NBA Trade Deadline Winners/Losers: Detroit should celebrate, Houston not so much

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Let’s be up front: Picking winners and losers immediately after a trade is a bit of Roulette. We know what we think will happen based on history with these players and organizations, but things change and we all miss on these (fans, media, and GMs).

Second, there are disagreements on what is a good or bad move. For example, from our PBT Podcast breaking down the trade deadline, I kind of like the Clippers getting Jeff Green in a “let’s make a run at this with our core, and he improves a weak spot” kind of way. (Not that it’s enough to vault them near the top of the West.) Green is a clear upgrade from Lance Stephenson, but Dan Feldman (and most media) panned the move because L.A. gave up a lottery-protected 2019 first round pick to the Grizzlies for Green, they see the price as too high. 

I don’t think there were huge gains or huge falls this time around. All that said, here are my winners and losers from Thursday’s trade deadline.

Winner: Detroit Pistons. This goes back to the Tobias Harris trade a couple of days ago and extends through them getting Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton this deadline — the Pistons look like a dangerous team on the rise. They already had their core of Andre Drummond in the paint and Reggie Jackson at the point (a pair with good pick-and-roll chemistry), now they have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Harris, Stanley Johnson, and Thorton on the wing, plus Motiejunas is a great fit when healthy. The core of this team is all in their early 20s. This team may make the playoffs this year, but under Stan Van Gundy they are set up to be very good in a couple of years now. What they gave up to get all this was nothing much, Brandon Jennings was the biggest name and he was leaving as a free agent this summer.

Loser: Houston Rockets. They desperately wanted to unload Dwight Howard. They desperately wanted to unload Ty Lawson. It’s going to be an awkward reunion when those two walk back into the locker room after not being traded by the organization at the deadline — two guys who very well could walk away from the Rockets this summer for nothing. J.B. Bickerstaff called the team “broken” before the All-Star break, after this deadline what are they now? It’s not a huge loss in that they didn’t make a panic move, but Daryl Morey assembled a disappointing team with terrible chemistry and his efforts to fix it at the deadline fell flat.

Winner: Phoenix Suns. They have been shopping the disgruntled and slumping Markieff Morris all season, but his attitude and play had teams saying earlier this season the Suns would need to throw a sweetener in the deal. Nobody wanted him, and throwing towels at his coach and on-the-bench incidents with teammates were not helping matters. But the Suns showcased Morris in recent weeks and he played much better, and that was enough to get the Wizards to roll the dice and trade for Morris. I get this deal for the Wizards — they needed more athleticism up front and a guy who could play better with John Wall, and Morris is all that. But the Suns scored on what they got in return — a top-nine protected pick in the 2016 draft (the Wizards currently would draft 12th), Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair. The Suns are expected to waive Blair. Humphries is serviceable and they can keep him next season at a very fair $4.6 million, or cut him loose for a minimum buyout — with him and Blair gone the Suns add $7.4 million in cap space next season. That’s a great haul for a player the Suns wanted to dump for a rack of shoot around basketballs just to get him out the door.

Loser: New Orleans. Ryan Anderson is going to leave the Pelicans this summer as a free agent. The Pelicans are not going to make the playoffs and need Anderson. The Pelicans phone lines were flooded with offers for Anderson — some of them lowball offers no doubt, we don’t know exactly what was on the table. But the Pelicans thought about moving him last trade deadline, then again this summer, and now this trade deadline (at a discount, because of the pending free agency and his play taking a step back), and at the end of the day Anderson is still a Pelican. And he will walk for nothing. This was a chance to help start reworking the roster around Anthony Davis, and it did not happen.

Winner: Golden State Warriors. The balance of power in the NBA did not change — nobody made a trade that made you say “that team just became a serious contender.” The Spurs didn’t move at the deadline (they rarely do). The Thunder added Randy Foye, but he’s not better than some of the shooting guards they have on the roster already. Channing Frye gives the Cavaliers some versatility and is a nice pickup, but he replicates some of Kevin Love‘s job and doesn’t do it as well. The Clippers added Jeff Green and he’s an upgrade over Lance Stephenson, but he’s not putting the Clippers over the top. Honestly, there may not have been a trade out there that struck fear in the hearts of the Warriors (or even made them double take), but nobody made a move that should prevent parade planning in June in Oakland.

Loser: Toronto Raptors. The Cavaliers are not invincible. The Raptors are the clear second best team in the East, but with a glaring hole at the four where Luis Scola starts and Patrick Patterson comes off the bench. Make a key upgrade at the four and the Raptors are the team with a real shot to push Cleveland come May. It wasn’t for lack of effort — Raptors GM Masai Ujiri was on the phone trying to get in on Al Horford, Ryan Anderson, Taj Gibson, P.J. Tucker and everyone else that’s an available power forward. The Raptors were offering some combination of a first-round pick (the lesser of the Knicks or Nuggets this June) and Patrick Patterson, but they could hot get a deal done. This is not a huge loss — there was no panic move that sets the franchise back. But the Raptors didn’t seize the day, either. They may well come to regret that. Hopefully what they’ve got can get them out of the first round of the playoffs, and maybe the second. That will at least appease frustrated Raptors fans, who wanted to see a deadline move.

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!