The NBA trade deadline has passed, and there were a to clamor onto for analysis. The biggest surprise was veteran guard Kyle Lowry , after the Heat and the Lakers were rumored to be the two teams discussing trade packages with Toronto, the Raptors ultimately felt that holding on to him was the better move.
Elsewhere around the league, some teams filled necessary holes while others swung for the fences in hopes to make a run over the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. Most of these deals still need to be finalized by the teams, but with the general framework in place we can take a step back and see who the winners and losers are after the dust has settled.
Winner: Miami Heat
At the buzzer, the Heat pulled off perhaps the trade of the day, taking on former All-Star guard Victor Oladipo in exchange for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a draft swap. Miami was in talks to trade for Lowry, but those didn't materialize, so Pat Riley and the Heat front office went out and got a dynamic scorer to pair alongside Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in the starting lineup. The best part is they didn't have to give up any substantial pieces, such as Duncan Robinson to pull off the trade.
Miami went on a bit of a surge lately before losing four straight and being dealt with a slow start to the season due to injuries and COVID-19 protocols. Adding Oladipo, who is averaging 20 points, five boards and four assists a game makes the Heat even more dangerous this season. It will also give Miami a shot to evaluate how well the two-time All-Star fits into its system before making any kind of long-term commitment to him in free agency this summer.
Loser: Houston Rockets
It's incredibly puzzling that Houston couldn't get a better return for Oladipo, who despite an inconsistent return from several injuries, is still averaging near career highs this season. To not get any of Miami's young guys, or a better package from any other suitors is surprising. Houston was cornered with a tough choice to make, with Oladipo set for unrestricted free agency and free to sign with any contender in the summer. That said, it feels like the Heat just swindled them in this deal. To make matters worse, way back when the Rockets traded James Harden to Brooklyn earlier this season, instead of including other teams in the deal. Houston could've just kept Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. LeVert is under contract until 2023, and while Oladipo has the better resume, the Rockets would likely still have LeVert today if they didn't include other teams in that deal.
Here's how the Harden trade ultimately worked out for Houston:
- Rockets trade: James Harden
- Rockets get: Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, late first round picks, pick swaps
Winner: Chicago Bulls
One of the earliest trades of deadline day involved the Magic Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu to the Bulls for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two future first-round draft picks. It was completely out of left field, considering of all the players discussed as trade candidates on Orlando's team, Vucevic was the least likely to happen without a substantial return. Well, here we are, and Chicago gets a scoring big to pair alongside All-Star Zach LaVine, whose fit next to each other couldn't be better.
Just imagine all the pick-and-pops that will take place between these two, and the looks Vucevic will get LaVine when he's passing out of the post. The move gives Chicago another dynamic scorer on offense and provides a change of scenery for Carter, who has been hampered with injuries in his three seasons. Chicago hardly sacrificed anything to get this done. On top of that, the Bulls traded for Celtics big man Daniel Theis to bolster up the frontcourt defensively and added a role player in Troy Brown through a trade with the Wizards. Chicago currently sits in 10th place in the East, with just two games separating them and the seventh-placed Hawks. The additions they made today will certainly help them push into the top eight of the East for a postseason push.
Loser: Boston Celtics
In the past few days leading to the trade deadline, it appeared as though Aaron Gordon being traded to the Celtics was a sure thing. Both sides wanted to make it happen, with Gordon putting Boston at the top of his list of destinations and the Celtics looking at him as a much-needed boost to make them legit contenders in the East. However, Gordon ended up on the Nuggets, and the Celtics ended up acquiring Evan Fournier in the process. Not a terrible series of events, but not exactly the player Boston probably had in mind to use that huge $28.2 million traded player exception it had from the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade in the offseason. Fournier is a knockdown shooter and will be a jolt of energy off the bench for Boston, but this was another trade deadline filled with grand statements made by Danny Ainge that again went unfulfilled.
Winner: Atlanta Hawks
In the last 10 games the Hawks have gone 8-2. and pushed themselves into the playoff picture as they've gotten players back healthy from injuries. They look like the team many expected them to be going into the season, and new coach Nate McMillan has this squad playing with a new sense of urgency and fire. One of the areas where this team lacks, though, is its bench scoring. Atlanta averages the second fewest bench points this season (31.2), and by trading for Lou Williams, a three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner, it gives them the boost they need in that second unit. It will also take some of the offensive workload off of Trae Young's shoulders, as Williams can command the bench unit and get his own buckets. The only thing Atlanta had to give up was Rajon Rondo, and they were able to secure to future second-round picks from the Clippers in the process. Sounds like good business on the Hawks end.
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers
If you're the Lakers, at the end of the day, the biggest acquisitions will be getting Anthony Davis and LeBron James back healthy before the playoffs start, but you can't help but scratch your head at why second-year player Talen Horton-Tucker was not included in a trade package to land Lowry. Yes, THT has been pretty solid for the Lakers and has become a fan favorite, but I'm not sure why the Lakers are so adamant about not offering him in a deal that would land them a savvy guard like Lowry who would immediately boost their odds of winning back-to-back championships.
The Raptors decided to be stingy and not take anything less than their asking price, so no one ended up with Lowry, though it's been reported that teams were in the running had to weigh the possibility of him just being a rental for a few months before he hits free agency. But if it that meant winning another championship right now, the Lakers should've done it. The title window won't be open for too long and every move made should be with the immediate future in mind. Horton-Tucker is a decent young player, but is he going to be a difference maker in the postseason like Lowry can? Probably not. Perhaps the Lakers like their chances of signing him in the offseason when he'll be a free agent, but it won't be cheap and they won't be the only team trying to make a deal with him.
Winner: Denver Nuggets
Nuggets gave up Gary Harris, RJ Hampton and a pick to land Aaron Gordon to kickstart trade deadline day, which should be a win itself since they didn't have to give up any core pieces to get him. Offensively, Gordon is going to benefit greatly from being surrounded by guys like Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, who can put him in a position to get easy looks. But defense was the real reason this move was made. At 6-8, 235 pounds, Gordon offers great versatility on the defensive side of the ball. He'll be incredibly useful when the postseason rolls around and Denver is stuck having to guard guys like Anthony Davis. Gordon at least offers a suitable option for that task, and he'll give the Nuggets another offensive weapon, too.
Winner: The name Gary getting back in headlines
Yep, we're talking old-timey sounding names. For a good part of the 20th century the name Gary was among the top baby names for boys in the the U.S. According to the Social Security administration, Gary was No. 14 in the 1940s, No. 12 in the 1950s and No. 26 in the 1960s. The name ranked 174th among boys born in the U.S. in the 1990s so it comes as no surprise, that there are only three current NBA players with the name -- all of whom were traded at the deadline.