NBA Daily: Trade Deadline Losers

Following an epic NBA Trade Deadline, Matt John takes a look at which teams lost out when the bell struck at 3 p.m. on Feb. 6.

Alan Draper profile picture
Sports Editor
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They had the time, and now the time has passed.

The earthquake that is the NBA Trade Deadline has passed over. With only the aftershock that is buyout season left, it’s only fair to look into who came out as the winners and losers at the deadline. Drew Maresca’s already dove into who the winners are. Now, we turn to who came out on the opposite end — the losers.

But before we dive into that, we need to talk about the biggest winner from the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline — us.

Every year, we ask for an epic trading season. Even though not much movement happened leading up to the final hours of the deadline itself, in the end, we got exactly what we wanted. The trade deadline was a fun ride this year. We had some juicy trades. We had some juicy non-trades. If Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania were keeping you glued to your Twitter account way past your bedtime, then the trade deadline was a wild success.

We as the public are the winners at times like these. Teams…not so much. There are some teams that win at the trade deadline, but said teams winning also means others losing at the same time. Who are these losers? Well, there are various ways in which a team can be labeled a loser at the trade deadline.

One way is the most obvious one: They didn’t get the player they wanted/needed. In this context, the Los Angeles Lakers fit that bill to a tee.

As good as the LakeShow has been, it’s clear that it needed another wing to put next to LeBron James and move Anthony Davis to center. They hoped — but were not counting on — Kyle Kuzma to be that guy, and he most certainly has not.

They were hoping Andre Iguodala would be available on the buyout market. It didn’t happen. They tried to get their hands on Marcus Morris, but the Knicks’ asking price was a little too high for Rob Pelinka to pull the trigger. They looked into Robert Covington and Bogdan Bogdanovic, but came up with nothing. The deadline has passed, and the Lakers still don’t have that second wing.

The Lakers are still one of the best teams in the league without question, but this problem is something that should be taken care of. Because they couldn’t do it at the deadline, that makes them a loser in this case — although, all hope is not lost. There’s still the buyout market, so for all they know, their guy might be available in a matter of weeks. After all, Dion Waiters is waiting in the wings.

So to summarize, the Lakers lost at the trade deadline, but they can still make the necessary moves to fill out the rest of their impending playoff rotation.

Teams can also be losers in the sense that they didn’t get the players they wanted, but past decisions that they made led to them looking worst now in hindsight.

The Detroit Pistons would be a good example of this. They waited too long to pull the plug on the Andre Drummond era, so they wound up getting less for the 26-year-old Drummond than Memphis did for the then 34-year-old Marc Gasol last year despite both being in similar contract situations.

Everyone’s been begging for Detroit to blow what’s left of the team up so they can look to the new era with Sekou Doumbouya, Christian Wood and Luke Kennard(?), so good for the Pistons on finally making the right move. However, the boys in Motown are not the perfect example of being the “loser in hindsight.”

No, that would be the Sacramento Kings. Surprised? Neither are we.

Sure, the Kings deserve props for pulling out of bad free agent signings that clearly weren’t working. Trevor Ariza and Dewayne Dedmon didn’t do much for the Kings besides collect checks, so getting those deals off their books was a good idea, but this was a completely avoidable situation — especially when it was revealed why they did these moves.

Sacramento opted to trade those contracts because, with Bogdan Bogdanovic’s upcoming restricted free agency coming up this summer, the team wants to re-sign him while avoiding as much of the luxury tax as they can.

That makes a lot of sense… but were they not aware of that situation with Bogie when they brought those guys to the team last summer? It seems pretty standard to consider the long-term when you bring in players on multi-year contracts. Worst of all, they had to include picks to get Dedmon, who really had no business being in Sacramento in the first place, out of their sight.

So basically, Sacramento had to pay to get out of a situation they could have easily avoided in the first place. People are going to retort with, “Well, they’re the Kings,” but this is just so disappointing to see just one year after their most promising season in well over a decade.

Individual players can also lose at the deadline because what transpired can affect them in a negative way. Moe Harkless comes to mind because he went from one of the league’s best teams to one of the worst, but is it really that bad if he gets waived by New York and spends the rest of the season on a contender that needs a wing. Like say, the Lakers?

The player who comes out a loser in all of this is Tristan Thompson. Thompson was a prime candidate to be traded seeing that Cleveland is very much out of the playoff race and he’s in a contract year. Earlier this week, it was reported that his camp’s main priority was getting him traded.

Not only is Thompson still a Cavalier, but now, Andre Drummond is coming to town. Surely adding Drummond would mean Thompson will be on the next ticket out of Cleveland via buyout, but instead, it appears he will play out the season with the team that drafted him.

Fate has given Thompson a rather unfortunate twist because becoming teammates with Drummond will mean a lot fewer minutes for the former, which means less time to show himself off to potential suitors this summer and less money to be offered. It was already going to be a pretty shallow market during this summer’s free agency, and there was already enough competition for minutes with Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr.

Maybe it’s all a bluff and Thompson will find his way onto a winner that needs him. For now, it looks like he’s staying put, and that doesn’t seem like the best avenue for him.

This names just a few of the several losers. Teams like the Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs can be seen as losers because they’re stuck in no man’s land and didn’t really do anything to get themselves out of it. The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors can be put at fault for not doing anything at the deadline when the top competitors in their conference made some nice renovations. People are wondering why exactly Cleveland traded for Andre Drummond. If you see it this way, all the power to you.

Honestly speaking, there were a lot more winners at the deadline than losers. At least, in the short-term there were. In the long-term, it could very much spin the other way. Adding Marcus Morris could make all the difference for the Los Angeles Clippers, but they paid a hefty price tag for a half-season rental. Winning a championship this season would dispel all regrets, but this could hurt them in the long-term.

Andrew Wiggins just got traded from one bad team in Minnesota to an even worse one in Golden State. In the short-term, he’s a loser because of the deadline. However, next season, he’s going to be teammates with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at full-strength. Long-term he should be a winner.

The trade deadline produces a mixed bag of winners, losers and in-betweeners. No matter where your team ends up, remember that it’s all part of the fun.

Alan is an expert gambling writer who works as one of the chief editors for Basketball Insiders. He has been covering online gambling and sports betting for over 8 years, having written for the likes of Sportlens,, The Sports Daily, 90min, and His particular specialisms include US online casinos and gambling regulations, and soccer and basketball betting. Based in London, Alan holds an MA in English Literature and is a passionate supporter of Chelsea FC.

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