Blame AAU basketball, blame the one-and-done generation, blame whatever you want, but what cannot be argued is that there is an international wave taking over the NBA. Increasingly it seems like the best and most influential players in the NBA are from countries and regions outside of the U.S.
Grades For NBA Trade Deadline Deals
Author: Ryan Stein
The trade deadline is often hit-or-miss in regards to drama and excitement, and it's safe to say this year's deadline had both of those attributes in spades. From the Pistons making a push for the playoffs, to the Nets quietly making solid moves, to the Cavs completely reshaping their roster, there is plenty to discuss as this Tuesday's deadline has passed. With 16 trades in total, we've taken a look at the deals for each team, assessing grades from "A to F". Keep in mind that these grades are our opinions, and will likely be different from your opinion. Enjoy!
The Pistons go all-in while the Clippers build for the future
Clippers receive: Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Avery Bradley, 2018 protected first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
Pistons receive: Blake Griffin, Willie Reed, Brice Johnson
Even after trading their long-time franchise cornerstone, the Clippers still find themselves toeing the line between rebuilding and remaining competitive. If that is indeed their desired plan, then it would be difficult to find a trade that would more appropriately fit that mold. Tobias Harris is the centerpiece of the deal for the Clippers, as a 25 year-old who was putting up All-Star numbers in the East while shooting over 40% from three. Avery Bradley, while admittedly having a rough year, is still capable of being a sharpshooter and a lockdown defender when motivated. The picks also help the Clippers accumulate young talent without having to directly tank.
The Pistons' season was on life support before the trade, and early returns suggest Blake Griffin is an adequate cure to the team's ailments. While the fit next to Andre Drummond is not perfect, Griffin at least has the ability to play on the perimeter and make plays for his teammates. That being said, paying Griffin for the remainder of his contract cannot be ideal for the Pistons, as the Power Forward will be earning over $39 million in his age-32 season. Still, the Pistons get some style points for kicking off the trade deadline season with a bang.
Clippers' Grade A-
Pistons' Grade B-
The Pelicans let the NBA know their season is not yet finished
Bulls receive: Tony Allen, Omer Asik, Jameer Nelson, 2018 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick swap rights
Pelicans receive: Nikola Mirotic, 2018 second-round pick
The Pelicans did well to bring in a temporary replacement for DeMarcus Cousins, who is out for the season. While obviously not on Cousins' level, Mirotic provides an excellent fit next to Anthony Davis as a rangy Power Forward capable of collecting rebounds at a solid rate. And, assuming Cousins re-signs with the team this offseason (which is certainly not a foregone conclusion), Mirotic makes for a terrific third big man as part of a three-headed monster down low for New Orleans. Shedding the Asik contract only further improves their grade.
As far as returns go, the Bulls could have done a lot worse. The only item of true value to the team is the 2018 first-rounder, which could end up being pretty good if the Pelicans end up flopping. Tony Allen and Jameer Nelson are no longer with the team (bought out and traded, respectively), and who doesn't love the reconvening between Omer Asik and the team that originally drafted him?
Pelicans' Grade A
Bulls' Grade B+
Sean Marks hits the mark once again
Nets receive: Rashad Vaughn, 2018 second-round pick
Bucks receive: Tyler Zeller
Nets GM Sean Marks is doing his best to resurrect the team following the infamous trade with the Celtics from the previous administration. This trade builds upon his excellent work, as he not only managed to pick up a 21 year-old prospect, but a second-round pick as well for basically nothing. Marks has done his part to slowly accumulate assets for a team that was starved for them just a few years ago.
Having needed legitimate size since trading away Greg Monroe, the Bucks did an okay job of accomplishing just that. While Zeller is a legit 7-footer and a decent rebounder, he should not be confused as anything more than probably the fifth big man on a good basketball team. Giving up a pick also is a head scratcher, especially when it's for a player that does not move the needle.
Nets' Grade A
Bucks' Grade C-
Knicks rid themselves of a disgruntled prospect
Knicks receive: Johnny O'Bryant, 2020 second-round pick and 2021 second-round pick
Hornets receive: Willy Hernangomez
The Knicks were incentivized to make this deal after Hernangomez requested a trade earlier in the week (via Shams). Losing a young player with potential is never easy, but the haul was decent enough to make the situation more palatable. O'Bryant, 24, has not shown himself to be anything more than a G-League player through 4.5 seasons, but the second-round picks at least mean the Knicks didn't get rid of their unhappy center for nothing.
Hernangomez is a semi-intriguing player for the Hornets to give a shot. He will likely never be better than a high-caliber big man off the bench, but he did not cost too much to obtain. At the very least, Hernangomez should be satisfied with the prospect of getting more minutes with his new team.
Knicks' Grade C-
Hornets' Grade C
Pistons and Bulls swap second-rounder picks
Pistons receive: Jameer Nelson, future second-round pick
Bulls receive: Willie Reed, future second-round pick
There is not much to say about this trade, outside of Jameer Nelson getting another go-around with Coach Stan Van Gundy. Nelson won't be able to provide much more than a three-point shooting veteran off the bench for the Pistons, while Willie Reed is going to be waived by the Bulls. The teams are also trading each other second-round picks, which could be slightly better for the Bulls, as they will likely be better than the Pistons a few years down the line when the picks convey.
Bulls' Grade B-
Pistons' Grade C+
Pistons add depth on the wing
Pistons receive: James Ennis
Grizzlies receive: Brice Johnson, future second-round pick
After the blockbuster trade for Blake Griffin, the Pistons were suffering from a lack of wing depth, having traded their starting shooting guard and starting small forward. Ennis helps to address those concerns, as a long, athletic wing player with a league-average three-point shot.
Johnson was traded for the second time in the past two weeks, and he could finally get some playing time, after only playing in a combined 12 games over 1.5 seasons with the Clippers. A second-rounder is always nice for a potential deal down the line or for picking up a diamond in the rough, but the Grizzlies might have been able to do better on a player of Ennis' caliber elsewhere.
Pistons' Grade B
Grizzlies' Grade C-
Heat and Hawks complete the blockbuster of the century
Heat receive: Luke Babbitt
Hawks receive: Okaro White
Okay, so the title of this trade may be slightly hyperbolic, but the Heat did receive a solid piece for their bench. Having previously played for the Heat, Babbitt is familiar with the team's system and his size and three-point shooting is growing increasingly valuable in today's NBA.
White was never able to stick on the Heat's main roster for an extended period of time, but at 6'8", he has the size and athletic ability to contribute to an NBA at some point in the future, provided he continues to work on his outside shot.
Heat's Grade B-
Hawks Grade C
Raptors give up on fan-favorite prospect
Raptors receive: Malachi Richardson
Kings receive: Bruno Caboclo
Raptors fans everywhere (mostly Canada) were saddened to hear of the departure of young prospect Bruno Caboclo. Touted on draft night as the "Brazilian Kevin Durant" and being "two years away from being two years away", the forward never quite got the four years needed to become like his American counterpart. Joking aside, the Raptors received a young wing that hasn't proven much at the NBA level, but is known for being able to put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways.
The Kings won't get to see Caboclo reach whatever potential he may have, as they will be waiving the forward to make another trade from the trade deadline work financially. Caboclo will become a potentially intriguing free agent pick-up for a team looking to add youth. The trade is mostly a lateral move for both teams, but the Kings get the edge for using this trade to be able to shed George Hill's contract.
Raptors' Grade C
Kings' Grade C+
Wizards shed money off the books
Hawks receive: Sheldon Mac
Wizards receive: heavily protected second-round pick
The purpose behind this trade for the Wizards is to open up a roster spot for a possible pick-up of a more useful bought-out player. If they can pick up a difference-maker as a result of this roster move, the Wizards' grade will improve, accordingly.
There isn't much reasoning for the Hawks to have done this trade, as they basically served to give the Wizards an open roster spot for free. Mac, who hasn't played this season, is unlikely to be a contributor to the team.
Wizards' Grade B-
Hawks' Grade D
Blazers also shed money off the books
Bulls receive: Noah Vonleh, cash
Blazers receive: Rights to Milocan Rakovic
Noah Vonleh is a perfect example of a big man being drafted too early because of his size, as he has never been able to figure out the NBA game. Still, he is worth giving a try for the Bulls, who have a frontcourt slot open after trading away Nikola Mirotic.
This trade is actually more important to the Blazers than one would think. The shedding of Vonleh's contract puts the Blazers slightly under the luxury tax, which they were over prior to the trade. Pulling the trigger on this trade ends up saving the Portland team a decent amount of money in the long-run.
Bulls' Grade B-
Blazers' Grade B
Nets bring in help for ailing frontcourt
Nets receive: Dante Cunningham
Pelicans receive: Rashad Vaughn
Acquiring Cunningham provides some reinforcements for a Nets frontcourt that is suffering through injuries to several key players. Cunningham is a wing with good length and defensive versatility, and his cost was minimal, since Vaughn was just picked up in a previous trade.
Rashad Vaughn won't be much of a contributor to the Pelicans barring injuries, but he is still a young wing player with a decent outside shot. If he shows out, the Pelicans could look to re-sign him in the offseason for cheap.
Nets' Grade B
Pelicans' Grade C+
Knicks, Mavericks take flyers on young players, Nuggets add depth
Knicks receive: Emmanuel Mudiay
Nuggets receive: Devin Harris, Clippers' 2018 second-round pick via Knicks
Mavericks receive: Doug McDermott, Nuggets' second-round pick
The fit of Mudiay on the Knicks is a little puzzling, with the team having just drafted Frank Ntilikina. That being said, this might be Mudiay's last chance to show he has something to provide to an NBA team, as the former lottery pick has not lived up to his draft selection.
Devin Harris is a solid veteran to bring off the bench for the Nuggets, who are fighting to make a playoff push this season. Harris will likely see minimal time, unless an injury sidelines one of the team's backcourt players. There are worse insurance options to receive.
The Mavericks trade away an old player for a young player with at least a little potential. McDermott has the ability to knock down three pointers at a high level, and should provide the Mavericks with a solid source of scoring off the bench.
Knicks' Grade C+
Nuggets' Grade C-
Mavericks' Grade B
Suns look to revive a fallen prospect
Suns receive: Elfrid Payton
Magic receive: 2018 second-round pick
For the Magic, trading Payton may be seen as a necessary move, as the point guard has been unable to prove himself as anything more than a replacement-level player. Still, the return seems a little light for a player that was racking up triple-doubles late last season. The trade brings about the end of a disappointing era of mediocre point guard play for an overall mediocre-to-bad team. It looks as if the team will try to pick up a point guard with their high draft pick this summer.
Payton is a relatively low-risk acquisition for the Suns, who have been relying on the undersized Tyler Ulis at point guard since trading away Eric Bledsoe earlier in the season. If Payton can show that all he needed was a change of scenery to be successful, this trade could end up being a steal for a Suns team in desperate need of young talent around which it can build.
Magic's Grade D+
Suns' Grade A-
Heat bring back a Miami legend
Heat receive: Dwyane Wade
Cavaliers receive: Lightly-protected future second-round pick
This trade is all about fan service on the side of the Heat. At the age of 36, Wade is unable to contribute much more than 20 solid minutes a night. However, the emotional boost it gives the team, as well as a superb locker room presence, cannot be understated. Wade can look to replicate what Waiters gave the Heat prior to his season-ending injury.
On the Cavs' end of the deal, this seems to be little more than LeBron James doing his best friend a favor. After the deals the Cavaliers made earlier in the day (which will be talked about more in the following trades), there wasn't much of a spot for Wade on the roster. His playing time and role would've been greatly diminished, so there was no point in keeping a future hall-of-famer stuck on the bench.
Heat's Grade A+
Cavaliers' Grade C-
Cavaliers go for a new look
Cavaliers receive: Rodney Hood, George Hill
Jazz receive: Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose
Kings receive: Joe Johnson, Iman Shumpert, 2020 second-round pick
The Cavaliers were the busiest team in the league on Thursday, with this trade giving them an entirely new starting backcourt. Hill is a better fit with the team as a ball handler capable of playing the role of spot-up shooter. Hood's caliber as a player is a little inflated due to his scoring ability, since he contributes almost nothing outside that one category. The pieces given up to acquire these two players were not panning out for the Cavaliers this season, but paying George Hill $20 million a season could end up hurting in the coming seasons. Perhaps the most important part of the deal is the new start it gives the team, amid a plethora of reports regarding issues players had with the team.
With the Jazz planning to waive Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder is the lone piece being brought to Utah. Crowder has struggled to consistently hit shots and defend this season, but maybe a change of scenery is what he needs to return to the form he had with the Celtics. If that can happen, the trade will look more acceptable for the Jazz. Furthermore, not having to overpay to retain Hood this summer should be seen as a positive, since rookie Donovan Mitchell fills the same role more effectively.
The biggest part of the deal for the Kings is actually what they gave up: George Hill's albatross contract that was signed over the summer. While the deal was highly questionable when it was initially announced, it is at least good to see a team admit its faults and make things right. Shumpert could end up being a solid trade target next season, having an expiring contract after this season (player option for 2018-2019). Joe Johnson is likely to seek a buyout to join a contender for the playoffs.
Cavaliers' Grade B-
Jazz Grade C+
Kings' Grade B
Cavaliers salvage value from awful summer trade
Cavaliers receive: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance
Lakers receive: Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Cavaliers' 2018 first-round pick
Tuesday's trade deadline started off with a mammoth trade, with the Cavs basically admitting that the Kyrie Irving was a bust outside of the Brooklyn pick. As we all thought would be the case, Ante Zizic is the only player from that trade still on the Cavs. Thomas's issues while on the team, whether it be his recovery from injury or his consistent hot takes to the media, he just never seemed to be the right fit on the championship contender. Clarkson and Nance give the league's oldest team some much-needed youth, size, and athleticism. There is definitely a case to be made that the Cavs are better for having gotten rid of last year's fifth place MVP vote-getter.
While losing two 25 year-old talents may seem painful for the Lakers, it was actually genius. Not only do the Lakers free up summer cap space by ridding themselves of the Clarkson contract, they also somehow managed to steal a first-round pick from the Cavaliers in the process. A flyer on Isaiah Thomas is no insignificant opportunity, as long as the team can find a way to make the guard feel at home, without stepping on the toes of incumbent point guard, Lonzo Ball. Plus, getting the Cavaliers to help free up cap space to potentially poach away LeBron James is a hilarious possibility.
Cavaliers' Grade A
Lakers' Grade A+
Details on the trades found via sbnation.
Stats on players were acquired via Basketball Reference.
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