Winners and Losers of an Underwhelming Deadline
By: Bogart Lipe
New Orleans Pelicans
Sunday night was picture perfect for the city of New Orleans. Their star, Anthony Davis, broke Wilt’s All Star scoring record and won the game’s MVP award. Sure, the scoring record was diluted because of the utter lack of defense in the game, but then the Pelicans traded a bag of rocks for the best big man in the league in Demarcus Cousins. Cousins’ contract expires after next year and it’s not guaranteed that he will resign, but when you can trade three mid-tier players, a first rounder, and a second rounder to form one of the best on-paper frontcourts ever, it’s a no-brainer. Although the duo has combined to average 58.7 ppg and 19.7 rpg together, the Pelicans are 0-3 in their three games with Cousins. The team around the two big men is admittedly a dumpster fire, and their wing play will need to be addressed in the offseason. They were the runaway winners of the trade deadline and as a result may get the honor of being swept by the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
Cousins’ debut came against the Rockets, and the brightest star on the court that night turned out to be the new Rocket, Lou Williams. Houston sent a first round pick and Corey Brewer to the Lakers to acquire the off-the-bench scoring machine. With the Williams addition, the Rockets further upgrade their already second best offense by pairing Williams with Eric Gordon in the second unit, who happen to be the two highest scoring bench players in the league this year. With MVP candidate James Harden leading the way, the Rockets have potentially established themselves as the only team in the West who has any hope of taking down the Warriors in the playoffs. The Spurs likely don’t have the firepower from behind the arc to keep up with Golden State, but Houston would happily oblige to shoot 60 threes a game and try to make 25 of them. And still lose in 6 to Steph, KD and company.
Toronto also made a couple moves to try to threaten a top team in the Cavs. They traded their 2017 first round pick and Terrence Ross to the Magic for Serge Ibaka and also traded Jared Sullinger and two second round picks for the Suns’ P.J. Tucker. The Ibaka move looks good on paper, but this is probably not enough to truly threaten the Cavaliers and LeBron’s 6 straight Finals appearances streak. It’ll be up to Lowry and DeRozan to step up, unlike in past playoff series, to give the Raptors any chance of giving the Cavs a fight. Coupled with Kyle Lowry’s wrist surgery that will keep him out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks, it appears these moves won’t be enough for a serious run at a title, although both moves were well done.
The Cavs didn’t trade for anyone, but they have quickly become the destination for older players trying to chase a ring. Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut have both been bought out and it appears both will sign with the Cavaliers, with Deron Williams already signing with the team. Williams provides a serviceable backup to Kyrie and should allow LeBron to rest more. In addition, Bogut would prove to be very valuable against the Warriors, especially when he intentionally takes out Steph in the Finals and sparks fights with every Warrior.
As previously stated, the Kings willingly gave up the top big man for a pack of socks and a bag of popcorn. Maybe Cousins’ attitude had become too much (probably), or maybe the Kings didn’t want to pay Cousins $200 million or more (definitely). Both reasons would make sense. What doesn’t make sense is the sequence of events that led to the trade. Vlade Divac, the man somehow in charge, said a few days prior to the trade that Demarcus would not be traded. Then, after the trade took place, he admitted he had a better trade offer a couple days prior, in effect digging his own grave to fall into once Buddy Hield turns into just another spot up shooter in the NBA. Speaking of Hield, the Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is to blame in some regard to the move. Hield admitted to media that in his two games in Sacramento as a Pelican, Vivek would say that “we’re still gonna get you”. I have to imagine this struck fear in Buddy’s heart unlike anything else in his entire life, and I send my condolences for his destiny coming to fruition. As if that isn’t enough, Vivek says he thinks Buddy Hield can be the next Steph Curry. But hey! At least his owner believes in him! If you didn’t know, Hield is shooting 39.8% from the field and 37% from three! Steph has never shot below 45% from the field and 42% from three in his career!
(Phil Jackson smiling and nodding slowly as he realizes he isn’t the most incompetent man in charge in the NBA)
Somewhere Sam Hinkie violently clenched up when he saw the 76ers ship the wrong big man for quite honestly the lowest price possible. The Sixers sent Nerlens Noel, not Jahlil Okafor, to the Mavericks for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut, and a top 18 protected first round pick that will likely turn into two second round picks. As stated above, Bogut has already been bought out so Noel was essentially traded for Justin Anderson and two second rounders, anything but a useful return on a stalwart defender. Noel fit with Embiid better than Okafor, but now the Sixers are stuck with Jahlil and Dallas gets a center they can try to build around in the future.
I had to put the Celtics somewhere, and losers seems more fitting than winners. The Celtics were supposed to be big time bidders for Demarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and even Blake Griffin. However, a deal didn't get done and Boston decided to keep its young players as well as the World Famous Brooklyn Nets Picks. Whether Boston decided that either the price was too high for a few of the stars, or it just wasn't worth bringing in a troubled star (Boogie), Danny Ainge stood pat. The Celtics have the brightest future of maybe any team in the league, with basically a 50/50 shot at landing a near surefire superstar in either Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. They didn't need to trade for a star and try to steal a Finals appearance or even a title this year. They have the incredible ability to sit on a couple likely top 5 Brooklyn picks the next two years and building the team that way. If they were to be able to draft a guy like Fultz, who can play the 2 guard, they could replace Avery Bradley and his expiring contract and pair Fultz with an already established star like Isaiah Thomas. This isn't over yet, as the Celtics will likely inquire about the mentioned stars in the offseason before the draft, at that point possibly holding the number 1 pick and maybe the keys to one of the future centerpieces of the NBA. They could’ve traded for a star and they didn’t, but it’s not the end of the world for Boston, only a missed opportunity for the time being.