That isn’t to say there wasn’t a flurry of action on Thursday, as there were a couple of fairly significant trades while a number of teams made smaller moves to shuffle around cap space, assets or gain additional rotational help. We’re here to tell you who won and who lost as the trade deadline came and went.
Los Angeles Lakers: The real winner of this year’s trade deadline is a team that’s biggest move on Thursday was trading Marcelo Huertas for Tyler Ennis. I don’t have any thoughts on that trade at all (although getting a first-round pick for Lou Williams on Tueesday was great), but the Lakers win because the biggest revelation that came out of deadline day was that Paul George really wants to be in purple and gold.
Not only did we learn that, but the Lakers didn’t pull a Knicks and trade away a bunch of young assets to get a guy that really wants to be there and will most likely sign when he reaches free agency. The Pacers are the other team they’ll be competing with for George’s services that year, and with the Pacers failing to land a player to help George, it would seem to indicate he’s one step closer to L.A. Good job, Magic Johnson, you didn’t screw up and now appear to be in great position to land a superstar in 2018. Great GM’ing.
Toronto Raptors: The Raptors made their big move a little while back by acquiring Serge Ibaka before the All-Star break, but Toronto added a nice piece of depth to their wing rotation to take the place of Terrence Ross by turning Jared Sullinger and a pair of second round picks into P.J. Tucker from the Suns.
The Raptors also are winners because Boston did not pull the trigger on either Butler or George and didn’t make any improvements at the deadline. That means the race to the two or three seed and a path to the Eastern Conference Finals has remained much more open.
Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs made the most surprising move of the day, snagging Nerlens Noel from the Sixers for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut (who was likely to be bought out) and a protected first round pick that’s likely to be two second rounders. Dallas, which has needed to get younger, lands a very good defensive big man that they can try and develop into a player as they transition into the next era when Dirk Nowitzki retires. I like Noel and the Mavs can re-sign him as a restricted free agent this offseason and use him as part of their core for the future.
Oklahoma City Thunder: One of the last deals of the day came from the Thunder as they made a swap with the Bulls to land Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne. McDermott is a young wing that can keep developing into a nice rotation player and offer spacing around Russell Westbrook, and the best player they gave up was Payne, who would eventually be stuck behind Westbrook at point guard.
Gibson will be a nice addition this year, even if they don’t re-sign him this offseason. This isn’t a huge win for the Thunder, but I do think they got better, which not something a ton of teams did at the deadline.
Text Alerts: Shoutout to text alerts for keeping people from getting caught by fake Woj, Stein and Shams accounts today. If you don’t set up those mobile alerts for the big news breakers, you run the risk of getting got when that fake news crawls across the timeline.
The We Wasted A Whole Week Talking About You For Nothing Team
Boston Celtics: I’m not going to tell you the Celtics are a loser at the deadline for not landing Butler or George because they hung onto some very valuable assets, but I will tell you that they were the most annoying team of the trade deadline. All week we heard about how they wanted to make a splash and they literally did nothing.
I understand it. They like their squad as is and weren’t going to dismantle it to get a star if they didn’t think it immediately made them a contender. They have a lot of great future assets to either use or deal at a later date. I get it. I really do, but I’m not happy that we spent another trade deadline trying to figure out what Danny Ainge would do, just to see him tell us he likes his squad at 3:30 p.m. ET. Also, at some point you have to turn those assets into something in the present. The year when your point guard is having a career year isn’t a bad time to do that.
Philadelphia 76ers: I did not like the Noel trade for the Sixers for two reasons. First, the return wasn’t great, considering the Mavs first-round pick is very unlikely to convey since it’s top 18 protected, and while Justin Anderson might be a nice young rotational wing piece, I feel like the Sixers lost out on the value side of this trade by getting a rotation guy and two second rounders for a potentially very good player.
Second, and maybe most important, this meant they didn’t move Jahlil Okafor, who I don’t think is as good as Noel, especially for the roster the Sixers have. Not only is he a poor fit, he also has been dangled out there for the better part of three weeks as someone getting moved and now he must return for the rest of the season. The Sixers handled this situation terribly and to Okafor’s credit, he’s been very professional about it, but that usually isn’t something that goes over particularly well with players or agents.
Sacramento Kings: I don’t even have the Kings here for the DeMarcus Cousins trade, although they would deserve it for that four days later. Instead, the Kings failed to unload any of their other pieces to kickstart their rebuild. Aaron Afflalo was connected with lots of teams, but never got moved, while Ben McLemore was similarly dangled out there and remains in Sacramento. So, the Kings stood pat and failed to even blow up the ship properly. Also, they traded DeMarcus Cousins for Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield and at best a late lottery draft pick and a second rounder.
Indiana Pacers: I have no issue with keeping Paul George, especially if the Celtics weren’t willing to really include the Nets pick and the right package of players. He’s a stud and you don’t sell him a year-and-a-half before he hits free agency just out of fear without getting solid return. That said, the probability of George leaving the Pacers seemed to increase on deadline day, even if Larry Bird doesn’t want to hear it.
Indiana couldn’t land another piece to help out in the immediate, and they won’t have a high draft pick to try and land a future star in this draft. Getting free agents to Indiana isn’t especially easy, and if you believe the reports, George has hinted that he’ll go to the Lakers if he doesn’t feel there’s a legitimate chance at winning with the Pacers. Maybe they can persuade him with shrewd additions this offseason or with the big money in 2018, but Thursday was not fun for the Pacers or their fans.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls didn’t get fleeced in a Jimmy Butler trade, which is good, but I don’t think they did especially well in the move they did make. They need a point guard and landed Cameron Payne, but he can’t really shoot the ball and is still an unknown commodity. Adding Lauvergne is fine as a younger, not as good replacement for Gibson who was a free agent to be, which I get from a money standpoint.
Morrow, while a shooter, cannot do anything else on the court and isn’t a developmental piece. This trade hinges on whether you’re a believer in Payne being a future starter or not. I fall in the latter category, but my biggest issue is, aside from trying to save money, I couldn’t tell you what the Bulls’ plan is for the long-term or short-term.
Denver Nuggets: The poor Nuggets tried their best to get Paul George and got flat out told no. They reportedly offered a “monster” package to Indiana only to be rebuffed.
Instead, Denver went out and got a different former Pacers legend in Roy Hibbert for a a protected second-round pick going to Milwaukee. That’s quite the downgrade, going from hoping for Paul George to landing Roy Hibbert (in 2012 this would have been a very different conversation). I appreciate the Nuggets efforts to make a big splash, but getting “no traction” for a really good player with your best offer is sobering reality.