This year’s NBA trade deadline was one of the busiest and craziest in recent memory, when the Philadelphia 76ers finally found a new home for disgruntled Ben Simmons, but they pulled off a huge coup by securing and equally unhappy James Harden from the Brooklyn Nets. However, the biggest loser of the trade deadline were the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, who were unable to find a new team for Russell Westbrook.
So many teams worked out transactions yesterday that it was easy to overlook with the Harden/Simmons trade drawing all the attention. The Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers were huge sellers, while punting on this season to reshape their teams for the future. The Dallas Mavs realized the Unicorn and Luka Doncic are not a dynamic duo after all and they traded Kristaps Porzingis to the Washington Wizards.
Plus, there was a four-team trade that involving seven players that got very little attention when the Sacramento Kings ended their awful chapter with Marvin Bagley III by trading him to the Detroit Pistons that also involved the Milwaukee Bucks landing Serge Ibaka from the LA Clippers.
Lakers Stand Pat
The Los Angeles Lakers were the biggest loser at the trade deadline and they did not make any transactions. They whiffed big time on the Russell Westbrook trade in the offseason and he didn’t find a rhythm with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Westbrook’s poor play is one of many reasons the Lakers (26-30) are four games under .500 and headed for the play-in tournament.
Even the New York Knicks were not foolish enough to help out the desperate Lakers, who wanted Alec Burks in a trade, but the Knicks were not willing to give up one of their top shooters from their highly-popular second unit.
The Lakers attempted and failed to trade Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in the hours prior to the deadline. John Wall and Westbrook were traded for each other once before when Westbrook played for the Rockets and Wall played for the Washington Wizards. They both have max contracts, so it would be an ideal trade on paper, but the Rockets wanted the Lakers to sweeten the deal with draft picks. The Lakers lacked draft capital to work with after they shot their load to acquire Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019.
The Lakers did not have any coveted players on their roster that were trade-worthy, because they gave up all of those to acquire Westbrook from the Wizards last summer. Without any feasible options, the Lakers were shut out at the deadline.
76ers Finally Trade Simmons
Simmons wanted out of Philadelphia within hours of their elimination from the 2021 playoffs. He had a horrible break up with the team, who tried their best to retain his services, but Simmons did not want to work on his janky shooting motion, or try to smooth things over with Joel Embiid and the rest of the locker room. Simmons sat out the entire first half of the season due to “mental health issues”, but the 76ers did not rush to trade their disgruntled point guard who couldn’t hit a free throw to save his life.
Harden pulled another power move and forced a team to trade him in consecutive seasons. The Rockets traded Harden to the Brooklyn Nets at the start of last season, but Harden quickly realized he joined the wrong team. The Big 3 of Harden Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving made basketball fans in the tri-state area get super excited about a potential championship run. Bettors backed the Nets to win the 2022 NBA championship and flooded the futures market. However, fans and bettors could not see the cracks from inside the locker room. Irving’s mercurial moods chaffed Harden and he lost respect for Irving when he opposed COVID vaccination as one of the 3% of players who did not get the vax.
Harden is chasing a title, something that Simmons and Durant already have, so their pursuit is not as intense as Harden’s, which is why he demanded a trade to a contender. The 76ers and Nets swapped unhappy players, and we’ll see who wins out on that trade in the upcoming playoffs. In the meantime, the 76ers saw their championship odds jump to +750 after new broke about the Harden/Simmons trade.
Pacers and Blazers Shake Up
The Portland Trail Blazers decided to break up their dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Lillard remained in Rip City, but the Trail Blazers traded McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Trail Blazers also unloaded their third-best scorer, Norman Powell, to the LA Clippers.
The Indiana Pacers made a bold decision to CTRL+ALT+DELETE their team. The front office informed all of their starters that they would be on the trading block. However, they only traded Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis, but kept Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon.
The Cleveland Cavs acquired LeVert to help bolster their banged-up backcourt and prep for a serious run in the playoffs. The Cavs hold down the #3 seed, but find themselves just 1.5 games out of first place in the crowded chase for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Sabonis took a bad beat when the Pacers traded their top player to the Sacramento Kings. One day you’re an All-Star in the state of Indiana where basketball is religion, and the next, you’re exiled to Cow Town and the most boring city in the NBA.
Mavs Slay the Unicorn
What Luka wants, Luka gets. Porzingis and the Mavs didn’t work out since they acquired the Unicorn from the New York Knicks shortly before the 2019 trade deadline. Porzingis had too many health issues and he was either on the IL or trying to shake off the rust after returning from an injury.
Doncic and Porzingis didn’t mesh together in the offense, which is why the Mavs traded the Unicorn to the Washington Wizards. Doncic responded to the trade by erupting for a career-high 51 points last night.
The Mavs are still a key player away from making a legit championship run, but they added Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans from the Wizards to help out Doncic. Bertans is from Latvia, just like Porzingis. The two are friends, which makes the trade feel a little weird considering they were swapped for each other shortly before the deadline.
Bagley and Ibaka 4-Team Trade
Vlade Divac got fired as the general manager from the Sacramento Kings for multiple reasons, but the ownership and fan base will never let him live down his terrible decision to draft Bagley from Duke with the #2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Divac went all-in with Bagley over Lia Doncic and Trae Young. Heck, there are a half dozen other players that went deeper in the draft that would’ve been better off with the Kings, but Divac’s miscalculation stung.
The Kings finally slammed the door shut on the ghost of Divac when they worked out a four-team trade to ship Bagley out of Cow town. The Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, and LA Clippers were also involved. The Pistons acquired Bagley, the Kings got Donte DiVincenzo from the Bucks, and then the Pistons sent Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles to the Kings. The Bucks send Rodney Hood and Semi Ojeleye to the Clippers. The Bucks came out on top with Serge Ibaka, two second-round draft picks, and a boatload of cash.
With Robin Lopez down, the Bucks needed a backup center with playoff experience. Ibaka provides them with both needs and will fill in for Bobby Portis and the Greek Freak with the Bucks’ second unit.
Bagley will finally get a chance to shine with the Pistons, but he was exiled from one bottom feeder to another.