Grading the 2015 NBA trade deadline

Ball Don't Lie
Grading the 2015 NBA trade deadline
Grading the 2015 NBA trade deadline

When the oddsmakers at placed the over/under on the amount of NBA trade deadline deals at 9.5 on Wednesday, we scoffed. Ten trades? In this economy? With all that salary cap space coming? Come on.

We were partially correct. In all, 11 trades went down involving 37 players and more than a dozen possible draft picks. More than half of the NBA’s 30 teams took part, and all of our smartphones hate us right now.

Let’s dive into who made out, in a chaotic trade deadline day.

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Boston Celtics

Received: Isaiah Thomas, Luigi Datome, Jonas Jerebko.

Traded: Marcus Thornton, 2016 first-round pick (Cleveland’s), Tayshaun Prince.

This appears to be the first move that Boston general manager Danny Ainge has made to pull the Celtics out of their rebuilding mode. Ainge was in the right place at the right time last summer when he decided to take on Tyler Zeller and a future draft pick from Cleveland as the Cavs cleared cap space for LeBron James, and he turned that pick and Thornton’s expiring contract into a damn fine scorer in Thomas. Having a sound relationship with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough probably didn’t hurt either.

Ainge didn’t score a draft pick in his attempts to deal Prince (who appeared to have found the fountain of youth in his brief stay with Boston) to a contender, but expiring rotation helpers Datome and Jerebko aren’t a bad take. League-wide goodwill, in sending Prince back to Detroit, is also a nice thing to take in.

Thomas has three years and less than $20 million left on his deal following this season. Fantastic value.

Grade: A+


Brooklyn Nets

Received: Thaddeus Young

Traded: Kevin Garnett

Not with a bang, but with a whimper, eh?

We’re not discussing Garnett’s career, here. That won’t go out quietly. What is slowly fading is Billy King’s kiss-kiss-bang-bang attempts to build an over the top winner in Brooklyn, treating money as no object. After falling just short of publicly stating that former stars like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez were available, King failed to trade all three.

The one guy nobody thought would be traded, future Hall of Famer Garnett, was shockingly dealt home to Minnesota for the serviceable Young, who has an early termination option on his $9.9 million contract for next season that he may not utilize. It’s possible that, after a disappointing 2014-15, Young might make nearly eight figures with the Nets next season. King managed to trade Garnett for more salary beyond this year.

We should give him an A for making Garnett fans happy, but …

Grade: D


Denver Nuggets

Received: Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver, Will Barton, Portland’s lottery-protected first-round pick in either 2016 or 2017 (turns into two second-round picks if Portland misses the playoffs in both seasons).

Traded: Arron Afflalo, JaVale McGee, first-round pick (Oklahoma City’s; protected 1-18 in 2015, 1-15 in 2016 and 2017, becomes two second-round picks if not conveyed by 2018), Alonzo Gee.

The Nuggets committed to fire-sale mode earlier in the season when they sent Timofey Mozgov to the then-desperate Cleveland Cavaliers for draft picks. Pairing a future first-round pick with JaVale McGee’s deal (at $12 million next season, for a guy who has played 22 games over the last two years) seems needless and far more desperate. If the Nuggets think they can be a player in the free-agent market with new space and a core still featuring the disappointing Ty Lawson, good luck.

In a vacuum, though, this isn’t bad.

Turning Afflalo – who, like Thaddeus Young, has essentially a player option that he may pick up for next season – into a likely future first-round pick was a fine move. Afflalo’s production has fallen off this season, and teams were under no obligation to overpay for what might be a rental of a shooting guard.

Grade: B-


Detroit Pistons

Received: Reggie Jackson, Tayshaun Prince.

Traded: Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin, Jonas Jerebko, Luigi Datome.

Don’t count me in as one of the types who overrate Jackson. He puts up great box-score numbers when allowed to run the show by himself, and it’s understandable that he wants to run his own team, but this doesn’t look like a bust-out killer of a starter, if we’re honest.

The Pistons didn’t give up much, however, in spite of Singler’s sound shooting this season and Augustin’s typically great (if inconsistent) play following Brandon Jennings' season-ending injury. Jackson offers an upgrade over D.J.’s defense, and the return of Piston legend Prince isn’t a token move; he was playing very well in Boston this season. Detroit wants to make the playoffs and has the roster to do it, even as Jennings watches from the sideline.

Just go easy on the expectations with Jackson, OK?

Grade: B+


Houston Rockets

Received: K.J. McDaniels, Pablo Prigioni

Traded: Isaiah Canaan, three second-round picks.

A very Daryl Morey and/or Sam Hinkie deal from best bros Daryl Morey and Sam Hinkie.

McDaniels has tremendous talent, and it was clear from the outset that he was not long for the 76ers after his representatives and the team couldn’t come to an agreement on the typically-goofy second-round contracts the Sixers give their players. Canaan is a fantastic shooter, but McDaniels has far more upside as a defender this season and something even more impactful should he remain with the Rockets.

The Rockets also picked up Pablo Prigioni from the Knicks.

Grade: A


Miami Heat:

Received: Goran Dragic, Zoran Dragic.

Traded: Two first-round picks, Justin Hamilton, Shawne Williams, Norris Cole, Danny Granger.

The Heat may have taken in the best player to be moved on trade-deadline day, but that doesn’t mean this is an out-and-out win for the team. Goran Dragic is exactly what the Heat need, someone to put defenses on their heels as he spirals around the court, and he could return to his active, free-throw-earning ways with a new start in Miami.

Still, two first-rounders down the line is a lot to give up for a player who might not stick in Miami past this season, and may not put them back in the top half of the East even if he does. This deal fits Miami’s plan, though, which is why you can’t criticize them much for playing by their own rules.

They always hoped to win now. Pat Riley doesn’t really want to think about what’s going to happen in 2017 and 2021, when they have to lose those picks, and the Heat had to make a splash. Picturing Goran, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Chris Bosh all moving without the ball and healthy in the playoffs is a frightening thing.

At 22-30 and just a game out of the lottery, the Heat just have to stay healthy enough to get there first.

Grade: B+


Milwaukee Bucks

Received: Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee.

Traded: Brandon Knight.

Now this was a shocker.

The Bucks had cap and payroll flexibility to work with even before they reached a buyout agreement with Larry Sanders this week. Knight is having a fantastic, borderline-All-Star year and he was merely going to be a restricted free agent this summer, someone who could sign to terms that the Bucks could match.

Instead, the team shot for depth and length in picking up Ennis (a pass-first guy who turns the ball over a ton), Plumlee (who has stepped back after a promising second season) and Carter-Williams, the 2014 Rookie of the Year. He remains a terrible shooter whose per-game numbers (not to mention hardware, in a weak year for rookies) were inflated last season, but he adds to Milwaukee’s intriguing brand of length and he can defend.

Still, this is a risky one.

Grade: B-


Minnesota Timberwolves

Received: Kevin Garnett

Traded: Thaddeus Young

Just seeing Garnett’s name on this list inspires a double-take. Even though the setting seems perfect, and even though he left it all on the court for the Timberwolves from 1995 through 2007, it was still a massive and warm surprise to see the Wolves deal for him. They’ll also get out from Young potentially making nearly $10 million next season.

What these two sides decide to do moving forward is anyone’s guess, but for now, everyone should be happy. As happy as you can get on a 10-win team, I suppose.

Grade: A+


New Orleans Pelicans

Received: Shawne Williams, Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton

Traded: John Salmons

Not much to see here.

Cole is having a miserable year, and while Williams is an upgrade over Salmons, he’s not going to be the sort of guy who pushes NOLA into the playoffs. Not that this sort of particular player was available for the Pelicans to grab.

Grade: B


New York Knicks

Received: Alexey Shved, two second-round picks.

Traded: Pablo Prigioni

Pablo was on the block as soon as the Knicks decided to punt the season, so it was a sound move for Phil Jackson to dive into Houston’s massive bag of assets and grab a couple of second-rounders. This is probably Shved’s last chance, working in a triangle that could suit him, to make an NBA impact.

Grade: B


Oklahoma City Thunder

Received: Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler, Steve Novak.

Traded: Reggie Jackson, Kendrick Perkins, future first-round pick.

Kanter never quite fit in with the Jazz, so our initial optimistic take as to his role with the Thunder may surprise you. At the worst, the big man will fit in far better than the lumbering Brook Lopez (who was available from Brooklyn all Thursday) would have with OKC. Even if the Thunder play chicken with the luxury tax yet again this summer and Kanter signs elsewhere as a restricted free agent, this is a move you make. It’s time to win this thing.

Adding shooters in Singler and Novak, and one of the league’s top reserve point guards in Augustin on top of that? This won’t guarantee a championship — the Thunder will probably still have to play the Golden State Warriors in the first round — but this was quite the haul for the Thunder.

Grade: A+

Philadelphia 76ers

Received: First-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers (top-five protected in 2015, protected 1-3 in 2016 and 2017, unprotected in 2018), the lesser of Denver or Minnesota’s 2015 second-round pick, first-round pick from Oklahoma City (protected 1-18 in 2015, 1-15 in 2016 and 2017, becomes two second-round picks if not conveyed by 2018), JaVale McGee, second-round pick from Denver, Isaiah Canaan, second-round pick from Houston.

Traded: Michael Carter-Williams, K.J. McDaniels.

The Sixers are nuts. We don’t know if this is good or bad, but they’re absolutely nuts.

They’re this:

Just because Carter-Williams was the Rookie of the Year in perhaps the worst race for that award in NBA history, it doesn’t mean he’s untouchable. And McDaniels, who at times this season has looked like the team’s best player, likely wasn’t returning as a free agent this summer. It’s still a shot across the bow, after two seasons of outright tanking, for Hinkie to trade the team’s two most capable players (even after all those missed shots) for yet another series of future considerations.

Nabbing a future first-rounder from the Lakers, via Phoenix, was a fantastic move. If used properly, the draftee selected either this year out of the top five or in the next years in the top five should turn out to be a better player than MCW.

Still, it’s an asset. Again. One that, with a bad streak of lottery luck, might not fall Philadelphia’s way until 2018.

Taking on McGee just for another first-rounder from the Thunder (via Denver), another second-rounder alongside analytics superbabe Canaan?

It’s all very Hinkie. So damn Hinkie.

You want me to grade this? Are you serious?


Phoenix Suns

Received: Brandon Knight, 2016 first-round draft pick (Cleveland’s), Danny Granger, John Salmons, two first-round picks from the Miami Heat (2017 and 2021).

Traded: First-round pick (Los Angeles Lakers’, top-five protected this year, top-three protected in 2016 and 2017, unprotected in 2018), Miles Plumlee, Tyler Ennis, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Zoran Dragic.

The Suns were in a tough spot with Goran Dragic’s outright trade demand. They were never going to get equal value for his 2015 services, even if Dragic were signed until 2019. The future free agent is not signed until then, so nabbing two future first-rounders from Miami was impressive enough.

Giving up on Thomas so soon into his tenure with the Suns for what will be a lower-rung first-rounder from the championship-contending Cavaliers, though, seems like a miss. And while it’s good to appreciate Knight’s gifts, he is a restricted free agent this year, and that L.A. first-rounder could eventually turn out to be something special.

In a vacuum, would a return package with the two Heat picks and one Cavalier pick be enough to take in that Laker selection? Dealing four guards in return for one and losing a rotation guy in Plumlee? This is tough, even if the Suns will still have a very good roster this season and next. Miami could be a miserable team in a few years and the team could find a gem late with that Cavs pick, but future planning is a hard sell at any point in the season.

We really appreciate where GM McDonough is coming from, and the Dragic-inspired restrictions he had on him, but this trade deadline and the last year or so really haven’t been very kind to him.

Grade: C-


Portland Trail Blazers

Received: Arron Afflalo, Alonzo Gee.

Traded: Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, Will Barton, first-round pick (lottery protected in 2016 or 2017, turns into a 2018 second-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick if not used by 2018).

As we championed when the Grizzlies and Cavaliers made-win now moves in anticipation of a championship run, the Trail Blazers did the right thing in securing Afflalo. He’s a likely free agent this summer, but that’s fine. He has struggled this season and he’s not going to force Nicolas Batum to get his game back, he’s not going to heal LaMarcus Aldridge’s hand and he’s not going to make up for the month and a half that Robin Lopez was out, but he’s a sound pro who will help on both ends. Gee could be a rotation player.

The Blazers will give up a first-round pick on a player who won’t guarantee them a championship, and might split come July. Yeah? So what? They’re close to it. This is what you do.

Grade: A


Sacramento Kings

Received: Andre Miller

Traded: Ramon Sessions

This isn’t to call the Kings selfish, but this is not a good passing squad. Point guard Darren Collison has never been a comfortable passer. The same goes for the rest of the rotation, save for DeMarcus Cousins. While Miller won’t be playing 30 minutes a game, every little bit of passing savvy counts. His experience with new coach George Karl … yeah, you know this was going to happen.

Grade: A


Utah Jazz

Received: Kendrick Perkins, first-round pick, second-round pick.

Traded: Enes Kanter, Steve Novak

In context that includes the entire franchise history, turning a top-three overall pick who puts up great per-minute stats into an expiring contract and potential first-round pick from a very good Thunder team is a bum move. Kanter was drafted in 2011 and never quite fit in with (read: he was terrible alongside) Derrick Favors, but you’d like to get a little bit more out of this, right?

For the purpose of Thursday alone? There just wasn’t much the Jazz could do. They weren’t going to throw big money at Kanter when he hits restricted free agency this summer just to watch him struggle next to Favors. That was probably the case even prior to Rudy Gobert’s emergence, and any little bit helps. Even if it’s just a guy in Perkins that you’re going to waive, and unappealing draft picks.

Grade: C


Washington Wizards

Received: Ramon Sessions

Traded: Andre Miller

Sessions has struggled this season but his ability to get to the rim is exactly what Washington needs. If he could regain his form and take minutes away from Garrett Temple, then the Wizards have done well here.

Grade: B


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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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