BOSTON – As much as the playoffs tend to gravitate around the game’s biggest stars, often it’s the role players that put them over the top.
Dating back to the end of last summer, teams went about acquiring as many talented pieces as possible with the goal being to be in the postseason and stay there for as long as possible.
A number of teams bolstered their lineup by way of a trade.
Some, like the Rajon Rondo to Dallas deal in December, didn’t work out as expected.
But there were plenty others that made teams better, and in some cases for the short and long-term.
Here we’ll take a look at five trades this past season that helped strengthen a team’s postseason position, or in some instances actually propelled them into the playoffs.
1. Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets
How Ariza was acquired: Ariza was part of three-team, six-player trade on July 15, 2014.
Summary: Two days after declining the offer sheet on Chandler Parsons, the Rockets worked quickly to acquire his replacement and a few more assets going forward. But this deal was all about adding Ariza who is one of the more under-rated, two-way players in the NBA. His defense has been solid for years, but it was his shooting touch in Washington that opened some eyes. He has been a solid contributor in Houston in whatever role they’ve casted him in to play. And while there are a number of players for the Rockets who have stepped up their game in the postseason, the play of Ariza is a key component to Houston having moved on to the second round of the playoffs.
2. Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics
How Thomas was acquired: Celtics traded a 2016 first-round pick and Marcus Thornton for Thomas on Feb. 19.
Summary: Thomas’ impact was nothing short of amazing for Boston. He came in and immediately made his presence felt with a barrage of big-time scoring games. Thomas’ strength is that of a scorer, something that made him stand out from the very beginning with the Celtics. He finished the season as the team’s top scorer and was runner-up for the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Look for him to be a key cog going forward for the Celtics.
3. Thaddeus Young, Brooklyn Nets
How Young was acquired: The Nets traded former Celtic Kevin Garnett to Minnesota in exchange for Young on Feb. 19.
Summary: From pitiful-playing Philadelphia to maddeningly bad Minnesota, it’s hard to imagine anyone being happier about being traded than Young. He is a hybrid forward who is solid at playing both spots. His versatility coupled with a veteran Nets team allowed them to finish off the regular season strong and qualify for the playoffs. And although they just got in as an eighth seed, they are giving the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks all they can handle. And Young’s play is part of their solid play thus far in the playoffs.
4. Jeff Green, Memphis Grizzlies
How Green was acquired: As part of a three-team, five-player trade between Boston, Memphis and New Orleans, Green was sent to Memphis on Jan. 12.
Summary: Despite having a fluorescent green light to shoot whenever he wanted to in Boston, Green never really dominated the scoring like he should despite being the team’s leading scorer when he left. Playing with a powerful 1-2 punch in the frontcourt that includes Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the potential was there for Green to be an impact player without the pressure of carrying a team. Green can become a free agent this summer and sign a long-term, more lucrative deal. The Grizzlies will make re-signing Green an offseason priority.
5. Ramone Sessions, Washington Wizards
How Sessions was acquired: The Sacramento Kings traded Sessions for Washington’s Andre Miller on Feb. 19.
Summary: This was not one of the sexier trades this season, but it was very impactful. Sessions has been a solid backup in the backcourt for the Wizards who swept the higher-seeded Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. During the four-game series, Sessions was charged with giving that second unit a jolt offensively. He did just that, shooting 55.6 percent on 3s while averaging 6.5 points in 16.5 minutes per game. The Wizards had their struggles near the end of the regular season, but veterans like Sessions turned it on when it matters the most – the playoffs. And that’s why they’re on to the second round awaiting the winner of the Atlanta-Brooklyn series.