NBA teams strike deals at the deadline

By JAMES AIOSA | March 2, 2017

At 3 p.m. last Thursday, the NBA trade deadline finally hit, but not before several major League-altering moves were underway.

Without question, the most noteworthy of all the deadline transactions sent DeMarcus Cousins, the former Sacramento Kings All-Star, to the New Orleans Pelicans to team up with Anthony Davis.

Many questioned the return the Kings would receive on the young but often hard-headed Cousins, who leads the NBA with 17 technical fouls this season. The deal featured rookie guard Buddy Hield, shooting guard Tyreke Evans, point guard Langston Galloway and first and second round picks in the 2017 NBA draft.

With this move, the Kings have committed to cultivating a healthier team culture and will now hope for a favorable lottery slot in the talent-heavy 2017 draft pool.

The New Orleans Pelicans, on the other hand, have cemented a core that now features arguably the two most dominant big men in the League. While they are currently two spots out of the eighth and final playoff slot, they will likely contend for the spot with the Portland Trail Blazers for the remainder of the season.

In addition to the Pelicans, the Toronto Raptors also made a serious commitment to competing in the here-and-now. In two separate deals, the Raptors acquired veteran power forward Serge Ibaka and gritty perimeter defender P.J. Tucker.

They relinquished shooting guard Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic for Ibaka. In return for Tucker, the Raptors sent the Phoenix Suns center Jared Sullinger and 2017 and 2018 second-round picks along with cash considerations.

The Raptors will look to dethrone the Cleveland Cavaliers as the preeminent Eastern Conference favorites for the 2017 NBA Finals. Nonetheless, while these trades bolster an already strong roster, LeBron James and the Cavaliers will likely represent the Eastern Conference in a repeat of last year’s Championship Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

To the surprise of many around the League, the Houston Rockets were chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers as the most desirable trade partner for guard Lou Williams, a gifted scorer..

In return for Lou Williams, the former Sixth Man of the Year, the Rockets sent forward Corey Brewer and their 2017 first-round pick in a mutually beneficial transaction for two teams heading in polar opposite directions.

With this move, the Rockets make a case for the best bench in the NBA, adding to shooting guard Eric Gordon with an equally potent scorer in Lou Williams. Point guard James Harden and his newly upgraded supporting cast are still undermanned against the star-studded Warriors. Still, the Warriors will certainly hope to avoid the second-most efficient offense in the Rockets come playoff time.

On the other hand, the Lakers only get considerably worse with this move. However, they improve their prospects for an already bright future by guaranteeing themselves a pick in the first round of this year’s draft, which is a necessity for rebuilding the team.

The loss of Williams, coupled with the inevitability of losing more games during the remainder of the season, will only improve the Lakers’ chances to keep their own first-round pick, which they retain only if it falls in one of the top-three slots in this year’s draft lottery. If it falls outside of the top-three, the Lakers will send their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers to fulfill the trade deal that brought Steve Nash to the Lakers in 2012.

The Lakers further contributed to the youth movement this trade deadline in a separate deal with the Rockets, sending veteran guard Marcelo Huertas to Houston in exchange for 22-year-old Tyler Ennis.

Manager Sam Presti and his Oklahoma City Thunder were able to accrue some much needed help for Russell Westbrook, who has had a record-shattering year.

In a deal with the Chicago Bulls, the Thunder took forward Taj Gibson and forward Doug McDermott in exchange for point guard Cameron Payne, shooting guard Anthony Morrow and center Joffrey Lauvergne.

The Washington Wizards also acquired some help for their star guard John Wall, who led the Wizards to an impressive 12-4 record in the lead up to the All-Star break. The sharp-shooting wing Bojan Bogdanović and Chris McCullough were sent to the Wizards in exchange for Brooklyn Nets forward Andrew Nicholson, forward Marcus Thornton and a top-14 protected 2017 first-round draft-pick.

Bogdanović will provide a much-needed bench presence to a severely lacking reserve force in the Wizards led by Trey Burke and Kelly Oubre Jr.

Perhaps the most alarming move was the trade that sent the 76ers’ rising star center Nerlens Noel to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for a 2018 top-18 protected first-round pick, center Andrew Bogut and guard Justin Anderson. Bogut, the former Warrior and NBA champion, is at the tail end of his injury-riddled career. Meanwhile, Justin Anderson, in his second season in the NBA, is averaging 6.5 points per game, at a 40 percent field goal percentage.

The Dallas Mavericks, one of the several rebuilding teams in the NBA, will likely hold onto their first-round pick, considering they would otherwise have to crack the NBA’s top-12, which is notably improbable.

The 76ers reportedly had trouble drawing up interest in the rim-protecting third-year big man. This was largely due to Nerlens Noel’s contract, which has him slated to hit the market as a restricted free agent this summer in a climate that will likely yield a max offer sheet that the Mavericks will have to match if they want to keep him.

With a number of moves made in the days leading to the deadline, NBA fans can now gear up for an exciting finish to the season.

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