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NBA Daily: Trade Deadline Winners

Drew Maresca parses through the NBA Trade Deadline and pronounces some bonafide, undeniable winners.

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The 2020 NBA Trade Deadline made us wait.

As always, the NBA universe held its collective breath until 3 p.m EST on Feb. 6th. Deadline day ultimately had at least its share of blockbusters and franchise-altering deals, headlined by a massive four-team, 12-player trade between Atlanta, Denver, Houston and Minnesota.

Basketball Insiders will provide an in-depth analysis of every aspect of the 2020 trade deadline, including a rundown of the losers of the deadline, as well as an overview of the buyout market. But first, let’s kick off trade deadline coverage with a list of deadline winners.

Winners

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks added Clint Capela and only gave up Evan Turner and the Golden State Warriors’ 2024 second-round pick. The Hawks aren’t your traditional deadline buyers – they’re currently 14-38 – but they identified a need and filled it. They did so by adding a top-tier, 25-year-old shot blocker and lob catcher to their already young core that is averaging 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. The center is signed through 2023 to an incredibly affordable deal with an average salary of $18.55 million. Capela will make Trae Young even more dangerous in the pick-and-roll, fitting perfectly alongside Young, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and John Collins. He brings a positive attitude and familiarity with winning, and he’ll also bring his 7-foot-5 wingspan and all of his high-powered finishes — third overall in dunks in 2018-19).

For all intents and purposes, the Hawks’ 2019-20 season is over. But their future looks even brighter now than it already did.

Memphis Grizzlies

While the HEAT are the higher-profile winners of this deal, the Grizzlies got a pretty big victory, too. The Grizzlies added Justise Winslow, a 23-year-old guard/forward who averaged career highs in points and assists last season before struggling with injuries this year. His defensive prowess and newly-discovered offensive versatility will blend beautifully with the existing young and dynamic core. He can handle most positions and he’ll complement Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. perfectly with his selfless, team-first attitude. Further, Winslow is class personified and he’ll work his butt off in Memphis – just like he’s done in Miami.

Remember, Winslow shot 27.6 percent over 1.5 three-point attempts per game in his rookie season — and he already bumped that up to 37.5 percent on 3.9 attempts last year alone.

All they had to give up was a player that had no interest in joining the team (Andre Iguodala), along with Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill. Although the veteran pair were major influences in the Grizzlies’ locker room, the long-term benefits far outweigh any short-term drawbacks.  If Winslow can overcome his lower back injury quickly, Memphis will be light years ahead of where we expected them to be.

Better, they already have the makings of a dangerous eighth seed in the Western Conference this season too.

Miami HEAT

The HEAT added a significant weapon to their roster on the eve of the deadline — but will it be enough? They filled a need for a versatile wing in Andre Iguodala, an incredibly skilled defender and someone that can also initiate the offense. Beyond that, the HEAT added Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill into the deal as the night got longer. Creatively, Pat Riley and his front office prevented the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers from swooping in on Iguodala, even signing him to a team-friendly extension with a team option for 2020-21. So not only did the HEAT improve, but they kept a pivotal piece away from a team they’d likely have to face in the NBA Finals – if they make it that far.

If that’s not enough, Miami also created additional salary cap flexibility by moving Dion Waiters (signed for $12.65 million in 2020-21), James Johnson (player option for $16 million in 2020-21) and Justise Winslow ($13 million in 2020-21 with a team option for $13 million in 2021-22), while bringing in three guys on expiring contracts or for whom they hold a team option. They’ve just catapulted themselves into the Anthony Davis sweepstakes this summer if they’d like, or they could wait to add one of the numerous franchise-altering free agents in 2021 to a core of Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn and Bam Adebayo. Either way, yikes.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Things looked bleak for Minnesota very recently.

Just 24 hours ago, actually. Karl-Anthony Towns spoke about all the losing he’s done in his career. Honestly, if you squinted hard enough, it might have even looked like a preface to a trade request.

But situations change quickly in the NBA, especially around the trade deadline. The Timberwolves unburdened themselves of Andrew Wiggins’ very pricey contract, swapping it along with a top-three protected 2021 first-round pick and a future second-round pick for D’Angelo Russell. And just like that, the Timberwolves’ future is looking up.

It’s not all about Russell. Wiggins has underwhelmed in his five-and-a-half years in Minnesota. Despite all of his talent, he’s been incredibly inefficient. He’s never posted a PER of more than 16.5  — of note, 15 is the league average for every NBA every season and Giannis Antetokounmpo posted the highest PER ever in 2018-19 of 32.5 — and he’s never had a positive Value Over Replacement Player in any season, while also failing to rise above the ranks of a subpar three-point shooter either (33.2%).

Although the pairing might not result in immediate victories, trading Wiggins (and his bloated contract) for a budding star that’ll keep the current star happy is an undeniable step in the right direction.

Honorable Mention

New York Knicks

The Knicks don’t quite qualify as winners.

They didn’t trade for any franchise-altering players, nor did they add any highly-promising draft picks. However, what the Knicks did accomplish was taking a long, hard look in the mirror and reaching the conclusion that change has to start from within — well, nearly all the way. They parted ways with Steve Mills, the former president of basketball operations. In short, Mills had been the team president from 2003-08 before reconnecting with James Dolan and the Knicks from 2013 onward. Even shorter, the overall record for his most recent tenure in New York is a league-worst 178-365. Mills was involved in the hiring of Phil Jackson, the re-signing of Tim Hardaway Jr. and the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas (as well as the events leading up to it).

Beyond that, Mills recommended the Knicks hire Isiah Thomas in 2003 and he oversaw an organization found guilty of a hostile work environment in 2007. Needless to say, it was long overdue.

In replacing Mills, Dolan followed the relatively new trend of handing the keys to the kingdom over to a super-agent. In this case, it’s Leon Rose and William “World Wide Wes” Wesley of CAA. Rose has lots of incredible connections, presumably understands the game from a player perspective and, most importantly, is a fresh face from outside of MSG.

But that’s not all, folks!

In one of the least surprising deals of the day, New York traded Marcus Morris to Los Angeles in a three-team deal that netted them Maurice Harkless, the Clippers’ 2020 first round pick, the rights to swap 2021 first round picks and a future second-rounder. This wasn’t quite the deal that was rumored just minutes before the deal became official, but the important part is that the Knicks collected another pick for an expiring player that probably wasn’t re-signing next year. Overall, that’ll give New York as many as eight first-rounders in the next five years and four in the next two.

A new front office and more picks for them to make, not bad. For the Knicks, who have had very little to celebrate of late, it’s a(nother) new beginning.

And for everybody else mentioned above, they’ll hope it’s the start of something great, too. Whether they’re chasing rings or stuck in the rebuilding mud, they left their mark on a hectic NBA Trade Deadline. Not all that enter the fray come out on top; but the Hawks, Grizzlies, HEAT, Timberwolves and Knicks all head into the All-Star break feeling better about both their immediate and long-term futures.

Basketball Insiders contributor residing in the Bronx, New York.

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