Winners, losers and those in between after the NBA trade deadline
At the NBA trade deadline in 2007, three deals were made with four players shifting locations, not an unusual outcome with 18 deals made in the four deadlines between 2006 and 2009. It was a long way from the free-for-all that took place Thursday when the deadline marked a finish to a 72-hour frenzy that started with Kyrie Irving shipped out of Brooklyn and essentially ended with Kevin Durant joining him on the path out of the rapidly expiring championship aspirations at Barclays Center. Ultimately, 28 teams made moves.
Without a word publicly (something we might have all appreciated from Irving), Durant worked his way out of Brooklyn and into what most think is a championship contender in Phoenix as long as nothing goes wrong. And what could go wrong? Hello, Brooklyn!
The thing is, for all of the moves, there are no sure things. Durant joins a team that seemed on the verge of a title two years ago but is loaded with, well, as many question marks as the failed experiment in Brooklyn.
So let’s set out to see just who might have been winners and losers in this massive shift of rosters — and kudos to the Cavaliers and Bulls, who decided not to answer the phone and stood pat.
THE BIG WINNERS
Suns: The Suns wound up with the best player to move in Durant, but let’s just say it had better work quickly. Durant is oft-injured (including right now), Chris Paul has been aging before our eyes, Deandre Ayton has been unhappy so often, he should have been in Brooklyn and Devin Booker probably is wondering how he landed in this soap opera. Depth is an issue, too, and T.J. Warren and Darius Bazley are not the answers. The Suns certainly will miss the glue guy they gave up in Mikal Bridges.
Lakers: Start with the earlier move for Rui Hachimura and the Lakers might have improved more than any other team, adding D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Mo Bamba. It’s the sort of cast that they needed to surround LeBron James as he defies Father Time and Anthony Davis.
Clippers: Like the Lakers, they followed the formula — take a team with two stars and start to build around the edges. Eric Gordon, wasted in Houston except for the greatest assessment of a tanking team — a reporter asked, “Are you seeing the improvement you anticipated at the start of the season?” and Gordon replied, “There is no improvement” — likely is the most important piece, but Bones Hyland provides another shot creator and Mason Plumlee is a tireless worker as a backup big.
AT LEAST NOT LOSERS
Nets: In a bind, they managed a return that could start the rebuilding process with Bridges, Cam Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith. Bridges is a building block and the other three are all talented and movable. They restocked their draft picks, although bottoming out is not an option given that Houston controls their next five first-round picks with either trades or swaps. But really, they are winners just for ending their long, embarrassing headache.
Raptors: They held all of the rumored-to-go pieces in a disappointing season — although maybe it’s just until summer if they don’t get it right soon. They did add Jakob Poeltl, filling a need for a center, and with multiple players playing for contracts, maybe they recover.
Hawks: While there have been rumors of a breakup coming for months, they held on to John Collins and Bogdan Bogdanovic — not to mention Trae Young — and added Saddiq Bey, a fundamentally sound three-point shooter with size. Does that portend playing up to expectations? Maybe.
Knicks: While a wishful- thinking bunch of rumors floated weeks before the deadline had them pursuing the likes of OG Anunoby and Zach Lavine, in the end, the Knicks did what they intended, finding an exit for Cam Reddish. But they paid a higher price and got a higher return, bringing in Josh Hart from Portland. He’s a solid fit for them, providing a defensive-minded, rebounding backup wing. If the Knicks’ first-round pick falls outside of the lottery, it gets sent to the Trail Blazers, a high price for a backup — and considering they sent out a first-rounder to get Reddish, it hurts to send one with him on the way out.
Bucks: Jae Crowder sat through the season to this point, hoping to find a new home. After being part of the Durant trade, he was spun off to Milwaukee, where he seems a perfect fit.
Golden State: Was it bad enough that Golden State dumped a former No. 2 overall pick in a luxury tax avoidance scheme? Or that the one player they added in what should be a championship chase right now was Gary Payton II — a good pickup, except he’s got a core muscle injury that threatens to derail the deal or, at best, cost him a long time on the sideline.
Mavericks: Sure, it could work, pairing Irving with Luka Doncic, particularly with Kyrie playing for a contract. Let’s just say it will not in the long run. It never does.
Grizzlies: Added Luke Kennard, and the shooting could help, but taking a little-used piece when you’re chasing a title in a revved-up Western Conference seems like a step back.