It's funny to think that the most important deal of the NBA trade deadline could be one that wasn't even made. Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry was supposed to take another team, likely the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers, to the next level of title contention, but instead Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline came and went with Lowry staying put.
The lack of a move is a little bit of a bummer, as Lowry was one of the few true difference-makers on the market, but that doesn't mean Thursday's wheeling and dealing won't have a significant effect on the league, both this season and in the future. There were a lot of deals, and sometimes it's hard to know what's fluff and what's really going to make a difference.
With that in mind, we ranked every trade that went down on Thursday in terms of importance. As you'll see, some of the moves could make a significant impact as soon as this postseason.
17. Kings get Kabengele just so they can release him
The Clippers wanted to clear a roster spot and the Kings gladly obliged by taking on Kabengele -- who has played a grand total of 158 minutes in two NBA seasons -- picking up some cold, hard cash for their troubles. It was promptly reported that Kabengele would be released by the Kings after they acquired a few more players before the deadline. This move is about as insignificant as they come, but good on Sacramento for taking the free money.
16. Warriors move on from Wanamaker
There were high hopes for Wanamaker to solidify the Golden State Warriors' bench unit, but he recently lost his rotation spot to Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion, so Golden State unloaded him on the Hornets in exchange for some moolah. With LaMelo Ball out for at least a month, Wanamaker could pick up some backup point guard minutes in Charlotte, but the move doesn't exactly shift the landscape of the NBA.
15. Spurs take a flier on Chriss
- Spurs get: Marquese Chriss
- Warriors get: Cady Lalanne, cash
The Warriors were extremely excited about Marquese Chriss heading into the year, but a season-ending leg injury put an end to that. With James Wiseman as the center of the future in Golden State, there was no reason to hang onto Chriss, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. The Spurs decided it was worth some cash to take a look at him for the rest of the season, though Chriss isn't expected to play in games any time soon. The Warriors also picked up mystery man Cady Lalanne, a 28-year-old who was drafted 55th overall in 2015 and has played all over the world since. He made the All-Star team in the Korean League this season, but he'll likely have no impact in the NBA.
14. Kings go bargain-hunting
- Kings get: Terence Davis
- Raptors get: Second-round pick
We thought the Raptors were clearing roster spots for a potential Kyle Lowry trade, but that never happened. In any case, the Kings end up with Davis, who has shown promise over the last two seasons with the Raptors but has struggled to find a consistent spot in Nick Nurse's rotation. Sacramento will give him a good look, and he could earn some run given what we saw during his time with the Raptors.
13. Jazz add sharpshooter
- Jazz get: Matt Thomas
- Raptors get: Second-round pick
Another move that was thought to be freeing up roster spots for a Lowry deal sent Thomas to Utah, where he'll add to their bevy of 3-point marksmen. He might not carve out a rotation role immediately -- or ever -- but the fact that he's going to the No. 1 seed in the West makes this trade at least slightly more significant than the ones below it.
12. The Wright stuff (or whatever pun you prefer)
Wright has been solid throughout his career, thriving with extra playing time in Memphis and most recently with the Detroit Pistons. The Kings enlisted him to replace Joseph as their backup point guard, which is certainly an upgrade. In exchange, the Pistons picked up some future assets and cleared some cap space, so all around a solid deal. Wright is probably better than some of the players involved in trades higher on this list, but since neither the Kings nor the Pistons are going to compete for a title any time soon, it's not as important.
11. Bjelica taking his talents to South Beach
Heat fans are going to have fun learning how to pronounce Nemanja Bjelica's name over the next few months, as the stretch-four will replace some of the production Miami loses with Kelly Olynyk heading to the Rockets in the Victor Oladipo deal. Bjelica can shoot the ball, but his defensive shortcomings might make it difficult for Erik Spoelstra to keep him on the floor, particularly in the postseason. In return, the Kings get Silva, who showed some promise in short stints in Miami, and Harkless' expiring contract.
10. JaVale returns
The market was reportedly robust for backup center extraordinaire JaVale McGee, and Denver wound up acquiring him to hold down the fort when Nikola Jokic heads to the bench. McGee also played with the Nuggets from 2011-2015 and hopes to thrive in familiar surroundings. Hartenstein, who was dealt to the Cavs, simply wasn't cutting it as a backup, and now the Nuggets have a reliable veteran to plug in for 10-15 minutes per game when the matchups dictate it. McGee was a member of championship teams with the Warriors and Lakers, so he's no stranger to postseason competition. Hartenstein is still young enough for Cleveland to see what it has, and the 2027 second-round pick it received is unprotected, so it could end up being a valuable asset.
- Bulls get: Daniel Theis, Troy Brown, Javonte Green
- Wizards get: Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison
- Celtics get: Moe Wagner, Luke Kornet
Is it weird that the most significant part of this trade doesn't involve any of the players who were dealt? Trading Theis essentially clears the way for Boston to make Robert Williams their starting center, which should bring a smile to every basketball fan's face. Williams is much more than a rim-runner and shot blocker (he's definitely good at those things too), as he's found success facilitating from the high post with his impressive passing. Wagner theoretically replaces Theis' ability to stretch the floor for the Celtics, though Theis has been a better 3-point shooter so far in his career. For the Bulls, Theis replaces Gafford as a much more reliable backup center and they add a playmaking wing in Brown, while the Wizards take a chance on two athletic youngsters with upside.
8. Philly's consolation prize
- 76ers get: George Hill, Ignas Brazdeikis
- Thunder get: Tony Bradley, Austin Rivers, two second-round picks
- Knicks get: Terrance Ferguson, Vincent Poirier, second-round pick
Well, he's not Kyle Lowry, but the 76ers made a solid addition in Hill, another veteran who can play both guard positions and knock down open 3-pointers. He's not the half-court playmaker the Sixers needed to improve their offensive efficiency, but he's a 44 percent 3-point shooter over his last two seasons and he was a key member of the Bucks' recent playoff runs. Meanwhile, OKC adds to its hoard of future draft picks and the Knicks pick up a young athlete in Ferguson who could compete for wing minutes. Ultimately the trade inches the 76ers slightly closer to the Nets in the East, but likely not as far as they'd hoped.
7. Mavs add shooting
- Mavericks get: JJ Redick, Nicolo Melli
- Pelicans get: James Johnson, Wes Iwundu, second-round pick, cash
Redick seemed destined for the buyout market, where the Brooklyn Nets were expected to pounce like a starving puppy, but instead Dallas ponied up a second-round pick to get one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history. The Mavericks seemingly chose defense over offense last offseason by trading Seth Curry for Josh Richardson, and now they replace Curry's shooting with Redick. Melli, a stretch-four who's a better shooter than his percentages indicate, will give Luka Doncic another floor-spacer to work with. The Mavericks are already one of the hottest teams in the league, and Redick is exactly what the offense needed to make a run in the second half, and into the postseason.
6. Powell lands in Portland
Powell was one of the hotter names leading up to the trade deadline, with plenty of teams reportedly vying for his services. He ended up in Portland, where he'll slot alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to present one of the most formidable scoring trios in the Western Conference. It's a little surprising that they parted with Trent, who was in the midst of a breakout season and provides more size defensively from the wing than Powell will. What Powell will bring, however, is scoring, and he'll present a reliable option for the Blazers when Lillard and/or McCollum are being relentlessly trapped by opposing defenses. From the other side, Trent seems like a perfect fit in Toronto and could become a part of its future moving forward. Overall, this is a pretty significant deal across the board.
5. Playoff Rondo joins Playoff P
It was no secret that the Clippers were looking for help at the point guard position, and it was even more widely known that they were shopping Lou Williams. In the end, they pulled off a fascinating trade, hoping that Rondo can channel the playoff alter ego we saw as recently as last summer in the bubble. Clearly, the Clippers front office was keen on Rondo despite his recent pedestrian regular-season performances, since they gave up two second-round picks in addition to Williams. Atlanta continues its push for the playoffs, hoping that Williams' return to his hometown will help reignite the bucket-getting fire that was largely extinguished this season in L.A. This is a move that we won't really be able to judge until the postseason, and if Rondo plays well alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, it could potentially help bring a title to the Clippers.
4. The Vooch is loose
- Bulls get: Nikola Vucevic, Al-Farouq Aminu
- Magic get: Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., two first-round picks
The Magic were expected to unload a couple of pieces at the deadline, but it was somewhat surprising to see them deal Vucevic, a two-time All-Star who has been carrying the offense nearly single-handedly all season long. The Bulls decided to go all in, offering young big man Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks to bring in the 6-11 center to help their playoff push. Vucevic is also under contract for next season, so this could have implications down the road, but even with the move, the Bulls aren't going to compete for a championship this season. That's the only reason a move with a player of this magnitude isn't higher on the list.
3. Celtics-Magic trade ... but not the one you expected
Most expected the Celtics to make a move before the deadline. Most expected them to make a trade with the Orlando Magic. But instead of acquiring reported target Aaron Gordon, Boston ended up with Fournier, a veteran wing averaging a career-high 19.7 points on 39 percent 3-point shooting. Considering the reported price for Gordon involved two first-round picks and/or Marcus Smart, the Celtics made a shrewd decision by getting Fournier for two second-round picks and Teague, who had been in and out of the rotation all season. Does this move push the Celtics to the top of the Eastern Conference? Probably not. But it somewhat relieves the pressure on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown by adding another offensive option. Fournier can serve as a floor-spacer and also has underrated playmaking ability, averaging a career-high 3.7 assists per game this season. This could be the shot in the arm that Boston was looking for during a disappointing season.
2. Heat snag Oladipo at last second
- Heat get: Victor Oladipo
- Rockets get: Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, pick swap
It looked as if Oladipo might make it through the trade deadline remaining a member of the Houston Rockets, but lo and behold the news trickled in late that the Heat had swooped up the former All-Star for
a bag of jelly beans (the generic kind, not Jelly Belly) and the lint in Pat Riley's pocket Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley and a future pick swap.
The Heat add Oladipo without having to get rid of Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro or really any meaningful player on their roster. Oladipo has been rumored to be interested in Miami for quite some time now, so we might see a rejuvenated version of him after a miserable stint in Houston. Not only do the Heat get Oladipo for their playoff run, but they also get an extended look at him to see if they'd like to bring him back as a free agent this offseason. Another win for Miami.
1. Nuggets make the move
- Nuggets get: Aaron Gordon
- Magic get: Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, future first-round pick
Sitting on the contracts of Gary Harris and Will Barton, the Nuggets have long been a team that could make a significant trade if it felt the need. Well, it appears that time is finally upon us. While Boston fans were saving money to buy Aaron Gordon jerseys, the Nuggets snatched up the versatile, 6-8 forward from Orlando in exchange for Harris, rookie RJ Hampton and a future first-round pick. Denver has missed Jerami Grant dearly, and Gordon provides similar 3-point shooting and slashing abilities, while bringing the added bonus of shot creation and iso ability.
Perhaps most importantly, Gordon gives the Nuggets a long, strong, quick defender to throw at the tireless carousel of perimeter talent in the Western Conference. Denver looked up in the standings and saw an injured Lakers team, the confusing Clippers and a petering Jazz team who the Nuggets beat in a playoff series a few months ago, and decided now was the time to strike. We've already seen what Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray can do in the postseason, and now they've added a missing piece that could seriously raise their ceiling.