NBA trade deadline: Winners and losers
Nuggets: Denver entered the trade-deadline season with a bullet hole through its own foot. There’s no way to get a real return on a 37-year-old player who gets into a public verbal altercation with his coach and, wouldn’t you know it, the Nuggets proved that point by receiving draft bust Vesely for Miller. It wasn’t particularly surprising that Denver sold low on Miller, and GM Tim Connelly can at least say that he salvaged the day by acquiring Brooks as a stopgap for his bleeding backcourt. Getting Brooks cost the Nuggets Hamilton, though, and there seems little question that the Miller/Hamilton duo is vastly preferable to the Brooks/Vesely combination. We’re not talking about an earth-shattering downgrade here, but that’s rough. Tack on the loss of center JaVale McGee to a season-ending leg surgery and it’s probably time for Denver to put a draft-lottery countdown clock front and center on Nuggets.com.
Bucks: If there was one victim of the league’s lack of interest in acquiring big, long-term money, it was Milwaukee, whose payroll includes significant contracts via Caron Butler, O.J. Mayo, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia and Larry Sanders. Yes, that’s five contracts that are worth trying to trade for a team that has by far the league’s worst record at 10-43. Ultimately, the Bucks were unable to dump any of them, or tie them into other deals, and they leave the trade deadline without acquiring any valuable rebuilding assets. Contrast this with the 15-win Sixers, who added picks galore, and you can’t help but see a big gap in hope.
Blazers: Calling the Blazers “losers” is a bit extreme, but they were uniquely positioned to benefit from a little midseason invigoration because of a rash of recent injuries (LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard), a 5-9 stretch over the last month, a below-average defense and a thin bench that is always in need of help. The decision not to deal was shaped by a lack of quality assets and a desire to postpone the roster-building until the summer, but one wonders whether the hands-off approach is setting the organization up for second-guessing come playoff time. After an insanely hot start, the Blazers are in danger of missing out on home-court advantage, and a first-round round exit would be an unfortunate end to what began as a dream season. Was there really no deal that could have helped?
Lakers: Another quasi-loser were the Lakers, who did well to reduce their luxury-tax burden with the Blake trade. Could more slashing-and-burning have been done? Rumors persisted around the likes of Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol over the last few weeks, and L.A. was potentially in position to escape the luxury tax entirely with the right set of moves. Does it really matter that a franchise that prints money wasn’t able to pinch these pennies? Maybe not, but paying taxes on a roster this bad goes down as a black mark of bad management.
Knicks: The NBA’s biggest disappointment this season was unable to address its point guard problems — though not for lack of effort. A bare shelf of future assets cramped the Knicks’ deal-making ability, though that didn’t stop them from being among the league leaders in rumors. Any hope that was generated for fans by all that chatter landed with a thud on Thursday, as the 21-33 Knicks didn’t make a deal and will be forced to play out the string with their hand of poor cards.