Do you like the idea of mid-tier veterans changing homes in deals that are unlikely to alter the NBA Finals landscape whatsoever? Well, the 2016 NBA trade deadline was your cup of tea.
Thursday's 3 p.m. ET cutoff came and went without many blockbuster deals, which is disappointing but expected. With only a handful of teams reasonably competing for a championship and the league readying for a massive cap influx over the summer, this deadline was bound to underwhelm.
Inaction is always the preferred method in periods of uncertainty, and the looming cap increase makes assets like expiring contracts less valuable than ever. (Unless you are the Orlando Magic.)
So instead of the flurry of last-second swaps we saw a year ago, things largely held to form. Dwight Howard stayed put, as did Al Horford and Jeff Teague. Kevin Love is still a Cleveland Cavalier. Carmelo Anthony's still a New York Knick.
As for those who did get traded, here's a roundup of each Thursday deal along with some reaction from around the league.
Cavs Land Frye; Varejao Gone After Nearly 12 Seasons in CLE
The Cavaliers acquired forward Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic in a three-team deal that also included the Portland Trail Blazers, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Cleveland will send a 2018 first-round pick to Portland in exchange for taking on Anderson Varejao's salary, with Jared Cunningham and a Blazers second-rounder headed to Orlando.
Nate Duncan of The Cauldron noted this will make Cleveland an offensive powerhouse:
Kyrie/SG/LeBron/Love/Frye will be absolutely unstoppable. 2 bigs shooting 3s around LeBron postups. The D, OTOH....— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 18, 2016
Ethan J. Skolnick of the Miami Herald was complimentary of Cavs general manager David Griffin:
David Griffin's having another good trade deadline for Cleveland. Channing Frye balances Cleveland's bigs.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 18, 2016
Frye, 32, is averaging 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this season. While those numbers rank among the worst of his career, he's shooting 39.7 percent from the floor and should provide LeBron James and Co. another weapon to stretch the floor.
Despite the deal being smart from a basketball sense, it ends Varejao's 11-plus-year run with the Cavaliers. Jacob L. Rosen is already feeling nostalgic:
I'm feeling very sentimental about a Cleveland Cavaliers roster that does not include Anderson Varejao.— Jacob L. Rosen (@JacobLRosen) February 18, 2016
Portland will waive Varejao once the deal is complete, sources told McMenamin. He can't re-sign with the Cavaliers, however, under terms of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.
Markieff Morris (Kind of) Gets His Wish, Traded to WAS
After angling for a trade since the offseason, Markieff Morris was shipped to the Washington Wizards in exchange for DeJuan Blair, Kris Humphries and a protected future first-round pick, per Shams Charania of The Vertical.
Morris has been disgruntled in Phoenix since the team traded his twin brother, Marcus, to the Detroit Pistons last summer. He's publicly pouted, feuded with coaches and gotten into altercations with teammates at various points this season. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders noted the Suns made a smart move given Morris' troubles:
Excellent return for Markieff Morris. https://t.co/K4bm7r3fVG— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) February 18, 2016
The price also confused ESPN.com's Zach Lowe:
It's bizarre to me that Markieff (mailed in a season) and D-Mo (barely played due to back injury) got 1sts, and T. Harris didn't.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 18, 2016
Still, there is evidence that Morris may be turning a corner. He's averaged 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in February. Interim coach Earl Watson appeared to instill confidence in Morris that Jeff Hornacek could not before his firing Jan. 31, so it'll be interesting to see if Wizards coach Randy Wittman can keep things trending upward.
Lance Heads to Memphis as Grizz Add to Chaotic Locker Room
In a last-minute deal, the Los Angeles Clippers acquired forward Jeff Green in exchange for Lance Stephenson and a first-round pick, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Lowe.
There are basketball implications to this deal, sure, but let's not kid ourselves. Analysis of this transaction quickly turned into two camps: those wondering how L.A. head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers could give up a first-rounder for Green and those concerned with the mental health of Dave Joerger given Memphis' questionable roster construction.
Let's take it to the tweets.
a trade deadline without roc divers acquiring an ex-celtic is like a willie nelson concert with no whisky river— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 18, 2016
Doc Rivers loves acquiring players he coached in Boston and his son. Sentimentality may be his biggest flaw as an executive.— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) February 18, 2016
Doc Rivers is an impressively bad GM.— Mason Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg) February 18, 2016
BAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA DOC RIVERS TRADED A FIRST ROUND PICK (AGAIN) TO GET RID OF LANCE.— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) February 18, 2016
WHAT ARE YOU DOING.
Doc Rivers running to the fax machine to trade Lance to Memphis pic.twitter.com/R2PF5a3PsC— The Ringer (@ringer) February 18, 2016
When you're trying to understand how Doc Rivers could give up a 1st for Jeff Green in the year of our lord 2016 pic.twitter.com/PWZxyUL7jM— Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) February 18, 2016
On Lance and Memphis:
- Tony Allen— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) February 18, 2016
Even D Generation X wouldnt be favored in a street fight vs. this Grizzlies squad
Z-Bo, Lance, Tony Allen, Birdman.— RUSS BENGT$ON (@russbengtson) February 18, 2016
It's beyond lit.
z-bo, chalmers, matt barnes, tony allen, birdman, lance stephenson.— kelly cohen (@politiCOHEN_) February 18, 2016
a fight broke out as i typed this tweet, i think..
Dave Joerger is going to walk into Grizzlies practice tomorrow like: pic.twitter.com/PeNzcbKrvi— Aron Yohannes (@AronYohannes) February 18, 2016
Joerger after realizing the grand total of crazy dudes on our roster pic.twitter.com/5y1lkwDTkf— Anthony Sain (@SainAsylum) February 18, 2016
Thank you, Based Doc Rivers, for making our deadline dreams come true.
Pistons Continue Building Young Core, Acquire Motiejunas
The Houston Rockets sent forward Donatas Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton to the Detroit Pistons as part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday, per ESPN.com's Calvin Watkins.
Houston acquired a first-round pick that is top-eight protected in 2016 and top-10 protected the two subsequent years. Joel Anthony, who initially went to Houston, was then flipped with a second-round pick to Philly for Chukwudiebere Maduabum.
Stein highlighted the role Detroit head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy played:
Quite a good pick Houston scored in the Motiejunas deal, but that's Stan Van Gundy. If he likes a player, he's not afraid to pay a price— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 18, 2016
Motiejunas has missed most of the season with back problems. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN noted one reason the Pistons may have faith in Motiejunas' health:
Big reason for DET to gamble on D-Mo and his back issue: team medical staff has been one of the NBA's best over the last decade.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) February 18, 2016
Zach Harper of CBS Sports offered an interesting categorization of Houston general manager Daryl Morey:
Daryl Morey is the guy with too much stuff left at the end of a yard sale— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) February 18, 2016
Thunder Cut Salary, Add Foye
The Oklahoma City Thunder added guard Randy Foye, sending D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak and two second-round picks to the Denver Nuggets, per Royce Young of ESPN.com. The deal saved Oklahoma City roughly $8.3 million in luxury-tax penalties while not affecting its on-court product.
Foye and Augustin are putting up near-identical stats, and Novak has played 24 minutes all season.
2K developer Ronnie Singh liked the deal:
I like Foye to Thunder esp since they didn't have to give away their young pieces.— Ronnie 2K 2K16 (@Ronnie2K) February 18, 2016
As did Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman:
The Thunder didn't lose a single rotation player in the deal, added Foye and opened up a roster spot https://t.co/hB38lzt0gz— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 18, 2016
There's not much to analyze here. Denver's essentially paying the remainder of Novak's 2015-16 salary in exchange for two second-round picks. Otherwise, it's a dead-even swap, though Foye has a better overall NBA resume than Augustin.
Brian Roberts Sent Packing Again
For the second time in less than a week, guard Brian Roberts has a new home. The Miami Heat sent Roberts and a second-round pick to the Blazers, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. Miami is now under the luxury tax, something the team has been working at since the beginning of the season.
Woj analyzed the move from Portland's perspective:
Portland is accomplishing two significant things today: Gathering draft assets and reaching the salary cap floor.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 18, 2016
Many commented on Roberts' brief Miami tenure:
What do I do with the Brian Roberts Miami HEAT jersey I bought???— NBA RETWEET (@RTNBA) February 18, 2016
Let's relive our fondest Brian Roberts Heat memory. https://t.co/NASScvU9SG— Mike Ryan (@MichaelRyanRuiz) February 18, 2016
Who is Brian Roberts? The Heat are just trading Pat Riley's invented 2K players at this point— Contrarian Barbarian (@basquiatball) February 18, 2016
Heat Move Jarnell Stokes
In their other luxury-tax-related deal, the Heat sent forward Jarnell Stokes and cash considerations to New Orleans in exchange for a future second-round pick, per the Pelicans' press release. The Heat acquired Stokes earlier this season in a deal with Memphis, and he appeared in only five games with Miami.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports isn't ready to give up on Stokes:
Dear Pelicans, please play Jarnell Stokes. I still believe in him. Thx.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 18, 2016
The deal, completed earlier Thursday, also drew a number of tongue-in-cheek responses from people disappointed in the dormant deadline:
Guys, we can live with a light deadline. You don't have to pretend someone named "Jarnell Stokes" exists— Contrarian Barbarian (@basquiatball) February 18, 2016
Sorry, but the trade deadline animal inside me needs something a lot crazier than Jarnell Stokes.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 18, 2016
What we learned at the trade deadline. Joel Anthony, Dejuan Blair, and Jarnell Stokes were still NBA players— Travis Hancock (@TBoneWFNZ) February 18, 2016
Shelvin Takes the Mack to Utah
The Atlanta Hawks traded guard Shelvin Mack to the Utah Jazz for a future second-round pick, per Wojnarowski. Reuniting with former Butler teammate Gordon Hayward, Mack will be playing for his fourth NBA team since 2011. He was averaging 3.9 points and 1.6 assists per game so far this season but was behind Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder in Atlanta's rotation.
This deal mostly caused a lot of name-related puns in lieu of analysis:
A measly second round pick for Shelvin isn’t much of a…— Adam Jacobi (@Adam_Jacobi) February 18, 2016
🎶 RETURRRRN ON THE MACK 🎵
guess you could say the Hawks are Shelvin their postseason plans https://t.co/DMPPEIwaSs— actioncookbook (@actioncookbook) February 18, 2016
Hinrich Out in Chicago, Headed to Atlanta
The Hawks will replace Mack's minutes with Kirk Hinrich, who was traded from Chicago in exchange for a second-round pick, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune noted Justin Holiday will also be sent to Chicago.
The deal is a tax-saving move for the Bulls, who are in the midst of a disappointing campaign. Trey Kerby of The Starters offered a touching highlight of Hinrich's Bulls tenure:
No doubt Kirk Hinrich’s best moment from his second Bulls stint. https://t.co/nEoaDSY3Tj— Taco Trey Kerby (@treykerby) February 18, 2016
Actually, on second thought, this whole thing pretty much turned into folks cracking jokes:
I can't wait for Hinrich to end up in Chicago again.— Chris Barnewall (@ChrisBarnewall) February 18, 2016
Watch for Bulls trade to fall through, as little-known CBA provision does not allow them to trade Kirk Hinrich.— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) February 18, 2016
"What do you mean we weren't aggressive? We traded Kirk Hinrich, a key part of our rotation" -Gar in a few minutes— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) February 18, 2016
The good news is that, by trading Hinrich, the Bulls first round playoff exit will be a bit cheaper.— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) February 18, 2016
So, there you have it. The trade deadline was, indeed, a deadline. It may have been the NBA equivalent to a shrug emoji, but it's better than no deadline—I think?
Here's to hoping for a more exciting outcome next year.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.