2017 NBA Trade Deadline Deals That Should Have Happened
This year's NBA trade season got busy, even if only one true star (DeMarcus Cousins) wound up changing locations. Nineteen different teams engaged in swaps dating back to the beginning of February, and they asked 36 players to throw on new uniforms.
Of course, that's saying nothing of the draft picks that changed hands, the rights to international players conveyed in these deals and the contributors being bought out after the deadline.
But some teams were left wanting, and we're not even limiting our scope to the 11 organizations that sat out the proceedings completely.
This is not the time to pull punches. Mistakes, whether due to inaction or ill-advised wheeling and dealing, must receive their due criticism. A few franchises made disadvantageous moves that we can remedy here.
Anything Else for the Sacramento Kings
This isn't just because general manager Vlade Divac admitted he had a better trade on the table two days before pulling the trigger. You can blame DeMarcus Cousins' agent for driving down the asking price, not Sacramento Kings management for overall ineptitude.
The Kings didn't have to trade Cousins, especially because they'd already told him they were committing to him long term. And their given reason sounds a bit shaky.
"It was time for a change, and I decided this was the best direction for the organization," Divac said in a statement, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein. "Winning begins with culture, and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward."
That statement rings hollow when you're trading away the man who's earned awards for community service in the local area while retaining two point guards with previous ties to domestic violence—Darren Collison pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic battery, and Ty Lawson had charges against him dropped, in addition to four separate DUIs.
At the time, Matt Barnes, whose most recent off-court incident involved driving 95 miles to confront Derek Fisher for a relationship with his ex-wife, was also employed by the team.
This was a basketball move, with culture concerns used as a smokescreen for owner Vivek Ranadive's well-documented love affair with Buddy Hield. And you simply shouldn't let non-basketball minds make basketball decisions, or else you take deals far worse than you could otherwise have received for your former top-10 player.
If this was the best the Kings could get for Cousins at the deadline, they'd have been better off waiting until the offseason to proceed with trade talks.
Washington Wizards Up the Ante for Lou Williams
The Washington Wizards bench has been beyond atrocious in 2016-17, actively hindering the team's chances of winning games. Far too often, the starters have burst out to a quick advantage only to see their efforts squandered as lesser players hemorrhage points and clank jumpers off the rim.
Heading into the All-Star break, Washington's starting contingent had outscored the opposition by 6.9 points per 100 possessions—better than all opening lineups (other than those belonging to the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers).
But only the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic had worse bench net ratings than Washington's minus-5.8.
Acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic (and Chris McCullough) for a first-round pick, Marcus Thornton and Andrew Nicholson should help, but he's not a perfect fit for that second unit. The Croatian swingman is more of a passive offensive player who requires others to set him up, which means he'll fit best in lineups that mix together the starters and the bench—not to mention his upcoming free agency, which makes the inclusion of that first-round selection more curious.
Lou Williams, however, would've been perfect.
It only took Corey Brewer and a first-round pick for the Houston Rockets to get the former Los Angeles Lakers combo guard, and the Wizards should've been willing to up the ante. Sweet Lou's shot-creating abilities would have given the bench a distinct identity, and his offense has been far better than Bogdanovic's in 2016-17.
If this is what Washington was willing to pony up for a lesser bench addition, it should've come at new Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka with the same offer and some extra second-round picks to edge past Houston.
Boston Celtics Make a Godfather Offer
That young man you see above is current Washington Huskies standout Markelle Fultz. It's exceedingly likely either he or UCLA's Lonzo Ball will be the first overall pick of the 2017 NBA draft, which means there's a strong possibility the Boston Celtics could have a shot at him. After all, they still have access to the Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick this summer, and the already-struggling Nets got even worse at the deadline.
But is Fultz (or Ball) ever going to reach the level at which both Jimmy Butler and Paul George currently sit?
Maybe. Maybe not.
That uncertainty is exactly why general manager Danny Ainge should've been willing to include that pick—and just about anything else—in the pursuit of a current superstar.
Boston is overflowing with assets (young players, draft picks and impressive talents stashed overseas) to the point it won't be able to fit all of them on the roster at once. Consolidation is necessary, and it might've been possible to tempt the Chicago Bulls into parting with their franchise centerpiece by offering multiple first-round picks, Terry Rozier, Jae Crowder and others.
Such an offer is risky. But if championships are the ultimate goal, this is the perfect time to live dangerously.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still struggling to assert themselves as favorites in the Eastern Conference, even if they hold the top spot in their half of the NBA. Since calendars flipped to 2017, they've posted a mediocre 2.2 net rating, which trails not only Boston (5.2) but also the Miami Heat (2.3) and Washington Wizards (7.8) in the East alone.
Boston didn't just avoid selling the farm for a current stud; it sat out of the festivities entirely, content to let the Toronto Raptors improve and the Cavs tread water while doing nothing to close the gap.
Ditto for the Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets weren't operating with nearly the same urgency as the Boston Celtics, and that's perfectly fine. They don't have as much to play for in 2016-17, and their developmental timetable indicates they'll be plenty competitive in coming seasons thanks to further growth from Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and a bevy of young contributors.
But at some point the Nuggets have to consolidate.
Emmanuel Mudiay, Malik Beasley, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Murray, Danilo Gallinari, Juancho Hernangomez, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Mason Plumlee and Jokic can all be reasonably viewed as pieces for the future, and the Nuggets also have their first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Given its stacked nature, that should likely produce another potential rotation member.
That's already 12 pieces—more than the typical NBA team uses on a nightly basis, even if it's one fewer than the active roster can hold. And all of those guys need time, not to mention the veterans who will inevitably be present.
Roy Hibbert now counts as another one of those vets after the Nuggets traded a heavily protected second-round pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for his services. But that's not the type of trade Denver should've been seeking at this particular deadline.
Shoot for the stars.
General manager Tim Connelly should've been packaging together his 2017 first-round pick, future selections, Mudiay, Chandler and/or Barton to go after Paul George or Jimmy Butler. If the opposing GM wanted to replace someone with Murray, Hernangomez or Beasley, he should've considered that and then pulled the trigger.
Denver needs a star to pair with Jokic. And while going the homegrown route is feasible, expediting the timetable by making a bold move would've been preferable.
Charlotte Hornets Go After Darren Collison
One of these Charlotte Hornets point guards, per NBA Math, is not like the others:
|Player||Offensive Points Added||Defensive Points Saved||Total Points Added|
Rest assured that Kemba Walker's defensive score only looks like the worst of the bunch because he's played so many more minutes. According to both defensive box plus/minus and ESPN.com's defensive real plus/minus, he's the most efficient defender of the three.
It shouldn't be even remotely surprising that Charlotte's net rating plummets 11.6 points per 100 possessions without Walker on the floor. When he plays, the Hornets perform like the NBA's No. 8 team; when he doesn't, they struggle more than all but the Brooklyn Nets.
Charlotte knows this, and it went into the All-Star break trailing the Detroit Pistons by only 2.5 games in the race for the Eastern Conference's No. 8 seed. With Cody Zeller soon to return and Walker likely to resume his impressive play after finally getting some rest, surely it made a push for that postseason berth by shoring up the second unit with another floor general.
Except it didn't.
After "aggressively pursuing" Lou Williams, per ESPN.com's Chris Haynes, and watching as he was dealt to the Houston Rockets, the Hornets did nothing. And that's a crying shame since there was a talented 1-guard in Sacramento, just waiting to be had, as The Vertical's Chris Mannix reported.
Pending free agency rightfully prevented the Hornets from offering too much, but throwing Jeremy Lamb and a second-round pick at the Sacramento Kings for Darren Collison's services would've made perfect sense. Given the Kings' preference for sinking down the Western Conference standings, they likely would've accepted.
Indiana Pacers Pursue Brook Lopez
Not even that type of offer materialized for the Brooklyn Nets, but it should have.
The Indiana Pacers, linked to Brook Lopez by former New York Post writer Peter Vecsey, could have offered that exact package to the Eastern Conference bottom-feeders, then matched salaries by including both Al Jefferson and Rodney Stuckey. Even if the latter accepted his $7 million player option for 2017-18 and the former remained on the books at a reasonable price for the next two seasons, it would've made sense for the Brooklyn rebuild.
Vecsey also explained that acquiring Lopez could help Paul George want to remain with the Pacers throughout the foreseeable future—especially important amid rumors that he's bound and determined to join the Los Angeles Lakers when his contract is up, per USA Today's Sam Amick.
As if that's not enough, Lopez's newfound floor-spacing ability would've opened up driving lanes for both George and Jeff Teague, also shedding some of their offensive responsibilities and allowing them to commit more energy to defense. Plus, his elbow- and post-oriented game would've complemented the stretchy tendencies of Myles Turner in bigger lineups.
Instead, this flawed Pacers team did nothing, failing to capitalize on a reasonable and realistic opportunity during a season in which it makes sense to attempt an ascent up the Eastern Conference standings.
New York Knicks Take Ricky Rubio for Derrick Rose
If you're harboring the incorrect notion that Derrick Rose is having a better season than Ricky Rubio, please take off the rose-colored glasses. By just about every advanced metric known to humanity, the Minnesota Timberwolves' point guard is producing superior numbers:
The only area in which Rose leads is player efficiency rating, which is known to reward inefficient volume shooting.
But even subjectively, Rubio is a better fit for the New York Knicks.
Derrick Rose scores a lot of points—which, as Dan Favale broke down for NBA Math, misleadingly casts his offense in a more positive light than it should. But the Knicks need someone who can set up Carmelo Anthony and (more importantly) Kristaps Porzingis. They could also use a 1-guard willing to buckle down on defense rather than act as a sieve and force the interior defenders into too much action.
Would Rubio be a perfect fit in Madison Square Garden? Of course not. But neither is Rose, and dealing the incumbent would have limited the temptation of handing him a max contact this summer when he most certainly deserves far less money.
The negative here is cap space, since Rubio is on the books for another two seasons. But that shouldn't be too sizable a drawback considering the Knicks haven't done anything but squander their cap space on declining veterans since Phil Jackson took over as the president of basketball operations. Plus, Rubio's contract is more than reasonable under the current cap climate so long as he's paired with the right kinds of complementary talent.
Just grease the wheels (as was needed, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein) for the Timberwolves to reunite Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau. Then, call it a day.
Philadelphia 76ers Lower Asking Price for Jahlil Okafor
"Despite weeks of trying, and even sending him home at one point, the Sixers did not trade center Jahlil Okafor on Thursday prior to the NBA trade deadline," Eliot Shorr-Parks wrote for NJ.com. "The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers were reportedly interested in Okafor, but the Sixers were unable to strike a deal. Instead, the team traded away center Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks for essentially two second-round picks."
This won't be the last time the Philadelphia 76ers attempt to move Jahlil Okafor.
He's still incompatible with Joel Embiid, even though the Nerlens Noel trade does free him to serve as a primary frontcourt backup, plus starting duties when the franchise centerpiece needs a night off. As such, his value isn't going to rise by much—if at all—while he remains in Philadelphia.
The Sixers should've realized the market for him was drying up, then taken whatever they could get. Even if they shipped him to the Chicago Bulls and had to take back Nikola Mirotic's contract in return, it would've made sense to do so just to receive an extra draft pick.
And that's exactly what the Bulls were pushing for. As Adrian Wojnarowski reported for The Vertical, "Talks with the Chicago Bulls were continuing Wednesday night, with the Bulls working to persuade the 76ers to accept forward Nikola Mirotic as part of a trade package, league sources said."
Mirotic's salary isn't actually that burdensome. The Sixers aren't pushed up against the luxury tax—they're not even anywhere close—and his contract expires at the end of this season. Taking him on shouldn't have served as any sort of hinderance.
And yet, the teams weren't able to come to terms, which means Philadelphia will either be gutting it out with Okafor on the roster in 2017-18 or trading him for a lesser return this offseason.
That is exactly the kind of process you shouldn't trust.
Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.