The trade deadline has finally passed and it was an eventful one. There were shocking deals like the Orlando Magic trading Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls and Aaron Gordon going to the Denver Nuggets. But, as with any trade deadline, there were teams that weren’t able to properly maximize their assets or, more simply put, losers.
A lot of teams were active, but different teams have different goals and not every team was able to reach theirs. And these teams, whether because of a bad trade, a mishandling of assets or simple inactivity, these teams were the trade deadline’s biggest losers.
The Rockets had about as disappointing a trade deadline as anyone could have imagined. Victor Oladipo was traded to the Miami HEAT for Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and 2022 first-round swap rights. It’s a lackluster return for Oladipo, who was the best player the team acquired in the James Harden trade. This means Harden returned them an assortment of picks and swaps, all of which are likely late in the first round, Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs.
The decision to essentially chose Oladipo over Caris LeVert, who’s younger and cheaper than Oladipo and went to the Indiana Pacers as part of the deal with the Brooklyn Nets, looks even worse in retrospect. The Rockets gambled they’d be able to get even more assets in return for Oladipo, but his poor play, injury history and clear desire to land somewhere else in the offseason were too much of a risk for other teams to take on and it drove down his market. In the end, Houston may have ended up the biggest losers at the deadline.
The Celtics have been a mess this season. Under .500, it was clear the team needed to make an immediate impact addition and, while they did well to swing a deal for Evan Fournier for next to nothing, he doesn’t truly move the needle for them. Rumored to be in talks for Aaron Gordon, who would’ve been a more meaningful acquisition, Boston was outbid by the Denver Nuggets. Likewise, the Celtics and Orlando discussed Nikola Vucevic, but the team was once again beaten out for his services, this time by the Chicago Bulls.
One could argue Boston even got worse at the deadline, as the Celtics traded away the versatile Daniel Theis, to Chicago, no less, in exchange for Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet in a bid to save some money against the luxury tax and hard salary cap. Theis has been extremely valuable for the Celtics in recent years, but no owner wants to pay the luxury fine for a team that is under .500.
If Fournier can help turn the team around, Boston may yet prove a winner here. But, for now, the Celtics are losers as their addition of thr French wing simply not enough to address their issues this season.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers, while sitting third in the Western Conference, have some glaring issues. They are a jump-shooting team and don’t have anyone that can consistently pressure the rim. They don’t get to the free-throw line much, either. They’ve needed a playmaker and traded Lou Williams and two second-round picks to Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Rajon Rondo.
Of course, they had bigger aspirations than that, targeting the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry, among other guards that could have proven a significant upgrade over Rondo.
Worse yet, Rondo has dealt with injuries all season long and, when he has played, he’s been rather awful. He did perform well for the Los Angeles Lakers in last year’s playoffs, while his penchant for great play on the biggest stage as “Playoff Rondo” might yet inspire hope, but he doesn’t solve many of the Clippers’ other issues. In fact, he would only seem to exacerbate them.
It’s possible Rondo will be better on a team that has a realistic shot at the championship, but the evidence suggests more than anything that Rondo will likely hurt the Clippers in their title hunt.
The Raptors came into the deadline with the potential to be one of the league’s biggest sellers. They did flip Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood, but they could’ve done so much more.
Most notably, the team failed to trade Lowry, who is set to be a free agent this offseason. Lowry might be the greatest Raptor in the franchise’s history, but it would seem as though a deparute was inevitable, whether at the trade deadline or through free agency. Acquiring assets for him, as opposed to watching him walk away for nothing this summer, should have been a priority. Duncan Robinson was reportedly on the table in a deal with the Miami HEAT.
The Raptors failed to maximize their best asset this deadline — and if that isn’t a loser, then what is?
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors didn’t do much of anything to improve their roster. Currently in the playoff hunt, their roster is barren of high-end talent save for Stephen Curry. And, while Curry is still in his prime, this season is just another of his going to waste. The Warriors did make a few minor moves to help with their luxury tax bills, shipping Marquese Chriss to the San Antonio Spurs and Brad Wanamaker to the Charlotte Hornets. However, it puts significant pressure on the Warriors to add talent in the offseason, or risk losing Curry’s trust and favor down the road.
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