NBA trade deadline: Winners and losers
Although deals were flying left and right in the final hours before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, a few guiding principles are all you really need to cut through the clutter. Let’s boil things down in a few quick bullet points to make sense of all the activity.
• Impact players did not get traded. More than 25 players were traded this week but only one, Spencer Hawes, possesses a Player Efficiency Rating above the league average of 15. Hawes, who was sent from the Sixers to the Cavaliers, has a PER of 15.4, so his move isn’t exactly a game-changer. Danny Granger (who went from the Pacers to the Sixers) and Antawn Jamison (who went from the Clippers to the Hawks) were the only players with All-Star appearances to change teams, and neither has made one since 2009.
• First-round picks did not get traded. Zero 2014 first-round picks exchanged hands, a clear sign that we should be excited about the possibilities of this upcoming draft class.
• Players with larger salaries (mostly) did not get traded. Only two players earning more than $7 million were traded: Granger and Marcus Thornton (who went from the Kings to the Nets). The average salary of players who were traded this week: $3.4 million, well under the league’s average salary of $5.2 million.
• Players owed big money in the future did not get traded. Roughly three-quarters of the players who were traded are headed to free agency this summer. Thornton is the only traded player who is on the books for more than $6 million next year.
Taken together, where do those principles leave us? With a bunch of minor deals executed to reduce luxury-tax obligations and rebalance depth charts from positional standpoints, plus a few opportunistic trades made by contenders or fringe contenders looking to fortify their rosters for a push through the playoffs.
Here’s a look at this year’s trade deadline winners and losers:
The Contenders: The biggest winners of a trade deadline lacking in star movement? The establishment favorites, of course. Miami, Indiana, Oklahoma City and San Antonio can all breathe a sigh of relief. They entered Thursday as the favorites to challenge for the 2014 title and they exited Thursday in exactly the same place because none of the league’s second- and third-tier teams (the Clippers, Rockets, Blazers, Suns, Warriors, Raptors and Bulls) made moves with enough significance to truly shake up the standings.
Of the top four title favorites, only the Pacers made a trade of any consequence, dumping Granger’s expiring contract for Sixers guard Evan Turner. That’s a fine move, but it’s hardly a game-changer: Turner has posted big raw numbers (17.4 points, six rebounds, 3.7 assists) for a rebuilding Philadelphia team, but he’s struggled to play efficiently throughout his four-year career. In the short term, the arrival of “The Villain” in Indiana is unlikely to leave Miami quaking in its boots, even if Turner should make for a moderately useful addition to the Pacers’ reserve corps.
Otherwise, Oklahoma City sat out the deadline entirely, content to welcome back Russell Westbrook from his knee injury. Miami and San Antonio enjoyed similarly quiet deadlines, as the Heat cleared a roster spot by sending the seldom-used Roger Mason Jr. to the Kings while the Spurs traded Nando de Colo to the Raptors for Austin Daye in a swap of deep reserves.
Warriors: Golden State just might be able to lay claim to the shrewdest addition, having landed a solid backup point guard in Steve Blake for two younger prospects (Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks) who were not in their plans. Acquiring Blake, 33, from the Lakers did not push the Warriors into the luxury tax or require parting with any picks or coveted youngsters. The Warriors also didn’t take on future salary, and the move addressed a roster hole that has existed since Jarrett Jack’s departure last summer. Blake’s long-range shooting prowess should fit right in with his new teammates and his ability to run an offense should alleviate some of Stephen Curry’s burden. Reducing Jordan Crawford’s responsibilities come playoff time is certainly a good idea, and Blake should be able to help in that regard, even if his own postseason track record is fairly limited.
Rockets: The most intriguing “change of scenery” guy from the deadline moves might be Jordan Hamilton, who was traded from Denver to Houston for Aaron Brooks. Hamilton has yet to really make a big mark in three seasons. But the athletic tools that made him a first-round pick in 2011 are undeniable and his fit in Houston’s rotation is sound, given the Rockets’ other available personnel. One thing to watch: Hamilton’s three-point shooting. He’s a career 35.7 percent shooter, and he was launching more than three long-range attempts per game this season in Denver. Of course, the Rockets encourage the long ball philosophically and their personnel — James Harden and Dwight Howard, among others — creates plenty of good looks for wing shooters. If Hamilton can take advantage of these beneficial circumstances, we could be looking back at this in a month or two as a shrewd play by Houston.
Wizards: Washington’s hole behind John Wall at point guard has been a crater for years. Eric Maynor looked like a reasonable stopgap signing last summer but he simply underwhelmed this season, leading coach Randy Wittman to ride his All-Star point guard for 37 minutes a night. Unloading Maynor and Jan Vesely in a three-team trade to acquire Andre Miller, then, is a move that brings some real promise. Yes, Miller is 37 years old and, yes, he was kept away from the Nuggets after a recent run-in with first-year coach Brian Shaw. But this is a durable, reliable floor general who is capable of scoring a little bit and acting as a distributor, depending on what’s asked of him. The big cost of this deal wasn’t anything that the Wizards sent out, but rather the $4.6 million owed to Miller next season. While that’s pretty spendy for a reserve point guard, Washington can swallow the price as Miller’s addition should help its push to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Washington is fifth in the East, but there’s plenty of potential for movement either up or down over the next two months. Miller will hopefully arrive in the nation’s capital excited by the prospect of playing for a team with a chance to go places, an opportunity that wasn’t available to him in Denver.
Sixers: The most interesting strategy and the best laughs of the trade deadline came from Philadelphia, where GM Sam Hinkie auctioned two of his biggest-name players and stockpiled as many freaking second-round draft picks as possible. Hinkie’s Thursday resembled the old game-show gag where a contestant is inside a closed room and dollars bills are pumped in from the ceiling as a clock ticks down and the player tries to stuff as many greenbacks into his pockets as possible. All told, Hinkie sent out Hawes and Turner (both free agents this summer) and acquired second-round picks, along with Maynor, Granger, Earl Clark and Henry Sims. In a year that saw no first-round picks change hands, the Sixers seem to have concluded that the next best thing is to gather as many draft night assets as possible. If you’re going to tank, you might as well tank with panache.
Bobcats: It’s hard — OK, really hard — to get excited about a “loading up for the playoffs!” move that involves peeling off Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour from the league-worst Bucks, but the Bobcats deserve a solid “B” for the effort. After years of dreary basketball, first-year coach Steve Clifford has Charlotte playing top-10 defense and clinging to the No. 8 seed in the East. Why not shake things up slightly, add a shooter in Neal and try to lock down just the second playoff appearance in franchise history? I’m usually not not huge on “sending a message to the players” type of moves, but when you’ve lost as often as the Bobcats have in recent years, even a small midseason move in search of victories can have a philosophical benefit.