NBA trade deadline: Winners and losers
By Ben Golliver
Thursday’s NBA trade deadline passed without a splashy move to rival the James Harden and Rudy Gay trades from earlier this season. J.J. Redick was the biggest name dealt. High-profile players who are set to become free agents such as Josh Smith, Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap stayed put. None of the stars mentioned in rumors — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Monta Ellis, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard among them — actually changed zip codes.
Still, plenty of business was done, as 12 trades involving 18 teams and more than 20 players were completed in the final 24 hours before the 3 p.m. ET deadline.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers from the deals that went down at the deadline. (The Point Forward will address the deals that weren’t made on Friday.)
Houston Rockets: A vast majority of deadline moves were subtle deals that involved fringe rotation members or financial considerations. Not Houston’s trade. General manager Daryl Morey acquired the No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson, in a six-player deal that didn’t require the Rockets to part with an A-list asset (player or pick), meaningfully compromise their cap space this summer or receive a dead-weight contract in return. This was as clean a pilfering as you will see in the modern NBA, as if Morey helicoptered in to pluck Robinson off of the roof as flames engulfed the Sleep Train Arena.
Robinson has the most untapped potential and upside of any player traded this week. The Rockets look like a fairly solid playoff team this season, but their window is just opening around a young core that includes Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and now Robinson. Parting with the serviceable Patrick Patterson — who has one more year left on his rookie contract after this season — is a small price to pay for the chance to see whether Robinson can blossom into the game-changer some believed he would be coming out of Kansas.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Delicate is the word to describe Thunder GM Sam Presti. Oklahoma City pulled off two moves on Thursday, dealing reserve point guard Eric Maynor to the Trail Blazers for a trade exception and acquiring guard/forward Ronnie Brewer from the Knicks for a 2014 second-round pick and cash.
The Thunder boast one of the league’s deepest rosters, but the two moves provides just a touch of improved balance. Maynor was not having his best year after a major knee injury that cost him most of the 2011-12 season. The more athletic Reggie Jackson was emerging as Russell Westbrook’s backup and there just aren’t that many minutes to go around when the All-Star starter plays 36 per game. Brewer gives coach Scott Brooks one more experienced, defensive-minded body to add to a wing mix that includes Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin. Brewer, a strong defender, can be used when OKC goes to smaller lineups or in certain matchups that might not be as favorable for Martin. He also provides an added degree of injury protection for Sefolosha.
Presti also shaved more than $1 million off of his books this season. That’s delicate defined: improving the bench’s positional balance while cutting payroll.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors’ owners are deep-pocketed, so money isn’t the end-all, be-all. But the new collective bargaining agreement strongly encourages teams to dip into the luxury tax waters carefully rather than make a habit of swimming in those waters year after year. Where the luxury tax zone was once an annoyance, now it can be a true impediment to team-building and a costly one at that.
The Warriors dumped 2011 second-round picks Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins to move under the $70.8 million luxury tax line. This year’s luxury tax payments would have been minuscule, but the fact the Warriors are now recipients of luxury tax money rather than payers is a nice bonus. The bigger deal: Staying under the luxury tax line prevents the Warriors from taking a strike in the new “repeater” system, which promises escalating fines for teams that are regularly taxpayers. With big dollars committed to Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Stephen Curry, plus expensive players options for Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrens in 2013-14, the Warriors will be headed to the luxury tax vicinity again next year. These moves, while very predictable, kept them from being behind the financial eight ball down the road.
Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers’ backup point guard position has been one of the NBA’s biggest disasters this season. Few teams fall off as hard when one player checks out as the Blazers do when Rookie of the Year front-runner Damian Lillard hits the bench. Obtaining a new backup has been a glaring need since training camp opened, and Portland finally plugged that hole by acquiring Maynor for nothing more than the draft rights to Greek forward Georgios Printezis. To make room for Maynor, the Blazers released veteran guard Ronnie Price.
Maynor is in the final year of his rookie contract, so this amounts, first and foremost, to a rental tryout. He’s struggled this season, particularly with his shot (he’s shooting a career-low 31.3 percent), and he’s only a little more than a year removed from suffering an ACL injury. With the weakest bench in the league and a need for a longer-term option to back up Lillard, the Blazers were smart to take a “buy low” flier on a game-managing point guard with some playoff experience who can spell Lillard or potentially play alongside him. If he works out, they’ve added one piece to a bench that needs three or four more of them. If not, no assets were expended in the trial.
Sacramento Kings: Trading a top-five pick like Robinson just nine months after selecting him without ever giving him a true shot at major minutes reflects failure in so many aspects of the management process. One: Certainly the pick could have been used more effectively. Two: A loose leash, or at least some level of patience, should have come into play in managing his role. Three: This was the best they could get as far as a return package?
The move also reflects an obvious desire to cut costs as an ownership transfer from the Maloofs to a Seattle-based group unfolds. Dealing Robinson to the Rockets reportedly netted the Kings $1 million, along with an additional $1 million-plus in salary savings. Is tossing away Robinson’s potential really worth that little? If Sacramento’s fans hadn’t been through so much in recent years, this would have prompted unadulterated outrage. Instead, it joins a long line of blood-boiling, pathetic decisions.
Washington Wizards: Dealing Jordan Crawford for Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins is just a mess. How exactly do you move a rotation player on a rookie deal for a journeyman center and a player with a season-ending injury without receiving any other assets and take on money (albeit only a few hundred thousand) in the process? Who cares how inefficient Crawford is or disgruntled he might be; how does this move benefit Washington in the slightest? Shedding his $2.2 million contract for next season would seem to be of little concern when, by comparison, the twin powerless towers of Emeka Okafor/Nene pull in a combined $27 million.
There really wasn’t a second-round pick to be found for Crawford? It really wouldn’t make more sense to just wait until the summer and try to move him then?
Thomas Robinson, Rockets: It’s hard to improve your lot in life more than Robinson did this week. He goes from not playing much for a lottery-bound franchise loaded with question marks and distractions to a young, fun-and-gun team on the rise that promises to commit real minutes to him and is likely headed to the playoffs. He goes from backing up a veteran in Jason Thompson to being penciled in as an every-night starter on a fast-paced team that can put his athleticism to full use. He goes from a me-first squad that has the second-worst assist rate in the league to a Houston team that moves the ball with slightly better than average regularity.
Tobias Harris, Magic: If there’s one totally under-the-radar player moved on Thursday who can emerge into a real player by shifting locales and being given a larger opportunity, it would be Harris. Included as one of the pieces Milwaukee sent to Orlando in exchange for Redick, Harris has good size for a wing and posted decent per-minute numbers in a limited role for the Bucks. Milwaukee simply had too many veteran options in front of the 20-year-old, who was the 19th pick in 2011. In Orlando, coach Jacque Vaughn should be delighted to give Harris the opportunity to showcase his talents.
Eric Maynor, Blazers: After fighting — and mostly losing — a battle with Reggie Jackson for scant backup minutes in Oklahoma City, Maynor has the opportunity to start a second chapter to his NBA career in Portland. The Blazers are fading fast, having lost six straight games, and Maynor could very well see at least 20 minutes a game consistently as the season winds down. Missing out on a possible Finals run this year will be a bitter pill to swallow, but he has more immediate concerns, such as shoring up his future in the league.
Jordan Crawford, Celtics: It’s not every day that players stuck on atrocious teams exit that situation as cleanly as Crawford. He moves to the Celtics, a team that is actually playing for something, and plugs into an injury-ravaged backcourt that will need him to provide minutes.
Sebastian Telfair, Raptors: Much like Crawford, Telfair just saw the rest of his season become relevant again. Rather than watching his playing time erode in favor of rookie Kendall Marshall as the Suns limp to the lottery, Telfair moves into the backup point guard hole created when the Raptors shipped Jose Calderon to the Pistons in the deal that netted Rudy Gay. While Toronto has some serious ground to make up to get to the No. 8 seed in the East, that uphill climb is far better for a vet like Telfair than Phoenix’s trudge toward a top-five pick.
Marcus Morris, Suns: Marcus and twin brother Markieff, famously inseparable, are now reunited in Phoenix. If you must play for one of the NBA’s worst teams, you might as well have your best friend alongside you.
Kenyon Martin, Knicks: After essentially begging for a job, Martin finally got one, agreeing to a 10-day contract after the Knicks opened a roster spot by moving Brewer. This is a good spot for Martin: a veteran-laden team with championship aspirations that includes a number of his former teammates from the Nuggets days, including Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith. Will he make the most of it?
J.J. Redick, Bucks: It seemed like the whole NBA world wanted Redick’s services these past few weeks, and for good reason. He’s a great teammate and great shooter and has developed into a solid all-around player. Given his expiring contract, he was the ideal trade target for a contender to add in an attempt to push itself over the top. Instead, the Bucks, the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference at 26-27, added Redick in an attempt to prevent a slide back into the lottery. Redick’s reward for suffering through months of rumors and being one of the most coveted trade deadline targets could very well be a four-game sweep in the first round at the hands of the Heat before he undergoes the madness and uncertainty of free agency. He will surely take it all in stride, but you can’t help but feel sympathy for him.
Hakim Warrick, Magic: How many times can one man be traded? Since signing a four-year contract with the Suns in July 2010, Warrick has been traded from Phoenix to New Orleans to Charlotte and now to Orlando, where he will be bought out. Perhaps all that traveling might be worth it if he finds a playoff team to hook on with for the stretch run.
Ronnie Price, Blazers: The Maynor trade came just before the buzzer and it was a bit of a surprise, as Blazers management had been promising a quiet trade deadline. The move cost Price his job and unfairly so, given that he’s played better this season than 2010 first-round pick Nolan Smith. Blazers GM Neil Olshey said the franchise felt an “organizational responsibility” to continue developing Smith, but that responsibility didn’t extend to picking up Smith’s rookie option for next year. Price is left watching a less deserving player keep a roster spot that should have been his.
Luke Zeller, Suns: Zeller was released to make room for Marcus Morris. The undrafted free agent must now find his next job, a tall task with just 58 minutes of playing time to show for his rookie season.