The NBA trade deadline can be compared to the opening of Pandora’s Box. It creates a whirlwind of activity that can turn a professional league on its ear, changing the dynamic of multiple teams.
It can spell the end of the season for some teams, as they trade away some of their assets in exchange for building the future, and it can reinvigorate a team with new firepower, bolstering their season and preparing them for a postseason run.
The NBA trade deadline is what all trade deadlines should strive to be. It should be rife with intrigue, drama and surprises.
This past week was indicative of those characteristics, as multiple top caliber teams were on the prowl for a deal that would propel them towards a run for the Finals.
There were huge winners and losers at the deadline, as multiple top contenders were able to strike gold with last-minute deals, while others made deals that flopped and exposed their weaknesses on the court and in the front office.
If you missed this year’s deadline, you must have been asleep or living under a rock for the last week, because multiple teams across the League reconstructed themselves.
So, let’s take a look at the biggest moves of the deadline and see which teams came out on top once the deadline had passed.
The biggest winners of the trade deadline by a huge margin were the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by the kid from Akron, Ohio: superstar forward LeBron James.
Before the deadline, the Cavaliers were floundering in mediocrity. Their defense was floundering, ranked 28th in the League. Their games were characterized by a complete lack of effort by the squad, getting blown out in multiple matchups on national television. They lost 120-88 to the Houston Rockets and gave up 148 points to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their veteran-heavy squad was getting outworked and outrun constantly.
Even worse, the biggest player that they acquired from the trade with the Boston Celtics early in the season, guard Isaiah Thomas, was underperforming, averaging 15.2 points a game, a far cry from his previous season’s total of 28.2 points a game. The lack of effort and performance by the Cavaliers produced drama that only disconnected and further sabotaged the play of the team.
To remedy these issues, the Cavaliers’ front office (and LeBron) made two jaw-dropping deals that put the League on notice. First, Cleveland sent Thomas, veteran forward Channing Frye and their 2018 first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for two talented young players, guard Jordan Clarkson and forward Larry Nance, Jr.
With this move, the Cavs unloaded a major source of their defensive issues in the form of Thomas and gained a pair of electric young players that could prove to change the culture of the Cleveland squad.
They then completed a three-team trade in which they unloaded guard Iman Shumpert to the Sacramento Kings and guard Derrick Rose and forward Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz. In return, the Cavs received guards Rodney Hood and George Hill.
These pick-ups served to bring offensive firepower in the form of Hill, who is fifth in the League in three-point shooting, and two-way versatility in the form of the 6-feet-8-inches Rodney Hood. This trade served to create a younger base around LeBron that is actually motivated to compete and win.
The Lakers set themselves up well for the future with their exchange with the Cavaliers. The storied Los Angeles franchise was able to open up the appropriate cap space for two max deals.
This is huge news, as LeBron James and Oklahoma City forward Paul George are up for free agency this summer. The Lakers made it apparent that they plan to be major players in NBA free agency in the coming years.
Another East team was able to quietly improve during the trade deadline. After the huge trade that allowed them to acquire former Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, the ninth-seeded Detroit Pistons traded for forward James Ennis and guard Jameer Nelson. When the Pistons received Ennis, they received a quality defensive wing player who is also able to shoot the three-point shot consistently.
It is by no means a blockbuster trade that shook the NBA, but it is definitely a positive move. This move, combined with the acquisition of veteran leadership in Nelson, should prepare the budding Pistons for a playoff push.
The flurry of moves made at this year’s deadline should make for a very exciting push towards the playoffs and the free agency session after the Finals.