Wow, that NBA trade deadline was a cure for insomnia.
After all the hype and oxygen expended by talking heads on TV, just seven — yes, seven — deals were made Thursday in one of the quietest deadline days ever.
There were more rumored trades (i.e. teams showing “interest” in a player) than there were actual swaps. Anything to keep fans from falling asleep in their soup at lunch.
What we saw yesterday was a whole lot of blather and a lot of teams throwing in the towel due to the LeBron/Steph effect. That is, no one is likely to beat the Cavaliers or Warriors, so why bother loading up?
With the deadline come and gone with just a couple of significant deals (and a few made in the lead-up), there are some definite winners and definite losers. With a couple of teams in a grey-ish area that straddles the winner-loser debate.
Here are five teams who improved their lot in life and five who came up donuts (zero) on deadline day. Starting with winners, in no particular order.
10. Winner – Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are one of those grey area teams we just mentioned. Grey as in they sort of won. Mired in seventh place in the West at 32-25, they wouldn’t likely beat the San Antonio Spurs if the playoffs began today. But, the Thunder made a good move in a trade with the Chicago Bulls, acquiring a starting power forward in Taj Gibson, as well as good bench depth at small forward with Doug McDermott. Eighth-year veteran Gibson started all 55 games he played with the Bulls, averaging 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. McDermott started four of 44 contests, logging 24.5 minutes of floor time, 10.2 points and a .376 three-point shooting percentage. Going the other way, the Bulls can insert Cameron Payne in as a starting point guard, while veteran SG Anthony Morrow and back-up C Joffrey Lauvergne are useful spare parts. OKC gets a win on deadline day, just barely, as the key piece, Taj Gibson is a UFA this summer.
9. Winner – Houston Rockets
It turned to be a small price to pay for the services of Lou Williams, one of the NBA’s premier sixth men and bench scorer. Acquired from the Lakers on Tuesday for a late first round pick and bench forward Corey Brewer, Sweet Lou has paid immediate dividends for the Rockets Thursday night, pouring in a team high 27 points as Houston beat a Boogie-infused New Orleans squad 129-99. Williams, who averaged a very respectable 18.6 PPG in 58 games with the Lakers, shot seven-for-11 from three-point range in the win. Overall, he’s hit on 129-of-327 attempts this season, for 39.4 percent efficiency. He gives coach Mike D’Antoni another very important weapon in a run-and-gun offence that might shock a team or two come playoff time. In another move, the Rockets cleared about $3.5 million in cap space by dealing Tyler Ennis to the Lakers for Marcelo Huertas, who will be waived.
8. Winner – Toronto Raptors
The Serge Ibaka era in Toronto will start off with a bang Friday night at the ACC when the Raptors tangle with the Boston Celtics. Nearly two weeks before the deadline, Raps GM Masai Ujiri had a hole to fill at power forward after the long ago departure of 2016 playoff hero Bismack Biyombo. He got that in spades in fleecing Orlando for Ibaka, who will add toughness and defence (6.8 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocks with the Magic) as well as scoring (38.8 percent three-point shooter, 15.1 points per game). Toronto surrendered bench forward Terrence Ross and a 2017 first round pick likely to be in the no. 20 to 30 range, so not a sure-fire starter for Orlando going forward. Ujiri wasn’t quite satisfied with just Ibaka and pulled off the last deal of the deadline, shipping little used forward Jared Sullinger and two unspecified future second round picks to Phoenix for SG/SF P.J. Tucker. The former second round pick of the Raptors will provide more grit and defence off the bench and spot starting. Tucker averaged 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 7.0 PPG in 57 games with the Suns.
7. Winner – Dallas Mavericks
There are not many better players for a young center to apprentice under than Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavs were a winner on deadline day by pulling the trigger on a trade to bring in the Sixers’ Nerlens Noel, who wasn’t getting the playing time he needed with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor in the fold too. So, Dallas packaged up reserve C Andrew Bogut, bench forward Justin Anderson and a protected (1-18) 2017 first round pick to get their center of the future. In 29 games this season (seven starts, 19.4 minutes per game), the former sixth overall pick has averaged 8.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals. The 6’11” Noel is good defensively and his offensive game has improved measurably in three seasons. Overall, a great deal for the Mavs — an absolute steal.
6. Winner – New Orleans Pelicans
We’re not quite sure what Sacramento Kings’ GM Vlade Divac was thinking when he agreed to send DeMarcus Cousins to NOLA on Sunday, but we’ll get to that later. By divesting the Kings of Cousins, he gave up a top-10 talent and one of three players averaging 25-plus points and 10-plus rebounds per game this season — all for a top-3 protected 2017 first-round pick, a 2017 second-round pick, the no. 6 pick in the 2016 draft in Buddy Hield, and veterans Langston Galloway and Tyreke Evans. “Boogie” joins superstar forward Anthony Davis in ‘Nawlins, giving the Pelicans an absolutely frightening front-court duo. In his first game with the Pelicans Thursday, a 129-99 loss to Houston, Cousins put in a standout effort, dropping 27 points, along with 14 rebound, five assists, five steals and four blocks. The Pelicans are still on the outside looking in with a 23-35 record (11th place) but it may not be long before they hurdle Portland (24-33, 10th), Sacramento (25-33, 9th) and Denver (25-32, 8th).
5. Loser – Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers GM and NBA legend Larry Bird sat on his thumbs deadline day and by not actively pursuing a trade for superstar Paul George, he made his team a loser. As well, Bird didn’t bring in any talent to surround George, which should make the sixth place (29-28) Pacers cannon fodder in the post-season. George, a 26-year-old Californian who will hit free agency after the 2017-18 season, has already stated his desire to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, which makes Bird’s inaction even more perplexing. His trade value right now (22.3 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists) may not be higher. And if the Pacers don’t improve and make a run in the post-season, George will surely cut his losses and go for the big payday in L.A. That is, unless Bird is able to somehow get something for him beforehand. With the clock ticking on George’s time in Indy, he’ll be under the gun.
4. Loser – Boston Celtics
As the no. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the time win is now for the Boston Celtics. But not if the banged-up Cleveland Cavaliers have anything to do with it. By missing the boat on even one trade to make them better, the Celtics may have dealt themselves a death blow. The Celtics had the assets to complete a rumored trade for Chicago’s Jimmy Butler (including the very likely first overall pick they acquired from the last place Brooklyn Nets) but stayed the course, come hell or high water (we’re going with hell). Even if Boston had relinquished that pick, they still have next year’s Nets’ pick (again, likely a high one) and had one last year when Jaylen Brown was selected third overall. The Celtics didn’t address any need, which also includes a big man who can rebound, while the Raptors got way better and the Cavs have an open roster spot to add a high profile free agent like Andrew Bogut or Deron Williams. Bad day in Beantown.
3. Loser – New York Knicks
The whole hot mess that is the New York Knicks and management’s indifferent/absurd treatment of superstar Carmelo Anthony during the lead-up to the trade deadline will leave a lasting stain on the organization. The Knicks did nothing (like Boston) to make themselves better and it had Anthony questioning the team’s direction post-deadline. They pondered a deal that would have sent oft-injured Derrick Rose to Minnesota for Ricky Rubio and another swap with the L.A. Clippers that might have sent SG Courtney Lee there. Phil Jackson et al had reportedly talked to three teams about dealing Anthony (who has a no-trade clause he likely would have waived to go to a contender), but waffled badly (stupidly using social media) and blew it. The Knicks are 12th in the Eastern Conference, 12 game under .500 and not much of a threat to make the playoffs.
2. Loser – Philadelphia 76ers
With three centers from which to trade from a position of strength, the Sixers did the unexplainable and dealt the second best one, Nerlens Noel, to the Dallas Mavericks — ostensibly for nothing. They got Andrew Bogut in return, and he won’t see much floor time alongside Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor before bolting this summer. That leaves backup SF Justin Anderson and a 2017 first round pick that won’t be conveyed unless the Mavericks do the unthinkable and go on a massive run. Bogut will likely be bought out, Anderson is an average role player and that draft pick won’t be in a draft loaded with talent. The 21-35 76ers, by virtue of a bad, bad trade have doomed themselves to also ran status for some time to come.
1. Loser – Sacramento Kings
We said at the beginning that the winners and losers weren’t being presented in any particular order. That is not entirely true. For the true biggest loser, see the Sacramento Kings and GM Vlade Divac. We detailed how the New Orleans Pelicans scored a win by acquiring DeMarcus Cousins, and Friday, the big man lashed out at his former employer, saying the trade was a “coward move.” The deal came without warning and repeated assurances of no deal in the works to Cousins, who laid it all out for the media. He said Kings general manager Vlade Divac told him as much, to his face, just a week before trading him to ‘Nawlins for a lacklustre package of players, and that owner Vivek Ranadive was asking him about potential personnel moves just a couple days before consummating the deal. Without Cousins’ leadership and talent in the line-up, the Kings might not make much of a charge on the last playoff spot in the West.