A wild NBA trade deadline involved a bevy of big moves around the league. A small cache of teams are trying to retool for the playoff push, while a bigger group of squads attempt to clear cap space and gain as many assets as possible. With everything now settled, let’s take a quick glance at the biggest winners and losers from Thursday’s deadline:
Winner — LeBron James
James has some new toys to play with in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers approached the trade deadline knowing drastic moves needed to be made across the board. Nearly all of their additions from this past offseason haven’t panned out. Given their shortage of assets, the Koby Altman-Dan Gilbert pairing did a fine job in bolstering the roster around James.
George Hill will fit comfortably in Ty Lue’s starting lineup. The former Sacramento King’s penchant for spot-up shooting and perimeter defense makes him a perfect complementary point guard for a LeBron-led squad. Rodney Hood gives them a 3-and-D player in the ilk of what Jae Crowder was supposed to be, but offers more in off-the-bounce situations and is still just 25 years old. The Laker duo of Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance helps to inject some youth on the oldest team in the league, and should be staples on Lue’s bench units.
All in all, the Cavs did the best they could with what they had. James can’t be too upset with the work Altman and Gilbert have put in, as the team has shown their willingness to spend for a contender.
Loser — Memphis Grizzlies
At 28 years old, Tyreke Evans is currently enjoying the best season of his career. The former Rookie of the Year has been a revelation for the Grizzlies this season, stepping in as the team’s lead guard during Mike Conley’s absence. He’s always been gifted at getting to the basket and drawing contact, but Evans has stretched his game out to beyond the three point line (career high 39.2-percent on threes). He also happens to be on an expiring deal and is only owed $3 million this season.
Memphis was reportedly looking for a first round pick in exchange for Evans, but were met with offers that centered around second rounders. The league was exceptionally stingy this year with trading first round picks. The affordability and versatility of Evans didn’t entice any of the playoff teams to pull the trigger on a deal.
He could potentially walk this summer, and the lottery-bound Grizzlies will have not cashed in at all during a breakout season.
Winner — Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers checked every box in their singular trade on Thursday. By trading away Clarkson, they effectively shed over $30 million in salary over the next two years. The additions of Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye will inject much needed outside shooting to the roster. They even squeezed a first round pick out of Cleveland.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have done a great job with their two major trades since taking over. The negative effects from the prior regime have been nearly wiped clean, and LA has set themselves up to be major players in either of the next two free agent periods.
Loser — Recent Lottery Picks
It wasn’t a great time for lottery picks over the last couple years, as a bevy of former top draft picks were sent packing from their original teams.
The Brooklyn Nets adopted the “Lottery Pick Reclamation Project” strategy this past offseason when they willingly took on Timofey Mozgov’s contract for the chance at developing D’Angelo Russell. Although he’s been hampered by injuries this year, the Nets have liked what they’ve seen from the 21-year old. They kept the trend rolling when they traded for Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas last month.
Emmanuel Mudiay is heading to New York in a deal that also saw Doug McDermott sent to Dallas. Numerous mocks leading up to 2015 actually had the Knicks selecting Mudiay with the fourth overall pick. They picked Kristaps Porzingis instead. At least Phil Jackson got something right.
McDermott gets a chance to play under Rick Carlisle who is renowned for his ability to get the best out of his players. If it doesn’t work out for McBuckets in Dallas, it’s not going to work anywhere.
Elfrid Payton was shipped to Phoenix for a second round pick. Although Payton is limited, he’s still a 6’4″ lead guard that shoots 52-percent from the field and is a solid playmaker. It’ll be interesting to see if playing next to a deadly shooter like Devin Booker will elevate Payton’s game.
Noah Vonleh will be playing for his third team in as many years when he suits up for the Chicago Bulls. The former ninth overall pick is on his last legs in the big leagues.
The Kings have already ditched the Georgios Papagiannis experiment. A 13th overall pick from 2016, Papagiannis suited up in just 38 total games for Sacramento before getting waived. Vlade missed on a pick, who would have thunk it?
Winner — Los Angeles Clippers
As much as Clipper fans don’t want to admit it, the team made a couple of excellent moves this season. Moving on from Blake Griffin was never going to be easy. He’s undoubtedly the best homegrown Clipper of all time, and spent seven-plus seasons doing everything he could to elevate the franchise.
Having said that, the Clippers could have done far worse in their trade haul for Griffin. Tobias Harris is a 25 year old that is trending upwards. Avery Bradley was fairly useless in Detroit, but he’s still an excellent defender with a good feel for the game. Boban Marjaonvić is a solid big for 10 minutes a game. Grabbing an additional first round pick never hurts.
Their good fortunes didn’t just stop in the trade market. The Clippers also handed out one of the best contract extensions of recent memory. Scorching hot Lou Williams was inked to a 3-year/$24 million deal earlier this week. The fans in LA love Sweet Lou, and the $8 million annual salary makes him an absolute bargain.
The Clips might not be contending anytime soon, but they are in a far better position moving forward after their recent moves.
Loser — Oklahoma City Thunder
Sam Presti is well known for his propensity to complete deadline deals. The Oklahoma City general manager brought in Taj Gibson and McDermott for frontcourt help last year. Two seasons before, he flipped D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak for a year of Randy Foye. In 2015, he sent a disgruntled Reggie Jackson to Detroit and received Enes Kanter in return. Every year it seems that Presti does a fine job finding a contributor that can help fill a need right away. In 2018, no such deal was made.
The Thunder have played better over the past two months, but still don’t look like legitimate threats to Golden State or Houston. They still have one of the league’s worst benches, and have no true replacement for Andre Roberson in the starting lineup. Barring a big leap in production from the group of Ferguson/Abrines/Huestis, the lack of movement from the Thunder’s end could come back to haunt them.
Winner — Every Player Traded From Cavs
There’s a belief around the league that a big part of LeBron James’ greatness lies in his ability of making other players around him better. This notion certainly holds true for a select group. Kyle Korver has been as efficient as ever since joining Cleveland. During LeBron’s first run with the Cavs, he made players like Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao look like studs for stretches.
However, LeBron elevating his teammates isn’t always the case, and this will be clearly apparent in the aftermath of the trade deadline. In total, six former Cavaliers were sent to a different team this Thursday — and all six landed in a more desirable spot.
Dwyane Wade returns to Miami, the city he never should have left in the first place. Derrick Rose was sent to Utah, but was quickly waived (a reunion with Tom Thibodeau is likely on the horizon). Jae Crowder also was sent to the Jazz who will appreciate his ability to stretch the floor and compete on defense. Iman Shumpert is now a King, and could find some minutes in a shallow backcourt. Channing Frye is a much needed shooter for the Lakers, and offers veteran leadership to a young team. Of course, there’s Isaiah Thomas who escapes the shadow of LeBron and is granted a fresh start playing for his childhood favorite team.
James has had an incredible impact on his teammates, but the aforementioned list of players will benefit from the change of scenery.
Loser — DeAndre Jordan
And then there was one. With Griffin and Chris Paul out of town, Jordan is left as the last remnants of “Lob City.” The Clippers were content with keeping their big man on board through the deadline. Although the team has competed for most of the year, their path to the postseason remains an uphill battle. Jordan will look on as perspective suitors like the Raptors and Bucks clinch their playoff berths, while the Clippers hope for a few ping pong balls to bounce their way.
Sources: David Richard/USA TODAY Sports, Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports, Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports, Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports