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Winners, losers from wild, blockbuster-filled NBA trade deadline

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Kurt Helin offers his take on the blockbuster trade sending Kevin Durant from Brooklyn to Phoenix, from the Suns' place in the Western Conference hierarchy to where the Nets go from here.

A couple of weeks before the NBA trade deadline, the conventional wisdom was it would be a quiet one. So when a rapid chain of events led to a blockbuster — Kyrie Irving demanding a trade then getting his wish and being sent to Dallas — the sense was that was it. Just small deals the rest of the way.

Then came the Russell Westbrook trade, and again everyone thought that would be it. Then the Kevin Durant trade to Phoenix blew the roof off everything.

It was an insane trade deadline. Let’s break down the winners and losers from a wild few days.

WINNER: Chris Paul

Everyone in Phoenix is a winner — Suns fans, Mat Ishbia, Jae Crowder’s realtor — but let’s start with Chris Paul. Father Time has been gaining ground quickly on the 37-year-old 12-time All-Star this season. It is evident to the naked eye just watching him play, let alone the dip in his statistics (I asked a scout about it about a month ago and he just shook his head in resignation).

Bringing in Durant breathes a second life into CP3 this season — and could get him over the hump to the ring he so badly wants to cap off his career. Pressure comes off because the offense can run through Durant at points, and there will be less of a need for Paul to score, allowing him to focus on the playmaker role where he thrives. This kind of acquisition can take advantage of Paul’s skill sets.

Suns fans are winners because after decades of the penny-pinching (and much worse) Robert Sarver, Mat Ishbia takes over as owner and in 24 hours starts spending to turn the team into a contender — the Durant trade added more about $45 million in tax and payroll to the team’s bill. Ishbia is a winner for taking advantage of the opportunity to do all that.

There are questions about these Suns — defense, how much depth they have after moving Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and others, and can they stay healthy — but since their trip to the Finals, the Suns have looked good not great. Now, they can be great.

LOSER: Brooklyn Nets championship era

Sixteen games.

That’s how many games Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden played together. The team that on paper looked like it should waltz to the title crashed and burned under the weight of its own expectations, some unlucky injuries, and their own egos and foibles. It was a car wreck we all saw coming and couldn’t turn away from watching.

The Nets moved on from their superstars, and while they got some talent back and replenished some picks, the biggest thing is they have to re-establish the franchise culture (they turned that over to the superstars and they blew it up). There is a lot of work to do.

GM Sean Marks needs to get back to what he did when he took over what was seen as the worst job in the NBA in 2016 – a 21-win team that traded away most of its draft capital — and build a team-first culture of hard work and smart play. The team that drew Durant and Irving to town. Except next time don’t turn the keys of the franchise over to the superstars.

WINNER: Houston Rockets

This isn’t about a trade sending Eric Gordon and getting Danny Green and John Wall back (they will waive Wall anyway and make him a free agent). This is about the future.

One year ago at the trade deadline, Houston traded James Harden to the Nets and thanks to that deal now control — either outright have or have swap rights — for every Nets’ first-round pick between now and 2027. Those picks look much more valuable after this trade deadline.

WINNER: Los Angeles Lakers

There absolutely is a little addition by subtraction in sending Russell Westbrook away. Multiple reports have talked about rising tensions between him and the coaching staff in recent weeks, which was bleeding over and impacting the team.

But more importantly, the Lakers got three quality rotation players back for the price of Westbrook and a first-round pick — D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley.

“All of those guys bring unique skill sets, skill sets that we need, shooting, playmaking, energy, defense, rebounding, a lot of needs they’ll be able to address,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham Thursday before his team took on the Bucks.

The Lakers got deeper and better. Let’s not confuse this with them suddenly being a threat to win it all – they are six games below .500 and have work to do just to make the play-in — but if LeBron James and Anthony Davis are healthy, these roster additions help move the Lakers into the “nobody wants to see them” category.

LOSER: Nuggets, Grizzlies

Just before Christmas, Ja Morant said “Nah. I’m fine in the West” about the Grizzlies’ chances to make the Finals.

Karma can be brutal. While the Nuggets and Grizzlies made tweaks around the edges — Denver traded Bones Hyland and added Thomas Bryant, while the Grizzlies bought in Luke Kennard — the West was hit with an influx of elite talents such as Durant and Irving.

It was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Other teams didn’t fear the Nuggets or Grizzlies, so they went out and added players to put them over the top, which in turn makes it more likely the Nuggets and Grizzlies are not teams to be feared.

The Grizzlies have lost 8-of-10 and have looked sloppy doing it. Morant and company need to take care of that first, then worry about the rest of the West.

STAYS THE SAME: John Collins

For about the 47th consecutive summer or trade deadline, John Collins was a constant in trade rumors and then remained an Atlanta Hawk. New front office in Atlanta, but the more things change the more they stay the same.

Just wait for the Draft, when Collins undoubtedly will be available again.