NBA teams exercise caution at trade deadline
Thursday’s NBA trade deadline disappointed most. There was no frenzy. Responsibility reigned.
The Detroit Pistons are confidently feeling like they were most productive and altered the course of their future. Everyone else that made a tweak is crossing their fingers and hoping for the best.
Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside all remained with their respective teams, which means this summer’s free agency will be big on bigs. A lot of teams will have money to spend and opted to just strike a deal then as opposed to trading away assets for the right to do it now.
The next opportunity to tweak will come by March 1, when contenders with open roster spots can sign proven contributors who have accepted buyouts for the opportunity to land with playoff teams at the veteran’s minimum. Teams spent all week talking and taking inventory of the makeup of their rosters, helping one another when it served them as well, which made it fitting that the most interesting trades came right down at the wire.
The Clippers attempted to make a splash in dealing Lance Stephenson and a first-round pick for Jeff Green, while Washington took advantage of Phoenix’s desire to get rid of Markieff Morris for a Top-9 protected first-rounder.
Rating 2016 trades and non-moves
So, who got better? Who is fade-worthy now? We're so glad you asked, we broke it down into categories.
Clear winners this week, the Pistons managed to significantly upgrade their depth with players they can simultaneously build with for the future. Turning the expiring contract of Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova into Tobias Harris was a win because they didn't have to part with a first-round pick. They then used that to land 25-year-old Donatas Motiejunas, who has seen back issues temporarily derail a promising career following a breakout season. Shooter Marcus Thornton came over in the deal, addressing a major need. If Motiejunas can stay healthy when he returns, the Pistons are loaded up front given their new arrivals.Rookie Stanley Johnson has made strides, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is returning from a groin injury and practices are about to become a lot more competitive as guys vie for Stan Van Gundy's minutes. Look for the Pistons to make the playoffs as a result of these moves.<
The Wizards are wasting John Wall's dynamic ascent, so it makes sense to gamble that the addition of a talent like Morris can help avoid landing lottery. They just have to make sure they make it pay off. Washington opened the second half three games out of the Eastern Conference playoff chase and faces one of the league's softest schedules going forward. Injuries have decimated Nene's production so adding Morris should provide a definite boost. Twin has had a dreadful season while pouting in Phoenix, harboring a grudge against management and former coach Jeff Hornacek, but he really turned it up of late under Earl Watson, auditioning for other teams by averaging 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists in five February games. He could make a major difference, something the Wizards are counting on since the first-round pick they sent Phoenix is protected only for picks 1-9, which means they could lose it if slotted 10-13, making this season a total loss. If they stay healthy, a sense of urgency and that lighter slate should help land Washington back in the playoffs as a result of Morris' addition
One step forward
Since Doc Rivers had no use for Lance Stephenson after giving the experiment a shot, so dealing for a known commodity in Jeff Green is going to improve depth. Yes, Green has been a huge disappointment given what was expected of him as a Top-5 pick, but he's certainly a viable option who Rivers can employ. He was great for Boston in the '13 postseason and a disaster last year in Memphis (shot 33 pct over 11 games), so nothing is guaranteed, but the cost to rent his services ('19 first-rounder) is presently worth the gamble given owner Steve Ballmer's stated desire to win a championship now as one of the few NBA teams that reaslistically could.
While losing Harris and not getting a first is worth criticizing, I detailed GM Rob Hennigan's decision to take a mulligan here. Harris' production has dipped significantly enough this season that it's definitely possible Ilyasova winds up a better fit. Jennings, playing for his next contract and intent on proving he's healthy again, may make a major difference. The Magic can use another playmaker capable of creating his own shot, especially one who can shoot from the perimeter. Creating major cap space in also moving on from Channing Frye leaves them well-positioned to chase free agents in the offseason.
It flew under the radar, but landing veteran Shelvin Mack for a second-rounder was a solid move. The Jazz can use a two-way point guard with playoff experience. He'll make the team's younger guards better.
Not only did the Thunder shed some money in dealing non-rotation guys Steve Novak and DJ Augustin, they rented a quality piece in Randy Foye while doing so. All it cost them was two second-round picks. Tidy. You can never have enough shooters.
The Heat didn't strike a deal for Whiteside, but did accomplish their goal of getting out from under the luxury tax. Shedding Chris Andersen, Jarnell Stokes and the recently acquired Brian Roberts, saving millions and creating roster spots in order to raid the buyout market.
In spite of unexpectedly lingering in the West playoff chase, the organization didn't deviate from their long-term goals by adding or sacrificing anyone of significance. Roberts is an upgrade over the released Tim Frazier, while facilitating Cleveland's acquisition of Channing Frye by taking on Anderson Varejao landed them a late first-round pick from the Cavs. Varejao was waived so that his guaranteed salary next season can be spread out over five, lessening the cap hit they take. It was a shrewd showing for them considering they got close enough to the salary cap floor that they avoid major penalties.
Adding Courtney Lee in an attempt to soften the blow from losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the season is a decent quick fix. He can be counted on to defend well and play fearlessly, but his true value will be gauged by how well he shoots the ball, aiding spacing and improving the offense.
Frye is a nice piece to have on board, but he's really struggled in Orlando and probably won't see a ton of minutes when all is said and done. He's another big who can stretch the floor and has a few inches on Kevin Love, but with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov already commanding a lot of minutes, Frye isn't likely to be very impactful unless there's an injury.
The Hawks were open to a major shake-up and had conversations about Horford and Jeff Teague. With everything remaining status quo, Atlanta added Kirk Hinrich to replace Mack, but they're essentially the same team they were last week outside of losing Tiago Splitter for the season.
Giving up Foye and getting Augustin to work with rookie starter Emmanuel Mudiay won't have a great impact, while Novak is likely to be bought out, so the Nuggets really just added a pair of second-rounders.
They had an opportunity to unload Pau Gasol but didn't take it, hoping to work out a way to keep him long-term. Even though Hinrich was shipped out, the Bulls
Toronto: Despite looking like the clear No. 2 in the East, the Raptors wound up doing nothing, hoping DeMarre Carroll coming back early next month will suffice in supplying a boost. Ryan Anderson and Thaddeus Young were available, so it feels like the Raptors blew an opportunity to go for it, but it remains to be seen whether it catches up to them.
The 76ers picked up Joel Anthony to add to their arsenal, so, yeah.
Two steps back
The Rockets couldn't get a deal done for Dwight Howard or Ty Lawson. Even if Houston was ready to move on from Motiejunas, a mid-first rounder is an average return for him and a shooter like Thornton. It feels like this particular Rockets team is being pulled in a million different directions.
The Grizzlies took on the expiring deals of Stephenson, Birdman and P.J. Hairston while racking up five second-round picks as they take a step back with Marc Gasol out for a lenghty spell and the team looking like it's going to have problems making the playoffs with Lee and Green now elsewhere. This step backward is intentional, but a step backward nonetheless.
The Suns are tanking, so moving Morris isn't a bad move at all, but it does take another name off the roster from the talented group that started this season and nearly drew LaMarcus Aldridge to Phoenix instead of San Antonio. It's been a disaster of a season that's now reduced to tanking and hoping another pick comes their way if the Wizards are among the top five teams not to make the playoffs.
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