Grades for all of the NBA’s trade deadline deals; Thunder, Pistons, Suns emerge as biggest winners

44 Comments

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.

Nets trade Kevin Garnett to Timberwolves in exchange for Thaddeus Young

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.

Suns trade Goran Dragic to Miami Heat

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.

Sixers trade Michael Carter-Williams to Bucks, receive Lakers’ protected 2015 first round pick from Suns 

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.

Bucks trade Brandon Knight to Suns, net Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis

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.

Suns trade Isaiah Thomas to Celtics, receive Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first round pick

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.

Thunder trade Reggie Jackson to Pistons in three-team deal with Jazz

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.

Rockets trade for K.J. McDaniels from Sixers, Pablo Prigioni from Knicks

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.

Pelicans acquire Norris Cole from Suns (via Heat) in exchange for John Salmons

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.

Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo in trade from Nuggets

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.

Kings acquire Andre Miller from Wizards in exchange for Ramon Sessions

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.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

Pelicans big Zion Williamson
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.

Magic center Mo Bamba had coronavirus

Magic center Mo Bamba
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mo Bamba has fallen behind Khem Birch as the Magic’s backup center (to Nikola Vucevic). At the NBA’ resumption at Disney World, Bamba has played in only two of Orlando’s four games, receiving just four and six minutes. Magic coach Steve Clifford cited the 22-year-old’s conditioning.

Bamba wants you to know the full story: He had coronavirus.

Josh Robbins of The Athletic:

Bamba received word of his positive test on June 11

The illness temporarily robbed him of his senses of smell and taste, made him unusually fatigued and caused muscle soreness.

“Part of me is reading the temperature of the room and just knowing that there are definitely going to be questions, and sometimes you’ve just got to address them with honesty,” Bamba said. “In this case, I think it’s best for them to have that context and have that understanding of what, exactly, is going on.

“I want people to know that I’m still working as hard as ever, if not even harder, and I’ll get through this.”

Bamba thought he had endured the worst by the time the Magic entered the NBA bubble on July 7. But the false positives required him to have an additional three-day in-room quarantine while his teammates practiced together on July 9, July 10 and July 11.

I appreciate Bamba being so forthcoming. It was easy for people to suspect he didn’t train properly during the hiatus. Though medical privacy should also be valued, transparency often alleviates the worst suspicions.

At least 54 NBA players have tested positive for coronavirus. Does that number already include Bamba? It’s unclear.

After going quiet during most of the shutdown, the league has announced the number of players who’ve tested positive since June 23. Maybe Bamba continued to test positive on June 23 or later. Or perhaps he’s an additional case from the quiet period. There definitely were some cases in that timeframe.

False positives are an issue – an unavoidable one. It’s unfair Bamba was stuck in his hotel room, not training, longer than necessary. But the NBA can’t risk allowing a potentially contagious player into the bubble. Better to err on the side of safety.

The No. 6 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, Bamba improved steadily from an underwhelming rookie season. He still needs more work to become a quality NBA player. This is a setback, and one that makes him unlikely to contribute much the rest of this season. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pick up next season where he left off when this season got suspended.

Three Things to Know: What’s next for 76ers without Ben Simmons?

Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack — especially with games spread out every day in the bubble — so every weekday during the NBA restart we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) What’s next for 76ers without Ben Simmons?

“This one stings, for sure.”

That was 76ers coach Brett Brown, who has had to deal with a lot of injuries to players during his tenure in Philadelphia. But this one hurts a little more because of the timing. The Sixers will be without Ben Simmons for a while after he suffered a subluxation of the left patella — his kneecap essentially dislocated then popped back into place — against Washington.

The 76ers were adjusting to playing Simmons at power forward during the restart in Orlando. Now there are just questions.

How long will Simmons be out? That’s the big one and the answer is nobody knows for sure. The Sixers are evaluating treatment options. As Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes notes, Allen Crabbe had the same injury earlier this year and missed 11 days (three games), but he had no damage to the ligaments or rest of the knee. That’s the most common outcome for this injury and it would have Simmons back around the start of the playoffs. However, if there is any ligament damage, Simmons could be out much longer. (The early reports were the MRI came back clean, but that doesn’t tell us much about the real level of damage other than it wasn’t severe.) Philadelphia has always been cautious when it comes to bringing its stars back from injury.

Who starts for Philadelphia while Simmons is out? That’s one Brown has to decide by today (Friday) and the game against Orlando. He could plug Al Horford back into the starting lineup — the Sixers were +1.4 points per 100 possessions this season with Embiid and Horford on the court together without Simmons (it was -0.7 with all three and the floor spacing was a mess). Or, Brown could keep Horford on the bench and go with another wing such as Matisse Thybulle or Furkan Korkmaz.

Philadelphia seems locked into the six seed in the East (they are one game back of five seed Indiana with four to play, but the Pacers beat the Sixers last Friday and have the tiebreaker, so it is in practice a two-game lead).

Philadelphia is 6-5 this season without Simmons, and while they can plug other players into the four they will not have Simmons’ elite defense, nor his passing skills, and the new player will not be the same threat in transition. Philadelphia is just not the same threat in the East without Simmons.

2) Portland is in control of ninth seed in West after win, New Orleans loss

There is going to be a play-in series in the West — and Portland is going to be in it.

That much seems obvious after Thursday’s action, where Jusuf Nurkic was dunking on Bol Bol and Portland was picking up a 125-115 win over Denver.

That win has Portland half a game back of  Memphis for the eighth seed in the West — and the 0-4 Grizzlies face a tough game against the Thunder Friday. The West could be tied by Saturday morning.

Portland looks to be a lock for the play-in.

Can anyone else crash that party? Sacramento earned it’s first win in the bubble on Thursday, knocking off Zion Williamson and New Orleans, meaning now both the Kings and Pelicans sit 2.5 games back of the Grizzlies with four to play. Both need to win out and hope Memphis continues losing to have a chance to get into a play-in with Portland.

The undefeated-in-the-bubble Suns and the Spurs both sit two games back of the Grizzlies and with a chance to make a play-in. Just as with the Kings/Pels, the Suns and Spurs essentially need to win out and count on the Grizzlies continued stumbles to have a chance.

Memphis controls its own destiny. But without Jaren Jackson Jr., and with Ja Morant struggling from three, a sharp turnaround is needed.

3) Milwaukee wraps up No. 1 seed in East

This was expected, but the Bucks made it dramatic. Miami led this game by 23 points in the first half, but both Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton turned it on — both finished with 33 points each — and Milwaukee came back to get 130-116 win. With that, the Bucks officially wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the East.

While this is good for the Bucks — who now get an easy first-round playoff matchup against Brooklyn or Orlando — they know they will be judged on the playoffs. This is a Finals-or-bust team. And Milwaukee fans don’t want to think about the options for bust.

Milwaukee has eased into games in the NBA restart, not worrying about wins now and rather being healthy and firing on all cylinders when the games matter. They have that luxury with the lead they built up in the East, but they need to flip the switch eventually. As they did coming back on the Heat.