Breaking Down the NBA Trade Deadline Moves


The NBA’s trade deadline has now passed and, unfortunately, it was somewhat anti-climactic. While last year featured a ton of trades and plenty of big-name players getting moved, that wasn’t the case this season. There wasn’t a single star traded this time around and most of the moves were pretty minor. Despite players like Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, Ryan Anderson and others being mentioned in trade rumors, none of those individuals were dealt.

With that said, there were still nine deals that got done and several notable players changed teams. Here’s a breakdown of each trade that went down on Thursday:

Los Angeles Clippers get: Jeff Green

Memphis Grizzlies get: Lance Stephenson, (lottery protected) 2019 first-round pick

This was arguably the biggest deal of the day. The Clippers and Grizzlies completed this trade just before the 3 p.m. ET deadline passed. The Clippers could’ve traded Stephenson, C.J. Wilcox and a second-round pick to the Orlando Magic for Channing Frye, but they decided to pull the trigger on this move instead. While it’s clear the Clippers felt they needed to upgrade their frontcourt (as they also pursued Frye, Ryan Anderson and Thaddeus Young among others), it’s surprising to see them trade a future first-round pick in this deal. However, keep in mind that it’s lottery protected and a 2019 pick. Some have criticized the Clippers for giving up a first-rounder, but Stephenson has little-to-no trade value at this point so the Grizzlies wouldn’t have done this without the pick being included. Green is an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Stephenson has one year left on his contract (although it’s a team option worth $9,405,000).


Cleveland Cavaliers get: Channing Frye

Portland Trail Blazers get: Anderson Varejao, conditional first-round pick

Orlando Magic get: Jared Cunningham, second-round pick

Reports have indicated that Varejao and Cunningham will likely be waived, which means Frye is the only player who will stick with his new team in this deal. The Cavaliers entered Thursday wanting a stretch-four and that’s exactly what they’ll get in the 32-year-old Frye. For the Blazers, they land a first-round pick for facilitating this deal by absorbing Varejao’s contract. The Magic add a second-round pick and dump the remaining two years of Frye’s contract, meaning they could have as much as $45 million available in cap space to pursue free agents this offseason.


Phoenix Suns trade: Markieff Morris

Washington Wizards trade: Kris Humphries, DeJuan Blair, (top-nine protected) 2016 first-round pick

This was perhaps the day’s most surprising move, as it really seemed like the Suns were going to have trouble obtaining significant assets in exchange for Morris given his issues on and off the court. However, Washington decided to give up a 2016 first-round pick that is top-nine protected along with Humphries and Blair (who each have a non-guaranteed salary for next season) for Morris. The Wizards wanted to upgrade their power forward position, and they seriously pursued New Orleans Pelicans stretch-four Ryan Anderson. But instead of landing Anderson, they’ll hope that Morris will return to form with a change of scenery and help them make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference. Washington is currently 23-28, which puts them in 10th place in the East. For the Suns, this an excellent return for Morris considering he made headlines for all of the wrong reasons over the last year.


Detroit Pistons get: Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton

Houston Rockets get: Protected (top-eight) 2016 first-round pick, draft rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum

Philadelphia 76ers get: Joel Anthony, 2017 second-round pick

Stan Van Gundy has liked Donatas Motiejunas for quite some time. Now, he lands the big man while his stock is relatively low and just before he hits restricted free agency in July (similar to the Pistons’ deadline deal for Reggie Jackson at last year’s deadline). Also, Marcus Thornton will reunite with Pistons GM Jeff Bower since the two were close when they were in New Orleans together. For the Rockets, they decided to part ways with Motiejunas to get their hands on the Pistons’ 2016 first-round pick that is only top-eight protected. Considering the big man has had injury issues this year and Houston was expecting him to cost a lot when he hits the market this summer, this move was somewhat of a no-brainer for them. For Philadelphia, they agreed to facilitate this trade and take on Joel Anthony’s contract in exchange for a second-round pick. UPDATE: The Pistons voided this trade since Motiejunas couldn’t pass his physical, so each player will return to their respective team.


Oklahoma City Thunder get: Randy Foye

Denver Nuggets get: D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak, two second-round picks

This was a nice pick-up for the Thunder since Foye is a quality veteran who should be able to contribute off of Oklahoma City’s bench. The Thunder wanted to improve their depth as they chase the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, and they didn’t have to part with much to land the 32-year-old shooting guard. Augustin and Novak had fallen out of their rotation and they didn’t have much need for those second-round picks. For the Nuggets, this deal makes a lot of sense since Foye is an unrestricted free agent after this season and they likely expected him to walk. With this deal, they land two second-round picks (since they’re looking to stockpile assets) in exchange for Foye rather than losing him for nothing. This move frees up cap space for Denver too, since they absorbed Augustin and Novak’s contracts and they’ll both come off the books this summer to create $6.75 million in cap space.


Utah Jazz get: Shelvin Mack

Atlanta Hawks get: Second-round pick

The Jazz badly wanted to add a veteran point guard entering Thursday and they considered a number of other floor generals such as the Houston Rockets’ Ty Lawson and the Atlanta Hawks’ Jeff Teague. However, they finally settled on this deal to add the 25-year-old Mack and only part ways with a second-round pick. Mack’s $2,433,334 salary is non-guaranteed for next season, so Utah can take the rest of the year to see what he brings to the table and make a decision about whether to bring him back. Dante Exum is expected to be the Jazz’s starting point guard once he’s healthy next season, so this short-term fix makes more sense for Utah than giving up significant assets for a bigger name.


Atlanta Hawks get: Kirk Hinrich

Chicago Bulls get: Second-round pick

It appears the Hawks preferred Hinrich to Mack, as they gave up a second-round pick to add the 35-year-old and plug him where Mack used to be in the depth chart. Hinrich’s name hadn’t been mentioned in many trade rumors, as it seemed the Bulls were looking to trade other players such as Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson or Tony Snell. The Hawks were linked to a ton of trade talks as well, with Jeff Teague, Al Horford and Kyle Korver reportedly being discussed. However, both teams decided not to make any splashy moves and opted to make minor tweaks to their roster instead.


New Orleans Pelicans get: Jarnell Stokes

Miami HEAT get: Protected second-round pick

The HEAT did this trade (as well as two others) so that they could get under the luxury tax line and not have to pay a penalty. For the Pelicans, this deal allows them to add a 22-year-old big man who has two more years remaining on his rookie-scale contract. This is Stokes’ third team since being drafted in 2014, but he continues to have upside and could become a rotation player for the Pelicans. A Ryan Anderson trade would’ve freed up more minutes for him, but New Orleans decided to keep Anderson after talking to many teams about a possible trade.


Portland Trail Blazers get: Brian Roberts, second-round pick

Miami HEAT get: TPE

This was another move made by the HEAT so that they could get under the luxury tax line. The Blazers add a veteran guard in Roberts, who will replace the recently waived Tim Frazier on the roster. This move also allows Portland to add another draft pick since they’re collecting assets and – coupled with their three-team trade for Varejao – allows them to hit the salary cap floor. Today, Neil Olshey picked up Varejao (who will reportedly be waived), Roberts, a first-round pick and a second-round pick just to help facilitate trades using Portland’s cap space.

Which trade was your favorite? Share your thoughts in a comment below.


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About Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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