runaway winner of the loser portion is the Houston Rockets, who
turned Victor Oladipo into Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and a
potential ability to swap 2022 draft picks.
Let’s not forget that Rockets general manager Rafael Stone could
have kept Caris LaVert and Jarrett Allen from the Brooklyn Nets, or
received Ben Simmons from Philadelphia earlier this season --
before the James Harden trade turned into a four-team deal.
Instead, now with Oladipo off to Miami, the Rockets ended up with
pennies on the dollar for a guy who may end up winning an MVP award
and an NBA championship, depending on how the Nets do in the
We shall wait and see if the Clippers join that column. What
remains to be seen is whether Kawhi Leonard decides to exercise his
player option over the summer. If he declines, he can go to the
Heat (who did not take on any long-term contracts) or New York to
write the next chapter of his career.
But for now, the winners outnumber the losers, and that makes
this a good trade deadline day.