The 2020 NBA trade deadline came and went in an exciting blur, much like a tornado. One moment there were just rumors, and the next it was a flurry of Woj bombs, players/picks being sent across the league. Over the course of two days, over 10 trades were made and 20+ players changed uniforms. Some deals were made for financial reasons, others to help bolster championship hopes and a few made purely for a change of scenery. Let’s take a look and see who won and lost at the NBA trade deadline.
Winner: D-Lo and KAT, BFF’s reunited
Help is finally on the way for Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota pulled the trigger and traded for one of his closest friends in D’Angelo Russell, sending back Andrew Wiggins, a 2021 top-3 protected first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick midway through Wednesday afternoon. The Timberwolves also copped Omari Spellman and Jacob Evans as pieces to help fill in their roster after they traded away Robert Covington earlier in the week. Back to Russell and Towns. The two grew up playing AAU together and have remained close friends throughout their NBA careers, with Towns even doing some light recruiting on social media this past offseason before Russell was part of the sign and trade that brought Kevin Durant to Brooklyn.
Russell is by far the best point guard Towns has ever played with, and should help him create easier looks and take the pressure off of him on offense. Minnesota’s defense is not going to be any better (it may, in fact, be worse), but the important part was keeping Towns happy. Reports had surfaced around the league that he was unhappy with the direction of the team, as he had not played in a game the Wolves won since Nov. 27. Both players are under the age of 25 and on a contract until at least 2022-23. For now, it seems the Wolves finally have something to build around. Let’s see what they do from here.
Winner: Miami Heat, the East’s new title contenders
Pat Riley strikes again. The Hall-of-Fame coach helped orchestrate a deal to bring three-time champion and defensive stalwart Andre Iguodala to Miami (and extend him for another two years), along with Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill. The cost for acquiring two solid defenders and a 38% three-pointer shooter you ask? A locker room cancer in Dion Waiters, along with two injury-prone players in Justice Winslow and James Johnson. This was an absolute steal for Rily and Miami, and it vaults them into legitimate title-contenders overnight.
The Heat now have a roster that is 10 guys deep, and head coach Erik Spoelstra has so much flexibility with his lineup choices. He can roll out ones for shooting (Dragic, Herro, Robinson, Olynyk, Leonard), playmaking (Nunn, Dragic, Butler, Robinson, Adebayo) and of course, defense (Butler, Jones Jr., Crowder, Iguodala, Adebayo). Even Iggy’s extension is team-friendly, as there is a team option after next season, so Miami can maintain cap space to chase superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and others in the summer of 2021. A+ job for Riley and Co. Speaking of Iggy…
Winner: Andre Iguodala gets his wish
Iguodala got his wish. After being traded to Memphis in order to make room for D’Angelo Russell, Iggy stated his desire to sit out and wait to be either bought out or traded to a contender. Memphis agreed to find something and so he waited. And waited, and waited. For almost four months of basketball, Iguodala worked out in California while growing as a businessman and author.
Finally, things came to a slight boil last week, as he essentially threatened to sit out the rest of the year rather than play for Memphis, causing some of his own “teammates” to speak up, including Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant. But none of that matters. Iguodala stayed the course and now finds himself a key piece on a title contender. A chance at making a sixth straight Finals is a real possibility now. His former teammates Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green can’t say the same.
Loser: Vlade and the Kings, as usual
Time for our first loser, and of course, the Sacramento Kings found a way to get involved as usual. Was it for a trade to increase the team’s chances of making a playoff run? Of course not, it was to dump one of their highly-touted free agent signings from last summer in Dewayne Dedmon back to his former team, the Atlanta Hawks. Dedmon, who had played for the Hawks for the previous two seasons, had signed a 3yr/$40 million contract with Sacramento this past July, but quickly became unhappy with his playing time. It got so bad, he voiced his desire for a trade, which is actually not allowed in the NBA and is a $50,000 fine. The Kings got backup center Alex Len and Jabari Parker, who is now on his fifth team since being draft second overall in 2014. Yikes. Sacramento’s front office continues to make mistake after mistake and is heading nowhere fast. If for some reason you have any stock in the Kings, sell it now while you can.
Winner: Any team with a legitimate big man playing against the Houston Rockets
The Rockets have gone full 100% commitment to the small-ball lifestyle. General manager Daryl Morey swung a four-team deal to trade Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks, netting him versatile swingman Robert Covington to further their commitment to playing fast and shooting a ton of three-pointers. Essentially, it’s a gimmick, an all-out gamble to see what happens since Morey secretly knows Houston isn’t truly contending this year. It will actually probably work for a few weeks until teams figure it out. It’s like the sidearm pitcher in baseball who gets called up and doesn’t give up a lot of runs in his first few starts. Once teams have some film on him and his release point, he comes down to Earth. The same applies to the Rockets. The West has several teams with great big men (Lakers, Nuggets) and a few teams with some good athletic size in general (Jazz, Clippers), and those coaching staffs will find ways to punish that style of play. Enjoy it for a little bit, but Houston will find itself searching for answers once again come playoff time.
Winner: Jordan McRae and the Nuggets front office
Jordan McRae is posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point percentage this season, but has gotten very little recognition on a poor Washington Wizards team. That changed Thursday afternoon when he was dealt to the 36-16 Denver Nuggets for Shabazz Napier (acquired by Denver on Wednesday evening in a four-team deal). McRae isn’t a great defender by any means and will need to show he can pick up the Denver offense in order to receive consistent minutes, but he has to be happy going from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best and a possible title contender.
Winner: Detroit’s financial flexibility moving forward
The Pistons have been going nowhere for years. They’ve added random pieces and had some bad luck with Blake Griffin’s injuries, and haven’t had much of a future in sight. They made a random, yet sneakily good move on Wednesday, trading the NBA’s leading rebounder Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a second-round pick. It may not seem like much, but losing Drummond frees up almost $29 million in cap room this offseason, which means Detroit can use that space to get two or three solid pieces to help field a competitive team moving forward.
Knight and Henson are unrestricted free agents this summer and if the Pistons decide to deal either Derrick Rose or Luke Kennard for a pick near the draft, they can have up to $33-35 million in cap space to help build around Griffin. They may not get a superstar with all that space, but the future looks slightly better in the Motor City.
Loser: Any player traded from a contender
Basketball is a business and the players know that. It doesn’t make it any less sad for them when you have guys playing for title contenders for over half of the season, only to be traded at the deadline to teams that don’t have a prayer of even making the playoffs. You saw it over the last two days with guys like Clint Capela, Malik Beasley, Moe Harkless, James Ennis, James Johnson, and several others. They’ve gone from playoff teams (and some potential title contenders) to ones that are at the bottom of the barrel (Hawks, Knicks, Wolves).
It’s a harsh reality and the players know what they are signing up for, but you have to feel for these guys working hard thinking they might be playing in the Finals, only to have it stripped away. On the flip side, you can be excited for the guys coming to those teams from a bad situation to one that will allow them to compete for fo that coveted ring. Time will tell what moves made this week will elevate teams to the next level and even possibly swing the championship race.
All stats and notes as of Feb. 6.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com or Basketball-Reference.