The 2015 NBA trade deadline is over and it certainly lived up to the hype. There were 11 trades on Thursday, and many of them happened in the final hour. Plenty of big-name players were moved and there were many surprises.
Now that we’ve all had the opportunity to digest what transactions unfolded, let’s take a look at which teams are the big winners of the deadline.
Miami HEAT – In the last few days, Miami went from being a fringe playoff team with limited opportunities to improve to being one of the top teams on Goran Dragic’s wish list and now a legitimate contender.
The HEAT are the biggest winners today, because they were able to land Dragic without giving up too much in their deal. All they had to trade is Danny Granger, Norris Cole, Shawne Williams, Justin Hamilton and two first-round picks for the pair of Dragic brothers, which is a huge steal for Miami.
Pat Riley was able to hold onto all of Miami’s core players, which means they will have a starting lineup that consists of Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside.
That’s a team that’s talented enough to make noise in a wide open Eastern Conference. They are currently 22-30 (and in the East’s eighth seed), but they’ll likely climb the standings once the team jells and plays to their full potential.
This team can be even scarier if Dragic can return to the level that he was playing at last year when he was in more of a traditional point guard role and being used correctly (as he stated).
Remember, last year he was one of the best guards in the NBA, earning a spot on the All-NBA Third Team and averaging 20.3 points, 5.9 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
Portland Trail Blazers – Entering Thursday, the Blazers had one of the worst offensive second units in the NBA (ranking 28th in the league in bench scoring). That’s why their main goal was to add a talented scorer to their roster prior to the trade deadline.
They did exactly that earlier this afternoon, acquiring Arron Afflalo (as well as Alonzo Gee) from the Denver Nuggets. These two teams had been talking about an Afflalo trade for quite some time, but they were finally able to complete the deal today after a ton of back and forth.
Yes, the Blazers had to give up future first- and second-round draft picks as well as Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and Will Barton to finalize the deal, but Afflalo and Gee will make their bench much better.
Afflalo gives them the scorer they were looking for, as he’s averaging 14.5 points this year and is just one season removed from averaging 18.2 points on the Orlando Magic. And Gee gives Portland another strong perimeter defender, which their second unit lacked.
Portland had been watching as all of the other Western Conference contenders around them made moves to bolster their roster for a title run. Now, the Blazers were able to make their big addition and they’re a much stronger team.
Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez with Afflalo as the team’s sixth man is a pretty scary team.
Afflalo can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent after this season, so this was somewhat risky for Portland, but if they can go on a deep postseason run and then have a chance to re-sign him, it will have been worth it.
Detroit Pistons – The Pistons parted ways with Kyle Singler and guard D.J. Augustin and landed their point guard of the future in Reggie Jackson. Not a bad afternoon for Stan Van Gundy, who was navigating his first trade deadline as a front office executive.
Jackson will help Detroit make a playoff push now – a goal that seemed dead once Brandon Jennings went down for the season with an injury. Now, however, it’s not hard to imagine the Pistons playing well and climbing the standings since they’re just two games back from the eighth seed.
This is also a win for Jackson, as he has long wanted to be a starter and go-to player on his own team. He was tired of being a sixth man and playing in the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Now, he’ll have his chance to show what he can do in a featured role.
If his time as a starter earlier this season was any indication, he could emerge as a star. In 13 games as a starter for Oklahoma City earlier this season, he averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
It’s also important to note that Jackson is just 24 years old too, so there’s a good chance that his best basketball is still ahead of him. He’ll be able to develop and expand his game in Detroit, playing for a great head coach in Van Gundy and alongside an excellent frontcourt duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
Jackson is a restricted free agent this summer and Detroit should lock him up long term, matching any offer he receives. If all goes as planned, the Pistons could have one of the better up-and-coming teams in the league as their young core continues to develop.
Milwaukee Bucks – It was surprising to see Milwaukee trade away Brandon Knight since he has been a huge reason for their success this season, but they got a nice return for the point guard.
In exchange for Knight, the Bucks bring in Michael Carter Williams, Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis, giving them two young point guards to improve their backcourt in the coming years as well as a center to replace the recently bought out Larry Sanders.
The interesting thing about this trade is that Milwaukee is going to be a match-up problem just about every night.
Their lineup, when fully healthy, will consist of Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson among others. That means they’ll be one of the biggest and longest teams, which will be very hard for teams to match up against. One executive told me that they will be a nightmare to face on the defensive end.
I like this move for the Bucks because I think it helps them in the present (as they look to make a playoff push, since they’re currently 30-23 and the sixth seed in the East) and in the future since players like Carter-Williams, Ennis and Plumlee are still young and far from reaching their prime.
I’m excited to see what Carter-Williams can do in Milwaukee, now that he’ll have better weapons around him and Jason Kidd helping him grow as a point guard. We all saw how effective he was in Philadelphia around a bunch of fringe NBA players; this could be his coming out party now that he has a better supporting cast.
Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder really had no choice but to trade Reggie Jackson, as he had demanded a trade and become disgruntled since his role decreased due to the acquisition of Dion Waiters.
Teams knew that they didn’t have much leverage because Jackson wanted out, yet Oklahoma City still managed to move Jackson, Kendrick Perkins and picks for Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, Steve Novak and Kyle Singler to add to the team’s bench.
There was talk that Oklahoma City might acquire Brook Lopez, and I really would’ve liked to see them land the Brooklyn Nets big man, but that likely would’ve cost them more assets. Not to mention, with Lopez there’s always the risk that he could get hurt due to his injury history.
Instead they land Kanter, who is a quality pick up for them since he’s a 22-year-old seven-footer who they can develop in the coming years.
The Thunder are one of the best teams when it comes to developing young players – putting each individual on a personalized development plan so they can maximize their potential – so they should be able to get the most out of Kanter (who hasn’t quite lived up to expectations just yet since being the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft).
This season, Kanter has averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds – both of which are career-highs for the big man. He has improved every season that he has been in the league, which is a great sign for the Thunder.
It’s worth noting that because Utah and Kanter didn’t agree to a contract extension earlier in the season, the big man will be a restricted free agent this offseason. But reports have already indicated that the Thunder are hoping to sign Kanter this summer, making this a better deal for them (if they’re able to do so).
Either way, Oklahoma City is a winner because they moved a disgruntled guard and a non-productive center for a young big man with a ton of potential who could be a part of their long-term plan going forward and three players who add to their depth. They weren’t the biggest winner of the day and they didn’t land one of the huge names they were linked to, but they did a solid job.
The Thunder needed to bolster their roster as they try to fight for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference, and they did just that.
Adrian Wojnarowski – This may be the least surprising winner on this list. As he does every year at the trade deadline, draft and free agency period, Adrian Wojnarowski dominated.
The Yahoo Sports reporter was on top of all of the latest rumors and broke trade after trade before anyone else.
Fans, executives, players, coaches, agents and reporters admit that they were constantly monitoring Wojnarowski’s Twitter timeline to keep track of the latest news and rumors. Marc Stein of ESPN did an great job too, breaking a number of stories and offering his unique perspective on moves.
Wojnarowski has separated himself from the pack of reporters and has become one of the most trusted names in sports journalism. There were plenty of Woj Bombs today, but we all knew that was coming.
After today, he’ll likely disappear for a few days (to the Woj Cave?) and then he’ll randomly reemerge late at night sometime in the middle of next week to break which players have been bought out and where they’re signing.
No matter how many stories he breaks, he’s always focused on the next Woj Bomb.
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