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.
NBA Daily: They Guessed Wrong
Matt John reflects on some of the key decisions that were made last summer, and how their disappointing results hurt both team outlooks and players’ legacies.
It doesn’t sound possible, but did you know that the crazy NBA summer of 2019 was, in fact, over a year ago? Wildly, in any normal, non-pandemic season, it all would have been over three months ago and, usually, media days would be right around the corner, but not this time. The 2019-20 NBA season is slated to end sometime in early to mid-October, so the fact that the last NBA off-season was over a year ago hasn’t really dawned on anyone yet. Craziest of all, even though there will still be an offseason, there technically won’t be any summer.
Coronavirus has really messed up the NBA’s order. Of course, there are much worse horrors that COVID-19 has inflicted upon the world – but because of what it’s done to the NBA, let’s focus on that and go back to the summer of 2019. It felt like an eternity, but the Golden State Warriors’ three-year reign had finally reached its end. The Toronto Raptors’ victory over the tyranny that was the Hamptons Five – as battered as they were – made it feel like order had been restored to the NBA. There was more to it than that though.
Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s season-ending injuries, along with the latter skipping town to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn meant two things.
1. Golden State was down for the count
2. Brooklyn’s time wasn’t coming until next year.
A one-year window was open. Even if neither Golden State nor Brooklyn posed the same threat that the former did when it had Kevin Durant, those were two contenders out of commission. If there was a time to go all in, it was in 2019.
Milwaukee certainly seemed to go all in. For the most part. Malcolm Brogdon’s departure seemed a little odd since he was arguably their best non-Giannis playmaker when they were in crunch time. Not to mention there was nothing really stopping the Bucks from keeping him except for money. Detractors will call out Milwaukee for electing to cheap out by not keeping Brogdon and hence, avoiding the luxury tax. However, there’s more to it than that.
Milwaukee thought it had enough with the core it had on its roster. Coming off the best season they had put up since the eighties, they believed the franchise built the right team to contend. There was an argument that keeping Brogdon may have been overkill with their guard depth – let’s not forget that Donte DiVincenzo did a solid job in Brogdon’s role as the backup facilitator. This would have been more defensible had it not been for Milwaukee picking the wrong guy to let go. That was the indefensible part- electing to keep Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon.
Bledsoe wasn’t necessarily a bad investment. No one’s complaining about an almost 15 point average on 47/34/79 splits or playing individual defense tight enough to get named on the All-Defensive second team. By all accounts, Bledsoe earns his keep. That is until the playoffs. Bledsoe’s postseason woes have been a weight ever since he first entered Milwaukee, and this postseason was more of the same.
Bledsoe’s numbers dwindled to just 11.7 points on 39/25/81 splits, and Milwaukee getting ousted in five games at the hands of Miami made his struggles stand out even more than it had ever been. Bledsoe may be the better athlete and the better defender, but Brogdon’s all-around offensive savvy and his only slight dropoff defensively from Brogdon would have made him a bit more reliable.
Milwaukee guessed wrong when they opted to extend Bledsoe before the postseason last year when they could have waited until that very time to evaluate who to keep around. Now they face a hell of a lot more questions than they did at the end of last season – questions that may have been avoided had they made the right choice.
Now they could have kept both of them, yes, but it’s not totally unreasonable to think that maybe their approach with the luxury tax would have worked and maybe they would still be in the postseason right now had they gone with the homegrown talent. And just maybe, there wouldn’t be nearly as much of this Greek Freak uncertainty.
The Houston Rockets can relate. They got bruised up by a team that everyone thought Houston had the edge on going into the series and then crushed by the Lakers. Now, Mike D’Antoni is gone. The full-time small ball experiment likely did not work out. Since the Rockets emptied most of their assets to bring in Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington, there may not be a route in which they can become better than they presently are.
The mistake wasn’t trading for Russell Westbrook. The mistake was trading Chris Paul.
To be fair, most everybody severely overestimated Chris Paul’s decline. He’s not among the best of the best anymore, but he’s still pretty darn close. He deserved his All-NBA second team selection as well as finishing No. 7 overall in MVP voting. OKC had no business being as good as they were this season, and Paul was the driving force as to why.
For all we know, the previously-assumed tension between Chris Paul and James Harden would have made its way onto the court no matter what. Even so, Houston’s biggest obstacle in the Bay Area had crumbled. If they had just stayed the course, maybe they’re still in the postseason too.
To their credit, none of this may have happened had it not been for the Kawhi Leonard decision. Had he chosen differently, the Thunder never blow it up, and Houston might have very well been the favorite in the Western Conference. Instead, the Rockets took a step back from being in the title discussion to dark horse. But at least they can take pride knowing that they weren’t expected to win it all – the Clippers can’t.
Seeing the Clippers fall well short expectations begs the question if they too got it wrong. The answer is, naturally: of course not. They may have paid a hefty price for Paul George, but the only way they were getting Kawhi Leonard – one of the best players of his generation – was if PG-13 came in the package. As lofty as it was, anyone would have done the same thing if they were in their shoes. They didn’t get it wrong. Kawhi did.
On paper, the Clippers had the most talented roster in the entire league. It seemed like they had every hole filled imaginable. Surrounding Leonard and George was three-point shooting, versatility, a productive second unit, an experienced coach – you name it. There was nothing stopping them from breaking the franchise’s long-lasting curse. Except themselves.
Something felt off about them. They alienated opponents. They alienated each other. At times, they played rather lackadaisically, like the title had already been signed, sealed, and delivered to them. The media all assumed they’d cut the malarkey and get their act together – but that moment never really came. They had their chances to put Denver away, but even if they had, after seeing their struggles to beat them – and to be fair Dallas too – would their day of destiny with the Lakers have really lived up to the hype?
Even if it was never in the cards, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Kawhi chosen to stay with the team he won his second title with.
Toronto was the most impressive team in this league this season. They still managed to stay at the top of the east in spite of losing an all-timer like Leonard. That team had every component of a winner except a superstar. They had the right culture for a championship team. Just not the right talent. The Clippers were the exact opposite. They had the right talent for a championship team but not the right culture. That’s why the Raptors walked away from the postseason feeling proud of themselves for playing to their full potential while the Clippers writhed in disappointment and angst over their future.
In the end, everyone mentioned here may ultimately blame what happened to their season on the extenuating circumstances from the pandemic. The Bucks’ chemistry never fully returned when the Bubble started. Contracting COVID and dealing with quad problems prevented Westbrook from reviving the MVP-type player he was before the hiatus. As troubling as the Clippers had played, the extra time they would have had to work things out in a normal season was taken away from them.
For all we know, next year will be a completely different story. The Rockets, Bucks, and Kawhi may ultimately have their faith rewarded for what they did in the summer of 2019 – but that will only be mere speculation until the trio can change the story.
Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards
Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.
We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.
The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.
With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.
The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.
Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old
Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.
He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.
Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.
Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old
Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.
He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.
Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.
Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old
Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.
He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.
One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old
Looking Toward the Draft: Small Forwards
Basketball Insiders’ examination of the 2020 draft class continues with a look at the small forwards.
It was announced on Wednesday that the NBA Draft would be delayed from Oct. 16 to Nov. 18. The rationale is that the extra month gives the league and its players association more time to negotiate changes to the CBA. It also grants teams additional time to procure information on prospects and allows the NBA to establish regional virtual combines. But nothing is set in stone.
Still, draft prep must continue. This year’s draft class has more question marks than usual – which was complicated by the cancellation of the NCAA tournament (along with the NIT and a number of conference tournaments). There are incredibly skilled offensive players with limited offensive upside and jaw-droppingly talented defenders with incomplete offensive packages. But if (recent) history serves as a guide, there will be a few guys who make an immediate impact – and some of them very well could be small forwards.
The small forward position is key for the modern NBA. Want proof? Survey the league and you’ll find that most – if not all – contenders have an elite small forward – Milwaukee, Los Angeles (both), Boston, Miami, Toronto.
But the list of can’t miss small forward prospects feels smaller than usual. Scanning the numerous legitimate mock drafts (including our own by Steve Kyler), it becomes apparent that we lack a consensus on which small forwards will be selected (and in what order) after the top 3 or 4. Can any of them grow into a star? Maybe. Maybe not. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s identify what the top few bring to the table.
Deni Avdija, Israel – 19 years old
Avdija is a relatively well-rounded prospect who’s played professionally since he was 16. He boasts good height (6-foot-9) and uses it effectively to shoot over and pass around opposing defenses. Further, Avdija is an exceptional playmaker and he’s incredibly confident, enabling him to take chances many players would be apprehensive trying. Avdija is a high-IQ player. And what’s more, he’s a surprisingly strong defender. His height and above-average athleticism allow him to block shots, and he’s more physical than you’d expect him to be.
But there are drawbacks to Avdija, too. His main issue is around shooting. Avdija shot only 28% in the EuroLeague last season, and he shot only 60% from the free-throw line. Further, while he’s a decent athlete, he’ll struggle to secure a role in the NBA. He’s going to need to add speed to stay with modern wings, and he’ll also have to bulk up to bang with power forwards.
Still, Avdija’s upside is alluring. He’s only 19, and his smarts, confidence and grittiness should provide him cover for much of his rookie season. Avdija should be the first small forward off of the board.
Isaac Okoro, Auburn – 19 years old
Avdija might be the flashier name currently, but Okoro will give him a run for his money in terms of which small forward is first off the board. Okoro is built like a traditional NBA wing; he’s 6-foot-6 with good strength packed in his muscular frame (215 lbs). Okoro finishes well around the rim and he converts well through contact. He’s an exceptional athlete who excels catching the ball on the move. Like Avdija, Okoro has the poise and composure of a more experienced player. Also, like Avdija, Okoro looked the part of a high IQ player in his lone season at Auburn.
And while all that is great, the main allure of Okoro is his defense. He’s a fairly advanced defender given his age, and his athleticism and timing make him an effective weak side help defender.
While Okoro’s raw abilities are exquisite, his refined offensive skills leave something to be desired. Okoro shot 28 percent on three-point field goals and he struggled from the free-throw line (67.2 percent). His mid-range jump shot also needs work, and he struggles in isolation situations.
If Okoro can hone his offensive game, he could grow into an All-Star. He has the ability to guard multiple positions, and his strength and athleticism give him a leg up on most prospects. But even if he doesn’t become an All-Star, he possesses a fairly high floor given his defensive abilities — and the guy definitely fills the state sheet (12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, .9 steals and .9 blocks). He has lockdown defender potential and he’ll put his stamp on the game beginning on night one.
Devin Vassell, Florida State – 20 years old
Vassell played two seasons at Florida State, but he came into his own in his Sophomore season. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He shot a more than respectable 41.5% on three-point attempts, and he demonstrated a strong stroke from the free-throw line (73.8 percent) and on two-point field goal attempts (53.2).
Vassell is an extremely athletic leaper, who can rise up for a highlight dunk and sprint down the floor with ease. He has good body control and demonstrated a strong mid-range game, especially his step-back jump shot. But Vassell must generate more free throws through decisive moves to the hoop, which would be bolstered by a more muscular frame. Additionally, he must improve his ball-handling to get more from isolations.
Vassell will have an adjustment period in terms of scoring the ball at the next level. Fortunately, his defense and shooting should get him by. If he can bulk up and improve his handling, Vassell could grow into a serious player.
Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt – 20 years old
Nesmith probably has a lower floor than any of the other top small forward prospects given that he’ll be 21 by the draft. Still, he looked quite good in his Junior year, averaging 23 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on a scorching 52.2 percent shooting from deep. Nesmith is an incredibly gifted shooter who has impressive range. His ability to catch-and-shoot and create space with fakes makes him a promising prospect – for the right team.
Nesmith is a high IQ player who uses his smarts on the defensive end. He’s also quite strong, can get buckets in the open floor and demonstrates above average ball-handling skills, as long as he’s not taking the ball to the hoop.
But there are inherent limitations in Nesmith’s game. He’s doesn’t create for his teammates too effectively and he turns the ball over more frequently than one would like with. Further, Nesmith is plagued by robotic movements that limit his athleticism. His ball-handling breaks down when taking the ball to the rack – something he’ll certainly have to work on in the NBA if he wants to be a versatile scoring threat against the bigger and stronger competition.
Still, Nesmith’s positives give him an excellent chance at being selected in the first round. His range alone will intrigue teams in need of a shooter.
Saddiq Bey, Villanova – 21 years old
Jaden McDaniels, Washington – 19 years old
Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State – 20 years old
With the uncertainty around small forward prospects, expect to see a revolving door of names enter the discussion after the first four wing prospects are off the board prior to Nov. 16 – assuming the draft is held then. But regardless of how you have them ranked, all of the aforementioned prospects have question marks. But all have had far more time to improve than they would have in years’ past. Let’s hope that shows come next season.