Well, that was interesting. The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, but not without a handful of major moves and shakeups on and off the court. A few rosters look very different now, thanks to some blockbuster trades.
It all began pretty slowly but escalated fast, with several teams sneaking in major moves just before the February 10 deadline. In case you missed it or it’s still all a blur, here are the biggest trades of the pro hoops season.
This one happened right at the 11th hour and is easily the highest-profile of the bunch. James Harden is one of the best scorers and highest-paid players in the league but things weren’t quite clicking in Brooklyn. The Nets had engineered a championship-level roster with players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but injuries have plagued the team and instead of leading the Eastern Conference, the Nets are hovering around the eighth spot.
The Nets agreed to send Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, the overall number one pick from the 2016 draft. Simmons, from Australia, has not played a game this season, reportedly fed up with Philly and essentially boycotting the game until a trade was made. He’s now a Net and hoops fans are wondering how he’ll bounce back. He’s only 25, compared to Harden, who is 32, so there should be a lot of tread left on his tires going forward. Seth Curry and Andre Drummond were part of the trade, joining Simmons in Brooklyn. Philadelphia gets Harden as well as veteran forward Paul Millsap.
For Trailblazers fans, this was a tough pill to swallow. After about a decade of consistent playoff appearances and one of the best backcourts in basketball, the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum partnership was dissolved. McCollum, one of the best shooters in the league, the players association president, and a winemaker, was a fan favorite in Portland. Just before the deadline, he was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a colossal Blazers’ rebuild that will revolve solely around Lillard. In exchange, the Blazers were dealt fellow wine enthusiast Josh Hart, several draft picks, and several other role players.
Son of former NBA great Arvydas Sabonis, Domantas is a Gonzaga alum who has quietly been putting up some serious numbers with the Indiana Pacers. The trade involved six players altogether (the Pacers getting Buddy Hield, Tyrese Haliburton, and Tristan Thompson, the Kings getting Sabonis, Justin Holiday, and Jeremy Lamb) but Sabonis is the biggest name among them. He’s averaging a double-double, or close to 20 points and more than 12 rebounds per game. The power forward will no doubt make the Sacramento Kings more interesting and dynamic, but the chances of the club climbing out of the basement of the western conference, at least this season, are slim to none.
This trade could make the playoff picture very, very interesting in the East. The Cleveland Cavaliers, arguably the most surprising team in the league this season, get some bonafide added talent with LeVert. The shooting guard can also play small forward and adds another layer of skill to the Cavs, a team that’s currently third in the East. If he can gel with veteran Kevin Love and All-Star guard Darius Garland, the Cavs could make a legitimate post-season run. In addition to several picks, the Pacers got Ricky Rubio in exchange for LeVert. Rubio was having a strong season in Cleveland and will look to continue that trend in a Pacers uniform.
Another rather unexpected trade saw Kristaps Porzingis swapped out of Dallas for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertrans of the Washington Wizards. There’s no doubt that the Mavs’ franchise player is Luka Doncic, but he and Porzingis were playing well together before the trade. It suggests that Dallas is simply not happy with the status quo or believed it was paying too much for Porzingis with not quite enough return. Either way, it sets up the Wizards to maybe, just maybe, sneak into the playoffs and gives the Mavericks some depth. Dinwiddie has already settled in nicely and could be the difference in the team securing some home-court advantage in the playoffs this year.
The NBA season was already full of plots and twists, even before the onslaught of February trades. Steph Curry has come roaring back (and since cooled off), joined by fellow sharpshooter Klay Thomson. The Lakers are struggling, the Nets can’t seem to get their point guard vaccinated, the Bulls are good again, and. Now, with some major shuffles, the push for the playoffs promises to be very entertaining. Watch for favorites like the Warriors, Suns, and Bucks to really their stride just before the end of the regular season.
But don’t overlook the Grizzlies, Cavs, and 76ers. Will Harden bring Philadelphia a trophy? Will Simmons return in style? Can CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson gel and take New Orleans to new heights next year? We’ll have to wait and see.
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