Head to Head: Winners of the Trade Deadline

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The NBA trade deadline came and went without any major fireworks. However, there were several significant moves made that have short- and long-term implications. On today’s Head to Head, Alex Kennedy, Ben Dowsett and Moke Hamilton debate which teams should be considered the winners of the trade deadline.

Alex Kennedy: Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns didn’t make a splashy addition, but general manager Ryan McDonough deserves a ton of credit for getting such an excellent return for mercurial power forward Markieff Morris. The 26-year-old was traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a 2016 first-round pick (which is top-nine protected), as well as Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair (who each have non-guaranteed salaries for next season).

It’s very possible that the Wizards will have to part ways with that first-round pick in June, which would be a big steal for the Suns. It’s worth noting that Phoenix could have as many as three first-round picks in this upcoming draft (their own pick, the Wizards’ pick and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pick). They could either use those picks to add prospects and further their rebuild, or they could try to package them with some of their young players to put together an attractive trade offer.

Morris did just about everything he could to sink his trade value over the last year, which is why getting a first-round pick in exchange for him is so impressive.

To recap: Morris got charged for felony aggravated assault, demanded a trade once the Suns moved his brother, became a distraction entering training camp due to his public criticism of the team, received a two-game suspension for throwing a towel at former head coach Jeff Hornacek, choked and argued with teammate Archie Goodwin during a game, posted his worst statistics since becoming a starter and more.

Phoenix started playing Morris way more in recent weeks to showcase him to other teams, and it seems that his trade value was helped by his strong play in February. This month, Morris averaged 20.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and one steal while shooting 44.8 percent from the field.

While Morris’ play helped the Suns, it’s still surprising that McDonough was able to persuade the Wizards to give up expiring contracts and what could end up being a lottery pick. Morris’ contract has three years and $24 million remaining on it after this season. Many people around the NBA thought Phoenix would dump Morris rather than get valuable assets back for him. But not only did McDonough manage to get a first-rounder, he didn’t take back any salary or give up additional pieces in the deal.

This may say more about the state of the Wizards than anything. Washington was desperate to shake up their roster in some way after failing to live up to lofty expectations so far this season.

The Wizards were expected to be a contender this season, but they currently sit outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference’s 10th place. They’re hoping that getting 100 percent healthy and adding Morris can revitalize their squad.

Even if the move does work out for Washington, Phoenix has to be considered one of the winners of the trade deadline since the haul they received for Morris was way better than anyone expected.

Ben Dowsett: Detroit Pistons

In what turned out to be mostly a cautious collective approach to the trade deadline from the majority of the league, the Detroit Pistons stood out both for their unique approach and their total value added. The Pistons moved early and pre-empted final-hour craziness for one of the biggest splash moves of the deadline, one which could objectively be argued as the biggest fleece of the trade period. And in the process, they simplified their 2016 offseason in one fell swoop.

By value alone, Detroit’s swap of Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings for Tobias Harris from Orlando was one of the week’s most successful transactions. Jennings expires after this season and Ilyasova has just one non-guaranteed year left, and neither can really hold a candle to Harris from a raw value standpoint given the latter’s age and varied skill set. Even if Detroit takes a minor step back, which in itself seems like it could go either way, the long-term value the Pistons have secured is almost certainly a plus.

In addition, the Harris move combined with Detroit’s acquisition of Donatas Motiejunas from Houston acted as an early-bird part of their summer activity. Rather than wade among what could be one of the craziest couple months in league transaction history with the cap exploding, the Pistons have declared many of their overall intentions in advance – Harris is locked in for several season and Motiejunas will be a restricted free agent that Detroit will hold matching rights on.

Things could get a tad pricey here, but the Pistons are wagering that the open market would have been this way regardless, and have locked down their targets in a way that ensures they’ll retain team control no matter what.

Whether this set of moves will lead to sustained success is another question, but given the position Detroit entered this season it’s easy to say that Stan Van Gundy and his management team have upped their stock significantly. They made decisive, value-heavy moves for young guys with team control, set their plan for the summer and sacrificed very little they deem of true value in the process.

Moke Hamilton: Golden State Warriors

After thinking about it for some time, I was considering declaring the Los Angeles Clippers to be the winners of the NBA trade deadline. Jeff Green does leave certain things to be desired. At the very least, someone with his talent should be a perennial contender for an All-Star nomination, but something seems to be missing. Regardless, he is a talented player who impacts both ends of the court and solves the Clippers’ mystery at the small forward position. Even better, he can play a bit of stretch-four for them, as well. He will make Doc Rivers’ team stronger and, to me, solidifies the Clippers as a contender in the Western Conference.

Still, if I had to choose one winner from the trade deadline, I would probably have to say that it’s the Golden State Warriors.

If you go back and take an inventory of all of the superstar caliber players whose names were mentioned as potentially being dealt—a list that includes Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and Pau Gasol—you would realize that the right impact player on the right team could have threatened the Warriors. That, though, is not the case.

I don’t think Channing Frye is getting the Cavaliers over the top just like I don’t think that Green necessarily makes the Clippers better than the Warriors. Their beating at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers aside, the trade deadline really didn’t produce any result that any of the top teams in either conference need to be afraid of. For the most part, what we saw were some of the lower-seeded Eastern Conference teams solidify themselves as playoff contenders while the Oklahoma City Thunder’s addition of Randy Foye is the only other noteworthy move in the conference aside from the Green acquisition.

Coming out of the trade deadline, the Warriors are still head and shoulders above every other team in the league and they still have a shot at becoming just the second team to eclipse the 70-win mark.

Yep, it’s pretty easy to see that, in the grand scheme of things, they are the big winners.