Year after year the NBA trade deadline consistently provides diehard NBA fans entertainment as their favorite franchise change for better or for worse, and the landscape of the league for the future is permanently altered. The day of certainly brings about the most action, but it’s really a five-to-seven day affair of teams trying to better themselves, whether in the present or for the future. However few trades go down equally, and upon initial outlook, here are my winners and losers of this year’s trade deadline.
Toronto Raptors: The Toronto Raptors have been in a tailspin after being the East’s second-best team earlier in the year. However, general manager Masai Ujiri might have just swiftly turned their championship chances back around. While their Feb. 14 trade to acquire veteran power forward Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic didn’t come right at the deadline, it still qualifies as a big upgrade. Ibaka is an athletic power forward who can stretch the floor with shooting, has always been a good defender and comes with extensive playoff experience. His skillset matches up well with the NBA’s current small-ball crunch-time lineups. The biggest part of this trade was the fact the Raptors only gave up Terrence Ross and a late first-round pick. Ross is a former high draft choice and good player, but if the Raptors’ have one thing its wing depth with Norman Powell, DeMarre Carroll and DeMar Derozan. The first-round pick will be in the low 20s, where drafting a contributor is a difficult task. Ibaka has indicated he will resign as well, meaning the Raptors gave up nothing of significance to get a clear upgrade for now and the foreseeable future. They also added P.J. Tucker, a veteran presence with good “Three and D” skills while unloading the now obsolete Jared Sullinger and only coughing up two second-round picks, that again, shouldn’t be very good. They worked the system well this deadline.
Houston Rockets: The Rockets made their intentions of contending for an NBA title clear when they sent Corey Brewer and their first-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for scoring guard Lou Williams. Williams has gotten buckets his whole career, and has been excellent this season for the Lakers. His skillset meshes well with Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system and all the Rockets had to give up were a past-his-prime Corey Brewer and a later first-round pick, which may never yield a player that will even come close to what Williams is already. A good fit for good value is always a win.
New Orleans Pelicans: Like many trades, time will tell whether or not DeMarcus Cousins fits chemistry-wise and basketball-wise in New Orleans. However, on paper, they’re big winners and Dell Demps just fleeced Vlade Divac, Vivek Ranadive and the Sacramento Kings. They just acquired one of the best, if not the best, pure center in the NBA. And for virtually nothing. The first-round pick they sent? If the Pelicans play to their potential of a playoff team then it won’t even be in the lottery. Buddy Hield? He’s the same age as Anthony Davis. Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway won’t mean anything in the big picture. DeMarcus Cousins is a controversial figure among analysts but what cannot be denied is the Pelicans just got an elite talent for a mediocre package. Xs and Os will have to be worked out, but the Pelicans now possess two of the best big men in the entire league.
Sacramento Kings: Maybe Vivek Ranadive is a basketball savant, but if he is it certainly has not shown through. His tenure running the Kings has been marred by dysfunction and their recent transactions are no different. They just gave up an all star in DeMarcus Cousins for a 23-year-rookie who hasn’t shown he can do anything but be a spot shooter and a middle-of-the-road first-round pick. Clearly the Kings have their own inflated value of Buddy Hield but to the impartial observer, they gave up a lot for a little. He is old for a rookie and his ceiling doesn’t appear that high. Their mess of a front office is as clear as ever, and Vlade Divac even admitted two days prior to trading Cousins he had better offers on the table. His reneging on promising Cousins and his agent that he wouldn’t be traded just days prior has stained his reputation. None of this very reassuring that they will proceed the right way in the future either.
Orlando Magic: The Magic and General Manager Rob Hennigan are more of long-term losers than just deadline losers here. In June 2016 the Magic still had Victor Oladipo and the No. 11 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. They’ve ultimately turned that into Terrence Ross and a pick in the late 20s in this year’s draft. Anyone with eyes can tell that’s a downgrade. In between they were stuck with an underperforming Serge Ibaka and a roster that made no sense after sending Oladipo and the pick for him from the Thunder. The future isn’t exactly bright either.
Philadelphia 76ers: With a lot of assets, the 76ers were expected to be movers and shakers this deadline. While they followed through, their deals, and the deals they left on the table, leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. The Ersan Ilyasova flip for Tiago Splitter and a pick appears fairly meaningless in the grand scheme. However, their deadline deal with the Dallas Mavericks, sending young center Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for their former first rounder Justin Anderson, as well as a heavily protected 2017 first round choice that becomes two second rounder’s, smells like a loser. They gave up a young former top-10 pick who has shown potential and production, for a middling prospect who is older than Noel and likely mid-second round picks in the 2018 draft. Just doesn’t really make much sense. Meanwhile, Jahlil Okafor, the former No. 3 pick who has been buried in the bench all season, was expected to be moved. The 76ers came close for a deal, and prior to the deadline Okafor wasn’t even with the team at one point. They failed to find him a new home, and instead made themselves look bad while getting stuck with a player who doesn’t really fit and isn’t happy. The process will keep churning out assets for another couple years, but this deadline Colangelo and company didn’t make good use of it.
While there was no blockbuster moves on actual deadline day, many teams still changed their outlook. Of course all these reactions are short term. Some trades we won’t find out if they were worth it until playoff time and others even longer. Things have a funny way of working out in the NBA.
Matt Barresi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.