Winners and losers from massive four-team, 12-player, Clint Capela trade

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NBA Fans wanted fireworks this trade deadline, well here you go:

The largest NBA trade in two decades.

The Rockets, Timberwolves, Hawks, and Nuggets have agreed to a four-team, 12-player trade — the largest NBA trade since the one that sent Patrick Ewing to Seattle in 2000. That was a pre-Twitter trade, one where everyone had to pull out their Nokia 5190 to call their friend to talk about Ewing getting moved (it was next to impossible to text on those things).

Here’s how the 2020 four-team trade ultimately breaks out:

• Houston gets: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell
• Atlanta gets: Clint Capela, Nene
• Denver gets: Gerald Green, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, Houston’s 2020 first-round pick
• Minnesota gets: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, Jarred Vanderbilt, Evan Turner, the Nets’ 2020 first-round pick

Who won and who lost? A lot more winners than losers — and a few things still up in the air — out of this trade, but let’s break it all down.

Winner: Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has been searching for a center since last summer — but not just any center. What they needed was a quality pick-and-roll center to pair with Trae Young.

They land one in Capela. For years the James Harden/Capela pick-and-roll was one of the most-run plays in the NBA because it worked, scoring above a point per possession (well above the league average, this was one of the more effective P&R combos in the league). Houston ultimately went away from it because Harden in isolation turns out to be even more efficient, but Capela is still a strong pick-setting roll man, plus he’s a quality shot-blocker in the paint on the other end. The bottom line, this is a much better fit for Atlanta than bringing in Andre Drummond.

Plus, the Hawks got their man without having to give up John Collins or this their first-round pick this year.

Winner: Robert Covington

Covington just went from being stuck in the NBA’s coldest city on a team that has lost 12 in a row to being in warm-weather Houston playing a key role on a playoff team. That’s a win.

Covington puts up nice raw numbers — 12.8 points and six rebounds a game this season, shooting 34.6 percent from three — but the advanced value stats (such as the different types of adjusted plus/minus numbers) love Covington. When he’s on the floor, teams simply perform better. On both ends of the court. Use whatever coach’s cliche you want — “he does the little things that don’t show up in the box score” or “he just plays winning basketball” — but the Rockets will be better when Covington plays, and that is the definition of an upgrade.

Winner: Fans of small ball… that means you, Mike D’Antoni

Mike D’Antoni may be on his way out in Houston, but if so he’s walking out that door on his own terms — the Rockets have gone all-in on small ball. P.J. Tucker as a 6’5″ center is no longer a gimmick, Houston is going to run with this (and the team is 3-0 in the past couple of weeks with Tucker starting at the five).

On offense, the Rockets have Harden — and sometimes Westbrook — working in isolation and surrounded by shooters. They will remain elite on that end. Defensively, the Rockets will switch everything and be physical, and Long Beach Poly’s own Jordan Bell fits in with that. (Side note to Rockets fans, please don’t bring up the Golden State “death lineup” as a defensive comparison — those teams had peak DPOY Draymond Green at the five making it work, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson are quality perimeter defenders, and the last three years they had a strong shot blocker in Kevin Durant on the floor.)

It is going to be entertaining and a fascinating experiment, although Rockets fans may want to run to a local church and light a candle for Tucker’s knees at 35 minutes a night.

Mike D’Antoni gets to be the full Mike D’Antoni. As it should be.

Here’s why I don’t have Houston as a flat-out winner: Small ball is not going to be a successful playoff strategy in the West. I’m not convinced the Rockets get out of the first round with this roster. Maybe they weren’t going to anyway in the Harden/Westbrook era, but the West is loaded with good size — the Lakers are just huge, Denver has Nikola Jokic, Utah has Rudy Gobert, the Clippers can be big and athletic across the front — I’m not sold on Tucker as center working in the postseason. It’s fun in the regular season, I get that Caplela is not as useful as a pick-and-roll partner for the Rockets in a world of Harden isolations, but I don’t think this trade made the Rockets a better playoff team. It just committed them to a style.

Loser: John Collins as a center.

This season, John Collins has split his time evenly between the four and the five, and he’s been a little better as a center offensively. Collins has a 102.9 offensive rating as a center and a 101.6 rating as a power forward this season (stats via Cleaning the Glass). He can hit the three, but 61 percent of his shots come within 10 feet of the basket, and as a center he averaged 23.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Both Capela and Collins are at their best when they set a pick then dive to the rim, but there’s only one spot for that on the roster and Caplela has the job now. Collins must become more of a floor spacer — he’s shooting 35.6 percent from three this season — but that’s not his natural game. With Capela in house, one wonders if the Hawks might look to trade Collins rather than pay him what he’s worth in an extension to his rookie deal (he’s eligible for an extension this summer).

Winner: Rockets’ owner Tillman Fertitta’s pocketbook

This trade means that for the second straight year the Rockets will slip just under the luxury tax line. Of course, Fertitta says he’s willing to pay the tax for a winning team — literally every owner says that — but actions speak louder than words and two straight seasons just under the tax line is not a coincidence.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves bench

In general, this trade feels like the first move of many for Gersson Rosas – the man with the hammer in Minnesota — as he works to build a team around Karl-Anthony Towns. If I were grading this trade for the Timberwolves, I would give it an “incomplete” because this feels more like the first step than anything else.

However, picking up Beasley and Hernangomez gives the Timberwolves two solid rotation players that they can re-sign (or not) this summer, giving the team solid bench depth. That’s not a big, sexy move, but it’s the kind of thing smart teams do in rounding our a roster.

Loser: A Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell pairing… for now

The Timberwolves wanted desperately to pair good friends Towns and D’Angelo Russell last summer, and part of the construction of this trade (especially in earlier iterations) was the team lining up picks and assets to send to Golden State to entice the Warriors into this trade.

It was never going to happen at the deadline. Sources have been clear to NBC Sports from the start, Russell was going to spend the entire season as a Warrior (unless a Godfather offer blew the Warriors away). Part of that is what the Warriors have said publicly: They really do want to see what Russell and Stephen Curry look like together on the court (something not happening until Curry’s likely return next month). As the USA Today’s Mark Medina notes in our latest PBT Podcast, if the pairing does work it only ups Russell’s trade value.

The other part of this is the Warriors are up against the hard cap because Russell came in a sign-and-trade. That limits the moves the Warriors can make now. From Golden State’s perspective, if it waits until this summer — when a slow free-agent market has some teams more desperate for answers — then it can find a better, more creative Russell trade that works for them. Or, they can keep him. But there was no pressure to make a move yet.

Expect the Russell to Minneota talk to heat up again next summer.

Winners: NBA Fans

You wanted fireworks, you wanted a big trade — it’s not going to get bigger than a 12-player deal. Enjoy it.

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

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Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
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DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
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Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”