NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

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The NBA trade deadline was this past Thursday and NBA teams made a lot of trades. You can check my pre-trade deadline primer here if you need it: here. There was quite a bit of action, as 12 trades occurred within 2 days of the deadline. Some teams propelled their championship contention, some teams started their rebuild faster, and some teams did nothing. Now that the dust has settled, let’s talk about winners and losers from a wild day where Adrian Wojnarowski probably did not sleep at all. All trades referenced can be find on ESPN: ESPN NBA Trade Tracker.

Los Angeles Lakers: You might be wondering how they were winners if they did not make a trade. Sometimes the best win is the trade you don’t make, or the trade that your opponents don’t make. The teams trailing the Lakers in the West made marginal or little improvements to their team: Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz and Rockets. The Nuggets picked up a backup guard and cleared Malik Beasley’s expiring, the Clippers picked up a ball-stopping wing in Marcus Morris, the Jazz did nothing, and the Rockets got rid of every player on their team above 6’7″. These teams are all at least 3 games back of the Lakers and did not make the necessary improvements to close the talent gap.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors traded away D’Angelo Russell in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and a 1st/2nd rounder in 2021. The Warriors are currently 12-41 and had no need to hold onto Russell, a guard who has positional overlap with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors were void of wing talent by losing Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and others in recent years. Therefore, trading a guard for a wing makes sense. Wiggins and Russell are actually comparable players this year – both are scoring 23 points per game, and both are liabilities on defense ranking at best 440th out of 481 in individual defensive rating. Therefore, the Warriors getting extra picks makes this a strong win on their end. The Warriors kick started their rebuild by getting a better positional fit, and an extremely valuable first round pick asset in 2021.

Houston Rockets: The Rockets went all in on players under 6’7″. The Rockets traded Clint Capela in a four-team trade and received Robert Covington back. This leaves the tallest player on their roster (that plays) to be Covington at 6’7″. PJ Tucker will assume the role of starting center at a towering 6’6″. That would be a center for an 8th grade basketball team but not quite in the NBA. The Rockets are purely betting on pace and space, run the floor and let Harden/Westbrook drive to the basket with no one in the way. This worked well in their first game, beating the LA Lakers 121-111, but then they lost 127-91 to the lowly Phoenix Suns. This situation will be at the very least interesting, but it should lead to another 2nd round exit as they run into taller teams like the Lakers, Nuggets or basically anyone in the league.
Atlanta Hawks: They were projected to have $60M+ in cap space heading into next summer. That was going to give them a real shot to acquire a high-level free agent to pair with Trae Young as he develops. This free agent class is weak but there’s still Demar Derozan, Paul Millsap and others available. Plus, having cap room leads to the chance of acquiring assets in the form of high draft picks or valuable players. Think of acquiring a bad contract but getting a 1st round pick to absorb the player. Players with bad contracts that teams could want to get away from ($ next year): Mike Conley ($34M player option), Otto Porter ($28M), Blake Griffin ($35M) or Nicolas Batum ($26M player option). Instead the Hawks traded for Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon. Capela and Dedmon will make $30M+ combined each year for the next 3 years. The Hawks sacrificed half of their cap room for 2 players that play the same position, and thus did not improve their team. In a league where cap space might be the most valuable asset, the Hawks did not treat it as such.

Let me know what you all think. Find me on twitter @JaredBrinn or on Instagram @Jared.Brinn

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