*Exhale* After a rollercoaster NBA Trade Deadline, the dust has nearly settled from all the chaos. Blockbuster deals, intriguing storylines, and high-octane drama made for an afternoon where my weekly screen-time will see a massive spike come Sunday. Of all the deals prior to the deadline, there were a few teams that walked away far better than when they came in, and we break down who the biggest winners from this year’s deadline.
Biggest Winners of the NBA Trade Deadline
1. Brooklyn Nets & Philadelphia 76ers
Anyone who trades for an All-Star caliber player of any variety is an instant winner. The Ben Simmons era in Philadelphia came to an end as he, alongside Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two firsts, was dealt to division rival Brooklyn Nets for James Harden and Paul Millsap. Trading within the division is always a dangerous approach, as it has come back to bite both organizations drastically in the past (BKN trading their future for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in 2013, PHI trading 3rd pick for 1st pick which became Markelle Fultz for Jayson Tatum).
Nonetheless, this was the biggest deal of this year’s NBA Trade Deadline. It seemed just a matter of time before both sides struck a deal. Both superstars got what they wanted, and it now invites chaos in an already stacked division. The duo of Harden and Joel Embiid could be ready to run the Eastern Conference, whereas Ben Simmons has to wait for Kevin Durant to return from injury, and can only play alongside Kyrie Irving on the road.
Ben Simmons has already talked to Kevin Durant and Sean Marks, @KlutchSports' Rich Paul tells ESPN. Simmons is eager to join Nets and ramp up for a return to play this season, Paul says. "We've got to work to do to get him back to play, but it's a great step in right direction."
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 10, 2022
We still do not have a timetable of Simmons’ return to action. Supposedly, he is “eager” to suit up for the first time with KD and Irving, and start a new chapter of his career for a contender (when healthy) in Brooklyn. For now, he enters one of the most disastrous situations in the league.
Harden, however, is surely elated to leave Brooklyn and play for his first-choice organization. Philly was able to hold onto Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle in the deal, and they also have Tobias Harris in tow, so they hold onto the majority of their core. In a win-now move for Philly, the new-look Sixers appear ready for a serious postseason run. Ideally, a Harden-Embiid two-man game should be unstoppable, but the product on the floor remains to be seen.
2. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics had some of the more unorthodox trades from this year’s NBA Trade Deadline. Their goal was to strengthen the depth of this team, and while they surely brought in talent, they are now left with five open roster spots. That’s an entire third-string rotation. This should indicate that Brad Stevens is going to be a buyer in this year’s buyout market.
The Celtics gave themselves plenty of flexibility now and this offseason. Trading Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford for Derrick White created an over $11 million TPE and trading Dennis Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando for a Daniel Theis reunion ducks them even further below the luxury tax. Adding White provides Boston with some shooting off the second unit if they choose, or immediate additional defensive fortitude for a team already among the most lockdown in the NBA. It is clear that Boston has established team defense as their identity, and adding White, as well as Theis, attributes to that.
Dealing Schroder in order to bring back Theis may feel underwhelming, but they bring back a valuable contributor who is familiar with the team’s defensive identity, that can play meaningful minutes when one or both of Robert Williams III and Al Horford slide to the bench. Boston may be going small in the second unit with Theis and Grant Williams, but those two certainly know how to play up to the size of their opponents.
It is clear that Boston is not done making moves this year, and definitely this offseason. Time will tell what else Brad Stevens has up his sleeve, but the Celtics definitely made some of the loudest noise this NBA Trade Deadline.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
In the absence of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for an extensive period of time, the Los Angeles Clippers had to look to their role players and create some depth within their second unit. They did just that at the NBA Trade Deadline by swapping the services of Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson, and Justise Winslow for Norman Powell and Robert Covington. We are still unsure when both Leonard and George will return, whether it will be this season or next, but they are going to add even more firepower to this team.
The Clippers are in as much of a “win-now” state as any other in the league, and this move shows that. They add some needed scoring depth and round out a team capable of competing against nearly any other the league has to offer. At full strength, they will be a nightmare against most teams. Though they sacrificed Serge Ibaka to the Milwaukee Bucks, they free up their frontcourt depth for more wing assurance.
4. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans pushed all their chips to the middle of the table, and made a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers to acquire CJ McCollum, breaking up the homegrown duo of CJ and Damian Lillard in Portland. David Griffin acquired the former All-Star to add some star power alongside Brandon Ingram, who has been exceptional in his own right this year, and hopefully entice Zion Williamson to commit to the team’s future.
While there are certainly other trios and “superteams” in the league with greater starpower, having to go up against Zion-McCollum-Ingram makes for a long night defensively for opponents. After acquiring multiple assets over the years in the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades, NOLA felt alright letting go some of those picks to bring in a proven name like McCollum.
Time will tell if we actually get to see this trio take the floor together, but Griffin has faith that bringing in someone like McCollum can elevate this team to playoff contention, no matter if Zion joins the team at all this season or not.
5. Indiana Pacers
Perhaps the most bizarre trade from the NBA Trade Deadline happened one day before Thursday at 3PM. In a trade that came from literally out of nowhere, the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings conducted a trade centered on Domantas Sabonis to SAC and Tyrese Haliburton to IND. The Kings also acquired Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb and a 2023 second-round pick. The Pacers got Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson in addition to Haliburton.
A head-scratcher at first, as Haliburton very much seemed like Sacramento’s guy moving forward. The De’Aaron Fox experiment had been going on for a while now, but Haliburton was something fresh, with the combination of size and skill of a star in this league. Trading him for Sabonis, another big in Sacramento’s rotation, gives Indiana a young star to build around. They also bring in plenty of other rotational assets to help deepen the numbers.
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