Now that the craziness of the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline has died down, it’s time to sort Thursday’s deals into tiers.
There were 11 trades on 2020 NBA Trade Deadline day. It wasn’t an earth-shattering day of dealing, but it also wasn’t the complete dud that many were predicting as recently as about a week ago.
In the interest of just getting on with it, let’s break these moves down and split them into tiers by the level of impact we can expect each to have.
Tier 1: Actual impact moves
There were several iterations of this trade before it actually happened. The Knicks were at one point looking to acquire Terance Mann and/or Mfiondu Kabengele in the deal, but didn’t have the roster spots to take them onto the books. Instead, the deal was spun to give New York a future second-rounder and, hilariously, the option to swap first-rounders with the Clippers in 2021, with the Wizards stepping in to solve the roster spot issue by taking Robinson in exchange for Thomas.
L.A. has been hot after Morris since the summer, and it’s clear they were motivated to make sure they, and not the Lakers, landed him after Robert Covington and Andre Iguodala came off the board. The price for landing him was not all that high. Harkless had to be included to match salary and had not lived up to expectations with the Clips anyway; Robinson was blocked in the lineup by several better players; and the draft pick they’re sending to New York is almost sure to be in the 25-29 range. They could obviously use cost-controlled talent to surround their stars in the future, but ensuring an upgrade at an important spot without sacrificing any core pieces is a job well done.
Morris’ shooting has already begun to regress from the obviously unsustainable peak he hit at the beginning of the season, but he has still been a 40-plus percent guy from 3-point range pretty much all year. He has the ability to guard one or both forward positions depending on with whom he shares the floor (he can also switch onto bigs in a pinch), and he helps facilitate the usage of small-ball lineups. He’s a good fit and an upgrade at a position of need, and though he’s not necessarily a game-changer that elevates the Clips to the top of the pack, that has a lot of value. (Plus they can retain him on a deal starting at up to $18 million with his non-Bird rights.)
New York finally wised up and sent Morris packing and received what should have been its goal in any Morris deal all along: a first-round pick, no matter how low. This is a team that should be in pure asset-acquisition mode, and taking as many rolls of the dice in the draft as possible. The last few times the Knicks had multiple first-round selections, it did not turn out so well, but having been bad at drafting in the past does not mean that stockpiling picks is a bad idea; it means you need to draft better.
Washington gets a free flier on a guy who was a lottery pick 18 months ago just for playing facilitator. It seems like they make out pretty damn well.
Miami clearly had bigger things in mind, as we all saw from the Danilo Gallinari rumors that began swirling Wednesday night and lasted until late in the day on Thursday. Landing both Gallo and Iguodala would have made all this moving and shaking worth it, but as is, the Heat essentially cleared a bit of cap space next offseason in exchange for swapping out Winslow and Johnson for Iguodala and Crowder.
The latter two players are probably more reliable in the role for which the Heat will have them playing in this year’s playoff run, but Winslow is still extremely young, extremely versatile and would likely have provided far better value to Miami in the future if he could stay healthy. That’s a big if though, and apparently the Heat were not willing to bet on a guy who has dealt with multiple injuries over the past two years. Being able to throw Iguodala, Crowder, Hill, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Jones Jr. and even Bam Adebayo at the star scorers they’ll face in the postseason allows Miami to both mix things up by providing different looks, and ensure guys like Butler and Iguodala don’t get overworked in specific matchups.
This swap didn’t turn out as well for the Grizzlies as it initially looked like it might: They take on nearly $29 million in salary next season in exchange for the right to employ Winslow for the next couple years. But this year’s free-agency class is pretty bad and it might be better for the Grizz to just stay away. Memphis isn’t much of a free-agent destination anyway, and the Grizzlies now have a bunch of mid-range salaries they can package together to land a bigger fish if they want. Winslow is also a terrific fit with their young core. That’s not all that high a price to pay, especially when you consider that expiring contracts in 2021 are likely to have more value than those that expire in 2020, simply because of the quality of the free-agent class.
The Wolves inserting themselves into this deal to get Johnson for Dieng is an underrated move.
So, in the end, the Warriors traded Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Damian Jones, Jacob Evans, a first-round pick and a second-round pick for Andrew Wiggins, a first-round pick and a second-round pick. I believe the only appropriate reaction here is:
Sure, the Warriors are making a bet that they can unlock something in Wiggins that the Wolves haven’t been able to in four-plus years. And yes, the Warriors are better at developing players than are the Wolves. And I know, Wiggins is still only 24 years old. But man, what more do we have to see to be convinced that this guy is what he is? He will be in a better position to succeed offensively than ever before once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson return to the floor, but A) The Warriors are unlikely to encourage him to rein in the mid-range attempts, B) He doesn’t seem like the best fit for their read-and-react, pass-and-move style of offense and C) They still need to figure out a way to get him to play to his defensive potential.
Minnesota acquiring Russell while also dumping Wiggins’ toxic contract while only sacrificing a first and a second in the future is a really nice job. Couple it with their foisting of Dieng onto the Grizzlies in exchange for James Johnson, and the Wolves had one of the better deadlines in the league — even if Russell is unlikely to solve all the problems they think he does. Getting Karl-Anthony Towns a buddy to play XBOX with isn’t going to make either one of them plus defenders.
Tier 2: Tinkering on the edges
- 76ers acquire Alec Burks and Glen Robinson III
- Warriors acquire 2020 Mavericks second, 2021 Nuggets second and 2022 Raptors second
It feels like the Sixers spent the past two years looking for the new Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. Burks and Robinson … are not Belinelli and Ilyasova. But they can play a bit. Burks gives Philly another guy who can actually make a play with the ball in his hands, and is probably a better option off the bench than Trey Burke, who is getting waived in a corresponding move. Robinson seems to have rediscovered his shooting stroke this season after bottoming out in Detroit last season, so he makes for a good fit on a team that needed some help in the spacing department.
With the Wizards sending Isaiah Thomas out, they needed another backup point guard, and Napier has had a really solid season in Minnesota. The Nuggets had a logjam at backup point guard with Monte Morris and and PJ Dozier already in house when they acquired Napier in four-team trade from Tuesday, so they made for a natural partner with Washington.
Nabbing McRae helps replace Malik Beasley, who was also sent out in that deal. McRae is in his age-28 season so having the best year of his career technically makes sense, but he had never done much of anything before this year. It’s been pretty wild to see him break out at this stage. His deep shooting has been above-average, if inconsistent, but playing with Nikola Jokic helps pretty much anybody find their shooting stroke. If he can fit in as an off-the-ball roamer, cutting through those lanes that only Jokic can find, then he’ll make for a really nice fit.
Houston might still try to find another center on the buyout market but is apparently 1,000 percent all-in on the idea of playing small, pretty much all the time. Basically the only time Caboclo has shown anything resembling NBA talent is during the half-season stretch with Memphis, but he backslid this year and is currently injured. It doesn’t seem all that likely that he’ll end up playing any minutes over the likes of Danuel House Jr. or even Thabo Sefolosha, so this one is pretty puzzling from Houston’s perspective.
The Grizzlies, meanwhile, get another young, athletic player who can handle himself in space. Bell should work fine as an occasional backup big man, whether behind Jonas Valanciunas or Jaren Jackson Jr. The Grizz also acquired Dieng in the Iguodala deal and he’ll probably get first crack at those minutes, but Bell is more athletic and capable of switching, so he’s a nice alternative.
- Magic acquire James Ennis
- 76ers acquire 2022 Lakers second
The Magic traded Jonathon Simmons to the Sixers at last year’s deadline, and this year they took Ennis in return. With Jonathan Isaac and Al-Farouq Aminu injured, they had a need for another big wing type, and Ennis both fits the bill and was apparently available for cheap. He can guard some players that Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier really can’t, and that the Magic probably don’t want to subject Aaron Gordon to for the entire time he’s on the floor. Ennis is only an average-ish shooter and defender whose reputation is probably slightly inflated, but it’s not like the Magic paid a premium price for him. They filled a need at an extremely low cost and did so without disrupting anything about the way their current rotation works.
Tier 3: I don’t trade, I make money moves
Drummond holds a player option for next season at around $28.8 million, and apparently the Pistons got the idea that he was going to pick it up and were not thrilled about that. Cleveland, I guess, wants to pay Drummond, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. a combined $71.7 million next year. Perhaps the Cavs are even all right with Drummond opting out and then handing him a long-term deal, hoping he can be a pillar of a more successful rebuild than the one he just led in Detroit. Count me among the skeptics, and not just because the roster makes for an awkward fit. Detroit was reportedly looking for first-rounder(s) for Drummond and ended up settling for dead salary and a second-round pick four drafts out. That’s not exactly a successful shopping spree.
So, I guess the Hawks essentially decided to sign Dedmon for three years and $39 million last offseason and then used Len to dump the contract they gave Parker in the Kings’ laps. Dedmon began agitating for a trade extremely early in the season (essentially, once Richaun Holmes took his job as the starting center); and supposedly wanted to go somewhere that would guarantee him more playing time. That won’t happen in Atlanta, where they just traded for Clint Capela to man that position and already have John Collins to play next to and behind him. Oh, and they took on Skal Labissiere in a salary-dump move, as described below. Dedmon may not be thrilled, but he’ll probably be happier back in Atlanta, where he had some success before.
Tier 4: F*** you, pay me (for that contract)
- Hawks acquire Skal Labissiere, cash
- Blazers acquire fake second
The Blazers gave the Hawks $2 million to take Skal. That’s nearly his entire salary, and it is definitely more than what he’ll make over the rest of the season. All to trim a few bucks from the luxury tax ledger. The NBA!
It seemed like the Clippers were clearing a roster spot to take in an extra player in the Marcus Morris trade, but they actually did a two-for-two there and now plan to cut ties with Isaiah Thomas so … who knows what really happened with this one.