Grading Every NBA Team's 2019 Trade Deadline Performance
We didn't get new homes for Anthony Davis or Mike Conley, but the 2019 NBA trade deadline delivered enough twists and turns that it was a thrill ride nevertheless.
While not every team participated in the swap market, most did, and even the ones that didn't had to make a conscious decision to sit out.
The impact of this activity could reverberate for years. But between past production and future projections, we have enough to make an early assessment of each club's performance in the trade season, which we'll date back to last Thursday.
Los Angeles Lakers
Added: Reggie Bullock, Mike Muscala
Traded: Ivica Zubac, Michael Beasley, Svi Mykhailiuk, second-round pick
The first deadline of the LABron era goes down as a colossal failure.
It'd be one thing if the Lakers simply came up short in their all-out pursuit of Anthony Davis. But it's a different kind of mess once word leaked that basically everyone on the roster was up for grabs. Despite not getting counters from New Orleans, L.A. kept bumping its bid. The last, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, reportedly included Zubac, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and two first-round picks.
That's a lot of guys—all 23 and under, by the way—who now know they were just deemed expendable. On the same night of Woj's potentially roster-alienating report, the Lakers suffered a 42-point dismantling at the hands of an Indiana Pacers team missing Victor Oladipo.
Bullock is fine, but Mykhailiuk is younger. Same goes for Muscala and Zubac. Had the Lakers realized last summer LeBron James works best with shooters around him, they're probably not forced to dump actual (or at least potential) assets for rental shooters now.
I'm sorry, Buzz City, but can we #FreeKemba already? How do you not feel badly for Kemba Walker? This is his eighth season in Charlotte, and his best teammate is...Jeremy Lamb? Marvin Williams? Cody Zeller? What's worse is Walker so badly wants to make this work with the Hornets that he still believes the front office can fix this.
"They know what they got to do," Walker said in an appearance on ESPN's The Jump. "That's not my job. I'll leave it up to those guys."
The front office had to hear that challenge and then did...nothing? They seemingly fumbled at the 1-yard line on a Marc Gasol trade and then failed to find a new home for former lottery pick Frank Kaminsky, who's reportedly now a buyout candidate, per Sporting News' Sean Deveney.
Walker has made it clear he wants to win and play for something significant. This was Charlotte's last chance to show it could provide the necessary pieces to do that before he hits the open market. As much as he's said he wants to stay, you wonder if the lack of help will force him to look elsewhere this summer.
Added: Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, Avery Bradley, Tyler Dorsey, CJ Miles, second-round pick
Traded: Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, Shelvin Mack
The Grizzlies closed out the grit-and-grind era Thursday. Other than that, it's hard to tell what they accomplished.
Valanciunas is fine, but he's overpaid in a market that devalues traditional bigs. Wright is sort of interesting, until you realize he'll be 27 in April and a restricted free agent by July. Other than minutes, Bradley hasn't had any statistical marks of a starter. Miles has rarely found the floor (or the basket) this season. Dorsey might honestly be the most interesting add—as a sophomore with a career 37.4/34.5/68.5 shooting slash.
Maybe Memphis had made peace with Gasol's exit and this was the best it could find. But why even pull the trigger, then? This isn't a tank job, since Mike Conley is on the roster. It's also not a reload, since few of the arriving pieces qualify as assets. It's something stuck in the middle; maybe moves for the sake of making moves?
Added: Jabari Bird, Shelvin Mack, cash
Traded: Tyler Dorsey, top-55 protected second-round pick
Uh, this is it? Cash for helping the Celtics trim costs—Bird will be waived, per Wojnarowski, as will Mack, per Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—and nothing else? No prospects or picks to eventually help John Collins, Trae Young and Kevin Huerter whenever they're ready to compete?
Dewayne Dedmon, Jeremy Lin and Vince Carter should've all interested contenders as rentals. Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince would've worked for anyone in the three-and-D market. While it's unclear what specifically was available for them, the names buzzed loudly enough to know the Hawks could have—and should have—recouped some kind of forward-focused assets.
Few teams were better positioned for a fire sale than the Timberwolves. Absent the win-now pressures of the Tom Thibodeau regime, they seemingly had an opportunity to unload all the win-now pieces he'd rushed to collect.
Five veterans are on expiring contracts, including a resurgent Derrick Rose, who could've electrified someone's second unit if he signed off on a deal. Taj Gibson and Luol Deng offered locker room leadership and loads of playoff experience. Anthony Tolliver's career 37.6 three-point percentage had to have been screaming at every spacing-deprived buyer.
So, how does nothing happen? The Wolves are barely visible in the playoff picture. Even if the offers weren't great, adding anything for the future would've been preferable to standing pat in the present.
Added: Thon Maker, Svi Mykhailiuk, second-round pick
Traded: Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson
The Pistons have been posturing like a win-now club since last January's Blake Griffin blockbuster. The biggest challenge to becoming more competitive was fixing an underwhelming wing rotation.
So, naturally, Detroit shipped out two of its most utilized wings and only brought back one perimeter player in return, Mykhailiuk, who they passed over twice in last summer's second round. Maker, at least, is 21 years old and possesses some intriguing gifts, but you wonder about a floor-spacing 5 who couldn't crack Mike Budenholzer's regular rotation.
If the Pistons had no plans of paying Bullock or Johnson this summer, some will argue they deserve credit for turning them into something. But none of the return pieces are automatic assets. Plus, taking the asset-collection route doesn't inspire a ton of confidence in the Griffin-Andre Drummond tandem, and selling makes their Mike Conley pursuit confusing.
You can understand why the Jazz opted to stand pat. They're playing really good basketball right now (fifth in net rating since the calendar flipped), and their future probably outshines the present. If they did anything, it would've cost them a long-term asset, whether that's Dante Exum, Grayson Allen or a first-round pick.
If your top talents are 26-year-old Rudy Gobert and 22-year-old Donovan Mitchell, you can afford to play the long game.
But the right deadline acquisition might've nudged them to greatness. Rumored targets like Mike Conley, Otto Porter Jr. and Nikola Mirotic could've all directly addressed needs for spacing and raised what otherwise appears a cemented ceiling. It's hard to picture a big leap at any point without some type of trade, since Utah isn't a free-agent destination and probably won't draft in the lottery for a long time.
Added: Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis, Wesley Johnson, protected second-round pick
Traded: Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, second-round pick
Cut to Wizards owner Ted Leonsis one week before the deadline.
"I love when they go, 'trade Bradley Beal. Trade John Wall. Trade Otto Porter.' And I go 'OK, for who?' We're not trading any of those players," Leonsis said, per NBC Sports Washington's Lisa Redmond.
Leonsis made it sound like clubs would have to overpay for one of them. Then, Porter goes for just Parker and Portis, both likely 2019 free agents and neither remotely as talented as Porter. Next, Washington gives up a second-rounder to dump Morris and duck below the 2019-20 tax. The Wizards opted against flipping Trevor Ariza and/or Jeff Green for assets and instead hope to re-sign both this summer.
The Wizards might be fine with not paying the remainder of Porter's deal, but they leave the deadline with no obvious assets and potentially a blueprint for their next financial crunch.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Added: 2020 second-round pick (top-55 protected)
Traded: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, cash
The Thunder remain thin, inexperienced and short on shooting along the wings. Maybe the buyout market can help with that, but the demand for waived wings figures to far outweigh the supply.
If OKC can address that void without losing an asset, this deadline grade goes up. Right now, though, it seems the Thunder could've acted with more urgency. Even if hopes of advancing past the Golden State Warriors are slim, it's not like a team built around 30-year-old Russell Westbrook and 28-year-old Paul George can afford to wait out the Dubs dynasty.
Added: Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington
Traded: Ryan Anderson
The one transaction the Suns made was fine. Even with Ellington gone, Phoenix at least replaced an overpriced bench-warmer with an overpriced role player. Johnson isn't a $19 million talent by any stretch, but he can play on or off the ball, which should make life a little easier on Devin Booker.
"[Johnson will] play a lot," vice president of basketball operations James Jones said on 98.7 FM Arizona Sports. "We look at him like a ball-handler, a combo guard for sure."
The issue here is stopping at only one trade. Was there really no way to get a pick from someone wanting to add Troy Daniels' shooting, Jamal Crawford's instant offense or what's left of Dragan Bender's potential? Also, not pouncing on 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz when there's a giant need at point guard could look awful in hindsight if he ever rights the ship.
The Nuggets have a near-.700 winning percentage. Their top two scorers are 23-year-old Nikola Jokic and 21-year-old Jamal Murray. Even if rookie first-rounder Michael Porter Jr. never suits up, there's a chance Isaiah Thomas could still add to what's already one of the NBA's deepest rosters.
In other words, motivation to accelerate this ascension would've been hard to find. The Nuggets seem content with this core.
Golden State Warriors
This is akin to an "N/A" assessment, as the Dubs weren't expected to participate in the deadline dealing.
Could they perhaps have used some experienced depth along their wings or down low? Maybe. They don't have as much shooting as their stacked starting five would have you think, and they might be missing a body at the 5 with Damian Jones lost for the year and Jordan Bell battling a surprising sophomore slump.
But neither need was pressing enough to warrant sacrificing anything of value. Besides, the buyout market always offers potential contributors, and Golden State's championship chances make for an enticing sales pitch.
New Orleans Pelicans
Added: Stanley Johnson, Markieff Morris, Jason Smith, five second-round picks
Traded: Nikola Mirotic, Wesley Johnson
The Pelicans' 2019 deadline score won't be decided until they sign off on a Davis deal this summer. If they wind up with a Boston Celtics' package headlined by Jayson Tatum, history might hold them as one of the deadline's biggest winners. If the Lakers pull their best offer and New Orleans never finds anything better, this could be a crippling mistake.
Again, though, we won't have that answer for months.
For now, we'll dock the Pelicans a few points for not fetching a first for Mirotic. His fiery three-ball and underrated defense would've fit most winning teams. But we'll bring them back to the middle for stockpiling enough second-rounders to rival Sam Hinkie's old collection and maybe finding a multipurpose 22-year-old in Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 pick in 2015.
San Antonio Spurs
Per usual, Gregg Popovich and Co. opted to avoid the deadline frenzy.
That's probably the right move. The Spurs are good, but they didn't have the trade chips to add anyone capable of making them great. And gutting this roster would have been a complete reversal of the win-now attitude taken in the Kawhi Leonard trade.
Added: Greg Monroe, second-round pick
Renting cap space for draft considerations has become Brooklyn's go-to move under general manager Sean Marks, and it almost feels unfair given the player development success rate under head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Rodions Kurucs was the 40th pick this past summer, one of two picks added for taking on DeMarre Carroll's contract, in a previous cost-cutting move by the Raptors. The Nets are 24-15 when Kurucs plays and 18-9 when he starts. This transaction—which is all about the pick, as Monroe will be waived, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post—seems like it will inevitably add another contributor.
Added: Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin, second-round pick
Traded: draft rights to Maarty Leunen
This looks like a bigger deal than it was. With the Pacers planning to waive both Stauskas and Baldwin, per Wojnarowski, they're getting a free second-rounder for helping the Rockets slip beneath the luxury tax.
This could've been a much more active deadline. If they wanted to sell in light of Victor Oladipo's ruptured quad tendon, they had plenty of expiring vets to unload. If they wanted to buy for Oladipo's eventual return, they were linked to Circle City product Mike Conley, per The Athletic's Sam Amick. Staying in the middle is fine, though, since the squad is basically treading water until Oladipo is back.
Added: Ryan Anderson
Traded: Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington
The Heat were thinking with their financial caps, which is probably the best mindset for a pricey team facing a first-round playoff ceiling. As Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald noted, the swap saves Miami "about $5.1 million in payroll this season and will lower its luxury-tax bill from $9.7 million to $1.8 million."
That doesn't do much for anyone other than owner Micky Arison, but still, making a grossly overpaid roster less overpaid is smart. The on-court costs, though, shouldn't be dismissed. Anderson is unplayable. Johnson was Miami's starting 2-guard, and Ellington was arguably its most important offensive weapon last season.
Added: Markelle Fultz
Traded: Jonathon Simmons, first-round pick, second-round pick
Orlando has long loomed as a potential landing spot for Fultz. Before this trade, the Magic's depth chart at point guard started with D.J. Augustin and ended with Jerian Grant and Isaiah Briscoe. That was shaky (at best) in the present and basically non-existent for the future.
Fultz potentially changes that in a massive way—if he ever rediscovers what made him the top overall prospect in 2017. It's unclear what has happened since he arrived in the Association, but he seemingly forgot how to shoot. The problem could be mental, physical or a combination of the two, but it's a huge issue—he has four threes (on 15 attempts) in 33 career games and a grisly 53.4 free-throw percentage.
If Orlando somehow helps him find his form, we might eventually remember this as one of the deadline's biggest gaffes. But for now, a first, an early second (likely from Cleveland) and a plug-and-play wing is probably above where most would've pegged Fultz's trade value.
Added: top-55 protected second-round pick
Traded: Jabari Bird, cash
The Celtics will have one of the most polarizing post-deadline evaluations. You'll probably find them on some biggest losers list, since they sat out the arms race taken up by every other Eastern Conference power. But you might see others labeling them among the day's biggest winners, since Anthony Davis is still in New Orleans, meaning Boston has a chance to place the winning bid this summer.
The truth lies somewhere in between.
The lack of movement doesn't bode well for this season. While the Celtics have as much room for internal improvement as anyone, their roster hasn't found cohesion yet and perhaps never will. They did, however, open a roster spot in their only deal, so some type of help could arrive through the buyout market.
Boston's inactivity in a vacuum might deserve a D. The Davis development, though, could be an A-plus if it eventually gets him to the Shamrocks.
Added: Iman Shumpert, second-round pick, second-round pick swap rights
Traded: James Ennis, Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, first-round pick, two second-round picks
Houston primarily attended to its financial books, brokering three separate deals that should get it below the tax line. The Rockets also opened several roster spots, which could be addressed through the buyout market and perhaps make this assessment worth revisiting.
For now, though, the cap manipulation is impressive, and the club still came out ahead on the hardwood. Shumpert should be the best version of what they hoped Ennis might become—an off-ball sniper who can capably defend all three perimeter spots.
New York Knicks
Added: Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, two first-round picks
Traded: Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke
There are so many ways this transaction can turn in the coming years that a "TBD" grade might be most accurate. For now, though, it seems the Knicks did relatively well under the circumstances.
If Porzingis really wanted to leave New York, the Knicks essentially flipped zero pieces of their future plans for cap relief, two firsts and 2017's No. 9 pick. If everything breaks exactly right, there's a chance New York exits this offseason with two (or even three) of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson.
Take the blue-and-orange goggles off, though, and New York might have traded a generational talent for a stagnating sophomore and two future picks that could fall well outside the lottery because of said superstar. This summer's cap space could provide nothing. It might bring the 2019 version of $100 million Amar'e Stoudemire. There's no way to tell.
The reward outweighs the risk, but it's close.
Portland Trail Blazers
Added: Rodney Hood, Skal Labissiere
Traded: Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin, Caleb Swanigan, two second-round picks
Hood doesn't qualify as the impact player Portland coveted, but the smooth scorer becomes the Blazers' biggest off-the-bounce threat not named Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum. While Hood hasn't quite been the same since leaving the Utah Jazz, his 16.0 points per 36 minutes would still be fourth-best in Portland.
It's hard to tell how much, if at all, Hood can play with Lillard and McCollum, given the collective defensive concerns. But even if Hood simply bolsters the Blazers bench, that would lighten the load on their backcourt stars.
The Labissiere-for-Swanigan flip feels like each club might've taken out the other's trash. But Labissiere has shown more promise as a shooter and shot-blocker, so his side of the deal scores a small victory.
Added: Otto Porter Jr.
Traded: Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis, second-round pick
Players like Porter as do-it-all glue guys who can make good teams even better. The Bulls are not a good team, which makes the on-court fit less than ideal, especially with Chicago lacking a true floor general.
But if the Bulls' young talent develops, Porter can function as their finishing piece. His defense will be vital alongside the leaky Zach LaVine, and Porter's low-usage, high-efficiency offense means there's insurance for, and minimal disruption to, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.
Assuming no elite free-agent-to-be had his eyes on the Windy City, Porter's hefty contract shouldn't be difficult to manage with so many contributors on rookie-scale deals. It's hard to argue with the cost, too, as Parker obviously wasn't in the long-term plans, and restricted free agency may have priced Portis out of his backup big man role.
Added: Harrison Barnes, Alec Burks, Caleb Swanigan, second-round pick
Traded: Iman Shumpert, Justin Jackson, Skal Labissiere, Zach Randolph
While chasing the postseason is typically a shortsighted goal, it makes sense for Sacramento. Mike Bibby led the last Kings' playoff team in scoring. Brad Miller was the high rebounder. It's been a minute—2006 to be exact.
Plus, the Kings aren't out any significant assets as a result. Jackson was a recent lottery pick (15th in 2017), but he's leaving Sacramento with a career 9.6 player efficiency rating. The Kings are out some cap space if Barnes picks up his $25.1 million player option next season, but he'd be their only eight-figure salary, and it's not like top-tier free agents have ever flocked to Sacramento.
The Kings finally have their big wing defender in Barnes and another shot-creator in Burks, and both will be glad to run with the NBA's third-fastest team. Not every analyst will love the trade value, but this season's surprise squad just increased its odds of sustaining this success.
Added: Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, lottery-protected first-round pick, two second-round picks
Traded: Rodney Hood, Alec Burks
The LeBron-less Cavs are smartly collecting draft picks wherever they can find them, and picking up a first without having a star to send back is impressive—especially when it's the second time that's happened this season (George Hill).
Hood is 26 years old and playing on his qualifying offer. Burks is 27 and on an expiring contract. Neither had long-term value to Cleveland, so transforming them into three picks is a job well done.
Given how patient the Cavs can be, maybe they'll be the ones to figure out Chriss or even give Knight a long enough leash to intrigue someone when he's on an expiring deal next season. Both are long shots, but if either comes true, it would only add to an already productive deadline.
Added: Tobias Harris, James Ennis, Jonathon Simmons, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Malachi Richardson, first-round pick, two second-round picks
Traded: Landry Shamet, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, two first-round picks, two second-round picks, cash
The Sixers' deadline deals aren't going to be for everyone. Risk-averse analysts will be scared off by the impending free agencies of Harris and Jimmy Butler—both for the possibility of them leaving and the incredible cost it would take to retain this core—and probably quick to point out these aren't the smoothest fits on paper.
Whatever. The Sixers are going for it, as they should.
"There is a brief window here before Ben Simmons gets much more expensive, and doubling down on the win-now gamble the Sixers made with Butler in the fall was the route they had to take," Jeremy Woo wrote for SI.com. "If all their new parts mesh, they might be the favorites in the East."
No roster has been strengthened more since the season started, and perhaps no one outside of Oakland can match the newly formed starting five: Butler, Harris, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and JJ Redick. Ennis and Jonathon Simmons won't silence the depth concerns, but they'll help, as could the buyout market. Dealing Fultz removes a possible distraction, cuts costs and replenishes some of the draft-pick supply.
It might not work. Harris and Butler might leave for nothing. The unprotected first heading to the Clippers (via Miami) could become a crown jewel. But the Sixers have more pressing concerns right now, like going full tilt for the 2019 title.
Added: Marc Gasol, cash
Traded: Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, Malachi Richardson, two second-round picks
Standing pat wasn't an option for the Raptors, who have roughly four months left to convince Kawhi Leonard his future should be north of the border. Adding Gasol makes for quite the sales pitch, even if he's not quite an All-Star talent anymore.
He remains a defensive menace in the middle, and his declining mobility is mitigated some by Toronto's wealth of rangy, long-limbed wings. Gasol can also help grease the offensive gears as a shrewd table-setter, which should embolden Kyle Lowry to focus more on his own scoring and maybe rediscover his stroke.
The Raptors didn't get a tier-one star, but they didn't even pay a tier-two price. Going from Valanciunas to Gasol is a significant upgrade. Wright is older than you think. Miles and Richardson weren't regulars, and the two seconds are low-percentage unknowns.
There weren't many ways to improve Toronto's roster without losing a key asset, but Masai Ujiri found one.
Added: Nikola Mirotic
Traded: Thon Maker, Jason Smith, four second-round picks
Mirotic was made to play for a coach like Mike Budenholzer and vice versa. Milwaukee's first-year skipper can't get enough three-point shooters, and Mirotic never hesitates to let it fly. His career 7.9 perimeter attempts per 36 minutes are tied for the fourth-most of any player who's logged at least 5,000 minutes.
The Bucks entered the deadline atop the East and then sharpened their greatest strength. This offense had a 50-point quarter (and 148-point outing) its last time out. Adding Mirotic to the mix only increases the potency. Getting this done without sacrificing a first-round pick or future cap space seems like it shouldn't be legal.
Added: Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Trey Burke, Justin Jackson, Zach Randolph
Traded: Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, two first-round picks
Much like Dirk Nowitzki has been doing for the last 21 years, the Mavericks took their shot with no hesitation. In the process, they potentially added an elite talent and opened the pathway to another.
If Porzingis can get healthy, he's on a short list of the league's brightest superstars. Before his February 2018 ACL tear, he was averaging 22.7 points, 2.4 blocks and 1.9 triples—a previously unseen combination. Following his acquisition with the Barnes trade could get Dallas in the neighborhood of $30 million in cap room this summer, meaning the next Big Three might be based in Nowitzki's adopted hometown.
There's risk here, sure. Porzingis has injury issues in his past and restricted free agency in his immediate future. Cap space also guarantees nothing, as Mavs fans know all too well.
Still, bold moves can be fortune-changers, and no one lifted their ceiling higher than this. At worst, Dallas will get a year of Porzingis and Luka Doncic performing basketball magic together. At best, it might have a Porzingis-Doncic-third star nucleus for the next decade.
Los Angeles Clippers
Added: Landry Shamet, Wilson Chandler, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple, Ivica Zubac, Michael Beasley, two first-round picks, two second-round picks
Traded: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Mike Muscala
Everything Jerry West touches turns to gold. This deadline was some of The Logo's best wizardry.
Harris is a good player but not an All-Star. Oh, and he's an unrestricted free agent in five months. Somehow, the Clippers turned him into four picks—including an unprotected 2021 first by way of Miami—and Shamet, last summer's 26th pick who's tied for eighth among rookies in win shares. Plus, Chandler, a contributor when healthy, and Muscala, who later delivered Zubac, came too.
L.A. has room to sign two stars this summer or (and?) the trade chips to pursue one. It also has enough youth to keep building for the future in case those marquee names don't come right away.
The Clippers even made the rest of this season a win-win scenario. They might have taken a big enough step back to miss the playoffs, which would keep their first-rounder away from the Celtics. But replacing Bradley with Green and Temple helps the current on-court product (and the future finances), and if L.A. does make a surprise postseason appearance, it sends over a non-lottery pick in what looks like a thin draft class.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.