When most NBA trade deadlines rush in with a popThursday more or less limped through with a whimper. Only true NBA aficionados will have even heard of most of the names involved in trades at the deadline this year, let alone have an opinion on the movement therein. But fear not, dear reader. That’s what we’re here for. Here’s a recap of the likely winners and losers of the sleepiest trade deadline in recent memory.
Related: NBA trade deadline: Knicks strengthen bench with Burks, Bogdanović
New York Knicks Is that a pig I just saw floating among the clouds? The Knicks are bona fide Good, and not just on the court, but also in the front office. This objective truth is something that would have felt impossible four seasons ago, but that’s where we are now, and it wouldn’t be outrageous to wonder if a championship is a possibility. That’s thanks in large part to the emergence of Jalen Brunson and some of the supporting cast that started the season with him in the Mecca. But the Knicks’ midseason acquisitions were frankly impeccable: They acquired Perfect Knick™ OG Anunoby (and Precious Achiuwa) from the Raptors pre-deadline and added sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanović and valuable Detroit vet Alec Burks at the buzzer. In a deadline without many clear “winners,” the Knicks lead the pack.
Milwaukee Bucks It’s admittedly a stretch to label the Bucks, a team that can only be described as a bit of turmoil, as “winners” at the deadline. They haven’t added much to their defensively struggling roster, and have had an extremely disappointing 1-5 record since trading rookie head coach Adrian Griffin for noted NBA head coach-cum-broadcaster Doc Rivers. But the shooting is by all accounts something that had to be done, so kudos to them for having the cajones to do it. And while they didn’t make any major changes at the deadline (their hands were quite tied in terms of assets), they did bring in veteran spark plug Patrick Beverley, a known pest in the attacking defense department, and perhaps even more. most importantly, a fiery boost in the locker room – just what the doctor ordered for a Milwaukee team trudging through the doldrums of the season in hopes of a championship.
Oklahoma City Thunder Sometimes less is more, and that was the case for Thunder’s pleasant surprise of the season at the deadline. Sure, they probably would have benefited from more depth at the center position. Asking rookie Chet Holmgren, as sensational as he was in his first real outing, to count on in his first-ever playoffs might be too much. But this team is way ahead of schedule and has excelled this season to a degree that no one expected, maybe not even them. So it’s fair to give the young core a chance to explore the postseason and see what happens before making any big moves. But OKC made a surprise move to snag veteran forward Gordon Hayward from the Charlotte Hornets. The 34-year-old Hayward hasn’t played an NBA game since late December and has been injury-prone for most of his career. But he still has plenty left in the tank to make a meaningful contribution in the playoffs, and the young Thunder were in dire need of a solid veteran presence heading into what will be the team’s first playoff appearance experience will be.
Chicago Bulls What exactly are the Bulls doing? That’s the question of the hour, and it’s been going on for a few seasons now. They’re certainly a play-in team in a weak Eastern Conference, but certainly not better than that. There have been rumors of trades involving their best players for years, but rather than trade their stars while they still have some value, Chicago’s powers that be have bafflingly chosen to stand firm and likely allow that yields continue to decline. Just about any contender likely would have overpaid for the services of impressive role player Alex Caruso this year, but Chicago reportedly made him “untouchable.” And Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have been in ongoing trade rumors, but LaVine is now out for the season with another lower leg/foot injury and DeRozan will be another year closer to retirement in Chicago purgatory.
Detroit Pistons It’s nothing short of remarkable that Troy Weaver is still gainfully employed. To call the Pistons a dumpster fire seems pitifully understated; they set literal NBA records for ineptitude this year. But the worst part is that they weren’t even deliberately fueling. The team entered this season with head coach Monty Williams on a nearly $80 million contract, making him the highest-paid coach in the league, and announced plans to be competitive, “really good,” even. They are pretty much the opposite of good, and instead of using the deadline to actually improve or strengthen the future, they did neither: Wait too long for valuable assets like Bojan Bogdanović to earn any meaningful returns, not particularly aggressive in their efforts to bring back alternative talent – and stayed where they are today. That is to say, a place where no self-respecting team would want to stay.
Los Angeles Lakers The Lakers front office’s decision to honor the deadline was a kind of Rashomon effect of decision-making: Depending on whose prism you view it through, it could reasonably be interpreted as a great idea, a terrible idea, or something similar. between. There was a thin trade market, a noticeable gap between the Lakers and top contenders, and the team will have several more first-round picks to sweeten the pot if they sustain a bigger swing this summer. But LeBron James also has more options this summer: a player option, to be precise. And he’s made it very clear lately that his preference was for the Lakers to be aggressive at the deadline. The Lakers brass’ reluctance to push their chips to the middle of the table and gamble on the upside of objectively remarkable performances from him and co-captain Anthony Davis this year could lead to him opting for free agency, and that alone seems like it would be the case. I have at least taken a step in the margins to underline their commitment.