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