NBA trade deadline: 5 winners and 5 losers

Did the Cavaliers get better?

Joe Robbins / Getty Images

The NBA’s trade deadline was a snore. Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Ryan Anderson and just about every other significant player who was rumored to change teams did not do so. 

There are many reasons why this happened, and those who paid close attention shouldn’t be surprised by the silence. Without further ado, here are five winners and five losers.

Five Winners

5. Miami Heat

Miami did not trade Hassan Whiteside or add any shooters. No. Instead they waved a white flag and ducked under the luxury tax. Chris Bosh’s health issues (P.S., get well soon Chris Bosh) really put this team in a bind, and sometimes the smartest team is the one that realizes how dire their situation really is.

Kudos to Pat Riley, who might as well jump ship to the Los Angeles Lakers before Miami capsizes.

4. Orlando Magic

On Wednesday, Orlando traded Tobias Harris for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings, an unimpressive haul for a promising 23-year-old the Magic had just signed to a long-term contract last summer. But right before the deadline their long-term plan crystallized itself when the Magic shipped Channing Frye (and the $15.2 million left on his contract) to Cleveland. 

So, what is that plan? Cap space! 

The Magic have their young core in place and will look to splurge on more developed talent this summer. Fun stuff. 

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

For more about the Thunder, click here, but just to summarize OKC’s deadline: The Thunder killed three birds with one stone by adding a 3-point shooter, cutting their tax bill and opening up a roster spot. Good stuff:

2. Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers had no expectations heading into Thursday’s trade deadline, but they did have a ton of cap space and a young, overachieving roster. Would they turn into a bad-salary dumping ground and take on useful assets? Yes. Happily. 

Solid day for the Trail Blazers, who accomplished a lot by doing very little.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

They held on to Kevin Love and added a stretch four/five who can replicate a bit of what Chris Bosh used to do for LeBron down in Miami. This team is all in on winning a title right now, as they should be.

Five Losers

5. Detroit Pistons

On Wednesday, the Pistons were lauded for grabbing Harris and keeping their first-round pick. Sweet move. Then, less than 24 hours later, they flipped it (top-eight-protected) to the Houston Rockets for Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton. Motiejunas is a restricted free agent with a bad back who’s barely played this season. Shrewd organizations don’t do this trade. It’s shortsighted, and hardly guarantees the Pistons a playoff berth. They don’t have a backup point guard, shipped away a legitimate stretch four and lost a draft pick. (Exhibit B of why coaches should not have final say on personnel moves … Exhibit A is coming up a little later.)

4. Houston Rockets

Sure, we just covered how smart Houston was in the Motiejunas deal, and we don’t know what specific offers were in play for Dwight Howard. But this deadline could’ve been a solid opportunity for GM Daryl Morey to blow up the Rockets and rebuild around Harden with cap space and (more) draft picks. Again, it’s hard to get too upset over their failure to deal Howard …

… but Houston is very, very far from winning a title, and steps in the opposite direction are likely necessary before they can move forward.

3. Toronto Raptors

The Eastern Conference isn’t “wide open” so long as LeBron James still holds on to the last remnants of his prime, but it’s close. That makes Toronto’s passivity so disappointing. The Raptors have an unprotected 2016 first-round pick from the imploding New York Knicks at the ready, and refused to flip it for someone like Thaddeus Young or Ryan Anderson. 

Then again, maybe those guys don’t move the needle. Maybe GM Masai Ujiri’s patience should be praised. But sometimes, when one sprained ankle has the potential to catapult you into the NBA Finals, you gotta swing for the fences. Why else be in the business?

2. Washington Wizards

Maybe Markieff Morris will get his act together. Maybe he’ll try hard on every possession and act like a professional. Or maybe we’ll look back on Washington’s decision to surrender a top-nine-protected first-round pick and laugh until we cry:

1. Los Angeles Clippers

Doc Rivers is Exhibit A of why coaches should not have final say on personnel moves. His decision to flip Lance Stephenson and a protected first-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jeff Green is unconscionable. What is this move? How does this help them in the present or future?

We also know that Frye was on the table, a 3-point shooting big who, on paper, fits perfectly beside DeAndre Jordan. 

Now, Frye has quite a bit of money left on his contract, and the Clippers need as much cap space as possible if they’re to improve in years ahead, but if he could’ve been had for Stephenson and no pick, it’s a much better addition than Green.