The trade deadline is the most exciting time of the year for the NBA season. The dynamic of the entire league could be just one phone call away from shifting for each of the 30 teams in the league. The moves made on that day are conceived months in advance, start to develop a head during All-Star weekend when everyone is in one central place and then–BOOM–they explode.
The trades made during the deadline are much like the picks made in each draft. Although we’re talking about wheeling and dealing veteran players around the league, the impact they may have may not be felt until they go further down the road. Some teams don’t make moves in expectation of gaining players. Some teams just try to loosen up their cap space in order to make a big move later down the road.
So, with that in mind, we have to accept that there aren’t true winners and losers at this point. We can only try to predict what will happen moving forward into the future. For example, Kyle Lowry was supposed to be on his way out of Toronto along with Rudy Gay but expectations changed after he played well and now he’s being kept around. Meanwhile, Gay is in Sacramento holding the Kings hostage with a player option.
The real consequences of that move won’t be felt until this offseason when the Kings find out what Gay is going to do with his opt-in clause. That will essentially determine whether or not the Kings have the cap room to keep Isaiah Thomas as their point guard of the future.
Anytime a team adds a player and that player’s salary on to their roster, there are going to be consequences–positive or negative. The Rockets are still trying to move the contracts that they poison pilled two seasons ago. Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik’s contracts are both a product of a team being aggressive trying to gain assets.
Jeremy Lin has been a particularly average point guard throughout his stint with the Rockets and has shown that he probably won’t be worth a $15 million salary mark next season. Omer Asik, on the other hand, has proven that he can be productive as a defensive stud but has to play behind Dwight Howard. But one of the main reasons that the Rockets were able to get Howard was because they back-loaded Lin and Asik’s deals. So, you see? These things go hand in hand.
With that in mind, let’s explore what happened at the deadline yesterday. It was a relatively quiet deadline til about three or four hours before. The biggest names didn’t move, but there were some solid trades down the stretch.
Trade Deadline Winners
Like I said before, there aren’t any true winners today. But there are prospective winners and teams with bright futures. If the waters are navigated correctly, these teams can make splashes and build off of their moves quickly.
I was most impressed with the moves that the Philadelphia 76ers made. At the start of the season, they made three players available for teams via trade–Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. They had a high asking price attached with the 76ers asking for a first round pick, but you never bid low if you’re trying to get the biggest return for an asset that you have.
The 76ers didn’t get the first round picks that they were looking for out of those players, but they did manage to get three second picks–two in 2014 and one in 2015. Also, between both players, they dumped $13.17 million in salary and managed to avoid Evan Turner’s massive $13.7 million cap hold if they didn’t extend him an $8.7 million qualifying offer.
They brought back an expiring in Danny Granger along with the three picks. After the Hawes move they were under the salary cap floor, but trading for Granger while dumping Turner and Lavoy Allen put them back over. Bringing back the second round picks were the biggest sweetner in the deal for the 76ers and they probably don’t make those moves if they couldn’t get that much in return.
Those were two players that weren’t really apart of their future plans and that’s fine. The 76ers are going through a rebuilding stage and they don’t need to have two middling players holding them back from that process. They also managed to snag two more second round picks by taking in Eric Maynor’s contract from the Washington Wizards. They’ll get a second rounder via the Wizards and will also receive a second round pick from Denver.
The 76ers will have to eat Maynor’s contract, but that’s something that they don’t mind doing. Even if Maynor opts in for $2.1 million next season, the 76ers won’t be major players in free agency anyway. They’ll be willing to eat that salary while rebuilding primarily through the draft.
So the 76ers acquired three second round picks in this draft, one in the next draft and two undisclosed picks from the Nuggets and Wizards in a future draft. The 76ers have picks that they can use as currency for other deals to move up in the 2014 draft or they can take multiple chances on multiple second round players and try to develop a team through that. With Nerlens Noel coming next season, a high draft pick and plenty of youth already, this team looks like one built positively toward the future.
The Washington Wizards made out better than most expected them to. They managed to dump two players who weren’t doing anything to help the franchise progress for almost nothing. They only gave up one second round pick, Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor’s contract.
The pick that they gave up was a second rounder, but the Wizards don’t draft very well anyway. I highlighted here that the Wizards would get back a player who could potentially contribute something to their offense while John Wall is off of the court. Miller provides a veteran presence in the backcourt and a player who knows how to conduct an offense–something that they just didn’t have before.
He’s a versatile player that can play with Wall and Beal because of his post presence. He should fit right in on the roster and give them a much needed offensive boost in the second unit before the playoffs roll around.
The Wizards don’t have to play Wall as many minutes, as he was averaging 37 minutes per game. He hasn’t had any injury problems this season, but he does have an injury past. He missed 33 games last season due to knee troubles and you don’t want to rekindle any past injuries. Miller provides insurance for Wall if he goes down or when he comes off of the court.
They also opened up a roster spot to possibly pick up another player going forward. They could turn what was an eight man rotation into a nine or 10 man rotation, and that’s what the Wizards needed.
The only glaring issue that this trade presents is that it might be a bit difficult to re-sign both Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat this offseason. However, they were going to have to get creative in that situation anyway. Andre Miller is only guaranteed $2.1 million next season if the Wizards choose to waive him before next season’s calendar year starts this summer. They’ll have some tough decisions to make, but this move should provide them some more stability to make them a lock for the playoffs.
Charlotte Bobcats & Milwaukee Bucks
The Bobcats aren’t normally viewed as winners, but this season things have changed. The Bobcats were actually buyers for the first time, it feels like, in the history of their franchise. They traded Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien to the Milwaukee Bucks for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour. The Bobcats get the kind of shooting that they need while dumping Sessions and his expiring deal along with Jeff Adrien’s non-guaranteed contractt.
The Bobcats picked up a lot of salary, but they aren’t close to the luxury tax threshold so they aren’t really phased by it. They picked up two potentially productive offensive players if used in the correct way. Sessions wasn’t particularly productive for the Bobcats and he couldn’t shoot from deep range. They desperately needed floor spacers to pair with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson.
The Bucks dumped salary in Ridnour and Neal. Combined, they’d be making a shade over $7 million this season and Neal’s deal extended into next season. Neal made it clear that he didn’t want to play in Milwaukee early on this season and probably welcomed a move to Charlotte. Ridnour hadn’t been anywhere close to as productive as they thought he’d be and only has a PER of 9.3–an extremely poor mark. They didn’t really need him with his lack of production and if they could free up some space for free agency this offseason and try again, why not? This was a good deal for both sides.
Trade Deadline Losers
Now, if there can’t be true winners there definitely can’t be true losers. But there are some teams who made deals that I’m extremely skeptic about on their parts. Let’s explore.
It seemed like the instant reaction to the deal that the Indiana Pacers made with the 76ers was that the Pacers made out well. They got the number two overall pick from the 2010 draft and have insurance in case Lance Stephenson darts in free agency this offseason. How could they possibly be losers, right?
Well, they gave up far too much for a player who isn’t really productive in the least bit. They’re in a mode where they’re trying to win now–not build for the future. Even with Danny Granger playing his way back on his expiring deal, he’s a better player to have on your roster than Turner. Turner really brings little to the table outside of being a solid rebounder and an average ball handler.
They’ll save close to $5 million in cap by trading Granger’s deal this season. But they weren’t in danger of being in a tax repeater situation. They didn’t really need to move Granger’s deal so quickly without him having an opportunity to play himself back. A healthy Granger provided floor spacing that Turner doesn’t.
Turner will have an $8.7 million qualifying offer that will need to be tendered to him if the Pacers want the chance to match any deal that he gets offered. Even if they don’t extend Turner that offer, he’ll have a $13.7 million cap hold for his bird rights that the Pacers have to renounce in order to release that. Turner’s worth on the open market is in question, but we shouldn’t be surprised if he gets a high offer from any team.
The Pacers will have to pay a hefty amount to keep Turner around, but their primary goal is to keep Lance Stephenson in the fold. Stephenson is a rare 23 year old unrestricted free agent that will certainly have a nice market for himself, so Turner is supposed to provide a contingency plan for the Pacers. However, it seems like Turner is holding them hostage more than anything else. They’ll have at least $8.7 million committed to Turner if they want to keep him around.
What did the Denver Nuggets really do? They traded a second round pick and Andre Miller for Jan Vesely. Vesely hasn’t proven that he can be a productive NBA player in any way, so the pick was probably a bit too much to give up. Shipping Miller out was the goal there, but they probably gave a bit more than they got back. If they can turn Vesely into a productive NBA player, kudos to them. But he just hasn’t developed at the pace you’d think a 6th overall pick would.
It provides them a body for JaVale McGee who is now out for the season, but he can’t play defense without fouling and isn’t productive at all offensively. I’m not sure how he’ll contribute to this team going forward.
The Nuggets also acquired Aaron Brooks for Jordan Hamilton. They didn’t give up a pick in this case, so they lost a lot less. Jordan Hamilton was just a sacrifice for a bigger need that Aaron Brooks provides. With Nate Robinson out for the season and Andre Miller not playing, the Nuggets needed a backup point guard. This was a solid move for them after giving up a bit too much for Jan Vesely.
All in all, there were some solid moves that were made just before the deadline hit that made sense. But, again, the jury is out on all of these moves. They can end up being busts or they can end up being genius–only time will tell.
The deadline was active as usual–unlike my bold prediction on our spreecast. But it only happened because teams were coming down on their asking prices. There were some clever cap clearing deals and some deals that made sense in terms of roster fit. We should be gearing up for a fun playoff run and and exciting offseason.