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NBA Trade Deadline: Winners and Losers
By: Ryan Stein
This season's trade deadline certainly had no shortage of action and intriguing storylines. Portland had a fire sale, Ben Simmons was finally freed from Philadelphia (as was James Harden from Brooklyn), The Kings made a bold win-now move, and struggling teams like the Lakers and Knicks stood pat. Of all the movement that took place on Thursday and the few days before, who emerges as the winners and loser of the trade deadline as of right now
Winner: Indiana Pacers
The Sacramento Kings' decision to trade away rising star Tyrese Haliburton was nothing short of shocking. The sophomore guard was having a great season in Sacramento, and he appeared to be a franchise cornerstone for the perpetually downtrodden team. That all changed when he was abruptly dealt to Indiana in exchange for star forward Domantas Sabonis. It had been rumored that Sabonis was eyeing his exit from Indiana, so the fact that the team was able to acquire a blue-chip prospect like Haliburton is incredible. With Haliburton's arrival, the Pacers are now free to rebuild competently, while also remaining relevant. A team that was previously directionless now has their cornerstone for the future, and they have plenty of assets to build a competitive team around Haliburton.
Loser: Los Angeles Lakers
With no moves made at the deadline, the disappointing Lakers must rely on either internal improvement (unlikely considering the average age of the roster) or the buyout market to salvage their underwhelming season. The lack of moves is alarming for a team that should be a title contender, but the simple fact is they do not really have the assets that other teams would want. That is still no excuse for inactivity though, as the Lakers should be in panic mode with a 26-30 record and being a play-in team. This season is almost certainly a wash for Los Angeles now. Outside of trading away their top guys, there is not an easy path back to the title hunt in the near future.
Winner: Brooklyn Nets
Trading for Ben Simmons is not without its risks. He has yet to play a game this season, and has been completely unwilling to shoot outside a few feet from the basket so far in his career. That being said, the Nets received a nice haul in exchange for disgruntled star James Harden. Not only did they receive an excellent playmaker and beyond-elite defensive stud in Simmons, but they managed to shore up their depth by acquiring Seth Curry and Andre Drummond. Not only that, but they also managed to acquire two 1st round picks. This was a much-needed move for a team that is currently in a tailspin. If Simmons can get back into game-shape, the Nets may well reenter the title picture.
Loser: Dallas Mavericks
I will give the Mavericks credit for one thing: they made a move. Unfortunately, the move will prove detrimental to the team both in the short term and long term. Trading away their second-best player in Kristaps Porzingis is not entirely surprising. He is probably not good enough to be the second option on a championship team, and he has a worrisome injury history. However, the package the Mavs received in return for their big man was abysmal. Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans are both in the midst of awful season. They are also under contract for two more years after this season, and their deals are not exactly bargains. While there is the potential for those players to get moved in future deals, Dallas is definitely stuck with less overall assets than they had before the trade deadline. With moves like this, it makes one wonder how long it will be until rumors of superstar Luka Doncic being unhappy in Dallas start to emerge.
Winner: Boston Celtics
The Celtics gained a lot of flexibility with their trade deadline deals. They now have three open roster spots after signing Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet for the season, and have the potential to be major players in the buyout market. Also, while they had to give up a 1st round pick to do it, the C's managed to steal away Derrick White from the Spurs. He will serve as another playmaker for the team, and will bolster an already deadly defensive lineup. Boston did not make any world-breaking moves this trade season, but the moves they did make set them up well for their future.
Loser: Damian Lillard
I was tempted to put the Trail Blazers as losers here. I decided instead to go with their star player, Damian Lillard. He lost some of his best teammates in CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington for peanuts in exchange. While the Blazers carved out a ton of cap space, presumably to pursue a max free agent during the summer, the question is: what max free agent wants to go to Portland? Lillard is entering the downslide of his career, and he is further away from a championship than he has ever been with the Blazers. Furthermore, one of the main contenders he could have been traded to, the 76ers, traded for James Harden instead. Now, Dame is stuck on a team that is unlikely to contend for a while, and he has no real path to joining a contender.
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