8 takeaways from the NBA trade deadline

Courtesy of Thomas Shea, USA Today Sports

With all the talk of major deals potentially taking place around the NBA this week, Thursday’s trade deadline failed to live up to the hype.

There were, however, some deals that will have an impact on the playoff race heading down the stretch.

While the Western Conference was pretty inactive, teams like the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons made some rather solid moves. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers conducted one interesting deal.

Here are your top-eight takeaways from the NBA trade deadline.

1. All the smoke, and no fire

All the rumors surrounding Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin. It’s the whole where there’s smoke, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is fire. Okay, I made that one up. But you surely see the point here.

Depending on who you ask, the biggest name dealt at the trade deadline was Tobias Harris. Even then, he’s averaging less than 14 points in what has to be considered a down season for the forward.

Outside of that, very little transpired in the days leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline. And as it relates to the deadline itself, we were taken to the 3 p.m. ET deadline with news of Kirk Hinrich being traded from the Chicago Bulls to the Atlanta Hawks. Talk about a blockbuster followed by the Los Angeles Clippers dealing Lance Stephenson to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jeff Green.

This doesn’t mean that playoff races in each conference weren’t changed to an extent. The Detroit Pistons added three potentially valuable rotation players. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards acquired a high-upside forward in Markieff Morris.

Oh, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to deal for a player in Channing Frye that might be able to at least stretch the court from the low post (via Yahoo Sports).

Still, it seems that all the talk about blockbuster trades going down were just that … talk. While most of these big names will be rehashed once the summer comes calling, they will play out the current season with their respective teams. That’s a buzzkill for those of us expecting major deadline trades.

2. Portland Trail Blazers did good for themselves

By facilitating the Frye to Cleveland trade, Portland picked up a first-round pick (top 10 protected) from the Cavaliers.

The team will likely waive Anderson Varejao, pretty much meaning that its presence in the trade was solely to pick up a first rounder while absorbing a short-term contract and yielding a second-round pick.

It’s a forward-thinking philosophy for general manager Neil Olshey, who enabled his squad to reach the cap floor while not taking on any long-term contracts in the process.

Portland than acquired Brian Roberts and a second-round pick from the Miami Heat for pretty much nothing (via Yahoo Sports).

That’s what teams in good cap situations can do — take advantage of other squads that want to get out of the luxury tax.

None of this is going to have much of an impact on the remainder of the 2015-16 season. Though, Portland was able to find a way to add a valuable first-round pick while not giving up anyone of substance. That’s a win.

3. So did the Detroit Pistons

Moving Brandon Jennings and Ersan İlyasova in order to pick up a high-upside youngster in Tobias Harris was a brilliant move by Stan Van Gundy. Jennings had no future in Detroit with Reggie Jackson performing at a high level at the point guard position. And once the team was able to add Harris, İlyasova became expendable.

This trade gives Detroit a darn good trio with Harris, Jackson and Andre Drummond — something it can build on this year and into the future. It’s a dramatic upgrade for a franchise that had lost 50-plus games three consecutive seasons heading into 2015-16.

Then on trade deadline day, the Pistons were able to add two potentially key rotation players in Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton from the Houston Rockets in exchange for seldom used big man Joel Anthony and a protected first-round pick (via Yahoo Sports).

Motiejunas fits in as another big to go with Drummond and Aron Baynes and the aforementioned Drummond. Meanwhile, Thornton will back up Harris at the three, providing a solid option off the bench. Thornton was averaging 10.0 points in a reserve role with Houston prior to the deal.

4. No one wanted Dwight Howard

Houston really wanted to trade Howard. This wasn’t rumor and innuendo. The team had grown tired of his act, and a reported rift between James Harden and the big man seemed to play a role in this.

More than that, the Rockets weren’t doing much winning with Harden and Howard teaming up together. With a winning percentage under .500 heading into the unofficial second half of the season, Houston doesn’t seem to be in position to contend out west.

Add in the fact that Howard is likely going to opt out of his contract in July, and it simply made too much sense for Houston to deal him.

Even with Howard’s trade value at an all-time low, Houston couldn’t work out a deal for the big man. This tells us a story of an Association that might have grown tired of Howard’s act.

It could also have wide-ranging ramifications should the eight-time All-Star hit the free agent market this upcoming summer. Will any team give Howard a max deal? That has to be the question looming over his head.

As of right now, Houston heads into the final two months of the regular season with a shot at inching into the playoffs. It’s going to be interesting to see how the on-court dynamic plays out now that Howard remains on the Rockets.

5. Memphis Grizzlies giving up 

After trading Courtney Lee to the Charlotte Hornets earlier this week, Memphis sent forward Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal that brings them a future first-round pick and Lance Stephenson.

With Marc Gasol out for an undetermined amount of time after suffering a broken bone in his foot earlier this month, the Grizzlies seem to be throwing in the towel for the 2015-16 season.

That’s absolutely stunning considering the team is currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference and would be playing the aforementioned Clippers in the first round if the season ended today.

Picking up the likes of P.J. Hairston in the Lee trade as well as a future first-round pick in Thursday’s deal seems to indicate that the Grizzlies are preparing more for the future than they are for a run this season. You don’t usually see that from a team that has a chance to earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

6. Channing Frye to the Cavaliers

This is the deal Cleveland made? Help me with this for a second. I am trying to envision a scenario where Frye would have success going up against the likes of either Draymond Green or LaMarcus Aldridge in the NBA Finals. And in reality, that’s where Cleveland’s focus should have been at the trade deadline.

As the top seed in the Eastern Conference and with the Toronto Raptors acting as their only real competition at this point, Cleveland needed to consider how any trade would impact a potential Finals matchup against either the Warriors or Spurs. It failed miserably here.

Sure Frye can stretch the court from the low post. That’s not really something Cleveland needed in going up against the best the NBA has to offer. You aren’t going to beat Golden State or San Antonio by stretching the court from the inside out. Their defenses can handle this in their sleep.

If the Cavaliers were going to make a splash, they had to seriously consider bringing in another wing player with three-point ability. Not a big man that’s going to be overpowered against the best fours and fives the game has to offer. It really is that simple.

7. Calling it a season

The lack of contending teams making significant moves over the past few days seems to suggest that there is a feeling no one is going to compete with Golden State for the NBA title.

It’s an understandable reaction considering the Warriors are currently on pace to put up the best regular season in the history of the game. It’s also understandable given the fact that the San Antonio Spurs are also on pace to win 70 games this season.

Looking at it from the perspective of Western Conference “contenders,” we can pretty much draw the conclusion that teams have given up hope of knocking off the Warriors and Spurs early in the playoffs.

The Dallas Mavericks failed to pull off a single deal at the deadline, a pretty big surprise considering their current status as the sixth seed out west. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers pretty much aimed for adding assets (draft picks) as the seventh seed in the conference.

And while there were rumors that the Utah Jazz were looking to add Ty Lawson in a deal with Houston, they came out of the deadline with a deep rotation guard in Shelvin Mack.

In Houston, the Rockets dealt away two rotation players in Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton for pretty much nothing of substance.

Fans won’t like this philosophy. But in reality, it made perfect sense for some of the bottom rung playoff contenders out west to look at the landscape of the conference. None of these squads stand a chance to defeat Golden State or San Antonio in Round 1. That’s the reality of the situation.

8. Inactive, the Indiana Pacers prove to be real losers

Sitting at 28-25 on the season, Indiana finds itself stuck between the bottom run of playoff contenders and finding a way to potentially earn home-court advantage in the first round.

With a 17-18 record since starting the season 11-5, the Pacers have fallen on hard times recently. This has them just a couple games ahead in a race for the final few playoff spots back east.

Unfortunately for fans in Indiana, those squads chasing the Pacers did a great job adding talent for the stretch run.

The Charlotte Hornets were able to add another wing to their rotation in Courtney Lee earlier this week. He will team up with Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin to form a solid foursome there.

In picking up Markieff Morris on Thursday, the Washington Wizards were able to add a consistent third scoring option behind John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons did a darn good job adding to both their starting lineup and their bench this week. Tobias Harris will pack a solid punch at the three with both Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton able to provide solid contributions off the bench.

All this seems to indicate that Indiana will be in a fight to actually earn a playoff spot. That was unimaginable after the team’s hot start to the season.