Golonka: Who Won the NBA Trade Deadline…And Who Lost

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Photo by Medija centar Beograd via Wikimedia Commons

By: Sean Golonka

This year, the NBA moved up it’s trade deadline a couple weeks, from after All-Star Weekend to the Thursday following the Super Bowl. And it worked out perfectly for the Association. Anthony Davis’s trade request and a number of other basketball-related rumors dominated the headlines leading up to and then following the Super Bowl.

And as for the trade deadline itself, well Feb. 7, 2019 featured more trades than any previous NBA trade deadline ever before and saw more players dealt than every other previous trade deadline aside from the 2015 deadline.

This year’s trade deadline was really about as good as it could get. Anthony Davis rumors rocked Twitter. Tobias Harris, Marc Gasol, and Kristaps Porzingis were all traded. Even Harrison Barnes and Nikola Mirotic were moved in some interesting deals. So, with all those deals going down, the question remains: Who won the NBA trade deadline? And who lost?

The Winners

Sacramento Kings

Heading into last week, the Kings looked like a great young, promising team. De’Aaron Fox is one of the smartest and most talented, not to mention the fastest, young point guards in the game. Buddy Hield has been Klay Thompson levels of amazing on offense so far this year. They even have a great trio of young bigs that each bring their own unique style to the table.

And then Vlade Divac, who somehow has become a respectable general manager over the course of the last season (yeah I still laughed at myself a bit for even writing that), managed to snag Harrison Barnes at basically no real cost.

Barnes, a veteran hybrid wing who can get buckets at a pretty high level (he put up over 19 a game in his first year in Dallas!), is the perfect addition for the Kings. He gives them experience, leadership, and badly needed wing talent.

With a strong young core and plans to resign HariBo, the 9th place, 29-26 Kings are, for the first time in over a decade, in a place to really succeed down the line.

Dallas Mavericks

On the other side of the Harrison Barnes trade is the Dallas Mavericks, who made not just one, but two big trades to position themselves well for this summer and beyond. By dumping Barnes, the Mavs cleared space to sign a max contract free agent this summer, perhaps Kevin Durant (or hey, maybe Kawhi Leonard will return to the state of Texas).

And even before that smart trade, the Mavericks managed to wisely rid themselves of Dennis Smith Jr. (nothing against DSJ, he just did not work in Dallas) along with the contracts of Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan.

And in return for the great group of players, as well as a couple picks, the Mavericks managed to land the Unicorn Kristaps Porzingis. Now, this might not work out in the long run because the 7-foot-3 KP might not ever fully recover from the injury he suffered. But, with the Latvian KP joining the Slovenian Luka Doncic, the Mavs could have a nightmarish and lethal duo for the next 15 years.

Just imagine if the Mavericks run out Luka, KP, and KD next summer. That would be crazy fun!

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks are terrifying. And it really is so unfortunate that no one is taking them more seriously. They’re 41-14, good for first place in the Eastern Conference. They’re led by a top-3 MVP candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have another two All-Star level guys on their team with Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton, who are both as dangerous on defense as they are on offense (did you know that Eric Bledsoe is shooting 60% on 2’s this year? Do not let him in the paint.).

Most importantly though, the Bucks just made a move to give them yet another schematic advantage over their opponents.

This year, the Bucks have found a ton of success running out lineups of Giannis and four shooters. The shooters spread the floor, giving Giannis tons of room to work inside and to facilitate if a man gets open. And a big reason they were able to succeed with that formula at so much of a higher level than other teams was because they had Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, two guys who are right around 7 feet tall and who can knock down the three.

But now, at the cost of zero rotation players, the Bucks have added Nikola Mirotic, a 6’10” hybrid wing with a whole lot of length and the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc at right around 37 percent. Look out league!

Boston Celtics

Anthony Davis remains a Pelican. And that means the Celtics will have a chance to land him this summer.

Toronto Raptors

Delon Wright and CJ Miles were undoubtedly solid bench players for the Raptors. But by giving them up, the Raps were able to upgrade from Jonas Valanciunas to Marc Gasol. This is just a really really solid move for the second place Raps.

They now have the big man trio of Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, and Serge Ibaka, which will, ideally, stifle the other big man groups of the East’s other top contenders. The best part of this trade though is really just the pairing of Gasol and Siakam. Gasol posting up on the elbow with Siakam spinning and cutting into the paint around him sounds like a Brad Stevens nightmare come true.

But even with this upgrade, which likely came as a response to the Sixers upgrading their roster with Tobias Harris, I’m not convinced it will be enough for the Raps. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have proven that they don’t always mesh the best when they’re on the floor together. And Marc Gasol’s slow 34-year-old body will likely to struggle the likes of Al Horford and Joel Embiid and even Brook Lopez on the perimeter.

Still, it’s a smart, low risk move for the Raptors, and it very well might work out great for their 2019’s hopes.

Tobias Harris

First and foremost, just know that I am specifically putting Tobias Harris in the winners column and not the 76ers. I’ll get to why in a bit, but what’s important here is Tobias Harris.

Harris, who is an upstanding player and locker room presence, is finally getting what he’s deserved. Despite improving basically every year of his career, he’s bounced around between countless teams. And now instead of finishing the year out with the Clippers, who might not even make the Playoffs in the West, Harris gets to finish out his contract with an East contender. And he gets an even better chance to prove just why exactly his All-Star level talents are max contract worthy.

Harris finally gets to play with a good team. He’s finally surrounded by other stars. And hopefully with all that other talent around him, he and his numbers will thrive.

The Losers

Los Angeles Lakers

Anthony Davis is still a Pelican. And worse than that, the Lakers are now dealing with the many locker room troubles of upset veterans and young players who are worried about their future in LA (honestly, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James are probably the only two Lakers who weren’t affected by all the trade rumors).

Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis is still a Pelican. Now, I know that’s the third time I’ve written that. But, it is a happy reality for the Celtics and a sad truth that both the Lakers and Davis must come to term with for the next few months.

Clearly AD doesn’t want to be in New Orleans. I mean he said it himself. But, really, Davis just wants to stop being a loser. Or maybe, based on most of the teams that AD said he’s be willing to sign with, Davis just wants to be in a bigger city, with brighter lights (yes, I know Milwaukee is the exception).

Anyways, the next few months of Davis sitting out of back-to-backs (probably for load management) and sitting out of fourth quarters likely won’t be fun for AD or for anyone else really. If the NBA wasn’t going to continuously fine the Pels, sitting AD out for the rest of the season really would be the best option.

Philadelphia 76ers

Like I explained before, Tobias Harris is a winner of the Sixers-Clippers trade. And understandably so. In the short term, the Sixers are even a winner in that trade. The newly formed Phantastic 5 of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and J.J. Redick is truly terrifying. They pose so many match up nightmares and they can destroy you in so many different ways. And that new power 5 will likely lead to a playoff series win of two for the Sixers.

But there is a much bigger picture here. Entering this season, the Sixers were a team led by a 24 year old in his third season (Joel Embiid) and a 22 year old in his second season (Ben Simmons). They had two young studs, and with the Warriors’ dynasty still in the way, they had no real reason to go all in now.

And yet, they gave up depth and youth and valuable picks for two wings on expiring deals. So now, even with their uber-talented team, they still might not even be good enough to take down the Bucks or Raps or Celtics in a seven game series. And they could quite possibly lose both Butler and Harris in free agency this summer.

It was a risky move, and I just don’t see it paying off in the long term.

Oh also, with the Markelle Fultz trade now complete, the Sixers can confidently say that they basically traded Jayson Tatum for Jonathan Simmons and a pair of picks. So, way to go Philly!

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