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NBA trade deadline: 8 biggest winners and losers, including Joel Embiid

The 2022 NBA trade deadline has now passed. Boy, were there some major blockbusters around the NBA as contending teams set their rosters and others look to build to the future.

Of course, the James Harden trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons will change the dynamics in a big way. It will be the talk of the NBA for weeks to come.

However, there were other big-time deals at the deadline. That included the Indiana Pacers shockingly acquiring star young guard Tyrese Haliburton from the Sacramento Kings. Below, we look at the eight biggest winners and losers from the 2022 NBA trade deadline.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA Playoff and championship predictions

Winner: Los Angeles Clippers

nba trade deadline winners: los angeles clippers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Without many real assets to work with, Clippers front office head Lawrence Frank was able to pull off highway robbery by acquiring Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Portland Trail Blazers for pennies on the dollar. In particular, Powell will provide some needed scoring punch with Kawhi Leonard likely sidelined for the season and Paul George still in street clothes.

That ability to shoot from the perimeter is going to loom large with Los Angeles battling for a playoff spot. Covington brings a 3-and-D ability to a Clippers team that has played pretty darn well on the defensive end of the court.

In return, Los Angeles was able to acquire these two core pieces for the bloated contract of Eric Bledsoe, a second-round selection and 2021 first-round pick Keon Johnson. While Johnson provides some upside as a wing scorer, moving him months after selecting the guard made perfect sense. Remember, the Clippers were unable to move off the pick prior to making it due to NBA Draft rules. They waited it out and used him as an asset to acquire two proven pieces. A huge win for Frank and Co.

Loser: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

nba trade deadline losers: lebron james, los angeles lakers
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not that the Lakers had any real assets to work with ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. But the simple fact that they were forced to stick with Russell Westbrook makes LeBron James and Co. real losers here. Los Angeles is 26-30 on the season. The team has been forced to bench Westbrook multiple times during the past several games. And it appears King James is completely fed up.

“I’m tired as hell right now. I want to get some wine and get to bed.”

LeBron James after Lakers’ loss to the Blazers (February 9, 2022)

James knows full well that this current iteration of the Lakers are not championship contenders. In fact, the team is closer to missing out on a play-in spot than earning a top-six seed out west. This is what happens when you help engineer what could end up being an all-time bad trade for Westbrook last summer. It also handcuffed the Lakers on NBA trade deadline day as they were unable to pull off a trade.

Related: Sportsnaut’s updated NBA power rankings

Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Cleveland Cavaliers
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

At 34-21 on the season, Cleveland finds itself as the fourth seed back east. It’s been a banner campaign for the up-and-coming squad, led by first-time All-Star Darius Garland and likely NBA Rookie of the Year Evan Mobley. General manager Koby Altman understood that the Cavs are legit playoff contenders by pulling off a trade for Caris LeVert this past weekend. In return, the Cavs sent three draft picks and injured guard Ricky Rubio to the Indiana Pacers to get it done.

  • Caris LeVert stats (2021-22): 18.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.4 APG, 45% shooting

This rounds out Cleveland’s rotation in a big way. LeVert will team up with the aforementioned Garland in the backcourt with Mobley, Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen in the frontcourt to form a budding core group. While Cleveland is not considered favorites in the Eastern Conference, this move turned the team into real contenders.

Loser: Sacramento Kings

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Sacramento Kings
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento shocked the NBA world earlier in the week by moving off 21-year-old guard Tyrese Haliburton in a trade with the Indiana Pacers that brought the team back Domantas Sabonis. It’s not that Sabonis is a bad player. We’re talking about a two-time All-Star and one of the most-skilled big men in the game.

However, the idea that a then 20-35 team would trade a potential franchise cornerstone in a win-now move made no sense in the first place. Sacramento was blasted for the trade. For good reason. Haliburton looks every bit the part of an All-Star player and is four years younger than Sabonis. We will say that the Kings did do well by acquiring Donte DiVincenzo in a four-team swap that sent disgruntled forward Marvin Bagley III to the Detroit Pistons.

Related: Winners and losers from Tyrese Haliburton, Domantas Sabonis trade

Winner: Indiana Pacers

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Sacramento Kings
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The single most disappointing team in the Eastern Conference this season, Indiana front office head Kevin Pritchard decided it made no sense to stand pat. Acquiring the aforementioned Haliburton in a trade with Sacramento was an absolute coup. He’ll be able to team up with stud rookie Chris Duarte to form a tremendous backcourt for the next decade-plus.

  • Tyrese Haliburton stats (2021-22): 14.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 7.4 APG, 46% shooting, 41% three-point

In addition to acquiring Haliburton, the Pacers turned Caris LeVert into a first-round pick and two second-round selections. It also has Buddy Hield stemming from the Haliburton-for-Sabonis swap to use as trade bait during the summer. Heck, it acquired former top-10 pick Jalen Smith and a future second-round pick from the Phoenix Suns for Torrey Craig. That’s a win, too.

Loser: Portland Trail Blazers

nba trade deadline losers: portland trail blazers
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It became pretty clear with the Normal Powell and Robert Covington trade to the Los Angeles Clippers that the struggling Blazers were looking to save cash rather than collect future draft capital as general manager Joe Cronin blows up this under-performing roster. The fact that Portland picked up only a future second-round pick as draft compensation in the trade tells us all we need to know.

The Blazers also moved franchise stalwart C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package including Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, a 2022 first-round pick and a future second-round selection. Surprisingly, the Blazers then flipped Alexander-Walker to the Utah Jazz in a three-team trade that brought back injured forward Joe Ingles and a second-round pick. Why?

Related: Top 50 NBA players of 2022

Winner: Joel Embiid

Jan 29, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks on during the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Embiid now finally has himself that capable scorer as a running partner following Thursday’s blockbuster move that brought former NBA MVP James Harden to to the Philadelphia 76ers. In return, Philly sent out disgruntled guard Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two future first-round picks.

We can talk about Harden’s contract and how it might impact the 76ers moving forward. That’s fine. However, front office head Daryl Morey owed to to Embiid to shoot for a championship this season. He’s playing the best ball of his career. The MVP candidate now has a supporting cast capable of helping him win that elusive NBA title. Yeah, Embiid is a major winner from the NBA trade deadline.

Loser: Brooklyn Nets

Ben Simmons
Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. Say goodbye to the super-team Nets general manager Sean Marks attempted to build with James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. After a drama-filled start to the 2021-22 campaign, that’s now a thing of the past. Brooklyn will now be forced to see if a limited Ben Simmons can work with Durant and a part-time player in Irving as the team looks to contend for a championship.

Losers of nine consecutive games and with Durant sidelined to an sprained MCL, the Nets are falling fast. Irving can’t play home games due to New York City COVID-19 mandates. Will Ben Simmons change the trajectory of this organization moving forward on the season? It’s highly doubtful.

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