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Grading an Intense NBA Trade Deadline

Basketball Insiders hands out grades for the many trades that took place before Thursday’s trade deadline.

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What an insane day Thursday was. Much of the morning and early afternoon was shaping up as a lukewarm topping to a mostly bland final week of negotiations… and then everything turned upside down. In what has to be among the most maniacal final hour or two in the occasion’s history, a remarkable number of trades were announced within the final 75 minutes or so of the final buzzer (several were surely organized earlier, but none hit our stream of consciousness until roughly this time).

The dust has finally settled, and it’s time to assess the big winners and losers from an eventful day. Who got what they wanted, and who got fleeced? Let’s take a look.

Denver Nuggets Receive: Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, 2016 1st-round pick (lottery protected), 2nd-round pick
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Arron Afflalo, Alonzo Gee

Portland was actively pursuing an improvement to their wing depth as the deadline approached, and they got their guys in Afflalo and, to a lesser degree, Gee. Afflalo is a 38 percent three-point shooter with just enough size to be passable at both wing positions, particularly in his new home in Portland with versatile perimeter guys in Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews alongside him. He’ll bring spacing and an ability to generate his own shot to bench-heavy and hybrid units. He and Matthews are two of the league’s premier offensive wings in the post – both shoot right around 50 percent on the block, per Synergy data on NBA.com, and are two of the most frequent and most efficient per-possession players here at their positions.

The first-round pick is a tad steep and Barton has some potential, but Portland recognizes its window is open now and is attempting to leap through it. Gee hasn’t shown much in Denver, but he has enough talent that he may challenge for fringe rotation minutes with the rest of Portland’s wing group. Barring catastrophe they should convey the pick in the mid-20s in 2016, and this would be especially worth it if Afflalo pans out and can be persuaded to pick up his relatively cheap ($7.75 million) player option next year.

Portland Grade: B+

Denver was in full fire sale mode, but did well to acquire two picks including a first-rounder that should be theirs by next year’s draft. Barton has  shown limited flashes, but is young and has just enough upside that he is worth a look as an impending RFA. Robinson will be bought out as he continues a tumultuous career, as will Claver, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. The Nuggets still have a number of strange pieces fit-wise, but they’ve committed to getting younger.

Denver Grade: B-

Sacramento Kings Receive: Andre Miller
Washington Wizards Receive: Ramon Sessions

Sacramento badly needed to rid itself of Sessions, who was having a disastrous season across the board, and it was an easy fit when Miller was available given his ties to new coach George Karl. He’ll play only reserve minutes barring injuries, and can perhaps bring a bit of veteran know-how to a team that has frequent issues with character and maturity. Miller is nearing the end of the road and doesn’t honestly provide too much of an upgrade skill-wise (if at all, despite Sessions’ awful season), but the hope is that his intangibles will make up for it.

Sacramento Grade: B

Washington Grade: C+

Brooklyn Nets Receive: Thaddeus Young
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: Kevin Garnett

This one is relatively simple from both ends of the equation. Young just wasn’t working out in Minnesota, and will now get to try his third team in two years to capitalize on some of the promise he showed while stashed away in Philadelphia. Garnett has limited on-court value remaining at his advanced age, but will be a spectacularly heartwarming story upon his return. Reports of an attempted extension for KG appear to have been incorrect, but in any case, this move all but assures that he’ll get to retire in the city where he began his illustrious career. The Wolves are bound for the high end of the lottery regardless, and Young wasn’t likely to remain on the roster next year given an early termination option, so Flip Saunders and crew get a pass for a slightly sentimental move here.

Brooklyn Grade: B+

Minnesota Grade: B

Denver Nuggets Receive: Draft rights to Cenk Akyol
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: JaVale McGee, 2015 1st-round pick (from the Oklahoma City Thunder, top-18 protected) and the draft rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum

This was a salary dump for the Nuggets, plain and simple, and the eventual result of a regrettable contract someone like McGee should never have even approached. Denver went to the league’s de facto facilitator for these sorts of deals, and Sam Hinkie was only too happy to oblige. It has to hurt Tim Connelly to be paying for his predecessor’s mistake here (McGee was Masai Ujiri’s signee), and he gave up quite a haul to shed JaVale’s silly $11 million-plus deal. They accomplished one of their goals, but the price was steep in this case, and that OKC pick could have potentially come in handy this offseason as another rebuild of sorts gets underway.

Denver Grade: C-

Everyone knows his gig by this point, but Hinkie just keeps trucking right along in the unique role he’s carved out for himself and his team in the NBA’s salary landscape. Philly swallowed what will be $12 million in dead cap space next year without batting an eye, and netted themselves a couple assets in the process. Hinkie and his team come out of this deal shining; McGee’s deal runs through the 15-16 season, a huge turn-off for nearly any front office in the league, but it’s not an issue at all for a 76ers team that will likely spend at least one more year in the tank as they continue their remarkably devoted ground-up rebuild. Whether or not Maduabum becomes anything of value whatsoever in the league, the 76ers grabbed multiple picks and gave up nothing whatsoever of value.

Philadelphia Grade: A

Miami HEAT Receive: Goran Dragic, Zoran Dragic
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: Norris Cole, Shawne Williams
Phoenix Suns Receive: Danny Granger, John Salmons, Justin Hamilton, 2017 MIA 1st-round pick (top-7 protected), 2021 MIA 1st-round pick

Perhaps the blockbuster of the day. The HEAT under Pat Riley are notorious for spending first-round picks for current roster upgrades, and they did exactly that here. Miami gets the best player in the trade by far, upgrading their point guard rotation in as massive a way as any playoff team has upgraded a single position at a deadline in years.

Chris Bosh’s scary medical situation (best wishes, CB) puts a heavy damper on things, as he looks likely to miss an extended stretch, if not the rest of the year. But Dragic is such a boon at the point that Miami should still make the playoffs easily and be a very tough out for whichever top Eastern team they draw in the first round.

Miami Grade: B+

The Pelicans were bit players here, and will waive Williams. Cole doesn’t change things much for them skill-wise, though he’ll do as a fill-in at the point for the time being as Jrue Holiday remains out.

New Orleans Grade: C

Phoenix got great value for a guy who all but guaranteed he wouldn’t be returning after this year. Hamilton has shown slight and limited promise to this point, and is already 24, but if he can even approach the rotation he’ll be a solid addition alongside two future first-round picks. These will be valuable if the current re-brand goes awry over the next couple years.

Phoenix Grade: B+

Houston Rockets Receive: K.J. McDaniels
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Isaiah Canaan, 2nd-round pick

It’s hard to view this as anything but a big win for the Rockets. They get a player who shows exciting flashes of serious physical upside and can even contribute right now to their depth, and give up nothing of remote consequence. They control McDaniels’ rights in restricted free agency this upcoming offseason as well. Daryl Morey making moves, this time schooling his former pupil Hinkie.

Houston Grade: A

From a consistency of approach standpoint, Hinkie and the 76ers get a pass here only because their strategy is aligned with the way they’ve handled McDaniels since drafting him last summer. But from basically every other angle, it’s tough to understand the move, especially as it comes alongside the above fleece job they pulled on Denver. Philly must just value McDaniels at a lower level than much of the rest of the league, and in their typical fashion, decided he was a sunk cost while approaching RFA and got what they could for him. K.J. himself may certainly have played a role in much of the apparent contract tension taking place, though it’s hard to absolve the 76ers given the cold approach they’ve taken over the last couple major transaction periods. And even if they determined internally that moving on was the correct move, the return seems lacking.

Philadelphia Grade: D+

Houston Rockets Receive: Pablo Prigioni
New York Knicks Receive: Alexey Shved, 2017 2nd-round pick, 2019 2nd-round pick

Any stockpiled picks are good picks for the Knicks at this point, though they did surprise some by actually adding salary rather than subtracting it as most had assumed. Shved is over-confident and often doesn’t look much like an NBA player, but the Knicks control his matching rights in RFA this summer in case he suddenly breaks out. Prigioni is likely the fifth guard in Houston’s rotation, and offers a bit of injury insurance with Canaan on his way to Philly.

New York Grade: B-

Houston Grade: B-

Boston Celtics Receive: Luigi Datome, Jonas Jerebko
Detroit Pistons Receive: 
Tayshaun Prince

It’s unclear whether this was actually part of a larger deal discussed later on, but in either case, it’s a mostly harmless piece. Prince goes back to the home of his glory days and will likely get meaningful minutes with Kyle Singler gone in Detroit. The Celtics get some return for one of the pieces they picked up in the Jeff Green swap, and both sides should be relatively happy with what they got.

Boston Grade: B-

Detroit Grade: B-

Detroit Pistons Receive: Reggie Jackson
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: D.J. Augustin, Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, Kyle Singler
Utah Jazz Receive: Grant Jerrett, Kendrick Perkins, rights to Tibor Pleiss, future OKC 1st-round pick and 2017 DET 2nd-round pick

Another candidate for largest blockbuster saw both the Thunder and Jazz relieve themselves of guys who had openly asked out in recent weeks, and the Pistons revamp their point guard situation.

Oklahoma City adds some much-needed bench depth with Kanter, Singler, Augustin and Novak. Singler is particularly helpful as a space guy for Thunder bench units, and should be a big upgrade on someone like Andre Roberson. It’s unclear who Kanter will pair with and whether there will be enough minutes to satisfy him after he begged out of Utah for exactly this reason, but he’s an above-average offensive big who can be hidden somewhat defensively by Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams. But they’ll have their work cut out for them in this regard, with Kanter currently ranked dead last in ESPN’s DRPM figure among centers by a wide margin. They’re also potentially digging into their pockets if they want to re-sign him in RFA over the summer.

Perkins is finally off the books though, as is a malcontent in Jackson who was clearly doing the team’s chemistry no favors. All four guys could potentially help their rotation down the stretch, and the picks conveyed won’t be realized until a couple years down the line.

Oklahoma City Grade: B-

The Jazz avoid having to pay Kanter over the summer, and get him out of a locker room he clearly didn’t want to be in. They gain cap flexibility in the summer with Perkins’ money off the books (he’ll be bought out), and continue to stockpile assets both in the form of draft picks and young prospects. If either Pleiss (rumored to be looking at moving to the NBA over the offseason) or Jerrett ever become rotation players of any kind, it’s tough to argue Utah got a great return for what likely amounts to a sunk cost alongside a spot-minutes guy in Novak.

Utah Grade: A-

The Pistons see something they like in Jackson, and they’ll have to hope his noted off-court issues in Oklahoma City come to a halt with a change of scenery. They’re making an assumed commitment to him and also losing an asset in Singler, though their ability to avoid sending a first-rounder of their own is a positive.

Detroit Grade: C+

Boston Celtics Receive: Isaiah Thomas
Phoenix Suns Receive: Marcus Thornton, 2016 CLE 1st-round pick

Thomas joins a backcourt with Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley in place to hide him defensively when needed, and the three are a cost-controlled future guard tandem that could complement each other quite well if Smart’s development continues. The Celtics hope his friendship with Avery Bradley will quell some of the chemistry issues he’s had in previous locker rooms, but they gave up just one of a loaded stockpile of picks and improved for the future.

Boston Grade: A-

The Suns decided to punt on Thomas despite a team-friendly contract, which may say something about his personality. They’ll get a late first-rounder out of it, but it’s tough to tell whether that’s enough in return for a player who, attitude aside, may have been a huge bargain down the line.

Phoenix Grade: C+

Milwaukee Bucks Receive: Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: Los Angeles Lakers 2015 1st-round pick (Top-5 protected)
Phoenix Suns Receive: Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall

Milwaukee is going all-in on length at every possible roster slot, and freeing up a bit of cap room in the process. Knight was having a breakout season and his being traded is something of a surprise, but the Bucks decided to take the cheaper route and hope they can develop Carter-Williams as a shooter, an area where he’s struggled mightily. Plumlee is a nice addition to the length brigade, and Ennis has promise as a backup guard who can at least moderately space the floor.

Milwaukee Grade: B+

The usual tricks for the 76ers. They dump even more current talent, and take in a pick that could be extremely valuable either this year or going forward. Hinkie gonna Hinkie.

Philadelphia Grade: B

The Suns went full bore on their point guard shakeup, tossing both Thomas and Dragic and bringing Knight back to pair with Eric Bledsoe in what should be a really fun backcourt. They’ll have to pay Knight in the offseason if they want to hang onto him, but this move would signal that as the case. It’ll be interesting to see whether a rapid culture change can get Phoenix back on the good end of a tight race for the eight-seed in the West, where they’ve finally been passed by Oklahoma City.

Phoenix Grade: B

Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.

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