Winners and Losers from Trade Deadline Week in the NBA
The NBA's annual trade deadline came and went with barely a whimper on Thursday. A reluctance to give up valuable draft picks, take on salary and risk losing quality players for nothing in free agency—all driven by the parameters (and uncertainty) of the new collective bargaining agreement—contributed to the lack of blockbuster activity.
So, too, did the absence of any truly marquee players on the market, save for Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith. The Los Angeles Lakers were clear about their intention to hang onto Dwight Howard from the get-go. Kevin Garnett had no interest in leaving the Boston Celtics, and they, in turn, weren't about to "blow it up" unless Paul Pierce was involved as well.
And, of course, the league's top contenders (i.e. the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs) were all pretty well set with their rosters to begin with.
Not that there wasn't any activity of which to speak. In the 24 hours leading up to the deadline, the league office rubber-stamped 12 transactions involving 27 players, six draft-related assets and a trade exception.
So who won and who lost on deadline day? Read on to find out!
Loser: Sacramento Kings
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I've all but given up trying to figure out what's going on with the Sacramento Kings.
I get that they wanted/needed to shed salary, both to satisfy new ownership (whomever that may be) and ease the burden on the ever-shallowing pockets of current ownership. I get that Thomas Robinson had hardly been performing up to his NBA draft status and was stuck behind DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson to begin with.
But eight months? Really, fellas?!
Surely, any rookie deserves more than two-thirds of a calendar year to prove himself, especially when he's been allotted less than 16 minutes per game.
And surely, if money was the issue, the Kings could've found some way to shed salary that didn't involve cutting short their commitment to a 21-year-old kid blessed with a strong build and freakish athleticism.
No offense to Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich, but not one of those three has anything close to the upside that T-Rob will bring to the table with the Houston Rockets—which, from now on, the Kings can only watch from afar.
Winner: Thomas Robinson
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What does Thomas Robinson now have in common with Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall, Chauncey Billups and Derrick Favors?
They were all top-five picks traded during their rookie seasons. Billups is the only one who's gone on to do anything truly noteworthy, though Robinson certainly has the talent and physical ability to join him in that regard.
And good on T-Rob for being rescued from the biggest quagmire in the NBA, if not all of professional sports. No longer will his skills be left to atrophy and his attitude to sour behind the likes of "Boogie" Cousins, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes. No longer will he be caught in the midst of a struggle between the cities of Sacramento and Seattle or subject to a development staff that's dropped the ball on Cousins and former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans of late.
Instead, Robinson will be able to compete for some serious playing time (and perhaps a long-term starting spot) at power forward with the up-and-coming Houston Rockets, who just so happen to be the youngest team in the NBA.
Now, it's on T-Rob to make the most of his present opportunity—which is far better than him having to cross his fingers and hope that everything around him does (or doesn't) go down the tubes to get a legitimate shot.
Winner: Morris Twins
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To make room for Thomas Robinson, the Rockets sent Marcus Morris to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick. In doing so, Houston reunited Marcus with his twin brother, Markieff Morris.
This may or may not be a boon for the Suns. The Morris brothers enjoyed tremendous success during their years together at Kansas before entering the league as the 13th (Markieff) and 14th (Marcus) picks in the 2011 NBA draft.
If nothing else, the reunion of the Morris twins should be good for...the Morris twins. They'd never spent so much time apart from one another as they had over the last year-and-a-half. At least one of the two was ecstatic to learn of the move.
It only figures that siblings from Philadelphia would have so much brotherly love for one another, doesn't it?
Loser: Utah Jazz
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Few teams were as perfectly positioned to sell while maintaining their playoff prospects as the Utah Jazz.
Everyone figured the Jazz would part ways with at least one of the two between Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Utah was in dire need of some backcourt help—which its bigs (both on expiring contracts) could draw in return—and more minutes for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter up front.
Rather than make a move, though, the Jazz simply stood pat. Whether that's due to reluctance from the market or on the part of Jazz management to make a deal remains to be seen.
In any case, Utah can now look forward to a surefire first-round exit from the Western Conference playoffs, followed by a summer in which the front office will have to decide who to pay (if either) between Big Al and Millsap while sifting through a relatively thin crop of free-agent guards.
Loser: Los Angeles Clippers
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At one point, the Los Angeles Clippers were rumored to be the front-runners in whatever race there was to snag Paul Millsap from the Jazz. The Clips also (allegedly) did more than just kick the tires on Kevin Garnett.
Both would've helped to fill L.A.'s need for a big man who can score in the low post during half-court sets. Neither switched allegiances at the deadline.
Perhaps the Clips didn't want to part ways with Eric Bledsoe and either DeAndre Jordan or Caron Butler (depending on the trade) just yet. Perhaps L.A. thought it had the horses to compete for the Western Conference crown. Perhaps Garnett really did put the kibosh on leaving the C's to begin with.
Whatever the case may be, the Clips will proceed with their current cast of characters, for better or worse—which can come as only cold comfort in the wake of a 116-90 annihilation at the hands of the Spurs.
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers
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How can one team in a given city be a "loser" for standing pat and another be a "winner" for doing the same?
In the case of the Clippers and the Los Angeles Lakers, the case is a fairly straightforward one to make. The Clips clearly could've used a deadline "purchase" to bolster their already-burgeoning title hopes.
The Lakers, on the other hand, were better off resisting the temptation to "blow it up" and sell off their high-profile parts for scrap-like pieces. General manager Mitch Kupchak stuck to his proverbial guns and resisted (if not outright ignored) the increasing public pressure to part ways with Dwight Howard mere months after prying him from the Orlando Magic.
And thank goodness he did. As insufferable as Howard has been at times this season, he's the Lakers' best bet with whom to win titles now (alongside Kobe Bryant) and remain relevant going forward once the Black Mamba calls it quits.
Assuming they sneak their way into the playoffs (as Kobe insists they will) and Dwight's back heals up over the summer, the Lakers should enter the 2013-14 season as a formidable force in the Western Conference.
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder
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You don't have to make a big splash at the trade deadline to come out a winner—just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder.
They made a pair of minor moves that could turn out to be sneaky positives in short order
First, general manager Sam Presti sent Eric Maynor, an under-performing backup point guard, to the Portland Trail Blazers for a $2.2 million trade exception. The move figures to free up further financial flexibility for OKC while strengthening Reggie Jackson's case as second in command at the point behind Russell Westbrook.
Then, the Thunder sent a second-round pick to the New York Knicks for Ronnie Brewer. He'll serve as another Thabo Sefolosha-style perimeter defender to throw at the likes of James Harden, Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili and Jamal Crawford come playoff time.
Again, nothing major for the Thunder. But when your team is 39-15, chances are you don't need to do much to remain in the championship conversation.
Loser: Charlotte Bobcats
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The Charlotte Bobcats had every motivation to move Ben Gordon. He has a $13.2 million player option for 2013-14 and has become a serial headache for Mike Dunlap and his staff.
The Bobcats did their due diligence engaging the Brooklyn Nets (with Kris Humphries) and the Toronto Raptors (with Andrea Bargnani) with potential swaps involving want-away players with regrettable contracts.
But instead of finding a new home for Gordon, the 'Cats sent Hakim Warrick to Orlando in exchange for Duke alum Josh McRoberts.
Some "Plan B," eh?
Winner: Jordan Crawford
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Say what you will about the Boston Celtics for acquiring a gunner, or the Washington Wizards for giving up a productive player in exchange for one guy (Leandro Barbosa) with a torn ACL and another (Jason Collins) who's continued employment in the NBA comes as something of a surprise.
But for Jordan Crawford, the move from the Beltway to Beantown couldn't be much better. His playing time with the Wizards had dwindled, while his game and his attitude had long been poisoned by the residual toxicity stemming from Gilbert Arenas' franchise-failing gun play.
At long last, the 24-year-old guard, who's best known for dunking on LeBron James at a summer camp, will get to leave behind the squalor of D.C. for the winning tradition of Boston and the discipline and structure inherent in a partnership with Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
Winner/Loser: Atlanta Hawks
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It's tough to tell whether the Atlanta Hawks fit in better with the winners or the losers of the trade deadline.
On one hand, they still have Josh Smith. They shopped him hard for weeks (if not months), but could come up with no better offer than a package of Ekpe Udoh, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Beno Udrih and a protected first-round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks (per Ric Bucher). As a result, the Hawks will head into the summer knowing full well that they may lose a hometown hero and borderline All-Star for absolutely nothing.
On the other hand, they still have Josh Smith. The offer from Milwaukee wasn't exactly enticing, and it's entirely possible that Smith decides to re-up with the Hawks. After all, they can offer him more money over more years than anyone else.
I suppose the characterization of Atlanta's efforts depends on one's opinion of Smith himself. If you like his versatility, athleticism and activity on the defensive end, then you probably think the Hawks were smart to keep him. If you cringe at the thought of him launching even one more ill-advised long two, then, more than likely, your view of his ongoing residency in the ATL is less than favorable.