Mayhem. Chaos. Utter absurdity. Such was the 2022 NBA trade deadline which featured MVPs, All-Stars, No. 1 picks, future draft picks, ring chasers, ping pong ball hoarders truly something for everyone.
There were way too many deals taking place to do a full accounting of here (check out our list of completed trades for that info), so we’re going to take you through the biggest winners and losers to try and make sense of it all.
Every team thinks they won every trade. Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers
OK, so we have to start here. If you want a long breakdown, I already gave my grade of the Simmons-Harden swap here. In short, I loved it for both sides.
Daryl Morey served up a masterclass in negotiation, landing his crown jewel in Harden while also preserving a legitimate title shot in 2022. The Sixers sorely needed some more juice in their shot creation down the stretch of playoff games, so Harden will certainly help there. There will have to be some balance found between Embiid and Harden, but an overabundance of quality isolation players is certainly a better problem to have than a too-timid Simmons.
Speaking of Simmons, its hard to find a better fit than in Brooklyn. Not only will he instantly shore up some of their massive defensive woes, playing alongside Durant and Irving relieves pressure at the offensive end and allowing him to fit into a more suitable role.
Both teams got better. Both teams can win the title. Another win-win (/ducks and runs).
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers
Sometimes in life, you have to shoot your shot.
Arrest Westbrook, man pic.twitter.com/72FvFRz3eV
— Josh Eberley🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) January 22, 2022
That doesn’t mean it will always go in.
The Lakers went big with the Westbrook trade, and it has completely backfired. The deadline was their last chance to dig themselves out. They looked completely listless in their loss to the Blazers’ skeleton crew the night before the deadline.
This is their team now, and they’ve just committed to wasting one of the few precious years remaining of LeBron James’ career. Put a fork in this team, they’re done.
Winner: Sacramento Kings
Kings reddit, take a deep breath. This is not sarcasm.
My knee-jerk reaction to the Kings trading Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis was to give them a C- grade. It took one game of seeing Sabonis in a Kings uniform to realize that was way too low.
Caught up on Sabonis’ debut last night. Had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists. Some nice early chemistry with Fox and Mitchell, can already see the value he brings as a hub of the offense. pic.twitter.com/1qZBkrY0jg
— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) February 10, 2022
The Kings dismantled a good Wolves defense in Sabonis’ debut on Wednesday night. He’s a talented offensive player that can serve as the hub of an offense, and he was slinging the ball around in his first game to reinvigorate a Kings offense ranked 22nd before the trade.
De’Aaron Fox also looked much better with a less-crowded guard rotation, and the pick-and-roll chemistry between those two looks promising.
I also liked the move of adding Donte DiVincenzo in a four-team swap where the Kings only had to give up Marvin Bagley III. Bagley is the bigger name given that he was the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, but that’s a sunk cost at this point. He simply hasn’t played well despite getting loads of opportunities.
DiVincenzo suffered a serious ankle injury in last year’s playoffs that kept him out for the first 34 games of the Bucks’ season. And to be fair, he’s been extremely rusty in his return. That has marred how good he was last season, when he showed that he might be capable of a bigger role than he had on the Championship Bucks. He’s a nice two-way player with high feel. He was a solid 3-point shooter before his injury, hitting on 35 percent with good volume over his first three years in the league.
DiVincenzo is available largely because the Bucks were going to struggle to pay him. The Kings made a shrewd move here (did I really just type that?) by taking advantage of another team’s finances.
Winner: Indiana Pacers
NBA media rules expressly prohibit wins from both sides of a trade, so please keep this one on the down-low.
This might be an unpopular (and certainly unsexy) opinion, but the Pacers are probably the biggest winner of the trade deadline. The Sabonis-Myles Turner pairing had run its course. The fit was worse than a suit from the 2003 NBA draft.
Haliburton would probably go third or fourth in a redraft today, depending on how high you are on Desmond Bane. At 21 years old, the Pacers have locked up a dynamic guard that can fit with whatever other pieces they pick up later in this rebuild. Haliburton has terrific feel on both ends of the court, he can play off-ball as a great spot-up shooter, and if anyone on NBA twitter ever gets a general manager job, he can be flipped down the road for seventeen first-round picks.
Moving Caris LeVert, who didn’t fit into coach Rick Carlisle’s system, was another win for the Pacers. They got good draft compensation as the two picks from the Cavs are expected to land in the 24 and 33 range.
Indiana also opened up big cap space. They’re not a free agent destination and this isn’t a good class coming up, but they can use that space to take on bad deals for more picks as they continue to rebuild.
Loser: Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers moving Robert Covington and Normal Powell for pennies on the dollar did get them an okay prospect in Keon Johnson, although Johnson hasn’t played particularly well in the G-League this season. Make no mistake though, this deal was mostly about getting the team under the luxury tax and netting ownership an eight-figure payday. The subsequent CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. trades were about moving those massive contracts off their books and letting interim general manager Joe Cronin start fresh.
These trades didn’t make much sense from a fan point of view. But CPAs all over the country are taking a break from riveting audits to marvel at the Blazers front office at work.
Winner: New Orleans Pelicans
Salary cap nerds questioned the wisdom of giving up assets to acquire McCollum, but local experts Mason Ginsberg and Shamit Dua beat down this argument soundly. As they told me on their podcast, the team tried the cap space plan this summer, clearing up to $40 million to try and lure players like Kyle Lowry. Nobody of consequence wanted their money.
TRADE GRADES: McCollum to New Orleans
McCollum has another $69 million left on his deal over the next two seasons. That’s a lot to pay a guy who’s never been an All-Star and is already on the wrong side of 30. But he’s still a great player, he fits what the Pelicans are lacking in terms of shot creation and shooting, and he was willing to board that flight.
That part of the equation is often overlooked when these small-market teams swing deals for big names. Teams like Utah and Portland were trying to save tax bills. The Pelicans were trying to get better. That’s a big W in my book.
Winner: Thunder coach Mark Daigneault
Daigneault bemoaned the concept of trade grades, arguing that “it’s not even being short-sighted. It’s like before-sighted.”
The Thunder pulled off the most boring trade of the season, moving a fake second-round pick in exchange for KZ Okpala. Daigneault got his wish – Nobody was grading that one.
Winner: Boston Celtics
I don’t know what Celtics fans are more excited about – getting fan-favorite Daniel Theis back, or no longer having to hear about the trades that Danny Ainge almost pulled off at the deadline.
Much of the Celtics’ problems have been chemistry-related rather than talent-related. They got rid of Schroder, with a reputation for being difficult in locker rooms, and replaced him with familiar friend Theis, who can slide right in as a versatile two-way big man.
Derrick White will be a great addition. I was stunned at the low asking price for him.
White isn’t going to drop a bunch of points every night for the Celtics, but he will be a great role player that can move the ball well and play superb defense. He’s having a down year shooting from 3, but he’s been solid from there throughout his career.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
Every team in the East got better. What does that mean for the Bulls?
They’re eventually getting a bunch of key pieces back in Patrick Williams, Alex Caruso, and Lonzo Ball. While they wait, they are going to fall in the standings. They are in third today but only 4.5 games ahead of the eighth-place Nets. Those two teams could switch spots by the end of the season.
The Bulls will look to the buyout market to improve at the margins. That probably won’t be enough to get them ahead of the other top teams in the East.
Long-term, perhaps the Bulls are better off by holding onto Williams rather than taking a swing at a legitimate run now. But in the short-term, it’s hard to see how Chicago walks away with anything but a L.
Original source here
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