The NBA trade deadline brings about a flurry of player movement every season. Contending teams look to optimize their roster for post-season success, while teams hoping for draft lottery luck look to sell veteran players in exchange for as many draft picks as possible.
This year’s trade deadline was no different, as the arms race for the championship led to top teams making bold moves that may have huge implications during the playoffs. The following trades are expected to make the biggest impact around the league.
Andre Drummond to the Cavs
The Detroit Pistons have been in limbo, as they are neither good enough for deep playoff runs or bad enough for high draft picks. To disrupt this pattern, they have committed to rebuilding the franchise.
With Blake Griffin out indefinitely, the Pistons hoped to salvage a lost season. Detroit dealt out their star centre Andre Drummond, who is expected to opt into his $28-million player option and stick with his current contract this summer.
The Pistons wanted to gain salary cap flexibility and draft picks, so they would rather trade Drummond than pay him for another year. However, the lack of demand for the centre was indicative of the team’s reluctance to move him in prior deadlines.
As a two time All-Star and the league leader in rebounds, one would expect Drummond to yield more value than two second-round draft picks and bench players John Henson and Brandon Knight.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, taking Drummond makes little sense as they are a team who is also firmly at the bottom of the standings and looking to rebuild for the future. This trade could be a last resort to appease star Kevin Love, but if Drummond accepts his player option, the Cavaliers may have severely hindered their salary cap for the next season.
Andre Igoudala to Miami
The Golden State Warriors were clever to negotiate a sign and trade that landed them All-Star D’Angelo Russell in return for Kevin Durant’s departure to Brooklyn this past summer.
To make room for his arrival, the Warriors dealt long tenured veteran Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies. Iguodala was determined to never play for the young team and sat out the first half of the season while the Grizzlies explored trade options.
The Grizzlies were not expected to be in the playoff hunt this season, but stellar play from rookie Ja Morant and sophomore Jaren Jackson Jr. has them vying for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Despite this, Iguodala remained stubborn in his decision to not play. The mutual agreement worked out for both sides and he was dealt at the deadline to the Miami Heat, along with Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, in exchange for Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson.
With Winslow, Memphis adds a young forward with playmaking potential to their cast of rookies and sophomores. Though he has been out with a back injury since Jan. 8, Winslow posted 11.3 points and 4.0 assists in 32.0 minutes per game for the Heat this season.
Meanwhile, Iguodala is a strong wing defender which could be pivotal for the Heat going up against elite forwards in the playoffs such as Pascal Siakam, Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota
Despite being an All-Star last season, D’Angelo Russell was not a perfect fit for the Warriors. The score-first guard had a clashing playstyle with the team’s elite backcourt tandem of Klay Thompson, who is out for the season, and Stephen Curry
When Curry went down with a hand injury in October, Russell was forced to provide the majority of the scoring for a depleted Warriors team. He scored an average of 23.6 points per game for the Warriors. But still, the questionable fit was too large of a question mark for the team to continue the experiment.
Minnesota has had its own share of growing pains as Andrew Wiggins failed to live up to his potential and his hefty $148-million five-year contract. The Warriors sent Russell to the Timberwolves in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and a first- and second-round draft pick.
Growing discontent from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns, who had not won a game since November, made for the perfect storm. Towns and Russell are good friends who hoped to play together one day regardless, so a trade between the Warriors and Timberwolves was mutually beneficial.
For Minnesota, this trade pairs their star centre with a great point guard, fixing both the chemistry and talent issues on the team. They also dumped a contract that was seen as immovable.
For the Warriors, they replaced their logjam of guards with Wiggins, who is a small forward. A change of scenery might just rejuvenate Wiggins’ career. Instead of lofty expectations to be the star, being the third option behind Curry and Thompson will allow him to flourish in his reduced role.
Marcus Morris to the LA Clippers
Marcus Morris was one of the most sought after players at the deadline among contenders, as he posted 19.6 points on the struggling New York Knicks. As a high scoring wing who provides solid defence, he is a player that can be plugged into any team for immediate positive impact.
Despite the Lakers showing interest, it was their neighbouring LA team who won the bid for his services. The Clippers acquired Morris from New York in exchange for Maurice Harkless, a first-round pick, a 2021 pick swap and a 2021 second-round pick.
Harkless was a dependable defender but did not provide much offence, averaging a mere 5.5 points in 50 games this season for the team. With this move, the LA team retain most of their defensive identity but add a much more dynamic scorer to their bench. Morris will not only be a spark of the bench, but he will also allow Clipper stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to rest before the playoffs.
The Knicks also won this trade, as the team cashed on Morris’ high value and gained rotation player Harkless instead of losing Morris for nothing in free agency. More importantly, they gain the Clippers’ 2020 first-round pick as well as rights to a first-round pick swap option with the Clippers in 2021 and another second-round pick in 2021.
For a young and developing team, amassing picks is the main goal and the Knicks did so without giving up a significant piece. A rare win-win trade for both teams.
Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks
The main blockbuster trade of the deadline was a four-team deal between the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Hawks received Rockets’ centres Clint Capela and Nenê in exchange for a second-round pick. They sent forward Evan Turner and a first-round pick to the Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves sent forward Robert Covington to the Rockets and acquired Malik Beasley from the Nuggets. The Nuggets themselves received three rotational players and a first-round pick from Houston.
The Timberwolves and Nuggets both benefit from the trade, as they acquire picks and rotation players without much cost.
Houston’s playstyle is predicated on analytics, which is the result of general manager Daryl Morey’s philosophy of “Moreyball.” This analytically heavy style identifies three pointers and shots in the paint as the most efficient options and the Rockets have prioritized these shots over anything else on the court.
Trading for Covington is the Rockets putting all their eggs into one basket, as this trade strips them of their only productive centre — Capela. This move may leave them without a reliable defensive anchor, but the team’s fast-paced style with three-point shooters surrounding Russell Westbrook could be a blistering offense.
The Atlanta Hawks hit a home run by trading for Capela and solidifying their front court for the future. In 39 games this season, Capela posted 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds along with almost two blocks per game.
The Hawks have needed a front court partner for their young star John Collins, and Capela provides them with an imposing defensive presence in the paint. Capela should also fit right into the Hawks’ offence, as he can catch lobs from All-Star guard Trae Young, who is second in assists per game.
With the abundance of draft picks that were moved around this deadline, bottom teams like the Timberwolves and Pistons have positioned themselves for success during the NBA draft in late June. The wealth of draft picks gives teams flexibility because they can draft promising young players or use the picks in trades for veteran players fulfilling team needs.
The league also has more parity than ever, so the acquisitions by the Heat and Clippers may be the deciding factors during playoff series when teams are evenly matched and need every ounce of production from each player. Once again, the trade deadline has bolstered team rosters and ensured an exciting second half of the NBA season.
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor