The NBA’s trade deadline always provides excitement, but this year’s was even more eventful than usual. Some teams got noticeably better, some took risks, and a few decided not to do anything before the deadline. Here are the grades each team got for every trade that went down ahead of the deadline:
Dallas Gets Their Unicorn
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee, Trey Burke
New York Knicks Receive: Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, two future first-round picks
The Mavericks traded 2 players that were not going to be back with the team next year, a promising second year player that could not share the court with Luka Doncic, and two first-round picks for a 23-year-old 7’3” PF/C with a skillset so unique he is nicknamed “The Unicorn. After already owing their first-round pick to the Hawks this year as part of the Luka Doncic trade, giving up two additional first-round picks to the Knicks hurts. But as long as Porzingis can stay relatively healthy moving forward, those first-round picks should fall in the bottom half of the first-round anyways. Yes, the Mavericks had to take back some bad salaries, but it is all worth it to get a player as talented as Porzingis.
This grade really should be an incomplete. The Knicks took a gamble by trading their franchise cornerstone in hopes of signing two max level players this summer. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have both already been linked to them, and those rumors will only continue to get louder as the off-season gets closer. DeAndre Jordan is a good mentor for Mitchell Robinson. And Dennis Smith Jr. is a nice player to have, but he needs the ball in his hands to make an impact; so he isn’t a good fit to play alongside Kyrie Irving if they are fortunate enough to sign him. But let’s be real, this trade was all about clearing cap space for two max players this summer. If it works, this trade gets an A+ for the Knicks. If they fail, this trade fails too.
The Spaniard Heads to Canada
Toronto Raptors Receive: Marc Gasol
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles, 2024 second-round pick
The Raptors are clearly going all-in for this season. Even though they didn’t have to give up a first-round pick and Marc Gasol is better than any player they gave up, Gasol is 34-years old and has shown signs of age this year. That said, Gasol will immediately improve the Raptors and give them an even more legitimate shot at getting out of the East. The fact that the Raptors didn’t even have to give up a good, young prospect like OG Anunoby to make the trade go through makes this even better.
Many people thought that the Grizzlies would be able to get a first-round pick in exchange for Gasol from a contender looking to boost themselves over the top. That didn’t happen. The return for Gasol seems a little underwhelming, but it wasn’t a bad trade for a Grizzlies team that looks like it is finally embracing a rebuild. Valanciunas and Wright are both only 26 years old and, depending on if the Grizzlies elect to re-sign Wright this off-season (he’ll be a restricted free agent and they will have his full Bird rights), can be used as trade bait to acquire more assets as they rebuild. Bottom line, at least the Grizzlies got something for Gasol, which is more than they can say for Mike Conley.
Fultz Gets a Second Chance
Orlando Magic Receive: Markelle Fultz
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Jonathon Simmons, 2019 second-round pick (from Cleveland, via Orlando), 2020 first-round pick (top-20 protected from Oklahoma City, via Orlando)
The Orlando Magic took a small risk for a chance at a big reward. So far in Markelle Fultz’s career, the only thing he is known for is challenging Anthony Bennett as the biggest bust from a number one overall pick in recent memory. But the difference between the two is that Fultz was dominant in college while Bennett simply was not. Markelle Fultz has not been fully healthy since entering the NBA. If he can get his shoulder issues figured out and get past the mental barrier of trusting his body once again, Fultz can still be an elite player in this league. Giving up a player that didn’t figure into their future plans, a late first-round pick, and a second rounder for the chance at an elite player is a small price to pay.
Just 20 months ago, the 76ers traded the number three pick in the 2017 draft along with a future first-round pick to the Celtics for the number one pick and the right to draft Markelle Fultz. The number three pick turned into Jayson Tatum, whom the Celtics will probably use as the centerpiece of their trade offer to the Pelicans this summer for Anthony Davis. Fultz never was able to get healthy while with the 76ers, and once they acquired Jimmy Butler, it was obvious Fultz’s days in Philadelphia were numbered. Still, it’s fair to question if the Sixers gave up on him too early. And even if they didn’t, only getting a late first, a second rounder, and a decent role player in Jonathon Simmons has to hurt for Philadelphia.
Clippers Clear Even More Cap Space
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Avery Bradley
Avery Bradley was not having a good season with the Clippers. The Clippers were 5.5 points better per 100 possessions with Bradley on the bench versus on the court. Bradley has a team option on his contract for next year that will still cost his team $2 million in cap space if they decline it. The Clippers were able to flip that into two players that can help the team this season and are both free agents in the summer, giving the Clippers the flexibility to still pursue two max-level free agents. Garrett Temple can space the floor and create more driving lanes for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; and JaMychal Green is another low-cost, low-maintenance big man the Clippers can add to their rotation.
The only reason the Grizzlies made this trade was so they could get far enough under the tax that they wouldn’t be back over the tax once the Marc Gasol trade was completed. The Grizzlies owe their first-round pick to the Celtics this year unless it falls in the top eight. This trade made the Grizzlies worse this year, but not by much. Other than that, this trade really didn’t move the needle one way or the other for Memphis.
LA’s Big Men Swap Jerseys
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Mike Muscala
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Ivica Zubac, Michael Beasley
This trade doesn’t make any sense for the Lakers. Ivica Zubac was by far their best center since the calendar turned to 2019. He was their only center who provided any type of threat in the post; and for a team that is one of the worst in the league at the charity stripe, he was one of only two rotation players for the Lakers who shot free throws above an 80% clip. Zubac is going to be a restricted free agent this summer and the Lakers are trying to create as much cap space as possible to lure a max level free agent to pair up with LeBron; but the Lakers would have had Zubac’s full bird-rights and his cap hold would have only been a little over $1 million.
The Lakers were able to create a roster spot by attaching Beasley to this deal, but there’s a good chance they use that additional spot on Carmelo Anthony, someone who isn’t as good as Zubac or Beasley. Oh yeah, the Lakers did acquire Mike Muscala to space the floor as a stretch 5. Muscala is shooting 34% from three-point range this year, which is okay for a big man, but not great. If the Lakers really wanted a center to space the floor, they should have never let Brook Lopez leave and go to the Bucks.
Another Clippers trade, another A+ grade. Jerry West absolutely fleeced his former team in this trade. Michael Beasley is going to be cut before he can play one game for the Clippers, but Zubac is yet another young big man for the Clippers to add to their young core. Even though he’s a free agent this summer, his cap hold of just over $1 million won’t eat into much of their cap room. At the end of the day, the Clippers got a quality young player in exchange for a stretch big man that didn’t fit into their future plans and wasn’t really even a part of their current plans.
Milwaukee Opens Up Driving Lanes for Giannis
Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Nikola Mirotic
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Stanley Johnson, Denver’s 2019 second-round pick (protected for numbers 56-60), Milwaukee’s 2020 second-round pick, Washington’s 2020 second-round pick (via Milwaukee), Washington’s 2021 second-round pick (via Milwaukee)
Detrot Pistons Receive: Thon Maker
Getting someone as good as Nikola Mirotic in exchange for four second-round picks and a player in Thon Maker who was out of the rotation is a huge win for the Bucks. The Pelicans went on a run last year after trading for Mirotic once DeMarcus Cousins went down. Just as Mirotic allowed Anthony Davis more room to work inside, the same will be true for the effect he will have on Giannis, who arguably is even more devastating inside than Davis. The Bucks, who already have the best record in the NBA, got even better with Mirotic and now it should be no surprise if they finish the year with the league’s best record.
The Pelicans were reportedly looking for a first-round pick in exchange for Mirotic. They didn’t get one. But what they did get is four second rounders that could potentially be packaged together for a late first after the season ends. On top of that, they also took a flyer on Stanley Johnson, someone who still has potential and is a good defender, but needs to develop some sort of offensive game.
The Pistons traded a disappointing player in Stanley Johnson for another disappointing player in Thon Maker. But, Stanley Johnson is a free agent after this year whereas Thon Maker won’t become a free agent until after next year. Maker is a slightly better prospect and the Pistons won’t have to decide if they want to give him a second contract until next off-season. That’s a win for them, however small it may be.
Philadelphia Finds Their Core Four
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott
Los Angeles Clippers Receive: Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected), Miami’s 2021 first-round pick (unprotected), Detroit’s 2021 second-round pick, Detroit’s 2023 second-round pick
With this trade, the Sixers became at the very least the co-favorites to win the East. Tobias Harris was playing at an All-Star level while he was with the Clippers. While he won’t put up the same numbers with the 76ers, he will play even more efficiently with better players surrounding him. The Sixers now have a starting lineup of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid; that is unquestionably the second-best lineup in the NBA behind the Warriors. And Philadelphia’s GM, Elton Brand, already said that he has spoken to ownership and they are willing to pay whatever it costs to keep this lineup together moving forward. That’s good news considering Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris will both be free agents after this year and both will command at the very least something close to a max contract. Depth is an issue for the Sixers, but the Sixers can stagger their starters’ minutes so that at least two of them are on the floor at all times.
The Clippers currently sit in the eighth spot in the West. They could have tried to be buyers at the deadline and make a push for the playoffs, but that would have been extremely short-sighted. By selling high on Tobias Harris, the Clippers were able to get back a very good first-year player who can shoot the lights out in Landry Shamet. More importantly, they acquired two first-round draft picks, including Miami’s coveted unprotected first in 2021. 2021 is expected to be the first year where high school players are allowed to come into the NBA. Assuming that happens, the 2021 NBA Draft will have all the freshmen sensations from college that weren’t allowed to come from high school the year before, as well as all of the great high school players that would be allowed to enter the draft. That draft is going to be loaded.
The 76ers Add Some Depth
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: James Ennis
Houston Rockets Receive: 2021 second-round pick (swap rights)
The 76ers needed to add depth behind their great starting lineup. They did just that by acquiring James Ennis. Ennis is shooting over 37% from downtown this season on mostly catch-and-shoot situations. While he isn’t a great defensive player, he is serviceable, and will fit in nicely with Philadelphia’s surplus of ballhandlers.
This move was strictly made by the Rockets to get under the luxury tax. Other than that, this doesn’t make any sense. The Rockets are not a deep team, and while Ennis didn’t play a major role for them, he was someone they could count on to give quality minutes while the starters took a breather. Getting a second-round pick two years from this summer is nice, but Ennis is a better piece to have for a team looking to win now.
Wizards Find a Taker for Otto Porter Jr.
Washington Wizards Receive: Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis, 2023 second-round pick
Chicago Bulls Receive: Otto Porter Jr.
After John Wall, who was already out for the year, fell at his home and ruptured his Achilles, the Wizards needed to shed as much salary as possible and start rebuilding. The return for Porter wasn’t great, but the two players the Wizards got in return for him both have expiring contracts. Overall, this was a win for the Wizards.
Otto Porter Jr. is a good basketball player who could serve as the fourth option on a championship level team. Unfortunately, he is getting paid like a first or second option, as he is owed $27.3 million next year and $28.5 million the year after. Luckily for the Bulls, most of their key pieces are still on rookie deals, so they can afford to take on Porter’s contract if it means adding to their young nucleus. Porter doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective, which is perfect for a team with a ball dominant player like Zach LaVine. He also plays defense, which again will help LaVine since he isn’t interested in using energy on that side of the floor.
The Wizards Dump More Salary
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Markieff Morris, 2023 second-round pick
Washington Wizards Receive: Wesley Johnson
The Pelicans would have gotten an A+ if they didn’t end up releasing Markieff Morris. Morris was going to be a free agent this summer, but the Pelicans would have had his full Bird rights. Instead, they elected to buy him out, but they still got a second-round pick in exchange for Wesley Johnson, and that’s a win.
This trade was all about saving money for the Wizards. Markieff Morris made about $2.5 million more than Johnson this year. This trade saved the Wizards the prorated amount of that for the rest of the season, and they decided that was worth a second rounder five years from now.
Harrison Barnes Gets Traded in the Middle of His Game
Dallas Mavericks Receive: Justin Jackson, Zach Randolph
Sacramento Kings Receive: Harrison Barnes
After taking on so much salary in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, the Mavericks needed to find a way to get rid of some salary. Other than Tim Hardaway Jr., Harrison Barnes had the worst contract on the team. Although trading him away shows the Mavericks don’t have any intention of making the playoffs this year, Porzingis is likely going to miss the rest of the season as he recovers from his torn ACL, so the Mavericks were a longshot to make the playoffs even with Barnes. Getting a team to take him without having to send out any additional assets is a win. Getting a nice prospect back in Justin Jackson is even better.
The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2006. That 12-year playoff drought is the longest active drought in the NBA. Right now, the Kings sit in ninth place in the West, just a half game out of eighth. Justin Jackson is a quality role player, but his ceiling isn’t much higher than where he is now. Barnes is much more expensive and has reached his ceiling as well, but he is a better player than Jackson. Barnes will give the Kings a better chance at making the playoffs and definitely won’t mind the change of scenery, but the Mavericks taking him off the court in the middle of a game to tell him he had been traded had to be rough for him.
Houston Dumps More Salary
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight, 2019 first-round pick (lottery protected, via Houston)
Houston Rockets Receive: Wade Baldwin IV, Iman Shumpert, Nik Stauskas
Sacramento Kings Receive: Alec Burks, second-round pick
It’s about time the Cavaliers embraced a rebuild. They never should have signed Kevin Love to an extension, but that’s a different matter. Getting a first-round pick as a reward for taking on a bad contract is a perfect move for them. Alec Burks is a solid player, but he didn’t factor into their future plans, so sending him to the Kings to make this trade go through is a small price to pay.
Getting rid of a contract as bad as Brandon Knight’s for what will most likely be a late first-round pick is a job well done. But on top of that, the Rockets also got a player that can make an impact defensively and from three-point range in Iman Shumpert. Well done Houston.
The Kings really didn’t do much with this trade. Swapping Shumpert for Burks is pretty much a wash, although Burks can play some backup point guard if need be. Netting a second-round pick out of this gives the Kings a slightly favorable grade.
Houston Finds One Last Salary Dumpster
Houston Rockets Receive: Draft rights to Martin Luenen
Indiana Pacers Receive: Wade Baldwin IV, Nik Stauskas, second-round pick
Martin Leunen will never play a game in the NBA. After this trade, the Rockets are now within $1 million of escaping the luxury tax. Wade Baldwin IV and Nik Stauskas were never going to contribute for the Rockets. And while giving up a second-round pick for no real asset in return isn’t ideal, it’s probably worth it for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta if it means potentially getting under the luxury tax.
Even though they have made millions of dollars, you have to feel a little bad for Wade Baldwin IV and Nik Stauskas. They were traded three times within the last week leading up to the deadline; and now that the deadline has passed and they can’t be traded anymore, the Pacers are releasing them. The Pacers essentially got a second rounder in exchange for taking on some extra salary (which they could do since they were under the salary cap). Nicely done Indiana.
Portland and Sacramento Trade Projects
Portland Trail Blazers Receives: Skal Labissiere
Sacramento Kings Receives: Caleb Swanigan
Trail Blazers: A
Portland turned a prospect that wasn’t playing into another prospect that wasn’t playing. But unlike Swanigan, Labissiere has shown flashes for extended periods of time that make you think he can still be a solid role player. He has a face-up game, length, and plays defense. All qualities that Caleb Swanigan did not show in Portland.
It was obvious that Labissiere was not a part of the Kings long-term plans. They have enough power forwards and centers with Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles III, Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein, and newly acquired Harrison Barnes. Still though, trading Skal for another big man that hasn’t shown as much potential doesn’t make much sense other than the fact that Swanigan has one more year left on his contract than Labissiere had.
Miami and Phoenix Swap Bad Contracts
Phoenix Suns Receive: Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington
Miami Heat Receive: Ryan Anderson
This was strictly a swap of bad contracts. Phoenix traded away Ryan Anderson, who is guaranteed $15.6 million of his $21.3 million salary for next season, for Tyler Johnson and his $19.3 million player option that he most definitely will be exercising. Tyler Johnson is younger than Anderson and can be somewhat of a playmaker for the Suns. That’s a nice bonus for a team still in search of their point guard for the future. Wayne Ellington would have added some additional shooting to a team that already has one of the league’s best shooters in Devin Booker, but instead the Suns elected to buy him out.
This trade allows the Heat to have a chance to get under the luxury tax threshold for this year and improves their cap flexibility moving forward. Miami will almost certainly waive Anderson this summer and use the stretch provision to minimize the impact of his $15.6 million cap hit after this year. Stretching him means the Heat would take a cap hit of $5.2 million for three years starting next year. Doing so would ensure the Heat don’t go over the luxury tax next year even if Goran Dragic ($19.2 million) and Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) both exercise their player options, which they almost surely will.
The Lakers Get LeBron a Shooter
Los Angeles Lakers Receive: Reggie Bullock
Detroit Pistons Receive: Sviatoslov Mykhailiuk, 2021 second-round pick
The Lakers did really well with this trade. Bullock isn’t an exceptional athlete, he can’t really create his own shot, and he is a so-so defender. But what he can do is shoot. As a career 39.8% three-point shooter, and someone who shot 44.5% on threes last year, Bullock instantly becomes the Lakers best shooter, and it isn’t even close. Yes, his percentage is down a little bit this year at 38.8%, but that still is a big improvement for a team that currently ranks last in the NBA in catch-and-shoot efficiency. Bullock will be a free agent this off-season, but the Lakers will have his full Bird rights, and his $4.75 million cap hold is small enough where the Lakers could potentially afford to keep him depending on what level of max free agent they get this summer, if any.
Svi Mykhailiuk has shown glimpses of what he can become. When he is on, he is a lethal three-point shooter and an underrated defender. Trading away Bullock for a project isn’t the most sensible move to make for a team that is right in the thick of the playoff hunt in the East, but Mykhailiuk could turn out to be a better player than Bullock in the long-run. The Pistons also signed another three-point marksman in Wayne Ellington after he was bought out by the Suns, which didn’t happen until after this trade was completed, but that helps to fill the void left by Bullock.
Philadelphia Trusts the Process One More Time
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Malachi Richardson, 2022 second-round pick, draft rights to Emir Preldzic
Toronto Raptors Receive: Cash Considerations
The Sixers cut Malachi Richardson the day after acquiring him in this trade. Emir Preldzic will never play a game in the NBA. Philadelphia made this trade for one reason and one reason only: the Raptors’ unprotected 2022 second-round pick. Toronto is one of the best teams in the league right now, and they got even better after the Marc Gasol trade. But if Kawhi Leonard leaves after this season, the Raptors are headed for a rebuild. That second rounder could end up being towards the beginning of the second round.
Toronto has plenty of wing players. Trading Richardson to pay less in luxury taxes won’t hurt them this year. But not putting any protections on that 2022 second-round pick could come back to bite them. At least as much as a second-round pick can come back to bite a team.
Toronto Gives Up Another Second Rounder
Brooklyn Nets Receive: Greg Monroe, 2021 second-round pick
Toronto Raptors Receive: Cash
The Nets are expected to eventually buy out Greg Monroe. But getting that second-round pick from the Raptors for cash is a great value for Brooklyn.
After netting Marc Gasol in a trade with the Grizzlies, there wasn’t going to be much playing time for Greg Monroe. Rather than release him and have to pay money, Toronto decided it was a better idea to send him along with a second-round pick to the Nets and gain money. That might make sense now, but if Kawhi leaves, they are going to be wishing they had just released Monroe instead.
Atlanta and Memphis Complete a Meaningless Trade
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Shelvin Mack
Memphis Grizzlies Receive: Tyler Dorsey
Unless you are a diehard NBA fan or a fan of the Grizzlies or Hawks, odds are you don’t know who Shelvin Mack or Tyler Dorsey are. The Hawks traded a 22-year old wing player in Tyler Dorsey to the Grizzlies for a 28-year old Shelvin Mack. Neither team is making the playoffs this year, and Mack is a better player at this point than Dorsey, albeit marginally. All the Hawks did with this trade is slightly lower their chances of getting the number one overall pick.
Memphis traded a player that didn’t factor into their future plans for a player that doesn’t have much promise, but is young enough that he just might be a part of their plans.
Boston Commits High Treason in Celtics Nation by Trading Someone Named Bird
Atlanta Hawks Receive: Jabari Bird, cash considerations
Boston Celtics Receive: 2019 second-round pick (top 55 protected)
The Hawks will eventually cut Jabari Bird, and the second rounder they gave the Celtics goes away if it falls in the first 25 picks of the second round. Considering the Hawks have one of the worst records in the NBA, they got the Celtics to give them money for absolutely nothing. Well played Atlanta; well played.
Larry Bird gave the Celtics three championships. Jabari Bird cost the Celtics money to get rid of him. The difference between the last two Birds to play for this franchise could not be any greater.
On a more serious note, the only reason why the Celtics get an F for this trade is because it never should have taken this long for the Celtics to get rid of Jabari Bird in the first place. Bird is currently facing multiple criminal charges, including choking and threatening to kill his girlfriend back in September of 2018. There is no excuse that justifies a human being ever being violent towards another human being. Regardless of whether it is a man or a woman, it is never acceptable. The fact that this happened 5 months ago and the Celtics are just now getting Jabari Bird off their team is disappointing to say the least. This move was long overdue.
Corbin Weinerman is an Editor/Writer for the Unwrapped Sports Network website. Follow him @CorbinUnwrapped on Twitter.