Every year, the NBA trade deadline sees teams make last-ditch efforts to improve their roster so that they can win the championship. This year was no different, and may have topped any other deadline in the past. Let’s take a look at how the NBA’s trade deadline affected the rest of the league.
The biggest move of the deadline was the Brooklyn Nets trading Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns for Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder and four unprotected first-round picks. Phoenix’s championship odds rose to second in the NBA following the trade. The new quartet of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Durant creates a team with a lot of playoff experience and will be tough to beat out in the Western Conference.
Along with trading Durant, Brooklyn sent their other All-Star Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks. In return they received Dorian Finney-Smith, Spencer Dinwiddie, a 2027 first-round pick & two second-round picks. Brooklyn is clearly entering a rebuild, which opens up a spot at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Nets still have a chance at making the playoffs, but are most likely a first-round exit.
The new Mavericks backcourt of Irving and Luka Doncic creates one of the scariest scoring duos in the NBA. Dallas made the conference championship last season, losing to the then champions Golden State Warriors. The addition of Irving gives the Mavericks someone other than Doncic that can create offensive opportunities for themselves and their teammates.
The Los Angeles Lakers, desperate to keep their season alive, made multiple trades in hopes to make the playoffs. They acquired D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley in a three-team trade with the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves, which sent a trade package including Russell Westbrook to the Jazz, although he was bought out. They also traded Patrick Beverley to the Orlando Magic for Mo Bamba.
The Lakers were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA prior to the deadline, so adding positive shooters and defenders as they did should make them a much more well-rounded team. The Lakers need to win 16 of their last 24 games to make the play-in tournament, so it is an uphill battle to make the playoffs even though the team did significantly improve.
The NBA buyout market is the last chance for teams with championship aspirations to add pieces that they believe can help them in the playoffs. Bad teams will agree to release certain players, sometimes following trades, so they can join a contender. So far, Danny Green has signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers to bolster their bench, and Terrance Ross has joined the Suns to give them another shot creator, but many veteran players are still available.
Villanova teammates were reunited when Josh Hart was traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to join Jalen Brunson on the New York Knicks. Brunson and Hart won an NCAA championship in 2016 and hope to find similar success together in the NBA. The Knicks are battling to stay out of the play-in tournament, so the addition of Josh Hart hopes to help the team make the playoffs.
Most of the championship contenders made moves to improve in small ways. Eric Gordon, Bones Hyland and Mason Plumlee were all traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, giving them more depth off their bench. The Memphis Grizzlies traded for Luke Kennard to complete one of the best bench units in the NBA. Memphis desperately needed shooting, so adding a 42% three-point shooter in Kennard will be a great addition. Denver traded for Thomas Bryant, giving them a solid back-up center to play behind Nikola Jokic.
With big names trading places across the board, it will certainly be interesting to see how the race to the playoffs pans out.