Grading Every Deal at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2022

Grading Every Deal at the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Come one, come all, you just witnessed the inevitable chaos of the 2022 NBA trade deadline and the stream-of-conscious reactions it incites.

    This was fun—contrary, of course, to what Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault thought.

    James Harden is a 76er. Ben Simmons is a Net. Kristaps Porzingis is no longer Luka Doncic’s running mate.

    If you don't like that kind of chaos, you don't like NBA basketball.

    Armchair-GM hats on? Red pens out?

    All grades were doled out as each trade came through ahead of Thursday's deadline. 

James Harden to Philadelphia, Ben Simmons to Brooklyn

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Brooklyn Nets Receive: Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond 2022 first-round pick (unprotected, with right to defer until 2023), 2027 first-round pick (top-eight protection through 2028; becomes two seconds if not conveyed)

    Philadelphia 76ers Receive: James Harden, Paul Millsap



    Nets: B

    There are three angles through which to view this trade for the Nets: the cost of renting Harden, the reality of what their situation devolved into, and what they've now become.

    Housing Harden for less than two seasons came at a steep price. Brooklyn has now effectively turned Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, three first-round picks (2022, 2024, 2026) and four first-round swap rights into Simmons, Curry, Drummond and two firsts. That is...not ideal. 

    However, and more importantly: It isn't less than that—or even nothing. Harden's impending free agency (player option) gave him leverage this summer. It doesn't matter that few teams are projected to have real cap space. The Nets would have risked the value on his return plunging even further if they let this ride into the offseason.

    Scooping up an all-world defender and the perfect complement to superstars for a player who increasingly looked like he had both feet out of the door is a win. It's that simple.

    What the Nets become now is more complemented. Simmons' offensive flaws—ultra-finite range, rampant passivity—aren't as damning on a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He can erase or competently cover every opposition's best player, arming Brooklyn with just the type of defender it needs amid a rotation bogged down by age, injuries and one-dimensionality across different spots.

    So much of this, though, rests on the Nets actually having KD and Kyrie. Durant should be fine following his return from a sprained left MCL, because he's Durant. But the NBA will remain Irving's part-time gig unless New York City changes its COVID-19 vaccine policy or he changes course and gets vaccinated.

    Curry will help offset some of the offensive burden. Still, Harden has remained overworked—or, at minimum, too integral to the Nets offense—since arriving in Brooklyn. Even given his hamstring issues and mushrooming indifference, his centrality to an organization thin on givens was indispensable. 

    Plenty of people will think Brooklyn is a better team after this trade. Maybe that's true. Maybe Harden really is in the early stages of a decline. But there's a difference between "better" and "more balanced." Right now, the Nets skew towards the latter, and so much of that assumption is predicated on Simmons returning to the floor without missing a beat and establishing himself within an offense that'll call for him to work away from the ball amid less-than-glorious spacing.


    Sixers: B+

    Do not overthink the immediate impact of this trade. Simmons' roster spot had become a void for the Sixers. They have parlayed that emptiness, Curry and Drummond into someone who registers as one of the 12 to 15 best players in the game, even during a down year.

    Questions about the fit of Harden and Joel Embiid are fair. The latter is not a traditional rim-runner. What-the-hell-ever. Harden showed he could adapt upon first joining the Nets, and Embiid has sounded open to accommodating any sort of on-court help every time he's asked about the Simmons situation.

    It similarly matters that Harden seems to want a safety net. The only rational reason he had for leveraging himself out of Brooklyn is a mounting frustration with a purported Big Three devolving into something like the Big 1.5 amid injuries (KD) and an incurable lack of self-awareness (you-know-who). 

    Make no mistake: Harden is trading up in co-star availability. Embiid has appeared in 159 regular-season and playoff games since 2019-20. Kyrie and KD have tallied 178 regular-season and playoff appearances during this span...COMBINED.

    Philly is taking a bigger risk when zooming out. The back end of Harden's next contract is going to be scary, and Embiid's defensive workload just got heavier even though the Sixers managed to keep Matisse Thybulle out of the trade.

    Surrendering a lightly protected 2027 first-rounder is a tough pill to swallow as well. But that pick is protected against disaster, and more than anything, the Sixers cannot afford to be that long-sighted. Embiid is a top-three MVP candidate now, so they are obligated to make the most out of now. That's exactly what they've done.

Kristaps Porzingis to Washington, Spencer Dinwiddie to Dallas

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Dallas Mavericks Receive: Spencer Dinwiddie, Davis Bertans

    Washington Wizards Receive: Kristaps Porzingis, second-round pick



    Mavericks: D

    Why sign Dinwiddie with cap space over the offseason when you can overpay Tim Hardaway Jr. and then flip your (now formerly) third-most important player for him later?

    In all seriousness, I'm struggling to see the vision here for the Mavs. Maybe they're concerned about Porzingis' litany of injuries, including this latest issue with his right knee. Or perhaps they just wanted to essentially break up his salary into two players. 

    Either way, the Mavs are taking back the single worst contract in this deal. Bertans is on the books for another three years and $49 million and somewhat quietly became irrelevant in Washington. His gravity is real, even when he's slumping, and Dallas has the bandwidth to play him more than hardly or not at all. But flipping your best rim protector for a defensive train wreck is quite the flex for a team that ranks a pleasantly surprising sixth in points allowed per possession on the back of unlucky opponent three-point shooting and limiting transition opportunities.

    The offense should benefit. Bertans is a better, more functional, less-vain-about-his-mid-range-and-post-up-attempts shooter. The spacing he affords will help the Mavs open paths to the basket, which is great, because they rank 29th in the share of shots that come at the rim.

    Peak Dinwiddie provides on-ball basket pressure that Dallas has needed for a while. But the Mavs are not trading for peak Dinwiddie. A career-low 21 percent of his field-goal attempts are coming at the hoop, and if he struggled to coexist beside Bradley Beal's volume, working in tandem with Luka Doncic won't get any easier.

    To his credit, Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd has been more willing to nudge his franchise tentpole off the ball. There's that. But Dinwiddie has not been good enough to justify displacing one of the league's best players.

    This is a huge risk by the Mavs without a clear-cut payoff. Does it imply that they're worried Jalen Brunson will leave in free agency? Or that they can more easily move Dinwiddie on an expiring contract than Porzingis with two years left on his deal? Do KP and Luka hate each other this much? I'm not at all impressed. Mavs fans shouldn't be, either.


    Wizards: A

    Acquiring the oft-injured Porzingis is not without risk. He has two years and $69.8 million left on his contract, and he struggles to remain available and thrive within offensive roles scaled down to a skill set that isn't nearly as expansive as he believes.

    But Porzingis is also the highest-upside player in this deal. His highest highs have included dominant rim protection and knockdown floor-spacing. Some of his defensive flair has returned after a down year in 2020-21.

    The Wizards will welcome it. Their own defense has slipped after a hot start, and between Bertans, the now-traded Montrezl Harrell, Thomas Bryant and Daniel Gafford, they assembled one of the least defensively stout center rotations in the NBA. Though they've done a nice job curbing opponent volume at the rim under head coach Wes Unseld Jr., they rank 29th in shooting percentage surrendered at the basket.

    Worst-case scenario, the Wizards just traded for someone on a shorter (yet more expensive) contract than Bertans who doesn't help them clarify Bradley Beal's future or even necessarily retain him. That was also their status quo beforehand. At least this way, they clean up their books a year earlier and snag a legit rim protector who might still have some untapped offensive upside should he ever buy into the accessory role he needs to play.

Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Charlotte Hornets Receive: Montrezl Harrell

    Washington Wizards Receive: Ish Smith, Vernon Carey Jr.



    Hornets: B

    Harrell won't do anything to shore up the Hornets' interior defense, but he attacks the rim with the relentless motor of Godzilla having just spotted tall buildings off into the distance. The pressure he puts on the basket will mix well alongside LaMelo Ball in transition and includes more from-scratch ball skills than credited.

    So many people wanted the Hornets to make a bigger move. Too many. This is a sound stopgap. They get to gauge Harrell's offensive fit ahead of his foray into free agency and gave up the equivalent of second-round equity to do it. This beats mortgaging a chunkier part of your future for a core that isn't one player away from a conference finals..

    Something to monitor: Will Smith's exit signal a larger role for rookie James Bouknight, or does Charlotte plan to pluck a ball-handler off the buyout market? Anyone (irrationally) irate that head coach James Borrego hasn't more prominently prioritized playing the No. 11 pick should be ecstatic if it's the former.


    Wizards: B+

    Dumping your most efficient offensive player for a backup guard and in-the-weeds big-man prospect isn't winning any press conferences on its own. Fortunately, the Wizards didn't make this a standalone move. They also sent Spencer Dinwiddie to Dallas in a package for Kristaps Porzingis.

    Moving Harrell and Davis Bertans (to a lesser extent) was borderline necessary after acquiring another big, and Dinwiddie's departure merely jacked up what was already a pretty significant need for more guard options. Ditto for the Aaron Holiday-to-Phoenix move.

    Neither Smith nor Carey is a groundbreaking acquisition. But the Wizards seem less concerned about making noise this season than with increasing their variance of outcomes entering next year. If nothing else, they have decongested some of their frontcourt rotation and empowered head coach Wes Unseld Jr. to experiment with alternative ball-handling options.

    And look, the Wizards were failing the vibes test. They have basically imploded since their hot start. If Dinwiddie wasn't meshing with the rest of the locker room and they weren't going to re-sign Harrell over the summer, a shake-up that does nothing to straitjacket their longer-term flexibility is eminently defensible.

Derrick White to Boston, Josh Richardson to San Antonio

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Boston Celtics Receive: Derrick White

    San Antonio Spurs Receive: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, 2022 first-round pick (top-four protection), 2028 first-round swap (top-one protection)



    Celtics: B

    Boston is getting good mileage out of its assets here. White is a pesky defender who capably guards the point of attack. The Celtics defense has slipped amid their offensive rise, but between him, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams III, they should regularly make life hell on their opponents.

    White's offensive fit is less of a sure thing. He gives the Celtics another ball-handler and tertiary playmaker, but he's knocking down only 31.4 percent of his triples this season. This is the second consecutive year in which he's failed to eclipse 35 percent shooting from downtown. 

    White's shot quality might go up in Boston, and there is utility in his volume from long range, but Richardson was the team's most efficient non-big from distance this year. The floor may shrink in the half-court with him gone.

    In the end, though, you have to appreciate the talent play from the Celtics. They have the bodies to remain a defensive terror and didn't surrender any cornerstone assets. If White hits his threes at a higher clip or can shoulder more of the half-court floor-general burden, Boston will come out of this trade smelling like a rose—and poised to cause a ruckus in a wiiiiide-open Eastern Conference.


    Spurs: B+

    This has been a very un-Spurs deadline from the Spurs, and their larger trajectory is better off for it.

    White has always registered a thorny fit beside Dejounte Murray, and the latter has played his way closer to polestar status. Separating the two opens up the floor in the half-court as well as a perimeter rotation brimming with 2s and 3s. 

    Instant gratificationists won't love that Richardson and Langford are the players headed to San Antonio as part of this deal. Perhaps they should.

    Richardson has been much better than the disastrous season he turned in with Dallas last year. He's a rock-solid, if higher-end, three-and-D contributor who doesn't cannibalize too many on-ball possessions. Langford has shown flashes on defense and as a finisher around the rim and hinted at league-average-on-low-volume three-point shooting. 

    San Antonio is absolutely at the point of stocking up on fliers, and it should be able to flip Richardson for value later on. The Spurs have also armed themselves with as many as three first-rounders in the 2022 draft, which makes them prime trade-up candidates. They can even look at making their own play for a higher-impact player as part of an aggressive consolidation. 

    To top it all off, by taking on two players who can come off the books after next season, the Spurs basically lopped off the final two years and $36.4 million of White's contract. They will have the flexibility to do some truly interesting things in the 2023 offseason.

Marvin Bagley to Detroit, Serge Ibaka to Milwaukee in 4-Team Deal

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    Jon Durr/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Detroit Pistons Receive: Marvin Bagley III

    L.A. Clippers Receive: Rodney Hood, Semi Ojeleye

    Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Serge Ibaka, 2022 second-round pick (from Detroit, least favorable via Cleveland or Golden State), 2024 second-round pick (from Detroit, via Sacramento)

    Sacramento Kings Receive: Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Jackson, Trey Lyles



    Pistons: B-

    Taking a flier on Bagley is a rock-solid play by the Pistons. Lyles has shot the ball well lately, but his role this season has been larger than Detroit could have ever comfortably envisioned, and neither he nor Jackson factors into the bigger picture.

    Bagley is the quintessential distressed asset. He fell out of favor in Sacramento forever ago and is more recognized as "the dude who the Kings drafted over Luka Doncic" than for anything he's done on the court. To be fair, he hasn't done much of anything on the court since the end of his rookie season, in part because of various injuries.

    But he still tantalizes at times as a big who can run the floor and attack with the ball, in open space. He has also flashed varying levels of touch. He's knocking down 61.5 percent of his catch-and-shoot twos (8-of-13), and Detroit has every reason to give him the green light from deep.

    Coughing up any Kings second-rounder for a player with minimal market value is slightly cringeworthy, but their offense could use the theoretical shot of off-ball adrenaline that Bagley provides. And if he becomes a hit for the rest of this season, they should have no trouble keeping him in restricted free agency.


    Clippers: B

    We are under no obligation to applaud the Clippers shedding roughly $30 million from their luxury-tax bill, but they're operating in a weird, non-urgent-reality without Paul George or Kawhi Leonard in the rotation. They also just took on longer-term money by acquiring Norman Powell, and this deal opens up all sorts of fun small-ball combinations now that L.A. has only two true bigs on the roster.

    Ibaka was probably leaving in free agency anyway, and the Clippers are sending him to a contender during a season in which they no longer profile as one. This move also opens up more time for Isaiah Hartenstein, which is low-key useful when it comes to evaluating their longer-term future.


    Bucks: A-

    Turning DiVincenzo into Ibaka when they once nearly shipped him out for Bogdan Bogdanovic feels like selling low, but it isn't. DiVincenzo has battled injuries since the end of last season and is currently #goingthroughit. He isn't shooting the ball particularly well or moving the same on defense, and the Bucks don't have time to wait for him to regain early-last-year's form, assuming he ever does.

    Ibaka arms them with another quality rotation big, which they desperately need in light of Brook Lopez's ongoing absence due to back issues. Ibaka doesn't move like he once did on defense and isn't the most physical rebounder. He has likewise dealt with back issues himself. But he is downing more than 38 percent of his triples and can serve as front-line bridge within the rotation as someone who can play with just Giannis Antetokounmpo or also in tandem with Bobby Portis.

    The Bucks also opened up two roster spots with this move, giving them more flexibility heading into buyout season. And it has to be encouraging that they're apparently willing to add to their tax bill.


    Kings: A

    Congrats to Sacramento for finally acquiring DiVincenzo! And to Bagley's dad for finally living in a world where his son doesn't play for the Kings!

    DiVincenzo currently isn't the player whom Sacramento almost acquired in 2020. Whatever. The Kings are giving up virtually nothing to get him. 

    Bagley was a goner even before they added Domantas Sabonis to a frontcourt that already included Richaun Holmes. You're free to troll them for flipping a No. 2 overall pick at a discount rate, but there is value in cutting your losses and moving on. And yeesh, did both Sacramento and Bagley need to move on.

    Integrating DiVincenzo into the Sabonis- and De'Aaron Fox-powered offense shouldn't be too difficult. The Kings need more shooting and cutting. The present version of DiVincenzo provides the former, and even a reduced iteration of him ranks as one of Sacramento's three most promising perimeter defenders.

    So long as the Kings know they need to cap DiVincenzo's on-ball decision-making, this is a fantastic outcome for them. Jackson also gives them an actual wing, which they sorely need. Boom. Lyles has caught fire from the floor in recent weeks and does enough on offense to man either the 4 or the 5.

Torrey Craig to Phoenix, Jalen Smith to Indiana

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Indiana Pacers Receive: Jalen Smith, second-round pick

    Phoenix Suns Receive: Torrey Craig



    Pacers: A-

    Indiana moving off Craig guarantees more minutes for younger or lesser-known players who have a better chance of sticking with the team through their reconstruction. It should also infer an openness to playing three of Malcolm Brogdon, Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte and Buddy Hield together when everyone is healthy.

    Bagging a rest-of-season flier on Smith is not without value. He spit out a few pretty nifty moments in emergency playing time—most of them during a six-game stretch at the end of December into January. 

    The Pacers will find themselves in a bind if Smith sticks with them for the rest of the year and then goes off. They cannot offer him more than the sub-$5 million team option Phoenix declined on him for next season. Something tells me Smith won't have that robust of a market, and that Indiana will make it through that trying time if he does.


    Suns: B

    Anyone still bellowing "They could have drafted Haliburton!" needs to drop the bit. It happened. The Suns botched the No. 10 pick in 2020. They've moved on. Everyone else needs to as well.

    Smith was both redundant and irrelevant in a Suns rotation that is suddenly overloaded with centers. (And yes, Smith is a center.) Shipping him out for a wing is a victory for roster balance. 

    And it helps that said wing is Craig, who was fairly impactful during his partial-season go-round with Phoenix last year. His offensive limitations are well-known, but he's a sneaky-good rebounder, can put pressure on the basket and, yeah, sometimes gets hot from three for weeks at a time. His gritty defense will serve the Suns well against longer teams or foes with deeper rotations of perimeter scorers. 

    Better still: Phoenix doesn't have to worry about failing to keep him this offseason. He's under contract next year for $5.1 million—a hyper-reasonable sum for a peripheral-rotation upgrade that can also be used as expiring salary fodder if the Suns pursue bigger trades over the summer.

PJ Dozier, Bol Bol to Orlando

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Boston Celtics Receive: Second-round pick (likely top-55 protection)

    Orlando Magic Receive: PJ Dozier, Bol Bol, second-round pick, cash



    Celtics: B+

    The Celtics were always going to duck the tax, but this is a better-than-average way of doing it. They gave up two players who weren't active members of the team while chiseling out two roster spots for future moves.

    Because I'm picky, I might have preferred to see Boston keep Dozier and his teensy-tiny cap hold this summer. His three-point shooting is all over the place, but wings who can hold their own defensively forever have value. 

    That isn't something for which to ding the Celtics too hard. Dozier tore his left ACL in late November while still on the Denver Nuggets. Who knows whether he'll be ready for the start of next season, and even if he is, the Celtics have enough questionable shooters populating their perimeter rotation at the moment—including the newly acquired Derrick White.


    Magic: A

    The Magic are doing this for the second-round pick and cash, which is just swell for a team that should be in asset accumulation mode. 

    Holding onto Dozier and his Bird rights might even be a worthwhile subplot of this trade, provided Orlando isn't worried about his recovery from a torn left ACL or his questionable shooting. It's a small side benefit they may not exercise, but it isn't nothing, either.

Daniel Theis to Boston, Dennis Schroder to Houston

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Boston Celtics Receive: Daniel Theis

    Houston Rockets Receive: Dennis Schroder, Bruno Fernando, Enes Freedom



    Celtics: B

    Bringing back Theis is a little weird when he has two more guaranteed seasons left on his deal, and the Celtics aren't exactly lacking bigs. Then again, they're jettisoning two bigs as part of this trade, and the extension they gave Robert Williams III is enough of a highway robbery that they can afford to pay his primary backup around non-taxpayer mid-level exception money.

    Al Horford's presence does make the center rotation a little top-heavy, but he's under contract for one more season at most. Grant Williams is enough of a shooter to play alongside any of Boston's 5s.

    Boston isn't quite getting tangible value for Schroder, but his departure further clears the way for the recently acquired Derrick White, and Theis' middle-rung salary is a perfectly sized additive in the future.

    And by my count, the Celtics also have like 80 open roster spots. (OK, five.) They figure to be prominent players on the to-be-determined buyout market.


    Rockets: B

    This is mostly an admittance by the Rockets that maybe they shouldn't have given a 29-year-old Daniel Theis a contract with three guaranteed years over the offseason when they already had Christian Wood and had just drafted Alperen Sengun. While I never pass up an opportunity to gorge on low-hanging fruit, Houston remedied its prickly line of thinking without incurring any real collateral damage.

    Boston is not only taking on the final two guaranteed years of Theis' deal without requiring any draft equity, but the Rockets are getting Schroder, a roller-coaster of an offensive player who might actually inject more structure into their offense. 

    Schroder probably isn't sticking around beyond this season since Houston only has his non-Bird rights. But the Rockets actually gussied up their roster for the rest of this season and cut excess long-term salary for the price of already waiving Enes Freedom and probably waiving Bruno Fernando. That's quality GM'ing by Rafael Stone.

Goran Dragic Out, Thaddeus Young In for Toronto

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The Trade

    San Antonio Spurs Receive: Goran Dragic, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protection this year; top-13 protection in 2023; turns into two seconds if not conveyed)

    Toronto Raptors: Thaddeus Young, Drew Eubanks, 2022 second-round pick (from San Antonio, via Detroit)



    Spurs: A

    Holy asset management, San Antonio.

    The Spurs have now effectively extracted two first-round picks from last summer's DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade. That is terrific value, provided you don't think about the players whom San Antonio gave up to get DeRozan in the first place.

    Losing Eubanks stings a little bit. But Jakob Poeltl is the nucleus of the Spurs' center rotation, and the emergence of Jock Landale coupled with the return of Zach Collins allowed them to divest at least one big.

    This deal is made all the more incredible for San Antonio knowing it woefully underutilized Young from the moment he arrived. The Spurs absolutely, positively should've played him more, but even if he replicated his performance in Chicago last season, it's hard to imagine them getting better value than this.


    Raptors: B

    "The Raptors gave up a first-rounder for a player San Antonio wasn't regularly using and Drew Frigging Eubanks?!" may be the initial reaction to this deal. It's also an oversimplification.

    Toronto's first-rounder should convey to San Antonio this season. Viewed against the inbound Pistons' second (projected No. 31), the Raptors are essentially moving down the 2022 draft order by around 10-15 spots. Given their track record for mining talent out of the second-round and unsigned ranks, that is hardly a stark opportunity cost.

    Dragic was playing even less for Toronto than Young did in San Antonio (i.e. not at all). Nabbing one of the NBA's smartest defenders who can play at your pace and keep the ball moving on rolls to the basket is a good thing, believe it or not!

    Spacing could get tight for the Raptors if they're playing Young beside a big. But he has shown he can sponge up effective reps as a small-ball 5, and both Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakam (who's quietly shooting 35.5 percent from long range) deliver enough volume from beyond the arc to let Young operate as the de facto big.

    Eubanks' inclusion seemed to satisfy Toronto's thirst for a truer big. I readjusted their grade from a B+ to a B for waiving him. I get it, but he could've helped.

Aaron Holiday to Phoenix

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    Evan Vucci/Associated Press

    The Trade

    Phoenix Suns Receive: Aaron Holiday

    Washington Wizards Receive: Cash



    Suns: C

    Full details finally trickled out on this mega-blockbuster. As it turned out, the Suns applied for and were granted a disabled player exception for Dario Saric that they will use to absorb Holiday into.

    Acquiring the third Holiday brother doesn't really move the needle. He helps if you're worried about Cameron Payne's wrist injury or Landry Shamet's ankle issue, but he isn't garnering minutes over either of them if they're available. And at 6'1", he isn't big enough to unlock three-ball-handler lineups featuring both Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

    Holiday might add a dose of rim pressure and overall finishing, but not a ton—certainly not enough to threaten a healthy Payne's spot in the rotation. He is also a perpetual inconstant, with truly low lows. Phoenix may actually prefer the, er, stability of Elfrid Payton.

    Lacklusterness in mind, Holiday is optionality for a secondary guard rotation that needs it, and the Suns don't owe him anything beyond this season. Unless they're inexplicably waiving someone whom they should keep to make room for him, they can't lose. It's just unclear whether this has the potential to be a win—especially knowing Phoenix had the tools, the immediate title window and the urgency incumbent of relying on a 36-year-old Chris Paul to angle for a splashier addition.


    Wizards: C

    In the history of the NBA, "cash considerations" has never missed a shot, committed a turnover or demanded a trade. The Wizards are getting a real winner here.

    For real, though: Washington moved off Holiday and Spencer Dinwiddie and replaced them with...Ish Smith? And lots and lots and lots of Raul Neto? That's a puzzling outcome.

    At the same time, the Wizards' stab in the dark with Holiday didn't pay off, and they had little reason to re-sign him this summer. If this trade, along with the exit of Montrezl Harrell, means Washington plans to throw in the towel following Bradley Beal's season-ending wrist injury, more power to them. 

    In a way, "cash considerations" could be the prelude to juicier lottery odds.

Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento, Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    The Trade

    Indiana Pacers Receive: Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Tristan Thompson

    Sacramento Kings Receive: Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, 2023 second-round pick (protected for Nos. 56-60)



    Pacers: A

    You can find a more detailed breakdown of this trade for both the Pacers and Kings here. Effectively, though, this deal sees Indiana chart a discernible course and Sacramento boldly, justifiably, yet not inarguably, shake up its Nowheresville stasis.

    The Pacers' side of the coin is not beyond reproach. Sabonis was wired to be the soul of their offense and seemed like a fairly safe bet to remain a building block for Pacers. But Indiana is escaping its own lurch in a way. A rock-solid roster has neither played well enough nor been healthy enough to churn out better than a bottom-five record.

    Jettisoning Sabonis—and, previously, Caris LeVert—infuses bigger-picture optionality. Haliburton is only 21 and blurs the line between universal complement and potential offensive hub. While he's almost too deferential and needs to find another gear on offense, he's a crafty passer who has hinted at surgicality and shot-making off the bounce. Out of the 50 players who have jacked at least 100 pull-up threes, only Mike Conley converts at a higher clip.

    Sabonis did not age himself out of the Pacers' reconstruction. He's 25. But free agency looms in 2024, which will be here quicker than you think. Haliburton is essentially under team control for at least the next six years, given how rookie extensions/restricted free agency tend to play out. Keeping and extending Myles Turner makes a lot more sense now when Indiana isn't also forking over star money for another center.

    Sticklers can point out the Pacers surrendered the best player while taking back the worst contract (Hield) without nabbing any picks. Chill out. Haliburton is the equivalent of multiple first-rounders, and Indiana scooped up extra draft choices as part of the LeVert trade. Hield also isn't some net zero. If you're going to overpay for anything, it might as well be functional shooting that further opens up the floor around your ball-handlers.


    Kings: Incomplete

    Criticism for the Kings came in droves once word leaked they had really, actually traded Haliburton. Much of it is fair. Haliburton is no worse than their second most important building block, and they forked him over for a really good player who's a questionable fit on the current roster and will command a mega payday in no later than two years' time.

    Still, smart people were pushing for the Kings to do something that implied they gave a flying-you-know-what about the franchise's aimlessness. And to their credit, they snagged the best player in this deal. Sabonis can be the engine of an offense.

    His floor game will be a breath of fresh air for their center rotation, and he can annihilate defenses from standstills with his passing. He will rebound his butt off and flatten dudes on screens.

    Visualizing an optimal fit is nevertheless hard. The Kings need more cutters and shooters. Holiday's arrival will help some, but he and Harrison Barnes are now Sacramento's only players hitting threes at a clip above the league average of 34.9 percent on at least one attempt per game.

    Adding Sabonis without rerouting Richaun Holmes will also prove clunky. Neither is a conventional floor-spacer. Sabonis commands attention outside the paint, but he's never been a particularly accurate or high-volume launcher from mid-range or deep. His chemistry with De'Aaron Fox will likely be defined by Sacramento's capacity to open the floor.

    All-in acquisitions should offer more clarity than what the Kings tout now. But the arrival of a 25-year-old All-Star cannot be interpreted as a flop from the get-go—especially when they unloaded Hield in the process and didn't forfeit any draft equity.

    This move is at once unsettling and understandable, potentially unnecessary but not without merit, worthy of nothing more or less than an incomplete grade that mirrors a process unfinished.

Norman Powell to LA Clippers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Trade

    L.A. Clippers Receive: Robert Covington, Norman Powell

    Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson, Justise Winslow, 2025 second-round pick (from L.A., via Detroit)



    Clippers: A

    Many assumed the Clippers would approach the deadline as middle-rung sellers. Kawhi Leonard will probably miss the entire season recovering from a partially torn right ACL, and Paul George hasn't played since Dec. 22 while tending to a right elbow injury.

    Except, well, why sell when you can opportunistically buy? The Clippers don't own their first-rounder this year anyway (shoutout, Oklahoma City). If team governor Steve Ballmer doesn't care about the size of his luxury-tax bills, you might as well maximize your peskiness this season while setting yourself up to make a juggernaut-shaped ruckus in the coming years.

    This trade is more about the latter. Powell is an ideal complement to an offense powered by George and Leonard, without a floor general-type at point guard. He can stretch defenses away from the ball with the threat of his three-point shot and will add actual rim pressure to a Clippers offense that doesn't get much of it from their primary perimeter options.

    Getting Robert Covington is gravy. He started playing better once the Blazers moved him to the bench, and he's the quintessential team defender, someone who can maximize small-ball lineups as a helper or the microsized center himself. Maybe he leaves after this year. Or maybe he outperforms expectations and the Clippers re-sign him in the name of advancing their monopoly on bigger wings.

    Either outcome is fine at this opportunity cost. A 2025 Detroit second-rounder isn't all that appealing with Cade Cunningham in tow, and while Keon Johnson was just selected at No. 21 overall, the Clippers were already inclined to play rookie Brandon Boston Jr., the No. 51 selection, over him.


    Blazers: D

    Portland's activity needs to be viewed in its totality. The CJ McCollum trade (more on this soon!) and anything else they do is all part of a singular vision. And to that end, the Blazers clearly have one.

    Starting with this deal, they have prioritized flexibility in the immediate future—maneuverability they intend to use on reshaping the roster around Damian Lillard rather than at the expense of him, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

    There is value in mapping out a distinct direction, and interim general manager Joe Cronin did not inherit the most malleable roster cap sheet. It's also clear, based on this return, the league didn't ascribe much value to the remaining four years and $74.5 million on Powell's contract.

    That doesn't excuse accelerating your process, which is what this trade, specifically, feels like. The Blazers did not need to move Powell to skirt the luxury tax or clear the pipeline ahead of Anfernee Simons' restricted free agency. They could have done that with smaller transactions or via the McCollum trade. 

    Powell's value would likely be higher over the offseason when teams are armed with, if nothing else, more roster-spot flexibility and clarity of draft positioning. Offloading him for this return reeks of an attempt to overemphasize your direction.

    Yes, Powell's absence helps the likelihood of the Blazers retaining their draft pick, which they owe to Chicago with lottery protection. But he wasn't single-handedly nudging them toward the playoffs, particularly when they ended up assisting the biggest threat to their play-in proximity by sending them McCollum.

    The overarching point: Unless Portland is in love with Johnson, it didn't get nearly enough to make a move now that could've been done, albeit while taking other forms, later.

CJ McCollum to New Orleans

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    The Trade

    New Orleans Pelicans Receive: CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Tony Snell

    Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Nickeil Alexander-Waker, Josh Hart, Didi Louzada, Tomas Satoransky, 2022 first-round pick (protected Nos. 1 to 4 and Nos. 15-30; turns into Milwaukee's 2025 first-rounder with top-four protection if not conveyed), 2026 second-round pick (more favorable between New Orleans and Portland), 2027 second-round pick



    Pelicans: B+

    More extensive thoughts on this Pelicans-Blazers trade, for both sides, can be found here. The overall response to this deal, however, has not favored New Orleans.

    And yet, perhaps it should.

    Docking the Pelicans because they're taking on the final two years and $69.1 million of McCollum's contract and limiting (but not nuking!) their wiggle room beneath the tax next season verges on disingenuous. Didn't we all, as a family, just troll them for over-prioritizing flexibility last summer only to whiff on a Kyle Lowry pursuit?

    Cap space and larger mid-level exceptions don't mean the same in non-glamour markets. Just because the Pelicans are punting on some financial runway doesn't mean they're actually sacrificing talent acquisition.

    It's also not like McCollum is functional dreck. He fills a glaring need. New Orleans' guards are 28th in combined three-point percentage and dead last (by a hopelessly hilarious margin) in effective field-goal percentage on pull-up jumpers. McCollum is a proven shot-maker who has expanded his volume from three, and he's splashing in 36.7 percent of his off-the-dribble treys over the past two seasons.

    There will be some geographical overlap in the half court between he and Brandon Ingram. The Pelicans will be fine. McCollum is no stranger to working away from the ball. He spent his entire career alongside Damian Lillard, and the context of his offensive arsenal should allow him to seamlessly transition to No. 3 (No 2.5?) duty whenever Zion Williamson returns from his right foot injury.

    Coughing up a lottery pick that's currently projected to convey is a real opportunity cost. That's different from typifying a panic move by a front office attempting to save its job. The Pelicans safeguarded the selection against disaster and have far from emptied their asset trove. There will be a defensive tradeoff by adding McCollum and losing Hart, but New Orleans has done a good enough job limiting opponent transition opportunities to warrant focusing on its biggest issue: offense.


    Blazers: A-

    The Blazers deserve a more favorable view in this trade than the Norman Powell one. McCollum's contract is shorter-term, but his price point is steeper. Turning him into flexibility, a potential lottery pick, the cost-effective and impactful Josh Hart and a gargantuan trade exception is a big-time win.

    But the Blazers didn't stop there. They gave up Nance, who isn't nothing, even when factoring in impending right knee surgery. They also treated Alexander-Walker as not only a non-fit but a non-asset by shipping him to Utah for additional expiring contracts and unimpressive second-round compensation.

    Whether the Blazers' allegiance to cap and trade flexibility, as well as Anfernee Simons' next contract, is the right call will be a matter of course. Just as we cannot overweigh their potential to convert malleability into home runs, we shouldn't presume this is a complete choke job.

    On its own, this move is better than fine. The Blazers were overloaded with costly or soon-to-be costly dudes under 6'5". There is a limit to how many guards who can't masquerade as wings you can pay. And while it still feels like Portland went a step too far in unmaking its status quo, this is not the trade in which it left meaningful value or opportunity on the table.

3-Team Party Between Portland, San Antonio and Utah

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    Ned Dishman/Getty Images

    The Trade

    Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Elijah Hughes, Joe Ingles, 2022 second-round (from Utah, via Memphis)

    San Antonio Spurs Receive: Tomas Satoransky, 2027 second-round pick (from Utah, least favorable via Houston, Indiana, Miami or Oklahoma City)

    Utah Jazz Receive: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Juan Hernangomez



    Blazers: C

    This trade amounts to the Blazers punting on Alexander-Walker. That's perfectly fine if they don't believe in his ability to operate within a more complementary role, and they jack up this summer's flexibility by taking back only expiring money while sidestepping his $5 million salary in 2022-23.

    Cool. I guess. Or something.

    With Norman Powell and CJ McCollum both gone, the Blazers could have plumbed the depths of Alexander-Walker's fit and skill. They are instead tethering their roster reformation even more tightly to financial maneuverability. We'll see if it pays off.


    Spurs: A

    Much like Hernangomez before him, Satoransky will not be long for San Antonio. But the Spurs have now turned the one-year deal they gave to Bryn Forbes into two second-round picks.

    This isn't the biggest victory, but it's savvy asset management and, therefore, a victory all the same.


    Jazz: B+

    This marks an unceremonious end to Joe Ingles' time in Utah. That sucks. Truly. But he wasn't going to play again this season after suffering a torn left ACL and might've left in free agency anyway. The Jazz have now turned an empty rotation spot into two players who can technically take the floor for them while shaving more than $10 million in total tax payments and dredging up a $9.8 million trade exception.

    To be clear: Something terrible—or seismic on the trade market—has happened if Utah regularly unwraps Hernangomez. But Alexander-Walker is an intriguing dice roll for a team that was already without its third-best playmaker (Ingles) behind Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell.

    Saddling Alexander-Walker with any type of on-ball license or serious playing time is not necessarily the answer. The Jazz, as a contender, need certainty. Alexander-Walker is volatility incarnate. He hasn't looked comfortable away from the ball this season yet isn't nearly efficient enough to command more from-scratch touches. His 47.4 true shooting percentage is the worst in the league among everyone matching his usage rate (24.9)

    Utah's offensive ecosystem might help. Its spacing is pristine, and NAW buried 36.9 percent of his spot-up triples through 2019-20 and 2020-21 before dropping down to 32 percent this season. To say he makes Jordan Clarkson expendable would be a stretch, but only because Clarkson is already expendable. The Jazz can move him for a player of a completely different archetype knowing they have taken a flier on a similarly ungovernable shot-taker with potentially (much) better passing chops.

Caris LeVert to Cleveland

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    The Trade

    Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Caris LeVert, 2022 second-round pick (from Indiana, via Miami)

    Indiana Pacers: Ricky Rubio, 2022 first-round pick (lottery protection through 2023; turns into two seconds if not conveyed), 2022 second-round pick (from Cleveland, via Houston), 2027 second-round pick (from Cleveland, via Utah)



    Cavaliers: B+

    I would be inclined to question whether the Cavaliers went all-in on their core too early if they, in fact, went all-in to land LeVert.

    Romanticizing draft picks and flexibility is part of the business. Collectively, though, we need to do a better job understanding that unexpectedly good teams burning a first-rounder in the 20s as their primary means to get better isn't franchise malpractice.

    Maybe the Cavs overpaid for LeVert. They will drop down 20-plus spots in this year's second round and sent out a distant second belonging to a Utah franchise with an understatedly murky future on top of this June's first. But LeVert fills an actual, arguably dire need.

    Season-ending injuries to Rubio and Collin Sexton bilked the Cavs of two perimeter players whom they could trust handling the ball. LeVert gives them a dose of rim pressure and secondary playmaking. Cleveland's limited supply of shooters could crimp his style in the half court, but this team has no shortage of bigs who can catch passes from him in tight spaces.

    Playing LeVert off the ball is always an iffy adventure. It isn't unworkable. He's nailing more than 38 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, admittedly on lower volume. Staggering his minutes from Darius Garland, who can play off-guard himself, will be easy if the offense gets too clunky.

    There's no need to infer wholesale commitment from this move, either. Maybe the Cavs view LeVert as insurance against Sexton's restricted free agency, but this doesn't have to be an either-or scenario. Cleveland should be able to re-sign Sexton without cannonballing into the tax, and it has another year before it absolutely has to pay LeVert. It can test out the Garland-Sexton-LeVert dynamic before doubling down or dissolving it.


    Pacers: A+

    Getting two first-round picks for LeVert was always going to be a stretch. And yet, the Pacers came pretty damn close.

    They're just about guaranteed a first-rounder in the 20s, and Houston's second should convey in the top 35. The 2027 Utah second is a nice hedge against a franchise that will be forced into serious self-reflection if it flames out in a third consecutive postseason.

    Dealing LeVert for a player who won't take the floor this season—and probably never suits up for Indiana—could've been peddled as a minor drawback. But the Pacers already got out in front of that criticism.

    Rubio's expiring money allows them to take back Buddy Hield from Sacramento without significantly altering next season's books, and Tyrese Haliburton immediately soaks up the offensive volume lost in LeVert while fitting more cleanly and prominently into the organization's future.

KZ Okpala to Oklahoma City

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    The Trade

    Miami Heat Receive: 2026 second-round pick (least favorable from Dallas, Philadelphia or Oklahoma City)

    Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: KZ Okpala, amended protections on Miami's 2023 lottery-protected first-round pick to a 2025 first-round pick



    Heat: C+

    The KZ Okpala experience has now cost the Heat three second-rounders and an amended first-rounder obligation. At least now, though, they have something more than KZ Okpala himself to show for their asset expenditures.

    Unloading Okpala frees up a roster spot Miami can use to convert Caleb Martin from a two-way contract to a regular NBA deal that ensures he's eligible for the playoffs. The cost of this flexibility is rather steep, though. The Heat have gone from owing the Thunder a 2023 first-round pick with lottery protection through 2026 to giving them a 2025 first that'll become unprotected in 2026 if it doesn't convey.

    But they're not adjusting their pick obligations to Oklahoma City just so they can convert Martin. This maneuver now frees them up to deal this year's first (Houston has swap rights on it) or next year's pick in subsequent trade talks.

    Creating that flexibility is useful. The Heat also, you know, have to use it. So while they get an A for effort and creativity, their overall execution is to-be-determined.


    Thunder: A

    Delaying their reception of Miami's first-rounder is a smart move by the Thunder. The further into the future they kick it out, the more likely a Heat core headlined by 32-year-old Jimmy Butler and 35-year-old Kyle Lowry spits back a pick that isn't buried in the 20s.

    Granted, Miami is not barren of long-term safety. Bam Adebayo is 24, Tyler Herro is 22 and the Heat, as we've seen time after time, have a way of figuring things out even when up against the most rigid roster, payroll and asset structures.

    Time still has a way of eroding the rosiest projections. (See: Brooklyn, Nets.) At the bare minimum, the Thunder have assuaged their own roster crunch by amending when the pick will convey while also giving themselves an outside shot at landing an unprotected first the previous protections didn't allot.


    Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of NBA.comBasketball ReferenceStathead or Cleaning the Glass and accurate entering Wednesday's games. Salary information via Spotrac.

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale), and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by NBA Math's Adam Fromal.