Jan. 15, 2019
NBA Trade Deadline Thoughts and Grades
Between the 19th and 23rd of February, 10 trades were made prior to the NBA Trade Deadline on the 23rd at 3 pm EST. The NBA Trade Deadline is filled with overreactions to social media posts (insert all Celtics fans reactions to Isiah Thomas’ tweets here) and rumors spreading across the nation. Adrian Wojnarowski is a reporter for TheVertical.com, affiliated with Yahoo! Sports, who is renowned for being the first to release the information of a trade or acquisition by a team. He releases the information of each transaction roughly 2 minutes before any ESPN or TNT reporter has a chance to release the information. Woj, as he is known by most, has 1.61 million followers on Twitter and the majority of those followers are NBA fans just waiting for his “Woj bombs,” another name for a blockbuster trade, to occur. I could go on all day about how fascinated I am with Woj, but the reason of this post is to break down five specific trades I felt were the most important and give my reactions to them. There are a lot of reasons for teams wanting to trade with one another such as: expiring contracts they might lose in free agency, need for a veteran to make a deep playoff run, draft picks, etc. Keep those factors in mind as each of the five trades are examined.
DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans
I guess the best place to start is with the biggest trade of the season; the Sacramento Kings former All-Star big man DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins and Omri Casspi being sent to New Orleans for Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, New Orleans’ 2017 first-round pick (top-three protected), and the 76ers’ 2017 second-round pick. A trade involving DeMarcus Cousins has been expected and rumored to happen for a couple of years, but this season GM Vlade Divac came out and said Cousins would not be traded. However, since Sacramento might have the worst front office in the league today, and maybe even NBA history (don’t even get me started on Billy King’s experiment with the Nets or the Knicks for the last 20 years), Divac went against his own word and moved Cousins to the Pelicans. For the Pelicans and Boogie, this trade could not have worked out any better. The #FreeBoogie movement in Sacramento is no more and he can finally play with an organization that understands how to put together a formidable team (for the most part). Meanwhile, the Pelicans gave Hield, who Kings owner Vivek Ranadive thinks could be the “next Steph Curry,” a top-three protected first-round pick in this year’s draft, Tyreke Evans’ corpse, the ultimate role player in Langston Galloway, and a second-round pick that probably won’t be used to pick a solid player in this year’s draft. Basically, the Kings received Hield in this trade because the first round pick will most likely not land in the top 3. Evans hasn’t been good since 2012, and Langston Galloway is a good player to come off the bench but will never be a star in this league. Overall, the Pelicans are currently in the 11th seed in the West, but with the “Twin Towers 2.0,” I expect them to be a major contender for the 8 or 7 seed by season's end.
Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets
It did not take long for Magic Johnson to shake things up once he was named the President of Basketball Operations on February 21st. Johnson named Rob Pelinka the GM on the same day and they both wasted no time looking for a trade. Guard Lou Williams was traded to the Houston Rockets for veteran swingman Corey Brewer and Houston’s 2017 first-round pick. This deal actually seems to benefit both teams. The Rockets get another scoring guard to come off their once weak bench and Lou Williams is having a career year, averaging 18.6 PPG so far. Williams fits in nicely with the Rockets run-and-gun score first scheme as well. The Lakers may seem like a loser by getting rid of a guy who is scoring 18.6 PPG, but in reality, it will do more good than harm. First, this allows some of the Lakers younger players like guard Tyler Ennis (acquired in a separate deal with the Rockets for guard Marcelo Huertas) and guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson to have more playing time thus increasing their chances of expedited improvement. Second, the Lakers got a first-round pick in this year’s draft which seems to be one of the deeper drafts we have seen in a while. The Rockets will have a record good enough to put the pick in the mid to high twenties so the player the Lakers might choose may not be anything more than a role player but time will tell. Lastly, the Lakers can use their Amnesty Clause (a way for each team to release one player per year from their roster without much financial repercussion) on Brewer at the end of the year to completely take his salary off the roster and waive him. Overall, this trade is a win-win for both teams.
Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks
When I saw Nerlens Noel was traded, I hoped and prayed it was to the Phoenix Suns, my favorite NBA team. I saw the words “Power Forward Nerlens Noel traded” and my heart raced! I thought of the young Sun's core of Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Noel playing together until they were ready for retirement. I continued to read the announcement and grew drastically disappointed in the Suns. Noel was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Mavericks for Center Andrew Bogut, G/F Justin Anderson, and a protected 2017 first-round pick. The Mavericks have had a disappointing season, to say the least. They are near the bottom of the standings in the West and did not have many pieces to look forward to in the future. With the addition of Noel, they now have a young, strong, interior defender and rebounder that they can lock down for many years to come. As for the 76ers, they bought out Bogut’s contract waiving him to free agency (Bogut was recently signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers) so they do not have to worry about an aging veteran on a non-contending team. They also did not get rid of the right big man in my opinion. I think they should have kept Noel and traded their other big man, Jahlil Okafor. I think Noel is capable of a more well-rounded skill set than Okafor which is much more valuable. Again, time will tell. Finally, I like Justin Anderson and think he can be a very good role player, unfortunately, that is what most of the 76ers’ roster consists of. I would not be surprised if the 76ers use Anderson and/or the protected first-round pick as a future asset for a trade.
Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder
Besides Boogie, this was probably the biggest trade to occur this deadline. The Thunder have been sitting around the 5, 6, and 7 seeds in the Western Division carried mainly by Russell Westbrook and his insane stat lines but with this trade, the Thunder have a better chance of getting through the first round of playoffs. The trade was Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round pick to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow. Starting with the Bulls, this is not a terrible trade. Yeah, they have a log jam at Point Guard with Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, and now Cameron Payne, but I do like the abilities Payne showed in his limited minutes with the Thunder. Lauvergne is a young center in search of his true role on a team and still has time to learn and grow. Finally, Anthony Morrow is one of the best bench shooters in the league so his addition should help the Bulls in their race for a bottom tier playoff spot. I absolutely love this move from the Thunder’s perspective. Taj Gibson has been a solid power forward for the Bulls for years and really thrived in the pick and roll with Derrick Rose a few years ago. Now, he gets to try and replicate that with an even more athletic Russell Westbrook in OKC. Plus, Doug McDermott will get key minutes as a scorer coming off the bench for the Thunder, as they attempt to make a deep playoff run.
P.J. Tucker to the Toronto Raptors
As previously mentioned, I am a life-long Phoenix Suns fan so my opinion with regard to this move might have a little bias, but I’ll try to stay moderate. The Phoenix Suns sent small forward P.J. Tucker to the Raptors for power forward Jared Sullinger, a 2017 second-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick. Since the trade, the Suns have waived Sullinger, making him a free agent, so really the Suns only received the two second-round picks from the Raptors in return for Tucker. P.J. Tucker is the archetypal veteran in the NBA. He works hard, is a strong leader, and gives maximum effort every time he is on the floor. Tucker does not contribute a lot for his teams in terms of offense, but he is considered one of the better defensive players in the NBA. The Raptors are trying to bolster their roster as they head into the playoffs and with this move prove that they are doing everything they can to try and defeat the Cavaliers. This was not the biggest blockbuster trade of the deadline, but it was a solid move by the Raptors and a way for the Suns to let their younger players get more playing time.