NBA Trade Deadline 2017: Grading Every Deal

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2017

NBA Trade Deadline 2017: Grading Every Deal

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    As usual, the NBA's trade deadline did not disappoint. It tore through our minds, bodies, souls and Twitter timelines like a nitrous-powered battering ram. 

    Then, just like that, it was over.

    So let's get to passing judgement on all of the resulting chaos!

    Grades will be doled out based upon answers to the following questions: What did each team give up for its respective return? How well do incoming assets mesh with the current roster and franchise's direction? Were any bad contracts taken back to help facilitate the deal? Did New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps fleece you silly?

    Teams that do the best job of winning every category will be awarded top marks. Those that whiff in multiple departments—especially when there were clearly better alternatives—will be eviscerated accordingly. All transactions are listed in reverse chronological order, so the bias police should feel free to holster its angry feedback.

Toronto Wins Again

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    The Trade

    Phoenix Suns Receive: PF/C Jared Sullinger, 2017 second-round pick, 2018 second-round pick

    Toronto Raptors Receive: SF P.J. Tucker

     

    Suns Grade: B+

    As of January, the Suns were holding out for first-round compensation in P.J. Tucker talks, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein. They were never going to get it.

    Two second-round picks are a sound return for a soon-to-be 32-year-old hotfooting his way toward free agency. And Jared Sullinger is no mere throw-in. As The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski noted, general manager Ryan McDonough was a member of the Celtics' front office when they drafted the tweener big.

    Sullinger has yet to validate himself as a playmaking 4 or 5, and his conditioning remains an issue. But he's only 24, his $5.6 million will be wiped off the books in July and Phoenix gets the rest of the season to see if he can be a part of its bigger picture.

     

    Toronto Raptors: A+

    Is there a team that had a better trade deadline than the Raptors, who added Tucker for what amounts to nothing after stealing Serge Ibaka from the Magic?

    There's a case to be made for the Pelicans following their DeMarcus Cousins heist. But the Raptors are the clear winners in the "We didn't have the luxury of exploiting the Kings' rampant incompetence" division.

    Sullinger was expendable even before Ibaka's arrival. And with Terrence Ross in Orlando, Toronto needed another wing to help diminish the heavier burden placed upon Norman Powell.

    Tucker is someone head coach Dwane Casey can stick on the Eastern Conference's elite wings—cough, LeBron James, cough—without worrying about a complete defensive implosion. There's no overstating this kind of an asset when DeMarre Carroll's stopping power is nearing rock bottom.

    Most importantly, the Raptors now own Ibaka's and Tucker's Bird rights. They have some tough financial decisions to make with Kyle Lowry also ticketed for free agency, but Ibaka and Tucker are two additions they wouldn't have been able to target over the offseason. That they're in the position to keep both of them beyond this season is an obvious win.

Mike Scott Heads to Phoenix

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    The Trade

    Atlanta Hawks Receive: Cash/Trade exception

    Phoenix Suns Receive: PF Mike Scott

     

    Hawks Grade: A

    Trade exceptions are so bomb, in case you haven't noticed.

    Mike Scott wasn't going to see the floor after the Hawks acquired Ersan Ilyasova, nor were they going to re-sign him at season's end. Creating a trade exception will prove super valuable in the long run.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. (restricted), Paul Millsap (player option) and Thabo Sefolosha are all due raises over the summer. Ilyasova hits the open market as well. The Hawks won't have cap space to burn if the plan is to keep even one of them. A $3.3 million exception allows them to take back a player making $4.2(ish) million or less without sending anything back in return—a route the front office may need to explore in advance of next year's trade deadline.

     

    Suns Grade: B

    Another "Why not?" move. 

    Phoenix sent P.J. Tucker to the Raptors and is under the salary-cap floor. There aren't a ton of frontcourt minutes to go around, but Dragan Bender's injury generates some. Scott, 28, isn't a bad flyer as another expiring contract.

Roy Hibbert Is a Member of the Nuggets

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    The Trade

    Denver Nuggets Receive: C Roy Hibbert

    Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Heavily protected second-round pick, $5 million trade exception

     

    Nuggets Grade: B

    In this instance, a "B" means "whatever." The Nuggets had an extra roster spot and remain below the salary-cap floor, and Roy Hibbert was available. This worked out.

    If you want to argue Hibbert is emergency rim protection, you're not entirely wrong. But this is more about the Nuggets inching closer to the salary-cap floor, something yours truly will never understand.

    Incumbent players get to split the difference for every dollar that their team is under the floor. The Nuggets opted to take on Hibbert's expiring salary ($5 million) rather than giving their players a larger (unofficial) raise. *Shrugs*

     

    Bucks Grade: A

    "Heavily protected second-round pick" is trade-speak for "top-55 protection" or some nonsense. This selection will never convey to the Bucks, but they created a $5 million trade exception that could prove useful in the coming year.

    On an unrelated note: R.I.P. Roy Hibbert's Milwaukee tenure—which, due to a knee injury, didn't include a single appearance.

Tyler Ennis Goes Hollywood

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    The Trade

    Houston Rockets Receive: PG Marcelo Huertas (to be waived)

    Los Angeles Lakers Receive: PG Tyler Ennis

     

    Rockets Grade: TBD

    Daryl Morey clearly has something up his sleeve. He already traded K.J. McDaniels to the Nets for nothing and is creating a second roster spot by dealing Tyler Ennis in favor of a to-be-waived Marcel Huertas.

    For now, the Rockets are selling incredibly low on two young’uns. That's not a great look. But their grade will ultimately depend on what they do with these open slots—one of which must go to a defensive-minded wing following the exits of Corey Brewer and McDaniels.

     

    Lakers Grade: A

    Why not?

    Tyler Ennis isn't the next Magic Johnson (had to), but he's a mid-first-round talent who only cost the Lakers a player they weren't going to keep beyond this season. They have the flexibility to test him out after trading Lou Williams to the Rockets, and this is the type of no-risk moves flagrant tank jobs should be chasing.

    (Related: It definitely seems like the Lakers, owners of the league's third-worst record right now, are going to keep their top-three protected pick for this year's draft.)

OKC Gets Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson

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    The Trade

    Chicago Bulls Receive: C Joffrey Lauvergne, SG Anthony Morrow, PG Cameron Payne

    Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: PF/C Taj Gibson, SF/PF Doug McDermott, 2018 second-round pick

     

    Bulls Grade: B-

    So it looks like the Bulls don't ever want to be a good three-point shooting team.

    On the bright side, Cameron Payne is a lottery prospect at Chicago's weakest position. He isn't shooting well this season, but he's still working off rust after recovering from his Jones fracture. And even now, he brings more energy on both ends of the floor than Rajon Rondo.

    Anthony Morrow is a good stopgap with Doug McDermott leaving down. While he's forgotten how to shoot, he was once a spot-on marksmen and comes off the books this summer.

    Joffrey Lauvergne is an under-the-radar steal. He will cost less this summer than both Cristiano Felicio and Nikola Mirotic, both of whom are restricted free agents. (Ditto for Taj Gibson, an unrestricted free agent). If the Bulls keep two or all three of these guys, they're free to try purging Robin Lopez's deal from the books.

    But still, the three-point thing. Chicago's offense was gross to begin with, and now—well, now it's grosser than gross.

     

    Thunder Grade: A

    Viva la Sam Presti!

    Oklahoma City's general manager sold low on Payne, but his value wasn't necessarily going to get any better. It would've been hard to showcase him even if he returned to pre-injury form when Russell Westbrook exists.

    Acquiring McDermott is a big deal. The Thunder place dead-last in wide-open three-point percentage (32.1), and McDermott is draining 43.4 percent of his uncontested threebies. He will feast off Westbrook's passes, and Oklahoma City has the defensive depth elsewhere to play him more than Chicago.

    Gibson will be a weird fit once Enes Kanter is healthy. But his defense is an upgrade over Kanter's, and he'll find ways to score when playing beside Steven Adams and Westbrook. Don't be surprised if the Thunder try dumping Kanter's deal this July in an attempt to re-sign Gibson.

K.J. McDaniels Is Free

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    The Trade

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: SG/SF K.J. McDaniels

    Houston Rockets: Cap Space/Trade Exception

     

    Net Grade: A

    Getting K.J. McDaniels for absolutely nothing is a great encore to parlaying Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCullough into Andrew Nicholson and a first-round pick.

    Although McDaniels is beyond raw, he has the length and lateral gait to be a lockdown defender across all wing positions. His offensive game is meh, but as ESPN.com's Zach Lowe wrote, you take flyers on 20-something works-in-progress and figure out the rest later:

    McDaniels doesn't play, mostly because of a busted jumper. Some team should take a shot on him at the right price. If there's a lesson of the last half-decade of NBA trades, it's this: When there's a rangy or athletic wing that has even a 10 percent chance of being decent, try to grab that player as a throw-in to a larger deal. Think about how teams landed Crowder, Middleton, Iman Shumpert, Will Barton, and even Tim Hardaway Jr. You cannot have enough versatile wings.

    Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson is going to give McDaniels the green light from three; that should be fun. And a lineup featuring McDaniels, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis Jefferson has endless defensive potential.

    There's always the chance McDaniels doesn't pan out. But when he is owed just $3.5 million next season (team option) and didn't cost anything to obtain, there's no scenario in which Brooklyn loses this trade.

     

    Rockets Grade: TBD

    Corey Brewer's departure should have meant more minutes for McDaniels. But, apparently, the Rockets don't need any defensive-minded wings other than the 31-year-old Trevor Ariza.

    Impending cap space is the only thing preventing Houston from getting a default "D." We have to see what general manager Daryl Morey does with this extra roster spot before destroying the (seemingly unnecessary) move too much.

Nerlens Noel Joins the Mavericks

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    The Trade

    Dallas Mavericks Receive: C Nerlens Noel

    Philadelphia 76ers Receive: C Andrew Bogut, SF Justin Anderson, 2017 top-18 protected first-round pick.

     

    Mavericks Grade: B

    Dallas is giving up Justin Anderson, a player destined to exit during free agency in Andrew Bogut and a first-round pick that will never convey for the right to pay Nerlens Noel. (The selection will become two second-rounders if it falls inside top 18, per ESPN.com's Zach Lowe.)

    (Insert the "This is fine" meme, minus the flames, because this is actually fine.)

    The Mavericks have been after their center of the future (shout-out, DeAndre Jordan) for roughly forever. Noel is going to cost them eight figures annually easy, but he doesn't turn 23 until April and has already established himself as a viable defensive anchor.

    Opponents are shooting 50 percent at the rim against Noel—the highest point-blank conversion rate he's allowed since entering the league (which is good). No other player in NBA history has averaged both two steals and two blocks per 36 minutes while playing as much as him through the first three years of his career.

    Noel has also upped the ante as a pick-and-roll finisher, a progression that should continue within head coach Rick Carlisle's offense.

    Unless you fear Justin Anderson will one day meet his three-and-D ceiling, you like this trade for the Mavericks. Knowing how their decision to trade Jae Crowder turned out, though, a heaping pile of hesitation is understandable.

     

    Sixers Grade: C

    If this is what Philly was willing to accept for Noel, a player with real value, what in the actual hell is Jahlil Okafor still doing on the roster?

    The prospect of paying Noel's next contract no doubt scared the Sixers silly, and they have a worthy replacement in the cap-sheet-friendly Richaun Holmes. But Joel Embiid hasn't been a billboard for good health. Keeping Noel around—even if they had pay him for another year or two—until Embiid proves he can last an entire season, would have been the savvier move, especially given the defensive potential of an Embiid-Noel frontcourt pairing/rotation.

    Granted, it's not like the Sixers accepted a smoldering pile of ash. They'll have no issue buying out or sending Bogut's expiring contract elsewhere, per NBA.com's David Aldridge, and Anderson is a nice prospect with two years left on his rookie scale deal. They're perfectly positioned to throw max offer sheets a Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Otto Porter, etc. this summer.

    But Philly has yet to have a three-and-D success story. We don't know what Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot will be, Nik Stauskas played like an NBA player for a half-season and Hollis Thompson was shown the door in January. Robert Covington is the closest the Sixers have come to properly grooming a two-way player, which, ya know...cool.

    Taking on another player with sound physical tools and a busted jumper is not, by any means, the ideal return for Noel. This is a package Philly should've tried brokering for Okafor instead. And if this deal results in them yanking him from the chopping block, that's another failure unto itself.

Atlanta Buys Hard; Philly Reboots the Process

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    The Trade

    Atlanta Hawks Receive: PF Ersan Ilyasova

    Philadelphia 76ers Receive: C Tiago Splitter, 2017 second-round pick (from Miami, via Atlanta), rights to swap 2017 second-round pick with Atlanta

     

    Hawks Grade: A

    Atlanta's three-point shooting is unimpressive and gets thinner when looking at the frontcourt. Paul Millsap and Mike Muscala are the only outside threats, and just one of them (Muscala) is putting down more than 33 percent of his three-point attempts.

    Ersan Ilyasova shot 35.9 percent from beyond the arc during his time in Philly—a minor miracle knowing the Sixers are hardly expert floor-spacers. His efficiency climbs to 38.1 percent off the catch, which should infuse new meaning into Dennis Schroder's and Millsap's drives.

    Offers well north of $10 million per year will await Ilyasova when he reaches free agency over the summer, so he'll most likely end up being a rental. Millsap (player option) is slated to hit the open market as well, and Atlanta has decisions to make on the futures of Tim Hardaway Jr. (restricted) and Thabo Sefolosha.

    And that's fine. The Hawks gave up a couple second-rounders and Splitterwho hasn't played since January 2016to get Ilyasova. It's OK to make this move without an intent to keep him.

     

    Sixers Grade: A+

    This trade is a throwback to when Sam Hinkie was running the Sixers and did everything in his power to accumulate all of the second-round picks in existence. And Philly's fans should love general manager Bryan Colangelo for it.

    Parting ways with Ilyasova is an A-plus move on its own. He shouldn't be stealing reps from Dario Saric and Richaun Holmes, and it would make zero sense to continue playing him if and when Ben Simmons gets healthy. Ilyasova can now compete for a quasi-contender, while Philly increases its lottery odds by shaving a couple more wins off the bottom line.

    Oh, we can't forget about the Sixers procuring another second-rounder, either. Because as every rulebook ever stipulates: Any trade-deadline move that pays homage to Hinkie automatically receives perfect marks.

Washington Deepens Its Bench

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    The Trade

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: SF/PF Andrew Nicholson, SG Marcus Thornton, 2017 lottery-protected first-round pick

    Washington Wizards Receive: SF Bojan Bogdanovic, PF Chris McCullough

     

    Nets Grade: A-

    It's tempting to hand the Nets a lower grade. Andrew Nicholson's contract seems to go on forever; he's owed around $19.9 million through the next three seasons, with a player option before 2019-20.

    That he couldn't stay on the floor for a Wizards team in desperate need of bench production is a red flag. His shooting percentages are at an all-time low, and, on many nights, he looks like a slightly faster version of Anthony Bennett who conned his way into another contract.

    Still, Nicholson's salary is nothing in the new cap climate. Bogdanovic will net twice as much per year in restricted free agency, and Brooklyn has at least two summers before Nicholson cramps its offseason spending—at which point he'll be a free agent or easy-to-dump expiring contract.

    Absorbing long-term salary is the price you pay for a first-round pick, and there are far worse deals the Nets could have been left funding. They made the right call by squeezing another first-rounder out of this year's draft.

     

    Wizards Grade: B-

    Washington surprised absolutely no one by giving up real value in order to upgrade its bench. As ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote:

    According to NBA.com/Stats, Washington's starting five has played a league-high 965 minutes together, outscoring opponents by 13.0 points per 100 possessions. That means in the other 1,700 minutes the Wizards have played with even one reserve on the court, they've been outscored by 4.1 points per 100 possessions.

    Just two Washington reserves -- wing Kelly Oubre and guard Tomas Satoransky -- have positive net ratings, and the team has been outscored by 7.9 points per 100 possessions with backup point guard Trey Burke on the court and an incredible 12.7 points per 100 possessions with Thornton in action.

    Bogdanovic won't do anything to steady the second unit's defense, which has also struggled. But he's shooting 39.4 percent on catch-and-shoot threes and 40.6 percent on wide-open triples. He and John Wall are going to have some fun.

    Cutting bait with Nicholson's long-term deal also helps the Wizards afford Otto Porter's max contract this July. They were always going to pay him, but it's easier to spin that cost when they're not wasting $6-plus million on someone who seldom sees the floor.

    Burning a first-round pick in exchange for a probable rental isn't as justifiable. Turning those selections into cost-controlled contributors is imperative when constructing a contender around an expensive core. The Wizards just gambled away their best means of long-term depth without becoming any more of an immediate threat to the Cavaliers.

Lou Williams Rockets His Way to Houston (sorry)

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    The Trade

    Houston Rockets Receive: PG/SG Lou Williams 

    Los Angeles Lakers: SG/SF Corey Brewer, 2017 first-round pick

     

    Rockets Grade: B

    Lou Williams is having a fantastic season. His per-minute output is historically good, and he's added more offensive value than stud guards such as Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, C.J. McCollum and John Wall, according to NBA Math.

    Adding Williams' 39.6 percent hit rate on spot-up triples to a Houston Rockets squad that produces more uncontested three-point attempts than any other team is unfair. Getting rid of Corey Brewer is offensive addition by subtraction, too.

    But is Williams willing to go the Eric Gordon route and buy into catch-and-shoot duty around James Harden? Can head coach Mike D'Antoni get away with playing Ryan Anderson, Gordon, Harden and Williams together without obliterating the team's defense? Who will soak up Brewer's defensive minutes with K.J. McDaniels also gone?

    These are just a few questions that need an answer. Williams is a relatively low-risk acquisition, but doubling down on their greatest strength puts the Rockets in iffy territory.

     

    Lakers Grade: B-

    Aside from a miracle salary dump involving Timofey Mozgov, landing a first-round pick for Williams was the Lakers' only goal leading into the deadline. They did their job. Case closed.

    Except, with Williams on the docket for just $7 million next year, was this really the best they could do? 

    Los Angeles fielded "multiple offers" that included a first-round pick, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne. Surely one of those proposals came from a team projected to finish better than 27th in the draft order?

    Unless the returning contracts in those deals were noticeably more expensive than Brewer's or added too many wins to this season's tank job, the Lakers left value on the table.

Boogie to The Bayou

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    The Trade

    New Orleans Pelicans Receive: SF/PF Omri Casspi, C DeMarcus Cousins

    Sacramento Kings Receive: SG/SF Tyreke Evans, PG Langston Galloway, SG Buddy Hield, 2017 top-three protected first-round pick, 2017 second-round pick (from Philadelphia, via New Orleans)

     

    Pelicans Grade: A+++

    New Orleans is taking a risk by pairing DeMarcus Cousins with Anthony Davis, a marriage that seems counterintuitive to the NBA's wing-obsessed pace-and-space movement.

    Can Cousins and Davis be the anchors of a top-tier defense? Is there enough room for both to operate on offense? Cousins has three-point range and Davis hasn't received a fair shake from beyond the arc, but can both of them adjust to increased spot-up duty?

    Most importantly: Is it possible to assemble a contender while (presumably) paying between $70 and $80 million annually for the trio of Jrue Holiday, Cousins and Davis by 2018-19?

    Screw all potential drawbacks, though. The Pelicans now join the Golden State Warriors as the only two teams with multiple top-10 players on the roster. And when the cost of this formation is Buddy Hield and filler, you pull the trigger, then figure out the rest later. 

     

    Kings Grade: F

    Name one way in which Sacramento didn't muck up this trade. I'll wait...for answers that'll never come.

    General manager Vlade Divac point-blank admitted the Kings had better offers on the table a couple days before haphazardly piecing together this deal. And you know you messed up a blockbuster when other teams, per The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski, are left wishing they could've joined the bargaining-table party.

    On top of all this, Sacramento is putting Hield in a no-win situation. He'll forever be remembered as the headliner in "that Cousins disaster," and owner Vivek Ranadive is compounding matters by comparing him to Stephen Curry, per ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes.

    This would be enough self-sabotage for any reasonably cruddy basketball franchise. But not the Kings. They couldn't even extract an unprotected pick out of New Orleans. The Pelicans probably won't bottom out past the third-overall selection, but still, the optics are bad.

    And Sacramento's end product is even worse.

The Chris Andersen "Blockbuster"

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    The Trade

    Charlotte Hornets Receive: C Chris Andersen 

    Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: 2017 top-55 protected second-round pick

     

    Charlotte Hornets Grade: B

    In exchange for serving as salary dumping ground, the Hornets received cash from the Cavaliers. They waived Chris Andersen, and their second-round pick isn't going anywhere under top-55 protection.

    For the record: Yes, it's totally fine if you like this deal more than Charlotte's Miles Plumlee acquisition.

     

    Cleveland Cavaliers Grade: A

    What's more impressive: The Cavaliers opening a roster spot that'll come in handy as the buyout market develops, or them breaking news of this trade before the all-knowing Adrian Wojnarowski of the The Vertical?

    It's the second one, isn't it?

    Either way, the Cavaliers win just by manufacturing the faintest flexibility. You never know which surprise names will end up being bought out in the aftermath of trade-deadline chaos. Cleveland has positioned itself nicely to give LeBron James the depth he so obviously seeks.

Serge Ibaka Journeys North

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    The Trade

    Orlando Magic Receive: SG/SF Terrence Ross, less favorable of Los Angeles Clippers' and Toronto Raptors' first-round picks

    Toronto Raptors Receive: PF/C Serge Ibaka

     

    Magic Grade: B-

    Getting Terrence Ross and a late first-rounder for Serge Ibaka is wildly disappointing when the Magic shipped out Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, plus Ersan Ilyasova, to land him this past offseason. But this deal cannot be looked at purely in those terms.

    Even if Ibaka wasn't going to leave in free agency, Orlando couldn't have justified funding his next contract with Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic also on the books. And the alternative to trading him was letting him walk for nothing.

    Barren of leverage, the Magic did well to get a cheaply priced wing in Ross and a first-rounder, however late. The Boston Celtics weren't willing to build an offer around Terry Rozier and a first-round pick, per CelticsBlog's Jared Weiss, so it's not like Orlando's options were getting any better. 

     

    Raptors Grade: A

    Toronto landed Ibaka without giving up Patrick Patterson—who, when healthy, is sneaky-valuable to its defensive schemes—or Norman Powell. General manager Masai Ujiri deserves some sort of award for patient opportunism.

    Ibaka may have peaked, but he doesn't demand the ball on offense, can hit threes at above-average clips and adds a layer of versatility on defense—a Diet Unicorn, if you will. The Raptors don't need him to be anything more.

    If we're feeling nitpicky, we can harp on Ibaka's impending free agency; He's going to command max money, and Toronto is fully prepared to foot the bill.

    "I think it's extremely important [we re-sign Ibaka]," Ujiri said, per TSN Sports' Josh Lewenberg. "It's really important that we're able to do that."

    Kyle Lowry will also be due a max contract over the summer, and DeMar DeRozan is in the first season of a five-year, $139 million deal. Two of DeMarre Carroll, Jonas Valanciunas and Patterson (free agent) may need to be shown the door for Toronto to keep things manageable—particularly with decisions on extensions for Lucas Noguiera and Powell looming in the next couple of years.

    But that only means the Raptors' window to win is now. They needed this type of addition to counter the Cleveland Cavaliers' Eastern Conference reign, and got it while incurring minimal immediate collateral damage.

Denver and Portland Swap Bigs

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    The Trade

    Denver Nuggets Receive: C Mason Plumlee, 2018 second-round pick

    Portland Trail Blazers Receive: C Jusuf Nurkic, 2017 top-five protected first-round pick (from Memphis, via Denver)

     

    Nuggets Grade: B

    Few teams can justify dealing a first-round pick and rookie-scale contract in exchange for a big man speeding his way toward big-money offers in restricted free agency. But the Nuggets are one of them.

    Denver still controls its own pick and doesn't have room for two more prospects after nabbing three keepers—Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Jamal Murray—in the first round of last year's draft. Jusuf Nurkic became a sunk cost once it was clear he couldn't coexist with franchise fulcrum Nikola Jokic. Plumlee has a better chance of making a dual-big partnership work, as CBS Sports' Ananth Pandian wrote:

    While Plumlee is not a flashy name, he is a hard worker and has blossomed in Portland. He sets good screens, is an excellent passer and a fine defender. Plumlee's passing ability makes him unique among big men and should allow him to play alongside Nikola Jokic in big lineups for Denver. His durability should also benefit Denver, especially since Plumlee started every game since last season for Portland. 

    Plumlee's restricted free agency is nevertheless a concern, which is why the Nuggets' grade isn't higher. Shelling out first-round compensation suggests they intend to keep him, and the cap gymnastics attached to paying starter money for a backup will get hairy when the time comes to reinvest in the rest of this core.

     

    Blazers Grade: A

    The Blazers couldn't afford to keep Plumlee following last summer's spending spree. They have $132.9 million in guaranteed contracts on next season's ledger, and that number can easily soar past $142 million—more than $20 million above the projected luxury-tax line.

    Adding another eight-figure salary to those commitments is indefensible when Portland probably won't win 35 games or make the postseason. General manager Neil Olshey did well to pick up an extra first-round goodie, giving him three to play around with in advance of the draft.

    Snagging Nurkic is a bonus. The Blazers have a glut of bigs in the frontcourt, but he's a cost-controlled asset through next season. If he makes good on his rookie-year flashes from 2014-15, they can freely shop one or more of Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh over the summer. 

Charlotte Gets Its Own Plumlee

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    The Trade

    Charlotte Hornets Receive: C Miles Plumlee

    Milwaukee Bucks Receive: PF/C Spencer Hawes, C Roy Hibbert (traded to Denver)

     

    Charlotte Hornets: C-

    Fun fact: The Hornets will pay $25.1 million for the services of Cody Zeller and newcomer Miles Plumlee next season. That's not an ideal price tag for two limited bigs.

    Charlotte's frontcourt can use Plumlee's explosion, but he doesn't instantly resolve any of its offensive concerns. He hasn't seen enough time as a pick-and-roll diver to be deemed a dependable rim-runner and isn't a threat to score beyond eight feet of the basket.

    The Hornets will have to wait even longer before gauging its returns on this deal after Plumlee suffered a calf strain in his right leg that will put him on the shelf for at least two weeks. Talk about your reflexive buyer's remorse.

    Perhaps this is one of those deals we look back upon fondly in time. Right now, though, it feels like Charlotte should have kept the additional and more imminent cap flexibility guaranteed by Spencer Hawes' and Roy Hibbert's contracts.

     

    Milwaukee Bucks Receive: B+

    The Bucks did a nice job as far as midseason mulligans go. They never should have shelled out four years and $50 million to Plumlee—not when they didn't have another home lined up for the talented, albeit overpaid and out of place, Greg Monroe.

    Hawes (not as good as Mirza Teletovic ) isn't seeing the floor, but Milwaukee trimmed another $5 million off this season's ledger by shipping Hibbert to Denver, and slashed at least $6.5 million off next year's salary commitments.

    If Hawes chooses to surf free-agency waters, the Bucks will have essentially flipped Plumlee for $12.5 million in cap space and extra playing time for Thon Maker. This is, in their case, the definition of a great deal.