NBA Trade Deadline: The Grades Are In


Leading up to February 8th, we saw a whole lot of deals take place. From the transition of Isaiah Thomas (again), to the overall confusion in Utah, a handful of front offices decided to take advantage of the NBA Trade Deadline. Here is a breakdown of each team, and the grade they ultimately received:

Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta wasn’t very active through the deadline, but can we blame them? The franchise is currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, so the moves made were simply to plan upon the distant future.

Aside from the buyout of Marco Belinelli, the small moves from the Hawks consisted of adding Okaro White from the Miami Heat in exchange for Luke Babbitt, as well as receiving Sheldon Mac from the Washington Wizards in return for a protected second-round pick. The Atlanta Hawks continue to be a team without a distinct face, but this deadline suited them well as well as one can hope.

Grade: C+

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics were planning on emerging as buyers and sellers at the deadline, but per Danny Ainge, the front office elected to remain quiet. This was a team that was once linked to Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, and others, but found no benefit in selling away their current assets.

One aspect that took me by surprise included the fact that Marcus Smart is still with the Celtics. He was rumored to emerge as trade bait for weeks now, but Boston was unwilling to deal away their brighter and younger talent as part of a package deal. Overall, Boston made no distinct moves at the deadline, but still sit atop the Eastern Conference, so who’s the real winner?

Grade: C

Brooklyn Nets 

The Nets were somewhat active at the deadline, but didn’t dazzle us with any big moves. Did we expect anything more from a franchise that is still undergoing a rebuild stage?

After acquiring Rashad Vaughn from the Milwaukee Bucks for Tyler Zeller, the Nets then went out and dealt away Vaughn in exchange for Dante Cunningham from the New Orleans Pelicans. While Cunningham is viewed merely as a bench asset, he is projected to become a free agent this summer, giving the Nets some more flexibility in their future.

Grade: B-

Charlotte Hornets

There were consistent talks about the Hornets dealing away Kemba Walker before the deadline, but ultimately, owner Michael Jordan didn’t see any offers that suited him. In exchange for two second-round picks and Johnny O’Bryant, Charlotte was able to receive Willy Hernangomez from the New York Knicks.

The Hornets are within five games of the playoff picture, so part of me wishes that Charlotte would have pulled the trigger and made a move to catapult themselves into the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season. The interesting headline in Charlotte will eventually involve Walker, who is set to become a free agent after the 2018-19 season.

Grade: D+

Chicago Bulls

Aside from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers, the Chicago Bulls were actually one of the most active teams during the NBA Trade Deadline this past week. The biggest move involved the departure of Nikola Mirotic, but in return, Chicago received Omer Asik, Tony Allen, and a first-round future pick.

Other moves included the addition of Willie Reed for Jameer Nelson, which may set the Bulls up for success in the long run. With more contract flexibility on their hands, perhaps the Bulls are planning to make moves in the upcoming offseason?

Grade: B+

Cleveland Cavaliers

This fire sale was absolutely entertaining to watch, but was it to the benefit of the Cavaliers? Starting with the exchange of Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round draft pick to the Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr, Cleveland essentially sold off the idea of Thomas being successful in Ohio, and cashed in for a few successful bench assets.

Moving on to Dwayne Wade heading back to Miami, the Cavaliers felt as though Wade had the right to return to Florida, as his role with Cleveland was set to become drastically reduced. In addition, after acquiring Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder in the previous offseason, Cleveland then sent the duo over to Utah in exchange for George Hill and Rodney Hood.

I’m not sure what to call this Cavaliers roster, but I guess “different” is the way to best describe them? Sitting at the #3 seed, this is still an era I see within the twilight stages.

Grade: B+

Dallas Mavericks

I know the Mavericks are towards the bottom barrel of the NBA, but Doug McDermott? Really? As part of a three-team trade, the Mavericks gave up Emmanuel Mudiay, and wound up with a player who contains far less potential.

The Mavericks have been stuck within a transition stage for a few seasons now, and with this disappointing deadline on their hands, I don’t expect things to look up for Dallas anytime soon.

Grade: F

Denver Nuggets 

I actually saw a fair amount of potential in Mudiay, but Devin Harris will do. The veteran is reaching the end of his NBA career, but his presence may prove to be beneficial towards the youth movement in Denver.

The Nuggets are just barely hanging onto a playoff slot in the Western Conference, so I’m somewhat baffled that the front office chose to lay back and produce minor deals. I don’t see Denver as a postseason contender, but had they made moves before the deadline ended, I could have considered this an above-average roster.

Grade: D

Detroit Pistons

Out of all the franchises in the NBA at the deadline, this is the one I’m most impressed with. Receiving Blake Griffin, Jameer Nelson, and James Ennis has proven to be a great move on behalf of the Pistons. This is a team that I didn’t sincerely consider a threat in the East, but now, I could view the Pistons as one of the top contenders. As long as Griffin remains healthy, Detroit seems to have found a new gear, as they are currently playing with more energy than ever before.

Grade: A

Golden State Warriors

After electing to make no moves at the deadline, this may have been the best strategy yet for the Warriors. No real changes were ever needed in the Golden State roster, but considering franchises like the Cavaliers held a fire sale, one advantage the Warriors hold is chemistry.

It seems somewhat predictable that Golden State will represent the Western Conference once again this year, but the franchise should be thrilled with the fact that Cleveland is scrambling to readjust their lineup.

Grade: B

Houston Rockets

According to the front office within Houston, the signing of Gerald Green back in December was the Rockets “deadline deal”. The team stood still at the deadline, but in all honesty, there wasn’t much adjusting they could do.

The Houston Rockets happen to be arguably the only contender from stopping the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference, and at the moment, they have an opportunity to make an entrance into the NBA Finals. With the addition of Joe Johnson, the Rockets are continuing to improve as the days go on.

Grade: B+

Indiana Pacers

Although the Pacers contain a winning record, there was little belief in a deep postseason run from the Indiana front office. In result, the team didn’t believe in cashing in for a potential superstar, especially with the elite competition they face in the Eastern Conference.

There is a solid shot that the Pacers come away with a playoff slot, and maybe even a series win within the postseason. Ultimately, Indiana is planning for the future, and elected not to bite the bait at the deadline, which is a smart move if you ask me.

Grade: B-

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers found themselves as sellers at the deadline, and in return, received Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Majanovic, a first-round and second-round draft pick. Ever since the departure of Chris Paul, this has been a Clippers team without any killer instinct.

I was somewhat surprised to find DeAndre Jordan remaining in Los Angeles, considering he could potentially become a free agent this summer. The Clippers will shortly be entering a complete rebuild, but I’m disappointed that Los Angeles got no return value for Jordan while they could.

Grade: C-

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers, who have been on a recent hot steak, found themselves as both buyers and sellers heading into the deadline. Grabbing Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a first-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers allowed the front office to open up nearly $70 million in free cap space.

If Los Angeles plays their hand right, they have the potential to max out on two potential superstar free agents. The rumors claim that Paul George and LeBron James could be on that shortlist, but don’t count out players who will hit the free agency market in future years.

Grade: A+

Memphis Grizzlies 

The biggest headline out of Memphis during the NBA Trade Deadline involved Tyreke Evans, who ultimately wasn’t traded before Thursday afternoon. A vast majority of the fan base aren’t too thrilled the Grizzlies didn’t seek out any return value for the veteran, as he was linked to multiple suitors over the last few weeks.

Ultimately, the Grizzlies gave off Tyler Ennis to the Detroit Pistons in return for Brice Johnson and a second-round draft pick. No sparks were provided for a Memphis team with no NBA Finals aspirations, as we’re left somewhat dumbfounded.

Grade: D

Miami Heat 

After a brief departure, the Miami Heat somehow found themselves back with hometown hero Dwayne Wade. In exchange for a heavily protected second-round pick, I believe this was not only great for the team, but great for the city of Miami as well.

In addition, the acquisition of Luke Babbitt will provide the Heat with a short-term deal, leaving flexibility when it comes to the 2018 offseason. All in all, even considering Wade’s age, this was a treat for the Heat fan base to experience.

Grade: B-

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks went on to feel somewhat comfortable with their current roster at the NBA Trade Deadline, and I don’t blame them. Primed for a playoff slot in the Eastern Conference, the front office in Milwaukee couldn’t have done a whole lot to improve upon their lineup.

We did see the Bucks go out and exchange Rashad Vaughn in order to receive Tyler Zeller from the Brooklyn Nets, which seems like a decent upgrade in terms of bench depth. Will Milwaukee emerge as a serious contender in 2018? I doubt it, but it’s important to recognize that this is a team on the rise.

Grade: B

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves didn’t contain a whole lot of leverage at the deadline, so I don’t blame them for a lack of movement. The only news coming out of Minnesota involves Derrick Rose, who has been released to waivers.

If Minnesota reels in Rose to come off the bench, he could prove to be worthwhile. He hasn’t been useful in any form this season, but never say never when it comes to a former MVP.

Grade: C+

New Orleans Pelicans

Well, the Pelicans elected to cash in a large handful of assets in order to receive Nikola Mirotic from the Chicago Bulls, and only time will tell if this pays off. Without DeMarcus Cousins on the floor, I’m surprised that the Pelicans chose this moment to emerge as a potential contender in the West.

The contract of Mirotic is guaranteed through the 2018-19 season, which gives the Pelicans a limited amount of time to reel in enough talent to remain competitive. If Cousins was healthy, this would have been a great move. At this point in time though, the Pelicans look rather foolish.

Grade: C

New York Knicks

With the eventual injury to Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks were essentially written off as a serious playoff team in the Eastern Conference. With that, I give the front office of New York some praise here, as they shipped off Willy Hernangomez for a few draft picks, and they also received Emmanuel Mudiay as part of a three-team trade.

The New York Knicks may not be contenders quite yet, but this was the perfect deadline for a franchise that needs to prepare for the future. Will we see future talent land in the Big Apple? It seems difficult to tell, but this deadline increased those odds.

Grade: A

Oklahoma City Thunder 

The Thunder didn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room at the trade deadline, as a fair amount of their role players are undergoing injuries. With that, Oklahoma City is potentially waiting upon the “buyout” period, in which they may attract veterans to play for them.

Whatever way you cut it, the Thunder will be seen as a postseason contender. That alone will persuade a few veterans to consider signing with Oklahoma City in the next few days. No potential scenarios have come to light, but there is plenty of time.

Grade: C+

Orlando Magic

Towards the end of the deadline, the Orlando Magic chose to send off Elfrid Payton to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for a second-round pick. While the move won’t break headlines, shipping away Payton allows for a clearance in the active roster.

All the signs in Orlando point to a massive rebuild on the horizon. Stocking up draft picks is one way to go about the process, as the Magic will hope to strike gold in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Grade: B

Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers have a fair amount of confidence in their roster at the moment, which allowed to front office to take the day off last Thursday. The team went on to add Marco Belinelli during the brief buyout period, which was a fantastic move on behalf of the 76ers.

This is an awfully young team, but I could see a potential deep playoff run in future seasons for Philadelphia.

Grade: B+

Phoenix Suns

The Suns were originally intending to become sellers at the NBA Trade Deadline, but instead, snagged Elfrid Payton in a deal with the Orlando Magic. While Payton is under contract for a few more years, I see it as a conservative investment. Considering Phoenix is clearly attempting to rebuild for the future, I’m not impressed with their lack of ability to sell off some of their more experienced assets.

Grade: C

Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers have once again gone through a deadline with no noteworthy updates. Aside from a European deal involving the addition of Milocan Rakovic, this was an absolute dud for the city of Portland.

I’m not quite positive where the Trail Blazers go from here, considering they haven’t been capable of attracting big name free agents during recent offseasons. Part of the issue involves a few massive contracts on the roster, which has limited Portland’s ability to make moves.

Grade: D-

Sacramento Kings

I’m somewhat perplexed by the strategy of the Kings heading into the deadline. The front office essentially placed everyone on the trade block, and then as soon as they received Joe Johnson, Sacramento then agreed to a buyout with the veteran.

This seemed like sloppy play, as the Kings somehow got worse after the deadline. Sure, the contract flexibility is present, but there have been no signs of improvement in the last several years.

Grade: D+

Toronto Raptors 

The Raptors may be in the same category as the Oklahoma City Thunder, as rumors have swirled about the front office playing as buyers during the buyout period. If Toronto can somehow swoop in and steal a role player or two, they could emerge as a force in the East.

The team stayed remotely quiet during the deadline period, dealing for Malachi Richardson at one point. He is viewed as nothing more than a bench player, but he has potential to develop over time. Will the Raptors change their roster before the end of the All-Star break?

Grade: C

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz were an entertaining team to pay attention to, as they winded up receiving Derrick Rose and Jae Crowder in part of a three-team trade. As of Saturday afternoon, the Jazz then went on to release Rose to waivers, leaving most of us scratching our heads.

I get that Rose isn’t the future of the franchise, but was Crowder really more valuable than George Hill and Rodney Hood? The former Celtics forward has been underwhelming in Cleveland this season, so it will be even more entertaining to see him on the floor with Utah.

Grade: C-

Washington Wizards

Aside from sending Sheldon Mac to the Atlanta Hawks, the Wizards remained quiet this year at the deadline. Ultimately, by sending Mac to Atlanta, Washington has freed up a roster spot, and saved themselves a bit of cash as well.

According to Scott Brooks, the Wizards are planning to attract a free agent in the offseason, although it’s unclear on who it may be. If D.C. can reel in a superstar of sorts, the Wizards may be in the same category as some of the more elite franchises.

Grade: B


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