The NBA trade deadline was busier than expected, with 11 trades going down in total, and some of them getting completed just under the wire.
Here’s a recap of everything that happened, along with some grades and analysis for all of the teams involved.
Grades: Nets – A, Timberwolves – C+
Garnett returning home is a nice, feel-good story, and the rebuilding Timberwolves could use one of those. But KG is long past his prime, and has little on-court value for a Timberwolves team that won’t sniff the playoffs this season. They may want to re-sign Garnett to a long-term deal, but he’s likely finished, and could only serve as a mentor to younger players for the final eight weeks or so of the current regular season.
For the Nets, however, this is a nice move. Young is a legitimate two-way player, and has averaged 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33.4 minutes per game for Minnesota this season. His contract is not unreasonable for next season at just under $10 million, but he does hold an early termination option. More importantly, Brooklyn needs guys who can contribute NOW, and Young is exactly that.
Grades: Suns – A, Heat – A
This deal was the rare win-win, especially when taking into consideration the other moves that Phoenix made as a result. The Suns also dealt Isaiah Thomas to rid themselves of the three point guard issue that caused Dragic to want out in the first place, and acquired a legitimate replacement for Dragic in the form of Brandon Knight, who was a borderline All-Star for the Bucks this season, and will cost Phoenix much less to re-sign in restricted free agency this summer.
On the Miami side, adding Dragic could make a healthy Heat team dangerous, as quickly as this postseason. Plus, the fact that the future first round picks they sent away aren’t until 2017 and 2021 means that the Heat are still good in the immediate future, and as one of the destinations Dragic specified as markets where he’ll re-sign, Miami should have the inside track on retaining his services on a long-term contract for the next few seasons.
Grades: Sixers C-, Bucks B-
Michael Carter-Williams is the reigning Rookie of the Year, and while his scoring average has dipped in his second season, his assists per game have increased. The problem is his field goal percentage, which has dropped since last year — he’s at just 38 percent for the season, which includes a mark of only 25.6 percent from three-point distance.
Carter-Williams needs to develop, but has shown plenty of signs of being a legitimate point guard in this league. At some point, the Sixers are going to have to stick with the talent they have, and work on the development side to increase those players’ skill sets, and, by proxy, their respective values to the franchise. For whatever reason, the Philly front office wasn’t feeling it with MCW, so they hit the reset button by dealing him for (another) first round pick. But that strategy will only sit well with the fan base for so long.
As for the Bucks, it’s a low-risk, high-reward maneuver that’s difficult to criticize.
Grades: Bucks – B, Suns – A
This was part of the aforementioned three-team deal with the Sixers, so if you’re including Carter-Williams in Milwaukee’s haul, then it’s not bad at all. Knight will be a restricted free agent this summer, which means that Carter-Williams is a lower-cost replacement for him in Milwaukee, and Knight will end up being a lower-cost replacement for Dragic in Phoenix.
Knight was a borderline All-Star this season, and a backcourt featuring him and Eric Bledsoe should be one that wreaks nothing but devastation on Suns opponents. Plumlee has value in the right role, and so does Ennis — but both are young players who will require development, and were expendable in Phoenix when you look at the other assets in place on that Suns roster.
Grades: Suns – B, Celtics – A
The Suns had too many point guards; it was the reason that Goran Dragic essentially forced a trade out of town. Trading two of them this deadline day was the way to go, and netting a scoring two-guard in Thornton and a 2016 pick for Thomas seems to be a wise decision.
The Celtics, meanwhile, were flush with picks, and they get an above average point guard in Thomas who’s on a very reasonable contract (under $20 million total over the next three years) that will save enough cap space to add talent in other areas of need.
Grades: Thunder – A, Pistons – A, Jazz – C
OKC helped themselves with this deal, in more ways than one. Jackson was disgruntled, and had already turned down a four-year, $48 million contract extension. As a restricted free agent this summer, he was going to seek an offer sheet much larger than that, and wanted to be a starter somewhere else. By sending him out of town, and securing front line offensive help in Enes Kanter as well as a serviceable replacement in the form of D.J. Augustin, the Thunder successfully addressed more than one of their weaknesses. And, ridding themselves of Kendrick Perkins in the deal is simply icing on the cake.
The Pistons, meanwhile, added some much-needed young talent, and should be able to give Jackson the role he is seeking, especially for the remainder of this season with Brandon Jennings sidelined due to injury.
Kanter, too, will be a restricted free agent this summer, and was unhappy in his role in Utah. But it feels like the Jazz could have done a little bit better in terms of getting assets in exchange for what he brings.
Grades: Rockets B+, Sixers C, Knicks B+
Once again, we have the Sixers hitting the reset button when they already have appeared to land a significant level of talent. McDaniels is a ridiculous defender as well as an athlete, yet Philadelphia gave him away to try their luck again at the NBA roulette table. That’s a nice pickup for the Rockets, and the same could be said for Prigioni, who could provide veteran minutes as a backup point guard for the stretch run of the season. The Knicks netted two second-round picks for the 37-year-old Prigioni, which is a coup in and of itself.
Grades: Pelicans – B, Heat/Suns – B
New Orleans needed guard help with Jrue Holiday sidelined due to injury, and with Cole becoming a restricted free agent this summer, the Heat were happy to let him walk. Cole was technically included from Miami in the deal for Goran Dragic, but the Suns had no need for another guard, and in fact, are expected to waive Salmons (who’s more of a wing) when all is said and done.
Grades: Blazers B+, Nuggets C
The Western Conference is crazy in terms of its competitiveness, and while the Blazers are currently tied with Houston for third, there’s no guarantee that they’ll stay there. Portland had a deficiency in defense and scoring on the wing, so the team went out and got Afflalo in order to help fill that gap. He could also fill in nicely for Nicolas Batum, should Batum continue his sub-par play this season.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, got some pieces in Thomas Robinson (now playing for his fourth team), Will Barton and Victor Claver, but all of those players will require development. Afflalo can play, but this trade may be for now more than it is for the future, because he has a player option for next season that he’s likely to forego in order to become an unrestricted free agent.
Grades: Wizards B, Kings A-
The Wizards needed an upgrade at the backup point guard position, and with Andre Miller having a reduced role in favor of Garrett Temple, he became expendable. Sessions could be that upgrade, though he was averaging career-lows in points (5.4) and minutes (17.8) in Sacramento this season. He’s guaranteed only one more year at a little over $2 million, though, so it was a low-risk maneuver for the Wizards that was worth taking as they look to improve for the stretch run of the season.
In Sacramento, meanwhile, this is about George Karl having a veteran voice in his new locker room that is on his side. Karl has tons of respect for Miller, and the feeling is mutual, thanks to a relationship that was formed when the two were members of the Nuggets organization. As Karl implements his system, Miller can help be a liaison of sorts to make the transition go that much more smoothly.