The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and OH WHAT A DOOZY! All-stars switched teams, role-players got moved around, and about two dozen second round picks were thrown around like party favors that someone ordered way too many of. As the dust settles, let's take stock to pick some NBA trade deadline winners and losers.
Winners: The Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are the big winners of this trade deadline. In acquiring 34 year-old Kevin Durant, the Suns went from a team that looked like it missed its championship window, to Western Conference favorites. That's what happens when you add a league MVP, two-time Finals MVP, 12 time all-star, and all-universe player of Durant's stature.
There are still questions surrounding the health and durability of Durant, Chris Paul, and even Devin Booker. But the upside of those three together, plus big man DeAndre Ayton, make this trade worth mortgage the future.
And yes, Phoenix gave up a lot to get Durant. Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges are two solid, young wings who look like they'll be steady contributors for years to come. Sending away four first round draft picks and an additional pick swap means that the Suns will not be able to rely on their own draft picks when building their roster in the years to come.
But again, getting the chance to bring a championship to Phoenix makes that a worthwhile risk. Also, this move shows that new owner Mat Ishbia will not be afraid to spend money to make the Suns contenders - a quality the franchise lacked under previous owner Robert Sarver.
Losers: The Memphis Grizzlies
The OG Anunoby to Memphis pipeline seemed to be an obvious deal. Slotting Anunoby into Ziaire Williams' minutes seemed like a perfect, seamless fit. Unfortunately, Memphis and Toronto couldn't get it together.
Instead of picking up Anunoby, the Grizzlies acquired Luke Kennard from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Danny Green and three second round picks in a three-team deal. Kennard is a nice fit for the Grizzlies, and should add solid shooting, but the upside of Anunoby is undoubtedly higher.
Winners: The Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers added three quality players in their three team deal with the Timberwolves and the Jazz. D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley may realistically slot in as the third, fourth, and fifth best players on the Lakers roster. That's less a reflection of their talents and more a commentary on the low quality of the pre-deadline Lakers roster.
This move does not elevate the Lakers into championship contender status. But it should make them more competitive. LeBron is at his best when he's surrounded by three-point shooters, and Beasley and Russell can both dial it up from distance. Ultimately, the key to Los Angeles' success lies in Anthony Davis's health. If he can stay on the court and dominate the way he did in 2020, the Lakers can compete with anyone in a seven game series.
Thomas Bryant called for the ball on LeBron's record-breaking jump shot the other night. He will never call for the ball in a Lakers uniform again.
Importantly, the Lakers admitted their mistake in signing Russell Westbrook. Getting rid of Westbrook may be addition by subtraction. He simply did not fit well in a LeBron-led team. Westbrook will get another opportunity on an NBA team. Here's hoping the Brodie can find a team that needs his skills. Or that he can tweak his game to fit a winning team's style.
Losers: The Chicago Bulls
The Bulls were one of two teams that did not make any moves this trade deadline. They didn't add, they didn't subtract, they didn't multiply, or divide. They just did nothing. And Bulls fans are apoplectic.
The Bulls went in on a big three of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. The results have been pretty middling. Aside from a three month stretch last season where DeRozan was hitting a game winner every other night and the Bulls were stomping all of the league's bottom-tier teams, Chicago has been decidedly middle of the pack.
This deadline, Bulls fans hoped the team would shake up their roster. It's probably too late to tank for a higher pick in next year's draft, but surely there was a package out there for DeRozan or LaVine. An opportunity to hit the reset button, tear this team down, and start building for the future.
Those deals sometimes involve taking on bad contracts or paying players who are no longer on your roster. But those financial machinations are needed to get a team out of its current iteration. Instead, Jerry Reinsdorf sat pat.
The Bulls currently sit in 9th place in the Eastern Conference at 26-28. Definition of mediocrity. The exact place you don't want to be if you're an NBA fan.
Winners: The New York Knicks
The Knicks were not major players at the trade deadline. Though there were rumors that they were talking to the Chicago Bulls about Zach LaVine, nothing came of those discussions.
But the Knicks did add forward Josh Hart. His numbers don't jump off the page, but he's a heady player who makes winning plays. He's an incredible rebounder for his size, and a versatile defender. All of that would be enough. But Jalen Brunson's reaction to the Josh Hart news is what really makes the Knicks winners.
Brunson and Hart played together at Villanova. They know each other's games, they understand each other's styles. May the vibes at MSG be more chill than James Dolan will ever deserve.
Losers: The Toronto Raptors
You could basically copy and paste everything about the Bulls into the Raptors section. The Raps are 26-30. They may qualify for the play-in game, maybe sneak into the playoffs as an 8 seed. But then what? They simply don't have the juice to make any type of real playoff push.
Raptors fans were ready for a tear down. Pascal Siakam is just 28 years old. It's conceivable that the front office could get decent packages for complimentary pieces like OG Anunoby or Fred VanVleet and start to build for the future.
Instead, the Raptors ADDED at the deadline, picking up old friend Jakob Poeltl from the San Antonio Spurs. Maybe Poeltl will vault the Raptors from their current state of bleh to a renewed state of win! But probably not.
Winners: Second Round Picks
Second round picks got a lot of publicity today! They were whizzing around the league in a million different directions. Golden State sent five over to re-acquire Gary Payton II. Jae Crowder commanded five second rounders from the Bucks. The going price for Saddiq Bey? Five second round picks!
44 second round picks were swapped today. Will any of them become meaningful NBA players? A big TBD. But for today, the second round is number one!
MORE: The Kevin Durant Trade Re-Opens the Phoenix Suns' Championship Window
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