More so than the past several years, the 2019 NBA trade deadline was shockingly active. With almost three quarters of the league still in playoff contention, desperation was the name of the game for a few teams. Meanwhile, previously bottom-feeding squads appeared to come out ahead.
The headliner here was obviously the New York Knicks’ decision to rush into a trade of Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. Who won that deal?
Meanwhile, dreams of the Los Angeles Lakers adding Anthony Davis to a core group with LeBron James dried up relatively quickly.
It’s in this that we give you our biggest winners and losers from the 2019 NBA trade deadline.
Winner: Sacramento Kings
This up-and-coming team entered trade deadline week three games over .500 and right in the thick of the Western Conference Playoff race. Flush with young talent across the board, Sacramento hoped to add veteran perimeter options. Not having its first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft made things a bit more difficult.
With that said, the Kings were able to close shop on Thursday by adding a starting small forward in Harrison Barnes and a solid bench option, Alec Burks. All they gave up in the process was two expiring deals in Zach Randolph and Iman Shumpert as well as a still-raw youngster in Justin Jackson. We’d certainly call this a win for Vlade Divac and Co.
Winner: Philadelphia 76ers
There’s not a whole lot we don’t like about the blockbuster deal that brought Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic and Mike Scott from the Clippers to Philadelphia. Harris, 26, was in the midst of a career season in Los Angeles — averaging 20.9 points and 7.9 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the field. He will be a free agent after this season, but the Sixers seem confident that they’ll be able to retain the borderline All-Star.
In the meantime, Brett Brown’s squad was able to add some solid depth behind Joel Embiid at center. The 7-foot-2 Marjanovic is good for between 12-to-15 minutes a night and provides the team with considerable bulk upfront. Giving up stud rookie Landry Shamet, two first-round picks and two second-round picks was a high price to pay. But the market dictated that bounty.
If that weren’t enough, the Sixers pulled off a blockbuster by moving injured and struggling former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz to the Orlando Magic for another solid bench option in Jonathon Simmons as well as a first and second-round pick. That’s quality value for a player that didn’t have a future in Philadelphia.
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
We have to hand it to Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman. He’s made some really impressive trades for the rebuilding squad this season. It started with Cleveland netting two second-round picks and Alec Burks from the Jazz for Kyle Korver back in November. The team then flipped George Hill for what amounted to an additional 2021 first-round pick a month later.
Proving themselves to be proactive and looking much further down the road, Cleveland then picked up Nik Stauskas, Wade Baldwin and two second-round picks from the Blazers for Rodney Hood earlier this week. As if that weren’t enough, the team then flipped Stauskas, Baldwin and Burks in a three-team deal on Wednesday — adding a still-young Marquese Chriss and Houston’s lottery protected 2019 first-round pick.
Cleveland ultimately traded Korver, Hood and Hill for two first-round picks and four second-round selections. That’s just amazing stuff.
Winner: Chicago Bulls
We focused earlier in the week on Chicago’s need to realize the assets it had in both Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. Guy Forman and Co. had to stop thinking about moving these expiring deals as a way to clear cap space for a free agency group that would have no interest in signing with the downtrodden Bulls in the first place.
Like clockwork, the Bulls pulled off one of their best trades in recent franchise history by sending Parker and Portis to the Washington Wizards for a high-upside forward in Otto Porter Jr. We can go ahead and say that Porter is overpaid. He is. He also has not lived up to the four-year, $106.5 million deal he signed with Washington back in 2017. That’s fine and dandy. Porter is still only 25 years old. He boasts a career 40 percent three-point mark and is a solid perimeter defender. Chicago turned to short-term pieces into a potential building block. Not bad.
Winner: Dallas Mavericks
When New York quietly put Kristaps Porzingis on the trade block last week, Dallas was the first team to pounce. Given owner Mark Cuban’s MO of making take it or leave it offers, the Knicks were put in a precarious position. Do they risk further drama by letting the Porzingis situation play out until he hits restricted free agency in July? If not, was there a better offer out there?
In the end, Dallas pretty much bamboozled the Knicks into making this deal. The Mavs sent salary cap fillers DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews — both of whom could be bought out — as well as Dennis Smith Jr. and two first-round picks to New York for the Unicorn. That will lead to an elite European pairing of Porzingis and Luka Doncic moving forward.
The Mavs were also able to rid themselves of Harrison Barnes contract without giving up a draft pick to the Sacramento Kings. In fact, they added a high upside wing in Justin Jackson in that deal. Yeah, we’ll go ahead and call Mark Cuban and Co. winners here.
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers
With all the hoopla surrounding the Lakers the past couple weeks, they came out of the NBA trade deadline having added Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala? Heck, the Lakers even traded their best big man in Ivica Zubac to get Muscala. That’s not going to make LeBron James happy as Los Angeles finishes up what promises to be a ho-hum 2018-19 campaign. And in reality, we can blame team president Magic Johnson for this mess. He was played like a fiddle by Pelicans general manager Dell Demps in Anthony Davis trade talks. It’s as simple as that.
Los Angeles must now navigate through the remainder of the season with a large part of its roster knowing they were pawns in LeBron James’ long-terms plans. All the while, LaVar Ball’s mouth won’t get quieter and Luke Walton’s seat will grow hotter. Such is the nature of the beast for an organization that takes two steps forward — only to kick itself in the back end mere months later.
Loser: New Orleans Pelicans
We can say that Demps got the best of Magic Johnson in Anthony Davis trade talks. We can also say that the Pelicans were dumb not to accept the Lakers’ final offer. Both can be true. Said offer reportedly included Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and two first-round draft picks. That’s The Godfather of all offers — one that unlikely to be matched during the summer. In the meantime, New Orleans has the Anthony Davis drama hanging over its head as the organization finishes up yet another lost season.
Demps also made the questionable decision to trade star forward Nikola Mirotic to the Milwaukee Bucks for four second-round picks and two cap fillers— a mere calendar year after exhausting New Orlenas’ 2018 first-round pick to acquire Mirotic from Chicago in the first place. Ouch!
Loser: Houston Rockets
Is Iman Shumpert a nice piece off the bench? Sure. Is yielding a lottery-protected first-round pick in what is a loaded 2019 NBA Draft for Shumpert a good deal? Given that Houston will more than likely make the playoffs, the answer to that question is a resounding no. It doesn’t do a whole lot to move the needle in an Western Conference that’s still controlled by the two-time defending champion Warriors and an upstart Denver Nuggets team.
If the Rockets were going to make a deal that included its first-round pick in June, bringing in a higher-quality player than Shumpert had to be the end game here. Then, on trade deadline day, the Rockets moved a valuable bench piece in James Ennis for a future second-round pick. What’s the value in that? This just wasn’t a good deadline season for Houston. It’s that simple.
Loser: Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis sought to trade veterans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but it appeared that the offers they received were not to the liking of embattled general manager Chris Wallace. One example would be the Hornets reportedly offering up Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Gasol. This is clear evidence that the Grizzlies overvalued their two aging stars when they publicly placed both on the trade block.
While Conley remains in Memphis following the deadline, these Grizzlies dealt Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors for pennies on the dollar. That included veterans Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles as well as a second-round pick five years down the road. It was a salary dump. Nothing more. And it does nothing to further what promises to be a long-term rebuild in Memphis. Meanwhile, Conley and his $67-plus million salary for the next two seasons remain.
Loser: New York Knicks
As noted before, it really does seem like the Knicks rushed to trade Kristaps Porzingis after he requested a trade. Team president Steve Mills and Co. didn’t want the situation to drag on to the summer. That’s understandable. Freeing up nearly $70 million in salary commitments helps here, too. But how in the world can the Knicks justify Dennis Smith Jr. being the headliner of a deal that sends out one of the game’s best young players?
Neither of the two first-round picks are for what is expected to be a loaded 2019 NBA Draft class — led by Zion Williamson. It seems the Knicks are putting all of their eggs in the basket when it comes to this year’s free agent class. Without the previous continuity that suggests long-term success, we’re openly wondering how many top-end free agents will even consider signing with this team. It was a big L for Mills and Co.