By: Mike Bonomo
The NBA trade deadline was last week and while it wasn’t nearly as exciting as 2015’s game of last minute point guard musical chairs, moves were still made. What teams improved, and what teams could have done more? Here are some winners and losers to help you find out.
WINNER: Detroit Pistons
The Pistons added the young and talented Tobias Harris for the price of Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. Jennings and Ilyasova are both on expiring contracts and were unlikely to resign in Detroit anyways. Harris is still only 23, and fits in with the Pistons young core along with Andre Drummond (22), Reggie Jackson (25), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (23), and Stanley Johnson (19). Harris won’t provide quite as much shooting as Ilyasova did, he still shoots well enough to space the floor, and can create offense on his own very well. He’s also locked up through 2018-2019, and his deal is actually front-loaded, meaning his cap hit will decrease every season after next. With the cap set to explode, his contract will be a great value.
LOSER: Chicago Bulls
The Bulls came into the season fancying themselves contenders in the Eastern Conference, but injuries and lack of development from young players shattered that dream. With Pau Gasol planning on opting out after this season and the Bulls going nowhere at the moment, he was a prime candidate to be moved to a contender in need of a big man, or apparently the Kings who showed major interest. A deal was supposedly on the table that would have sent Gasol and Tony Snell to Sacramento for Ben McLemore, Kosta Koufos, and a lowering of the protections on Sacramento’s first round pick already owed to the Bulls. McLemore has mostly been seen as a bust, though a change of scenery may be just what he needs, and is still currently an upgrade over Snell and Doug McDermott. Koufos provides solid minutes at both forward spots, and a better chance at Sacramento’s pick would possibly give the Bulls the infusion of young talent they need, all at the price of a 35 year old who likely won’t be with the team next season anyways. Alas, they didn’t pull the trigger. But hey, they got a 2nd round pick for Kirk Hinrich!
WINNER: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are the runaway favorite in the East, with Toronto the only team who is seen as even having a remote chance at toppling Cleveland in the playoffs. The Raptors stood pat at the deadline, leaving the Cavs as the easy favorite to return to the NBA Finals. They also added Channing Frye to provide some shooting from the forward spots.
LOSER: Houston Rockets
The Rockets have been a huge disappointment, and really needed a major shakeup. Stars James Harden and Dwight Howard don’t get along, and ahead of Howard’s impending free agency, there was hope the team could move him for something. They couldn’t find a taker at a price they liked for him and will likely lose him for nothing this offseason. To add even more embarrassment for the franchise, the one trade they did complete, sending Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to Detroit for a top 8 protected 2016 pick, was voided after Motiejunas failed a physical.
WINNER: Phoenix Suns
The Suns have also been a disaster this season, and Markieff Morris played a role in that. He was unhappy after the team traded his twin brother Marcus to Detroit in the offseason and demanded a trade. He struggled on the court, and caused headaches for the team off of it, including being suspended for a pair of games after tossing a towel at then head coach Jeff Hornacek, and getting into a scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin on the bench a week before the deadline. Phoenix needed to move him and were able to wrangle a top 9 protected pick out of Washington for him. If the season ended today the Suns would be getting the 12th overall pick. Even if Morris helps the Wizards improve this year, getting a pick in the mid teens for a guy who the whole league knew you were desperate to get rid of is a steal.
LOSER: Boston Celtics
The Celtics have a warchest filled with first round picks (thanks Billy King!) and young talent, and have been waiting for a star level player to pounce on. Al Horford was supposedly available, and while the Kings have been saying DeMarcus Cousins won’t be traded all year, you never know with that organization. Boston went home empty-handed however, though they’ll still retain those assets into the offseason and beyond.
WINNER: Golden State Warriors
They didn’t make any trades. They just always win.