There are two ways to look at the NBA trade deadline. The first is like giving a best man speech. Sure, you’d love your team to nail it, but really you just don’t want them to fuck it up. The majority of the league’s fans will subscribe to this outlook on any given trade deadline.
The second way to look at the trade deadline is like living with a housemate who uses scissors to chop weed. You need to make a move. Eminently.
Now, Golden State has almost made this second group extinct —especially for potential contenders in the West (there are still desperate teams like Detroit who would give up an arm and a leg just to make the 8 seed). However, in a LeBron-less East, it became clear that the consensus top 4 challengers in the East were going to do something.
Boston couldn’t because they’re either genuinely saving their assets for an Anthony Davis trade this summer, or pump faking the Pelicans in order to screw the Lakers for one more playoff run, with LeBron James already in his mid 30’s. Either way, the C’s couldn’t make a move without Davis most likely ending up in a line-up with LeBron, Javale McGee, Zlatan Ibrahimović and the Staples Centre janitor by 3pm Thursday.
With that said, let’s have a look at the moves made around the league, going from biggest to smallest (the payoff for sticking around? The reviews will get sillier!)
- Marc Gasol to the Raptors for Delon Wright, Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles and a 2024 second round pick.
So you’re telling me the Raptors got a top, I don’t know, five, centre in the league without giving up any of their blue chip prospects (Siakam, Anunoby), a top 2 player at any position on the team (other than centre, where Gasol will be coming in) or a first round pick (where the team has found contributors every year other than the extremely-fun-to-say but devastatingly uneventful Caboclo debacle). The most underrated aspect of this trade is that Gasol was stuck in one of the most stale situations in the league of the past few years. A fresh change of scenery and a chance to compete with a contender should rejuvenate him for the home stretch of the season. The Massiah strikes again!
(While we’re here, I’d like to thank Greg ‘Moose’ Monroe, for a short, but lovable tenure in Toronto. I’m 99% sure Monroe gives up more And-1 layups than any big man in modern NBA history, but when the nickname ‘Moose’ fits you like a glove on a Canadian team — it’s always tough to see you walk out the door.)
- Tobias Harris, Boban and Mike Scott to the 76ers for (inhales obnoxiously) Landry Shamat, Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, a 2020 first round pick, Miami’s 2021 first round pick, two future Detroit second round picks
I think it’s important to point out that on January 5th, ESPN reported that Jimmy Butler had went Christian-Bale-On-The-Terminator-Set at Brett Brown during a film session, due to Butler not getting enough touches in his sweet spots. Since January 5th, the 76ers have went 8–6 including a home loss to Atlanta. All this to say; they still have not figured out how to play with three ball dominant guys. Now they’ve just traded a super valuable Miami pick, among other assets, for an offence first forward who’s been the first option for a playoff team out West all season. Oh yeah, and his contract expires in 4 months. As Aaron Rodgers never said, P-A-N-I-C.
- Markelle Fultz to the Magic for Jonathon Simmons, a protected 2019 pick and a protected 2019 second round pick.
There were a lot of sad moments during the Markelle Fultz era in Philly. But yesterday it reached a new low. When the report came in he’d been traded, my brain immediately jumped to “must be for two second rounders”. The Magic gave up more than that, giving Philly an effective bench player and keeping Elton Brand in retirement, thankfully.
Also, I… really… don’t…wanna…say this… but Fultz kind of reminds me… of a 20-year-old version… of 80-year-old Muhammad Ali (please don’t show up at my house with pitchforks). On the bright-side, the Magic’s best point guard of the past 15 years was Jameer Nelson and Orlando will give Fultz a proper shot at revitalizing his career. By the way, in the past 30 years, here’s the list of first overall picks traded by the team who they played their first game for, by the end of their second season:
This is borderline unprecedented.
- Nikola Mirotic to the Bucks for Stanley Johnson, Jason Smith and four future Detroit second round picks.
The trade that appears to have garnered the most critical acclaim — and for good reason. If you’ve seen your team play against the Bucks this season, you’ll be acutely aware of just how frustrating their offence is to defend. Brook Lopez might be the most confident shooter in the league. I’m not joking. Adding Mirotic just gives them one more tall, un-athletic shooter to extend the lead from 8 to 11 (which they seem to do 47 times a game).
- Otto Porter to the Bulls for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis
I wrote this passage two years ago after watching a Bulls-Celtics playoff game with my dad:
“Two and a half quarters into the game, my dad’s face has turned
sour — the Celtics are getting soundly outplayed. At one point I catch him
mutter “what..the..fuck” while shaking his head. “What?” I ask.
“Every time I watch Bobby Portis play he does this” he responds bitterly.
Three days later my dad is at his computer. “Oh, you’ve got to be joking” he says bitterly. Once again, my curiosity got the best of me. “What?” I asked. “Portis averages under 7 points and 5 rebounds a game — I feel picked on”.
And if you ask my dad about that series (the Celtics eventually fought back from 2–0 down to win the series in six) — he’ll remember two things;
- The Celtics won the series
- How much of a nightmare Bobby Portis was.
What he wouldn’t remember — Portis averaging 4.2 points the remainder of the series.”
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this trade. But I do know that the Washington Wizards are now the team my dad fears most.
- Harrison Barnes to the Kings for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph
I’m in the small category of people who like mobile small forwards with 3-point range and a 7’3″ wingspan, so maybe I’m a little biased — but I love this trade for Dallas. Remember how I mentioned Detroit being desperate to make the playoffs out East, well the Kings are the version of that in the West — except you know, fun and building something legitimately exciting. The Kings also have the league’s longest playoff drought, while Detroit has been swept in the first round in 2009 and 2016. Which is also what will happen this year if they make it. Barnes will help short term and draw more attention from the dynamic back court duo. Though they still won’t make the playoffs, and gave up a potential foundation piece in the process. L
- Skal Labissiere to the Trailblazers for Caleb Swannigan
The Kings have had a log jam up front for a half-decade now, and with Bagley beginning to thrive, this trade comes as no surprise. What does come as a surprise is that Portland is yet to offer Labissiere a 70 million dollar contract yet. Don’t worry though Skal, as soon as they see you can reliably put up 8 and 4, I’m sure they’ll lock you down. Nobody picks out an 8–4 star like Portland.
- Michael Beasley and Ivan Zubac to the Clippers for Mike Muscala
Um…am I the only guy who kind of likes Zubac? The Lakers gave him up for nothing, unless you count a roster space to sign Carmelo Anthony as something I suppose. This will be one of those “Why’d they do that?” trades that we talk about in two years when the Lakers are starting to get their shit together but lack a reliable second big man. Meanwhile Zubac will be doing 10 and 8 in 15 minutes a game across town. Book it.
- Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin to Any Team That Needed to Use Cap Filler
Really heroic effort from these two this week. They are responsible for 4 different trades that were able to go through. Sometimes it’s not about putting your career first — it’s about staying ready, with as many real estate tabs open on google as possible — so that other, more talented players can go compete for championships. I salute you guys.