A late deadline review: the other trades

Posted: 02/26/2015 by levcohen in Basketball

I reviewed the Goran (and Zoran) Dragic trade a few days ago but still haven’t completed my recap on the rest of the deadline moves, so I’m going to do that now. Again, since quite a few players moved, I’m not going to recap every single trade or include every player in each trade. I’ll just be going through the important parts to save myself some writing.

KG Back to Minnesota:
I wouldn’t call Minnesota’s reacquisition of Kevin Garnett, the best T-Wolf of all time who is still beloved by fans, a bad one, but it certainly highlights a bad move the Timberwolves made in the offseason. As a whole, the Kevin Love trade looks like it’s turning out pretty darn well. In fact, there probably has yet to be a return in a trade for a superstar better than the Andrew Wiggins-led haul Minnesota got. But the bad part of the trade for Minny, one that now sticks out like a sore thumb? The Timberwolves traded the 2015 top-10 protected first round pick they had from Miami for Thaddeus Young, who will be a free agent after this season. This is where the fact that Flip Saunders is both Minnesota’s GM and their head coach comes into play; it’s likely that Saunders liked Young as a player and figured his team could make a run with a starting lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer (who has since been traded), Young, and Nikola Pekovic. That was never going to happen in the stacked Western Conference, and injuries to Rubio, Martin, and Pekovic ensured that the Timberwolves would be near the bottom of the standings. So the T-Wolves traded a pick that now looks like it will fall in the 11-16 range for Thaddeus Young and then traded Young for what amounts to KG’s farewell tour. Given that Thad isn’t a great player and that he’ll be a free agent after this season, this specific move has no risk, but it’s hard to look at it without considering what the Timberwolves had to give up for Young.

This is also an inconsequential trade for the Nets, besides the fact that it signifies the end of the horrific Paul Pierce-KG era. In terms of their race for the playoffs, this move probably helps the Nets. They had a logjam at center, with Brook Lopez (who they nearly traded to Oklahoma City for Reggie Jackson), Mason Plumlee, and Garnett, and in return for the worst of the trio they get a guy who can cause mismatches as a quick power forward. There’s no doubt that Thaddeus Young will be able to have a bigger impact for the Nets than Kevin Garnett did, but I’m not sure it moves the needle, and I don’t think Young will re-sign with Brooklyn after the season.

Minnesota grade: C+
Brooklyn grade: B

Blazers nab Afflalo:
The Trailblazers made a no-brainer trade for sharpshooter Arron Afflalo, who is in the midst of a down season but has long been an above-average NBA wing. Afflalo fits really well for the Blazers, who were really thin on the wings with Wesley Matthews shouldering more of an offensive load alongside the ailing Nicolas Batum, who has had a rough season shooting-wise. Afflalo will fit in perfectly as the sixth man, providing an offensive spark off the bench for 20-25 minutes per game. The Blazers needed to get deeper, and this was a move that certainly increased their chances of winning the rough Western Conference. In return, Portland gave up a few placeholders and a lottery-protected 2016 pick. The pick will probably fall in the 20-30 range, and while it’s nice to have a first round pick, the Blazers are in win-now mode, and there isn’t much risk in giving up a lottery-protected pick.

From the Nuggets’ side of things, Afflalo had to be moved. He didn’t fit on a Denver team that has a lot of wing players, which makes me wonder why the Nuggets ever traded for him (they moved a pretty intriguing young guard in Evan Fournier for him). And while I’m sure the Nuggets tried to get a better pick in return, any first round pick is decent value for Afflalo. They could have done better later in the day (I would have traded Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson along with Afflalo, and the JaVale trade was stupid from their standpoint), but there was nothing wrong with this move.

Portland grade: A
Denver grade: B+

Isaiah Thomas to Boston:
The Celtics must really love Isaiah Thomas. I mean yeah, Thomas has shown that he is a spark-plug who can be lethal as a point guard off the bench, but the acquisition really doesn’t jibe with the rebuild the Celtics are in the midst of. They traded a 2016 first round pick in return for the fiery point guard, which probably isn’t ideal for a team that might not contend for at least another couple of years. And Thomas is playing for his third team in the last year, which probably tells us something about him. He’s a good player, but I’m not sure he’s good enough to offset the likelihood that he makes his teammates unhappy.

Phoenix ended up turning Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, a valuable Lakers pick and some depth pieces into Brandon Knight and a few first round picks. That doesn’t look great on paper. I thought the Suns probably should have held onto Thomas because they just signed him this past off-season and because his contract looks like a steal, but I guess they weren’t comfortable with Thomas starting alongside Eric Bledsoe. This is a trade I don’t really like for either team; it’s a “meh” trade.

Boston grade: B-
Phoenix grade: C+

Reggie Jackson to Detroit:
Did the Thunder just repeat the mistake they made with the James Harden trade? I don’t think so, because I don’t think Jackson compares (or will ever compare) to Harden. But it had to be in the back of Sam Presti’s mind, didn’t it? For the second time, the Thunder traded a young guard who had shown flashes of greatness simply because they didn’t want to go over the salary cap to sign the guard. This time, I like the trade a lot more. This could be the move that, assuming Kevin Durant finally comes back healthy (an assumption that is looking more risky by the day), pushes the Thunder over the top. Enes Kanter has been a beast in his first few games with Oklahoma City, and Kyle Singler has been starting in the absence of Durant. Add in the fact that D.J. Augustin might be as good as Jackson right now as a backup point guard and this trade looks like a winner for the Thunder, who are now scarily deep.

This is a trade the Pistons had to make, because they got the player in the trade with the most potential. When you are in Detroit’s position (they aren’t a very good team but have some pieces), you need to do all you can to turn role players into good starters. Jackson has his off nights, but he has already shown his potential in just a few games with Detroit. In the first two games of his Detroit career, Jackson has averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and seven assists per game. It’s that potential that made this trade a must for them.

Enes Kanter didn’t fit with Utah, which means this trade worked out well for them, too. They got a first rounder for the skilled big man and can now start Rudy Gobert, who is already probably the most impactful defender in the NBA on a per-minute basis.

Oklahoma City grade: A-
Detroit grade: A
Utah grade: B+

Knight-MCW-Lakers pick all change hands:
Is it possible that the Suns gave up the two biggest assets that moved on trade deadline day? Goran Dragic was the best player traded, and the Lakers pick, which is top-5 protected this year and top-3 protected next year, is also extremely valuable. If you look at each trade as an individual move, the Suns moved the Lakers pick, Miles Plumlee, and Tyler Ennis (a first round pick in 2014) for Kendall Marshall and Knight, who will be a restricted free agent after this season. To me, this was the Suns’ worst trade of their three. Knight is a good player having a good season, but trading a high lottery pick for the rights to overpay a middle-of-the-pack starting point guard? It seems like an iffy move, but I can’t ding them too much, because I really think Knight is a good player.

The Bucks traded shooting for more length, a better defender, and more longterm flexibility, both on and off the court. Their trade, of course, hinges on Michael Carter-Williams and his development. Can “point guard whisperer” Jason Kidd turn Carter-Williams, who like a young Kidd (see what I did there?) can’t shoot, into an All-Star? Even if he can’t, solid point guard play from MCW along with some contributions from Ennis and Plumlee will be enough to validate this trade. It’s clear that the Bucks, with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak and MCW and Khris Middleton, are trying to build a core of similarly sized players who can play different positions. This could morph into a pretty exciting team in the future.

For Philadelphia, the trade hinges on MCW, too. If you think Carter-Williams was ever supposed to be a building block for the Sixers, you’re probably wrong. Yes, Sam Hinkie drafted him, but that was only with the 11th pick. There were rumblings that MCW could have been traded as early as draft day 2014, right after the Sixers drafted Elfrid Payton (they eventually traded Payton). And would Carter-Williams be rated so highly by fans (and apparently teams also) if he hadn’t racked up stats for an awful team and won Rookie of the Year in the worst rookie class since, well, ever? I think we all know the answer to that one. So yeah, while it might seem as if Hinkie is just kicking the can down the road, I think it’s pretty clear that the Lakers pick they are getting has a very good chance of being a better player than Michael Carter-Williams. Now, every trade that includes future draft picks has added risk, and if the Lakers get a top-five pick this year and suddenly become good, the pick could become a non-lottery pick. But I don’t think that’s very likely. Instead, the Sixers will probably get a pick in the 6-10 range, which I would consider a win for Michael Carter-Williams.

Phoenix grade: C
Milwaukee grade: B+
Philadelphia grade: A-


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