Is anyone else relieved that the NBA's trade deadline has come and gone?
No more tracking ridiculous rumors or refreshing HoopsHype every five seconds. No more second-guessing anonymous "sources." No more concocting fanciful deals that bear little (if any) resemblance to what any GM in his right mind would actually do.
Now, we can simply focus on what's most important—you know, basketball. There will be buyouts here and free-agent signings there but nothing so monumental as to distract from the game itself.
With the vast majority of rosters set (more or less) for the next few months, the present seems as good a time as any to see how the Association stacks up. With so few games played in the past week on account of the All-Star break, one might expect this week's edition of the power rankings to look a lot like the previous one.
But the trade deadline, even one as tame as this year's was, did plenty to push some squads up the ladder and knock others down a rung or two.
If you thought the Philadelphia 76ers were bad before, just wait 'til you see 'em in action post-deadline.
Spencer Hawes is on his way to Cleveland. Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen will both be Indiana Pacers in short order. In return, the Sixers will welcome in (drumroll, please)...EARL CLARK! HENRY SIMS! FUTURE DRAFT PICKS! AND A HOBBLED DANNY GRANGER!
Poor Thaddeus Young. Philly's most attractive veteran trade chip will have to spend the rest of this season slogging through the sorry, tank-tastic mess that the Sixers have become.
Speaking of tanking, how 'bout them Los Angeles Lakers?
They didn't find any takers for Pau Gasol. Nor were they able to unload the expiring contracts of Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman to get under the luxury tax threshold for the first time in what feels like forever.
But they did manage to find a happier home for Steve Blake, whose toughness, shooting and overall competence at the point will be a welcome addition to the Golden State Warriors' second unit.
Truth be told, the Lakers didn't exactly need Blake anymore. Kendall Marshall has taken surprisingly well to Mike D'Antoni's coaching, Jordan Farmar's back from injury and Steve Nash plays about as often as your run-of-the-mill third-stringer would anyway.
Overall, the trade doesn't make the Lakers much worse, if only because, at 18-36, they've already hit rock-bottom. At the very least, the union of Robert Sacre and Kent Bazemore on the bench should make L.A. unbeatable.
In any Bring It On-style dance-off between benches, that is.
Man, if you thought the Milwaukee Bucks were terrible before, just wait 'til you see 'em without Gary Neal...
I'm just kidding. Gary Neal hardly played for the Bucks this season and, like so many Milwaukee nightclub goers, wasn't on the best of terms with Larry Sanders.
The bigger loss for the Bucks may well be Luke Ridnour, who joins Neal on the way to Charlotte. The return of Ramon Sessions to the team that drafted him should make for a nice story, though, and just might upgrade the bench of the squad with the worst record in the NBA.
The Orlando Magic didn't manage to offload any of their veterans via trade before the deadline, but that hasn't stopped GM Rob Hennigan from finding other ways to tinker with his team's roster. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Magic have bought out Glen Davis' contract, with the Los Angeles Clippers lined up as the front-runners to land his services.
"Big Baby" leaves behind an Orlando team that's well on its way to a top-tier pick in the 2014 NBA draft, even with Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo still manning the backcourt.
What do the Sacramento Kings now have in common with the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics? They too have taken advantage of Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King's desperation in his attempt to build a winning team.
In Sacramento's case, the Nets' charity comes by way of a pre-deadline trade that puts Marcus Thornton and the $16.6 million he's owed on Brooklyn's already ridiculously wonky books.
Not that the Kings made out like bandits, per se. Jason Terry hasn't been a useful player in two years, Reggie Evans won't play much in Sacramento's crowded frontcourt, and both are under contract until the summer of 2015. But, at the very least, the Kings will save some money by virtue of waiving Roger Mason Jr. after trading for him.
Danny Ainge is as much of a wheeler and dealer as any GM in the NBA, but he was smart to stand pat at the deadline.
Not that the Boston Celtics don't have plenty of players who Ainge might've wanted to move. Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, Brandon Bass and Jeff Green all smell more like cap casualties than actual building blocks going forward.
But in today's league, wherein (most) teams are more cautious than ever with the contracts they take on, the C's weren't about to get much in return for any of them.
As for the one who might've brought back a worthwhile bounty, Rajon Rondo wasn't about to leave town just yet—not when his value was as low as it's ever been or when Ainge was asking for a king's ransom.
The thing is, the C's aren't exactly hurting for the sort of draft picks that they were reportedly seeking in return for Rondo. They're already owed a whopping nine picks between now and 2018, not including the option they'll have to swap first-rounders with the Nets in 2017.
If anything, it'd make more sense for Boston to keep Rondo around to be its main building block—and use its other assets to bring back some quality support—than it would for it to eschew its resident All-Star in return for more future rookies.
Then again, that could all change this summer when the C's won't be under the gun to make a move.
The restraint the New York Knicks have shown on the trade market this season may be too little too late.
According to Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears, the Knicks were on the verge of sending Raymond Felton and Iman Shumpert to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Darren Collison and Matt Barnes. But, like so many proposals that come around this time of the year, this particular package fell through.
The Knicks certainly could've used an upgrade of any kind at point guard. Felton's in the midst of (perhaps) his worst-ever season, Pablo Prigioni's too old to play starter's minutes every night and Beno Udrih hasn't been a viable option for years.
Still, better that New York not shoot itself in the foot than dump Shumpert for Collison. As bad as Shump's season has been, between injuries and inconsistent play, the Knicks only have so many tradable assets at their disposal.
And if they're going to build a team worthy of Carmelo Anthony's return, the Knicks need to use them wisely.
A rumored swap involving Gordon Hayward going to the Celtics was about as active as the Utah Jazz were at the deadline and for good reason. Like Boston, Utah is already replete with future cap space and picks (five owed in the next five years) and, at 19-34, is well-positioned to snag a blue-chip prospect out of the 2014 draft.
Of great import to the Jazz is the opportunity that the rest of the season will provide the coaching staff and the front office to further evaluate the youngsters on hand. Alec Burks and rookie Trey Burke have the makings of a solid young backcourt, and Enes Kanter has been productive since Derrick Favors went down with a hip injury just prior to the All-Star break.
If the Jazz are going to make the most of the assets they have on hand, job No. 1 will be to figure out who stays and who goes before GM Dennis Lindsey does anything drastic.
Greg Monroe and Josh Smith are both still Detroit Pistons—for now, anyway. Monroe will be a restricted free agent this summer and could attract offer sheets from other teams that far outstrip both his value and the Pistons' parameters for a new contract...
Wait, nevermind. So long as Joe Dumars is still the GM, Detroit is a solid bet to overpay just about anyone, especially a young, homegrown talent like Monroe.
As for Smith, there could be something bigger brewing, albeit down the line. According to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News, the Pistons' attempt to shop Smith and his massive contract might've only been a ploy to gauge the market for his services this summer.
Now, if only the Pistons could find themselves a GM who didn't forfeit his front-office expertise to the universe a decade ago, Thunderstruck-style...
The New Orleans Pelicans had some options on the margins prior to the trade deadline but nothing to move the needle. Instead, the Pels did the smart thing and stood pat, choosing to roll with the crew for which they sacrificed so much in the way of picks and cap space last summer.
Frankly, no rental was ever going to put the Pelicans in the playoffs. At 23-30, New Orleans sits a full eight games back of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, with the Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets competing for the very same scraps.
Better that the Pels put all their eggs into the "Let's Let Anthony Davis Develop" basket than make an ill-advised push toward the postseason. As it stands, New Orleans needs just five more wins to surpass its entire total from last season.
Which, given all the injury issues this team has had, should be encouragement enough.
Aside from the Knicks' overtures for Jeff Teague, the Atlanta Hawks were darn near silent in the lead-up to the trade deadline. Come Thursday, though, the Hawks made a big splash by acquiring...Antawn Jamison...?
Who, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, might be headed for a buyout.
Truth be told, the Hawks could've used some actual help. They've lost seven in a row, including their last four by double digits, to fall to seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Paul Millsap is still performing at an All-Star level, but Jeff Teague appears to be suffering in the absence of Al Horford.
Atlanta can only hope that Wednesday night's 16-point "breakout" from Teague—in a 17-point loss to the Washington Wizards—will be enough to snap the young point guard out of his slump and, in turn, the Hawks out of theirs.
Andre Miller goes to Washington and voila! The Denver Nuggets snap out of their five-game slide.
OK, so maybe Miller's departure wasn't as much the cause behind Denver's win on Thursday night as was the fact that Milwaukee was on the other end.
In any case, the Nuggets figure to be better off now that Miller's feud-related absence isn't hanging over them anymore. Instead, they can count on Aaron Brooks, a scoring guard acquired from Houston at the deadline, to replenish their depth behind Ty Lawson.
That probably won't be enough to put Denver back in the playoff picture—the Nuggets are 6.5 games back of eighth-place Dallas—but it sure beats the alternative.
Things are finally looking up for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They've won six in a row and didn't dump Luol Deng at the deadline, choosing instead to swipe Spencer Hawes from the Sixers for two benchwarmers and a pair of second-round picks.
To be sure, the Cavs still have a lot of work to do before their season, and these moves can be deemed successes. Cleveland sits three games back of the final playoff spot in the East and, according to Playoff Status, sports the toughest remaining schedule in the conference.
But if Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Deng can continue to jell—and if Hawes proves to be a worthwhile addition to the team's frontcourt—the Cavs could bring their post-LeBron James playoff drought to a swift end.
And if not? The Cavs will look pretty silly for having spent five picks (three on Deng, two on Hawes) to acquire a pair of impending free agents.
Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour are nobody's idea of shooting aficionados. Neither is sniffing 40 percent from the field at the moment, though both are about league-average from three.
That could be enough to satisfy a Charlotte Bobcats squad for whom Josh McRoberts and Anthony Tolliver doubled as the best marksmen, at least prior to the deadline. With Neal and Ridnour now in tow, the 'Cats, who've hit a so-so 35.5 percent of their 16.4 three-point attempts per game (the third fewest in the NBA), could have enough decent floor-stretchers to open up space in the middle for the red-hot Al Jefferson.
And perhaps climb a rung or two in the Eastern Conference standings.
I'm no Marcus Thornton fan, but the guy is clearly an upgrade for the Brooklyn Nets over Jason Terry.
Granted, JET had set the bar low enough to catch the attention of James Cameron...probably. Terry had posted career lows in points (4.5), assists (1.6), field-goal percentage (.362) and minutes (16.3) prior to being shipped to Sacramento.
With Reggie Evans also on his way to the West Coast, the Nets now have an extra roster spot with which to replenish their thin frontcourt. Brooklyn could use the opening to bring in the bought-out Glen Davis or perhaps make NBA history by signing Jason Collins, per ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein.
However the Nets proceed, they'll do so knowing that any further additions will only tack onto a bill that, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, could cost mega-billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov upward of $210 million.
As a UCLA alum and born-and-bred Lakers fan, I understand the excitement over the possibility of Kevin Love returning to L.A. in the near future. He's one of the premier players in the NBA and will be highly sought after if/when he opts out of the final year of his deal in the summer of 2015.
But I'm on board with Love's apparent frustration over the swirling of rumors regarding his desire (or lack thereof) to stick with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The three-time All-Star may well ditch Minny for sunnier climes in a year-and-a-half. Heck, it seems likely that he will, especially if the T-Wolves don't qualify for the playoffs before then.
Until then, can we all just calm down for a second and enjoy watching this guy play? His post moves, outlet passes and three-point shots are all things of beauty and needn't be obscured by incessant innuendo.
Even if it proves to be true.
Jan Vesely, we hardly knew ye. The Czech "sensation" will be the Nuggets' to enjoy/bemoan now that the Washington Wizards have parted ways with him. In exchange, the Wizards wound up with Andre Miller, whose skill and veteran savvy will come in handy for a Washington squad with its focus trained on a long-awaited return to the playoffs.
Ideally, Miller will serve as John Wall's mentor for the duration of his deal, which runs through the 2014-15 season. Wall has come a long way this season, earning his first All-Star trip (and first NBA dunk contest title) as a result of his 19.9 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Still, Wall could certainly use whatever tricks Professor Miller has up his sleeve. Wall's well on his way to superstardom, but anything he can learn from a wise, old hand would only accelerate his rise into the league's elite at his position.
The Toronto Raptors made a move before the trade deadline after all.
Not one involving Kyle Lowry, of course. The shoulda-been-All-Star is still in Toronto and, according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg, is held in high regard by GM Masai Ujiri.
As well he should be. Lowry's emergence this season has been the driving force behind the Raptors' rise into third place in the Eastern Conference. And with Nando de Colo coming to Canada in exchange for Austin Daye, Lowry will have that much more support behind him on the Raptors' bench heading into what figures to be the team's first playoff appearance since 2008.
The Chicago Bulls shot their trade wad long before the deadline when they shipped Luol Deng to the Cavs, though they may have another trick up their sleeve. According to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune, the Bulls could reach out to free-agent guard Roger Mason Jr. to bring some shooting to their bench.
The Bulls wouldn't seem to need any addition more drastic than that. They've won four in a row, including three straight against other Eastern Conference playoff teams, and sit just a half-game back of the Raptors for third place after eking out a win in Toronto on Wednesday.
That gap could grow in the week to come, though. After hosting the Nuggets, the Bulls will hit the road to take on the Miami Heat and the Hawks before facing the Warriors in the Windy City and flying down to Dallas.
The Dallas Mavericks got the short end of the stick after the All-Star break. They returned to action with a 117-106 loss to the Miami Heat and will proceed with a three-game swing through the Eastern Conference.
Luckily, those games will come against the Sixers, Pistons and Knicks. That terrible trio should afford the Mavs ample opportunity to put some space between themselves and the ninth-place Memphis Grizzlies.
Just a single game separates those two foes on the fringes of the Western Conference playoff picture—a deficit that Memphis could easily overcome now that Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are healthy again.
Speaking of the Memphis Grizzlies, they've nearly got all their ducks in a row...finally. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are both back in the lineup, and Tony Allen could be in time to take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
Allen was reportedly in the mix to join the T-Wolves at one point prior to the deadline, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Ultimately, Memphis' plan to send him and Tayshaun Prince to Minny in exchange for Chase Budinger and J.J. Barea fell through.
And good thing too. Allen is a non-factor on the offensive end and may well be a roster redundancy now that Courtney Lee's established himself as a solid presence at shooting guard.
But Allen is and has been a core constituent of the Grizzlies' "Grit-N-Grind" personality for years. Sending him out for more shooting makes plenty of analytical sense, but there's no telling how his departure would affect this team's identity and carefully manicured chemistry.
The Golden State Warriors' search for Jarrett Jack's replacement continues apace, with Steve Blake as the latest to audition for the job. Blake joined the Dubs by way of a deadline deal that sent young journeyman MarShon Brooks and celebration specialist Kent Bazemore down south to the Lakers.
The new guy's contributions were modest in his Golden State debut. Blake chipped in three points, two rebounds, an assist and a block in 18 minutes off the bench in the Warriors' 102-99 overtime win over the Rockets.
Blake's mere presence, though, seemed to energize a second unit that's been largely lackluster this season to say the least. With Blake handling the ball, the rest of the Warriors' reserves (i.e. Harrison Barnes, Jordan Crawford and Draymond Green) should be able to settle more comfortably into their roles without having to worry about who's going to run the offense when Stephen Curry sits.
Golden State doesn't need much out of Blake for the trade to be deemed a success. If he's able to absorb some of Jack's old responsibilities off the bench, the Warriors should get just the boost they need to build momentum over the next two months and avoid an early flameout in the playoffs.
LaMarcus Aldridge's left groin strain won't make it any easier for the Portland Trail Blazers to stave off the creeping effects of gravity.
Which is to say, the Blazers are in the midst of a second-half swoon and will have a tough time breaking out of it without their All-Star power forward.
Portland fell two points short at home to a severely short-handed San Antonio squad, with Dorell Wright starting at power forward for the Blazers. It was the first time all season that Portland fielded a starting lineup other than the Aldridge-Damian Lillard-Nicolas Batum-Wesley Matthews-Robin Lopez fivesome on which it's leaned all season.
That speaks to the degree to which luck has (or had) been on the Blazers' side for their surprising campaign. Portland still has plenty of talent, particularly on the offensive end, to make some noise in the playoffs, with or without its prior good fortune.
But without much in the way of a defense or bench, the Blazers will be too dependent on their shrinking cast of stars to carry the offense against some of the NBA's better defensive squads in the postseason.
Of all the teams in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns seemed the safest bet to make a move—any move—ahead of Thursday's deadline. Between Emeka Okafor's expiring contract, four 2014 first-rounders, some other movable pieces and ample cap space, the Suns could've easily made a play for any of the names that were on the market in an effort to further solidify their playoff prospects.
To be sure, the Suns didn't need to make a move. Their 32-21 record would be good enough to secure the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference if the playoffs started today. And with Eric Bledsoe still on the mend, the Suns should get better during the stretch run, even without any out-of-house additions.
GM Ryan McDonough's inactivity could be for the best in the long run too. The Suns will have every chance to parlay their package of first-round picks into a star of some sort in the summer. As such, there was no need for Phoenix to panic its way into a deadline deal.
Especially when the team is as far ahead of schedule as it already is.
At long last, the Los Angeles Clippers look ready to fill out their all-too-thin frontcourt. They dumped Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens at the deadline, opening up roster spots that figure to be spent on more reliable backup bigs.
The most likely addition? Glen Davis. According to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears, the Clippers are the best bet to land Big Baby, who agreed to a buyout with the Magic on Thursday. Davis' familiarity with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, combined with L.A.'s need for some size, makes the two parties a strong fit.
Of course, Davis won't do much to bolster the Clips defensively, given his lack of height and athleticism up front. But his skill and experience would come in handy, if only to ensure that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan can get the breathers they need without the rest of the team falling off a cliff.
Could Austin Daye be next in the long line of Gregg Popovich's reclamation projects? The San Antonio Spurs certainly hope so. Otherwise, they probably wouldn't have given up seldom-used guard Nando de Colo to get him from the Raptors.
Daye's size and versatility should come in handy for a Spurs squad that's been plagued by injuries of late. He's shown himself to be a jack of all trades in the past, albeit only in fits and spurts. He played a total of 33 minutes in Toronto before GM Masai Ujiri sent him packing.
Still, if the success of a bit player like Patty Mills is any indication, Daye could become a productive fill-in for the Spurs once Pop carves out the proper role for him.
The Houston Rockets fought to the bitter end to extend their eight-game winning streak to nine but couldn't quite overcome a short-handed Warriors squad on the road in overtime.
There's no need for the Rockets to fret, though they could be due for a bit of a comeuppance in the next week or so. They have three dates remaining on their five-game road trip, including tiffs with the Suns and Clippers. Houston will have plenty at stake, with only a game separating it from the fifth-place Blazers.
The Rockets are certainly good enough to secure a slice of home-court advantage down the stretch here. The addition of Jordan Hamilton at the deadline should help that effort a bit on the fringes. A loss in Oakland should allow Houston to reset as it prepares for a crucial sprint to the finish with a roster whose talent portends an impressive run through the playoffs.
Before anyone embarrasses themselves, let's go ahead and squash any suggestion that the Oklahoma City Thunder are actually better off without Russell Westbrook.
Yes, the Thunder went 20-7 in his absence. Yes, they got blown out by 22 points on Thursday. And yes, Westbrook, who missed eight of his 12 attempts and had twice as many turnovers (four) as assists (two) against Miami, looked rusty.
But one bad game isn't nearly enough say with any certainty that Russ is a detriment to his team. He's still one of the 10 best players in basketball when he's healthy and in rhythm—which he clearly wasn't opposite the Heat.
"I'm just going to keep getting him better," head coach Scott Brooks said after the game, via The Associated Press. "And as the season goes along, as he gets more comfortable in game shape, we're going to see a better Russell every night."
That'll be the case over the stretch run, assuming Westbrook doesn't encounter any further setbacks in his surgically tortured knee. The Thunder will certainly need him to get back to where he was, if only to make sure that Kevin Durant doesn't wear himself out from carrying the team on his back before OKC has an opportunity to return to the Finals.
The Indiana Pacers are the closest thing to a big winner that could be found among the rubble of this year's trade deadline.
The Pacers shocked the basketball world when they beat the buzzer by sending Danny Granger's expiring contract to the Sixers in exchange for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. In Turner, Indy now has another young, versatile swingman whose abilities as a rebounder, ball-handler, distributor and scorer should play well on a bench that, despite summer upgrades, remained among the NBA's least productive.
Turner probably won't stick with the Pacers beyond this season. He's due for restricted free agency this summer and may command more money than Indy is willing to offer, especially in light of what it'll have to shell out to keep Lance Stephenson.
For now, though, Turner represents a significant upgrade over what a hobbled Granger provided. And if Stephenson takes his talents elsewhere, the Pacers can turn to their newest member as insurance on the wing.
It's been a while, but the Miami Heat are back atop these power rankings and deservedly so. They've won four in a row, seven of eight and nine of their last 11 to move within 1.5 games of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference and, more importantly, build momentum for an all-important stretch run.
Miami's mauling of the Thunder on Thursday did plenty to announce its post-All-Star intentions. The Heat dominated from start to finish in OKC, thanks to a whopping 81 points from the Big Three.
No matter what Miami does to tweak its roster on the fringes, this team's success (or failure) will ultimately ride on the shoulders of its superstar trio. If Dwyane Wade looks in the playoffs anything like he did against the Thunder—when he stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals—the Heat will be as tough to beat in a seven-game series as ever.
*Information regarding trade deadline moves courtesy of NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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