Evaluating the Winners and Losers at the NBA Trade Deadline

Although nothing happened on the Anthony Davis-to-L.A. front, the NBA trade deadline last week was still exciting right up until the end. Which team made the most impactful move? Who’s the player who is capable of pushing a contender over the top? Who got better? Who got worse? What team is set up for the brightest future? And, of course, where do we go now with the Lakers, LeBron, and AD?

Best Long-Term Vision

Clippers. Everyone wants to talk about the Lakers being the ultimate free agent destination this summer — New York and Brooklyn even get mentions. But maybe the “other” L.A. team is where we ought to turn our attention. Do you realize what the Clippers did at the deadline? Jerry West and Larry Frank shipped out contracts to clear space; added multiple draft picks giving them two first rounders in 2020 and ’21 and two seconds in ’21 and ’23; plus by trading away Tobias Harris — who they weren’t keeping this summer anyway — they should bottom out nicely, allowing them to keep their first round pick this year (had it fallen in the lottery, it would have gone to Boston). Make the playoffs this year and get run in the first round? The Clips boldly said, “No thank you.” Now, you ready for this? Sit down. The Clippers have $59 million in space to sign TWO max free agents this summer. (You know Kawhi Leonard bought a house an hour out of L.A., right?) That’s not all. With the draft capital, Steve Balmer could package together a nice deal for another star player in a trade. Ummmm, hello Anthony Davis.

Best “Win Now” Mentality

Bucks. This is easy. While most are touting the Sixers and the big move Elton Brand made in bringing in Tobias Harris (as a rental mind you) and jettisoning former number-1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, I remind you that the Bucks are a top-2 team in the East and just added a 6-10 stretch forward who has playoff experience and can shoot the three (37%). The addition of Nikola Mirotic gives Milwaukee a third forward who is comfortable shooting behind the arc — he joins Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, who each shoot at a 38% clip from three. Mirotic was a also a key cog in the Pelicans rotation last year that got them into the second of the playoffs, despite losing DeMarcus Cousins. This move should really help spread the floor and open up even more lanes for Giannis to get to the bucket. Love this move. If I said the Bucks were the favorites in the East, I dare you to challenge me.

Worst “Win Now” Mentality

76ers. So I give Elton Brand credit for going for it. The problem is that Philly still isn’t any better than the other three teams in the East that they’re competing with for the top 4 spots. Plus, they still don’t play defense — who’s going to guard Kemba or Kyle Lowry or Eric Bledsoe or Kyrie in the playoffs? Oh, and we’re just supposed to assume Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are going to re-sign? I’m not sold at all that even one will be back in 2019. Then what? The best outcome is that the Sixers get to the Finals and that’s enough to convince one of them to return and then they sign another free agent. But, shhhhhh — Jimmy isn’t re-signing in Philly.

Brightest Future

Mavericks. After last season, what if I said that by February the Mavs would get the best player in the 2018 draft and then fall into Kristaps Porzingis on his rookie deal? Seems nuts, but Dallas is in prime position to be fun and very competitive for at least the next few years — and much longer if you believe in Luka Doncic (and you should). Luka plus KP plus another star? Wow. Sign me up.

“Good for Them” Award

Kings. The Harrison Barnes deal gives this young group some veteran presence. And with the Clippers throwing the towel in this year and the Lakers flailing around in confusion, the Kings have an excellent shot at the playoffs. They have no reason to tank or try and get a better draft pick — they don’t own their’s this year. So win, Kings, win!! Go for it!

Potentially Bleakest Future

Raptors. Give Toronto credit. They have played the role of LeBron’s punching bag for years; they’ve been saddled with the “they’re soft” tag; and they’re sick of it. SO they’re doing something about it. Be aggressive and get Kawhi. Loved that move for the statement it made, and with him playing at an MVP-level, it’s great for the Raptors. The questions remains, however: will he stay beyond this year? I think we all kinda know the answer. So now we ask, what would MAKE him stay? Adding Marc Gasol — does that do it? I have my doubts. If it doesn’t keep Kawhi from bolting for, say, the West Coast, then I ask this: where are the Raptors in 2019?

The “We-Won’t-Be-Bullied” Award

Pelicans. Sometimes being a little aloof is a positive. Reports were that Tom Benson’s widow, who is the owner, couldn’t get past trading their star player a year and a half before his contract was up. Sometimes just taking a step back can give you perspective. The Pelicans hold the cards and will get a great deal this summer.

Team Killer

LeBron, Klutch Sports, Rich Paul. Enough said.

Newest Villian

Anthony Davis. Now, New Orleans hates their greatest player of all-time. His teammates can’t be thrilled with him. The league as a whole (other than the Lakers) was rooting hard for him to not get what he wanted. Who’s on AD’s side at the moment?

The “What-Are-We-Doing?” Award

Lakers and Magic Johnson. Swing and miss and look utterly foolish at the deadline. From all reports, the Pelicans were totally messing with Magic and Co. But, ok, so you got done over by the Pels. Fine. You need to have a plan B, right? Nikola Vucevic would have been nice for Lonzo Ball and a couple picks, huh? No? Nothing? Well, that’s not true. They pulled Reggie Bullock.

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