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NBA AM: 2015 Trade Deadline’s Early Surprises

A few 2015 trade deadline deals have produced some surprises around the league

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The annual trade deadline is in the rear-view mirror, but there have been some early impacts around the league worth noting. Some guys are finally getting an opportunity to contribute, while others are benefitting from new situations and role changes.

Let’s take a look at some early surprises of note:

Mo Williams, Point Guard, Charlotte Hornets

How acquired? Traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Troy Daniels and cash considerations to the Charlotte Hornets for Gary Neal and a 2019 second-round draft pick (via Miami).

The Charlotte Hornets’ struggles this season have been well documented. From free agent signee Lance Stephenson’s inability to find a groove with the team and center Al Jefferson and point guard Kemba Walker’s injury woes, the Hornets find themselves in a battle to secure a playoff berth.

With Walker on the shelf, the Hornets’ offense became stagnant with Brian Roberts running the show. Now, Roberts is a solid reserve, but the team was sorely missing someone who could produce in a variety of ways, similar to Walker.

Enter Mo Williams.

In six games with the Hornets, Williams is averaging 22.8 points, eight assists and 3.2 rebounds on 45 percent shooting from the field (42 percent from three-point range). Williams has scored at least 20 points in five of his contests since joining Charlotte and has recorded three double-digit assist games.

Walker is expected to return to the lineup sometime this month, but Williams will likely factor heavily in the Hornets’ late season run to secure a playoff spot.

Isaiah Thomas, Point Guard, Boston Celtics

How acquired? Traded by the Phoenix Suns to the Boston Celtics as part of a three-team trade. The Boston Celtics traded Tayshaun Prince to the Detroit Pistons and Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round draft pick (via Cleveland) to the Phoenix Suns; while the Detroit Pistons traded Gigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko to the Boston Celtics.

The Phoenix Suns surprisingly signed Isaiah Thomas to a multi-year deal last summer despite having Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe already in the fold. The Suns then raised eyebrows by dealing Thomas at the deadline to Boston despite Thomas being a productive member of their nightly rotation.

With Boston in the hunt for a playoff spot, Thomas has hit the ground running for the Celtics averaging 20 points, 5.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds in six games with the franchise.

Thomas’ arrival has also coincided with shooting guard Avery Bradley’s strong play over the past two weeks and has bolstered Boston’s options in their backcourt.

Thomas Robinson, Power Forward, Philadelphia 76ers

How acquired? Traded by the Portland Trail Blazers along with Will Barton, Victor Claver and a 2016 first-round draft pick to the Denver Nuggets for Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee. Robinson was then waived by Denver and claimed by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Robinson was the fifth overall pick of the 2012 draft but is now playing for his fourth franchise. It has been a long road for Robinson who has admittedly struggled with his confidence since entering the league. But Philadelphia might not be a temporary landing spot if his recent play is any indication.

Robinson has averaged 9.5 points and 7.3 rebounds on 47 percent shooting in four games since joining the Sixers. The Sixers’ frontcourt will get more crowded with Joel Embiid and Dario Saric looming in the future, but it seems as if Robinson is seizing his opportunity during this auditioning period.

Will Barton, Shooting Guard, Denver Nuggets

How acquired? Traded by the Portland Trail Blazers along with Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and a 2016 first-round draft pick to the Denver Nuggets for Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee.

On the surface most thought the Blazers walked away with a very strong deal figuring the pieces they gave up to acquire Afflalo were filler.

However, Barton is starting to prove winners and losers of deals shouldn’t be determined too quickly. The third year guard, who couldn’t get consistent run in Portland, is averaging 14.2 points, five rebounds and two assists per game in six games with Denver.

Barton is currently coming off the bench but is still getting over 26 minutes of court action per game and shooting 48 percent from the floor with the Nuggets. With Denver in a transitional period, Barton is putting his best foot forward to secure a long-term role with the franchise.

Former Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw receives support from former colleagues

Prior to Brian Shaw’s arrival in Denver, as head coach, the Nuggets had reeled off 10 consecutive trips to the playoffs while becoming one of the league’s most consistent franchises.

Shaw was fired on Tuesday after compiling a 57-86 record (.404) in just under two seasons roaming the sidelines. The Nuggets missed the playoffs last season and are essentially out of the race for the current campaign.

The views on Shaw’s tenure at the helm have been mixed, but a common theme in league circles is that the stint was a confusing mess that never found a rhythm.

Shaw served as the associate head coach for the Indiana Pacers, under head coach Frank Vogel, prior to joining the Nuggets and received plenty of support from his former colleagues once the news broke on his dismissal.

“That’s bulls—, man,” Pacers forward David West said according to Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports. “That’s bulls—. [Denver’s front office] never gave him a team. No grown-ups on the roster. You can’t win without grown-ups.”

Vogel’s response was a bit mellower, but the support still carried through in the messaging.

“It’s unfortunate,” Vogel said. “It’s a tough business. He’s a hell of a basketball coach, a hell of a good man, and I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. I just know that he’s very strongly responsible for what we’ve built here, the impact that he had here in his two years. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet very soon.”

The Nuggets defeated Milwaukee on Tuesday night in their first game without Shaw at the helm.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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