The NBA trade deadline saw a flurry of deals on Thursday after a handful of moves leading up to it. All-Stars D’Angelo Russell and Andre Drummond moved to the Midwest, and the Los Angeles Clippers emboldened their championship odds. Here are the biggest winners and losers this week.
The 36-year-old, three-time champion sat out this season after being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Memphis Grizzlies this past summer. He wanted to play for a contender, and the Grizzlies were willing to accommodate him, so long as they could secure trade value in return. Little did either side know that Memphis would surge into the playoff picture, a development that drew some heat onto the former All-Star and Finals MVP from several slighted current Grizzlies.
In the end, Memphis did find a taker for Iguodala in the Miami Heat, who then granted him a two-year, $30 million extension (the second year is a team option). Iguodala will gladly take heat from a few Grizzlies in exchange for playing on a top-four seed in South Beach for an extra eight figures.
As for the actual deal, both the Heat and Grizzlies left with some good and some bad.
Memphis received Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters and James Johnson from Miami. Winslow is a 23-year-old former lottery pick who should fit nicely on a young roster that includes Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. The question is his health, as Winslow has been injury-prone throughout his five-year career and has played just 11 games this season due to a back injury. Waiters and Johnson also add $28.7 million onto their salary cap next season for little production.
The Heat landed three solid players, including a playoff-tested Iguodala and Jae Crowder, both of whom fit Miami’s smart, hard-working culture. The Heat also secured Solomon Hill, another wing who has shot well from 3-point range (38 percent) in a limited role for Memphis. Crowder and Hill have $20 million expiring contracts combined, increasing Miami’s flexibility this summer and keeping the books clean for their expected pursuit of elite free agents in the loaded class of 2021.
On the other hand, none of them is an upgrade over a healthy Winslow, and there is a real chance they do little more than secure a first-round playoff win for the Heat. Still, Iguodala got his money.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
A day after the two-time All-Star big man declared, “You obviously see my patience running low with a lot of things,” Timberwolves general manager Gersson Rosas solved their point guard woes and delivered Towns’ friend and fellow former All-Star D’Angelo Russell from the Golden State Warriors.
Towns voiced his frustration with Minnesota’s direction after a lackluster performance on Wednesday night, when the Wolves lost their 13th straight game amid reports that Russell talks with the Warriors had stalled and soon after trading his “best friend on the team” Robert Covington.
When the dust settled on Thursday, the Wolves emerged with Towns and Russell — two thirds of the “goodfellas” trio that expressed interest in playing together — under their control through 2023. (Devin Booker is the third point in that triangle, and he is signed to the Phoenix Suns through 2024.)
Meanwhile, the Wolves dumped the four years and $122 million owed Andrew Wiggins, and all it really cost them was a single first-round pick. In exchange for Covington, Rosas also secured promising young players Malik Beasley and Juan Hernangomez (both 2020 restricted free agents) as well as Brooklyn’s top-14 protected first-round pick (via Atlanta) in exchange for Covington.
The bit players, expiring contracts and dead money swapped in Minnesota’s series of moves are merely window dressing on what should be a vastly improved situation — and mood — for Towns.
Marcus Morris, Los Angeles Clippers
Morris wins in this simply by going from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best. The Clippers upgraded from Moe Harkless to Morris without impacting their playoff rotation. It cost them their 2020 first-round pick (the last they can deal for years to come) and Jerome Robinson (the 13th overall pick in 2018) in a three-team deal that also brought Isaiah Thomas back in return.
Morris emboldens an already deep rotation, pushing capable forwards JaMychal Green and Patrick Patterson down the depth chart. Morris has been one of the league’s best high-volume shooters this season, converting his 6.1 3-point attempts at a 43.9 percent rate for the New York Knicks.
He is another body to throw at LeBron James in a potential playoff showdown with the Lakers, and he brings experience playing small-ball center for the 2018 Eastern Conference finalist Celtics. Throw Morris into the mix with Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Montrezl Harrell, and Clippers coach Doc Rivers can field monster defensive lineups loaded with serious versatility.
Rob Pelinka, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers’ GM struck out at the trade deadline despite reported interest in almost every available player on the market, including [deep breath] Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Rose and Dennis Schroder, among other players.
He reportedly dangled Kyle Kuzma in several of those offers, a year after Kuzma was among the young Lakers whose season was derailed by their rumored inclusion in the Anthony Davis deal. That Kuzma was not good enough to engage in serious discussions for Dinwiddie and Bogdanovic is a reminder of the dearth of assets the Lakers have to improve their roster without any draft picks.
Pelinka can probably spin this as showing faith in Kuzma by not including him in their offer for Marcus Morris, but the fact remains that their co-tenants at Staples Center — their chief competitor in the Western Conference title chase — were able to secure one of the top players on the move.
The Lakers and Clippers are both pursuing Collison. He would be an upgrade over the Lakers’ current crop of ball-handlers and floor spacers. Losing him to their rivals would be a disaster.
Pelinka is on the hunt for help on the wings, too. There is still the buyout market, but the hope that Andre Iguodala would be among the available crop of players is lost. The Lakers will give J.R. Smith a tryout soon, according to The New York Times’ Marc Stein, which is a sign of their desperation.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
Morey’s genius has taken a hit this season. He traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in what looks like a win for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and it only cost him two first-round picks and two more first-round pick swaps to acquire the worst fit alongside James Harden in the backcourt.
The Rockets GM was right to pledge his support to Hong Kong’s protests against China’s dictatorial communist regime, but in doing so he drove a wedge between himself and the powers that be that has had a widespread NBA impact, including a lower projected 2020-21 salary cap.
Now, Morey has dealt Clint Capela — the 25-year-old rim-running and -protecting center who helped lead Houston to 65 wins and the 2018 Western Conference finals — for Covington. The 29-year-old is a 3-and-D wing who is shooting a below-league-average 34.6 percent from distance and whose defense has taken a hit since his arthroscopic right knee surgery at the end of last season.
Houston is going all in on a five-man outfit of Harden, Westbrook, Covington, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker. That group may shoot 60 threes a game. Morey is betting on the math being in his favor. It is harder to quantify the value of a big man who can fight against a monumental interior advantage.
Capela has had his health issues, too, and currently has a heel injury. Morey might not value non-shooting bigs, but he needs one better than Isaiah Hartenstein and 37-year-old Tyson Chandler.
Covington is probably an upgrade over current swingmen Danuel House and Ben McLemore, even if both have been more effective shooters this season. The hope is that Covington’s efficiency improves in Houston’s open offense and his defense returns to an All-NBA level. Is that upgrade worth getting rid of a solid young center and a first-round pick, especially when both L.A. teams are decidedly bigger and better? (The Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets might be, too, for that matter.)
Morey may still outsmart everyone in the end, but for now it feels like he is overthinking this.
Detroit Pistons fans, again
Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem is not exactly a shining example of the growing trend to hire agents as decision-makers. Who, exactly, is making the basketball calls in Detroit? Ed Stefanski, a senior adviser, is reportedly at the helm. The Pistons have no president of basketball ops or GM listed.
Whoever is running the show, he just made one of the more puzzling trades in recent memory. The Pistons traded 26-year-old, two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond — the NBA’s leading rebounder in four of the past five seasons — for essentially nothing. They received two expiring contracts (Brandon Knight and John Henson) and a 2023 second-round pick from the Cavaliers.
The may have lost Drummond to free agency, although he had publicly stated his desire to stay in Detroit and owns a $29 million player option for next season. He probably will not get that on the open market, and the Pistons may have been able to retain him for less. With injuries continuing to ravage Blake Griffin’s career, Drummond was all the Pistons had left, and now they have nothing.
Even if you concede Detroit risked losing him for nothing this coming summer, that does not excuse the paltry return the Pistons got for him. It is not as though the end of his contract has snuck up on them. Even if no team was willing to give up a more valuable package at this trade deadline, surely the Pistons could have secured something — anything — better had they made this move earlier.
Detroit opened max cap space. Great. And who is going to a team that lists Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard as its best assets? The Pistons did not exactly set a great example for potential targets:
If there’s one thing I learned about the NBA, there’s no friends or loyalty. I’ve given my heart and soul to the Pistons , and to be have this happen with no heads up makes me realize even more that this is just a business! I love you Detroit...— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) February 6, 2020
At the very least, the Pistons have finally given up on being a perennial eighth seed. They have the chance to blow this up and start all over. They should have done this long ago. The Detroit faithful should hope they at least use that cap space to take on bad contracts with draft assets as the vig.
The Pistons have shown little to prove they are even that competent, and yet this is the best-case scenario. It is going to be a long haul in Detroit, where a once-proud franchise has not won a playoff game in a decade. As if watching Toronto win a title was not hard enough on coach Dwane Casey.
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