The Top 5 Winners & Losers From The NBA’s 2012 Trade Deadline

By: 03.16.12
Monta Ellis

Monta Ellis, Dime #44

The 3 p.m., March 15 trade deadline has come and gone as fast as your brackets will be busted by this weekend’s end. Most cats around the league can now breathe easy, knowing they haven’t been dealt and can focus on the remaining part of the schedule. Others, however, must deal with the reality they were shipped out like yesterday’s garbage. Either way, this a time for them to regroup and stop commenting on every rumor that appears on blogs and Twitter.

Likewise, teams’ short-term and long-term fate shall be determined through their ability, or inability, to have gotten something done by the deadline. And picking up a bought-out free-agent in the coming days isn’t going to drastically change that. GMs had to come through in the clutch like Kobe. Some of these guys succeeded with their moves or non-moves, and some failed.

As we’ve covered the moves teams should make and which cats would be better off traded than staying put, there’s always winners and losers from the trade deadline activity. These next 10 players, hoopers and organizations are the ones who’ve won and lost the most at the conclusion of all the trade talk.

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THE WINNERS

5. The Milwaukee Bucks
Captain Jack didn’t know “What’s a Lockout?” in his mixtape. He apparently won’t know what the playoffs might taste like again as a Milwaukee Buck either.

The Bucks simply couldn’t bear his “mandatory” contract extension demands and inexistent relationship with Scott Skiles any longer, as The Journal Times detailed early in the season. He’s been delusional to believe he’s “underrated” (10.5 PPG, 36 percent from the field, 28 percent from deep, and 9.34 PER) and “underpaid” ($9 million plus this season and $10 million next) at 33 years old.

Jackson’s last three stops in Golden State, Charlotte and now Milwaukee have proven how much of a cancer he can be. No team in their right mind would tolerate his kind of unwarranted claims and lack of on-court production. Captain Jack can’t call all the shots, like when he was a part of Don Nelson‘s motley crew in the Bay. The Bucks hold the last playoff spot (19-24) while he’s been riding the pine. In these past 12 games, the Bucks have managed a .500 record and are currently on a three-game winning streak. So it was past the time for them to sing, “Hit the Road Jack.”

As for what the Bucks got in exchange for Jackson’s troubles, Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh certainly can fill immediate roles for them as they attempt to secure the 8th seed. While the backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Ellis is small, it’s instantly as dynamic as any in the league. Udoh is a nice pickup in this deal because he can play defensively at power forward right away and still hasn’t reached his ceiling quite yet. Both cats will be competitive from the outset and will give everything they got for Skiles.

Could the Bucks have waited until next year’s deadline to trade a healthy Andrew Bogut for a slightly better package? Possibly. But they got a pretty decent deal for a talented but oft-injured big that wasn’t going to play at all this season and got rid of Jackson’s baggage in the process. It’s hard to argue against their accomplished objectives from this trade.

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Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard (photo. adidas)

4. Dwight Howard
The never-ending tale of superstars dictating their futures continues.

As our own Sean Sweeney referenced Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski’s recent report, the Orlando Magic are in no man’s land. There is virtually nothing they could’ve done by the deadline to sway Dwight Howard’s motive to land in Brooklyn on his terms, no less. Trading for Monta Ellis wouldn’t have helped their cause. And that deal came off the table early Tuesday morning when Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob expressed zero appeal to give the Magic a hand on their efforts to retain Howard, as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reported. This deflating news surely left the Magic helpless and with their hands tied once the Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut trade transpired.

While Dwight’s media-handling lays somewhere between ‘Melo‘s situation last year and LeBron‘s “The Decision,” this soap opera will result in the same ending as the previous two: franchises having no choice but to concede to their superstars’ attraction to live in the big city. Why wouldn’t he be drawn to hoop with D-Will, record tracks with Hov, and revive the sports scene in Brooklyn? Unlike ‘Melo, Dwight was apparently smart enough to recognize the Nets would be too depleted if they traded for him now. Why not trade the same assets of Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and others for a significant player that’ll help them out once he’s there instead? It didn’t make any sense for the Nets to have pushed a trade when they were confident and the favorites to attain Dwight over the summer.

“We’ve been talking, like I said, for a while. I told them I want to finish this season out and give our team, give our fans some for the future. But I feel they have to roll the dice. It might be tough, but I feel we’ve got a great opportunity. But they’ve got to roll with it,” Dwight said after the Magic’ overtime win versus the Heat earlier this week.

Dwight Howard has danced around this issue as “nicely” as his actual dancing skills. And, you know what? It doesn’t f@%^ing matter. NBA superstars control their own destiny better than any rapper on a given label. There is no denying this reality.

Mickey Mouse and his entire kingdom can’t convince him that Orlando is the happiest place on Earth for much longer. Dwight would much rather honor the late Biggie: “spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.”

3. Golden State Warriors
Within the past week, there were rumors about the possibility of Monta Ellis getting traded and the Milwaukee Bucks were open to listening to offers for their former first pick overall Andrew Bogut. Who would’ve thought, though, that these two players would end up in exchange for one another?

The Golden Warriors received Captain Jack (later swapped for Richard Jefferson and a first rounder) along with Bogut, while the Bucks got Ekpe Udoh, Kwame Brown and Ellis. The cluttered front office of the Warriors was able to come to a consensus and assemble a deal that’ll make them better for the future. In spite of Stephen Curry‘s recent ankle problems, there was no way that backcourt combo was ever going to work out, especially with Klay Thompson waiting in the wings. All of Silicon Valley’s new gadgets weren’t going to change Dwight Howard’s mind that E-40‘s Bay Area is a better home than Jay-Z’s Brooklyn. The Warriors still had to address their lack of size, regardless. Thus, they’re taking a risk that the talented Bogut can regain his health starting next season. In a league where great bigs are at a premium, the Warriors jumped on the worthwhile gamble to get Bogut.

The Rockets hesitation to pull the trigger on their own Bogut deal definitely opened the doors for the Warriors, and the former may regret it. After missed opportunities to acquire Nene, Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan this past summer, the Warriors made sure this chance wasn’t going to pass them by.

Just as importantly, too, is the last wrinkle. The Warriors brass realized their chances to claim the last playoff spot were slim. Although they are currently three games out for the eight seed (18-21), they would’ve had to outpace five total squads by season’s end to reach the playoffs. That task is very unrealistic. So why not “tank” the rest of the year and keep their first-round pick in the loaded upcoming draft? As ESPN’s Chad Ford tweeted on Tuesday, the Warriors have a top-seven protected lottery pick, but if it winds up at eight or worse it would be property of the Utah Jazz, which was sent to them as part of the D-Will package. With Bogut out indefinitely and Ellis out of the picture, the Dubs have every incentive to add one more young piece to the puzzle.

A core of Curry, Thompson, Bogut, and a nice lottery pick is a wise course of action by the deadline. There is definitely sunshine now in Golden State’s future.

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Stephen Jackson

Stephen Jackson

2. Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers
Hollywood could have written a better script, but the potential movie ending to this year’s Lakers is far clearer now that Superman isn’t coming to L.A.

There’s always drama in La-La Land. They traded The Goods to The Big D for no reason but to save money. So why did anyone expected them to add on salary if it didn’t guarantee them the title this season? All the clamor by Lakers fans and media that they need to trade for a superstar, a point guard or depth should be white noise now. In a wide open Western Conference, shouldn’t the Lakers be favored to reach The Finals, anyways? According to the Las Vegas Hilton sports book, the Lakers were 5-1 favorites to win it all in early December, only second to the Heatles odds at 2-1. These projections aren’t that different after today: 11-2. And considering Nevada as a whole is going to bring in $90 million in bets for the opening weekend of March Madness, I wouldn’t be one to bet against whatever the likely odds are.

At any rate, I don’t need a Vegas bookie to tell me that the Lakers are far better with Pau Gasol than without him. What makes the Lakers great and separates them from the field isn’t Kobe – as difficult or blasphemous it may seem to say. The twin towers of Gasol and Andrew Bynum is a distinct advantage that no other team in the league can match up against. You know how many squads would kill just to get their hands on one of these cats, forget two? Their combined 14 feet of height, 15 feet of wingspan, and 535 pounds of muscle aren’t replicable metrics. The dynamic Gasol working seamlessly with Bynum and naturally co-existing with Kobe are traits you can’t teach. His talent on the block and personality are what makes him invaluable to the Lakers’ success.

If the Lakers weren’t willing to trade Gasol for Rajon Rondo, as the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan reported, then there wasn’t another trade for a point guard out there worth contemplating. Even acquiring the likes of Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola wouldn’t come close to possessing the same title threat the Lakers are with Gasol. Yes, they were desperate for a legitimate point guard to replace Derek Fisher, and picked up a great second option in Ramon Sessions without giving up much.

The endgame of the Lakers is simple: win the ‘ship or bust. Nothing else matters besides helping Kobe tie M.J.‘s six rings. Their present revolves around getting to the playoffs healthy with momentum. Once it’s the postseason, they can impose their size and slow-tempo on any opponent. Gasol is a big reason why the Lakers lead the league in points in the paint efficiency difference (plus-9.6), via HoopStats.com. Besides, every single cat will be exhausted after playing 66 games in 120 days. Experience and size translates into long playoff runs in the NBA. The Lakers have both with Gasol.

Deron Williams wasn’t coming to the Lakers for Gasol. Any cat other than him wasn’t worth the Lakers’ troubles. Los Angeles is too cool and accustomed to winning, they ain’t about retooling or rebuilding.

1. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs always have a way of quietly sneaking up on people. They did it again at the trade deadline.

If there ever was one team where Captain Jack’s behavior would be checked and his hooping skills maximized, it would in the place where he won a ring, San Antonio.

The Spurs patiently awaited the rush of moves around the league before they decided to pounce on Stephen Jackson and bring him back. They gladly traded Richard Jefferson and his inconsistencies for a guy they know will embrace their culture.

Jefferson never quite fit in with the Spurs. His best scoring season with them was 2009-10 when he averaged 12.3 points per game, his lowest output since his rookie year. He somehow managed to progressively get worse each season since then. This year he fell to a career-worst 9.2 points per game. The Jefferson experiment clearly didn’t pan out.

Going back to Jackson’s 2002-03 Spurs campaign, he dropped 11.8 points per game on 44 percent shooting. These numbers can easily be duplicated or better on this year’s team, since they need scoring threats around The Big Fundamental like never before. What makes Jackson instantly better than Jefferson is his willingness to score and create his own shot. The Spurs will make sure to bring out the best in him, when most other teams would let him just be a cancer.

The potential of this Captain Jack reunion is explosive. The Spurs needed some attitude and toughness to elevate their core’s chances to sustain their level of play come playoff time. Now nobody wants to face the Spurs.

With a bold trade like this and their past success with him, there’s no reason not to give the Spurs the benefit of the doubt, yet again.

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Rajon Rondo

THE LOSERS

5. Minnesota Timberwolves
The proposed three-team trade between them, the Lakers and Blazers didn’t fall through. This trade was supposed to net them a clutch, scoring guard in Jamal Crawford to help them reach the playoffs. They woke up yesterday morning and their dream turned into a nightmare.

While it may not be their complete fault this trade didn’t occur, it is David Kahn‘s fault he didn’t manage to acquire another shooting guard instead. You always need options in case the initial plan can’t happen. In a trade market that feverously opened up in the waning minutes, it’s hard to believe Kahn couldn’t catch one team off guard.

If the Clippers could traded Brian Cook, of all people, and a second-round pick for Nick Young, the Timberwolves could’ve easily completed something similar.

Once that three-teamer vanished, the Lakers pursued different alternatives. The Rockets were making trades to strengthen their playoff chances. The T’Wolves still had assets in Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams to have swung for a pretty decent shooting guard. And that’s all they would’ve needed to do, despite not having Ricky Rubio under the fold.

Standing only a game and half from the last playoff spot, Kahn may have botched this golden opportunity to show K-Love how serious he is in making this squad a serious contender.

4. Boston Celtics
The hardest thing for any fading contender to determine is when it’s time to rebuild. The San Antonio Spurs have refused in past seasons to deal any of their big three and gradually build through the draft. This model has worked for them so far, but it isn’t the blueprint for every team. The key underlying factor that both the Spurs and Celtics share is that their markets aren’t places where free agents flock to. The Spurs have acknowledged this reality in spite of their continued success. The Celtics have not.

Danny Ainge misread the market, couldn’t create one, and maintained the false hope that the C’s can contend this season. He couldn’t outplay his hand any worse. After dealing Kendrick Perkins last year, he continued to have cold feet towards blowing up the team. There were numerous rumors circulating about his activity, but none prevailed. It doesn’t matter how many calls you make, if you can’t sell your product and get the job done. How are Celtics fans going to react this summer when there wasn’t a strategic plan in place to sustain their viability going forward?

According to ESPN Boston’s Chris Forsberg, Doc Rivers and Ainge have “stressed the need to be disciplined, with a goal of not erasing the cap space they’re set to free up this offseason.”

However, the Celtics’ expected boatload of cap space doesn’t guarantee anything. The core they materialized through their own draft picks (The Truth, Perkins, and Rajon Rondo) and major trades (The Big Ticket and Jesus Shuttlesworth) didn’t voluntarily choose to come to Beantown. So why didn’t Ainge follow the same course that got them to be successful to begin with? Rondo, The Truth and Rivers as a coach are quality building blocks, but not even offering a Harvard education on top of that is going to legitimately convince cats that Boston is the place to be.

Ultimately, the Celtics decided to be stubborn and keep the cats of their recent glory days. Most of these guys won’t be with them past this season. The longer a team postpones their rebuilding phase, the longer it is to ever get back on top.

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