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NBA Trade Deadline: Biggest winners (Suns, of course) and biggest losers (Nets, of course)

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) drives past Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul (3) in the third quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In the first NBA Trade deadline in the After Gobert (A.G.) era, where the market was as inflated as
ever, it became a seller’s market.

The league is experiencing unprecedented parity, with handfuls of teams in both conferences vying for contender status. With no clear-cut frontrunner for the NBA title, playoffs teams across the league waited with bated breath for the first domino to drop.

Earlier this week it happened when Kyrie Irving’s trade demand was answered by the Brooklyn Nets, sending him to an unexpected destination — the Dallas Mavericks.
Strangely, it took until deadline day for the rest of the league to respond.

If Irving was the shot that started the trade deadline, it took almost 72 hours for the trades to reach a fever pitch. But once Kevin Durant was traded, all bets were off. What was initially thought to be a sellers market quickly revealed itself to be a buyers game.

A few teams that needed to make moves and didn’t include: Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and the Washington Wizards. With that being said, we’ve collected the winners and losers of this year’s NBA trade deadline that could make or break who reaches this finish line in this year’s playoff battle.

Related: NBA trade deadline tracker

Winner: Kyrie Irving

 Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (2) reacts against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving apparently had the Mavericks on his list of preferred destinations the last time
he asked out of Brooklyn. Whether or not it’s where he wants to be long-term is TBD. Irving is
the ultimate chaos formula, and the odds are in favor of Irving bolting whenever he gets the
whim.

For now, he should consider himself lucky he went from one superstar to another. His pairing next to Luka Dončić will be box office, excluding the horrible defense and lack of depth surrounding them. They are still a first round exit, but at least they’re fun to watch.

Winners: Los Angeles Clippers

NBA trade rumors
Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers needed to inject new blood into their talented but stagnant roster. They won Thursday’s NBA trade deadline with a flurry of moves by shipping out Reggie Jackson to Charlotte, Luke Kennard to Memphis and John Wall to Houston, while bringing in Mason Plumlee, bringing back Eric Gordon (who they drafted) and fleecing Denver for Bones Hyland (for two second-round picks).

The Clips by far and away have the best roster, and now have a potent starting point guard in Hyland, with extra guard and front court depth. This should be enough to motivate them to stop coasting and kick it into high gear for 55-plus wins.

Related: Los Angeles Clippers fill several needs at NBA trade deadline

Winners: Phoenix Suns

Nov 25, 2022; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) shoots the ball while Indiana Pacers forward Jalen Smith (25) defends in the second quarter at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Suns remind me of that GIF where a guy gets out of a casket and begins dancing like the “Thriller” music video. The Suns were DOA, but after Wednesday night’s Kevin Durant trade, catapulted to championship favorites.

Pairing Durant with Booker is unstoppable. They still have a massive question mark in center Deandre Ayton, who seems to have Durant and Irving-level itching to ask out at any time. If he stays, the Suns should be unstoppable towards winning Chris Paul his first championship. That’s assuming he’s healthy and in uniform by the time they reach the NBA Finals.

Winners: Los Angeles Lakers

Nov 7, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham speaks with guard Russell Westbrook (0) against the Utah Jazz in the second quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

When LeBron James broke the scoring record Thursday night, it was hard to fully enjoy it, as the roster around him was doing him no favors towards competing for a ring.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka seemed to feel the same way because he got out of the worst Lakers trade in the modern era (Russell Westbrook) and turned it into two rotational pieces in Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley. He also added starting-caliber point guard D’Angelo Russell, and bouncy, floor-spacing center Mo Bamba. They also shipped out Thomas Bryant and Patrick Beverley, giving them a more refined rotation on the long path towards getting back in the playoff race.

Related: Los Angeles Lakers pull off another NBA trade deadline deal

Winners: New Orleans Pelicans

Jan 23, 2023; Portland, Oregon, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Josh Richardson (7) dribbles the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers in the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans just needed shoring up at the point, as the rest of their roster is stacked with star power and depth.

Well, they worked towards that by trading Devonte’ Graham and four second-round picks to San Antonio for Josh Richardson, who doesn’t give them facilitation but does bring elite shooting (career 36% from three). That should be enough to make for a dynamic backcourt duo with CJ McCullom. Pairing them around the elite athleticism of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram makes them a dark horse playoff contender in the West.

Losers: Utah Jazz

Jan 14, 2023; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Shake Milton (18) keeps the ball away from Utah Jazz forward Jarred Vanderbilt (8) during the second quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

For all the posturing Danny Ainge did in the summer over Donovan Mitchell trade packages, he sure did sell off his valuable role guys for pennies on the dollar.

A lightly protected 2027 Lakers first-round pick was all it took for Ainge to relinquish Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley to LA. In the same multi-team deal, Utah also sent locker-room stabilizer Mike Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks to Minnesota. They acquired buyout candidate Russell Westbrook in the same deal. The Jazz are clearly opting out of Play-In competition, but have more than likely won too many games for the Victor Wembanyama
sweepstakes.

Losers: Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You have to wonder if Kevin Durant regrets not going to the New York Knicks. The Net have been
the league’s most dysfunctional franchise for a while.

The KD/Kyrie/James Harden experiment ended up just as pathetic as the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce/Deron Williams team-up over a decade ago. Perhaps the Nets finally stop trying to buy a championship and hold onto the young players they draft.

Did Kenny Atkinson really get fired for all this?

Losers: Dallas Mavericks

Mar 21, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) celebrates with Dallas Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie (26) during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Mavericks placement on this side of the list has nothing to do with the Irving trade. That was a needed high-risk home run they needed to make to give Luka Doncic the help he deserves. They are here because that’s all they did.

By not trading unrestricted free-agent-to-be Christian Wood they are setting up for another walk-for-nothing situation like Jalen Brunson did last summer. Furthermore, the Irving trade fleeced them of depth and defense (Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith), two areas they failed to address in subsequent trades.

Losers: Chicago Bulls

NBa trade deadline winners/losers: Chicago Bulls
Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Knicks fans were on pins and needles thinking a Zach LaVine deal would get done for New York. The Bulls opted to keep the band together, not realizing the band needed desperately to be broken up.

The Bulls, like the Nets, tried to buy a championship through free agency, when they signed DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in 2021. But the team could never get healthy and peaking at the same time. Now they are stuck with the albatross contract of LaVine with few paths toward improving, as they sent out valuable picks in the trade for Nikola Vucevic two seasons ago.

Losers: Denver Nuggets

Nov 18, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Bones Hyland (3) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks forward Reggie Bullock (25) during the second half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the Nuggets looked like the favorites to get out of the Western Conference, thanks
to an unseen level of parity within the conference. But the NBA trade deadline changed all of that in a mere
24 hours.

The Nuggets did not help their case by trading three second-round picks for backup big Thomas Bryant. Even worse, they were involved in the biggest fleece of the deadline: sending out uber-talented, but equally disgruntled guard Bones Hyland to the Clippers for a mere two second-round picks.

Bryant gave them insurance behind Nicola Jokic, but the loss of Hyland is a stain upon a once impeccable Nuggets front office. How you allow a talent like Hyland to become frustrated in a championship-contending season is beyond us.

Lee Escobedo covers the NBA for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @_leeescobedo

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