24 out of the 30 NBA teams got in on the February trade action before the deadline was reached, yet the biggest name in the pool stayed put. The Los Angeles Lakers weren’t able to strike a deal for Anthony Davis before the clock hit 3pm, forcing L.A. and the rest of the league to wait until the off-season for another chance at the generational big man. However, that didn’t stop some of the East powerhouses making relevant moves. Here’s a recap of what unfolded in the final few days of trade eligibility.
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DURING the 2017-18 season there were 19 trades from the start of the season right up to the deadline and this season we had the same number of deals before this season’s deadline day even came about. Before I dive into the more noteworthy deals here are some of the lesser names who were shipped over the past few days. Spare a thought for Nik Staukas and Wade Baldwin IV as well, with the pair traded three times in last five days and ending up being waived by the end of it all. In no particular order:
- Grizzlies acquire Avery Bradley from Clippers for JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple
- Hawks acquire Jabari Bird from Celtics for a second-round pick (TBC)
- Nets acquire Greg Monroe and 2021 second-round pick from Raptors
- Suns acquire Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington (waived) from Heat for Ryan Anderson
- Lakers acquire Reggie Bullock from Pistons for Svi Mykhailiuk
- Grizzlies acquire Shelvin Mack from Hawks for Tyler Dorsey
- Clippers acquire Michael Beasley and Ivica Zubac from Lakers for Mike Muscala
- Kings acquire Skal Labissiere from Trail Blazers for Caleb Swanigan
- 76ers acquire James Ennis from Rockets for 2021 second-round pick
- Pelicans acquire Markieff Morris from Wizards for Wesley Johnson
- Trailblazers acquire Rodney Hood from Cavaliers for Nik Staukas, Wade Baldwin IV and 2021 & 2023 second-round pick
A week before all the deadline day madness unfolded we were treated to an unexpected blockbuster for the second straight year. Almost a year to the day from Blake Griffin becoming a Piston, we saw the Mavericks land Kristaps Porzingis from the New York Knicks with Dennis Smith Jr and two future first rounders the main assets heading Dallas’ way. I was quick to judge NYK for trading a 23-year old top-5 pick, who, until he got hurt, looked like he could be a franchise cornerstone.
OF course, part of the reason the Knicks moved on from Porzingis was due to injury, as he is still rehabbing from an ACL tear. It’s no secret that the relationship between New York and Porznigis was frosty, so for this trade to eventuate isn’t a huge shock, but how quickly it came about caught everyone by surprise. Trading your franchise guy to effectively dump salary and free up salary cap moving forward is a ballsy move by the Knicks front office and everyone assumes they know something we don’t (re; the health of Porzingis’ knee and Kevin Durant’s free agency plans).
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DALLAS was happy to take the 23-year old star off New York’s hands and now they boast two young European guns who they can pair together for 10-15 years. Who the Mavericks put around those guys will be telling, but if you have the two cornerstones the rest of the dominoes will likely fall into place. The links to Blake Griffin’s blockbuster from 12 months prior weren’t done there, with the Clippers landing Tobias Harris from Detroit in that trade one year ago. Harris found himself moved for the second year in a row before the deadline, landing in Philadelphia with the Sixers sending a bunch of expiring contracts, rookie Landy Shamet and two future two future first rounders to L.A.
HAVING flirting with a playoff spot the overachieving Clippers, much like the Knicks, have their eyes set on the free agency pool this summer and they are bullish on giving Kawhi Leonard the chance to come home. For the Sixers making a move to snag a fringe All-Star this season in Harris is worth the risk, even if it’s a lot to give up. Philly traded four picks in total, including the valuable Miami Heat 2021 unprotected first and there are no guarantees Harris will be anything more than a six-month rental becoming a free agent in the off-season. I can’t see him putting up the same numbers he did as L.A.’s No. 1 option with the ball on his hands for a large majority of that time and Harris must now carve out his own role in this star-studded 76ers unit.
THERE are also concerns around how quickly Philadelphia can piece everything together in a reasonably short amount of time before the playoffs, especially when you take the ongoing Jimmy Butler chemistry saga into account. All that aside, Harris can definitely help this team if he finds the right role and on paper, they might be the team to beat out East. Should the Sixers do what they are apparently planning to do and resign both he AND Jimmy Butler this off-season the rest of the conference could be in trouble for years to come.
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FOLLOWING the Tobias Harris trade there were a handful of somewhat meaningful deals in the lead up to deadline day, with Otto Porter being moved from Washington to Chicago. The Wizards gathered Jabari Parker in the deal, who they can wash their hands with this summer declining the team option on his contract for 2019-20 and fellow forward Bobby Portis, who is a restricted free agent this off-season. He’ll likely demand some coin, but I like what Portis brings to the table and he could help the Wizards moving forward.
CHICAGO, on the other hand, seems to have accepted that they aren’t a bonafide free agent destination right now and I guess, even with Porter’s bloated contract on their books, he is a solid addition to a decent core with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. They weren’t the only teams involved in pre-deadline deals with a three-team trade between Cleveland, Houston and Sacramento hitting headlines as games tipped off.
THE Rockets landed Iman Shumpert and the Stauskas/Baldwin combo for a brief time, with the Cavs securing Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and Houston’s lottery-protected first round pick in 2019. Alec Burks was arguably the best piece in the deal and he touched down in Sacramento, however, it wasn’t long before another Kings trade became the biggest talking point of the day.
HARRISON Barnes’ move to Sacramento is bound to have an impact on the West playoff picture, with the Kings gunnin’ for a return to the postseason. He fills a need at SF and with a player option (worth about $25mil) that he’ll likely pick up this offseason, they could effectively cut ties with him in 18 months time if the fit is clunky. Personally, I think he complements the Kings roster well and Dallas got fair compensation with salary cap relief and a nice young wing in Justin Jackson.
SWITCHING back to the East, Thon Maker got his wish to find a new team, with Detroit bringing him in and shipping Stanley Johnson away to the Bucks. Johnson’s stay in Milwaukee was brief though, with the former top-10 pick dealt for a second time less than 24 hours later to the Pelicans. Along with Bucks big man Jason Smith and four second-round selections Milwaukee netted floor spacer Nikola Mirotic, doubling down on their plan for this season as one of the best 3-point shooting team’s in the league.
MIROTIC’S acquisition is yet another string in the Bucks already impressive bow, giving them more deep threats to put on the floor and open up lanes for MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mirotic isn’t going to solve your defensive woes and four picks even if they are late seconds is a LOT to give up. To quote a great friend of mine second-round draft picks might not be useful in 2K, but in real life, they turn into the likes of Nikola Jokic, Isaiah Thomas and Marc Gasol.
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ONCE upon a time way back when LeBron was still a Cavalier (the first time) Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry were teammates for the Grizzlies. Fast forward to deadline day 11 years later and instead of Lowry being moved away, this time it’s Gasol joining the squad and rejoining his old buddy. Masai Ujiri pulled off a trade for what was probably the biggest name this trade period, sending Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright away, along with a 2024 second-round pick, to secure the services of the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year.
WHILE Gasol is a few years removed from his defensive prime, the 3x All-Star is still a great get for Toronto as they go all in on winning a championship this season with Kawhi Leonard’s free agency looming. They sacrificed some of their depth for the cause, which could be a risky move, but in an Eastern Conference where you have to compete against the big bodies of Joel Embiid, Al Horford and Antetokounmpo, just to name a few, you need someone who can clog the lane like Gasol. He’ll help the Raptors from a playmaking perspective as well, giving Toronto a dangerous three-pronged attack – assuming Kyle Lowry comes to the party.
AT 34, the health of Gasol will be a priority for the Raps down the stretch, making sure that the big man is raring to go come playoff time. With 10+ seasons of wear and tear on his body, a healthy Gasol can be a difference maker in Toronto’s pursuit for a championship. If he can contribute 30-35 meaningful minutes, mixed in with the likes of Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka, there’s no reason why Toronto can’t emerge as the champs from a competitive East.
THE last noteworthy deal to go through minutes before the deadline expired yet again involved an East contender, but it made headlines due to the player they traded away. After 19 troublesome months, Philadelphia gave up on the Markelle Fultz experiment, shipping him to Orlando for some wing depth.
JONATHAN Simmons, a 2020 first-round pick (via OKC) and a 2019 second-round pick (via Cleveland) was what the 76ers received for Fultz and Simmons is bound to be a help Philly, capable of providing valuable playoff minutes. However, Fultz was the talking point of this deal as the 2017 first overall pick now has an opportunity for a new beginning in an effort to turn his career around. There is no pressure for him to be a reliable player right away with the Magic a few years away from being a few years away at this point.
IT’S sad to see his career as a Sixer end like this with Fultz and his clanky jump shot combining to connect on 141 of his 303 total shots (free throws included) through his 33 game career to date. With a gaping hole at point guard though, it’s a worthwhile risk for the Magic, who could have a steal on their hands if he is allowed to get healthy and develop. Hopefully, this move will ease some of the pressure on him and he’ll be able to recapture the vibe that saw him become a devastating scorer at the University of Washington, for both he and Orlando’s sake.
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SO as the dust finally settles on a day where 24 players were moved, the balance of power frequently shifted in the East and Anthony Davis remained a Pelican we may be left with more questions than answers. Who’s now the best team in the East? Personally, I think it’s still Milwaukee, but the Raptors and Sixers did a hell of a job gaining ground and grouping Boston into that foursome means were in for a serious show come playoff time.
MIKE Conley remained in Memphis, failing to make the rumoured move to Utah, with the likes of Kent Bazemore and Kevin Love staying put as well, which now means we turn our attention to the buyout market. Wesley Matthews has seemingly already made the move to Indiana and Enes Kanter, Marcin Gortat, Carmelo Anthony and Wayne Ellington are just a few candidates who could find new teams in the coming weeks. For now though, everyone can exhale.