Grading the biggest moves of the NBA trade deadline

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Memphis Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane (22) fouls Houston Rockets forward Kelly Olynyk (41) as he looks to shoot during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, March 29, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

The days leading up to the NBA trade deadline are truly an event in their own right. They give NBA fans a glimpse of basketball’s future and can be deciding factors for teams in their present championship aspirations. Today, Evan and I are going to discuss the biggest moves that transpired this go-round, implications for each team involved in the transaction and any potential league-wide impacts.  

1. The Rockets trade Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap  

Karthik on Rockets: This trade for the Houston Rockets has to be given an F and no, that is not overly harsh. The Victor Oladipo trade was a panic button move because he was already a one-year rental. This rushed decision caused the Houston Rockets’ management to downgrade even further by shipping him to the Miami Heat for zero contributing assets that will supplement a viable rebuilding process. This forced transaction is simply the aftermath of fumbling James Harden’s departure from the organization. This trade really shows that every ounce of basketball value in Houston stemmed from the brilliance of head coach Mike D’Antoni, president of basketball operations Darryl Morey and superstar James Harden. Without them, you are left with a team that now lives in the basement of the Western Conference.  

Evan on Heat: For Miami, how could you criticize this move for the Heat? After failing to acquire star point guard Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors, Miami was able to pull off an incredible trade for Victor Oladipo at the buzzer. The Rockets, after acquiring Oladipo in a series of trades centered around superstar James Harden, practically gave away Oladipo for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap. With Oladipo, Miami gets a proven scorer to aid star Jimmy Butler and all-star Bam Adebayo in a journey back to the NBA Finals. Oladipo will start, get to peak physical condition with an incredible training staff in Miami and ultimately prove himself on the best team he has played on in his career. Miami gets their scorer they’ve been heavily interested in without giving up any of their valuable young core, such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. This is undoubtedly an A+ trade for the Heat.  

2. Orlando Magic trade Aaron Gordon to the Denver Nuggets for Gary Harris, R.J Hampton and a first round draft pick 

Karthik on Nuggets: While this move seems questionable at first glance, it must be understood that the value of NBA trades is not determined in a vacuum. This trade is actually an underrated acquisition by the Denver Nuggets because it adds size and defensive versatility to a roster bereft of players that fill that niche role. Lacking a player that could matchup physically against Anthony Davis was why the Denver Nuggets lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season, not because their offense could not keep pace. Gordon is also averaging 14.6 ppg which means that he does maintain an offensive presence while fulfilling this crucial responsibility. His surreal athleticism, ability to play uptempo and command the boards will prove to be pivotal for this talented young Denver Nuggets team in the playoffs. Additionally, while Gary Harris and RJ Hampton are solid players, they play roles that are mirrored by several other players on the roster. Lastly, giving up a first round pick does not mean that much to a team in championship contention that is attempting to make winning moves in the present. The benefits far outweigh the costs for the Denver Nuggets in this trade so I am happy to give them an A.  

Evan on Magic: With the Magic, this is actually not a bad package for Aaron Gordon. While the Magic initially were reportedly seeking a package around Evan Fournier, Gordon, and two first-round picks, Orlando decided to deal Gordon alone for a solid package of young players headlined by shooting guard Gary Harris and an extra first-round pick. After the Magic were able to pick up Wendell Carter, Otto Porter Jr. and two more first-round picks, it is clear that the Magic are in a full rebuild mode and aim to build their superstar team through future NBA draft selections. With the players they acquired, Harris provides solid defense and was a team favorite on Denver for his valuable defense. While he may only be averaging a mere 9.7 points this season, Harris will look to play some valuable minutes on a young Magic team. For Hampton, Denver played the young point-guard just 9.6 minutes a game, and a new opportunity on the Magic will help the young guard prove his skills. It will be interesting to see how Hampton utilizes his extra playing time under head-coach Steve Clifford. Overall, Orlando receives a B- for this trade. 

3. Orlando Magic trade Nikola Vučević and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks  

Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) shoots over Golden State Warriors forward Kelly Oubre Jr. during the first half of an NBA basketball game in San Francisco, Monday, March 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Karthik on Magic: The Orlando Magic have officially gutted their team to start their own version of Philadelphia’s “process” but I don’t think Magic fans should be that upset. There is nothing worse in the NBA than being a perennial eighth seed that gets eliminated in the first round. This level of mediocrity not only diminishes the odds of winning a championship, but minimizes the possibility of landing a high lottery pick in the draft. In this trade, I think the Orlando Magic were smart about unloading a now thirty-year-old Nikola Vučević from the roster but did not receive equivalent compensation for their star player and a quality defensive wing in Al-Farouq Aminu. Therefore, I think a C is a fair assessment for the trade from the perspective of the Orlando Magic.  

Evan on Bulls: Bulls fans rejoice! Chicago gets a superstar big man fresh off his second all-star appearance to pair with flashy guard Zach Lavine, young big man Lauri Markannen and second-year guard Coby White. Not only does Nikola Vučević put Chicago in a win-now mode, but it gives the Bulls a veteran big man who can mentor Markkanen and rookie Patrick Williams into a strong frontcourt for Chicago. Vučević, at a career-high 24.5 points, 11.8 rebounds per game and an impressive 40.8% from the three-point line, will indeed be a dangerous offensive weapon to pair along with Lavine, who averages 25.5 points per game. While the Bulls give up young and upcoming big man Wendell Carter Jr., Vučević is more than worth it for a Bulls squad just 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. Otto Porter Jr., at a ridiculous contract worth over $26 million a year, is a great move for unloading such a disastrous contract. The two first round picks won’t be very valuable considering the Bulls will be in win-now mode with Vučević. Along with Vučević, Al-Farouq Aminu comes to the Bulls and provides a valuable veteran presence to help Vučević mentor Chicago’s young core. Overall, this is an A move for the Bulls if Chicago truly capitalizes on the talent of Vučević.  

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