Grading Every Deal at the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline
So much for a quiet 2020 NBA trade deadline.
Sure, the league has hosted busier transaction frenzies. Nothing will ever compare to 2019 free agency. But this year's deadline was supposed to be bogged down by all that player movement over the summer, lower-than-expected salary-cap projections, a shallow sellers market and a mostly crummy 2020 free-agency class.
That didn't happen.
Teams were active within the confines of the leaguewide outlook. A handful of big names moved, the number of deals spilled comfortably into double digits and like always, the championship picture was given a minor face-lift.
Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder are members of the Miami Heat. Marcus Morris Sr. is with the Los Angeles Clippers. Robert Covington is probably the Houston Rockets' new backup or third-string center. Andre Drummond is...in Cleveland. And that isn't all.
Let's break out the red pens and get to grading the lovable tumult that was this year's NBA trade deadline.
D-Lo to Minnesota, Wiggins to Golden State
Golden State Warriors Receive: Andrew Wiggins, 2021 first-round pick (top-three protection), 2021 second-round pick
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Jacob Evans, D'Angelo Russell, Omari Spellman
Trading a top-three-protected pick in what's expected to be a deep 2021 draft class without getting back a bona fide superstar can easily be considered bad form. But the Timberwolves take a few positives from this deal.
Picking up Russell, a good friend of Karl-Anthony Towns' who Minnesota has been openly chasing since last summer, is a marginal victory. Lopping off the final three years and $94.7 million of Wiggins' deal is a bigger one.
Enough with the "But he's not even 25 yet!" rebuttals. Wiggins is a below-average NBA player. His efficiency has plummeted after a relatively hot start to the year, and he's never lived up to the potential his physical tools afford him on defense. He ranks 367th out of 494 players this season in luck adjusted-real adjusted plus-minus (LA-RAPM), per NBA Shot Charts. (Russell is 385th, for what it's worth.)
Russell is a massive upgrade on the offensive end. His shot selection can be regrettable, but he's turned into a viable off-the-dribble three-point shooter and high-functioning pick-and-roll initiator. Pairing him with Towns forges a screen-and-pop/screen-and-dive combination unlike any other partnership the Wolves have gifted their star big man. Minnesota has employed guards who can score, space the floor or set up their teammates, but never one who has excelled at all three.
Surrendering the 2021 pick amounts to the Timberwolves' betting on themselves—a wager that they won't be sending back a top-sevenish selection. The defensive limitations of Towns and Russell lengthens their road back to the playoffs, but this isn't the flimsiest of limbs to be out on.
This isn't to say Minnesota is robbing the Warriors. Russell doesn't net this good of a pick on his own. The Timberwolves are erasing their own mistake with Wiggins' extension. But wallowing in a sunk cost is worse. The $90 million Russell is owed over the next three years is a better contract, and this trade should put Towns in better spirits after seeing Minnesota jettison Robert Covington, another friend.
The idea that the Warriors could turn Russell into another star was always overly ambitious. He is closer to a top-50 player than a top-25 guy. Non-stars on max contracts are not assets. They now have highly valuable inbound picks in this draft (their own) and the next.
Accepting Wiggins as the tangible asset in this deal is still tough to reconcile. Maybe it's easier to look at this as Golden State turning Kevin Durant's unavoidable departure (and a 2025 second-round pick) into Wiggins, a loosely protected 2021 first and a 2021 second. It doesn't feel all that easy. Using Andre Iguodala and a 2024 first-round pick to facilitate Durant's sign-and-trade is part of that.
Where the Timberwolves are banking on being an average or better team next season, the Warriors are counting on their environment and floor-spacing at full strength to unlock a version of Wiggins not yet seen and one they cannot even be sure exists.
Maybe he reboots his appeal with a change of scenery. He'll have more room to attack the basket when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on the court, and Golden State might have the gall to trot him out at the 5. If Wiggins improves enough, the Warriors have an interesting trade package to build around him, this year's pick and that Minnesota selection down the road.
That's one helluva gamble to make. Perhaps Wiggins has triple-double promised them he'll get better. That the Warriors now have a clear path to skirting the tax in a lost season and avoiding next year's repeater-tax penalties is something too.
Regardless, the fate of this deal rests with what Wiggins and that Minnesota pick become. And contrary to the Timberwolves' position, that is a flimsy limb to be out on.
Andre Iguodala Heads to Miami
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Gorgui Dieng, Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow
Miami Heat Receive: Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Solomon Hill
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: James Johnson
Taking on dead money to get Winslow is a worthwhile venture for the Grizzlies. He is only 23, can switch across four defensive positions and has the playmaking chops to run the offense as a point forward. His three-point accuracy has plunged in limited availability (22.2 percent, 11 games), but he connected on 37.5 percent of his triples last year.
But did the Grizzlies really need to swallow this much money?
Dieng and Waiters add $29.6 million in salary to next season's bottom line. That's a lot of flexibility to relinquish just for Winslow. Memphis needs to be extremely confident in his health and potential to build off last season's breakout for this to be a distinct victory.
Winslow's contract situation is part of the equation. He has two years and $26 million left on his deal (team option for 2021-22). The Grizzlies have a ridiculously organization-friendly pact on their hands if he hits. For their part, they might consider Dieng, while more expensive, to be better money than Johnson.
Factoring in Winslow's salary next year and Dillon Brooks' new extension, Memphis has tacked on $54 million to its 2020-21 ledger. That's a steep opportunity cost in a vacuum. Only a select few teams have a clear path to max room this summer, and the Grizzlies were one of them.
Punting on that spending power is a slight loss. For the most part, though, it's admirable. Memphis isn't a popular free-agent destination. Winslow is better than anyone the Grizzlies realistically would've signed.
All of which makes this an OK deal for them. Getting Meyers Leonard or Kelly Olynyk (player option) instead of Dieng, Johnson or Waiters would've been better, but we have to respect Memphis playing the longer game and not reading too much into its upstart core's surprising playoff push.
If you're looking for Pat Riley, he's probably somewhere flexing. Just assume he's always flexing.
The Heat acquired three of the four best players in this six-person deal without giving up a first-round pick while also shedding around $2.7 million in salary. They're now inside $2 million of ducking the tax after adding both Iguodala and Jimmy Butler over the past few months. That is objectively unfair.
Giving up Winslow isn't nothing. His team-controlled contract is a boon for expensive rosters, and his manageable $13 million salary was part of Miami's 2021 free-agency calculus.
Acquiring Iguodala is also not without risk. He's 36 and hasn't taken the floor since June. The two-year, $30 million extension he's signing as part of the trade (team option on second season) is a stark overpay and representative of a "Please don't go back to the Golden State Warriors" tax.
Devout nitpickers will point out that Crowder is among the league's most overrated offensive players as well. He's considered a floor-spacer in the frontcourt, but he's shooting just 32 percent from beyond the arc since 2017-18. Surviving inexplicable, off-the-dribble heat checks is part of the Crowder experience.
Miami will make do. Crowder and Iguodala offer more optionality at the defensive end, and the latter is an extra ball-handler for an offense that needs one despite its top-six billing. And the 6'6" Hill isn't a typical throw-in. He can chase around bigger wings and is having a good contract-year season from deep (38.1 percent).
Not to be lost in all this: The Heat preserved their 2021 plasticity. They can bid adieu to Iguodala if they want that summer, and while having Crowder's Bird rights is valuable, they don't have to keep him beyond this season if he fields over-the-top offers from other teams. Miami saved enough coin ditching Johnson and Waiters that it can let him walk without blowback.
Let's agree to dig this trade for the Timberwolves.
Dieng has proved useful this year, particularly on defense. But his utility is forever capped by playing behind Karl-Anthony Towns.
Johnson (player option) can take the court in tandem with KAT. His jump shot is volatile, but he can handle the ball and make waves when he gets into the paint. He adds a dose of physicality and switchability to the defense not found in Dieng.
Minnesota is also saving a few shekels. Dieng is making roughly $0.9 million more than Johnson this season and $1.4 million more next year.
The Cavaliers...Traded for Andre Drummond
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Andre Drummond
Detroit Pistons Receive: John Henson, Brandon Knight, Cleveland's or Golden State's 2023 second-round pick (less favorable)
What in actual hell are the Cavaliers doing?
On the one hand, they picked up a rim-running, rebounding machine who's still just 26 for two players who don't fit into their long game. Henson and Knight both have expiring contracts, but Drummond might be in the same boat; he has a $28.8 million player option for next season.
Cleveland isn't screwed if Drummond forgoes free agency. That's the better scenario. Cap space is only so valuable to a rebuilding team that doesn't play in a glitzy market.
What this says about that rebuild is less certain.
Joining the Drummond sweepstakes at all implies the Cavaliers want to keep him beyond this season. They're not contending for the playoffs or saving money; they're taking on about $2.6 million in salary as part of this deal. Re-signing him to a long-term pact if he opts out could prove detrimental, fast-tracking them toward an extended stay in sub-mediocrity.
Long-term impressions hinge on Drummond's price point. His opting in would be mostly harmless—unless you want the Cavaliers to tank ahead of the 2021 draft. Footing the bill on his next contract might be similarly innocuous. He lost one of his biggest potential suitors once the Atlanta Hawks traded for Clint Capela, and the cost of acquiring him in the first place speaks to the plunging value of pure 5s.
Fully rationalizing this move from the Cavaliers is still impossible. They're supposed to be sellers—if not now, then most definitely over the summer, when it should be easier to move Kevin Love. But they just acquired a fringe Eastern Conference All-Star possibly on the verge of free agency.
Are they keeping Love? What's the defense look like with him and Drummond on the front line? Did the Cavaliers forget Larry Nance Jr. and Tristan Thompson are on the roster? Is the latter getting bought out? Did they acquire Drummond as a sign-and-trade asset?
At best, this is confusing. At worst, though, it hints that Cleveland's attempting to expedite a timeline that's not far enough along to justify acceleration.
Reflexive takesters will crucify the Pistons for not extracting more value. Drummond is a two-time All-Star in his prime. Wouldn't it make more sense to keep him if the going rate for his services is expiring contracts and a distant second-round pick? (They got comfortably under the tax.)
Perhaps, but probably not.
Detroit needed to shake things up. Keeping Drummond would've risked flexibility. His contract wouldn't have returned more value if he opted in, and there's always the chance that the front office would have been tempted (or forced) to re-up him should he have hit the open market. Facilitating a sign-and-trade wouldn't have yielded much more, if the option would've presented itself at all.
Trading Drummond speaks volumes about the Pistons' direction. There is more value in that than the second-round pick. Maybe they'll scour the market for someone to take on the final two years of Blake Griffin's deal this summer. Or perhaps they'll look to retool around him and Derrick Rose with a more modern look at the 5.
Either scenario is preferable to retaining Drummond and remaining on the fringe-playoff treadmill. The assets—or lack thereof—they're receiving in return is a tough reality to swallow, but they made the right call.
Marcus Morris Sr. Joins the Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Marcus Morris Sr., Isaiah Thomas (waived)
New York Knicks Receive: Maurice Harkless, 2020 first-round pick (via Clippers), 2021 first-round swap rights (top-four protection; via Clippers), Detroit's 2021 second-round pick (via Clippers), rights to Issuf Sanon
Washington Wizards Receive: Jerome Robinson
Los Angeles entered the trade deadline most in need of an upgrade on the Harkless/Patrick Patterson minutes, another ball-handler and a more matchup-proof option at the 5 compared to Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac. Morris checks two of the boxes.
Relying on him to make plays for others is asking too much, but he can create his own shot. He's burying 40 percent of his pull-up threes and rates in the 92nd percentile of scoring efficiency as the pick-and-roll initiator.
His fit on the Clippers is only in jeopardy of going bust if he cannot contribute amid lower volume. His 46.8 percent knockdown rate on spot-up three-pointers suggests that won't be much of an issue.
Throwing away first-round picks and cost-controlled prospects is always bittersweet for contenders. Los Angeles is getting a win-now player, but those cheaper assets can be useful as the roster gets more expensive and wants for depth.
This isn't as much of an issue for the Clippers—or a problem at all. Robinson is a lottery prospect but hasn't shown much in limited action over the past two seasons, and giving up a pick in the mid- to late 20s of a shallow draft hardly constitutes breaking the bank.
It only helps that the Clippers landed someone they can retain. They don't have Morris' full Bird rights, but they can offer him up to 120 percent of his $15 million this season to stay. They shouldn't even need that much if they're signing him to a multiyear deal.
Waiving Thomas could be a sign the Clippers believe they're all set on ball-handlers, or that they're confident they can snare another on the buyout market or if Darren Collison comes out of retirement.
Anyone who would've preferred they use their first-rounder and filler to get a big can rest easy. Zubac is an underrated rim protector, and the buyout market has the potential to get interesting. Tristan Thompson could suddenly be in play following the Cleveland Cavaliers' (random) acquisition of Andre Drummond.
New York Knicks: A
Capitalizing on Morris' value is a smart move by the Knicks. Non-Bird rights would've been enough to re-sign him, but he doesn't fit the timeline of a rebuilding squad, and there's no guarantee he'd be as eminently movable on a longer-term contract.
First-rounders are first-rounders, and the Knicks have two in June's draft. Maybe they can combine the Clippers' selection with that Detroit second-rounder to move up. This year's incoming rookie class is shallow enough for other teams to stomach dropping down.
Getting a Detroit second-rounder and the right to swap first-rounders with the Clippers in 2021 are solid add-ons. The latter won't mean much; the Clippers will be better than the Knicks next year. But that Detroit second-rounder could end up being a fringe first.
This is great work from New York amid front-office unrest.
Turning a positional placeholder into a distressed asset is a sharp-witted play from the Wizards—the exact sort of move they need to be making.
Robinson has not shown a whole lot in his NBA minutes, but he'll have a longer leash on a Washington squad that, if not rebuilding, is at least indifferent to making the playoffs. And while the Wizards cannot trust him to run the offense, he can play beside primary ball-handlers and has flashed some comfort attacking around screens and firing up shots off the dribble.
Rockets, Hawks, Nuggets, Wolves 4-Team Brain-Buster
Atlanta Receives: Clint Capela, Nene
Denver Receives: Keita Bates-Diop, Gerald Green, Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Houston's 2020 first-round pick
Houston Receives: Jordan Bell, Robert Covington, Golden State's 2024 second-round pick (via Atlanta)
Minnesota Receives: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, Brooklyn's 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected; via Atlanta)
First of all: Good lord.
The Hawks have the cleanest-cut win here. Capela makes infinitely more sense for them than Andre Drummond. Not only is he slightly younger and under contract for another three years at a reasonable $51.3 million, but he subsists on cuts and dives at the offensive end without requiring preassigned volume or post touches.
Transitioning from Houston to Atlanta shouldn't be an issue for the 25-year-old big man. He goes from feasting off one top-tier playmaker, in James Harden, to yet another, with Trae Young. Capela's fit might even be tidier with Hawks, given how much more they rely on pick-and-rolls to generate offense.
Slotting him beside John Collins could get weird. Both are best suited as rim-runners, and neither should ideally be forced to guard 4s. But Collins does have the lateral shiftiness to cover forwards, and he's made strides as a rotating help defender over the past year or so. His three-point volume is high enough—over four per 36 minutes—to simplify the offensive fit, though the Hawks will need him to shoot even more to maximize the partnership.
Atlanta can feel good knowing the Collins-Capela synergy is the biggest complication coming out of this trade. Collins' next contract won't take effect until 2021-22. The Hawks have time to sort this out. They landed a long-term solution at center while giving up only a single first-round pick projected to fall in the late teens of a shallow draft. That's more important and a big-time win.
Something else figures to be afoot for the Nuggets. They acquired a trio of useful players in Bates-Diop, Napier and Vonleh, but not one profiles as the first guy off the bench at any position. Though Denver cannot reaggregate any of the incoming players, this move could portend another one.
Not that it needs to. The Nuggets parlayed two eventual goners (Beasley/Hernangomez) and an intriguing unknown with no clear path to the floor (Vanderbilt) into a first-rounder. That pick won't convey until the late 20s, but it gives them another asset in the arsenal with which to broker trades down the line.
If any of the inbound players stick, they're even better off. Napier is an Early Bird free agent they should be able to afford, and their offense could use another off-the-bounce threat. Vonleh is immediate insurance for a banged-up 4-5 rotation. And Bates-Diop is under team control for another year at a negligible cost, which could prove invaluable should Torrey Craig leave in restricted free agency.
Adding Covington is a standalone win for the Rockets. He is a better shooter than he's shown with the Timberwolves, and his efficiency should skyrocket within an offense that manufactures more wide-open threes than any team other than the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tacking on his defensive versatility addresses an even larger void. Covington has great hands, is among the NBA's most dependable helpers and boasts the size (6'9") and mobility to competently guard four positions. He has more value to the Rockets in a postseason series than Capela, who despite his own athleticism can be played off the floor.
Completing this deal still costs Houston size. That's by design. PJ Tucker-at-center lineups have become the default and are a matchup nightmare for opponents. This isn't an unfounded dice roll, but it remains a gamble.
Defense isn't a given when going that small. Houston is handedly winning the minutes and scoring at an amazing clip whenever Tucker mans the 5, vomiting up 114.5 points per 100 possessions (14th percentile) and getting trucked on the defensive glass (27th percentile) in the process.
Treating Covington as the best player in this deal without bringing back another big precludes Houston from receiving perfect marks. Netting a center on the buyout market won't change the calculus. The Rockets are leaning into a dependence on small ball unlike anything the league has ever seen. That includes the Death Lineup era Golden State Warriors. This is deal that cannot turn into a full-tilt victory without seeing how Houston fares in the postseason.
(Aside: Congratulations to Tilman Fertitta for once again—and by sheer happenstance, of course—ducking the luxury tax.)
Others have been quick to sing Minnesota's praises. I'm not there yet.
Team president Gersson Rosas has offered the Timberwolves organizational clarity. This trade steers them into a more gradual timeline after spending the past two seasons caught between competing and rebuilding. There is value in carving out discernible direction.
Capitalizing on Covington's market now is similarly useful. He is 29 and has a history of knee issues. His trade value is unlikely to get any higher. Minnesota stocks its coffers with another first-round pick, nabs a genuinely intriguing combo big in Vanderbilt—he can really crash the glass and covers a ton of ground at both ends—and has a not-insignificant window to evaluate the long-term fits of Beasley and Hernangomez prior to restricted free agency.
Still, too many balls remain in the air to declare this an inarguable victory.
It feels like the Timberwolves should've received a little more for Covington. He has two years left on his deal worth a hair over $25 million, and the market wanted for sellers. I'm not sure if Minnesota properly played its leverage.
Really, though, the tepid impressions have more to do with the number of unknowns. Beasley could price himself out of town in restricted free agency. (Hernangomez's next deal isn't as big of a concern.)
Philadelphia Acquires Floor Spacing from Golden State
Golden State Warriors Receive: Dallas' 2020 second-round pick, Denver's 2021 second-round pick, Toronto's 2022 second-round pick
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III
Burks and Robinson could've both been useful players on a better version of the Warriors. And hey: They still might be.
Golden State doesn't have Bird rights for either player, and slinging 120 percent of their league-minimum salaries from this season isn't an actual advantage. Re-signing one or both would've demanded the Warriors dip into their exceptions. They still have the option of doing that when Burks and Robinson hit the open market this summer.
It is impossible to dislike this deal when viewed in those terms. None of the inbound seconds project to be high-end picks, but Golden State is no stranger to finding talent later in the draft, most recently with Eric Paschall (No. 41), or even outside it (Ky Bowman).
Snagging a pupu platter of tiny bites at the apple is worth what the Warriors gave up. Maybe a few extra months of recruiting Burks and Robinson would've done them some good, and this move might ring hollow if they don't go on to duck the tax in another deal. But they risked losing both for nothing, and neither is close to irreplaceable when looking at this summer's potential mid-level-exception market.
Win-win trades are the best.
Philly's rotation badly needs an injection of shooting and playmaking. The offense is 26th in points scored per 100 possessions and dead last in three-point accuracy since the team's Christmas Day win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Higher-end acquisitions would've moved the needle more, but the Sixers were in the awkward position of looking to land upgrades that won't, if all goes according to plan, be part of their closing lineup. To what end mortgaging more of the future for Bogdan Bogdanovic or Tomas Satoransky would've actually helped them is an unknown.
Going smaller time with Burks and Robinson is cheaper and not that much less effective. Robinson is plug-and-play on the wings; he's canning 40.5 percent of his spot-up threes, which account for almost 30 percent of his total looks. Burks is used to working with the ball, but that's fine. Philly has room for another ball-handler in mid-game lineups, and he's downing more than 37 percent of both his pull-up and standstill threes.
Surrendering three second-rounders for two players who don't come with Bird rights could be considered a little steep. But not one of these outgoing picks profiles as a top-45 selection. Of all the seconds the Sixers have stockpiled between now and 2024, in fact, they're still retaining their five most valuable. This deal only goes slightly sideways if it costs one of their better seconds to open up two roster spots.
Dewayne Dedmon and the Hawks Reunite
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Dewayne Dedmon, Houston's 2020 second-round pick, Miami's 2021 second-round pick
Sacramento Kings Receive: Alex Len, Jabari Parker
Bringing back Dewayne Dedmon is yet another rock-solid move by the Hawks. He spent a good chunk of the season outside the Kings rotation and hasn't looked great since his return, but this deal puts him back on the team that facilitated the best performance of his career.
This is the part where I note that Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only player who rivaled Dedmon's defensive rebound, steal and block percentages while making at least 25 three-pointers last year. Re-acquiring him should unlock five-out lineups that don't sacrifice size or rebounding.
Scooping up two additional second-rounders solidifies this win, even if Dedmon doesn't return to 2018-19 form. He only costs the Hawks $6.8 million in cap space this summer, assuming Jabari Parker was always going to exercise his player option. They still have easy access to nearly $50 million in wiggle room, depending on where they fall in the draft, and the $1 million guarantee on Dedmon's final season won't crimp their 2021 spending power.
Sacramento Kings: B-
Sacramento signed both Dedmon and Trevor Ariza over the summer and then flipped them before the trade deadline. That's not great, Bob.
Then again, the optics are worse than the opportunity cost.
Forking over two second-rounders to get off Dedmon isn't an egregious price. The Kings landed the Portland Trail Blazers' 2024 and 2025 seconds as part of the Ariza trade. They are now net neutral in that department.
They might even be better off. It's fair to see distant Portland seconds as more valuable than imminent picks from Houston and Miami. Sacramento still has a total of five second-rounders over the next two drafts.
Cap savings will make this look even better. The Kings are shaving $6.8 million off next year's payroll (and $2.7 million from this season's bottom line). That number will climb if Parker, for some reason, declines his $6.5 million player option for 2020-21.
Cutting that much money gives the Kings a clear path to re-signing restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic without brushing up against the luxury tax. They must still figure out how to balance his next contract with Buddy Hield's new deal and De'Aaron Fox's eventual extension, but this assures them the flexibility to retain Bogi and draw up a blueprint later.
Hindsight is all that drags down their grade. The $25.5 million the Kings used to lock up Ariza and Dedmon over the summer has effectively turned into Len, Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver rentals, and an extra year of Parker. They made the correct call cutting their losses, but their salary-cap allocations remain just that: losses.
Bruno Caboclo Is a Rocket
Houston Rockets: Bruno Caboclo, 2023 second-round pick swap (top-32 protection)
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Jordan Bell
Believe it or not, Houston is actually getting taller with this trade. Caboclo is 6'9"; Bell stands at 6'8".
This is still about the Rockets leaning into their small-ball model. Caboclo is more of a wing, and the value they're giving up here implies they plan to use him at center.
Proponents of ultra-positionless lineups should nod in agreement with this trade. I sure am. They should also be wary of what's headed to Memphis.
Houston is exchanging a non-Bird free agent for an Early Bird one. It will be easier to keep Caboclo than Bell—if he pans out. But giving up a loosely protected second-round swap in what will be James Harden's age-33 season is a slightly precipitous price to pay for the right to experiment with a veteran unknown.
That's different from indefensible. Caboclo is long, still under 25 and can handle the ball. His fit with the Rockets is tantalizing. The price was just on the steeper end.
Bell might not have a long-term spot in Memphis. Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr., Gorgui Dieng and Jonas Valanciunas are all under contract for next season, and the Grizzlies do not have his Bird rights.
Sign us all the way up for lineups featuring Bell, Clarke and Ja Morant in the interim. No other team can field three players so readily able to jump out of the building. We can call them the Trampoline Trio. (Let's not call them the Trampoline Trio.)
Gaining the right to swap the less favorable of the Dallas Mavericks' and Miami Heat's 2023 seconds for the Rockets' 2023 second-rounder is a shrewd move. Houston could still be good, but that's Harden's age-33 season. You never know what might happen before then.
James Ennis III Is Going to Disney World
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Second-round pick
Orlando Magic Receive: James Ennis III
Philly needed to open two roster spots after landing Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III from the Golden State Warriors. Flipping Ennis in conjunction with waiving Trey Burke creates the requisite flexibility.
There will be no attaboys directed toward general manager Elton Brand. The Sixers are not deep enough to basically give away three-and-D wings.
With that said, Ennis became more expendable following the emergency of Matisse Thybulle and arrival of Robinson. He's also neither playing much (8.8 minutes per game), nor shooting well from deep (18.2 percent) over the past couple of weeks.
Accepting a trade to Orlando—he needed to approve the deal—is a chance for Ennis land a bigger role on a playoff team. The Sixers are doing him a solid there; this is the type of favor agents remember.
Still, they could've simply waived an even more expendable player who wasn't going to net them an asset on the trade market (Kyle O'Quinn?). Depth on the wings knows no overabundance.
Did the Magic just acquire a wing who can (kind of) shoot?
Follow-up question: Is the apocalypse nigh?
Ennis is a much-needed body on the wings for an Orlando squad down Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) and Jonathan Isaac (knee). His three-point touch has bottomed out in recent weeks, but he's a career 35.6 percent shooter from beyond the arc who can feasibly hold up while defending 2s, 3s and some 4s. That's enough upside for him to make—and improve—the Magic's everyday rotation.
Denver and Washington Swap Guards
Denver Nuggets Receive: Jordan McRae
Washington Wizards Receive: Shabazz Napier
Napier was redundant for the Nuggets. They didn't need to house another point guard when they have Will Barton, Monte Morris and Jamal Murray, not to mention Nikola Jokic.
Exchanging him for someone who can play the 2 and maybe steal some time at the 3 balances out their depth chart after sending out two wings in the four-team deal with Atlanta, Houston and Minnesota.
McRae won't provide much resistance on defense, but he's canning 37.7 percent of his threes and is always a threat to do something entertaining off the bounce. And like Napier, he comes with Early Bird rights, making it easier to retain him in free agency—a potentially valuable footnote if Torrey Craig leaves in restricted free agency, Keita Bates-Diop (non-guaranteed) doesn't tickle Denver's fancy or the team wants to consolidate talent into a blockbuster trade over the offseason.
Adding another playmaker was a borderline necessity for the Wizards after they sent Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Clippers. They have Bradley Beal and Ish Smith (playing well!), but the pickings are slim after that unless they're suddenly high on Isaac Bonga or Gary Payton II.
Napier is undersized at 6'0", 175 pounds and shooting under 30 percent from three, but he has some escapism off the dribble and doesn't come with Thomas' tunnel vision. And though John Wall's return from his Achilles injury next season probably means Napier's strictly a rental, the Wizards have his Early Bird rights in case he finishes this year on a convincing tear.
Portland Gets Tax Relief from Atlanta
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Skal Labissiere, $2 million
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: 2024 second-round pick (top-55 protection)
The Hawks continue to help teams shed money and create roster spots. They will take Labissiere into cap space and are now out of open slots themselves.
Unlike Atlanta's acquisition of Derrick Walton Jr. from the Los Angeles Clippers, this could be a small-asset play. Labissiere was playing well for Portland before his left knee injury. He is shifty on defense and can do some interesting stuff with the ball at the other end, albeit not always good things.
Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon leave the Hawks full-up on bigs, but Labissiere will be worth a look once he's healthy if they keep him. He would immediately replace Alex Len as their resident "better than you think" player.
Brownie points are not awarded for teams trying to save money. Labissiere is hurt and most likely didn't factor into the Blazers' big picture with his free agency on the horizon and Jusuf Nurkic under contract. But he was good for them while they navigated a bare-bones frontline. His departure bilks them of the chance to monitor someone who became a playable asset.
On the bright side, Portland isn't forking over another second-round pick, as was the case in the Kent Bazemore trade with the Sacramento Kings. That's always a good thing. And as of this trade, the Blazers are within $4 million of shirking the tax. Keep an eye on them.
Derrick Walton Jr. Heads to Atlanta
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Derrick Walton Jr.
Los Angeles Clippers: 2022 second-round pick (top-55 protection), $1.3 million cash
Major blockbuster alert, amirite?
Atlanta has two open roster spots following the Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon deals, so absorbing Walton isn't a huge ask. The future consideration they might receive from the Clippers for doing them a solid could be worth it in the long run.
Defaulting to across-the-board B's is usually the call in these roster-spot dumps, but the Clippers' maneuvering is more exciting than the average player-for-cash package.
Opening a roster spot suggests they'll, you know, need it. Which suggests another, bigger trade is coming down the pipeline. Which suggests one of the NBA's foremost title contenders is about to get better.
Which suggests that I should stop writing this and you should stop reading it and we should return to relentlessly refreshing our Twitter timelines.