Early Hot Takes from 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

Greg Swartz@@GregSwartzBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2022

Early Hot Takes from 2022 NBA Trade Deadline

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    With the 2022 NBA trade deadline finalized and teams beginning to fully unwrap and play with their new presents, we're starting to get a small sample size of how the latest additions will shake out.

    Does this mean it's too early for some hot takes? Nah.

    Whether it be the ripple effects of the Ben Simmons-James Harden blockbuster, Domantas Sabonis' surprising trade to the Sacramento Kings, Derrick White helping bolster the red-hot Boston Celtics or others, there's plenty of interesting storylines to follow.

    Although it's still early, don't be surprised if these hot takes end up being true.

Seth Curry Will Be More Valuable to Brooklyn Than Ben Simmons This Season

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    The Brooklyn Nets traded James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package highlighted by Ben Simmons, with Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and a pair of first-round picks thrown in to even out the deal.

    With Curry more of a side dish than the main course in this transaction, the 31-year-old sharpshooter could actually be the biggest addition to the Nets this season.

    First, Curry is off to a fantastic start in Brooklyn.

    He's averaging 19.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 50.7 percent overall and 47.4 percent from three in his first five games, giving the Nets the offensive spark they need with Simmons and Kevin Durant both sidelined and Kyrie Irving still only eligible for road contests.

    We also don't know when we'll finally see Simmons on the court for Brooklyn, as ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported, "It's gonna be more like weeks rather than months." Considering the Nets only have 21 games left before the start of the playoffs, "months" isn't really an option for a team that's fallen all the way to eighth in the East.

    The Nets still don't know when Joe Harris will be available, as the veteran wing could have to undergo a second surgery on his injured ankle.

    Even when Durant and Simmons return, Brooklyn will need Curry to play a large role as a much-needed floor-spacer, a job he's perfected in previous stops. Lineups with Simmons and Drummond can kill the spacing of a team, making Curry all the more valuable.

    With Simmons under contract for the next three years and his defense and playmaking enough to make him a pillar of this roster, his uncertain return and other factors mean Curry will end up being the most valuable piece of the trade for 2022.

Derrick White Can Help Carry Celtics to Conference Finals

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Derrick White's move to Boston in exchange for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, a 2022 top-four protected first-round pick and a 2028 first-round pick swap wasn't the biggest transaction to go down at the deadline, although it could end up being one of the most impactful.

    While the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets have been battling it out for the top of the East all season, don't be surprised if it's the Celtics who end up making it to the conference finals.

    Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Boston is first in net rating (plus-13.0) and defense (101.2 rating) in a span of 26 games. The Celtics have also climbed to sixth place in the East and are 11-1 in their last 12 contests.

    White has contributed to the recent success, giving Boston a terrific veteran sixth man who can run an offense and defend at a high level. He's averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.8 minutes, with the Celtics beating opponents by a whopping 22.2 points per 100 possessions with White on the floor thus far.

    The 27-year-old is a nice upgrade over Dennis Schroder, whom Boston traded to the Houston Rockets at the deadline. White can play next to Marcus Smart at times or bring the ball up the floor while he rests.

    The Celtics will still go as far as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can carry them, but the addition of White in the backcourt makes this a team that could win multiple playoff rounds.

Anfernee Simons Will Become a Top-5 Free Agent This Summer

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The trade deadline saw a major roster shake-up in Portland, with both CJ McCollum (New Orleans Pelicans) and Norman Powell (Los Angeles Clippers) sent packing. With Damian Lillard almost certainly sitting out the rest of the regular season following abdominal surgery, it's officially become the Anfernee Simons show in Portland.

    The next month-and-a-half will have significant ramifications on Simons' contract this summer, which could be bad news for the Blazers if they were hoping to retain the 22-year-old at a hometown discount.

    Since the trade deadline, Simons is averaging 29.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists with shooting splits of 51.9/48.9/92.3 in four games. His usage and numbers have skyrocketed when he takes control of the offense without Lillard as well:

    • Per 36 minutes with Lillard on the floor: 16.9 points, 2.5 assists, 38.7 3P%, 18.8 usage%
    • Per 36 minutes without Lillard on the floor: 22.3 points, 5.4 assists, 40.7 3P%, 25.6 usage%

    Simons is in the final year of his rookie deal before hitting restricted free agency. His real-time contract is valued at $20.5 million this season per ProFitX.com, with Simons' production only expected to increase now in a larger role.

    In a free-agent class that could contain players like James Harden, Bradley Beal, Zach LaVine, Kyrie Irving, Deandre Ayton, Miles Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Collin Sexton and others, Simons will work his way into becoming a top-five most-desired free agent by the offseason.

With Kristaps Porzingis Gone, Luka Doncic Enters MVP Conversation

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans may go down as one of the most depressing in recent memor—a swap of overpriced players whom both teams were happy to move on from.

    The one player who may benefit the most from the deal, however? Luka Doncic.

    The 22-year-old All-Star hasn't played up to his seemingly sky-high potential in 2021-22, as his scoring and shooting efficiency have dipped in comparison to the last two seasons. Bleacher Report pegged him as the MVP favorite coming into the season after he led all postseason scorers with 35.7 points per game, although FanDuel currently gives him just the eighth-best odds to win.

    With Porzingis now gone, we could see a late-season run from Doncic.

    In his first 40 games before the deadline, Doncic was averaging an impressive 26.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 9.2 assists on 44.5 percent shooting overall and 31.6 percent from three. In five games since then, he's upped these numbers to a whopping 37.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.8 assists on 45.3 percent shooting and 43.9 percent from deep. Dallas is 3-2 in those contests and sits just 2.5 games behind the Utah Jazz for the No. 4 seed in the West.

    Physically, Doncic looks like he's in far better shape than he was to start the season, which is vital given the extra usage he's likely to pick up. He's one of the most gifted players in the NBA when factoring his scoring, playmaking, rebounding, tempo control and IQ, and will almost certainly win an MVP (or two or three) before his career is over.

    For now, it's probably too late for Doncic to overtake players like Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic in the voting, but look for a monster end of the year to secure his spot in the top five.

Tyrese Haliburton Will Be an All-Star Next Year

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    The most shocking trade of the NBA season was Tyrese Haliburton moving to the Indiana Pacers in a deal centered around Domantas Sabonis. For a player who was a rare draft hit for the Kings at No. 12 overall in 2020 and genuinely wanted to stay and turn the franchise's fortunes around, trading Haliburton just 109 games into his career was stunning.

    Although his career in Indiana is just getting started, we'll go ahead and predict that Haliburton will be a member of the 2023 East All-Star team in Utah.

    Through his first five games with the Pacers, Haliburton is averaging 19.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 2.2 steals and is shooting 44.1 percent from three. Even with starting point guard Malcolm Brodgon's return to the lineup following an Achilles injury, Haliburton should still have a big role as a scorer and playmaker with Sabonis gone.

    All the tools are there for Haliburton to be an All-Star.

    He has excellent size at 6'5", will be asked to do a lot for a Pacers team that will once again have playoff goals in 2022-23 and now has Brogdon and head coach Rick Carlisle to learn from and develop under. Haliburton has the physical tools and work ethic to become an elite perimeter defender as well.

    Sharing the ball with De'Aaron Fox limited Haliburton's opportunities as a playmaker, something Brogdon (who's a superior off-ball player and better outside shooter) shouldn't negatively affect to that degree. Haliburton was averaging 8.2 assists per 100 possessions when he shared the floor with Fox this season, compared to 12.2 when he ran the show by himself. We should see Haliburton's assist numbers creep up in Indiana.

    While he looked like a good young prospect with the Kings, Haliburton will be an All-Star next season with the Pacers.