Grading Every Deal at the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline
No fewer than six kajillion deals went down in the 48 hours leading up to the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon. The mayhem included a little bit of everything: blockbusters, finishing touches, fire sales, understated moves, salary dumps and more.
Special shoutouts go to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors each went all-in on this season. The Celtics...er, they stayed mostly the same.
Another nod must be given to the Los Angeles Clippers. They came almost out of nowhere to remain in the thick of everything right up until the final bell.
To the scant few teams that didn't do anything: We forgive you. More than two-thirds of the league carried the action for us. The San Antonio Spurs are free to act through inaction, as per usual. The Denver Nuggets are allowed to bask in their depth. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz—well, y'all should've hustled more, so we're sort of peeved, but that's a different conversation.
In other news, the Anthony Davis trade watch has turned into "Will the New Orleans Pelicans shut him down for the rest of the season before dealing him to not-the-Los Angeles Lakers?" appointment viewing. But enough about that situation.
We have actual trades to grade.
Markelle Fultz Gets a New Home
Orlando Magic Receive: Markelle Fultz
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Jonathon Simmons, 2019 second-round pick (from Cleveland, via Orlando), 2020 first-round pick (top-20 protection from Oklahoma City, via Orlando)
This is a job well done by Orlando's front office. The Magic are getting a low-cost, extensive look at a No. 1 pick who's only a season-and-a-half into his career.
Paying the next two years of Fultz's deal won't be cheap. He's owed $22.0 million through 2020-21. But that last year is a team option, and again, he isn't even two drafts removed from his transcendent outlook. Orlando needs a floor general of the future and isn't a free-agency destination. This is a fantastic gamble, even if Fultz doesn't play until 2019-20, as potentially expected.
Including Oklahoma City's first-rounder is the only thing worth nitpicking. The Magic had the opportunity to send out Terrence Ross instead, according to Yahoo Sports' Keith Smith. That they didn't suggests they're committed to making a playoff push.
That's isn't terrible in the interim. This draft is shallow enough to keep chasing a postseason appearance. But if this ends with the Magic paying Ross and Nikola Vucevic over the summer in an attempt to accelerate the rebuilding process, then...yikes.
Right now, though, team president Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond have navigated the waters well enough to earn the benefit of the doubt.
Fultz's draft-day cachet cannot completely color this trade for the Sixers. They had a distressed asset, and they elected to move on from him. Knowing when to cut your losses takes gall.
Jonathon Simmons and a couple of blah picks isn't a coup, but they're something. With the way Fultz's arc is shaking out, the Sixers may have needed sweeteners to move him over the summer or next season.
On the flip side, there's no use pretending this is a great return. The Sixers compromised whatever value Fultz had left by building out the roster in a way that wasn't conducive to his return or development.
Philly's biggest get in this deal might be the extra cap flexibility. (It could also be the one or two playoff games Simmons' up-and-down defense inevitably helps win.) Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will command max or near-max money in free agency, and replacing Fultz's cap hit with Simmons' $1 million guarantee makes it easier for the Sixers to re-sign both without cannonballing into the tax.
That might be the silver lining in all of this. More than a few initially thought the Harris trade could signal Butler's exit. The Sixers' decision to sell so low on Fultz implies the opposite.
Marc Gasol Is Headed to Canada
Toronto Raptors Receive: Marc Gasol
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: CJ Miles, Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, 2024 second-round pick
Jonas Valanciunas was playing well this season before suffering a dislocated thumb that required surgery, and he's just getting set to return. But Marc Gasol is a clear offensive upgrade. He's a much better passer and more proven floor-spacer, and he's someone Toronto can run its offense through when Kyle Lowry and/or Kawhi Leonard take a seat.
Gasol's $25.6 million player option for next year, his age-35 season, is scary. Valanciunas has his own option worth $17.6 million, but an aging Big Spain is not $8 million better than him in a vacuum.
Toronto needed to make this swing anyway. Leonard's free agency looms (player option), and the offense, while starting to find a groove, needs a boost. The Raptors are an unimpressive 13th in points scored per 100 possessions and 24th in three-point accuracy since Dec. 1. Gasol addresses both cracks and should help generate more ball movement overall, though his chemistry with Lowry and capacity to play with Serge Ibaka are question marks to monitor.
Escaping CJ Miles' $8.7 million player option is a low-key victory. Delon Wright is a real loss, but he's tracking toward a raise in restricted free agency and the bench just hasn't been the same. Toronto's second unit is 19th in point differential since Dec. 1.
The Raptors' nightmare scenario over the summer now includes watching Leonard sign with the Clippers, but still having Gasol (if he opts in) and Lowry on expiring contracts. That isn't a bad place to be. Both can be flipped, or Toronto can try and scrape together a quasi-contender before reassessing its position in 2020.
Also: Raptors president Masai Ujiri cutting Toronto's tax bill this season while landing a marquee name without trading away a first-round pick is, well, peak Masai Ujiri.
Gobs of opinion-havers are going to destroy Memphis for this return. They should think twice.
Gasol's value wasn't through the roof. Most teams probably feared him opting into the final year of his deal.
His defense has slipped, and he's seesawed on offense over the past two months or so. The Grizzlies needed him to be an anchor on both sides. The Raptors do not. They have the portable wings and bigs (Pascal Siakam!) to prop up Gasol on defense, and he'll seldom be more than a No. 3 or 4 offensive option.
Wright turns 27 in April, so he isn't exactly a prospect, but he's someone the Grizzlies can keep around if the price is right this summer. The trio of him, Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson Jr. should make sweet music together.
Eating Miles' 2019-20 salary isn't great, but if you're going to overpay someone, it might as well be an established shooter still set to earn under $9 million. Valanciunas is an offensive downgrade from his predecessor, but he's easier to incorporate. He's more of a rim-runner than Gasol and a superior presence on the glass.
Clippers Continue Their Trade-Deadline Domination
Clippers Receive: JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple
Grizzlies Receive: Avery Bradley
It's going to be super weird when the Clippers make the playoffs after selling (unfathomably high on) Tobias Harris.
Is this a gross exaggeration of their position in the Western Conference? Perhaps. But Avery Bradley has hurt the Clippers all season. They're 5.5 points better per 100 possessions with him off the court, and head coach Doc Rivers now doesn't have the opportunity to play him over the youngsters.
In addition to opening up backcourt minutes, the Clippers are also adding a wing-type player in Garrett Temple who doesn't need the ball and a 4-5 option in JaMychal Green who shoots threes and can switch a bit on the perimeter. (R.I.P. to the Marcin Gortat era.)
Some might consider this influx of talent as problematic. The Clippers are better at a time when they could be half-tanking to keep the lottery-protected draft pick they owe to the Celtics.
This route is cooler. This year's draft class isn't deep enough to criticize them for not actively chasing a late-lottery talent. Competitive basketball is fun, and having Bird rights on Green or Temple may prove valuable as Los Angeles goes hunting for superstars.
You might be wondering why the heck Memphis is taking on Bradley without getting a sweetener.
You aren't alone.
The Grizzlies needed to jimmy up extra room under the tax to complete the Marc Gasol trade. That doesn't make this deal look too much better, but at least it's a reason.
Bradley is guaranteed only $2 million next year, so Memphis isn't into him for long. He might even become a buyout candidate. If he doesn't, here's hoping the Grizzlies only use him as Bruno Caboclo's backup or something.
Milwaukee Goes Finals or Bust in 3-Teamer with Pistons and Pelicans
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Nikola Mirotic
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Stanley Johnson, Denver's 2019 second-round pick (protected for Nos. 56-60), Milwaukee's 2020 second-round pick, Washington's 2020 second-round pick (via Milwaukee), Washington's 2021 second-round pick (via Milwaukee)
Detroit Pistons: Thon Maker
Note: This trade is becoming part of the previously reported Stanley Johnson-for-Thon Maker swap.
Milwaukee is pushing hard for an NBA Finals appearance, and we should all be here for it.
Nikola Mirotic diversifies an already unfairly weaponized offensive attack. He can dribble into his own looks when Giannis Antetokounmpo isn't on the floor, and he won't disrupt the flow of the offense when he's playing alongside the Bucks' main pieces.
Almost half of Mirotic's field-goal attempts are coming as catch-and-fire threes, on which he's shooting better than 38 percent. His efficiency has tapered off after a blazing start to the year, but he battled ankle and calf issues while in New Orleans and will carry an even lighter workload with Milwaukee.
The Bucks aren't surrendering nothing here. Washington's 2020 and 2021 second-rounders are especially interesting following John Wall's latest setback, along with the Otto Porter Jr. and Markieff Morris trades. Milwaukee is also selling low on Maker for its own tastes. He fell out of head coach Mike Budenholzer's rotation, but giving up on someone the front office deemed a top-10 prospect usually doesn't demand forfeiting so many additional assets.
Whatever. The Bucks are going for it this season. And they now have options aplenty over the summer.
This year's wheeling and dealing has given them a path to re-signing Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon (restricted) and Khris Middleton (player option) without dipping into the tax. Having Mirotic's Bird rights could wind up being critical if one or more of them leave—or if Milwaukee decides not to give a damn about how much it costs to keep Antetokounmpo within reach of an NBA title.
Detroit is smart to cut bait on Stanley Johnson. His defensive impact isn't worth the non-factor he's become on offense, and the Pistons were never going to pay for his next deal. They're moving him for the same reason they shipped Reggie Bullock to the Lakers: Next year's luxury-tax concerns are real.
Maker also fills a distinct need. The Pistons have zero spacing at the 5. Zaza Pachulia is their most played backup big. Maker isn't a knockdown sniper; he's shooting 33.3 percent from deep this season and 33.2 percent for his career. But defenses have to respect his range, and he has one year left on his rookie-scale contract.
Don't use Maker's disappearance from Milwaukee's rotation to devalue him any further. The Bucks have Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo-at-center lineups and a whole lot of confidence in D.J. Wilson. Detroit should commit itself to rolling out Maker-Blake Griffin combos and see where it leads.
Viewed in tandem with the Bullock trade, the Pistons have chiseled out minor breathing room should they wish to make a bigger transaction. They were within $500,000 of the luxury tax on Tuesday. They're now a little more than $2.5 million away from it.
Scooping up a defender who can functionally guard four positions and comes with Bird rights while adding four picks is great value for Mirotic's expiring contract.
New Orleans most likely isn't expecting to keep Johnson long term, but gaining match rights for his restricted free agency doesn't hurt. He doesn't turn 23 until May, and his price point could feasibly fall around or below his qualifying offer.
At any rate, this is all about the picks. The Pelicans are entering murky territory on the heels of Anthony Davis' trade request. Even if they don't move him before the offseason, he's leaving at some point. They're wise to restock their asset chest with draft-day fliers. Every Wizards pick stands to have serious value over the next few years, and New Orleans now owns their 2020, 2021 and 2023 second-rounders.
Whether this move speaks to a larger big-picture motive isn't clear. Housing both Mirotic and Julius Randle (player option) beyond this season was always redundant. The Pelicans could still stave off a total overhaul and look to quickly regroup around Randle, Jrue Holiday, this year's pick and whatever they get in the inevitable Davis trade. Whatever they decide won't impact the optics of this deal. They did a nice job.
Lakers Trade for a Big Man (No, Not THAT Big Man)
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Mike Muscala
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Michael Beasley, Ivica Zubac
Did the Lakers just create a roster spot for Carmelo Anthony by trading away two players who are both more useful than Carmelo Anthony?
Because I'm feeling generous, let's wait and see what the Lakers do on the buyout market before we hand-deliver their "F" in the form of a small upside-down "L" that is placed on top of a bigger upside-down "L." And you better believe they'll deserve it if Melo is the endgame.
Free-agent aspirations always meant the Lakers wouldn't be paying Ivica Zubac this summer. But, like, come on. At least see how the market for your own superstar designs and the soon-to-be 22-year-old center plays out. The kid plays with oomph and fire.
In all fairness, Mike Muscala will help the Lakers' frontcourt spacing...if they play him at the 5...and if he starts hitting threes at a league-average clip again. (He's shooting better over the past few weeks.) Anything less, and his arrival becomes nothing more than a reminder that Los Angeles never should've parted ways with Brook Lopez.
Michael Beasley is getting waived, which means the Clippers don't view him as a store-brand Tobias Harris replacement.
Zubac is a nice get for a frontcourt that needed big-man upgrades. The Clippers also acquired JaMychal Green and already have Sixth Man of the Year/Most Improved Player candidate Montrezl Harrell. They can build some more physical lineups by playing one of them with Zubac or treat all of them as 5s. Either way, they're in better shape.
Houston Keeps Dumping Salary
Indiana Pacers Receive: Wade Baldwin IV, Nik Stauskas, second-round pick
Houston Receives: LUXURY-TAX RELIEF (and something to be determined)
Am I a little disappointed the Pacers are waiving Wade Baldwin IV and Nik Stauskas? For sure. Sauce Castillo deserves to fire up threes somewhere. (Sup, OKC?)
That's the extent of this criticism. Well that, and Ike Anigbogu is getting waived to push this deal through. (I still believe!) The Pacers have plenty of room under the luxury tax and are smart to snag a second-round pick to facilitate the Rockets' luxury-tax dump.
"We know we're going to be in the luxury tax, and if you want to compete for a championship, I feel like unless you get real lucky, you're going to be in the luxury tax," Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon in July. "So it is what it is...It never even came up in any discussion."
It has definitely come in subsequent discussions.
Houston is now within $1 million of skirting the tax after trading Baldwin, Stauskas and James Ennis for nothing, according to Heat Hoops' Albert Nahmad. Clint Capela's defensive-rebounding bonus and the team's activity on the buyout market will go a long way toward determining whether the Rockets get all the way under.
Perhaps Fertitta would be more open to paying the tax if Houston were delivering a win-for-win encore to last season. Or maybe he just realized how much he's paying Chris Paul through 2021-22. Either way, celebrating the Rockets' financial gymnastics isn't necessary. This is a relatively low-cost dump, which makes it fine, not genius.
Houston Sends James Ennis to Philly
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: James Ennis
Houston Rockets Receive: 2021 second-round pick (swap rights)
Acquiring Tobias Harris was never going to be the Sixers' lone move at the deadline. He's an upgrade over the combo forward he's replacing, Wilson Chandler, but Philly needs other wings—badly.
James Ennis is a great pickup. Netting impact wings on the buyout market is inherently harder than finding quality bigs, and he isn't technically costing the Sixers a pick.
Houston signed Ennis under the guise he could help fill the void left by Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute on the cheap. He's done that to some degree.
Ennis is shooting better than 37 percent from beyond the arc on a heavy diet of spot-up looks, and although he isn't blowing by anyone off the dribble, he'll attack the lane when he has unimpeded looks at the rim. He should fit like a glove beside Philly's surplus of ball-handlers.
His defensive reputation is predominantly based on his physical profile. He stands 6'7" and has the wingspan to corral guards and wings in space, but he shouldn't be saddled with chasing around No. 1 or No. 2 options who excel creating off the bounce.
Playing Ennis at the 4 mitigates this issue, especially given his calf and hamstring issues this season. The Rockets allowed almost 110 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor overall, but let up a more palatable 107.9 when he manned power forward, according to Cleaning the Glass. Deploying him as a small-ball 4 will be difficult with Harris in the rotation, but the Sixers would be doing themselves a huge favor if they can limit his number of matchups versus guards.
If the Sixers get lucky, this will be more than a rental. Ennis has a $1.8 million player option for next season which he figures to turn down, and he doesn't come with Bird rights. But he hasn't defended or shot well enough to capitalize on the market's thirst for three-and-D specialists.
This trade says more about the Rockets' absence of faith in Ennis than anything else.
They have reinforcements on the perimeter in Gary Clark, Gerald Green, Iman Shumpert and PJ Tucker, but they aren't in position to get rid of a playable wing. Clark isn't even part of Houston's rotation at the moment, and Shumpert, while a fantastic get, waxed and waned defensively in Sacramento.
Granted, Ennis has underwhelmed on the less glamorous end. Injuries might be a factor, but his reaction time in the half court when not guarding the ball isn't great. The Rockets don't have the depth to overcome those lapses from someone they need to harass smaller, quicker attack-moders.
If this helps them make a splash on the buyout market or re-integrate Clark into the mix, then they might come out ahead. For now, they tentatively get a grade that reflects the tax-saving, "Eh, alrighty then" nature of this trade.
Markieff Morris Salary Dump
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Markieff Morris, 2023 second-round pick
Washington Wizards Receive: Wesley Johnson
We'll keep this short and sweet.
The Pelicans played their hand perfectly here, setting the stage to either buy out Markieff Morris or let him contribute to a squad that could become shockingly competitive during the second half of the season if Anthony Davis remains on the roster (and plays).
As Bourbon Street Shots' Mason Ginsberg succinctly summarized, "The Pelicans essentially pay $2.5M in additional salary (of which they only owe the prorated amount for the rest of the season) in exchange for a 2nd round pick, and get a better player than Johnson for whom they'll have Bird rights this summer."
It's not any more complicated than that. By taking on extra salary from the sell-happy Wizards, they're getting the better player, superior future options and an additional draft-day asset.
This is also simple for the Wizards.
If you're a fan of ownership saving money, you'll love this trade. From a pure basketball standpoint, though, it's hard to get too far behind a player downgrade that also involves dealing away a pick, even if it drops the payroll beneath the luxury-tax threshold and prevents Washington from invoking the dreaded repeater's tax.
As this is a monetary transaction, feel free to move forward and read about more interesting trades.
Harrison Barnes Traded While Playing
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Justin Jackson, Zach Randolph
Sacramento Kings Receive: Harrison Barnes
Consider this a glorified salary dump for the Dallas Mavericks, who managed to turn Harrison Barnes ($25.1 million player option in 2019-20) into Zach Randolph's expiring contract and Justin Jackson's rookie-scale deal while Barnes was logging minutes Wednesday night against the Charlotte Hornets.
As ESPN.com's Zach Lowe reported in the immediate aftermath of this transaction, this deal potentially puts Dallas into max-contract territory this offseason, depending on how much money it must set aside for its draft-day selections.
If the Mavericks somehow manage to get in the running for Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant or [insert other big-money player], this deal becomes even more favorable because it paved the way. But even if they land lesser targets, this could still become more than a pure salary dump.
That's because of Justin Jackson.
Fun fact: Jackson (minus-1.45) isn't separated by that much from Barnes (minus-1.16) in ESPN.com's real plus/minus. They're both overall negatives, but at least the former isn't entrenched in some volume-shooting habits that won't have a home on the Dallas roster in the Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis era.
To be clear, we aren't trying to equate the two forwards. But Barnes isn't as effective as his reputation might make it seem, and Jackson, who's fewer than two years removed from joining the NBA as the No. 15 pick of the 2017 draft, has all-around upside that he's flashed throughout his two seasons with the Kings.
In conjunction with the earlier three-team trade that essentially swapped Iman Shumpert for Alec Burks, this trade makes more sense. At least the team isn't entirely eschewing wings.
Barnes can provide value on both ends of the court, so long as he isn't tasked with chasing smaller players around on defense all night and avoids falling into his aforementioned volume-shooting habits. But that shouldn't happen on a Kings team that needs a player with his talents—someone who can guard athletic 4s, switch on screens and thrive in an off-ball setting that capitalizes on De'Aaron Fox's blazing speed.
This is very much a win-now move, as the Kings are doubling down on their franchise-altering start to the season and actively pursuing a playoff berth in the Western Conference. It's also a play for the future centered around the 26-year-old, as Wojnarowski reports Sacramento wants "to make a long-term play to keep Barnes, who has a player option on his $25M deal for the 2019-20 [season], sources tell ESPN."
Both now and going forward, Sacramento will have to get creative to feature this North Carolina product alongside its plethora of incumbent power forwards and centers. But that's a good problem to have, especially considering Barnes' ability to function as an oversized 3 and display his versatility in plenty of different lineup combinations.
Cleveland, Houston and Sacramento Got B-U-S-Y
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight, 2019 first-round pick (lottery protection, via Houston)
Houston Rockets Receive: Wade Baldwin, Iman Shumpert, Nik Stauskas
Sacramento Kings Receive: Alec Burks, second-round pick
Really, the Cavaliers could get an "A." I took off a few points because this blowup-fest should've started over the offseason and not included a Kevin Love extension. And no, I'm still not over it.
Anyway, this marks the eighth draft pick the Cavaliers have acquired this season. Eighth! Until now, though, not one of those extra selections projected to convey this year. The Rockets' first-round pick, while likely a bottom-10 joint, is definitely going to end up in Cleveland.
Swallowing Brandon Knight's 2019-20 salary ($15.6 million) is a circumstantial hazard. Absorbing salary isn't as lucrative as it used to be, something the Cavaliers themselves proved when they sponged up Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson without snagging a first-rounder that'll convey before 2021—and probably not before 2022.
If anything, this trade comes as a comfort. The Cavaliers wouldn't be adding Knight's money if they had designs on competing for something special next season. This rebuild thingamajig of theirs seems legitimate.
Knight might even turn out to be useful as an expiring-contract anchor in another trade next season. The Cavs are going to have tons of salary-matching goodies this summer, with Delly, Henson, Jordan Clarkson, JR Smith ($3.9 million guaranteed) and Tristan Thompson all entering contract years.
And should the Cavs decide to keep Knight in service of 2020 cap flexibility, they at least added another tank commander. A rotation relying heavily on him, Clarkson and Collin Sexton has the potential to be the fun kind of positively awful.
Houston Rockets: B+
Just so we're all clear: No team deserves an award-winning grade for using a first-round pick to pawn off a junky contract. With that in mind: Nicely done, Houston!
Knight-plus-a-first for Kent Bazemore felt fait accompli for months. This deal is better. Bazemore is a more impactful playmaker, but Iman Shumpert has out-defended him and shot a better percentage from three this year. His contract also comes off the books after this season, whereas Bazemore holds a $19.3 million player option he isn't turning down.
Nostalgics should appreciate the reunion between Shumpert and Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni. Magic Mike tried grooming Shumpert into a three-and-D player who jump-started the offense back in New York. This marriage feels right.
Nik Stauskas is a sneaky-good add if he sticks in Houston. He's shooting better than 40 percent on spot-up threes, making him a solid option on James Harden and Chris Paul kick-outs. Don't be surprised if he ends up stealing some of Eric Gordon's minutes. Houston has more than enough ball-handling in tow following Austin Rivers' arrival, and Gordon's three-point splits are rough.
Sacramento Kings: B-
UPDATE: The Kings have, in fact, traded for Harrison Barnes, so they go from an "Incomplete" to a "B-." Hindsight is helping out Sacramento for a change, and it feels weird.
Let us take a moment to reflect on how far the Kings have come. They would be receiving a trashy grade if this were last season, but they've fared well enough this season to earn the benefit of the doubt.
Of course, their rise has little to do with the front office, so maybe giving them a to-be-determined grace period is too generous.
General manager Vlade Divac really, actually, truthfully seems to hate wing defenders. Sacramento needed reinforcements on the perimeter as previously constructed. Turning Shumpert into Alec Burks only amplifies that need. He brings another layer of shot creation, but the Kings get enough of that from De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield—though, using Burks as a backup point guard makes all sorts of sense.
Perhaps this is the precursor to another move. The Kings missed the boat on Otto Porter Jr., but Harrison Barnes is still available. Get him, and this trade, with the benefit of hindsight, will earn a passing grade—not a gold star, but a nothing-to-despise-here "C."
Let the roster stand without making another trade, and, well, Sacramento is looking at something in the "D-" to "F" to "#Kangzzz" range. Shumpert has fallen off as the season soldiers on, but this roster is too light on wings for his regression to be a viable excuse.
Chicago Bulls Steal Away Otto Porter Jr.
Washington Wizards Receive: Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis, 2023 second-round pick
Chicago Bulls Receive: Otto Porter Jr.
Seriously? This is all you can get for a player of Otto Porter Jr.'s ilk?
Sure, the Wizards get out from under some long-term money, which is vital when they're on the hook for $170 million over the next four years for just post-Achilles-rupture John Wall. But Porter is still a solid talent who fits perfectly into so many modern schemes with his off-ball prowess. Surely something better had to be out there, even if finding it required waiting until the offseason.
During an admittedly down season, he's continuing to function as a deadly spot-up shooter who's knocking down 37.8 percent of his catch-and-shoot triples. That's a far cry from last year's numbers (44.4 percent on 3.5 attempts per game), but the regression is understandable when he's been operating for a team in flux that features changing bodies at the 1.
Porter isn't a star, and he may even be a bit overpaid. But the Wizards still aren't getting anything for him other than two post-hype fliers who are basically on expiring contracts. Parker could potentially be picked up for a $20 million team option next year (highly unlikely), while Portis (restricted) really will hit the open market this summer.
Normally, that's a good thing. But is it really a huge benefit for a team still saddled with $89.2 million in expenditures to Wall, Bradley Beal, Ian Mahinmi, Dwight Howard and Troy Brown Jr. for 2018-19? What good does that extra cap space do for a team already paying out a ton of money and featuring a rotation devoid of players in their prime?
Perhaps it gives Washington a chance to escape the luxury tax even while extending Thomas Bryant and Tomas Satoransky. But don't get too excited unless you truly believe those are players around whom you can build a championship roster.
The bad news: Porter is owed $27.3 million in 2019-20, then he has a player option for $28.5 million during the following season.
Aaaaand...that's about it.
Everything else is positive here, and the Bulls can afford to absorb an elevated salary for a high-end role player because so many of their key pieces are on cheap, rookie-scale contracts.
Porter's off-ball acumen should help him mesh perfectly with Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, all of whom need the rock in order to maximize their skill sets. He plays defense, which helps make up for the defensive liabilities/projects taking the floor on a regular basis. He's willing to do the little things—always an important trait for a glue guy on an up-and-coming roster.
Maybe he makes the pursuit of top odds in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes a bit tougher, but that's a price Chicago should be willing to pay right now. Landing a player of Porter's caliber is hard, particularly when you're offering nothing more than two expiring contracts and a second-round pick conveyed years into the future.
The Lakers Do Something Not Related to Anthony Davis
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Reggie Bullock
Detroit Pistons Receive: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, 2021 second-round pick
If you buy into Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk as a cross between Bojan Bogdanovic and Kyle Korver, you're not going to like this trade. Otherwise, the Lakers done good.
Reggie Bullock moves the needle for an offense that ranks dead last in catch-and-shoot efficiency. Teams can never have too many marksmen around LeBron James, and Bullock, at 6'7", won't get pooh-poohed off the floor by bigger wings at the other end.
Extremists might have preferred the Lakers holster all their cards until the Anthony Davis saga reached its resolution. That was never an option.
Patience was their great offseason con. LeBron's teams cannot defer at the trade deadline. The Lakers are too close to the Western Conference's playoff picture to prioritize the big picture alone.
Yes, Mykhailiuk has shown some offensive pluck in his 420 minutes of court time. And sure, the pick comes in handy for a team that has traded away all of its second-rounders from 2020 through 2023. But this isn't a great look when the Pistons remain within striking distance of an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Next year's luxury-tax implications no doubt influenced their decision. Trading Bullock now suggests they wouldn't be able to afford him later. The Pistons are smart to get something, anything, for him.
Still, the bar needs to be higher than "They could have lost him for nothing!" The Pistons spent themselves into this situation. We cannot applaud them for creating more room under the tax and basically guaranteeing they evade it next year when it cost one of their most serviceable rotation pieces—unless, that is, this marks the beginning of a full-scale teardown.
Philadelphia Forges a Big 4
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protection), 2021 first-round pick (unprotected from Miami, via Philadelphia), 2021 second-round pick (from Detroit, via Philadelphia), 2023 second-round pick (from Detroit, via Philadelphia)
Harris is a ridiculously good player—a fringe All-Star who's comfortable pulling up off the dribble but no stranger to leveraging his catch-and-shoot touch. He's banging in more than 40 percent of his spot-up threes this season.
But the Sixers are taking a huge risk. Harris is the second marquee player they've acquired on an expiring contract this season, and his fit, while still intriguing, is a bit more prickly with Jimmy Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons all in tow. Don't even get me started about what this means for Markelle Fultz.
Selling Harris on a predominantly accessory role won't be easy. It helps that the Sixers are willing to pay him. They plan to keep this Fab Four together beyond this season, per ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski. That opens up a whole other world of concerns with Harris and Butler (player option) on track for max or near-max paydays.
Give both the full boat this summer, and the Sixers are looking at a $130 million-ish bill for their four-player nucleus once Simmons' next deal takes effect in 2020-21. That's a ton of coin for a quartet not assured of housing more than one top-10 player (Embiid).
Some have speculated Harris' arrival might portend Butler's departure. That's a doomsday scenario. Harris will have an easier time as the third scoring option, but the Sixers need to have more than him to show for burning through Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, two first-round picks and three second-rounders in the same season.
This isn't a death knell. The Sixers are built for now, and they might come out of the East. Elements of this trade will play out over the next few months. In the meantime, Philly is saddling itself with an uncomfortable amount of risk for a core that doesn't profile as the cleanest fit.
Major props to the Clippers for prioritizing the big picture over a seventh- or eighth-place finish in the Western Conference. They're trying to build something more meaningful than a fringe playoff contender, and selling high on Harris jibes with that theme.
Not much changes about their salary-cap outlook. They will sleepwalk their way to more than $50 million in space if they waive Avery Bradley ($2 million guarantee for next season). That was true before. But they needed to let Harris walk for nothing. At least this way they're picking up a quality backcourt prospect and four picks—one of which, the 2021 Miami selection, is scorching-hot property.
Jettisoning Harris does bilk the Clippers of their offseason contingency. They no longer have a fringe star to pivot into if they don't land Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant over the summer, but they'll be fine. They now have the draft equity to crash the Anthony Davis sweepstakes if they leak into July and are capable of taking swings at whatever other stars might become available.
In the event the Clippers end up needing a second max-contract slot, they'll have to dump Danilo Gallinari. They can gauge his market now, but his back injury complicates matters. They're better off waiting for the summer, when they'll know if they need that flexibility, and when there will be scores of jilted free-agency suitors searching for worthwhile alternatives.
As an added bonus, essentially removing themselves from the playoff running this year means the Clippers probably won't convey their lottery-protected pick to the Celtics. That protection carries over into next season but turns into a 2022 second-rounder if it doesn't get sent to Boston by 2020.
Phoenix and Miami Break LaVar Ball's Heart
Phoenix Suns Receive: Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson
Miami Heat Receive: Ryan Anderson
About LaVar Ball willing Lonzo Ball-to-the-Suns into in existence...um, well, that's not going to happen. They've found another guard.
Phoenix is effectively exchanging bad money for bad money. Ryan Anderson is guaranteed $15.6 million of next year's $21.3 million salary. Tyler Johnson has a $19.3 million player option he's definitely going to exercise.
Paying either of them isn't ideal, but Johnson is younger (26) and fills a playmaking void in the backcourt. Though not a true point guard, he allows Devin Booker to spend more time off the ball. That's a win.
But the Suns are working with Wayne Ellington's agent to waive him, according to ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski. That comes off like a gross misuse of a potential asset. Ellington cannot be dealt with another player but is able to be moved again. The Suns already punted on using Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers as expiring filler. This feels like deja vu.
To be fair, it might not be so simple. That the Heat didn't outright dump Ellington into another team's trade exception suggests there wasn't a real market for him. But the Suns have the bandwidth under the tax and the rebuilding timeline to take on bad salary. Chances are they could find a deal that nets them some form of pick or prospect compensation.
Again: This is an outsider-looking-in thing. The Suns have no interest in going the bad-money route; otherwise, they wouldn't have so easily hit the peace-out buttons on Chandler and Rivers. This is more a reflection of their overarching tactics than the trade itself.
Miami has positioned itself to duck the tax this season by getting rid of both Ellington and Johnson, as ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton wrote:
"While this deal doesn't quite get the Heat out of the tax, they're close. If Kelly Olynyk indeed misses out on a $1 million incentive bonus for playing 1,700 minutes, as noted by ESPN's Bobby Marks, dealing Rodney McGruder before the deadline would probably be enough to allow Miami to avoid the tax altogether.
"The Heat also reduce their 2019-20 payroll. Waiving Anderson would save Miami about $3.6 million in 2019-20 salary. Using the stretch provision on Anderson's contract would save an additional $10 million or so, likely enough to enable the Heat to get out of the tax even if Goran Dragic ($19.2 million) and Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) both pick up player options as expected. (A stretch would come at the cost of a $5 million cap hit on the books through 2021-22, by which point the Heat can be players in free agency again.)"
Teams cannot do victory laps for maybe, possibly, potentially rendering their nightmarishly overpaid roster less overpaid. But it has become clear in recent weeks that neither Ellington nor McGruder factored into their larger plans.
As far as the Heat's situation goes, escaping the tax without forking over a first-round pick would be worth a pat on the back. At the same time, they did ship out their starting 2-guard. So...*shrugs*.
Portland and Sacramento Go Project-for-Project
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Skal Labissiere
Sacramento Kings Receive: Caleb Swanigan
Knowing Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, he's probably ecstatic that Skal Labissiere is making around $200,000 less than Caleb Swanigan. Functionally, though, this is a pretty cool under-the-radar move.
Swanigan has an extra year left on his rookie-scale contract, but he wasn't playing and Portland likely views the remaining length of his deal as a net negative. Labissiere at least flashed face-up creation once upon a time, a dimension the Blazers' 4-5 rotation doesn't really boast.
Trades that make sense for everyone remain the best.
Labissiere was a lost cause for the Kings. The future is Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III, with plenty of Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein and Harrison Barnes-at-the-4 sprinkled in for good measure.
Swanigan might get buried within this pileup just like his predecessor, but Sacramento needs a physically imposing, dirty-work presence up front, and on the most fundamental level, he fits that description. Having him is also body-count insurance should Cauley-Stein price himself out of town in restricted free agency.
Malachi Richardson to Philadelphia
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Malachi Richardson, 2022 second-round pick, draft rights to Emir Preldzic
Toronto Raptors Receive: Cash considerations
Sam Hinkie would be so proud.
Indeed, the Sixers opened Wednesday flipping four picks to the Clippers for Tobias Harris. But acquiring another second-rounder amid all the noise is certainly a move he'd approve of—especially under the circumstances.
The 2022 draft could be the first in which the NBA kiboshes the one-and-done rule. People tend to devalue second-rounders in general, but having an extra one for a class that might include college freshmen and high school seniors is a shrewd move.
Oh, and the Sixers landed Malachi Richardson, too. He will likely end up being an afterthought, and he might not even finish the season in Philly. The Sixers need wings, but Richardson has yet to overturn the ball-stopping reputation that followed him into the NBA. Don't expect him to be a factor unless Philly gets super desperate for length and athleticism on the defensive end.
Look, the Raptors have wings to spare. Dumping a player they weren't playing isn't a big deal. They shaved some money off their tax bill and created a roster spot in the process. Maybe that vacancy turns into an impact veteran on the buyout market.
Using future seconds to grease the wheels of tiny salary dumps never sits entirely right, though. The Raptors have no idea where they'll be in three years. With Kawhi Leonard's future unresolved, they don't even have a hold on where they'll be next season.
Surrendering an unprotected second-rounder in 2022 could be nothing. It could also be something.
Toronto Gives Brooklyn Another Pick
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Greg Monroe, 2021 second-round pick
Toronto Raptors Receive: Cash
Given what the Nets are doing with Rodions Kurucs (No. 40 pick in 2018) and with their player development in general, sending them more draft selections should be illegal.
Yours truly typically goes in on tax-paying teams who use picks to dump salary unless they're lining up a mega-coup on the buyout market. The Raptors are kind of getting a pass.
They have all their first-round picks after this year's commitment conveys to the Spurs, and team president Masai Ujiri won't hesitate to purchase a second-rounder before draft nights.
Besides, this isn't like when Houston flipped James Ennis III, one of its starters, for nothing. Greg Monroe was barely playing with Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) on the shelf. He most certainly wouldn't have cracked the rotation as more than a victory cigar or garbage-time specialist with Marc Gasol on the roster.
Atlanta and Memphis Swap Guards
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Shelvin Mack
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Tyler Dorsey
With so many swingmen on the Hawks roster, they don't need Tyler Dorsey. He's younger (22) and cheaper ($1.4 million) than Shelvin Mack (28, $2 million), but he wasn't getting minutes, and the latter gives Atlanta an actual point guard to play behind Jeremy Lin and Trae Young.
It does kind of stink that they needed to waive Daniel Hamilton.
Dorsey may not be a keeper, but this move makes the Grizzlies younger, slightly cheaper and deeper on the wings following an intensive roster-razing.
Memphis has long wanted for options at the 2 and 3. Taking a look, however brief, at a 6'5" 22-year-old scoring prospect is what we call progress.
Boston Trims Its Luxury-Tax Bill
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Jabari Bird, cash
Boston Celtics Receive: Second-round pick (top-55 protection)
Get that money in exchange for a fake second-rounder, Mr. Travis Schlenk.
Trading Jabari Bird, who is facing several charges—including but not limited to witness intimidation and threatening to commit a crime—for allegedly choking and threatening to kill his girlfriend in September, lowers the Celtics' tax bill and gives them some roster plasticity ahead of the buyout. (They still have their mid-level exception to offer.)
Many teams would've needed to include a pick in this situation. Atlanta will waive Bird.