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April 16, 2024

The biggest NBA trade deadline moves

By JOSH FELTON | February 21, 2024



Felton gives his three biggest trade deadline moves and predicts how those players will make an impact on their new teams.

This year’s trade deadline came and went with very little activity. Most of the contending teams in both conferences stayed put with their roster, except for a few in particular. Here are some of the biggest moves and why they are so important.

Daniel Gafford to the Dallas Mavericks

Last Thursday, the Mavericks struck a deal with the Washington Wizards to bring in Daniel Gafford. I believe he will be an absolute game changer for them as they seek to make a playoff push.

Let’s talk about what he brings to the team. For starters, Gafford is one of the biggest lob threats in the entire league and is near the top of the league in assisted field goals in the paint. In Washington, he hasn’t played with a fantastic lob and pick-and-roll passer since Russell Westbrook was his teammate in 2021. Now he is playing next to Luka Dončić, one of the best playmakers and passers in the league himself.

Part of what makes Dereck Lively so valuable to the Mavericks is the same quality — his ability to finish above the rim. The Dončić-Lively pick-and-roll tandem ranks 11th in the entire league amongst passing duos, so just imagine what the addition of Gafford will do for Luka and this Mavs offense.

Royce O’Neale to the Suns 

The Phoenix Suns only had to give up three second-round picks and a few non-rotation players to acquire Royce O’Neale from the Brooklyn Nets. The Suns don’t have room for roster flexibility, because they have so much money tied up in their big three of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. The new collective bargaining agreement that was agreed upon last year makes it tougher for teams to build a competent roster with multiple star players, so as a result, the Suns were relying upon non-shooters at the wing position.

O’Neale is shooting 38% from three over the last three seasons, which is a very good volume and efficiency. In addition, O’Neale has played with Kevin Durant before in Brooklyn and was a quality defender. But, perhaps the biggest improvement Royce will have on this Suns team will be his short roll passing and defense in small ball lineups.

Royce made his Phoenix debut last week, and in the Kings game, he really showed his value to his new team. Against Sacramento, Suns head coach Frank Vogel played Royce at center against Domantas Sabonis. Despite being only 6 feet 6 inches and being very undersized compared to Sabonis, he held his own in the post, and it allowed for Phoenix to switch Sacramento’s handoff actions, which they previously couldn’t do with Jusuf Nurkić or Drew Eubanks.

As for offense, it allows for Durant and Booker to operate with more space, because O’Neale can shoot threes. Durant’s reaction to O’Neale’s huge threes in the game really show how much of a value add he is to this team. Lastly, O’Neale’s short roll passing in these spots makes him an upgrade over Josh Okogie in the pick-and-roll. His accuracy and greater scoring threat make it tougher for defenses to scheme against doubling Booker and Durant in a postseason setting.

Pascal Siakam to the Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are already a very good team, so adding Siakam raises their ceiling to another level.

Siakam is one of the best transition scorers in the league, which is perfect for one of the fastest and most efficient transition teams in the league. There was a Pacers play from earlier in the season that sticks out to me, where Indiana, after grabbing a defensive rebound, scored in three seconds without the ball ever touching the ground. 

Rick Carlisle is one of the most creative coaches in the league, so he loves drawing up plays that maximize spacing and shooting. On JJ Redick’s podcast, Pacers all-star guard Tyrese Haliburton talked about how he expects to be used more as a screener in stack actions now that Siakam is on the team.

I’m not sure if there’s a team in the NBA that runs more Spain pick-and-rolls than the Pacers. So having someone that can be used as a screener and is tough to keep out of the paint makes this such an exciting trade. Siakam is also one of the best passers at his position, which adds another dimension to this Pacers offense, because previously, the guys that were paired with Tyrese Haliburton were primarily play finishers instead of shot creators.

Since the all-star break, the Pacers are sixth place in the Eastern Conference but are only 2.5 games out of fourth place. With Haliburton coming back from injury and Siakam finding his rhythm with his new team, I can see this pairing seeing much success in the second half of the season.

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